Intelligent Design

Please Take the Time to Understand Our Arguments Before You Attack Them

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The comments our Darwinist friends put up on this site never cease to amaze.  Consider, as a for instance, Kantian Naturalist’s comment that appears as comment 9 to kairosfocus’ Infographic: The science of ID post.  The post sets forth a simple summary of the case for ID, and KN responds: 

What I like about this infographic is that it makes really clear where the problem with intelligent design lies.

Here’s the argument:

(1) We observe that all As are caused by Bs. (2) Cs are similar to As in relevant respects. (3) Therefore, it is highly probable that Cs are also caused by Bs.

But this is invalid, because the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

KN has been posting on this site for years.  He is obviously an intelligent man.  He is obviously a man of good will.  I will assume, therefore, that he is attacking ID as he believes it to be and not a straw man caricature of his own making.  And that is what is so amazing.  How can an intelligent person of good will follow this site for several years and still not understand the basics of ID?  It beggars belief. 

Maybe it will help if I explain ID using the same formal structure KN has used. 

KN:

(1) We observe that all As are caused by Bs.

ID as it really is:

(1)  For all As whose provenance is actually known, the cause of A was B. 

Here “A” could be complex specified information or irreducible complexity.

B, of course, stands for “the act of an intelligent agent.”

In step 1 KN is actually not far off the mark.  I have reworded it slightly, because ID does not posit there is no possible explanation for A other than B.  ID posits that in our universal experience of A where its provenance has been actually observed, it has always arisen from B.  Now, there may be some other cause of A (Neo-Darwinian evolution – NDE – for instance), but the conclusion that NDE causes A arises from an inference not an observation.  “NDE caused A” is not just any old inference.  We would argue that it is an inference skewed by an a priori commitment to metaphysical materialism and not necessarily an unbiased evaluation of the data.  

KN:

(2) Cs are similar to As in relevant respects.

ID as it really is:

(2)  We observe A to exist within living systems. 

In (2) KN starts to go off the rails in a serious way.  Here we have the tired old “ID is nothing by an argument from analogy” argument.  KN is saying that the complex specified information in a cell is “similar in relevant respects” to the complex specified information found, for example, in a language or a code.  He is saying that the irreducible complexity of any number of biological systems is “similar in relevant respects” to the irreducible complexity of machines. 

No sir.  That is not what ID posits at all, not even close.  ID posits that the complex specified information in a cell is identical to the complex specified information of a computer code.  The DNA code is not “like” a computer code.  The DNA code and a computer code are two manifestations of the same thing.  The irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum is identical to (not similar to) the irreducible complexity of an outboard motor.  

ID proponents obviously have the burden of demonstrating their claims.  For example, they have the burden of demonstrating that the DNA code and a computer code are identical in relevant respects.  And if you disagree with their conclusions that is fair enough.  Tell us why.  But it is not fair to attempt to refute ID by attacking a claim ID proponents do not make.

KN:

(3) Therefore, it is highly probable that Cs are also caused by Bs. 

ID as it really is:

(3)  Therefore, abductive reasoning leads to the conclusion that B is the best explanation of A. 

The Wikipedia article on abductive reasoning is quite good.  [I have changed the symbols to correspond with our discussion]: 

to abduce a hypothetical explanation “B” from an observed surprising circumstance “A” is to surmise that “B” may be true because then “A” would be a matter of course. Thus, to abduce B from A involves determining that B is sufficient (or nearly sufficient), but not necessary, for A.

For example, the lawn is wet. But if it rained last night, then it would be unsurprising that the lawn is wet. Therefore, by abductive reasoning, the possibility that it rained last night is reasonable. . . . abducing rain last night from the observation of the wet lawn can lead to a false conclusion. In this example, dew, lawn sprinklers, or some other process may have resulted in the wet lawn, even in the absence of rain.

[Philosopher Charles Sanders] Peirce argues that good abductive reasoning from A to B involves not simply a determination that, e.g., B is sufficient for A, but also that B is among the most economical explanations for A. Simplification and economy call for the ‘leap’ of abduction.

For what seems like the ten thousandth time:  ID does not posit that the existence of complex specified information and irreducibly complex structures within living systems compels “act of an intelligent agent” as a matter of logical necessity.  ID posits that given our universal experience concerning complex specified information and irreducibly complex structures where the provenance of such has been actually observed, the best explanation of the existence of these same things in living structures is “act of intelligent agent.” 

KN, I hope this helps.  If you disagree with any of the premises or the abuction that we say follows from the premises, by all means attack them with abandon.  But please don’t attack an argument we do not make.  That just wastes everyone’s time. 

 

 

 

856 Replies to “Please Take the Time to Understand Our Arguments Before You Attack Them

  1. 1
    Gregory says:

    Back up, big rig. What makes you think KN is a ‘Darwinist friend’? Did he announce to you, Barry and UD: “Hi, my name is Kantian Naturalist and I’m a ‘Darwinist friend’ of IDism”?

    You’ve got a recent thread stating that ‘Darwinists’ (whoever they are) don’t deserve ‘charity’ from IDists at UD. I don’t know your position on this, Barry.

    But it is far from clear that you are genuine speaking of ‘Darwinists’ as friends or even who you mean. From my distant relations with him, KN is not what you claim he is.

    I might offer an answer to the baffled question “How can an intelligent person of good will follow this site for several years and still not understand the basics of ID?” later, but for now Barry, your explanation is crucial to your accusation in this thread.

    Provide for us, please, EVIDENCE, that Kantian Naturalist is a ‘Darwinian friend’ at UD.

  2. 2
    Gregory says:

    Correction: “Provide for us, please, EVIDENCE, that Kantian Naturalist is a ‘Darwinist friend’ at UD.”

  3. 3
    Thomas2 says:

    Have I missed something, or do you mean your version of the conclusion (3) to read “Therefore, abductive reasoning leads to the conclusion that B is the best explanation of A in living systems”?

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    You should have put, ‘in our universal experience of A where its provenance has been actually observed, it has always arisen from B’, in upper case, for KN and his merry band, Barry.

    Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce, and one day maybe, just maybe, a gratuitously conjectured multiverse or a ‘seeding’ of life on earth by extraterrestrials, or the fecundity of a great fat nothing with a cornucopia of matter, life and intelligence, might seem a smidgen less plausible than an observed identity between between the complex specified information in a cell and the complex specified information of a computer code. Good luck with that, Bazzer.

    I’m sorry to have addressed you in such a wildly informal and reckless, vernacular, Barry, but the nihilism I’ve been addressing has got to me. I feel myself sinking under the weight of its madness.

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    Here we have the tired old “ID is nothing by an argument from analogy” argument.

    That’s it, in a nutshell.

    otoh, if there’s an actual argument from analogy to be found that us defective, it is Darwin’s. Mother Nature is not like an intelligent breeder.

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Good timing Barry, because once again we have all the evidence in hand that Elizabeth B. Liddle does not understand the argument Meyer makes in Darwin’s Doubt. She thinks he’s arguing against common descent and that he is comparing what we do see from what would be expected “under Common Descent.” A phrase not actually used by Meyer at all.

  7. 7
    congregate says:

    Is there more csi in an adult human than in a human embryo of just a few cels?
    If so, is an act of an intelligent agent the best explanation for that additional csi?
    I think that a system for creating csi, designed and implemented by an intelligent agent, is a better explanation for that additional csi than any contemporaneous act of an intelligent entity.
    If there is not more csi in an adult than embryo, then when did the csi that needs explaining come into existence?

  8. 8
    Mapou says:

    Yeah, Kantian Naturalist is an honorable man. Yeah, I’m an excellent driver.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    as to this:

    ID posits that the complex specified information in a cell is identical to the complex specified information of a computer code. The DNA code is not “like” a computer code. The DNA code and a computer code are two manifestations of the same thing.

    And here’s some of the evidence that use to be presented whenever an atheist denied information was inherent in the DNA (which use to be quite often):

    The Digital Code of DNA – 2003 – Leroy Hood & David Galas
    Excerpt: The discovery of the structure of DNA transformed biology profoundly, catalysing the sequencing of the human genome and engendering a new view of biology as an information science.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....01410.html

    Every Bit Digital DNA’s Programming Really Bugs Some ID Critics – March 2010
    Excerpt: In 2003 renowned biologist Leroy Hood and biotech guru David Galas authored a review article in the world’s leading scientific journal, Nature, titled, “The digital code of DNA.”,,, MIT Professor of Mechanical Engineering Seth Lloyd (no friend of ID) likewise eloquently explains why DNA has a “digital” nature: “It’s been known since the structure of DNA was elucidated that DNA is very digital. There are four possible base pairs per site, two bits per site, three and a half billion sites, seven billion bits of information in the human DNA. There’s a very recognizable digital code of the kind that electrical engineers rediscovered in the 1950s that maps the codes for sequences of DNA onto expressions of proteins.”
    http://www.salvomag.com/new/ar.....uskin2.php

    Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life – Hubert P. Yockey, 2005
    Excerpt: “Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.”
    http://www.cambridge.org/catal.....038;ss=exc

    The Digital Code of DNA and the Unimagined Complexity of a ‘Simple’ Bacteria – Rabbi Moshe Averick – video (Notes in Description)
    http://vimeo.com/35730736

    etc.. etc..

    But now, to prove that the information is not merely like a digital code but actually is a digital code, all we have to do is reference George Church’s work on storing digital information in DNA:

    Information Storage in DNA by Wyss Institute – video
    https://vimeo.com/47615970

    Quote from preceding video:
    “The theoretical (information) density of DNA is you could store the total world information, which is 1.8 zetabytes, at least in 2011, in about 4 grams of DNA.”
    Sriram Kosuri PhD. – Wyss Institute

    Harvard cracks DNA storage, crams 700 terabytes of data into a single gram – Sebastian Anthony – August 17, 2012
    Excerpt: A bioengineer and geneticist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored 5.5 petabits of data — around 700 terabytes — in a single gram of DNA, smashing the previous DNA data density record by a thousand times.,,, Just think about it for a moment: One gram of DNA can store 700 terabytes of data. That’s 14,000 50-gigabyte Blu-ray discs… in a droplet of DNA that would fit on the tip of your pinky. To store the same kind of data on hard drives — the densest storage medium in use today — you’d need 233 3TB drives, weighing a total of 151 kilos. In Church and Kosuri’s case, they have successfully stored around 700 kilobytes of data in DNA — Church’s latest book, in fact — and proceeded to make 70 billion copies (which they claim, jokingly, makes it the best-selling book of all time!) totaling 44 petabytes of data stored.
    http://www.extremetech.com/ext.....ingle-gram

    DNA: The Ultimate Hard Drive – Science Magazine, August-16-2012
    Excerpt: “When it comes to storing information, hard drives don’t hold a candle to DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare.”
    http://news.sciencemag.org/sci.....-code.html

    Also of note:

    The Computer Coding Found In DNA Surpasses Man’s Ability To Code Computers – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050638

    ‘It’s becoming extremely problematic to explain how the genome could arise and how these multiple levels of overlapping information could arise, since our best computer programmers can’t even conceive of overlapping codes. The genome dwarfs all of the computer information technology that man has developed. So I think that it is very problematic to imagine how you can achieve that through random changes in the code.,,,
    Dr. John Sanford – Genetic Entropy and The Mystery of The Genome

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    But wait, as they tell us on those infomercials, ‘that’s not all’! On top of the fact that the information in the DNA is not just like digital information but actually is ‘super’ digital information, it is now found that there is a deeper level of ‘quantum’ information in the DNA that is strongly implicated in Quantum computation in the cell. Something our best computer engineers can only dream of accomplishing in any meaningful fashion:

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Quantum entanglement is a physical resource, like energy, associated with the peculiar nonclassical correlations that are possible between separated quantum systems. Entanglement can be measured, transformed, and purified. A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems. The general study of the information-processing capabilities of quantum systems is the subject of quantum information theory.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-entangle/

    Is DNA a quantum computer? Stuart Hameroff
    Excerpt: DNA could function as a quantum computers with superpositions of base pair dipoles acting as qubits. Entanglement among the qubits, necessary in quantum computation is accounted for through quantum coherence in the pi stack where the quantum information is shared,,,
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....puter1.htm

    A glimpse of how quantum computation plays out in DNA is illustrated here:

    Quantum Dots Spotlight DNA-Repair Proteins in Motion – March 2010
    Excerpt: “How this system works is an important unanswered question in this field,” he said. “It has to be able to identify very small mistakes in a 3-dimensional morass of gene strands. It’s akin to spotting potholes on every street all over the country and getting them fixed before the next rush hour.” Dr. Bennett Van Houten – of note: A bacterium has about 40 team members on its pothole crew. That allows its entire genome to be scanned for errors in 20 minutes, the typical doubling time.,, These smart machines can apparently also interact with other damage control teams if they cannot fix the problem on the spot.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....123522.htm

    Of note: DNA repair machines ‘Fixing every pothole in America before the next rush hour’ is analogous to the traveling salesman problem. The traveling salesman problem is a NP-hard (read: very hard) problem in computer science; The problem involves finding the shortest possible route between cities, visiting each city only once. ‘Traveling salesman problems’ are notorious for keeping supercomputers busy for days.

    NP-hard problem – Examples
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hard#Examples

    Speed Test of Quantum Versus Conventional Computing: Quantum Computer Wins – May 8, 2013
    Excerpt: quantum computing is, “in some cases, really, really fast.”
    McGeoch says the calculations the D-Wave excels at involve a specific combinatorial optimization problem, comparable in difficulty to the more famous “travelling salesperson” problem that’s been a foundation of theoretical computing for decades.,,,
    “This type of computer is not intended for surfing the internet, but it does solve this narrow but important type of problem really, really fast,” McGeoch says. “There are degrees of what it can do. If you want it to solve the exact problem it’s built to solve, at the problem sizes I tested, it’s thousands of times faster than anything I’m aware of. If you want it to solve more general problems of that size, I would say it competes — it does as well as some of the best things I’ve looked at. At this point it’s merely above average but shows a promising scaling trajectory.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....122828.htm

    Since it is obvious that there is not a material CPU (central processing unit) in the DNA, or cell, busily computing answers to this monster logistic problem, in a purely ‘material’ fashion, by crunching bits, then it is readily apparent that this monster ‘traveling salesman problem’, for DNA repair, must somehow be computed by ‘non-local’ quantum computation within the cell and/or within DNA.

    As far as I know, trillions upon trillions of atoms being quantumly entangled in DNA is far, far, beyond what our best computer engineering has produced thus far for trying to achieve meaningful quantum computation:

    Large scale qubit generation for quantum computing – 2011
    Excerpt: “Many people are trying to build a quantum computer,” Olivier Pfister tells PhysOrg.com. “One to the problems, though, is that you need hundreds of thousands of qubits. So far, scalability has been something of a problem, since generating that many qubits is difficult.”,,,Pfister points out that quantum computers of this sort cannot actually replace classical computers. However, quantum computers can be used for processing some types of information faster. “This is an attractive model for experiments that need cluster states. The big deal is that we got all these little quantum registers, and the entanglement is remarkably consistent.”,,, The next step, Pfister says, is to entangle the already-entangled qubits into a bigger register. “It requires additional complexity to entangle them all together, and we’re on our way to this.,,, We have shown that our control of entanglement is pretty good, but we need even better control to make entangled sets bigger than four.”,,,
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....antum.html

    Physicists Entangle 8 Photons in ‘Spooky’ Experiment – February 2012
    Excerpt: Entanglement is a fragile state, and entangling photons with any efficiency is a major challenge; physicists generally produce a huge number of photons for every pair of successfully entangled particles. The difficulty of creating multiple pairs of entangled photons grows exponentially as more are added. Xing-Can Yao and his colleagues at USTC calculated that if they simply extended previous six-photon experiments to include another pair of entangled photons, it would take roughly 10 hours of experimental time to generate one entangled eight-photon set. (Physicists verify the presence of entanglement by running statistical tests that require large samples of photons, so an experiment that takes hours to produce a single entangled state is impractically slow.) To overcome that limitation, the researchers used an optical scheme that filters out fewer photons and hence boosts the output of entangled photons.
    http://www.livescience.com/185.....otons.html

    Throw on top of that that DNA is communicating with the rest of the cell by photonic communication,,

    Are humans really beings of light?
    Excerpt: A particularly gifted student talked him into another experiment.,,, He also found that DNA could send out a wide range of frequencies, some of which seemed to be linked to certain functions. If DNA stored this light, it would naturally emit more light on being unzipped. These and other studies proved to Popp that one of the most essential sources of light and biophoton emissions was DNA.
    http://viewzone2.com/dna.html

    Then perhaps some of us may start to get a small glimpse of the unparalleled, staggering, wondrous, integrated complexity being dealt with in regards to the functional information inherent within DNA.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    And again, as they say in those infomercials, ‘but wait, there’s more!’ It is now also found that the digital information in DNA is reducible to the quantum information and the quantum information/entanglement requires a beyond space and time cause to explain its effect:

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect;
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy. Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134300.htm

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: To derive their inequality, which sets up a measurement of entanglement between four particles, the researchers considered what behaviours are possible for four particles that are connected by influences that stay hidden and that travel at some arbitrary finite speed.
    Mathematically (and mind-bogglingly), these constraints define an 80-dimensional object. The testable hidden influence inequality is the boundary of the shadow this 80-dimensional shape casts in 44 dimensions. The researchers showed that quantum predictions can lie outside this boundary, which means they are going against one of the assumptions. Outside the boundary, either the influences can’t stay hidden, or they must have infinite speed.,,,
    The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,,
    “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

    ,,,And here is supporting evidence that quantum information is in fact ‘conserved’;,,,

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    Quantum no-deleting theorem
    Excerpt: A stronger version of the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem provide permanence to quantum information. To create a copy one must import the information from some part of the universe and to delete a state one needs to export it to another part of the universe where it will continue to exist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.....onsequence

    Verse:

    John 1:1
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    The implications of having beyond space and time quantum information in molecular biology on a massive scale are fairly clear and wonderful for those of us of a Theistic persuasion:

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/29895068

    Verse and Music:

    Luke 23:43
    Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    AIN’T NO GRAVE (Can Hold My Body Down) Johnny Cash
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66QcIlblI1U

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I should note that the adult human is the product of the unfolding of information in the embryo and originally the zygote, apart of course from additional info acquired by experience and learning. That info is processed through systems starting from cellular level that are themselves info rich. It remains the case throughout that the only observed source of FSCO/I is design, purposefully and intelligently directed contingency. KF

  13. 13
    cantor says:

    Mung at post 6 wrote:

    Good timing Barry, because once again we have all the evidence in hand that Elizabeth B. Liddle does not understand the argument Meyer makes in Darwin’s Doubt.

    Perhaps I haven’t been on this forum long enough to know better, but I was stunned (and, I must say, disappointed) by EBL’s grotesque misunderstanding of Meyer’s book.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    cantor,

    Darwinism, as used by ID proponents, is clearly defined in the Glossary, and Elizabeth is familiar with this definition. She has been posting here for years.

    Why she thinks Meyer departs from it is never explained.

    But to review, since this is a thread about misunderstandings of ID:

    Darwinism:

    When ID proponents on this site use the term “Darwinism,” they are referring to Neo-Darwinism, also called the modern evolutionary synthesis or Neo-Darwinian evolution (“NDE”), the basic tenants of which are described in the New World Encyclopedia as follows:

    At the heart of the modern synthesis is the view that evolution is gradual and can be explained by small genetic changes in populations over time, due to the impact of natural selection on the phenotypic variation among individuals in the populations (Mayr 1982; Futuyama 1986).

    This is precisely how Meyer presents it in his book. There is no mention of “common descent” in the definition because it’s about the mechanism.

    I was stunned (and, I must say, disappointed) by EBL’s grotesque misunderstanding of Meyer’s book.

    There’s misunderstanding and there’s outright mispresentation. I’m trying to keep an open mind.

    I’m thinking of starting an OP over there at TSZ titled Elizabeth’s Howler. But it’s her blog over there, I’m trying to respect that.

    Have you noticed how her argument has evolved?

    In her OP over at TSZ there’s no mention of this “under Common Descent” nonsense. There’s no hint that Meyer is not talking about mechanism but is instead trying to refute common descent.

    In fact, the very first diagram she introduces is one of common descent! It’s just that the disparity precedes the diversity.

    Her objection to Meyer is incoherent. Oh, and wrong.

  15. 15
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    ID proponents obviously have the burden of demonstrating their claims. For example, they have the burden of demonstrating that the DNA code and a computer code are identical in relevant respects. And if you disagree with their conclusions that is fair enough. Tell us why. But it is not fair to attempt to refute ID by attacking a claim ID proponents do not make.

    I framed the premise as an analogy (“the genetic code is like a language”) because I think that the claim about identity (“the genetic code is a language”) is much, much harder to make. I bring to your attention two papers that argue against the identity-claim:

    (1) Shanon, B., 1978. “The Genetic Code and Human Language”Synthese 39(3), 401-415. Automaton-Theoretical Foundations of Psychology and Biology, Part II.

    (2) Tsonis, A. A., J. B. Elsner and P. A. Tsonis, 1997. “Is DNA a language?” Journal of Theoretical Biology 184: 25-29.

    So yes, the burden is on intelligent design theorists to argue against the points made by Shanon and by Tsonis et al.

    I also think it is deeply mistaken to posit an identity between languages and machines — it is one thing to say that a machine is ‘created by an intelligent being’ — although drastically under-appreciates the role of cooperation and collaboration between and among intelligent beings — but it makes no sense to say that natural languages are created by intelligent beings.

    So the claim would have to be that the genetic code is a language in exactly the same way that a computer language is a language, right?

  16. 16
    Upright BiPed says:

    Kantian,

    So the claim would have to be that the genetic code is a language in exactly the same way that a computer language is a language, right?

    The material conditions required for the genetic code to produce a specific material effect are exactly the same as those for a computer code to produce a specific material effect.

    Yes.

  17. 17
    Gregory says:

    KN, you’re obviously ‘correct’ to a certain extennt.

    But where your ‘gaping hole’ shows your ‘undies’ is wrt univocal predication.

    First, you still refuse to capitalise ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ qua theory. You could explain why, but it might get a bit personal. I linked you already to the importance of the distinction, but you didn’t respond.

    Second, though I agree with your languages vs. machines talk, I find your ‘philosophical’ approach quite inhumane. Iow, there are no ‘persons’ in your ‘argument’ just as with the religious studies scholar timaeus. You two fit ripely together with this (western) style that you were both trained in and currently live in.

    Francis Collins speaks of DNA as “the Language of God”. To him, of course, all you can do as an atheist/agnostic is disagree. But are you protesting your position at BioLogos?

  18. 18
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Upright BiPed @ 16

    The material conditions required for the genetic code to produce a specific material effect are exactly the same as those for a computer code to produce a specific material effect.

    No, the material conditions are different in some respects: for example, computers use silcon whilst the genetic code uses organic molecules.

    You are arging the material conditons are the same in all relevant respects. Obviously, therefore, there is disagreement about what are the *relevant* similarities and differences between computers and DNA.

    Given that modern science does not have a very good handle on information qua meaning, then your case for the identity of computer code and genetic code really can’t be made on empirically testable scientific grounds at present; instead, its a philosophical or metaphysical argument.

  19. 19
    Axel says:

    ‘beyond space and time quantum’

    Philip, whatever you do, on no account EVER use normal words, such as ‘supernatural’ or ‘transcendental’, instead of your chosen phrase, ‘beyond space and time’, will you? There’s a good chap.

    I’ve seen grown men and women become very querulous, plaintive and whiney, almost indeed, to the point of bursting into tears, at the mention of such words in relation to physics. You’re asking them to run, before they can walk, as it is.

  20. 20
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    First, you still refuse to capitalise ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ qua theory. You could explain why, but it might get a bit personal. I linked you already to the importance of the distinction, but you didn’t respond.

    True, and I apologize for neglecting it. From where I sit, if I make the distinction between ‘the design argument’ (as a well-examined argument in Western philosophy), ‘design theory’ (as a purported scientific theory), and ‘the ID movement’ (as a cultural-political rejection of atheism/materialism), isn’t that good enough?

    Second, though I agree with your languages vs. machines talk, I find your ‘philosophical’ approach quite inhumane. Iow, there are no ‘persons’ in your ‘argument’ just as with the religious studies scholar timaeus. You two fit ripely together with this (western) style that you were both trained in and currently live in.

    Yes, my style is highly impersonal. I do this party to avoid even the appearance of ad hominem fallacies, and partly because we’re arguing on-line. In on-line communications, the subtle nuances of gesture and tone are much harder to convey, and remarks are more prone to misinterpretation. (Besides which, most of us are posting anonymously.)

    Francis Collins speaks of DNA as “the Language of God”. To him, of course, all you can do as an atheist/agnostic is disagree. But are you protesting your position at BioLogos?

    No, I’m not. Posting at Uncommon Descent and The Skeptical Zone is all I have time for. I don’t argue against theistic evolutionists because I don’t think that my differences with them can be resolved by argument.

    I tend to think that one’s “world-view” (which is not a term I like using) is an expression of temperament rather than of argument.

    Take, for example, a basic difference between myself and the other philosophically-sophisticated commentators here, such as Kairosfocus, William Murray, and StephenB. (Though we haven’t heard from StephenB in a long time.) They are rationalists and foundationalists. I’m a pragmatist and coherentist, or possibly a “foundherentist”, as Susan Haack calls her position. The quarrel between foundationalists and coherentists has been going on for a long, long time, and each position been improved by taking seriously the criticisms raised by the other. But resolution is nowhere in sight.

    I think that I just don’t have the craving for certitude that they have; it’s not part of my temperament. I don’t feel what Richard Bernstein calls “the Cartesian anxiety“. And I don’t think it’s just because I’ve read so much Nietzsche and Dewey; it’s because I don’t experience the Cartesian anxiety in the first place that Nietzsche and Dewey (among others) speak to me in the first place.

  21. 21
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    ID posits that given our universal experience concerning complex specified information and irreducibly complex structures where the provenance of such has been actually observed, the best explanation of the existence of these same things in living structures is “act of intelligent agent.”

    The abductive leap would be

    It is surprising that there is complex, specified information in living things, but if living things were brought about by an intelligent agent, then the presence of complex, specified information in living things would be a matter of course.

    and that’s perfectly right, as far it goes. But it does not go very far, because design theory stops there. It does not go on the next stage of inquiry, which would be test the abductive leap. To do that, one would have to deduce observable consequences from the hypothesis that would not follow from the converse, and then conduct the lab or field work to see if the observables are actually, in fact, observed.

    In other words, a good scientific theory depends on abduction and deduction and induction. Design theory gets far as the first stage — abduction — stops there, and still wants to be understood as a scientific theory. And that’s intellectually dishonest.

    (If someone wants to claim that “Darwinism” is not a good scientific theory by those criteria, go right ahead — I’m not terribly interested in defending Darwinism. It could be that we don’t have any good theories of biology.)

  22. 22
    Mung says:

    In order to defend the conception of the genome
    as a genetic program, Maynard Smith must solve the following
    two problems. …

    Did someone say genetic program?

    The “Genetic Program” Program: A Commentary on Maynard Smith on Information in Biology

  23. 23

    Mung:

    This is precisely how Meyer presents it in his book. There is no mention of “common descent” in the definition because it’s about the mechanism.

    From Meyer’s Chapter 1:

    Biologists often call Darwin’s theory of the history of life “universal common descent” to indicate that every organism on earth arose from a single common ancestor by a process of “descent with modification.” Darwin argued that this idea best explained a variety of biological evidences: the succession of fossil forms, the geographical distribution of various species (such as Galapagos finches), and the anatomical and embryological similarities among otherwise highly distinct organisms.

    The second pillar of Darwin’s theory affirmed the creative power of what he called natural selection, a process that acted on random variations in the traits of features of organisms and their offspring. Whereas the theory of universal common descent postulated a pattern (the branching tree) to represent the history of life, natural selection referred to a process that he said could generate his branching tree of life.

    And it is that pattern that Meyer is disputing in Chapter 2 of his book (and elsewhere) with the aid of diagrams that call into question the pattern predicted by Darwin, as being not what is actually observed.

    And it is with that argument – that the pattern expected under Darwin’s theory (i.e. the theory of common descent/descent with modification) is not what we observe, that I am taking issue with Meyer.

  24. 24
    Querius says:

    Thanks again, bornagain77, for your links and commentary. The possibility of quantum entanglement in the genetic code is absolutely amazing!

    Then, Kantian Naturalist contended

    In other words, a good scientific theory depends on abduction and deduction and induction. Design theory gets far as the first stage — abduction — stops there, and still wants to be understood as a scientific theory. And that’s intellectually dishonest.

    I don’t see a necessary progression. If we could base a good scientific theory on deductive reasoning we would certainly do so. But since there are not a lot of interesting things that unfold with deductive logic, we create and test hypotheses instead. Inductive and abductive reasoning lead us only to likelihoods (which are very susceptable to wild swings of probability based on new data). Ideally, we use them to try to construct experiments that eliminate possibilities. I don’t think intellectual honesty is in question here.

    Kantian remarked

    (If someone wants to claim that “Darwinism” is not a good scientific theory by those criteria, go right ahead — I’m not terribly interested in defending Darwinism. It could be that we don’t have any good theories of biology.)

    I understand what you’re trying to say, and I agree. In my view, neither Darwinism nor Intelligent Design nor Uniformitarianism are very good theories, but they are all paradigms upon which we build theories.

    The key here is that the discipline of Science provides us with approximations—models—tools with which we can design or predict things. They are not to be confused with reality (this is easier to claim in the physical sciences than the biological sciences).

    Then, when we inevitably outgrow the tool, we build a better one.

    God would want us to. 🙂

  25. 25
    Timaeus says:

    Kantian (20):

    I agree with your approach to debating here. In an electronic text medium such as this it is very hard to convey subtleties to people one has never met personally . Smiley faces and so on just aren’t adequate. And devices such as boldface or caps for emphasis can seem like shouting or browbeating, especially if they are overused, and especially when they are used by people whose style is already somewhat aggressive. Thus, the safest thing is to write somewhat formally (not stiffly or pedantically, but as a traditional gentleman or lady would address another to whom one is well-disposed but with whom one is not intimate). If one follows the normal rules of politeness — not accusing others of dishonesty or cowardice or envy etc. — and focuses on basic things like establishing definitions, and sticks closely to evidence and logic, one can carry on a civilized disagreement in this medium quite well.

    In a group of people who know each other really well on a personal level, more leeway can be granted, but even with old friends, I find that one cannot convey emotions, deep religious convictions, warm sentiments, etc. accurately in this medium. This is not the right medium for personal, heart-to-heart, bare-your-soul conversation.

    As he does so often, Gregory raises the dialogical temperature by using a word with a strong rhetorical coloring. He says that your style of conversation is “inhumane” — but of course to most English-speaking people “inhumane” initially suggests “cruel”; at the very least, it indicates a callous indifference to human beings and human concerns. To characterize your writing in such a way is to offer a gratuitous (even if unintended) insult, and is unnecessarily provocative.

    It is no mark of indifference to humanity that one argues formally and politely rather than with ferocious passion and with his heart on his sleeve. Indeed, it can be a mark of caring for human things that one restrains one’s passion. A politician, a courtroom lawyer, or a journalist who is always pouring out passion may seem more “human,” but in fact such passion can serve the interests of ideology, self-interest, revenge, and in general injustice. The politician or lawyer or journalist who restrains his passions and strives simply to get at the truth is in the long run more likely to be a better servant of human values such as charity, dignity, and justice.

    And of course the philosopher is always keenly aware of the danger that passion will cloud thought. This has been a motif in philosophy since the time of Socrates. It is not that passions are in themselves bad, but they tend to regard themselves too highly in the scheme of things. So the philosopher is naturally going to be less effusive than certain other kinds of “intellectuals” who think that thought should be put into the service of the dominant passions. In other words, the true philosopher is going to be less passionate in his presentation than the ideologue. And this distinction, between the philosopher and the ideologue, is a very important one which Gregory, among many others, does not seem to pay enough attention to.

    Thus, whereas the philosopher traditionally wishes to contemplate “the beings,” the ideologue is interested in studying not “the beings”, but the motivations of people, so that he can better manipulate them for social and political ends.

    My goal, in thinking about ID, is to contemplate “nature” and ask whether or not nature reveals any “ends” or is in any sense teleological. I am not really interested in the real or alleged religious or political motivations of all the people involved in the ID movement. My interest is philosophical, not ideological. So I want to inquire dispassionately about possible ends in nature, whether in living systems, in the fine-tuning of the universe, etc. But when I do so, I am criticized at the same time for two very opposite faults: of being too impersonal or too “inhumane” (as if I kick dogs when I’m angry, or pull the wings off flies for fun); and of being too contaminated by personal interests, i.e., of being governed by hidden religious passions which I conceal for political reasons.

    It does not occur to my critic that I might simply be interested in the philosophy of nature, and hence in knowing the truth about nature, for its own sake. He cannot imagine that such a person exists, I guess. For him, it seems, all thought is automatically in the service of some ideology or -ism. But this just shows that he does not understand the philosophical quest. Philosophy, at least according to its own original intention, is the attempt to rise above ideologies and -isms. It is hard to carry out in practice, but unlike some people, I do not scorn but rather honor the attempt, as one of the highest aspirations of the human soul.

  26. 26
    Mung says:

    “God would want us to.”

    LOL!

  27. 27
    Mung says:

    I don’t know about you Timaeus, but I’m here for the intimacy.

    signed

    MUNGRESSIVE!

  28. 28
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Kantian Naturalist:

    You said:

    “In other words, a good scientific theory depends on abduction and deduction and induction. Design theory gets far as the first stage — abduction — stops there, and still wants to be understood as a scientific theory. And that’s intellectually dishonest.”

    First off, any attempt to delineate a “good” scientific theory as one that depends on abduction, deduction, and induction would run face first into the Demarcation Problem, thereby placing the onus on you to show why all three of these aspects need to be met by a scientific theory before it is considered “good.” This, I think, would be very difficult to do. Furthermore, it is logically fallacious to claim, as you did above, that just because ID is not a “good” scientific theory, it is therefore not a scientific theory at all. After all, something could still be a scientific theory, even if it is a poor one; indeed, this is arguably one reason why we sometimes speak of “soft” and “hard” sciences. Maybe ID is just a “soft” science, but that does not make it unscientific. And so, your claim above just is not coherent.

    Finally, ID does substantially more than just abduction, and it actually does contain all three aspects of abduction, deduction, and induction. And I will explain how shortly.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  29. 29
    Mung says:

    Please visit my new domain, inhumanextension.com

  30. 30
    Querius says:

    Yeah, what he said.

    Let’s be nice, and argue fair! -ly. We can share, learn, discuss, disagree, and not waste time. 🙂

  31. 31
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Kantian Naturalist:

    So, does ID extend beyond just abduction? Absolutely. To see why, consider this analogous example from Forensic Science.

    A Forensic Scientist is investigating a corpse. The corpse was found in a kitchen lying in a pile of kitchen knives and by the knife block. Now, on the chest of the corpse are knife wounds that appear to match the following: “I, THE DESIGNER, DID THIS. I DID IT. THIS IS MY WORK.” There is absolutely no other evidence except for the evidence described. Now given this evidence, and given that the wounds on the corpse contain massive amounts of complex specified information, the Forensic Scientist obviously concludes, on the basis of this evidence alone—and as we all would—that the best explanation for this evidence is that the person was murdered rather than dying of natural causes such as an accident. This is the abduction portion.

    After this, notice that the Forensic Scientist can deduce certain things about the murderer. He could deduce that he or she would have to be strong enough to inflict such wounds and that he or she had enough stamina to do. He could also deduce the amount of time that was needed for such an event to occur, etc. Numerous other deductions could be made as well.

    The Forensic Scientist could also make inductive generalizations based on his abductive inference. He could, for example, positively state that every time something like words/sentences appear in the form of wounds on a corpse, that corpse was murdered. Furthermore, negative inductive generalizations could be made, such as that natural causes could never inflict wounds on a corpse in the form of words/sentences. Next, these inductive generalizations could be tested. For example, an experiment could be run demonstrating that a person could indeed inflict such wounds, thereby confirming that an intelligent agent could cause such a thing to occur. Also, numerous experiments could be run to see if the wounds could have been caused naturally. Perhaps the knife block fell over, and the knives bounced off the ground repeatedly, thereby inflicting the wounds. Or perhaps the person slipped and fell, knocking the knife block over in the process; then, in trying to get up, the person slipped further into the knives and inflicted all the wounds on his (or her) body. Both these options are logically possible, and they could have happened, so such a claim could be empirically tested.

    Now, given that this exact example could be transferred to an ID scenario—after all, the same phrase could, for example, be found on the side of a cell wall, etc.—then it is hard to see why ID cannot count as a “good” scientific theory.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    KN @ 15: “I framed the premise as an analogy (“the genetic code is like a language”) because I think that the claim about identity (“the genetic code is a language”) is much, much harder to make.”

    The relevance of this remark is not clear to me. I never claimed the genetic code is a language or like a language. I claimed that the genetic code is a code.

    KN @ 15: “So the claim would have to be that the genetic code is a language in exactly the same way that a computer language is a language, right?”

    No, the claim would be that the genetic code is a code.

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    Upright @ 16: “The material conditions required for the genetic code to produce a specific material effect are exactly the same as those for a computer code to produce a specific material effect.”

    Just so. As Upright has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt in these pages, the genetic code operates on the same principles as any other code that produces a material effect. See his argument at:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....p-by-step/

  34. 34
    Barry Arrington says:

    KN @ 21: “design theory stops there” [i.e., at the abductive leap]. No, it does not. See RD Midso’s excellent comments at 28 and 31.

    I would add to RD Midso’s comment the following:

    When it comes to biology we are really in a zero sum game between ID and theories that posit some combination of chance and necessity (Neo-Darwinian Evolution (NDE) is obviously the dominant such theory). There are two and only two games in town, and to the extent one advances the other must retreat.

    NDE has been trying and failing to demonstrate that chance and necessity can create complex specified information, new body plans, or new irreducibly complex structures for over 150 years. The main result has been a lot of dead irradiated fruit flies lying around in a lab. NDE’s failure actually to demonstrate as opposed to question begging – which it is very good at indeed – is powerful evidence for ID.

    KN, let me put it this way: I will abandon ID and become a card carrying NDE advocate the very day someone demonstrates natural forces creating new complex specified information.

    Finally, you conceded the validity of the abductive leap that ID makes. For that I thank you.

  35. 35
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Barry Arrington,

    You are quite correct. In fact, your line of argumentation could be summed up as the following: absence of evidence is evidence of absence if certain evidences would be expected given the truth of a certain hypothesis and yet that expected evidence is not present. And this is a totally valid method of argumentation that is used in the sciences all the time!

    And given that certain evidences on Blind Watchmaker Neo-Darwinian Evolution (BWNDE) are expected, and yet these evidences are not present, then this counts as evidence against that hypothesis. Furthermore, given that the only other viable option is ID of some sort, than the failure on the part of the BWNDE hypothesis immediately strengthens the ID hypothesis.

    I would also add that any attempt by the BWNDE proponent to object that they “just need a little more time” and then they will have the answers is both fallacious and irrational. After all, how much more time would we give to the Forensic Scientist who claimed that with just a little more time he could show us that the wounds on the corpse’s chest in the form of words came about by natural means? Obviously, giving him more and more time would be irrational, especially if his current attempts had shown themselves to be failures. Indeed, instead, we would simply understand that it would be rational to see ID as the currently best explanation in such a case, and then, if somehow it could be shown that such wounds could come about be accident, only then would it be rational to stop seeing ID as the best explanation of the evidence.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  36. 36
    RDFish says:

    (1) For all As whose provenance is actually known, the cause of A was B.
    Here “A” could be complex specified information or irreducible complexity.
    B, of course, stands for “the act of an intelligent agent.”

    In our uniform and repeated experience, all intelligent agents are complex biological organisms with brains, sense organs, motor effectors, etc – just the sorts of things ID purports to explain in the first place.

    So ID can’t propose exactly what we observe to be the cause of CSI in other contexts as the explanation of CSI in biological systems. Rather, ID hypothesizes the existence of something else – something completely outside of our uniform and repeated experience of intelligent agency. ID hypothesizes something that is not itself a complex biological system but somehow has the same sorts of abilities that we do (i.e. the engineering and construction of complex mechanisms).

    Based on our knowledge and experience, nothing without complex physical mechanisms for data aquisition, information processing, and motor output could produce other complex physical systems. In other words, it’s a priori unlikely that the ID hypothesis is true. In order for ID to be taken seriously as a scientific project, then, it must provide good empirical evidence that such a thing exists, or has existed in the past, or at the very least that such a thing is possible in principle. Nobody ever attempts to provide such evidence, which is why ID is a non-starter as a science.

    And no, there is no reasonable justification for saying that there are only two games in town, and so even if both NDE and ID are empirically unsupported we must believe on of them to be true. On the contrary, the intellectually honest answer is “We do not know”.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  37. 37
    equate65 says:

    @ 33: UB also picks his argument back up @ 100 here > http://www.uncommondescent.com.....evolution/

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF: Millions, would disagree with you that our uniform, repeated experience of intelligence is embodied. We cannot even see embodiment as a basis for the intelligence in embodied beings. More to the point, intelligence is inferred based on evidently purposeful directed contingency, precisely what is manifested in FSCO/I. Absent prior good reason to infer that say the fine tuned cosmos could not possibly have been created by an unembodied intelligence [and there is a world of discussion linked to the nature of necessary, minded being as root of existence . . . ], that conclusion is possible and it is reasonably inferred on the evidence of such fine tuning. However, this debate is irrelevant tot he world of life, save insofar as Darwinists have nailed their flags to the mast of materialism. If it is reasonable that a molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond Venter et al could do what we have seen these 60 years, then there is no reason to try to inject debates over embodied vs unembodied intelligences in discussing signs of design in the world of life on earth. Apart from, of course, the ideological phobias of materialists in lab coats for a Divine Foot in the door of their temple of materialism. KF

  39. 39
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    In response to RD Miksa @ 28 and 31:

    First off, any attempt to delineate a “good” scientific theory as one that depends on abduction, deduction, and induction would run face first into the Demarcation Problem, thereby placing the onus on you to show why all three of these aspects need to be met by a scientific theory before it is considered “good.” This, I think, would be very difficult to do.

    I would worry about the demarcation problem if I thought that a distinction had to completely unambiguous in order to work as distinction in the first place. A few fuzzy cases here and there don’t trouble my sleep. But I do think that Peirce was pretty much right that a scientific theory contains all three forms of reasoning, because empirical inquiry generally is reliable when different kinds of reasoning hold each in check, and that the checks-and-balances is intersubjective or communal.

    But I don’t think of the presence of abduction, deduction, and induction as the criteria of a scientific theory, let alone a good one — a good scientific theory is one that pays its own way, generates better explanations of the data, predicts new data, opens up new avenues for investigation, and so on. The combination of abduction, deduction, and induction has been, historically speaking, an effective way of arriving at those epistemic desiderata.

    Furthermore, it is logically fallacious to claim, as you did above, that just because ID is not a “good” scientific theory, it is therefore not a scientific theory at all. After all, something could still be a scientific theory, even if it is a poor one; indeed, this is arguably one reason why we sometimes speak of “soft” and “hard” sciences. Maybe ID is just a “soft” science, but that does not make it unscientific. And so, your claim above just is not coherent.

    The distinction between the “hard” (natural) and “soft” (social) sciences does not, in my view, have anything to do with how good or bad a scientific theory is. I subscribe to the view that there is a fundamental difference in methodologies between the social and natural sciences, and so the criteria are implemented in markedly different ways.

    As for the forensic science example in 31, I don’t really see the point of the example. Sure, the forensic scientist in the example makes use of abduction, deduction, and induction. Here’s a somewhat better way of seeing how the forensic scientist could reason:

    If the victim were murdered, then the wounds and blood would be a matter of course (abduction). In order to cause this kind of damage, the murderer must have used a weapon of such-and-such length (deduction). But no such weapon has been found at the crime scene (observation). Therefore, the weapon is probably elsewhere (induction).

    That’s all well and good, and I don’t think the basic pattern of reasoning is all that different between forensics and physics. It’s the techniques that differ. The question is, what does this tell us about ID? And the answer is, nothing at all. For what we get at the end of the example is just this:

    Now, given that this exact example could be transferred to an ID scenario—after all, the same phrase could, for example, be found on the side of a cell wall, etc.—then it is hard to see why ID cannot count as a “good” scientific theory.

    If I was understood to have claimed that intelligent design could not be a scientific theory, good or otherwise, I must clarify (or perhaps I misspoke). That is not my position — not at all!

    My position, rather, is that at present, design theorists have not done the hard work of implementing the deductive and inductive stages of inquiry that would lend empirical warrant to the hypothesis. And that means that design theory does not yet deserve serious consideration as an alternative to other explanations of biological phenomena. Whether it will merit serious consideration in the future, I don’t know and have no intuitions about, one way or the other.

  40. 40
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Oh, and by the way, in response to Barry Arrington and Mapou — when did I ever say that I was a man?

  41. 41

    a good scientific theory is one that pays its own way, generates better explanations of the data, predicts new data

    Yes indeed.

  42. 42
    Barry Arrington says:

    “Oh, and by the way, in response to Barry Arrington and Mapou — when did I ever say that I was a man?”

    You never did as far as I know. Not sure what your point is unless you are suggesting I kludge up all my posts with the insufferably pc “he or she” until you choose to reveal your gender. If that’s your point you are bound to be disappointed, cuz it ain’t gonna happen.

  43. 43
    Barry Arrington says:

    KN @ 21: “In other words, a good scientific theory depends on abduction and deduction and induction.”

    KN @ 39: “But I don’t think of the presence of abduction, deduction, and induction as the criteria of a scientific theory, let alone a good one”

    Will the real KN, whatever his, her or its gender is, please step forward?

  44. 44
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    The kinds of reason aren’t the criteria of a scientific theory being good (or not); the criteria are the epistemic desiderata. The kinds of reasoning are how the criteria are satisfied.

  45. 45
    Barry Arrington says:

    KN @ 44: “the criteria are the epistemic desiderata.”

    Just so everyone is on the same page:

    “epistemic”: of or relating to knowledge or to the degree of its validation

    “knowledge”: True warranted belief

    “desiderata”: plural of desideratum

    “Desideratum”: That which is desired or needed.

    So I hear you saying that the criteria for a good theory are the things that are needed to produce or further validate the true warranted belief we have about some phenomenon (in our case, biological origins).

    If that is the case, why do we always argue about which side of some arbitrary line of demarcation our theory falls on? If my beliefs about biological origins are true, what difference does it make to me whether Karl Popper would have said those beliefs are on one side or the other of the line?

    The issue is the truth of the matter, not the boxes in which we choose to put that truth.

    In arriving at truth we summon and employ to the best of our ability our powers of observation and thought. We consider the alternatives. We attempt to put aside our biases and prejudices. We reach a conclusion. And if we are right, if our conclusion is true, why should we care if someone says, “Your conclusion is not valid because it doesn’t fit into this arbitrary epistemic box”? For the life of me I can’t see why we should.

  46. 46
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    So I hear you saying that the criteria for a good theory are the things that are needed to produce or further validate the true warranted belief we have about some phenomenon (in our case, biological origins).

    Not quite — all I mean by “epistemic desiderata” (a phrase I introduced in 39) are the qualities that we want in a theory — that it ” generates better explanations of the data, predicts new data, opens up new avenues for investigation, and so on.”

    Perhaps the design hypothesis is true. (It certainly is logically possible, after all!) But it does not (yet) warrant the privilege we normally bestow on scientific theories. But isn’t that what the whole debate is about — whether ID is a scientific theory or not? If the design hypothesis is true as the conclusion of a philosophical argument, or as a piece of metaphysical speculation, that’s a very different kettle of fish!

  47. 47
    dziskov says:

    ID is a conclusion based on deductive reasoning.
    P1: bio-systems and processes have significance(intra-relation) in one another (sperm-egg, RNA splicing-protein production, G1-S-G2 phases in cell cycle, …)
    P2: bio-systems are arrangement of matter.
    P3: natural processes can’t ipso facto create significance of one arrangement of matter in another arrangement of matter. Evolution by definition creates effects related to environment(extra-relation) not the effects related to cell systems(intra-relation). Likewise, processes of inanimate nature heads toward a state of minimum total potential energy(equilibrium) and not toward a state necessary for cell-systems to function.
    P4: ID creates significance of one arrangement of matter in another arrangement of matter(key-lock, screw-nut, …).
    C: Therefore, bio-systems are created by ID.

  48. 48
    Upright BiPed says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    You are arguing the material conditions are the same in all relevant respects.

    Yes.

    Obviously, therefore, there is disagreement about what are the *relevant* similarities and differences between computers and DNA.

    I am prepared to defend my position. What is materially relevant is that both systems (as a matter of physical necessity) include an arrangement of matter to evoke a functional effect within the system where the arrangement is physicochemically arbitrary to the effect it evokes, as well as a second arrangement of matter to establish the otherwise non-existent relationship between the first arrangement and its effect. The first arrangement inputs form into the effects produced by the system, and the second establishes what those effects will be. I believe it’s also relevant that this physical architecture (the instantiation of a local relationship within a system) is found nowhere else in the physical world except during the translation of recorded information.

  49. 49
    Box says:

    BA #34: Let me put it this way: I will abandon ID and become a card carrying NDE advocate the very day someone demonstrates natural forces creating new complex specified information.

    This is an interesting statement. Allow me to use the analogy by RD Miksa; the corpse in the kitchen (post #31). Let’s assume that a forensic scientist is able to prove that the wounds could have been caused naturally. Does that prove that an accident occurred? There is a tendency to be lenient towards evolution theory: it only has to be possible in principle in order to be declared “true”.

  50. 50
    Querius says:

    Good point, Box.

    If we could demonstrate the origin of life in a laboratory environment, it still wouldn’t prove that it was actually what had happened. It would make that scenario much more likely, however . . . until someone else was able to demonstrate the same OOL under different conditions.

  51. 51
    RD Miksa says:

    FYI….will be answering KN in detail shortly.

    RD Miksa

  52. 52
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Box,

    You said:

    “Allow me to use the analogy by RD Miksa; the corpse in the kitchen (post #31). Let’s assume that a forensic scientist is able to prove that the wounds could have been caused naturally. Does that prove that an accident occurred? There is a tendency to be lenient towards evolution theory: it only has to be possible in principle in order to be declared “true”.”

    Very good point. In such a case, the only thing that could give the Forensic Scientist the grounds to prefer the naturalistic explanation to the design explanation is an application of Occam’s Razor. And even in such a case, Occam’s Razor is just a principle, not a “law” of rationality, and thus, it is arguable that as far as you could rationally go is agnosticism about the ultimate explanation of the evidence, rather than preferring one explanation over the other. And the same, arguably, would hold true in the ID versus Blind Watchmaker Neo-Darwinism debate.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  53. 53
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Kantian Naturalist:

    You said:

    “I would worry about the demarcation problem if I thought that a distinction had to completely unambiguous in order to work as distinction in the first place. A few fuzzy cases here and there don’t trouble my sleep.”

    Not that it is critical to the discussion, but you do realize that your claim here just pushes the problem back one step and then rotates it right back into the Demarcation Problem. After all, who decides which ones are the fuzzy cases or not? You? Me? If I claim that ID is rock-solid science and you do not, then how do we objectively decide who is correct? Well, by having an objective Demarcation Criteria, and thus, we are right back at that particular problem. So, ultimately, the Demarcation Problem is an inescapable problem when discussing whether an idea, such as ID, is scientific or not.

    You said:

    “But I do think that Peirce was pretty much right that a scientific theory contains all three forms of reasoning, because empirical inquiry generally is reliable when different kinds of reasoning hold each in check, and that the checks-and-balances is intersubjective or communal.”

    So you do have essentially clear Demarcation criteria for what you think is needed for a scientific theory (ie – “…all three forms of reasoning…”).

    You said:

    “But I don’t think of the presence of abduction, deduction, and induction as the criteria of a scientific theory, let alone a good one…”

    Which seems, at least to me, to contradict what you said above.

    You said:

    “…— a good scientific theory is one that pays its own way, generates better explanations of the data, predicts new data, opens up new avenues for investigation, and so on. The combination of abduction, deduction, and induction has been, historically speaking, an effective way of arriving at those epistemic desiderata.”

    But this is, in essence, just another way of saying: a scientific theory needs abduction, deduction, and induction because that combination gives a scientific theory the means to better explain data, predict new data, open new avenues for investigation, etc.

    And thus I repeat: you definitely seem to have clear Demarcation criteria that you subscribe to.

    More to follow…

  54. 54
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Kantian Naturalist:

    You said:

    “As for the forensic science example in 31, I don’t really see the point of the example.”

    Well, one of the points was to show that a science of design detection, which is what Forensic Science is, can easily and readily meet all the criteria that you laid out for something to be a rigorous scientific theory. And given that one type of design detection science could do so means that there is no in-principle reason that ID could not.

    You said:

    “That’s all well and good, and I don’t think the basic pattern of reasoning is all that different between forensics and physics. It’s the techniques that differ. The question is, what does this tell us about ID? And the answer is, nothing at all. For what we get at the end of the example is just this:”

    Perhaps the part that you missed was that since it would be in-principle possible to find the exact same type of pattern of “words” from my analogy on or in a biological organism or biological feature of some type, and then since the exact same type of reasoning used in the forensic science example could be used in such a case of ID (meaning abduction, deduction, and induction), then ID, in-principle, meets all the criteria of a good scientific theory. Now you may claim that nothing like that has been discovered in a biological organism yet, but that fact does not negate the truth that ID, in-principle, meets all the criteria necessary to be a good scientific theory.

    You said:

    “If I was understood to have claimed that intelligent design could not be a scientific theory, good or otherwise, I must clarify (or perhaps I misspoke). That is not my position — not at all!”

    OK, fair enough. But I still think that you are incorrect, as I will demonstrate shortly.

    More to follow…

  55. 55
    RDFish says:

    KF,

    RDF: Millions, would disagree with you that our uniform, repeated experience of intelligence is embodied.

    In that case, they would all be mistaken. Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that CSI never occurs absent intelligence, but it confirms as well that intelligence never occurs absent CSI. ID fails to deal with this, so ID fails.

    Again, we’re free to hypothesize that intelligence could operate without the benefit of physical sense organs and information processing mechanisms, but such things (for example, ghosts or demons) are outside of our uniform and repeated experience. It is therefore a mistake to imagine that this hypothesis constitutes a scientific result. The research that ID ought to be conducting has nothing to do with trying to prove over and over again that NDE doesn’t account for speciation. Rather, ID ought to be conducting research into the paranormal, to demonstrate that intelligence can operate outside of the body.

  56. 56
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Kantian Naturalist:

    You said:

    “My position, rather, is that at present, design theorists have not done the hard work of implementing the deductive and inductive stages of inquiry that would lend empirical warrant to the hypothesis. And that means that design theory does not yet deserve serious consideration as an alternative to other explanations of biological phenomena.”

    Consider, then, the following:

    Let’s start with the abductive leap that you accept:

    “The abductive leap would be: ‘It is surprising that there is complex, specified information in living things, but if living things were brought about by an intelligent agent, then the presence of complex, specified information in living things would be a matter of course.’ and that’s perfectly right, as far it goes.”

    Now you say:

    “But it does not go very far, because design theory stops there. It does not go on the next stage of inquiry, which would be test the abductive leap. To do that, one would have to deduce observable consequences from the hypothesis that would not follow from the converse, and then conduct the lab or field work to see if the observables are actually, in fact, observed.”

    But this is just incorrect. Why? Because if we admit the abductive “leap” that complex specified information is best explained as the product of ID, and that there is CSI in living things, then the deductive and inductive aspects follow naturally.

    First, we can deduce that the designing intelligence would have had to be intelligent as well as possess a knowledge of biology that rivaled if not surpassed our own. Next, the intelligent agent would have to have had synthetic engineering skills. Furthermore, depending on the time when the organism in question first existed, we could deduce the rough time-frame when the design of the organism occurred. And a number of other deductions could be made.

    Second, we could form general inductive “laws” based on ID that would be both predictive and could be easily tested empirically and confirmed via observation. For example, we could establish a “law” that “no CSI rich biological organism could come about via unintelligent means.” This would also be a prediction. Next, another prediction: an intelligence, such as us, could create biological organisms with CSI in them. And another prediction: if ID occurred, then it is likely that the foundation of life was designed rather than coming about by natural means. (And of course, many more predictions could be made).

    Third, a research program could be completed to search as many biological organisms as possible in order to determine which ones exhibited CSI. Then, once this list was completed, the predictions could be tested and observations made. If ID came out successful, then this would explain the data better.

    So, again, all the criteria of a good scientific theory can be met by ID.

    Note, furthermore, that ID might be false—meaning that perhaps the abductive leap that there is CSI in living things is incorrect—and yet ID could still be a scientific theory that meets all the criteria required of science. Thus, ID does not need to better explain or account for the data before it can be considered scientific, because even if ID is false—for the sake of argument—it could still have shown itself capable of doing all the things a good scientific theory does.

    A clear differentiation needs to be made between a theory that is scientific in terms of its ability to meet all the requirements necessary to be considered a science, and a scientific theory that is currently the one that best explains the data. Newton’s theory, for example, is clearly a scientific theory, and yet it is not the best one anymore. Just because it is no longer accepted does not suddenly mean that it is no longer scientific.

    RD Miksa

  57. 57
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    I think you are mistaken. Consider the following example:

    Suppose an archeologist enters a cave. Suddenly, the archeologist finds two scratches together on the wall of the cave. OK, nothing surprising at that. But then suppose that the archeologist sees a space by the two scratches, and then sees three scratches together. And then a space, and five scratches together. And then another space, and seven scratches together. And then another space, and eleven scratches together. And then another space, and thirteen scratches together. And then another space, and seventeen scratches together. And so on and so forth for all the first one hundred prime numbers. Clearly, such an archeologist would immediately conclude (and so would anyone else) that the best explanation (if not the ONLY reasonable explanation) for that sequence of prime number scratches was that an intelligence designed those scratches rather than them being the product of natural forces (they possess massive amounts of CSI, after all). This design inference would be immediate and overwhelming, and rightfully so.

    But then consider this. Consider–for the sake of argument–that it was somehow known, beyond a reasonable doubt, not only that humans beings were the only embodied beings in all of existence but also that no human being had ever entered the cave with the prime number scratches. Now, would the overwhelmingly obvious design inference suddenly become irrational and unwarranted? Of course not. Instead, the design inference would still be rational, but then, with the additional information at hand, it would thus also be rational to posit an un-embodied intelligence as the cause of the prime number scratches. So ID, with additional information attached (if such information could be had), could lead to rationally conclude that an un-embodied intelligence was the designing agent.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  58. 58
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Clearly, such an archaeologist would immediately conclude (and so would anyone else) that the best explanation (if not the ONLY reasonable explanation) for that sequence of prime number scratches was that an intelligence designed those scratches

    Well no, “an intelligence” is not what any real archaeologist would conclude. An archaeologist would conclude that the scratches were the product of human beings; they would not broaden their conclusion to include other hypothetical entities that might produce such sequences (aliens, ghosts, demons, Bigfoot, etc), as no such entities are known to exist.

    This design inference would be immediate and overwhelming, and rightfully so.

    This is only true if the term “design inference” means “attributing something to human craftsmanship”.

    But then consider this. Consider–for the sake of argument–that it was somehow known, beyond a reasonable doubt, not only that humans beings were the only embodied beings in all of existence but also that no human being had ever entered the cave with the prime number scratches.

    In that case, we would have no theory as to what might have caused the scratches.

    Now, would the overwhelmingly obvious design inference suddenly become irrational and unwarranted? Of course not.

    Yes, of course it would, since you just got through saying that humans could not have accomplished it.

    Instead, the design inference would still be rational, but then, with the additional information at hand, it would thus also be rational to posit an un-embodied intelligence as the cause of the prime number scratches.

    You might wish to hypothesize that something without a physical body could somehow have the same sorts of abilities that human beings do. It contradicts everything we know from our uniform and repeated experience, however, so the a priori probability that your hypothesis is true would be very low. You would thus be obliged to provide empirical evidence to demonstrate that such a thing was in fact the cause of biological complexity; at the very least you would need to demonstrate that such a thing is possible. That is why ID should be focused on paranormal research.

    Why isn’t ID involved in paranormal research, trying to demonstrate that intelligent behavior can occur independently of living biological systems?

    So ID, with additional information attached (if such information could be had), could lead to rationally conclude that an un-embodied intelligence was the designing agent.

    You can hypothesize such a thing, but there is no evidence to support such a conclusion.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  59. 59
    Box says:

    RDFish #58

    This is only true if the term “design inference” means “attributing something to human craftsmanship”.

    Why the metaphysical claim that humans are the sole source of intelligence? We are often told by astrophysicists that it is arrogant for us humans to insist that the only life is on Earth, and by doing so excluding the possibility of different life forms and intelligence elsewhere in the universe.

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF, re 55: In short, you are a committed materialist. In that case your problems are deeper, starting with grounding our own minds as able to know accurately, to warrant and to reason. And more than that, just read on. KF

  61. 61
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “Well no, “an intelligence” is not what any real archaeologist would conclude. An archaeologist would conclude that the scratches were the product of human beings; they would not broaden their conclusion to include other hypothetical entities that might produce such sequences (aliens, ghosts, demons, Bigfoot, etc), as no such entities are known to exist.”

    Actually, you are slightly incorrect here. The inference would ultimately be a two-step process. First, the archaeologist would infer that the best explanation was that an “intelligence” caused the scratches, and then, on the basis of other, separate evidence, he would secondarily conclude that the best explanation was that the intelligence was a human being. However, both inferences are ultimately separable. And thus, while you are correct, for all practical purposes, that the archaeologist would make the inference in one step, you are incorrect in the logical sense, because the two inferences are separable in-principle. And it is this latter aspect that is the key for this argument.

    You said:

    “This is only true if the term “design inference” means “attributing something to human craftsmanship.”

    Completely and utterly incorrect in general terms. SETI, for example, provides a non-human design inference. And numerous other examples could be provided as well (see below).

    You said:

    “In that case, we would have no theory as to what might have caused the scratches.”

    Are you crazy? Of course we would have an explanation of what caused the scratches: an intelligent agent of some type. Maybe we would be rational in remaining agnostic about the type of intelligent agent, but of course an inference to design would be rational for a sequence of the first hundred prime numbers.

    You said:

    ‘Now, would the overwhelmingly obvious design inference suddenly become irrational and unwarranted? Of course not.’ “Yes, of course it would, since you just got through saying that humans could not have accomplished it.”

    Again, this is just crazy. Are you honestly and seriously saying that if I observed a sequence of the first hundred prime numbers laid out in a clear row of scratches, then I would be irrational in inferring design just because I could not attribute it to a human being or any other embodied agent? Seriously?

    If so, then let me give you this example. Imagine—for the sake of argument—that we, as humans being in our present state of technology, somehow also know that we were the only embodied beings in all of existence. Now, imagine that as we are watching the night sky, the stars literally re-arrange themselves to form a long paragraph of English words that is addressed to us Earthlings. Now, if this happened, would we be irrational in inferring design even though we would know that no other embodied beings could have caused this to occur. Of course not! It would be the height of irrationality not to infer design in such a case. Thus, just because we could not infer an embodied human designer, does not mean that we could not infer a designer at all. For given such evidence, of course we would infer a designer, even if it had to be a disembodied one.

    More to follow…

  62. 62
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “You might wish to hypothesize that something without a physical body could somehow have the same sorts of abilities that human beings do. It contradicts everything we know from our uniform and repeated experience…”

    Actually, I have to seriously dispute this.

    First, most people are either implicitly and explicitly dualists, so their uniform and repeated experience is of something immaterial (their mind) influencing the material (their body), thus giving weight to the claim that the immaterial can affect the material. If you wish to state that their uniform and repeated experience is wrong, then you would need to demonstrate the clear falsity of dualism, which is a tall order.

    Second, certain deductive arguments—such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, for example—could give rational grounds to already believe that something immaterial can affect the material, thus making the inference to an un-embodied designer no real problem giving the already existent evidence that such a thing could occur.

    Third—as such a book like Craig Keener’s Miracles demonstrates—the uniform and repeated experience of humanity is not of materialism, but rather of the “supernatural” affecting the natural. It is of miracles, and of having experiences of the divine, etc. Now you may dispute these claims, but you cannot claim that uniform and repeated human experience is of materialism.

    Fourth, evidence from Near-Death Experiences provides some empirical evidence that the immaterial can affect the material, and that the material can also affect the immaterial.

    Fifth, to become philosophical for a moment, you should note that you are actually presupposing materialism here. I, after all, could be a Berkeley-style idealist of a certain type, and thus hold that only the immaterial exists. And therefore, positing an un-embodied non-human designer is no problem, because all designers are ultimately immaterial.

    Sixth, if an un-embodied designer is even possible, as it obviously is, then the design inference could itself be so strong as to give us the grounds to infer such a designer. And I could provide numerous examples where this would be the case. So even if, for the sake of argument, it is admitted that our uniform and repeated experience supports materialism, it is nevertheless possible that a design inference, in and of itself, could be so strong that it overrides this uniform and repeated experience by the strength of its own evidentiary value.

    You said:

    “So ID, with additional information attached (if such information could be had), could lead to rationally conclude that an un-embodied intelligence was the designing agent.”

    But the information above already gives us grounds to do so, and thus I don’t see what the problem is.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  63. 63
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Why the metaphysical claim that humans are the sole source of intelligence?

    I haven’t made any metaphysical claims, and what I have claimed is plainly true: In our uniform and repeated experience, all intelligent behavior emanates from complex physical entities that are chock-full of CSI – just the sorts of things that ID is trying to explain in the first place.

    We are often told by astrophysicists that it is arrogant for us humans to insist that the only life is on Earth, and by doing so excluding the possibility of different life forms and intelligence elsewhere in the universe.

    You are pretending that I have made the claim that non-human intelligence is impossible, but that is not what I have claimed. You’ll need to read what I write and respond to my actual argument rather than making up easier arguments to rebut.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  64. 64
    RDFish says:

    Hi KF,

    In short, you are a committed materialist.

    No, I’m not. You’ll need to read what I write and respond to my actual argument rather than making up easier arguments to rebut.

  65. 65
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Actually, you are slightly incorrect here. The inference would ultimately be a two-step process. First, the archaeologist would infer that the best explanation was that an “intelligence” caused the scratches, and then, on the basis of other, separate evidence, he would secondarily conclude that the best explanation was that the intelligence was a human being.

    No, archaeologists do not study “intelligence” in general. Here is what archeologists study:

    Archaeology… is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology, my emphasis

    And thus, while you are correct, for all practical purposes, that the archaeologist would make the inference in one step, you are incorrect in the logical sense, because the two inferences are separable in-principle. And it is this latter aspect that is the key for this argument.

    I understand that it is possible to hypothesize the activity of a disembodied intelligent entity. My point is that such a thing does not exist in our uniform and repeated experience, and ID fails to provide any evidence that such a thing exists, or existed, or even could possibly exist.

    SETI, for example, provides a non-human design inference.

    No, SETI is not a theory or explanation of anything, it is a search for things that might indicate intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Since they haven’t found anything yet, nobody has inferred anything.

    RDF: “In that case, we would have no theory as to what might have caused the scratches.”
    RDM: Are you crazy?

    If I was, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to tell. But that’s true for all of us 🙂

    Of course we would have an explanation of what caused the scratches: an intelligent agent of some type.

    The only thing you would know about the cause of the scratches would be that it was, somehow, capable of causing those scratches. You would not be able to characterize the cause in any scientifically meaningful way: You would not be able to say anything at all about one single other thing that this cause was capable of, and so your “explanation” would be scientifically vacuous.

    Again, this is just crazy.

    No, it’s not.

    Are you honestly and seriously saying that if I observed a sequence of the first hundred prime numbers laid out in a clear row of scratches, then I would be irrational in inferring design just because I could not attribute it to a human being or any other embodied agent? Seriously?

    When you say you are “inferring design” in these contexts (the cave that no human has entered, or the cause of first life), what you are actually inferring is the existence of something that has the general abilities of a human being – in particular that they can learn, reason, solve novel problems, consciously experience beliefs and desires, and design and build complex machinery – but is not itself a complex physical entity. This is just an hypothesis, not something that can be inferred from our observations. Whatever caused first life might be utterly different from human beings in every respect, without beliefs and desires and lacking in consciousness entirely.

    First, most people are either implicitly and explicitly dualists, so their uniform and repeated experience is of something immaterial (their mind) influencing the material (their body), thus giving weight to the claim that the immaterial can affect the material.

    You (and the dualists you mention) are assuming your conclusion. Nobody knows the truth about mind/body ontology. We do not experience the truth of dualism, physicalism, idealism, or any variant of these or other metaphysical stances. We just make them up and debate them. The reason the debates are ancient and unresolved is because we can’t appeal to our uniform and repeated experience in order to settle the matter.

    If you wish to state that their uniform and repeated experience is wrong, then you would need to demonstrate the clear falsity of dualism, which is a tall order.

    Nobody can demonstrate the falsity of any solution to the mind/body problem. (My personal belief is that we cannot comprehend the fundamental nature of reality, but I can’t demonstate that to be true either).

    Second, certain deductive arguments—such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, for example—could give rational grounds to already believe that something immaterial can affect the material, thus making the inference to an un-embodied designer no real problem giving the already existent evidence that such a thing could occur.

    I don’t think Kalam is a good argument at all, but what is clear is that these sorts of philosophical arguments are not matters of observation in our uniform and repeated experience. There is a vast number of things that are in our uniform and repeated experience (or can be simply and clearly inferred therefrom), but at this time the cause of the universe is not among them.

    Third—as such a book like Craig Keener’s Miracles demonstrates—the uniform and repeated experience of humanity is not of materialism, but rather of the “supernatural” affecting the natural. It is of miracles, and of having experiences of the divine, etc. Now you may dispute these claims, but you cannot claim that uniform and repeated human experience is of materialism.

    I make no such claim. We do not experience the solution to questions of metaphysical ontology, and miracles are by definition not part of our uniform and repeated experience.

    Fourth, evidence from Near-Death Experiences provides some empirical evidence that the immaterial can affect the material, and that the material can also affect the immaterial.

    Yes, this is precisely the sort of thing that ID ought to be researching. I think NDE evidence is utterly insufficient at this point to make any sorts of truth claims, but there are definitely ways of furthering the research on this and other paranormal phenomena, and that is where ID “researchers” ought to be focussing their efforts! So far they haven’t even tried.

    Fifth, to become philosophical for a moment, you should note that you are actually presupposing materialism here.

    No, I’m not (I am not a materialist).

    I, after all, could be a Berkeley-style idealist of a certain type, and thus hold that only the immaterial exists. And therefore, positing an un-embodied non-human designer is no problem, because all designers are ultimately immaterial.

    Even if idealism were true (and I’m rather sympathetic to that notion in a way, although I am a neutral monist rather than an idealist), there would still be a distinction in our phenomenal experience between an “embodied” and a “disembodied” entity.

    Sixth, if an un-embodied designer is even possible, as it obviously is, …

    You are assuming your conclusion. Since we do not know the necessary and sufficient conditions for thought, we cannot assume that un-embodied thought is possible. Our experience is only of embodied thought, however, and everything we understand regarding the acquisition and processing of information entails physical mechanism. Again, this doesn’t mean that disembodied thought is impossible; what it means is that such a thing is a priori improbable.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  66. 66
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I will address your other points shortly (and likely not in order), but before I do, I noticed that you failed to address my other example, and thus I would like your thoughts on it before I proceed. Here it is:

    From Comment 61: “If so, then let me give you this example. Imagine—for the sake of argument—that we, as humans being in our present state of technology, somehow also know that we are the only embodied beings in all of existence. Now, imagine that as we are watching the night sky, the stars literally re-arrange themselves to form a long paragraph of English words that is addressed to us Earthlings. Now, if this happened, would we be irrational in inferring design even though we would know that no other embodied beings could have caused this to occur. Of course not! It would be the height of irrationality not to infer design in such a case. Thus, just because we could not infer an embodied human designer, does not mean that we could not infer a designer at all. For given such evidence, of course we would infer a designer, even if it had to be a disembodied one.”

    Now, forget for a moment the question of whether ID is science or not, or whether it is a good scientific theory or not, just thing of this example as a rational human being. Obviously, in such a case, a design inference is warranted, is it not?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  67. 67
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I said:

    “Sixth, if an un-embodied designer is even possible, as it obviously is…”

    You replied:

    “You are assuming your conclusion. Since we do not know the necessary and sufficient conditions for thought, we cannot assume that un-embodied thought is possible. Our experience is only of embodied thought, however, and everything we understand regarding the acquisition and processing of information entails physical mechanism. Again, this doesn’t mean that disembodied thought is impossible; what it means is that such a thing is a priori improbable.”

    Now this reply is not only confused, but literally contradictory. Here is why (and I will shift the order of your sentences slightly).

    You said:

    “You are assuming your conclusion.”

    No I am not. I am saying that an un-embodied designer is possible, not that he certainly exists. Unless you have an absolute proof for materialism and against theism/deism, then an un-embodied designer is at least possible.

    You said:

    “Again, this doesn’t mean that disembodied thought is impossible; what it means is that such a thing is a priori improbable.”

    Which means that disembodied thought is at least possible, which is exactly what I said in the first place!

    You said:

    “Since we do not know the necessary and sufficient conditions for thought, we cannot assume that un-embodied thought is possible.”

    Which means that we must, for some reason, assume that materialism is true (which is what your argument implies)? Why assume one over the other?

    You said:

    “Our experience is only of embodied thought, however, and everything we understand regarding the acquisition and processing of information entails physical mechanism.”

    But you see that you are automatically assuming the falsehood of idealism here. If idealism is true, then we don’t acquire and process information via physical mechanism, but rather via immaterial mechanisms. But again, even your claim above is false, because people have had numerous experiences of un-embodied thought, thus negating your claim that our only experience is of embodied thought. Plus, as a side-note, I might ask: have no ever seen a thought in a body? Have you seen one in your brain?

    But at the same time, even if I admit that all our experience is only of embodied thought, the fact that an un-embodied designer is possible—as you actually admit above—means that a design inference could be so powerful in and of itself to warrant seeing an un-embodied designer as the best explanation of the design inference.

    So the design inference, if powerful enough, would be sufficient to warrant believing in the existence of an un-embodied designer.

    More to follow when I have a few minutes.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  68. 68
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Now, imagine that as we are watching the night sky, the stars literally re-arrange themselves to form a long paragraph of English words that is addressed to us Earthlings. Now, if this happened, would we be irrational in inferring design even though we would know that no other embodied beings could have caused this to occur. Of course not! It would be the height of irrationality not to infer design in such a case. Thus, just because we could not infer an embodied human designer, does not mean that we could not infer a designer at all. For given such evidence, of course we would infer a designer, even if it had to be a disembodied one.”

    First of all, one of my points is that when you say “inferring design” you are not saying anything with specific meaning. It would of course be meaningful to say you are inferring “a conscious, sentient being”, because we all know what it means to experience sentience and conscious awareness.

    But I have no comprehension of what sort of being could re-arrange the stars, and I believe that nobody else does either. Given the mysteries of existence and our desire for answers, humans tend toward anthropomorphic projections as explanations, and come up with gods who are in many respects like human beings (in that they are sentient and conscious, for example) but in other respects are unlike human beings (in that they lack eyes and brains, for example). It is conceivable that such a thing exists, but we have no evidence of any such thing in our uniform and repeated experience and given what we know about mental abilities in humans (and other animals), it has a low a priori probability.

    Now, forget for a moment the question of whether ID is science or not, or whether it is a good scientific theory or not, just thing of this example as a rational human being. Obviously, in such a case, a design inference is warranted, is it not?

    If “design inference” means “concluding the existence of a non-physical being with human mental attributes” then no, it would not be warranted – it would only be an hypothesis. Other hypotheses would be that we are hallucinating this star re-arranging, or that our own mental activity is unconsciously causing these changes in the universe, and so on. We would have no way of knowing what might be true – at least until we investigate further.

    Now this reply is not only confused, but literally contradictory. Here is why (and I will shift the order of your sentences slightly).

    You said: “You are assuming your conclusion.”

    No I am not. I am saying that an un-embodied designer is possible, not that he certainly exists. Unless you have an absolute proof for materialism and against theism/deism, then an un-embodied designer is at least possible.

    We’re miscommunicating here due to an ambiguity over “possible” vs. “conceivable”. We agree that disembodied conscious minds are conceivable – there is nothing logically contradictory about imaging such things. I said you were assuming that disembodied minds were possible, by which I meant that you seemed to be asserting that nothing in the nature of conscious minds required physical mechanism, and therefore we ought to judge their existence possible. My position is that there may well be something about conscious minds that requires the operation of complex mechanism. We do not know one way or the other at this point, but according to the current state of our knowledge and experience regarding conscious minds, it appears that complex mechanism is critically required for conscious thought.

    In sum, my position is that disembodied consciousness is logically possible, but it is a priori unlikely, and further research would be required to demonstrate such a thing is actually possible, much less is the answer to the question of origin of life.

    RDF: “Since we do not know the necessary and sufficient conditions for thought, we cannot assume that un-embodied thought is possible.”
    RDM: Which means that we must, for some reason, assume that materialism is true (which is what your argument implies)? Why assume one over the other?

    No, I do not believe we should assume one over the other! Again, I am not a materialist (I actually do not believe the term is even well defined at this point, given the state of fundamental physics). Again, I believe that ontology is an open question – we do not know the answer.

    We ought not concern ourselves here with metaphysics that we cannot solve. Instead, my argument is about what we can agree on – our uniform and repeated experience. We both experience consciousness, and neither of us experience rocks or rivers being conscious or acting intelligently, and we both lose consciousness when we fall into a dreamless sleep, or are given propofol, and so on. These are the sorts of data that we can use to judge the a priori probability that consciousness (and learning, problem solving, etc) requires complex physical mechanism, rather than any prior commitment to a paticular metaphysic.

    RDF: “Our experience is only of embodied thought, however, and everything we understand regarding the acquisition and processing of information entails physical mechanism.”
    RDM: But you see that you are automatically assuming the falsehood of idealism here. If idealism is true, then we don’t acquire and process information via physical mechanism, but rather via immaterial mechanisms.

    Again, even under idealism, our phenomenal experience of material and immaterial aspects of reality is distinct! We cannot tell if idealism is true or false, but we can tell if our phenomenal experience of something appears to be material or not. Even if idealism is true, a rock is experienced as material and a belief is not.

    But again, even your claim above is false, because people have had numerous experiences of un-embodied thought, thus negating your claim that our only experience is of embodied thought.

    People themselves are embodied, and thus cannot experience un-embodied thought. Our uniform and repeated experience with thought is that it is invariably associated with embodied humans (or other animals).

    Plus, as a side-note, I might ask: have no ever seen a thought in a body? Have you seen one in your brain?

    No, a “thought” is an abstract concept, referring to something that does not reflect electro-magnetic radiation in the visible spectrum, so they can’t be “seen”.

    But at the same time, even if I admit that all our experience is only of embodied thought, the fact that an un-embodied designer is possible—as you actually admit above—means that a design inference could be so powerful in and of itself to warrant seeing an un-embodied designer as the best explanation of the design inference.

    Un-embodied thought is conceivable; we do not know if it is actually possible. We do not have sufficient evidence that it is actually possible, much less that it actually exists.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  69. 69
    Optimus says:

    @ RD Miksa
    Always a pleasure to read cogent arguments! Keep it up 🙂

  70. 70
    5for says:

    And likewise @RDFish. Always edifying to hear your analyses.

  71. 71
    Axel says:

    #70: Not. Comical actually.

    Utter nonsense. ‘But I have no comprehension of what sort of being could re-arrange the stars,…’

    Are we supposed to go into mourning that you lack the most elementary faculty possessed by the vast majority of mankind.

    ‘If “design inference” means “concluding the existence of a non-physical being with human mental attributes” then no, it would not be warranted – it would only be an hypothesis.’

    Absolute rubbish! You are squarely at odds with the most of the greatest thinkers in recorded history of mankind. Sure, the existence of ghosts is only anecdotally recorded, but as C S Lewis, I believe pointed out, so is the existence of America.

    ‘No, a “thought” is an abstract concept,’

    Indeed, it is, but not only in the sense you mean, or indeed primarily, as it obtains in this context! If you can’t distinguish between a thought as a concept and as a cognitive experience of the mind, well, words fail me.

    Are you totally unaware, RDFish, of the mind/body dualism, proved experimentally, with irrefragable certainty, during ‘out of body’ experiences of patients undergoing surgery under controlled conditions? And you are presuming to hold forth in a scientistic vein in rebuttal.

  72. 72
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish @ 68: “when you say ‘inferring design’ you are not saying anything with specific meaning.”

    5for @ 70. “And likewise @RDFish. Always edifying to hear your analyses.”

    Seriously? Blithering idiocy like this statement edifies you? You have a very low edification threshold.

  73. 73
    5for says:

    Axel@ 71, yes, you are truly comical. The existence of America and the existence of ghosts on a comparable evidential footing? I like it!

    You do realise that ID is meant to be a scientific enterprise right?

  74. 74
    Phinehas says:

    RDFish:

    We’re miscommunicating here due to an ambiguity over “possible” vs. “conceivable”. We agree that disembodied conscious minds are conceivable – there is nothing logically contradictory about imaging such things. I said you were assuming that disembodied minds were possible, by which I meant that you seemed to be asserting that nothing in the nature of conscious minds required physical mechanism, and therefore we ought to judge their existence possible. My position is that there may well be something about conscious minds that requires the operation of complex mechanism. We do not know one way or the other at this point, but according to the current state of our knowledge and experience regarding conscious minds, it appears that complex mechanism is critically required for conscious thought.

    Good grief. Unless you are able to demonstrate that disembodied minds are impossible, then they remain possible. Unless you can demonstrate that something in the nature of conscious minds requires physical mechanism, then it is possible that nothing in the nature of conscious minds requires physical mechanism.

    You say you are not a materialist, but you appear to fall into that particular mindset so readily that you are stumbling over the meanings of words that are quite easily understood from a non-materialist’s viewpoint.

  75. 75
    Box says:

    RD Miksa #66: Now, if this happened, would we be irrational in inferring design even though we would know that no other embodied beings could have caused this to occur. Of course not!

    RDFish #68: But I have no comprehension of what sort of being could re-arrange the stars, and I believe that nobody else does either.

    We all know at least two things about this being:
    – it is intelligent, since it can produce meaningful sentences
    – it is unembodied, since no human being can rearrange the stars. t

  76. 76
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    RD Fish, if I may offer a bit of advice: your interlocutors are assuming (as it seems to me) that the possibility of x follows from the conceivability of x. Put otherwise,

    If x is conceivable, then x is possible.

    One way to argue against this would be argue that we can conceive of things that are impossible. But this is a tall mountain to climb, it turns out. (For example, consider the fabled square circle. I say, “I can conceive of it, but it’s impossible!” But you say, “nope — for it you could conceive of it, it would be possible; since it’s impossible, you’re not really conceiving of it at all — you’re just asserting that you’re conceiving of it!” What could I say in response?)

    A safer route, maybe, would be to say that from the sheer conceivability of something, nothing follows one way or the other about whether it is possible or impossible. Neither is the default. One can, as it were, “stay in neutral” about the modal question. And it seems to me, based on what I’ve read here, that that is indeed the route you’d like to take.

    Interestingly, it’s actually a new kind of agnosticism — whereas the old agnostic is neutral about whether or not God actually exists, the new agnosticism is neutral about whether or not it is possible for God to exist.

    Anyway, maybe this helps and I’m glad if it does.

  77. 77
    Phinehas says:

    KN:

    A safer route, maybe, would be to say that from the sheer conceivability of something, nothing follows one way or the other about whether it is possible or impossible. Neither is the default.

    It is interesting that you’ve placed this within the context of safety. This tends to imply that RDFish ought to protect his position more than evaluate it for its veracity.

    While I cannot speak to the safety of such a thing, perhaps it would be helpful in some way or another (depending upon one’s goals, I suppose) to take a gander at the most common usage of “possible” from The Free Dictionary:

    1. Capable of happening, existing, or being true without contradicting proven facts, laws, or circumstances.

    I would argue that if x is conceivable and x is not impossible (i.e. it doesn’t contradict proven facts, laws, or circumstances), then x is possible.

  78. 78
    Barry Arrington says:

    KN @ 76. Why would you seek to enable RDFish to continue wallowing in his sophistry? It seems to me that you, a teacher, of all people would take Phinehas’ advice and seek to help him evaluate his position and see his errors. Perhaps it amuses you to watch him spew inanities and run in linguistic and logical circles so long as it vexes the ID nuts at UD.

  79. 79
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    I would argue that if x is conceivable and x is not impossible (i.e. it doesn’t contradict proven facts, laws, or circumstances), then x is possible.

    That’s an interesting position to take; good luck convincing RDFish of it.

    KN @ 76. Why would you seek to enable RDFish to continue wallowing in his sophistry? It seems to me that you, a teacher, of all people would take Phinehas’ advice and seek to help him evaluate his position and see his errors. Perhaps it amuses you to watch him spew inanities and run in linguistic and logical circles so long as it vexes the ID nuts at UD.

    Because I think RDFish is raising exactly the right issu (even though his/her phrasing is less than clear): is it the case that conceivability entails possibility? Is something logically possible just by virtue of my being able to conceive that it is so?

    Consider the problem this way: if we assert that conceivability entails possibility, then by modus tollens, impossibility entails inconceivability. So, logically impossible objects cannot be conceived of. So where does that leave the guy who says, “I’m conceiving of a square circle!”?

    Alternatively, if conceivability does not entail possibility, then RDFish could have a valid point — just because we can conceive of disembodied minds, that tells us nothing at all about whether disembodied minds are logically possible or impossible.

    A third option — and the one I myself prefer, actually — is to say that conceivability does entail possibility, but that the bar for conceiving is pretty high — just asserting that one is conceiving of x, or imagining that one is conceiving of x, won’t do the trick.

    But I think that one has got to distinguish between logical possibility and metaphysical possibility (post-Kripke, this is the dominant view), and then the question would be, does the logical possibility of unembodied minds entail that unembodied minds are metaphysically possible? And I see no reason to think that that is the case. So even if unembodied minds are logically possible (because they are conceivable), that doesn’t help the metaphysical dualist one bit. (Likewise for zombies — logically possible, metaphysically impossible.)

  80. 80
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “First of all, one of my points is that when you say “inferring design” you are not saying anything with specific meaning.”

    I completely disagree. When we make a design inference, and thus conclude that something was designed, we are saying that something was “made or done intentionally; intended; planned.” This is an incredibly meaningful statement to make. Not only is it meaningful, but it is informative; for example, it means that the thing designed was not made by un-intentional forces, which is an informative fact.

    You said:

    “But I have no comprehension of what sort of being could re-arrange the stars, and I believe that nobody else does either.”

    So what? The design inference gives you the grounds to form a conceptual analysis of what type of a being would be required to re-arrange the stars into an English paragraph. For example, via conceptual analysis, we can deduce that such a being would have to be intelligent enough to know English, that he knows English, that he is interested in human beings, that he is powerful enough to move stars, etc. All these factors can be logically deduced from the design inference itself via a conceptual analysis. So I definitely have a comprehension of what sort of being could re-arrange stars.

    You said:

    “It is conceivable that such a thing exists, but we have no evidence of any such thing in our uniform and repeated experience and given what we know about mental abilities in humans (and other animals), it has a low a priori probability.”

    Even if I grant your contention that your uniform and repeated experience is so uniform that it only points to embodied designing agents—which is dubious—remember that our uniform and repeated is only one aspect of our background knowledge. If, for example, I have a deductive argument that makes it plausible that an un-embodied intelligent agent exists, then this argument will strongly counter my alleged uniformed and repeated experience against such an agent, and thus, the existence of such an un-embodied intelligent agent will not have a low probability.

    You said:

    “If “design inference” means “concluding the existence of a non-physical being with human mental attributes” then no, it would not be warranted – it would only be an hypothesis. Other hypotheses would be that we are hallucinating this star re-arranging, or that our own mental activity is unconsciously causing these changes in the universe, and so on. We would have no way of knowing what might be true – at least until we investigate further.”

    All you are doing here, ultimately, is avoiding the question. Let’s say that we confirm that we are not hallucinating, that we are not causing these changes in the universe, nor anything else of this sort. We are in full possession of our faculties, we are not being deceived in any way, and we are not causing the changes. Given this, I ask again, is the design inference, followed by a conceptual analysis that leads us to an un-embodied intelligent agent of some type, warranted or not based on the evidence given in my example? I contend, honestly, that if you truly say that a design inference is unwarranted in such a case—ie – seeing stars rearrange themselves into an English paragraph directed at us—then we have thrown rationality out the window and we could never make a rational design inference again.

    Furthermore, I think that you are conflating a design inference and a conceptual analysis (or an inference as to how the designer is). These two tasks are logically separate, and this separation is critical. Indeed, if I saw a complex English paragraph written on a piece of paper, I would first infer that the best explanation of that English paragraph was that it was obviously designed by some intelligent agent; then, separately, I would infer that the best explanation of who the intelligent agent was, was that he was a human being. But these are two separate steps. Now why is this important? Because if that exact same English paragraph appeared written in the stars—and if I knew that no other embodied intelligent could have done this (and that I was sane, not hallucinating, etc.)—then it would be absolutely warranted to infer that the paragraph was designed and it would be irrational not to infer this (it is exactly the same paragraph after all). So the design inference would be absolutely sound in either case. It would be the second inference where the conceptual analysis would be needed to determine what type of intelligent agent caused the design. So it is critical not to conflate these two different and separate inferences.

    In fact, this separation is exactly why a project like SETI is both rational and scientific, because we can rationally make a design inference even if we do not know who the intelligent designing agents are.

    More to follow…

  81. 81
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    It seems to me that your whole point rests on the fact that our uniform and repeated experience allegedly points to the fact that the only designing agents that we know are embodied ones. But this fact in no way overrides the validity of the design inference, even if such an inference leads to a designing agent that we have no experience with.

    Let me give you an example: You are a Detective. Now, you have a suspect for a certain crime. This suspect is a quadriplegic who lives in an apartment that you have under complete and total surveillance. You know with absolute certainty—for the sake of argument—that no one has been in or out of the apartment for days. Suddenly, however, you are advised by your surveillance team that they have not seen the suspect in some time. Bursting into the apartment, you find your quadriplegic suspect dead on the floor with these words carved into his chest: “I did it. I am responsible. I deserve to die. I am sorry for what I have done. Please forgive me.” Now, based on your uniform and repeated experience as a Detective, you immediately infer that the best explanation for this situation is that your quadriplegic suspect killed himself. Why do you infer this? Because your experience tells you that there is no natural way that a knife can just naturally happen to accidently carve words into a person; in fact, all your experience tells you that someone having words carved into his chest only happens when someone either stabs themselves or when someone else stabs them. But knowing that absolutely no one else was in the apartment, the “best” explanation is thus that the quadriplegic suspect found a way to stab himself.

    Now here is the key part: Notice how this example demonstrates that even though we may have absolutely no prior experience or knowledge with quadriplegics finding ways to carve words into their chest, the “design” explanation would still be better than the “natural” explanation even in such a case, because the design inference would be so strong that it would overwhelm any lack of experience with such cases. In this way, this example address the issue of why the explanation “an un-embodied intelligent agent designed X” could still be a “best” explanation for something even though we have no past experience (for the sake of argument) of an un-embodied agent or how it would design. And yet, the above example analogically shows why accepting the design explanation as best would still be rational even if we had no experience of the way in which a being designed whatever it is that he designed or even if we had no past experience of such an agent having the ability to design. Why? Because the design inference to such an agent could be so strong as to overpower any lack of past experience with such an agent.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  82. 82
    RD Miksa says:

    A quick note ref. the possibility of an un-embodied intelligent agent actually existing.

    There exists testimonial evidence of allegedly veridical experiences of un-embodied intelligent agents (NDE experiences, experiences of the divine, etc.); since these experiences could be true, then this at least shows that an un-embodied intelligent agent is possible. There are deductive arguments that demonstrate that the existence of an un-embodied intelligent agent is possible. There is not clear argument or reason to posit that such un-embodied agents are not possible.

    Given all this, it is obviously true that it is at least possible that an un-embodied intelligent agent could exist. And with this possibility, all the design inference arguments that I previously made are entirely possible.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  83. 83
    RD Miksa says:

    Quick question: how do we demonstrate the non-possibility of an un-embodied intelligent being? Essentially, by conclusively demonstrating something like theism (and its off-shoots: deism, polytheism, etc.) to be absolutely false. But since we have not done so, and since this, arguably, could never be done, then an un-embodied intelligent being is possible.

  84. 84
    Axel says:

    5for: Indeed, I do know that ID has been a perfectly successful, scientific enterprise.

    The problem is that twerps like you two don’t want to know, so introduce questions about the nature of the agent!!!!! Very scientific. Go to the top of the class.

  85. 85
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    There exists testimonial evidence of allegedly veridical experiences of un-embodied intelligent agents (NDE experiences, experiences of the divine, etc.); since these experiences could be true, then this at least shows that an un-embodied intelligent agent is possible. There are deductive arguments that demonstrate that the existence of an un-embodied intelligent agent is possible. There is not clear argument or reason to posit that such un-embodied agents are not possible.

    This looks backwards to me. Don’t we need to establish the a priori possibility of unembodied minds before determining whether these experiences could be veridical?

    If you want to say that it’s possible that those experiences (either experiencing oneself as non-embodied, or experiencing the presence of a non-embodied mind) are veridical, then the possibility of the states of affairs to which those experiences correspond would have to be established first, and only then determine the veridicality of the experiences on that basis.

    So the a priori part of the argument has to come first, and the experiences can’t be part of that argument, unless you want to argue that non-embodied minds are metaphysically possible but to which we have a posteriori access. If that’s the approach, then we don’t need to worry about whether conceivability entails logical possibility at all.

  86. 86
    Phinehas says:

    KN:

    But I think that one has got to distinguish between logical possibility and metaphysical possibility (post-Kripke, this is the dominant view), and then the question would be, does the logical possibility of unembodied minds entail that unembodied minds are metaphysically possible? And I see no reason to think that that is the case. So even if unembodied minds are logically possible (because they are conceivable), that doesn’t help the metaphysical dualist one bit. (Likewise for zombies — logically possible, metaphysically impossible.)

    Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

    And I see no reason to think that [the logical possibility of unembodied minds entails the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds].

    Do you see any reason to think that it would contradict proven facts, laws, or circumstances for the logical possibility of unembodied minds to entail the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds? In other words, isn’t it still possible that the logical possibility of unembodied minds entails the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds? (Are you sensing the potential for an infinite regress about now?)

    It would appear that unembodied minds remain an open possibility, at least until it is demonstrated that it is impossible for it to be possible.

  87. 87
    Axel says:

    No. Surely, YOU have it the wrong way round, KN. Your argument is precisely an example of what IDers complain about most bitterly.

    You wish to repudiate the ‘a priori’ conjectures of others, even when they show a rational underpinning of their postulates – which I believe RDM had identified.

    In other words, A rejection of science, in favour of the Greek Philosophers ‘armchair’ theorising; indeed, subject to it.

    Pope Benedict spoke recently, I believe, about what he called, ‘positive science fiction’, such as evolution, which he seems to admire; seemingly referring to the original, scientific hypotheses, which may eventually turn out to be true or not, as the case may be.

    It seems, however, that ID, as RDM explains, is very much scientific fact, with no conceptual leap involved, but, rather, mere logic.

  88. 88
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Phinehas:

    Do you see any reason to think that it would contradict proven facts, laws, or circumstances for the logical possibility of unembodied minds to entail the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds? In other words, isn’t it still possible that the logical possibility of unembodied minds entails the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds? (Are you sensing the potential for an infinite regress about now?)

    I resist this line of thought, because I think of entailment as a necessary relation — to say that “A entails B” is to say that “if A is the case, then B must be the case”. So “possible entailment” doesn’t make sense to me.

    Now, here’s the problem. Suppose logical possibility (or necessity) entails metaphysical possibility (or necessity). Then there couldn’t be any cases of metaphysical impossibility (or necessity) that aren’t also logically possible (or necessary). But, importantly, Saul Kripke (in Naming and Necessity) argued that there are. So metaphysical possibility/necessity cannot be entailed by logical possibility/necessity.

    Axel:

    It seems, however, that ID, as RDM explains, is very much scientific fact, with no conceptual leap involved, but, rather, mere logic.

    If it based on “mere logic” (a priori), then it isn’t “scientific fact” (a posteriori). That much is, I would hope, be obvious.

    I’d still like to hear RD Miksa’s response to the worries I’d raised here about the relation between conceivability and possibility.

    Note: as I indicated in my 79, I actually don’t have a problem with the general principle that conceivability entails possibility. (That’s actually a difference between RD Fish and myself.) For him/her, there’s a fault-line between conceivability and logical possibility; for me, there’s fault-line between logical possibility and metaphysical possibility. I stress this just so those of you arguing against us don’t conflate his/her position and mine.

  89. 89
    Phinehas says:

    KN:

    I resist this line of thought, because I think of entailment as a necessary relation — to say that “A entails B” is to say that “if A is the case, then B must be the case”. So “possible entailment” doesn’t make sense to me.

    You’ve used quote marks around “possible entailment” as if you are quoting me, but that’s not really what I said, is it? Your nice explanation of entailment is not contradicted by the notion that it is possible that something entails something else since it is also possible that something does not entail something else. This is exactly what I was pointing out when I pointed out that it is possible that the logical possibility of unembodied minds does entail the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds.

    Now, here’s the problem. Suppose logical possibility (or necessity) entails metaphysical possibility (or necessity). Then there couldn’t be any cases of metaphysical impossibility (or necessity) that aren’t also logically possible (or necessary). But, importantly, Saul Kripke (in Naming and Necessity) argued that there are. So metaphysical possibility/necessity cannot be entailed by logical possibility/necessity.

    Yes, Kwipke argued that there are. Now, is it possible that he was wrong?

  90. 90
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Phinehas said:

    You’ve used quote marks around “possible entailment” as if you are quoting me, but that’s not really what I said, is it? Your nice explanation of entailment is not contradicted by the notion that it is possible that something entails something else since it is also possible that something does not entail something else. This is exactly what I was pointing out when I pointed out that it is possible that the logical possibility of unembodied minds does entail the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds.

    I had intended those as scare-quotes, not as quoting you. But I do worry that the notion of ‘possible entailment’ is implicit in your view.

    When you say, “it is possible that the logical possibility of unembodied minds does entail the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds,” I don’t know what to make of that. Either an assertion is entailed by another, or it is not, and if it is entailed, then it is entailed necessarily. (If it is not entailed necessarily, then I don’t know what entailment is.)

    Put otherwise: to say that logical possibility entails metaphysical possibility is to say that if it something is logically possible, then it must be metaphysically possible.

    So to say, “it is possible that the logical possibility of unembodied minds does entail the metaphysical possibility of unembodied minds” would mean, “it is both necessary [since it an entailment relation] and not necessary [since it is merely possible] that . . . “.

    I trust that makes clear why this phrasing concerns me.

    As for Kripke, the possibility of his being wrong just means that his argument is invalid. If he’s wrong, then logical possibility would entail metaphysical possibility after all; put otherwise, if Kripke is wrong, then we can treat logic as a guide to metaphysics after all.

    Kripke’s point was that some things can be metaphysically necessary without being logically necessary. And if anything can be metaphysically necessary without being logically necessary, then logically necessity cannot entail metaphysical necessity.

    I myself don’t really know what to make of Kripke’s arguments. I’m sympathetic to Kant’s distinction between analytic a priori and synthetic a priori claims, which means that I do think that something can be necessarily so (a priori) without being necessarily so on the basis of logic alone (analytic). So then the question would be whether Kant’s distinctions can be phrased in terms of possible-world semantics, and whether that’s a good thing.

    On the first point, Robert Hanna has put forth a proposal for translating Kant’s distinction into Kripkean terms. But this makes me uneasy, because possible-world semantics is usually construed in terms of an extensionalist logic, and I’ve become convinced from my study of C. I. Lewis and Wilfrid Sellars that a study of modality really does require an intensionalist logic if we’re not going to end up with modal realism. I would need to read a lot more before commenting further on this point, however.

  91. 91
    Phinehas says:

    KN:

    I had intended those as scare-quotes, not as quoting you. But I do worry that the notion of ‘possible entailment’ is implicit in your view.

    No worries…on either account. 🙂

    As for Kripke, the possibility of his being wrong just means that his argument is invalid. If he’s wrong, then logical possibility would entail metaphysical possibility after all; put otherwise, if Kripke is wrong, then we can treat logic as a guide to metaphysics after all.

    Not being any kind of formalist when it comes to logic, please forgive me if I am not being clear in my formulation, but it seems to me that:

    – IF it is possible that P is wrong, and
    – IF P is wrong THEN !A
    – THEN it is possible that !A

    Where A = logical possibility does not entail metaphysical possibility, then it is possible that logical possibility entails metaphysical possibility.

    It seems to me that possibility is a powerful concept, and one does philosophical battle against it at one’s own philosophical peril. 🙂

  92. 92
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Phinehas, that’s much clearer — thank you!

    I think, remarkably enough, that we’re in agreement, if what you’re saying is the following: it is possible that Kripke is mistaken, and if Kripke is mistaken, then logical possibility does entail metaphysical possibility — so yes, it is possible that logical possibility (necessarily) entails metaphysical possibility.

    That’s very good. I like it. 🙂

  93. 93
    RDFish says:

    KN,

    One way to argue against this would be argue that we can conceive of things that are impossible. But this is a tall mountain to climb, it turns out. (For example, consider the fabled square circle. I say, “I can conceive of it, but it’s impossible!” But you say, “nope — for it you could conceive of it, it would be possible; since it’s impossible, you’re not really conceiving of it at all — you’re just asserting that you’re conceiving of it!” What could I say in response?)

    The difference between conceivability and possibility can lead into a thicket, but really needn’t in this context. Square circles are logically impossible, as the definition entails a contradiction. Disembodied minds are not logically impossible, as no contradiction is entailed by that. Disembodied minds may be physically impossible, however (what I have been calling here actually impossible), depending on how the mind relates to the brain.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  94. 94
    RDFish says:

    Axel @71:

    Utter nonsense…. you lack the most elementary faculty…Absolute rubbish!… words fail me…

    Apparently you disagree with my position?

    Are you totally unaware, RDFish, of the mind/body dualism, proved experimentally, with irrefragable certainty, during ‘out of body’ experiences of patients undergoing surgery under controlled conditions?

    Yes, I am unaware, Axel, of irrefragably certain proof of mind/body dualism from OOB/NDE experiences or any other phenomena. Citation please?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  95. 95
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry Arrington,

    @72:
    Seriously? Blithering idiocy like this statement edifies you? You have a very low edification threshold.

    @78:
    KN @ 76. Why would you seek to enable RDFish to continue wallowing in his sophistry? It seems to me that you, a teacher, of all people would take Phinehas’ advice and seek to help him evaluate his position and see his errors. Perhaps it amuses you to watch him spew inanities and run in linguistic and logical circles so long as it vexes the ID nuts at UD.

    Your incisive refutation of my arguments is a testament to your intellect, Barry.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  96. 96
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas (@74),

    Good grief. Unless you are able to demonstrate that disembodied minds are impossible, then they remain possible. Unless you can demonstrate that something in the nature of conscious minds requires physical mechanism, then it is possible that nothing in the nature of conscious minds requires physical mechanism.

    As I’ve made clear, what we are justified in saying is that the probability that disembodied minds can exist is low a priori, given our uniform and repeated experience of conscious minds and their dependence upon brain function. In my opinion the a posteriori evidence for disemodied consciousness (e.g. paranormal phenomena) is not sufficiently well established to conclude that it exists, given the low priors.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  97. 97
    RDFish says:

    Box @75:

    We all know at least two things about this being:
    – it is intelligent, since it can produce meaningful sentences
    – it is unembodied, since no human being can rearrange the stars.

    You can’t name one single thing that this being can do besides rearranging stars into these particular sentences.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  98. 98
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Dear RDFish:

    When we make a design inference, and thus conclude that something was designed, we are saying that something was “made or done intentionally; intended; planned.” This is an incredibly meaningful statement to make. Not only is it meaningful, but it is informative; for example, it means that the thing designed was not made by un-intentional forces, which is an informative fact.

    There are a couple of problems with your view.

    First, stating that something was or was not designed by “something intentional” is not informative in a scientific sense, since nothing observable follows from that statement. Not one single additional piece of information can be gleaned by labelling something “intentional”. If you disagree, simply tell me one thing that label actually tells us about the observable properties, characteristics, or abilities of an intentional cause. Can it write a poem? Understand a joke? Play the piano? Could it do anything whatsoever besides spelling out those particular sentences?

    Now, if we had a chance to interact with this entity, that would be a different story. We could ask it questions or give it problems to solve, and by its responses (or lack of same) we could begin to characterize what it was that we were dealing with. Clearly if it could carry on a conversation in English, we would know we were dealing with something with a mind quite similar to a human mind! But this has nothing at all to do with Intelligent Design theory, obviously.

    Second, we have no reason to assume that conscious thought is required for design. I have often had the experience of coming up with solutions to difficult technical problems (e.g. envisioning a complex algorithm) in my sleep, or while consciously thinking about other things. It is not unusual – lots of people report this experience, where the solution just “comes to you” when you aren’t consciously thinking about it. Our brain continuously generates complex plans without conscious involvement. Imagine if you attempted to compute the trajectory of a fly ball given the images projected on your retinas. You would have to be a very competent mathematician to do that, but we can all do these calculations without thinking about it when we play baseball.

    The point here is that once you realize that conscious thought and design abilities are not necessarily associated in all conceivable intelligent agents, you begin to see that simply calling something “intelligent” really doesn’t tell us whether or not it has anything resembling a conscious human mind.

    Even if I grant your contention that your uniform and repeated experience is so uniform that it only points to embodied designing agents—which is dubious—remember that our uniform and repeated is only one aspect of our background knowledge. If, for example, I have a deductive argument that makes it plausible that an un-embodied intelligent agent exists, then this argument will strongly counter my alleged uniformed and repeated experience against such an agent, and thus, the existence of such an un-embodied intelligent agent will not have a low probability.

    It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that (1) all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action and (2) all intelligent action arises by means of complex mechanism. ID relies on (1), but tries to ignore (2). Yet both statements are confirmed by exactly the same set of observations.

    I contend, honestly, that if you truly say that a design inference is unwarranted in such a case—ie – seeing stars rearrange themselves into an English paragraph directed at us—then we have thrown rationality out the window and we could never make a rational design inference again.

    Again, you are missing the point regarding “design inference”. You need to tell me exactly what it means. If it means that a conscious, sentient being is responsible, then sorry, you simply have no warrant for it. Whatever might be able to move stars around the galaxy is so radically foreign to our understanding that we can’t possibly be justified in attributing particular human-like attributes to it! Again, if this thing actually conversed with us, that would be a different story.

    Furthermore, I think that you are conflating a design inference and a conceptual analysis (or an inference as to how the designer is). These two tasks are logically separate, and this separation is critical. Indeed, if I saw a complex English paragraph written on a piece of paper, I would first infer that the best explanation of that English paragraph was that it was obviously designed by some intelligent agent;

    I would infer that it was designed by a human being. For you to fail to make that specific inference would be irrational, since human beings are the one and only thing that can write an English paragraph (except for of course human-programmed computers or the like).

    … then, separately, I would infer that the best explanation of who the intelligent agent was, was that he was a human being.

    Really??? Would you sit there and go down some list of all the intelligent agents you know of and try to decide which was responsible? Hmmm…was it a space alien? A ghost? A poltergeist? A fairy? An elf? A god? No, I’d say it was a human being!!!!

    But these are two separate steps.

    Sorry, but only the most credulous of people would actually consider anything but a human being when they find some English writing on a piece of paper. We do not make “design inferences” that consider a general class of “intelligent agents” in forensics or archeology – that’s just nonsense. As my definition showed, archeologists study human artifacts, and do not entertain hypotheses that ghosts or fairies were responsible.

    In fact, this separation is exactly why a project like SETI is both rational and scientific, because we can rationally make a design inference even if we do not know who the intelligent designing agents are.

    As I’ve already explained, SETI is not a theory, nor an inference – it is a search for signals that extra-terrestrial life forms might send out into space. The data for whatever SETI might find would have to be analyzed to see what sort of life form was responsible.

    It seems to me that your whole point rests on the fact that our uniform and repeated experience allegedly points to the fact that the only designing agents that we know are embodied ones.

    Moreover, everything we understand about how information is represented and processed requires complex physical mechanism (i.e. highly structured complex physical states).

    But this fact in no way overrides the validity of the design inference, even if such an inference leads to a designing agent that we have no experience with.

    It means that as far as we know, “design inferences” point to complex physical beings. Other sorts of hypotheses would be a priori highly unlikely.

    Now here is the key part: Notice how this example demonstrates that even though we may have absolutely no prior experience or knowledge with quadriplegics finding ways to carve words into their chest, the “design” explanation would still be better than the “natural” explanation even in such a case, because the design inference would be so strong that it would overwhelm any lack of experience with such cases.

    I’m not talking about “natural” explanations (whatever that means). I’m talking about the probability that the cause of first life in the universe was a conscious, sentient being. The a priori probability of that being true is very low, and the a posteriori evidence is non-existent. That doesn’t mean that some “natural” explanation is true, it just means we do not know.

    In this way, this example address the issue of why the explanation “an un-embodied intelligent agent designed X” could still be a “best” explanation for something even though we have no past experience (for the sake of argument) of an un-embodied agent or how it would design.

    Where there are mysteries that we have not solved, it is not rational to pick some explanation we dream up and without any actual evidence go ahead and claim that it it the “best” explanation we have and pretend that this gives it scientific support, just because we think the rest of the candidate explanations are even worse! The intellectually honest response is to say “We do not (yet) know the answer”.

    There exists testimonial evidence of allegedly veridical experiences of un-embodied intelligent agents (NDE experiences, experiences of the divine, etc.); since these experiences could be true, then this at least shows that an un-embodied intelligent agent is possible.

    I actually follow such things with great interest, and would love to see some compelling evidence. I’ve seen none, however. If you believe there is good evidence for such a thing, could you provide a citation?

    There are deductive arguments that demonstrate that the existence of an un-embodied intelligent agent is possible. There is not clear argument or reason to posit that such un-embodied agents are not possible.

    Again, I do not say that are not possible. I say we do not have good reason to imagine they exist, and that it appears complex mechanism is required to process information. In any event, disembodied minds are most certainly not part of our uniform and repeated experience.

    You could just choose to say that despite all this you’d like to believe that somehow, some way, conscious thought can proceed without a working brain (or other complex physical mechanism). That’s fine, but by the same token, somebody else could just choose to say that despite all evidence to the contrary, complex physical mechanism can simply appear by random chance.

    Quick question: how do we demonstrate the non-possibility of an un-embodied intelligent being? Essentially, by conclusively demonstrating something like theism (and its off-shoots: deism, polytheism, etc.) to be absolutely false. But since we have not done so, and since this, arguably, could never be done, then an un-embodied intelligent being is possible.

    And yet again (please read this carefully): The question is not whether or not it is impossible for conscious thought to occur absent complex mechanism. Rather, the question is whether or not we have warrant to believe such a thing exists. Again, the confusion arises because it may be that the nature of conscious thought turns out to be such that complex mechanism is necessary for it to occur, which would make disembodied minds impossible. But nobody knows the necessary and sufficient conditions for conscious thought, so we cannot conclude that impossibility at this time. Still and yet, the totality of our experience confirms two things: (1) Complex mechanism does not arise absent intelligent, and (2) intelligence does not arise absent complex mechanism.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  99. 99
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    RDFish, it sounds to me as if the concept you need is “nomological possibility” — possibility under the laws of nature. (This is narrower than I was referring to as metaphysical possibility.)

    One might say, non-embodied minds are conceivable, hence logically possible, but (for all we all at present) not nomologically possible. (Notice that this is different from saying, conceivable but not logically possible, and also different from saying that they are logically possible but metaphysically impossible.)

    And whether non-embodied minds are nomologically possible or impossible depends on what else we find out about the laws of nature — we might (for all we know) discover laws of nature which show that non-embodied minds are nomologically or physically possible, or we might (for all we know) discover laws of nature which show that non-embodied minds are nomologically or physically impossible.

    Since nomological possibility and necessity are keyed to our best science, and scientific theories are always provisional, there is a non-zero chance that some future discoveries will show that non-embodied minds are nomologically possible. But, given what we do know about the laws of nature at present, the more prudent view is to say that non-embodied minds are almost certainly nomologically impossible.

    How does that work with what you were arguing?

  100. 100
    Phinehas says:

    KN:

    I think, remarkably enough, that we’re in agreement, if what you’re saying is the following: it is possible that Kripke is mistaken, and if Kripke is mistaken, then logical possibility does entail metaphysical possibility — so yes, it is possible that logical possibility (necessarily) entails metaphysical possibility.

    Yay! Now, would you agree with the following?

    IF it is possible that x is possible
    THEN x is possible

    Or is this a bridge too far?

  101. 101
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    No, that’s perfectly right. In fact, I believe that’s an axiom of symbolic modal logic.

  102. 102
    Phinehas says:

    RDFish:

    It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that (1) all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action and (2) all intelligent action arises by means of complex mechanism. ID relies on (1), but tries to ignore (2). Yet both statements are confirmed by exactly the same set of observations.

    Interesting. Would you agree that living organisms are complex mechanisms? Do you suppose that Darwinists will agree with you that, “It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that…all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action?” Would they also agree that it is quite obvious that our experience confirms that all living organisms arise only by means of intelligent action?

  103. 103
    RDFish says:

    Hi KN,

    [regarding possibilities…]
    How does that work with what you were arguing?

    Actually these distinctions are irrelevant to my arguments. As I’ve made clear, my arguments do not hinge on possibility or impossibility of anything. Rather, my argument is that given our knowledge of consciousness and intelligent behavior, the a priori probability of these things occurring independently of a complex physical mechanism is low, and certainly outside of our uniform and repeated experience. In fact, it is no more likely than complex mechanisms arises absent intelligent behaviors.

    This means that ID is nothing but an unlikely hypothesis, and would require strong evidence that disembodied minds exist. Unfortunately, ID researchers don’t seem to be interested in pursuing actual research in this area, which means their theory has no support at all.

    Given this, ID proponents appear to fall back something along the lines of “Well, a disembodied mind is still the best explanation we have for first life, etc., since all the ‘natural’ explanations are even more ridiculous.” If that is the best ID can do, then it obviously has no merit as a justified theory or explanation.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  104. 104
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Interesting. Would you agree that living organisms are complex mechanisms?

    Yes, very complex mechanisms indeed.

    Do you suppose that Darwinists will agree with you that, “It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that…all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action?”

    It depends on how they define “intelligent action”. If, like most people, they mean that intelligent action entails “conscious, rational thought” then no, Darwinists would be bound to disagree with that statement. If they take a more general meaning for “intelligence” – something like “capable of learning and solving problems”, then some Darwinists may consider evolutionary mechanisms (or algorithms) to be intelligent per se.

    Would they also agree that it is quite obvious that our experience confirms that all living organisms arise only by means of intelligent action?

    See above.

    I argue that our experience confirms no such thing, for the reasons I’ve given over and over: Arguing for either complex mechanism without mind or mind without complex mechanism is fully counter to our current knowledge and experience, and so we can accept neither as a justified explanation without further evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  105. 105
    Phinehas says:

    KN:

    No, that’s perfectly right. In fact, I believe that’s an axiom of symbolic modal logic.

    OK, then I submit:

    If x is conceivable, and
    If what is conceivable is logical possible, and
    If it is possible that logical possibility entails metaphysical possibility,
    Then it is possible that x is metaphysically possible.

    Therefore, if x is conceivable, then x is possible.

    I’m pretty sure that if you plug nomological possibility into the above formulation for metaphysical possibility, you’ll still end up at the same place. Such is the power of possibility!

    As a more theologically inclined musing, the possibility inherent in possibility helps confirm to me that God has placed eternity in our hearts.

  106. 106
    Phinehas says:

    RDFish:

    I argue that our experience confirms no such thing, for the reasons I’ve given over and over: Arguing for either complex mechanism without mind or mind without complex mechanism is fully counter to our current knowledge and experience, and so we can accept neither as a justified explanation without further evidence.

    Wait a second. I’m confused. So is the following true or not?

    It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that … all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action

    As to…

    It depends on how they define “intelligent action”. If, like most people, they mean that intelligent action entails “conscious, rational thought” then no, Darwinists would be bound to disagree with that statement. If they take a more general meaning for “intelligence” – something like “capable of learning and solving problems”, then some Darwinists may consider evolutionary mechanisms (or algorithms) to be intelligent per se.

    If you are saying that Darwinists equivocate from time to time, then I’d have to agree. Would you make the same equivocation? Or would you accept that we are talking about what most people mean by intelligent action?

  107. 107
    Phinehas says:

    RDFish:

    As I’ve made clear, what we are justified in saying is that the probability that disembodied minds can exist is low a priori, given our uniform and repeated experience of conscious minds and their dependence upon brain function.

    I’m confused on what you mean here. When we talk about uniform and repeated experience, aren’t we talking about a posteriori knowledge and not a priori knowledge? To speak of a priori knowledge “given our uniform and repeated experience” doesn’t compute for me, but maybe I just don’t understand what you mean by a priori.

  108. 108
    Axel says:

    #95 RDF:

    You should find these interesting, RDF:

    ‘In acute myocardial infarction the duration of cardiac arrest (VF) on the CCU is usually 60-120 seconds, on the cardiac ward 2-5 minutes, and in out-of-hospital arrest it usually exceeds 5-10 minutes. Only during threshold testing of internal defibrillators or during electro physiologic stimulation studies will the duration of cardiac arrest hardly exceed 30-60 seconds.

    From these studies we know that in our prospective study of patients that have been clinically dead (VF on the ECG) no electric activity of the cortex of the brain (flat EEG) must have been possible, but also the abolition of brain stem activity like the loss of the corneareflex, fixed dilated pupils and the loss of the gag reflex is a clinical finding in those patients. However, patients with an NDE can report a clear consciousness, in which cognitive functioning, emotion, sense of identity, and memory from early childhood was possible, as well as perception from a position out and above their “dead” body. Because of the sometimes reported and verifiable out-of -body experiences, like the case of the dentures reported in our study, we know that the NDE must happen during the period of unconsciousness, and not in the first or last second of this period.

    So we have to conclude that NDE in our study was experienced during a transient functional loss of all functions of the cortex and of the brainstem. It is important to mention that there is a well documented report of a patient with constant registration of the EEG during cerebral surgery for an gigantic cerebral aneurysm at the base of the brain, operated with a body temperature between 10 and 15 degrees, she was put on the heart-lung machine, with VF, with all blood drained from her head, with a flat line EEG, with clicking devices in both ears, with eyes taped shut, and this patient experienced an NDE with an out-of-body experience, and all details she perceived and heard could later be verified.’

    The above excerpt is from the second article in the blog linked below, by Pim van Lommel, I believe, a heart specialist:

    http://science-spirituality.bl...../Mysticism

    You may also be interested in the site linked below, of a gentleman who appears to be the doyen of these ‘NDE specialists’, at least in the UK, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, Dr Peter Fenwick.

    http://iands.org/research/impo.....ml?start=2

  109. 109
    Box says:

    Do we need a brain?(PDF)

    “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 primitve deep structures that are relatively spared in hydrocephalus.” (SCIENCE, VOL. 210, 12 DECEMBER 1980)

    stanford.edu:: In the fourth century B. C., Aristotle considered the brain to be a secondary organ that served as a cooling agent for the heart and a place in which spirit circulated freely. He designated the space in which all the spirits came together as the sensus communis — the origins of our much more metaphorical term, “common sense.”

  110. 110
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    So is the following true or not?

    It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that … all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action

    Yes, I believe that is true.

    As to…

    It depends on how they define “intelligent action”. If, like most people, they mean that intelligent action entails “conscious, rational thought” then no, Darwinists would be bound to disagree with that statement. If they take a more general meaning for “intelligence” – something like “capable of learning and solving problems”, then some Darwinists may consider evolutionary mechanisms (or algorithms) to be intelligent per se.

    If you are saying that Darwinists equivocate from time to time, then I’d have to agree. Would you make the same equivocation? Or would you accept that we are talking about what most people mean by intelligent action?

    Since this is merely a matter of definition, rather than a matter of fact, there is no “correct” answer. We simply have to qualify the meaning of our terms, as in any productive technical discussion.

    I think the meanings of “consciousness” and “sentience” are clear. The meaning of “intelligent” is quite varied, though, and needs to be carefully defined in technical discussions.

    RDFish:

    As I’ve made clear, what we are justified in saying is that the probability that disembodied minds can exist is low a priori, given our uniform and repeated experience of conscious minds and their dependence upon brain function.

    I’m confused on what you mean here. When we talk about uniform and repeated experience, aren’t we talking about a posteriori knowledge and not a priori knowledge?

    Yes, that’s right. As I’ve been saying, the a posteriori evidence for the existence of disembodied mind (e.g. from paranormal research) is far too weak to justify a belief in it, especially when combined with a low a priori estimate, which is based on how we understand the operation of intelligent systems (humans, other animals, computers), which critically relies on complex physical state machines.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  111. 111
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    The first reference shows that very small brains can still be very functional. The second reference described Aristotle’s incorrect understanding of brain function (I take it you know that the brain processes information and generates heat, and it does not cool the blood).

    I guess I don’t see the point you’re trying to make.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  112. 112
    RDFish says:

    Hi Axel,

    Yes of course I’ve read all about Dr. van Lommel; his name comes up very frequently in NDE discussions. What I haven’t heard, however, is any response to the criticisms of his interpretations. For example, it seems quite likely that the memories reported by ND patients are generated during the time the brain is functioning, rather than during flatline. Others have suggested that there is some brain function undetected by EEG. There are experiments meant to eliminate these possibilities (for example, where the ND patient is able to describe objects only viewable from above the operating table, where those who experience OOB often report looking down from). I have not, however, seen any results from such experiments.

    A simple anasthetic, or even a bump on the head, can makes one’s consciousness disappear. This is a reliable, demonstrable fact that provides very strong evidence that conscious awareness is dependent on a well-functioning brain. If interference with the functioning of the brain in this way can destroy conscious awareness, it seems highly probable that the absence of a brain (or interference with the functioning of the brain due to death) would have the same effect.

    In any case, it’s not remotely accurate to call this NDE evidence “experimental proof of dualism” that is “irrefragably certain”. Much, much more research would be needed to overcome the vast amount of evidence that consciousness is dependent on brain function.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  113. 113
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    I will be seeking to address your other points shortly, but before I do, I just want to pose, once and for all, a scenario to you and get your response (if you have the time or inclination).

    Consider again our scenario. We know, with absolute certainty, that we (human beings) are the only embodied intelligent beings in all of existence. Next, we know, with absolute certainty, that are minds are sound and that we are not delusional, crazy, hallucinating, etc. Next, we know, with absolute certainty, that we have no ability to affect, or move, or change stars. Now, we all this knowledge, you, RDFish—as well as millions of other people—look up at the night sky and see stars literally (not a trick of any type) move around and form the following pattern: “RDFISH! IT IS I, YOUR DESIGNER. I HAVE DESIGNED YOU AND I AM PROVIDING YOU WITH THIS MESSAGE SO THAT YOU CAN KNOW THAT I DESIGNED YOU. YOU CAN THINK WHAT YOU WANT ABOUT ME, BUT KNOW THAT I DESIGNED YOU.”

    Now, seeing this, what is your conclusion about it? What is your thought process and your reasoning about this? What would YOU infer is the cause of this obvious event?

    RD Miksa

  114. 114
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “First, stating that something was or was not designed by “something intentional” is not informative in a scientific sense, since nothing observable follows from that statement. Not one single additional piece of information can be gleaned by labelling something “intentional”. If you disagree, simply tell me one thing that label actually tells us about the observable properties, characteristics, or abilities of an intentional cause. Can it write a poem? Understand a joke? Play the piano? Could it do anything whatsoever besides spelling out those particular sentences?”

    The question that comes to my mind when reading this paragraph is: so what? If all I can infer from my example is that it can spell out particular sentences, and thus that it is intelligent, knows the English language, etc., than that is informative in and of itself.

    Furthermore, your claim that intentionality by itself uninformative is just wrong. If I am examining a corpse, and I infer that the person was murdered (an intentional act) rather than just dying naturally, then that fact is extremely informative. And it is still informative even if I have no information as to who the murderer was, how he murdered, why he murdered, when he murdered, etc. So again, knowing that something was done intentionally is very informative in and of itself.

    You said:

    “Second, we have no reason to assume that conscious thought is required for design. I have often had the experience of coming up with solutions to difficult technical problems (e.g. envisioning a complex algorithm) in my sleep, or while consciously thinking about other things. It is not unusual – lots of people report this experience, where the solution just “comes to you” when you aren’t consciously thinking about it. Our brain continuously generates complex plans without conscious involvement. Imagine if you attempted to compute the trajectory of a fly ball given the images projected on your retinas. You would have to be a very competent mathematician to do that, but we can all do these calculations without thinking about it when we play baseball.”

    All your examples fail, because in every one of them, at some point, requires consciousness. Solving problems in your sleep only happens because you first consciously thought about the problems; same as solutions just “coming to you.” And I could never catch the flyball without being conscious that it was coming at me.

    Furthermore, given that you place such weight on our uniform and repeated experience, I should tell you that all of our uniform and repeated experience shows such that only conscious, thinking, intelligent agents are capable of designing things.

    You said:

    “It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that (1) all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action and (2) all intelligent action arises by means of complex mechanism. ID relies on (1), but tries to ignore (2). Yet both statements are confirmed by exactly the same set of observations.”

    Incorrect. ID specifically does not ignore 2, because ID itself says nothing about the designer. What I am saying is that is if a design inference is of a certain weight, it could override our experience of 2. Remember my quadriplegic example. It was might to show that uniform and repeated experience can be overridden if the design inference is strong enough.

    You said:

    “Again, you are missing the point regarding “design inference”. You need to tell me exactly what it means.”

    A dictionary would suffice. Designed: made or done intentionally; intended; planned. Infer: to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence.

    Thus, a design inference means: to derive by reasoning / conclude from evidence that something was made or done intentionally (meaning intended / planned).

    Next, intended: knowing what one wishes to do and setting this as a goal. To intend is to have in mind something to be done or brought about.

    So, a design inference is the following: To conclude from evidence that something had in mind something to be done or brought about and does did do this.

    And if something has something in mind, then it must think about what it intends and aims to bring about.

    And thus, a design inference tells us that we have a thinking thing that has purposes, goals, and aims that it wishes to achieve.

    “If it means that a conscious, sentient being is responsible, then sorry, you simply have no warrant for it. Whatever might be able to move stars around the galaxy is so radically foreign to our understanding that we can’t possibly be justified in attributing particular human-like attributes to it! Again, if this thing actually conversed with us, that would be a different story.”

    First off, it is not so foreign to our understanding. We smartly move things around all the time. Moving stars around would just take more smarts and power. Second, even it was foreign to our experience, so what? I can still rationally determine that it is intelligent, and then do a conceptual analysis to determine at least some of its attributes. And again, just like my quadriplegic example showed: even if something is extremely foreign to us, a design inference can be so powerful as to override our lack of experience with it.

    You said:

    “I would infer that it was designed by a human being. For you to fail to make that specific inference would be irrational, since human beings are the one and only thing that can write an English paragraph (except for of course human-programmed computers or the like).”

    Really? So aliens could not learn to write English? God, if He exists, could not cause English to appear on paper? Really? You are implicitly assuming materialism here all the while thinking that you are not.

    You said:

    “Really??? Would you sit there and go down some list of all the intelligent agents you know of and try to decide which was responsible? Hmmm…was it a space alien? A ghost? A poltergeist? A fairy? An elf? A god? No, I’d say it was a human being!!!!”

    And what if you knew, with absolute certainty, that no human being wrote the paragraph in English on the paper? Would you suddenly conclude that they just magically appeared? Or that no one wrote them? Or that they wrote themselves? No, of course not! Even if you knew that no other human being wrote the words, you would still conclude that an intelligent agent did, which just proves my point: the inference to intelligence is separate and distinct from the inference to the type of intelligence.

    You said:

    “Sorry, but only the most credulous of people would actually consider anything but a human being when they find some English writing on a piece of paper. We do not make “design inferences” that consider a general class of “intelligent agents” in forensics or archeology – that’s just nonsense.”

    Sorry, your point is what is foolish and credulous. Again, consider, if we knew that no human being had ever designed Mount Rushmore, for example, would it be more rational to conclude that it was not designed or that it was designed by something other than humans. Obviously the latter, and yet the evidence from Mount Rushmore remains the same.

    You said:

    “As my definition showed, archeologists study human artifacts, and do not entertain hypotheses that ghosts or fairies were responsible.”

    Except, of course, that if we had an artifact that was unmistakably designed, and yet we knew that no human designed it, then we would immediately posit other type of designers rather than simply claiming that the artifact was not designed.

    You said:

    “As I’ve already explained, SETI is not a theory, nor an inference – it is a search for signals that extra-terrestrial life forms might send out into space.”

    How can they search for a signal if they don’t know how to infer which signals would be from an ET or not? You have to know what you are searching for (something that would point to intelligence) before you can rationally begin your search.

    You said:

    “The data for whatever SETI might find would have to be analyzed to see what sort of life form was responsible.”

    EXACTLY! Which is why I keep talking about doing a conceptual analysis from the data.

    You said:

    “It means that as far as we know, “design inferences” point to complex physical beings. Other sorts of hypotheses would be a priori highly unlikely.”

    Sure. But highly unlikely explanations can be shown to be true if the evidence is strong enough.

    You said:

    “Where there are mysteries that we have not solved, it is not rational to pick some explanation we dream up and without any actual evidence go ahead and claim that it it the “best” explanation we have and pretend that this gives it scientific support, just because we think the rest of the candidate explanations are even worse! The intellectually honest response is to say “We do not (yet) know the answer”.”

    No, its not. Best explanations are by definition comparative. And so, an explanation can be the best of its group even it is not a good explanation. And we don’t “dream up” some explanation, we can a design inference and then do a conceptual analysis to determine what type of attributes we can deduce that the designer has.

    You said:

    Again, I do not say that are not possible. I say we do not have good reason to imagine they exist, and that it appears complex mechanism is required to process information. In any event, disembodied minds are most certainly not part of our uniform and repeated experience.

    Let me come back, for a moment, to idealism. The reason that I bring that up is because you keep saying that disembodied minds are not part of our uniform and repeated experience. But if Berkeley’s subjective idealism is true, then all we are are disembodied minds, and thus our uniform and repeated experience would only be of disembodied minds which appear embodied but really are not. And in such a case, inferring a disembodied mind of a non-human designer would conform closely, though not perfectly, with our repeated and uniform experience. And thus, to show that our repeated and uniform experience is not of this sort of Berkeley-style subjective idealism, then you would need to disprove this possibility first. So the onus is on you—given that you are the one claiming that all our uniform and repeated experience point to minds being totally embodied—to demonstrate your claim.

    You said:

    “And yet again (please read this carefully): The question is not whether or not it is impossible for conscious thought to occur absent complex mechanism. Rather, the question is whether or not we have warrant to believe such a thing exists. Again, the confusion arises because it may be that the nature of conscious thought turns out to be such that complex mechanism is necessary for it to occur, which would make disembodied minds impossible. But nobody knows the necessary and sufficient conditions for conscious thought, so we cannot conclude that impossibility at this time. Still and yet, the totality of our experience confirms two things: (1) Complex mechanism does not arise absent intelligent, and (2) intelligence does not arise absent complex mechanism.”

    I understand what you are saying here. But now please note this. What I am saying is that it is, in principle, possible that the evidence (like stars rearranging themselves to spell words in the sky that we would know could not be caused by any embodied intelligent agent), would be so powerful that it would override point 2. I am not saying that has happened yet (necessarily); what I am saying is that it is in principle possible.

    Anyway, time for bed.

    RD Miksa

  115. 115
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear KN,

    I will try to get to your points tomorrow.

    RD Miksa

  116. 116
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miska,

    The question that comes to my mind when reading this paragraph is: so what? If all I can infer from my example is that it can spell out particular sentences, and thus that it is intelligent, knows the English language, etc., than that is informative in and of itself.

    Imagine a system that could spell out these particular sentences, as you say. However, the system has no conscious awareness, and cannot understand what it is saying. Would you say this entity is intelligent?

    In order for us to have a productive debate, we will have to agree on exactly what we mean when we say something is “intelligent”. Here are a couple of suggestions:

    1) “able to produce complex specified information”
    2) “able to consciously deliberate about beliefs, desires, and plans”

    Would you like to use one of these? Or suggest your own definition for “intelligent”?

    Furthermore, your claim that intentionality by itself uninformative is just wrong. If I am examining a corpse, and I infer that the person was murdered (an intentional act) rather than just dying naturally, then that fact is extremely informative. And it is still informative even if I have no information as to who the murderer was, how he murdered, why he murdered, when he murdered, etc. So again, knowing that something was done intentionally is very informative in and of itself.

    But you have found out far more than simply something is “intentional”! You have found out that a human being was responsible! We know a vast amount about human beings, and that is where the additional information comes from.

    You failed to respond to my point: Again, simply tell me one thing that “intentional” actually tells us about the observable properties, characteristics, or abilities of something.

    Solving problems in your sleep only happens because you first consciously thought about the problems; same as solutions just “coming to you.”

    Really? How do you know that? In any case, whether or not the question was posed to a conscious mind, the solution is derived unconsciously! Moreover, just because a human is intelligent and conscious does not mean that something that could solve design problems but in all other respects is very different from a human being (like, for example, something with no brain!) would necessarily be conscious. There is simply no understanding that we have of how minds work that would allow us to answer these questions.

    And I could never catch the flyball without being conscious that it was coming at me.

    You are quite mistaken to think all visual processing is conscious, or indeed all complex mental processing. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blindsight for one interesting sort of example. Just because humans are conscious of catching balls doesn’t mean that something very radically different from a human would necessarily be conscious of it.

    Furthermore, given that you place such weight on our uniform and repeated experience, I should tell you that all of our uniform and repeated experience shows such that only conscious, thinking, intelligent agents are capable of designing things.

    That is correct, but our experience does not tell us that consciousness is a requisite attribute! Our experience also tells us that only things with neurons are capable of designing things, but that doesn’t tell us that neurons are requisite, right?

    RDF: “It is quite obvious that our experience confirms that (1) all complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent action and (2) all intelligent action arises by means of complex mechanism. ID relies on (1), but tries to ignore (2). Yet both statements are confirmed by exactly the same set of observations.”

    RDM: Incorrect. ID specifically does not ignore 2, because ID itself says nothing about the designer.

    This option goes nowhere for ID. For one thing, if ID posits that the CSI we observe in biology comes from something else with CSI, but fails to account for where that CSI came from, ID has told us nothing about the origin of CSI. We might as well just theorize that life on Earth are descendants of life someplace else and be done with it.

    What I am saying is that is if a design inference is of a certain weight, it could override our experience of 2. Remember my quadriplegic example. It was might to show that uniform and repeated experience can be overridden if the design inference is strong enough.

    It is not a “design inference” that you need to “override” our experience – it is evidence of course. There is insufficient evidence for the existence of intelligent behavior emanating from something – anything – that is not itself a complex physical mechanism, and all of our understanding of how intelligent behavior occurs is based on complex physical mechanisms.

    So, a design inference is the following: To conclude from evidence that something had in mind something to be done or brought about and does did do this.

    Imagine the following: You observe a box attached to bins containing various raw materials (metals, plastic, etc). Out of the box comes all sorts of complex machines. Is this box (call it a “CSI Box”) intelligent? We have no way of knowing. Perhaps, for example, the CSI Box was programmed by somebody to do produce these machines, but the CSI Box is not intelligent itself.

    So, just because something outputs complex designs doesn’t mean it is intelligent. In order to ascertain that the CSI Box is intelligent, you would have to interact with it. For example, you could ask it to produce some novel machine to solve a problem that you describe, to see if it could do that. By interacting with the CSI box, you could figure out what sort of abilities it had (or lacked) to plan, reason, solve problems, learn, and so on.

    And yes, I know your response: If the CSI Box was programmed by somebody to output these complex machines, then even if the CSI Box itself is not intelligent, the programmer of the box must have been!!

    But you are falling down the rabbit hole with that one. Just like asking ID “Who designed the designer?”, asking “Who programmed the CSI Box?” will get you nowhere. Perhaps this CSI Box was created by another CSI Box, which was also unintelligent. How did that CSI Box come to exist? Maybe it exists outside of space and time, and is a necessary CSI Box (rather than a contingent one), and there is no other explanation for it. Sound familiar? You can start with mind, or you can start with mechanism, but we can’t ever really know where the chain really started without evidence.

    And thus, a design inference tells us that we have a thinking thing that has purposes, goals, and aims that it wishes to achieve.

    CSI Boxes don’t have conscious beliefs and desires; they simply output CSI. Maybe first life was produced by a conscious, sentient being, or maybe it was produced by something like a CSI box. We can’t know unless we can interact with it.

    To understand this better, think of a complex termite mound. If a human designed and built such a thing, they would plan it ahead of time, maybe make some drawings, figure out how the ventilation shafts should be incorporated, how to design the irrigated compartments where the termites will grow fungus, and so on. But termites build these things without any of that conscious planning – they just do it. You will (I believe) say that the reason termites can do this is not because they are intelligent per se, but that they were designed by a something intelligent. Well you can say that if you want, but again, you can’t provide any evidence that it is true. It may be that it’s termites all the way down, so to speak.

    RDF: “I would infer that it was designed by a human being. For you to fail to make that specific inference would be irrational, since human beings are the one and only thing that can write an English paragraph (except for of course human-programmed computers or the like).”
    RDM: Really? So aliens could not learn to write English? God, if He exists, could not cause English to appear on paper? Really? You are implicitly assuming materialism here all the while thinking that you are not.

    Another miscommunication: I am not offering some proof of the impossibility of aliens or gods. I am saying that no rational person would look at a piece of paper with English writing on it and assume that an alien or a god wrote it, rather than a living human being.

    And what if you knew, with absolute certainty, that no human being wrote the paragraph in English on the paper? Would you suddenly conclude that they just magically appeared?

    No, I don’t think there is any evidence for “magic” (and I’m not sure what it is supposed to be anyway).

    Or that no one wrote them? Or that they wrote themselves? No, of course not!

    I would say that we have no idea how those words got there.

    Even if you knew that no other human being wrote the words, you would still conclude that an intelligent agent did, which just proves my point: the inference to intelligence is separate and distinct from the inference to the type of intelligence.

    Since grammatical language is unique to human beings, and we know a good deal about what sorts of brain structures are involved in speech generation and understanding, one good hypothesis would be that some other animal exists on Earth that we have never discovered, but has similar linguistic faculties as humans. In order to confirm that (or any hypothesis) we would need actual evidence of such a thing, of course.

    Except, of course, that if we had an artifact that was unmistakably designed, and yet we knew that no human designed it, then we would immediately posit other type of designers rather than simply claiming that the artifact was not designed.

    When you say “designers”, your category is underspecified. If any of these things (for example) are supposed to be true about a “designer”, then you have no warrant to infer them:

    1) they have conscious beliefs and desires
    2) they have free will
    3) they can solve novel problems

    Now if you’d like to concede that a “designer” does not necessarily have any of these attributes, then sure, we agree that some sort of “designer” is responsible for first life. Otherwise, you need to show evidence of these attributes.

    How can they search for a signal if they don’t know how to infer which signals would be from an ET or not?

    They look for narrow-band EM signals, which are not produced by other known phenomena in the universe.

    You have to know what you are searching for (something that would point to intelligence) before you can rationally begin your search.

    They are looking for extra-terrestrial life forms who are capable of transmitting signals.

    RDF: “The data for whatever SETI might find would have to be analyzed to see what sort of life form was responsible.”
    RDM: EXACTLY! Which is why I keep talking about doing a conceptual analysis from the data.

    If a SETI signal was found to emanate from a temperate planet with liquid water, we would likely infer that life as we know it (something we would recognize as a living organism on Earth) was responsible. If we found the signal came from inside a neutron star, however, we would have no idea whatsoever what caused it!

    CSI in biology is like the second case – we have no idea what causes it.

    But highly unlikely explanations can be shown to be true if the evidence is strong enough.

    Absolutely true. However, there is precisely zero evidence that ID provides which indicates a disembodied mind was responsbile for biological CSI. ID hasn’t even provided any evidence that disembodied minds exist at all (although there is some weak, unreplicable evidence from paranormal research).

    You said:

    “Where there are mysteries that we have not solved, it is not rational to pick some explanation we dream up and without any actual evidence go ahead and claim that it it the “best” explanation we have and pretend that this gives it scientific support, just because we think the rest of the candidate explanations are even worse! The intellectually honest response is to say “We do not (yet) know the answer”.”

    No, its not. Best explanations are by definition comparative. And so, an explanation can be the best of its group even it is not a good explanation.

    Ok, we simply disagree about this. It’s hard for me to take your position seriously.

    Judge: I find the defendent guilty of strangling the victim!
    Defense Lawyer: But your honor! My client was sitting in the police station downstairs when the crime was committed, and I have 120 police officers and 10 nuns testifying to that fact, plus videotape evidence, and my client is a quadriplegic and confined to an iron lung!
    Judge: I don’t care! There was a motive (he didn’t seem to like the victim) and I don’t have any other suspects!

    Now, would you think that the judge’s best explanation of the crime should really be considered to be a justified conclusion? Of course not.

    The intellectually honest response in these cases is “I DO NOT KNOW”. I understand that most people are uncomfortable admitting ignorance, but I believe it is a very important thing to be able to do.

    Let me come back, for a moment, to idealism. The reason that I bring that up is because you keep saying that disembodied minds are not part of our uniform and repeated experience. But if Berkeley’s subjective idealism is true, then all we are are disembodied minds, and thus our uniform and repeated experience would only be of disembodied minds which appear embodied but really are not. And in such a case, inferring a disembodied mind of a non-human designer would conform closely, though not perfectly, with our repeated and uniform experience.

    You say under idealism that our experience of minds would be that they are embodied, but in reality they would be disembodied. Yes, we agree. Now read that again: Whether or not idealism is true, our experience of minds is that they are embodied. Whatever is true of metaphysics, that is our uniform and repeated experience, period. And when we try to justify our beliefs against our uniform and repeated experience (as scientists claim to do, and as ID claims to do), then we do just that: Consult our experience and not our metaphysical beliefs.

    And thus, to show that our repeated and uniform experience is not of this sort of Berkeley-style subjective idealism, then you would need to disprove this possibility first.

    Again, I am not attempting to prove anything to be impossible! What I am saying over and over again is this: Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that complex mechanism arises only by means of intelligence, and the same experience confirms that intelligence arises only by means of complex mechanism. This has nothing to do with metaphysical ontologies. You cannot refute my statement by suggesting idealism might be true. Rather, you can only refute it by reporting replicable evidence of something that displays intelligent behavior but does not have a corporeal body.

    What I am saying is that it is, in principle, possible that the evidence (like stars rearranging themselves to spell words in the sky that we would know could not be caused by any embodied intelligent agent), would be so powerful that it would override point 2. I am not saying that has happened yet (necessarily); what I am saying is that it is in principle possible.

    I completely agree!!!!! There is nothing that, in principle, precludes that from being true. What I am saying is that the evidence that we need to make that conclusion is not to be found in CSI, for all the reasons I’ve given. What we need is actual evidence of the entity ID is positing, or something similar (like some form of disembodied intelligence).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

    p.s. RD Miska it is a pleasure to debate with you – you are smart and argue in good faith. Thanks.

  117. 117
    Box says:

    RDFish #98: “all intelligent action arises by means of complex mechanism.” [my emphasis]

    I notice that you have worded this phrase rather carefully. What you are not saying is ‘all intelligent action arises from complex mechanism’. What you are not saying is that unintelligent blind fermions and bosons are doing the thinking.
    However, since you claim that mind and brain are inseparable, I believe that you need to address the issue. So let me ask you: what is the nature of the relation between mind and brain?

  118. 118
    Box says:

    RDFish,
    If we know that we are the only embodied intelligent beings, not capable of moving stars and hallucination, then the rearrangement of stars into a English sentence (see RDMiksa #113) constitutes a clear breach in our alleged uniform and repeated experience that intelligence is being totally embodied. In which case it makes no sense to object to the inference of design by claiming that there is still an unbreached uniform experience of embodied intelligence.

  119. 119
    RD Miksa says:

    Currently at work…will reply this evening.

    RD Miksa

  120. 120
    RD Miksa says:

    And RDFish…if you have a moment, I would be very interested to hear your answer to my question/scenario at Comment 113.

    Thank you.

    RD Miksa

  121. 121
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Given your talk about CSI Boxes and the lack of our ability to inference intelligence and consciousness from a design inference, let me ask you this question:

    – What reasoning process do you use to determine that other people are actually conscious intelligent agents rather just advanced CSI Boxes? What evidence do you think makes the inference that people are conscious and intelligent being rather than CSI boxes reasonable and rational? And note that interacting with people and them answering your questions provides is quite compatible with them just being advanced CSI Boxes?

    Furthermore, what reasoning process did you use to determine that I am an intelligent human being? You have never met me or seen me. What has given you the grounds to rationally conclude that I am not an unconscious supercomputer just responding to you? Given your claim that you believe that CSI Boxes could do so, why have you inferrsd that I am a conscious agent rather than an unconscious one?

    RD Miksa

    (Sent from mobile phone)

  122. 122
    RD Miksa says:

    And RDFish…here is the million dollar question: What would you conclude about me if you suddenly knew, with absolute certainty, that I was not a material or embodied being?

  123. 123
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Interesting question, RD Miksa. I know it was addressed to RDFish but I’d like to take a stab at it:

    What would you conclude about me if you suddenly knew, with absolute certainty, that I was not a material or embodied being?

    The way this is phrased, it is as if I’ve received a jolt of intuition or instantaneous revelation rather than a worked-out explanation or justification for the claim.

    And since this is supposedly something I “suddenly know with absolute certainty,” it would seem that I lack the resources to convince anyone else — I wouldn’t have anything to say besides, “look, I just know, ok?” And then the question arises, why should I believe something that I can’t convince anyone else to believe? But if I cannot justify what I know, then how could I be said to really know it? It looks as though I would have the unshakeable and unalterable conviction that RD Miksa is an immaterial being, but be unable to justify this claim to anyone or explain how I know this to be the case.

    Since, in this scenario, you are an immaterial being able to affect the physical world (e.g. by causing words to appear on my screen), there must be causal regularities that pertain to immaterial beings, which means that causal closure of the physical is false. And that greatly increases the likelihood that dualism and libertarian freedom are true. (It might also revise upwards the likelihood that Platonism about mathematical objects is true.)

  124. 124
    Box says:

    RD Miksa #122: What would you conclude about me if you suddenly knew, with absolute certainty, that I was not a material or embodied being?

    KN #123: It looks as though I would have the unshakeable and unalterable conviction that RD Miksa is an immaterial being, (..)

    Yes, of course. But the million dollar question is: do you infer design – intelligence – from RD Miksa’s sentences – even though you know with absolute certainty that RD Miksa is no embodied being?
    So, what this is all about is, to establish the validity of design inference.

  125. 125
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    I don’t understand the relevance of the question. The design inference as such is not in question.

    What is in question is whether the design inference, as applied to biochemical systems, is precisely formulated enough to be subjected to empirical confirmation.

  126. 126
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear KN,

    Yes, but my point is that you would indeed conclude precisely that I was an immaterial intelligent being capable of intelligent thought and of affecting the material world.

    By contrast, what you would not do is suddenly conclude that I am not intelligent or that I am just an unconscious CSI box or that you have no answer to what I am.

    And this fact–that you would indeed conclude that I am an intelligent thinking agent, albeit an immaterial one–demonstrates the very points that I have been trying to get across to RDFish.

    First, it would show that there is indeed a clear logical distinction between inferring a general intelligent agent and inferring the type of agent that it specifically is.

    Second, it would show that a desigb inference can be evidence, in and of itself, of a sufficiently strong nature to overcome our–for the sake of argument–repeated and uniform experience of only material designing agents.

    Third, it shows that CSI is indeed how we detect intelligence. For the only evidence that you have of me is that I know English (meaning a specificed pattern) and that I know a lot of it (complexity). You have no other information about my abilities except for the fact that I exhibit CSI andyet from that you have concluded that I am an intelligent thinking agent. And that same inference would hold–as you admit–even if I was an immaterial thing.

    That is the whole point: CSI is how we detect intelligence, and the evidence of CSI can be so powerful as to overcome our (alleged) repeated and uniform experience.

    RD Miksa

  127. 127
    Box says:

    KN, for you the design inference may not be in question. However RDFish seems hell-bent to deny the possibility of design inference unless it is applied to embodied (human?) intelligence. RD Miksa is trying his utmost to make him change his ways, hence the ‘million dollar question’ in #122.

  128. 128
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear KN,

    The design inference may not be in question for you, but it does seem to be in question for RDFish.

  129. 129
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDFish #98: “all intelligent action arises by means of complex mechanism.” [my emphasis]

    I notice that you have worded this phrase rather carefully. What you are not saying is ‘all intelligent action arises from complex mechanism’. What you are not saying is that unintelligent blind fermions and bosons are doing the thinking.

    Correct, I do not believe that fermions and bosons think. People think, using their brains.

    However, since you claim that mind and brain are inseparable, I believe that you need to address the issue. So let me ask you: what is the nature of the relation between mind and brain?

    I feel certain that nobody knows the answer to that question. My point here is only that we have good reason to believe (although it is not absolutely certain of course) that complex physical mechanism is required for thought. Humans certainly can’t design anything without a properly functioning brain, and everything we know about information processing indicates that complex physical state systems are necessary.

    If we know that we are the only embodied intelligent beings, not capable of moving stars and hallucination, then the rearrangement of stars into a English sentence (see RDMiksa #113) constitutes a clear breach in our alleged uniform and repeated experience that intelligence is being totally embodied. In which case it makes no sense to object to the inference of design by claiming that there is still an unbreached uniform experience of embodied intelligence.

    Well, if someday the stars are rearranged into sentences we might have another talk 🙂

    But as I explained to RDMiksa, what is required to establish intelligence is not CSI, but rather interaction with something that produces CSI.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  130. 130
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Sorry I missed @113.

    Consider again our scenario. We know, with absolute certainty, that we (human beings) are the only embodied intelligent beings in all of existence. Next, we know, with absolute certainty, that are minds are sound and that we are not delusional, crazy, hallucinating, etc. Next, we know, with absolute certainty, that we have no ability to affect, or move, or change stars. Now, we all this knowledge, you, RDFish—as well as millions of other people—look up at the night sky and see stars literally (not a trick of any type) move around and form the following pattern: “RDFISH! IT IS I, YOUR DESIGNER. I HAVE DESIGNED YOU AND I AM PROVIDING YOU WITH THIS MESSAGE SO THAT YOU CAN KNOW THAT I DESIGNED YOU. YOU CAN THINK WHAT YOU WANT ABOUT ME, BUT KNOW THAT I DESIGNED YOU.”

    Now, seeing this, what is your conclusion about it? What is your thought process and your reasoning about this? What would YOU infer is the cause of this obvious event?

    Given that all of the more likely explanations are ruled out as you say, I would consider this an “interaction”, and I would absolutely believe that something with linguistic abilities and the sort of general cognitive abilities that humans have was responsible. I would be surprised that this Entity would use my UD handle “RDFish” instead of my real name, but it would certaintly convince me that something very well outside of my understanding was calling me out!

    – What reasoning process do you use to determine that other people are actually conscious intelligent agents rather just advanced CSI Boxes?

    As far as “intelligence” goes, because I can interact with other human beings it is simple to ascertain that they are intelligent (they can learn, solve novel problems that are presented to them, understand and generate natural language, and so on).

    As far as consciousness goes, the problem of other minds is solved by a comfortably strong inference, I believe: I know that I am conscious, and I see that you very much like me in very many critical respects, and so I conclude that you are conscious too. In particular, all of the physical correlates of consciousness that appear in my brain appear in other people’s brains, too. Likewise, because I know that I reliably lose consciousness under certain conditions when my brain function is interfered with, I would conclude that you would also lose consciousness when your brain is similarly interfered with.

    And note that interacting with people and them answering your questions provides is quite compatible with them just being advanced CSI Boxes?

    No, that’s not what I meant by “CSI Box”. A CSI box is not a philosophical zombie – not something that is intelligent but not conscious. Rather, a CSI Box is something that produces CSI without intelligence – it cannot learn or solve novel problems. My point is that for all we can tell, not only might the Designer of Life be a zombie, but it might even be a CSI Box – neither conscious nor intelligent.

    Furthermore, what reasoning process did you use to determine that I am an intelligent human being? You have never met me or seen me.

    Obviously I have excellent reasons based on my experience to believe that you are a human, since neither I nor anyone else has ever seen anything except a human demonstrate linguistic abilities. If I was just watching sentences appear that were not responsive to our discussion I would not be so sure (I would think perhaps an unintelligent program was simply generating sentences), but since your sentences are responsive I have no doubt that you are understanding what I’m saying.

    What has given you the grounds to rationally conclude that I am not an unconscious supercomputer just responding to you?

    Because my field of expertise is natural language understanding, and I’m well aware that the state of the art in artificial intelligence is nowhere near the point where a computer system can engage in discourse like this. Many people are often fooled into thinking that the computer they interact with actually understands what they are saying of course, but currently computer systems’ “understanding” of language is so unlike human understanding that it is misleading to even use that word.

    Given your claim that you believe that CSI Boxes could do so, why have you inferrsd that I am a conscious agent rather than an unconscious one?

    Again, a CSI Box is neither intelligent nor conscious – it simply produces CSI.
    A zombie is intelligent but not conscious – it produces CSI, and can answer questions about how and why, and learn new things, and solve new problems, but lacks conscious awareness.

    I know you are not a CSI box because of our conversation. I know you are not a zombie because I have good reason to believe that you are human, and I also have good reason to think that other humans are conscious.

    And RDFish…here is the million dollar question: What would you conclude about me if you suddenly knew, with absolute certainty, that I was not a material or embodied being?

    That’s your million dollar question? I have had the chance to interact with you, see that you understand the things that I say, and generate appropriate responses, and so I know that your cognitive attributes are like mine and other humans. Obviously if I knew you were not embodied, then I would I would revise my understanding of the sorts of things that could have minds similar to human minds!

    Without the ability to interact with you, I would make no such conclusion of course. Just like the termites, or the CSI box, you might be producing CSI without any understanding at all. This is the case in the context of ID.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  131. 131
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    I thought RDFish’s complaint was two-fold: (a) the design hypothesis, as applied to biochemical systems, requires that the designer be a non-physical agent; (b) non-physical agency conflicts with all of our observations about agents, so the prior probability of the design hypothesis is low or inscrutable.

    On a related note, a paper by Elliot Sober, “Intelligent Design Theory and the Supernatural: The ‘God or Extraterrestrials’ Reply“. Here’s the abstract:

    When proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory deny that their theory is religious, the minimalistic theory they have in mind (the mini-ID theory)
    is the claim that the irreducibly complex adaptations found in nature were made by one or more intelligent designers. The denial that this theory is religious rests on the fact that it does not specify the identity of the designer — a supernatural God or a team of extra-terrestrials could have done the work. The present paper attempts to show that this reply underestimates the commitments of the mini-ID Theory. The mini-ID theory, when supplemented with four independently plausible further assumptions, entails the existence of a supernatural intelligent designer. It is further argued that scientific theories, such as the Darwinian theory of evolution, are neutral on the question of whether supernatural designers exist.

  132. 132
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    With your last comment I can see that we are finally getting somewhere, which is excellent. This is a good discussion. Now, I beg your patience because I will not be able to answer your post via my cellphone but I will have to wait till I get back to my computer tonight.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  133. 133
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear KN,

    The reason my whole discussion applies to the actual ID debate is because if my reasoning is sound, then it shows that we can infer design from CSI even if that CSI is found in biological systems.

    And note that the inference to design in the actual ID debate is a much easier one to make then the one I have been arguing for. Why? Because in the ID debate, the designer is not necessarily unembodied but could actually be an embodied designer.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  134. 134
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Before we go on, let’s just make sure we are using terminology consistently. I propose the following:

    1) “designer” – conscious, sentient agent
    2) “design inference” – inference that something was produced by a designer
    3) “intelligent” – able to learn and solve novel problems (consciously or not)
    4) “csi box” – something that produces CSI without intelligence or consciousness
    5) “zombie” – something that is intelligent but not conscious

    I take the meanings of “conscious” and “sentient” to be self-evident. Note by the definitions above, Darwinian evolutionary processes are zombies – they are intelligent but not conscious.

    Because in the ID debate, the designer is not necessarily unembodied but could actually be an embodied designer.

    I think this is confused. If ID says that the cause of life might be a disembodied entity, that is one hypothesis. If it says the cause of life was some other life form, that is another hypothesis. Each hypothesis needs to be evaluated independently. The former is a weak hypothesis because of both low prior probability of disembodied minds and lack of specific evidence. The latter is hypothesis has much higher prior probability, but also lacks evidence, and also represents a very poor explanation in that (1) it fails to explain the origin of biological CSI and (2) once we accept prior existence of complex life forms, we might as well assume that we are their descendants rather than the products of their bio-engineering.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  135. 135
    Box says:

    RDFish #129, if I understand you correctly you take an agnostic stand on the mind-body problem. However you seem to reject out of hand a purely naturalistic explanation (fermions and bosons) for intelligence and you distinguish between people and their brains. Correct?

  136. 136
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDFish #129, if I understand you correctly you take an agnostic stand on the mind-body problem.

    Yes.

    However you seem to reject out of hand a purely naturalistic explanation (fermions and bosons) for intelligence…

    First, we have no explanation of consciousness at all – we have no idea what the sufficient conditions for conscious experience might be, and we don’t have a principled understanding of the necessary conditions either. One of my points in this thread has been that we do have empirical reason to believe that at minimum, some sort of physical mechanism which can store and process information seems to be necessary for thought to occur.

    Second, “fermions and bosons” don’t really even explain matter, much less mind. These “particles” are not particles in any way we understand the word – they are not solid things, they do exist in a particular time and place, how they behave can depend on things that might happen in some other time and place in a way that is entirely mysterious, and so on. So the characterization of materialism (or “naturalistic” explanations) as fermions and bosons banging into one another is 100 years out of date: Physicists do not believe that reality emerges from little pieces of matter in motion, and so nobody else should either. Physical reality is much, much weirder than that.

    …and you distinguish between people and their brains. Correct?

    I should think that it is obvious to everyone, really – how could people be their brains? First of all, we have lots of other body parts obviously (and we even know that other parts of our bodies are involved in thinking processes and emotional processing, such as the entelic nervous system). But more importantly (and more to your concerns, I believe), describing a person by describing only their body misses a great deal – it would be like describing the parts of a light bulb without mentioning that when you flip the switch it lights up.

    Conscious experience is a hard problem for which we have not even the beginning of an explanation, and can’t even imagine what an explanation might look like. This problem is not limited to “materialism”; dualism does not explain consciousness either, it simply posits that it is irreducible, inexplicable, and is somehow (in a way nobody understands) associated with our brains. That really doesn’t help.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  137. 137
    Box says:

    RDFish #136, thank you for your lucid reply, I will leave the stage for awhile with drink and popcorn in hand awaiting the return of RD Miksa.

  138. 138
    RD Miksa says:

    For all,

    Sorry about not commenting last night, but I worked a fifteen hour shift and passed out when I got home. (And I am working again today!)

    Now, before I comment on anything else, I just wanted to make clear why I keep bringing up the issue of subjective (Berkeley) idealism (which is the philosophical position that matter does not exist and that everything is immaterial mental ‘stuff’). The reason that subjective idealism is so important to this discussion is because even if subjective idealism is even only potentially true, then that fact automatically erodes a major plank in RDFish’s objection to the design inference to unembodied designers.

    Why?

    Well, one of RDFish’s major objections against the design inference to an unembodied designer is that our uniform and repeated experience shows us that designers are material embodied (human) agents. As he says: CSI is only known to come from complex material beings. And given this fact, RDFish argues the probability of an un-embodied designer is a priori low.

    But now watch what happens when subjective idealism is considered.

    If subjective idealism is true, and thus there is no matter, then every designing agent is, in actuality, an immaterial un-embodied agent, even if such agents may appear embodied. But there is a world of different between what RDFish believes our uniform and repeated experience shows us and what it actually would show us if subjective idealism were true, which would be that our uniform and repeated experience show us that actually immaterial and un-embodied agents who only APPEAR embodied are designers. And thus the a priori probability of an un-embodied designer on this view would not be low, but nearly certain. If fact, it would be an actually material and embodied designer that would have a low a priori probability if subjective idealism were true.

    But now, even if subjective idealism were only possible, this fact still undercuts RDFish’s objection. Why? Because if subjective idealism is possible, then RDFish cannot simply assert that our uniform and repeated experience shows us only material and embodied designers, for given the possibility of subjective idealism, our uniform and repeated experience may be showing us the exact opposite. So before RDFish can claim that our uniform and repeated experience supports his side of the argument, or before he can claim that the a priori probability of an un-embodied and immaterial designer is low, RDFish would first have to show that subjective idealism is very likely false.

    And this is why subjective idealism is important to the debate concerning the potential to inference an immaterial and un-embodied designer.

    Although I note, as an aside, that given that ID does not posit an immaterial designer, this point is not critical to the ID debate. But it is important to the overall discussion about the design inference.

    More to follow soon.

    RD Miksa

  139. 139
    RD Miksa says:

    In fact, note that the same problem for RDFish, ref. subjective idealism, also arises if even something like Cartesian dualism is considered or even potentially true, for such dualism posits an immaterial mind as the real thinking conscious thing and the material body is but a vessel. The immaterial mind is the thing doing the thinking and designing and could do so even if its material body did not exist.

    So again, RDFish cannot claim the an unembodied mind / designer is a priori improbable without giving us an argument or reason to think that Cartesian dualism or subjective materialism is improbable. Until he does so, it would be illegitimate of him to claim an a priori improbability for immaterial minds.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  140. 140
    RD Miksa says:

    And also note that it will do RDFish no good to argue that subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism are irrelevant to our repeated and uniform experience because our experience makes it seem AS IF designers are all material and embodied. And the reason that this response is no good is because RDFish is trying, in ACTUALITY, to assign an a priori low probability of an un-embodied designer. But if subjective idealism is true or if Cartesian dualiam is true (or highly probable) then the in actuality a priori probability of an un-embodied immaterial designer who can affect the material world (in the case of Cartesian dualism) is extremely high. Why? Because on Cartesian dualism or subjective idealism, we are all such immaterial designers and thus our uniform and repeated experience, in actuality, would strongly support the inference to an un-embodied immaterial designer.

    And even if Cartesian dualism or subjective idealism were just possible–which they are–then RDFish’s main argumentative thrust is still eroded, for he cannot assign an a priori low probability to an un-embodied immaterial designer without first providing us with a reason or argument to assign a low probability to Cartesian dualism or subjective idealism. And RDFish– apart from appealing to the very uniform and repeated experience that is as accountable on Cartesian dualism and subjective idealism as on any other worldview position, thus meaning that his appeals to it supporting his position are fallaciously question begging–has not provided us with any arguments or reasons to assign an a priori low probability to the possibility of an un-embodied immaterial designer.

    In essence, RDFish has tried to unjustifiably smuggle in a type of low grade materialism (his view is that there is a high probability that minds must be linked to matter in some way) into this discussion without argument or warrant. And doing this is just begging the question in favor of this low grade materialism, which, of course, is fallacious.

    More to follow very soon. (from cellphone)

    RD Miksa

  141. 141
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Alright, let’s take your comments one at a time.

    You said:

    “Given that all of the more likely explanations are ruled out as you say, I would consider this an “interaction”, and I would absolutely believe that something with linguistic abilities and the sort of general cognitive abilities that humans have was responsible. I would be surprised that this Entity would use my UD handle “RDFish” instead of my real name, but it would certainly convince me that something very well outside of my understanding was calling me out!”

    OK, notice how your admission here has validated a number of points that we have been arguing about.

    First, as I have been arguing, your admission here shows that a design inference, if it is strong enough, can be evidence, in and of itself, that warrants the overriding of our repeated and uniform experience. And note that, for the sake of argument, I am agreeing with your claim that our repeated and uniform experience makes the a priori probability of an immaterial designer low—although see my earlier comments ref. subjective idealism and Cartesian dualism for why I disagree with this in actuality—but even with this agreement, you admit that a design inference could be strong enough to overcome this repeated and uniform experience.

    Second, notice how your admission validates my claim that when a design inference is made, there are indeed two separate inferences that occur. The first is to a designer/intelligence in general, and then the second inference is to determine what type of designer/intelligence it is via a deduction (conceptual analysis) from the evidence at hand. And your response clearly indicated this two-step process.

    Now, how is all of this related to the ID debate?

    Well, if the above “interaction”, as you call it—although I would call it a sign or a message—is sufficient for you to make the inference that you did, then the same interaction should be sufficient for you to make the inference that you did even if the same words were in something like Morse Code instead of English. Yet if that is the case, then that combination of words could be in Morse Code within DNA, for example, thereby allowing you to make such an inference from the code even if that code was in a biological organism.

    Or consider this, if the stars suddenly re-arranged themselves to form a statue of you, this would also be a sign (or “interaction”), and you would infer the same thing that you did with the English words.

    So why is this fact important? Because it shows that it is indeed CSI that gives us the grounds for a design inference. A statue of you has a specified pattern (your body) and it is complex (the arrangement of multiple parts). CSI is how we infer design.

    More to follow.

  142. 142
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “As far as “intelligence” goes, because I can interact with other human beings it is simple to ascertain that they are intelligent (they can learn, solve novel problems that are presented to them, understand and generate natural language, and so on).”

    But this admits that, in your view, our interaction with other human being can never really tell us whether they are anything more than zombies, for zombies are able to solve problems and make solutions. So how then, do you know that I am just not a zombie? You have never seen me. You have never met me? And you have only interacted with me in the exact same way that a zombie could. So again, how do you know that I am not just a zombie?

    You said:

    “As far as consciousness goes, the problem of other minds is solved by a comfortably strong inference, I believe: I know that I am conscious, and I see that you very much like me in very many critical respects, and so I conclude that you are conscious too. In particular, all of the physical correlates of consciousness that appear in my brain appear in other people’s brains, too. Likewise, because I know that I reliably lose consciousness under certain conditions when my brain function is interfered with, I would conclude that you would also lose consciousness when your brain is similarly interfered with.”

    But here is the question: why is it legitimate for you to make this comfortably strong inference in your case, but not for me to make it in the case of the consciousness of an un-embodied and immaterial designer. After all, all our repeated and uniform experience—evidence which you value highly—shows us that things that speak English are either conscious or ultimately trace back to something that was conscious. So if you can legitimately make your strong inference concerning consciousness in your case, then I can legitimately make the same inference concerning consciousness in the case of an un-embodied and immaterial designer.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  143. 143
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “No, that’s not what I meant by “CSI Box”. A CSI box is not a philosophical zombie – not something that is intelligent but not conscious. Rather, a CSI Box is something that produces CSI without intelligence – it cannot learn or solve novel problems. My point is that for all we can tell, not only might the Designer of Life be a zombie, but it might even be a CSI Box – neither conscious nor intelligent.”

    From our experience, can you please provide me with some legitimate “CSI Boxes” that ultimately do not trace back to a conscious agent?

    Thank you.

    RD Miksa

  144. 144
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “Obviously I have excellent reasons based on my experience to believe that you are a human, since neither I nor anyone else has ever seen anything except a human demonstrate linguistic abilities.”

    Great! So if we saw something that was definitely un-embodied and immaterial, but that demonstrated linguistic abilities, we could use our very same experience to determine that it was a conscious thing (for you admit that humans are conscious). So, given my example, and by your own admission above, we can infer that the immaterial and un-embodied designer is conscious.

    And again, the reason that this is important to the ID debate is because:

    1) Our experience also shows us that irreducibly complex things are designed by either a conscious intelligent things or ultimately trace back to a conscious intelligent things.

    2) Our experience also shows us that CSI is created by conscious intelligent things or ultimately traces back to conscious intelligent things.

    So, if ID can demonstrate irreducible complexity or CSI, then it can infer a designing conscious intelligent thing.

  145. 145
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “That’s your million dollar question? I have had the chance to interact with you, see that you understand the things that I say, and generate appropriate responses, and so I know that your cognitive attributes are like mine and other humans.”

    Whoa…by your own admission, a zombie could interact with you, solve problems, etc. You have never seen me? You have never met me? You have no idea whether I am a human or not? So how do you know I am not a zombie? And that is indeed the million dollar question.

    You said:

    “Without the ability to interact with you, I would make no such conclusion of course. Just like the termites, or the CSI box, you might be producing CSI without any understanding at all. This is the case in the context of ID.”

    No, it is not the case for ID. And this is the key thing. Note my previous points: you admit that if linguistic abilities were shown, then this would allow you to infer a conscious intelligent thing. I argued that this would extend to other things than just linguistic abilities. And thus, if these things can be demonstrated in biological things, a design inference to a conscious intelligent thing can be made via ID.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  146. 146
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    A few questions:

    1) Say, once again, that we know that we are the only embodied beings in existence. We are also not hallucinating, delusional, etc.

    Now, if you were an astronaut, and you landed on a foreign, uninhabited planet, and you suddenly found a statue of yourself there, what would you conclude and why? And would you consider this an “interaction?”

    Now, if you were an astronaut, and you landed on a foreign, uninhabited planet, and you suddenly found something that looked like an outboard motor, what would you conclude and why? And would you consider this an “interaction?”

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  147. 147
    RDFish says:

    RD Miksa,
    Thank you for your very comprehensive responses. I will post my response shortly, in which I will attempt to show all of your objections are unfounded, leaving my arguments intact.
    RDFish

  148. 148
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Please note that I will seek to address your definitions later this evening, although I agree with the majority of them.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  149. 149
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    I had written a very, very, very long response to all of your points… and lost it in a Windows Update reboot.

    Just as well, actually – there is a good deal of repetition, and now I have a chance to summarize our discussion and make things much more clear and concise.

    Here is my argument, as clearly as I can make it:

    1) ID authors, and all scientists, claim to base their epistemic justification on empirical observation, rather than on metaphysical commitments. In the words of Stephen Myer (and before him, Darwin), we justify our theories by “uniform and repeated experience”, rather than on, say, scripture, personal revelation, or miracles. This doesn’t mean that empiricism is the only path to knowledge, but I am talking here only about empiricism, because that is what ID authors claim is behind ID theory.

    2) I agree with ID proponents that there exists complex form and function (we’ll call it “CSI”) in biological systems that is unaccounted for by any theory of evolutionary biology.

    3) In our uniform and repeated experience (hereafter called “shared experience” or simply “experience”), when we know the cause of CSI we observe, that cause is invariably an intelligent, conscious entity. (By “intelligent”, I mean “able to plan, learn, and solve novel problems”. By “conscious” I mean “experiences what we human beings refer to as conscious awareness – that which we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep, and regain when we awaken”).

    4) From this, ID proponents argue that the CSI we observe in biology was also likely to have originated by the actions of an intelligent, conscious entity.

    5) I point out that while our experience confirms that all CSI results from the action of conscious, intelligent entities, the exact same observations confirm that all conscious, intelligent entities are physical entities containing lots of CSI. Moreover, everything we know about intelligent systems (animals or computers) confirms that complex physical state machines are required to store and process information; nobody has any idea how memory and reasoning could operate without some sort of physical mechanism. That doesn’t imply that other sorts of things could not possibly exist which could be intelligent without the benefit of a complex body, but it does mean that it is just as improbable that such a thing could exist as it is to imagine that CSI could be generated by something that was not intelligent.

    6) So, it is improbable that a conscious, intelligent entity could have existed prior to the existence of CSI. In other words, the a priori probability that ID is true is low, and in order to judge ID’s hypothesis to be true, we would need strong a posteriori evidence that un-emobided entities are capable of intelligent behavior and producing CSI. There is no such evidence, however.

    7) For these reasons, ID does not represent a successful theory of life origins. It is my assertion that no other theory successfuly accounts for biological CSI either, and that the most intellectually honest answer to the question of life origins is “We do not know”. This is the position I am defending here.

    Here are your counter-arguments, stated as well as I can formulate and understand them, and my responses:

    I) ID does not require that the Designer be un-embodied.
    If ID posits an embodied designer, then it fails to explain the origin of CSI at all. In fact, once we posit the existence of physical extra-terrestrial beings, it is a simpler hypothesis that life on Earth has descended from these prior beings, rather than that we are the products of their bio-engineering efforts.

    II) There is evidence for un-embodied intelligent behavior
    I follow the studies on paranormal phenomena with interest, and I believe that whatever evidence exists for un-embodied intelligent beings (ghosts, demons, and so on) or human consciousness existing outside of the body (e.g. in NDE experiences) is, to date, very weak – anecdotal and impossible to replicate. And ID proponents have never, to my knowledge, published anything that would demonstrate that un-embodied intelligence is possible, much less directed any research toward this question. Instead, they take it as an unsupported assumption that, contrary to our shared experience, conscious minds can exist without brains.

    III) It is possible that idealism or Cartesian dualism is true, and we cannot therefore say that we do not experience un-embodied minds.
    Cartesian dualism holds that humans are comprised of two ontologically distinct substances, but it does not actually entail that intelligent behavior is possible without either one (mind or matter). So your argument probably pertains only to idealism, and not dualism. But your argument fails in the case of idealism anyway.

    As I stated in (1) above, we are judging these hypotheses against our experience, and our experience is what it is no matter what may or may not be true of metaphysical speculations. You may recall Samuel Johnson’s famous response to George Berkeley’s idealism: As he kicked a rock outside of the church where Berkeley spoke, he declared “I refute it thus!”. Now, Dr. Johnson did not refute idealism of course, because it is impossible to refute (or confirm) idealism. But what he did demonstrate was that whatever might be true of idealism, we experience the existence of physical objects. We experience some things that are not physical (our own conscious thoughts, abstract concepts like numbers, and so on) and we experience other things that are physical (like rocks). And while nobody knows what particular metaphysical ontology might be true, that makes no difference to our experience, and in our experience, a brain is a physical thing just as a rock is.

    If instead of basing our arguments on experience you wish instead to view them from an anti-realist (idealist) metaphysics, that is your prerogative, but obviously we cannot debate the issue.

    IV) Even if un-embodied intelligence contradicts our experience, it is still the best explanation, because evolutionary theory is even worse.
    It is not reasonable to adopt a belief in an improbable theory simply because alternative explanations are even worse. The correct (intellectually honest) response in such a situation is “We do not know”. I repeat my illustration of this principle:

    Judge: I find the defendent guilty of strangling the victim!
    Defense Lawyer: But your honor! My client was sitting in the police station downstairs when the crime was committed, and I have 120 police officers and 10 nuns testifying to that fact, plus videotape evidence, and my client is a quadriplegic and confined to an iron lung!
    Judge: I don’t care! There was a motive (he didn’t seem to like the victim) and I don’t have any other suspects!

    V) A low a priori probability of un-embodied intelligence can be overcome by sufficiently strong a posteriori evidence, and such evidence exists in the context of ID.
    I agree of course that such evidence would be compelling (by definition), but it’s clear that no such evidence exists.

    The key here is to realize that mere observation of existing CSI, without any information about the producer, is insufficient to establish that the producer could learn to produce other sorts of CSI, or could produce CSI to solve a novel problem. Let’s say that a “CSI Box” is something that outputs CSI, but only of specific predetermined types. A CSI Box, in other words, is something produces CSI but is not intelligent. An example of a CSI box is a termite colony that produces a complex, functional structure, but is incapable of designing and building anything else. Another example of a CSI Box is a computer system.

    Your objection to this argument is that a computer is designed by an intelligent being (a human), and that termites are too (an Intelligent Designer). Well, the latter claim is clearly begging the question, so let’s focus on the first one. The problem with your objection is that you are making the same mistake as the ID critic who pesters you with the question “Who designed the designer?”. Computer systems can output CSI without necessarily being intelligent – i.e. they can be CSI Boxes. While computer systems are human-designed, the hypothetical CSI Box that output the original biological CSI was not; perhaps yet another CSI Box produced the CSI Box that produced biology… and so on. And how did this chain get started? Perhaps there is a necessary CSI Box that exists outside of space and time.

    But the situation for ID is worse than that, because even if there was a succesful argument that we should consider it likely that the un-embodied cause of biological CSI was intelligent, it would still be improbable that such an entity would be conscious.

    First, in our experience, it is clear that interference with brain function (a dose of propofol, for example) is sufficient to make us lose consciousness. It is highly probable, then, that the total absence of a brain would likewise result in no consciousness.

    Second, it is easy to see that conscious awareness is not required in order for something to exhibit intelligence. Our brains constantly solve difficult problems and generate complex plans without our conscious awareness – walking, driving, forming speech sounds and so on require very complicated planning. We are conscious of only a very small fraction of the plans our brains design. Even difficult engineering problems are often solved by people who are sleeping or thinking about other things at the time.

    Moreover, we can produce artificially intelligent systems that can output CSI, learn, and solve novel problems, and these intelligent systems are unconscious – at least we presume they are, because they do not have the other properties of human beings such as the physiological correlates of consciousness in our brains. This again demonstrates that intelligence does not require conscious awareness.

    It is therefore improbable a priori that an un-embodied cause of living things would experience conscious awareness.

    VI) But I can dream up some fanciful scenario where you would conclude that an intelligent, conscious, disembodied being was responsible for some phenomenon.
    Of course you can, and I can dream up some fanciful scenario where you would conclude that dogs can talk.

    Please forgive me if I’ve misrepresented your arguments – I assure you my intent is to capture your arguments correctly, and I await your corrections, additions, and rebuttals.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  150. 150
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Thank you for your detailed response (as well as for the interesting and stimulating discussion). I will reply to each of your major points separately, and not always in the order that you posted them in. I do so because I believe some points need to be specifically clarified before certain other points will make sense.

    Now, you said:

    “IV) Even if un-embodied intelligence contradicts our experience, it is still the best explanation, because evolutionary theory is even worse. It is not reasonable to adopt a belief in an improbable theory simply because alternative explanations are even worse. The correct (intellectually honest) response in such a situation is “We do not know”.”

    I think that you have a weak comprehension of the concept behind a “best” explanation. By definition, a best explanation is a comparative thing. But just because something is the “best” explanation out of our range of explanatory options, does not mean that any of the explanations we have, even the “best” one, is necessarily rationally compelling. Thus, we may have, for example, four explanations for a certain phenomenon, and they may all be poor explanations from an objective sense (meaning that they lack most of the qualities of a good explanation), but nevertheless, within that group of four poor explanations, one of them will be the best explanation out of the four.

    So, it is entirely possibly to claim both that an explanation is a “best” explanation out of a group of options, while simultaneously claiming that that explanation is objectively not good enough to be rationally compelling even though it is the best one.

    This is exactly the same way that a Prosecutor may provide his “best” explanation of the evidence of a crime, and yet his “best” explanation may still not be good enough to meet the objective threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    And thus, you have to distinguish between the relative aspect of a best explanation (meaning when it is compared to its other competitors) and whether or not that best explanation is able to meet an objective threshold that makes it a compelling explanation from an objective perspective.

    So this whole claim of yours about the correct position being to say “We don’t know” is wrong. The correct position is to admit that a certain explanation is indeed the best one that we have, but then to admit that even the best explanation is not good enough to be rationally compelling (or to argue that it is rationally compelling).

    Now why is this important to the ID debate? Because it may very well be the case that ID is the best explanation of the evidence at hand. But whether it is compelling enough as an explanation from an objective perspective is another question.

    And as an aside, the example you gave is quite poor, because obviously in such a case the explanation offered by the judge would not be the best explanation given the evidence that you presented in the example.

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  151. 151
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “Cartesian dualism holds that humans are comprised of two ontologically distinct substances, but it does not actually entail that intelligent behavior is possible without either one (mind or matter). So your argument probably pertains only to idealism, and not dualism. But your argument fails in the case of idealism anyway.”

    This is wrong. Consider:

    “One of the deepest and most lasting legacies of Descartes’ philosophy is his thesis that mind and body are really distinct–a thesis now called “mind-body dualism.” He reaches this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other.”

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/descmind/#H5

    Notice the last line.

    And here is another:

    “Substance dualism is a type of dualism most famously defended by Descartes, which states that there are two fundamental kinds of substance: mental and material.[6] According to his philosophy, which is specifically called Cartesian dualism, the mental does not have extension in space, and the material cannot think. … David Chalmers recently developed a thought experiment inspired by the movie The Matrix in which substance dualism could be true: Consider a computer simulation in which the bodies of the creatures are controlled by their minds and the minds remain strictly external to the simulation. The creatures can do all the science they want in the world, but they will never be able to figure out where their minds are, for they do not exist in their observable universe. This is a case of substance dualism with respect to computer simulation. This naturally differs from a computer simulation in which the minds are part of the simulation. In such a case, substance monism would be true.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....an_dualism

    So, based on this, Cartesian dualism is entirely relevant to my position.

    More to follow soon.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  152. 152
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Now, on to your argument, which I thank you for making clear.

    You said:

    “1) ID authors, and all scientists, claim to base their epistemic justification on empirical observation, rather than on metaphysical commitments. In the words of Stephen Myer (and before him, Darwin), we justify our theories by “uniform and repeated experience”, rather than on, say, scripture, personal revelation, or miracles. This doesn’t mean that empiricism is the only path to knowledge, but I am talking here only about empiricism, because that is what ID authors claim is behind ID theory.

    I agree. But it is right here where your argument falls off the rails. Why? Because empiricism is not the same as physicalism / materialism (or some type of low-level materialism where the mind is dependent on matter in some way), which you are covertly / unconsciously assuming that it is in your argument.

    Consider that George Berkeley, the very founder of subjective idealism, was a staunch empiricist. Here is a quote:

    “George Berkeley has gone down in the handbooks as a great spokesman of British empiricism. … Today, every student of the history of philosophy is familiar with the view that there was a sort of linear development involving three great “British Empiricists”, leading from Locke through Berkeley to Hume.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Berkeley

    Thus, empiricism is entirely compatible with a subjective idealism position as it is with Cartesian dualism. And this is the whole point that I think you keep missing: given that our uniform and repeated experience would be identical given subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism, and given that we can be empiricists while being subjective idealists or Cartesian dualists, then you have no right to claim that our experience shows us, in actuality, that designers must be material and embodied, and thus you have no right, in actuality, to claim that an immaterial and un-embodied designer would have an a priori low probability of existing. Before you can make such a claim, you first have to provide a reason to think that both subjective idealism and Cartesian dualism have a low probability of being true. Until you do that, you cannot just assume that our uniform and repeated experience shows us that designers are embodied, material things. In fact, if subjective idealism and Cartesian dualism are true (or very probable), then the a priori probability of un-embodied and immaterial designer is extremely high, not low. In such a case, it would be an embodied and material designer that would have the low a priori probability. And even admitted this, we could still be empiricists, just as Berkeley was.

    So, you are, in essence, trying to sneak-in a type of materialism about designers into your argument but you have absolutely no justification to do so.

    And therefore it must be clear: being an empiricist, and thus relying on our uniform and repeated experience, is completely compatible with subjective idealism and Cartesian dualism. And thus I think you are the one sneaking in a metaphysical commitment (that designers are in some critical way material or embodied) all while trying to claim that you are just being an empiricist. But you are the one conflating the two issues, which is why you seem to believe you have some right to assign an un-embodied, immaterial designer a low a priori probability. But as I have shown, your attempt to do so is fallacious. And since this is the major thrust of your argument, it thus renders your argument weak to begin with.

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  153. 153
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “2) I agree with ID proponents that there exists complex form and function (we’ll call it “CSI”) in biological systems that is unaccounted for by any theory of evolutionary biology.”

    Awesome. I have no dispute with this.

    RD Miksa

  154. 154
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “3) In our uniform and repeated experience (hereafter called “shared experience” or simply “experience”), when we know the cause of CSI we observe, that cause is invariably an intelligent, conscious entity. (By “intelligent”, I mean “able to plan, learn, and solve novel problems”. By “conscious” I mean “experiences what we human beings refer to as conscious awareness – that which we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep, and regain when we awaken”).

    4) From this, ID proponents argue that the CSI we observe in biology was also likely to have originated by the actions of an intelligent, conscious entity.”

    Again, I have no disagreement with this.

    RD Miksa

  155. 155
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “5) I point out that while our experience confirms that all CSI results from the action of conscious, intelligent entities, the exact same observations confirm that all conscious, intelligent entities are physical entities…”

    Stop right there! Do you see what you’ve done? Without justification, you have just assumed the truth (or high probability) of physicalism/materialism (or something like it). You have assumed that conscious, intelligent entities are physical entities. Under the guise of being an “empiricist”, you have smuggled in a metaphysical commitment to something like materialism. So, on the one hand, you say that you are not interested in metaphysical commitments, but on the other hand, you are sneaking them in the back door of your argument all while claiming that you aren’t doing this.

    But, as I have explained, I can be just as much of an empiricist as you, and yet, as a proponent of subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism, I would claim that our repeated and uniform experience shows us that conscious, intelligent entities are immaterial and un-embodied rather than material or embodied. So again, until you show that subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism is highly improbable, you have absolutely no justification to jump to the conclusion that conscious, intelligent entities are highly likely to be physical.

    You said:

    “Moreover, everything we know about intelligent systems (animals or computers) confirms that complex physical state machines are required to store and process information; nobody has any idea how memory and reasoning could operate without some sort of physical mechanism.”

    And again, you assume a materialist position here without justification. For consider, if Cartesian dualism or subjective idealism were true (or highly probable), and thus if consciousness and intelligence were the properties of the immaterial part of a the duality, then your statement would read as follows: …nobody has any idea how memory and reasoning could operate without some sort of IMMATERIAL aspect.”

    So again, you cannot sneak in an assumption of materialism and then try to claim that you are just being an empiricist.

    You said:

    “That doesn’t imply that other sorts of things could not possibly exist which could be intelligent without the benefit of a complex body, but it does mean that it is … improbable that such a thing could exist…”

    Again, you are assuming a type of provisional materialism all the while claiming that you have no metaphysical commitments.

    After all, consider again that if I was an empiricist, but one who was a subjective idealist or a Cartesian dualist, then your above statement would read as follows: “That doesn’t imply that other sorts of things could not possibly exist which could be intelligent and conscious with the benefit of being IMMATERIAL and UN-EMBODIED, but it does mean that it is improbable that such a thing could exist.”

    So again, you are assigning a low probability to an un-embodied, immaterial designer without any justification.

    You said:

    “6) So, it is improbable that a conscious, intelligent entity could have existed prior to the existence of CSI.”

    Again, no. Why? Because you are once again smuggling in a commitment to the claim that a conscious, intelligent entity must be linked to a complex (CSI) material body. But if it does not—and we have been given no argument to think otherwise—then your assertion of improbability is unfounded.

    You said:

    “In other words, the a priori probability that ID is true is low, and in order to judge ID’s hypothesis to be true, we would need strong a posteriori evidence that un-emobided entities are capable of intelligent behavior and producing CSI. There is no such evidence, however.”

    Again, not without some argument showing that subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism are unlikely. Without first doing this, we cannot assign a low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial designer. For again, consider that if these two positions were true (or likely), then it would be the material and embodied designer that would be highly unlikely!

    So the fact is, without first giving some reason to think that subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism has a low probability of being true, you cannot assign a low probability to the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious, intelligent entity. And since your whole argument rests on this point, then I think that your argument fails in that important respect.

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  156. 156
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “As I stated in (1) above, we are judging these hypotheses against our experience, and our experience is what it is no matter what may or may not be true of metaphysical speculations.”

    But this is totally incorrect. If either subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism are true (or highly probable), then all our experience with conscious, intelligent entities would show us that such entities are, in actuality, immaterial and un-embodied things. And if we are trying to be neutral about such metaphysical positions, then we cannot suddenly claim that un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entities are somehow improbable.

    For some reason, you seem to think that our experience of the world, as it appears to us, would be different on subjective idealism or on Cartesian dualism. But our experience would be exactly the same, and that is why your claim that our experience somehow automatically supports the idea the conscious, intelligent entities are physical is unsupported.

    You said:

    “You may recall Samuel Johnson’s famous response to George Berkeley’s idealism: As he kicked a rock outside of the church where Berkeley spoke, he declared “I refute it thus!”. Now, Dr. Johnson did not refute idealism of course, because it is impossible to refute (or confirm) idealism.”

    Now, if you truly believe this latter statement, then you are in a serious pickle, because this means that if you have no way of knowing the truth or falsehood of subjective idealism, and if you are “agnostic” about its possibility, then you have no rational way to justify assigning a low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious, intelligent entity, because for all you know, subjective idealism is true and thus all conscious, intelligent entities are immaterial and un-embodied.

    You said:

    “But what he did demonstrate was that whatever might be true of idealism, we experience the existence of physical objects.”

    No, if subjective idealism is true, then we do not experience the existence of physical objects, rather we experience the existence of things that are objects, but are, in actuality, immaterial objects. And there is a world of difference between experiencing an actual physical object and experiencing something that appears to be an object but is actually an immaterial perception. Do you see the difference?

    And if Cartesian dualism were true, that we would not experience the existence of physical conscious and intelligent entities, but rather we would actually experience that all conscious and intelligent entities are immaterial.

    So, without a prior metaphysical commitment to some type of physicalism / materialism (with I think you are trying to sneak into your argument), then your appeal to experience does not support your claim that we experience the conscious, intelligent entities that are physical. For without such a prior metaphysical commitment, you have no way of differentiating between our experiencing actual physical things, and our experiencing of things that are actually immaterial, regardless of how they appear or are perceived.

    You said:

    “We experience some things that are not physical (our own conscious thoughts, abstract concepts like numbers, and so on) and we experience other things that are physical (like rocks).”

    But you just said that you are not making metaphysical commitments, but in this statement you obviously are. Because by claiming that we experience both physical and non-physical things, you are already metaphysically committed against something like subjective idealism, which claims that there are no physical things, and thus that we do not experience, in actuality, any physical things.

    You said:

    “If instead of basing our arguments on experience you wish instead to view them from an anti-realist (idealist) metaphysics, that is your prerogative, but obviously we cannot debate the issue.”

    But the problem is, it is you that is confusing empiricism with physicalism / materialism. I can be an empiricist, and yet be neutral on the question of idealism / materialism. But if I am being neutral, then I cannot start assigning low probabilities to un-embodied and immaterial designers, which is what you appear to be doing.

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  157. 157
    RD Miksa says:

    More to follow tomorrow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  158. 158
    RD Miksa says:

    And RDFish,

    Just to be clear, please note that I am not trying to argue for the truth of subjective idealism or even Cartesian dualism. What I am trying to show you is that it is actually you who are, in actuality, unjustifiably assuming that something like the metaphysical position of materialism / physicalism is highly probable—and it is unjustified because, on empiricism, our experience would be identical given subjective idealism, Cartesian dualism, or materialism—and then you are using that unwarranted assumption to create the main plank in your argument: namely that the existence of un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entities is low. But since this main plank in your argument is based on an unjustified assumption, then it holds no weight.

    That is why your argument does not go through.

    More to follow tomorrow.

    RD Miksa

  159. 159
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    So, it is entirely possibly to claim both that an explanation is a “best” explanation out of a group of options, while simultaneously claiming that that explanation is objectively not good enough to be rationally compelling even though it is the best one.

    Obviously. The problem is that when ID proponents delcare that biological complexity is “best explained” by ID, they clearly mean that ID is indeed supported by good evidence and ought to be considered as a good theory. It is this I object to. If you agree that ID is a bad theory but only somehow better than competing theories, then we needn’t debate.

    Now why is this important to the ID debate? Because it may very well be the case that ID is the best explanation of the evidence at hand. But whether it is compelling enough as an explanation from an objective perspective is another question.

    Actually, that is the very question that I believe you are I are debating. My position is that it is a very bad theory, and you are arguing that it is a good theory. That is all that matters; whether or not one bad theory edges our another bad theory to be the least bad (relatively best) theory is entirely moot.

    So, based on this, Cartesian dualism is entirely relevant to my position.

    What you quoted regarding dualism is pretty much what I said it was, and in no way contradicts what I pointed out: Nothing about Cartesian dualism suggests that intelligent behavior is possible without either mind or matter. Without mind there can be no thought, and without body there can be no behavior. If you still don’t understand this point about dualism it doesn’t matter to our debate, as we can just focus on idealism.

    And this is the whole point that I think you keep missing: given that our uniform and repeated experience would be identical given subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism, and given that we can be empiricists while being subjective idealists or Cartesian dualists, then you have no right to claim that our experience shows us, in actuality, that designers must be material and embodied, and thus you have no right, in actuality, to claim that an immaterial and un-embodied designer would have an a priori low probability of existing.

    You have misread my argument again. I am not arguing that our experience shows us what is true in actuality. I am not saying that empiricism requires or entails materialism or is incompatible with any other ontological position. And I know that Berkeley was an empiricist. Empiricism is an epistemological stance, not an ontological stance. What empiricism requires is that our beliefs be justified by appeal to sensory experience.

    I assume you agree that we do indeed have sensory experience of what we call material objects (rocks, brains, baseballs), and I assume you likewise agree that our experience of immaterial things (numbers, thoughts, logic) is qualitatively distinct. Otherwise, nobody would know what “material” and “immaterial” would mean.

    Empirical theories must be consistent with our sense data, whether or not our sense data correspond to the ultimate nature of reality.

    Before you can make such a claim, you first have to provide a reason to think that both subjective idealism and Cartesian dualism have a low probability of being true. Until you do that, you cannot just assume that our uniform and repeated experience shows us that designers are embodied, material things.

    I experience human beings with my senses: I can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste them. This places human bodies in the category of things that we call “material” no matter what is ultimately true about them. If dualism or materialism is true, then things we experience as material are material. If idealism is true, then things we experience as material are not material. But under all three metaphysics, the empirical fact is the same.

    If you still don’t understand why the previous sentence is true, answer this: Empirically speaking, what is the difference between material and immaterial things?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  160. 160
    kairosfocus says:

    RDM, quite good effort there. KF

  161. 161
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    First off, let me just say that I appreciate your civil tone, your continued dialogue, and your desire for a good debate. Second, please let me assure you that I do understand your argument—I really do!—but I am trying to show you that your argument has a major flaw which causes it to collapse; you apparently, do not see this flaw or do not believe that this flaw exists. However, since I contend that the main thrust of your argument—meaning your assertion that the REAL and ACTUAL a priori probability of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is low—is based entirely on this flaw in your reasoning, this is why I keep harping on this particular point and it is why I keep repeating myself. I am not doing so because I do not understand your argument, but rather because I think that you are missing my point, and since I believe that my point is critical to this discussion, I need to keep repeating it until you grasp it.

    So, in light of the above, let’s consider what you said again. First, note what you say here:

    “You have misread my argument again. I am not arguing that our experience shows us what is true in actuality.”

    Next, note what you say here:

    “I experience human beings with my senses: I can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste them. This places human bodies in the category of things that we call “material” no matter what is ultimately true about them. If dualism or materialism is true, then things we experience as material are material. If idealism is true, then things we experience as material are not material. But under all three metaphysics, the empirical fact is the same.”

    Notice the last line. Now note that you admit that our experience is the same under all three metaphysics. Next, note that you admit that our experience cannot tell us which metaphysics is ACTUALLY and REALLY true.

    But now here is the key!

    Even after admitting those things, you then suddenly make an unjustified metaphysical leap and claim that our experience shows us, ACTUALLY and IN REALITY, that the a priori existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is low, and thus that to infer the ACTUAL and REAL existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity would be very difficult. And your whole argument rests on this one premise.

    But given your admission that our experience cannot tell us what metaphysical position REALLY and ACTUALLY is true, then you simply cannot assign any REAL and ACTUAL probability, based on experience alone, to the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity.

    Why?

    Because if subjective materialism is true (or highly probable)—and remember that you admit that our experience cannot tell us one way or the other if it is or is not—then all conscious intelligent entities are immaterial and un-embodied, and thus the probability of their existence is very high, thereby making an inference to such an entity very easy.

    And the same holds true if Cartesian dualism is true (or highly probable)—and again remember that you admit that our experience cannot tell us one way or the other if it is or not—for if Cartesian dualism is true (or highly probable), then all conscious intelligent entities are immaterial and un-embodied things that can think independently of matter, do not need matter to exist, and can interact with matter, and thus the probability of the existence of such immaterial and un-embodied thinking interacting entities is very high, thereby making an inference to such an entity very easy.

    So here is the crux of the issue: if you are truly committed to empiricism, and if you simultaneously admit—as you do—that our experience cannot tell us which metaphysical system is correct, then given the combination of these two admissions, you should not be claiming that in ACTUALITY and in REALITY the probability of the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is low.

    Rather, to be consistent with the very claims that you have already admitted to—namely that you are an empiricist and that experience cannot tell us which metaphysical position is true in reality—the only thing that you should be claiming is that in ACTUALITY and in REALITY, the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent thing is as likely as not (50/50). Indeed, given your admitted assumptions, what you should be doing is adopting a position of straight agnosticism about the REAL and ACTUAL existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity. But you absolutely should not be assigning a REAL and ACTUAL a priori low probability to the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity. Doing so would be, under your own admitted assumptions, unjustified.

    And yet, your whole argument rests on the assigning of a REAL and ACTUAL a priori low probability to the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity. But since your doing so is unjustified and flawed, your whole argument is flawed.

    Do you see where your mistake is now: it is in claiming, on the one hand, that experience cannot, in REALITY, tell us which metaphysical system is correct, and then suddenly and unjustifiably leaping over and claiming that our experience shows us that in REALITY, the actual a priori probability of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is low. But you cannot do this without smuggling in the assumption that, in REALITY, the probability of subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism is low. And yet it is this very assumption which experience can never show us, and thus it is an assumption which you, as an empiricist, simply cannot make.

    So, is this point clear now? Do you see how your argument is flawed?

    More to follow soon.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  162. 162
    RD Miksa says:

    To Anyone Else Reading this Thread:

    Just a quick question: Am I, in any way, being unclear with my points? The reason I ask is because I do not want any confusion to arise due to a lack of clarity on my part.

    Thank you.

    RD Miksa

  163. 163
    Box says:

    RDFish #149: (..) nobody has any idea how memory and reasoning could operate without some sort of physical mechanism.

    We have no idea how to make a square circle without a drafting compass, so a drafting compass is necessary to make a square circle. Nobody – in this world – has any idea how memory and reasoning operates with a physical system either. We simply don’t understand mental phenomena like consciousness, agency, free will and reasoning.
    More fundamentally, since we cannot ascribe the mental to a physical system – the brain -, how can we conclude that the brain is in principle a necessary attribute?
    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter” (Haldane [1927] 1932).”
    Assume an almost closed ‘under-water-world’, solely inhabited by humans, where breathing is not possible without breathing equipment. People who enter this liquid world – with amnesia – will have a repeated and uniform experience of dependency on equipment. To these people it would seem highly unlikely that breathing is possible without equipment. Only when someone leaves under-water-world it will be possible for him to experience true breathing and reconsider his metaphysical concept of breathing.

  164. 164
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “Obviously. The problem is that when ID proponents delcare that biological complexity is “best explained” by ID, they clearly mean that ID is indeed supported by good evidence and ought to be considered as a good theory. It is this I object to. If you agree that ID is a bad theory but only somehow better than competing theories, then we needn’t debate.”

    I disagree. Even if—for the sake of argument—it is admitted that ID is objectively a bad explanation, it would still be of major importance to debate whether ID was the “best” explanation, even if it was still objectively a poor explanation.

    And you said:

    “Actually, that is the very question that I believe you are I are debating. My position is that it is a very bad theory, and you are arguing that it is a good theory. That is all that matters; whether or not one bad theory edges our another bad theory to be the least bad (relatively best) theory is entirely moot.”

    Again, I disagree. Just imagine the cultural and social importance of determining that ID—irrespective of its objective status—was still a better explanation than Blind Watchmaker Neo-Darwinian Evolution. So determining which is the best explanation that we have is critical, even if that best explanation is not necessarily rationally compelling.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  165. 165
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    From your points in Comment 149:

    You said:

    “If ID posits an embodied designer, then it fails to explain the origin of CSI at all.”

    But this is an ultimately irrelevant point. Why? Because all ID theory as a scientific idea says is that certain biological organisms (or parts of biological organisms), because they possess CSI, are best explained as being the product of an intelligent designer. It does not seek to explain the existence of all CSI; only the CSI that we observe and are familiar with.

    Indeed, to posit something as the best explanation for a certain phenomenon, you do not need to posit an explanation of the explanation before you can accept the best explanation. In fact, if you had to give an explanation of an earlier explanation before you could accept the first explanation, then we could never accept any explanation, for the chain of explanations would go on forever.

    So ID, as a scientific idea, is completely rationally in making no claim as to the materiality or immateriality of the designer.

    You said:

    “In fact, once we posit the existence of physical extra-terrestrial beings, it is a simpler hypothesis that life on Earth has descended from these prior beings, rather than that we are the products of their bio-engineering efforts.”

    This just seems incorrect. After all, look at us. We have only started to get good at bioengineering, and yet we find it fascinating and want to do it. Indeed, we are, right now, trying to create synthetic life. Why think that this would be different for any other material designer. And why would your idea be simpler than the idea that we were bioengineered? I see no reason for this assignment of simplicity to one idea over the other.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  166. 166
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “I follow the studies on paranormal phenomena with interest, and I believe that whatever evidence exists for un-embodied intelligent beings (ghosts, demons, and so on) or human consciousness existing outside of the body (e.g. in NDE experiences) is, to date, very weak – anecdotal and impossible to replicate.”

    We will just have to agree to disagree. While I do not find this evidence necessarily important to my argument, I do find that the evidence for such things is definitely strong, and is much stronger than other things which we rationally accept.

    However, I do not wish to argue this point, because I can still make my argument without appealing to this evidence, and can, in fact, show my argument to be sound even if we did not have this evidence.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  167. 167
    RD Miksa says:

    And RDFish,

    If you have a moment, could you answer these “thought-experiment” questions (from Comment 146):

    Say, once again, that we know that we are the only embodied beings in existence. We are also not hallucinating, delusional, etc.

    1) Now, if you were an astronaut, and you landed on a foreign, uninhabited planet, and you suddenly found a statue of yourself there, what would you conclude and why? And would you consider this an “interaction,” just as you did with the English paragraph made of stars?

    Now, if you were an astronaut, and you landed on a foreign, uninhabited planet, and you suddenly found something that looked like an outboard motor, what would you conclude and why? And would you consider this an “interaction?”

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  168. 168
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Even after admitting those things, you then suddenly make an unjustified metaphysical leap and claim that our experience shows us, ACTUALLY and IN REALITY, that the a priori existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is low, and thus that to infer the ACTUAL and REAL existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity would be very difficult. And your whole argument rests on this one premise.

    You keep telling me that I am claiming that our experience shows us what is true about reality, and I keep explaining to you that it doesn’t. I stop at our experience, and you insist on bringing in metaphysics. I am talking about empirical evidence, and you are talking about metaphysical speculation. I keep explaining that our experience differentiates between material and immaterial objects no matter if they actually exist or not, and you keep thinking that I am trying to establish the ultimate nature of reality.

    This is even more confusing considering that for the first part of this debate you were talking about bodied and un-embodied intelligence as though we could indeed make that distinction empirically! Here is the first thing you said about un-embodied intelligence (@57):

    Instead, the design inference would still be rational, but then, with the additional information at hand, it would thus also be rational to posit an un-embodied intelligence as the cause of the prime number scratches. So ID, with additional information attached (if such information could be had), could lead to rationally conclude that an un-embodied intelligence was the designing agent.

    So you started out arguing that we could make rational inferences to un-embodied intelligence, but when you realized that I had shown that the a priori probability of such a thing was low, you started denying that we can infer anything about material or immaterial things without sneaking in a metaphysical commitment. I could have just as well accused you of sneaking in dualism or idealism because you said we could rationally conclude the existence of an un-embodied intelligence.

    Fortunately, we can circumvent this confustion entirely, and my argument remains perfectly intact. Rather than even mention the low a priori probability of un-embodied designers, we can simply talk about the low a priori probability that any designer can exist that does not contain the same key characteristic that ID purports to explain: CSI. Leave out the words “physical” and “embodied” and “material”, and their antonyms, and my argument doesn’t change at all. Watch:

    Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI. Moreover, everything we know about intelligent systems confirms that they require high levels of CSI in order to store and process information; nobody has any idea how memory and reasoning could operate unless the entity already contained CSI. It is therefore improbable that a conscious, intelligent entity could have existed prior to the existence of CSI. In other words, the a prior probability that ID is true is low.

    Hopefully you will not now begin to deny that we can ACTUALLY and in REALITY ascertain when something has CSI! That move would obviously undermine the entirety of the ID project.

    In any event, we can now return from the metaphysical detour you’ve taken us on and see my argument shows that ID is indeed a poor theory of the origin of biological CSI (and that it is moot whether or not it is less bad than other theories, and that intelligence does not necessarily imply conscious awareness, and so on).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

    (I will be unable to post again until this evening)

  169. 169
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    We simply don’t understand mental phenomena like consciousness, agency, free will and reasoning.

    I agree with this statement completely.

    More fundamentally, since we cannot ascribe the mental to a physical system – the brain -, how can we conclude that the brain is in principle a necessary attribute?

    You are correct that we cannot conclude in principle that a brain is a necessary attribute for mental abilities. However, we can certaintly conclude that in our uniform and repeated experience nothing without a functioning brain is capable of intelligent behavior, and we can also realize that everything we know about information processing and memory and storage requires complex state machines full of CSI.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  170. 170
    Box says:

    RDFish #149: We experience some things that are not physical (our own conscious thoughts, abstract concepts like numbers, and so on) and we experience other things that are physical (like rocks).”

    MD Miska #156: But you just said that you are not making metaphysical commitments, but in this statement you obviously are. Because by claiming that we experience both physical and non-physical things, you are already metaphysically committed against something like subjective idealism, which claims that there are no physical things, and thus that we do not experience, in actuality, any physical things.

    RDFish is stating that our experience offers us physical and non-physical phenomena, and of course I agree fully. Even the subjective idealist does not deny the experience of an outside physical world, but holds this experience to be illusionary on the basis of his metaphysical commitment. So it’s wrong to state, like MD Miska does, that we, given idealism, “do not experience, in actuality, any physical things”. One can deny the validity of an experience but not the experience itself. The physicalist’ knowledge about wavelengths doesn’t change the fact of him experiencing colors.

  171. 171
    RDFish says:

    Thank you very much, Box!!! That is exactly what I have been trying to get across!

    RD Miksa, perhaps you can understand this point when Box explains it?

  172. 172
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Box:

    You said:

    “Even the subjective idealist does not deny the experience of an outside physical world, but holds this experience to be illusionary on the basis of his metaphysical commitment. So it’s wrong to state, like MD Miska does, that we, given idealism, “do not experience, in actuality, any physical things”.

    My statement is completely correct.

    Why?

    Because given something like subjective idealism, we do not experience, in actuality, the physical, because nothing physical exists! How can we REALLY experience something which does not exist? That is a contradiction. What we do experience under subjective idealism is the appearance of the physical, but not the physical in actuality. Do you see the distinction?

    Thus, your sentence above should be written as: “Even the subjective idealist does not deny the experience of [A PERCEPTION OF] an outside physical world, but holds this [PERCEPTIVE] experience to be illusionary [IN ACTUALITY] on the basis of his metaphysical commitment. So it’s [NOT] wrong to state, like MD Miska does, that we, given idealism, “do not experience, in actuality, any physical things” [because precisely, we cannot, in actuality, experience what does not exist, we can only experience an appearance of it.]

    Furthermore, please note that my problem is with the fact that RDFish jumps from, on the one hand, claiming that experience gives us no grounds, in reality, to claim that one metaphysical position is true over another, and then suddenly, on the other hand, he claims that our experience gives us the grounds to assign a real and actual low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity.

    Do you see the contradiction he is engaging in?

    I actually don’t care about subjective idealism per se, but I am using it as a tool to show the flaw in RDFish’s argument.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  173. 173
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I do understand Box’s point, the problem is, as I show above, Box’s point is incorrect!

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  174. 174
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “You keep telling me that I am claiming that our experience shows us what is true about reality…”

    Not exactly. What I am showing you is that you are, on the one hand, claiming that experience gives us no grounds, in reality, to claim that one metaphysical position is true over another, and then suddenly, on the other hand, you claims that our experience gives us the grounds to assign a real and actual low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity. But to assign a probability to something’s actual existence is to make an actual and real claim about reality. Yet you just told us that our experience cannot tell us anything about metaphysical reality, so how did you just assign a real and actual probability to something based on your experience if that experience cannot really tell us about metaphysical reality?

    Do you see the contradiction that you are engaging in?

    You said:

    “I stop at our experience, and you insist on bringing in metaphysics.”

    No, you insist on bringing in metaphysics (covertly) by suddenly assigning an actual and real low probability to the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity based on your experience even after you just finished dealing us that experience cannot tell us anything about which metaphysical system is correct.

    So tell me, if experience gives us no grounds to know about what exists in reality, then how do you justify using experience to assign a real and actual a priori low probability to the existence of something?

    Do you see the problem with your reasoning?

    You said:

    “I am talking about empirical evidence, and you are talking about metaphysical speculation.”

    No, we are both talking about empirical evidence, but you are trying to covertly smuggle in a metaphysical position all while claiming that you are not doing so.

    You said:

    “I keep explaining that our experience differentiates between material and immaterial objects no matter if they actually exist or not, and you keep thinking that I am trying to establish the ultimate nature of reality.”

    No, at most, our experience differentiates between WHAT WE PERCEIVE TO BE a material or immaterial object, but does not give us any grounds to assign a real probability to whether material or immaterial objects exist, and thus our experience does not give us any grounds to assign a real probability (whether low or high) to whether an un-embodied or immaterial conscious intelligent entity could exist.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  175. 175
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “This is even more confusing considering that for the first part of this debate you were talking about bodied and un-embodied intelligence as though we could indeed make that distinction empirically! Here is the first thing you said about un-embodied intelligence (@57):”

    Yes, but initially, what I wanted to argue was that the design inference could be strong enough, in and of itself, to warrant the inference to an un-embodied and immaterial designer even if we accepted—for the sake of argument—your terms: namely, that the a priori of an un-embodied and immaterial designer was low. Thus, I aimed to show that we could stack the deck against ID, and still the ID inference could overcome a materialistic presupposition. And you admitted as much in Comment 130:

    “Given that all of the more likely explanations are ruled out as you say, I would consider this an “interaction”, and I would absolutely believe that something with linguistic abilities and the sort of general cognitive abilities that humans have was responsible. I would be surprised that this Entity would use my UD handle “RDFish” instead of my real name, but it would certainly convince me that something very well outside of my understanding was calling me out!”

    Now, given that you admitted that, my second step is to show you that your attempt to assign an a priori low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is flawed.

    So my first goal was to show you that a design inference is possible even when arguing on your terms—and I accomplished that—and now my second goal is to show you that your terms are actually wrong.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  176. 176
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “So you started out arguing that we could make rational inferences to un-embodied intelligence, but when you realized that I had shown that the a priori probability of such a thing was low, you started denying that we can infer anything about material or immaterial things without sneaking in a metaphysical commitment.”

    No, as I explained above, first I argued on your terms—for the sake of argument—to show that even on your terms a design inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent agent would be warranted, and now I am trying to show you that your terms are actually flawed, and thus that the inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is much easier than you claim it is.

    You said:

    “I could have just as well accused you of sneaking in dualism or idealism because you said we could rationally conclude the existence of an un-embodied intelligence.”

    No, because I am not arguing for idealism or dualism. What I am arguing is that if idealism or dualism are even possible, then you have no right to assign a real and actual low probability to the possibility of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity unless you first give reason to think that idealism or dualism have a low probability of being true. Until and unless you do that, your assigning of an a priori low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent agent is unjustified and irrational.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  177. 177
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish:

    You said:

    “Fortunately, we can circumvent this confusion entirely, and my argument remains perfectly intact. Rather than even mention the low a priori probability of un-embodied designers, we can simply talk about the low a priori probability that any designer can exist that does not contain the same key characteristic that ID purports to explain: CSI. Leave out the words “physical” and “embodied” and “material”, and their antonyms, and my argument doesn’t change at all. Watch:”

    Perfect. Let’s see how it works. (But you best not be implicitly assuming that CSI requires materiality, or else we are right back to the problem that I have been struggling to clarify).

    You said:

    “Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.”

    Agreed.

    You said:

    “But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.”

    Agreed, but our experience does not tell us whether anything with CSI is material or immaterial.

    You said:

    “Moreover, everything we know about intelligent systems confirms that they require high levels of CSI in order to store and process information; nobody has any idea how memory and reasoning could operate unless the entity already contained CSI.”

    Sure.

    You said:

    “It is therefore improbable that a conscious, intelligent entity could have existed prior to the existence of CSI.”

    Yes, but that would not preclude a conscious, intelligent entity co-existing with CSI from the beginning of existence.

    You said:

    “In other words, the a prior probability that ID is true is low.”

    False! In fact, the conclusion should be: the a priori probability that ID is true is certain.

    Why?

    Because, based on your own premises, you just gave us an irrefutable argument for ID.

    Watch:

    1. Our experience does not tell us whether things capable of intelligent action or containing CSI are, in reality, material or immaterial. They could be either (You admit this).

    2. Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action (Your premise).

    3. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI (Your premise).

    4. Now, something containing CSI exists.

    5. Therefore, that thing containing CSI is (given 2) the result of intelligent action (design).

    6. But that thing capable of intelligent action would (given 3) contain CSI, and so that thing would be the result of intelligent action.

    7. Now, based on your premises, this chain would continue with the positing of intelligent designers for infinity, thus guaranteeing the truth of ID.

    8. And therefore, the truth of ID, given your premises, is certain.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  178. 178
    vividbleau says:

    To Anyone Else Reading this Thread:

    Just a quick question: Am I, in any way, being unclear with my points? The reason I ask is because I do not want any confusion to arise due to a lack of clarity on my part.

    First off RDFish is my favorite anti ID critic.

    I can only speak for myself but you have made your points perfectly clear to me. I agree it appears RDFish is smuggling in metaphysics.

    Vivid

  179. 179
    Box says:

    MD MIska #172 #173

    MD Miska’s theoretical thesis that the idealist, according to his metaphysical commitment, cannot be experiencing an outside physical world is disjoint from the fact that we all have a uniform and repeated experience of an outside physical world.
    This uniform and repeated experience of an outside physical world is shared by the idealist, who is capable of denying the validity of this experience, but is incapable of denying the existence of the experience itself. In spite of his metaphysical commitment the idealist shares with the rest of humanity the uniform and repeated experience of an outside physical world.
    Like I said: one can deny the validity of an experience but not the experience itself.

  180. 180
    Phinehas says:

    RDF & RDM:

    I, for one, and very much enjoying this debate. Even more, I feel like I am growing in understanding through watching it play out. Growing in understanding is a thing of value to me upon which I cannot put a price, and I want to recognize your contribution to it. I know that debate can be uncomfortable and often takes a tremendous amount of effort. Thank you!

  181. 181
    Box says:

    RDFish #169: However, we can certainly conclude that in our uniform and repeated experience nothing without a functioning brain is capable of intelligent behavior, (…)

    I take it that the uniformity of this experience is sustained by rejecting all anecdotal evidence for out of body experience and NDE? Wiki: “According to a Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience.” What to do with, for instance, the well documented NDE experience of Pam Reynolds?

  182. 182
    vividbleau says:

    Phinehas

    I, for one, and very much enjoying this debate. Even more, I feel like I am growing in understanding through watching it play out.

    Ditto. I now understand RDFish’s reasons for rejecting ID.I am sure AI has articulated it before but I now get it.

    Vivid

  183. 183
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear vividbleau,

    You said:

    “I can only speak for myself but you have made your points perfectly clear to me.”

    Good, but please call me on any point that is unclear as soon as you see it. I would hate to be claiming that RDFish does not understand my points when it in reality, it is actually a lack of clarity on my part that is the problem.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  184. 184
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    And while nobody knows what particular metaphysical ontology might be true, that makes no difference to our experience, and in our experience, a brain is a physical thing just as a rock is.

    I think you are trying to argue that, because we have labels for different categories of ‘experience’ that we suppose are either immaterial (ideas, concepts, etc.) or material (brains, rocks, etc.) that we therefore ‘experience’ the material whether it is actually, in reality, present. But I think that this argument may turn on a slight muddiness about the meaning of ‘experience.’

    To demonstrate this muddiness, I’d ask the following:

    – Can one experience what does not actually exist?

    I can see someone answering with a resounding, Yes! Of course we can experience what doesn’t actually exist. We experience the immaterial all the time, and it doesn’t actually exist. (Because it isn’t physical?) Experience is subjective by its very nature.

    And I can see someone else answering with an equally emphatic, No! What you experience can only ever flow from what IS. Whether you’ve misinterpreted what actually exists doesn’t change this. You may THINK you are experiencing what is material, but how could one ever ACTUALLY experience in an empirical way that which is not? Can nothing beget anything?

    So, does one, apart from metaphysical assumptions, experience a rock as a physical thing?

    Subjectively, yes.

    Empirically, perhaps not.

  185. 185
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Box,

    I think that we may be talking past each other concerning this issue, but that at the core, we actually mean the same thing. So bear with me here as I try to explain.

    You said:

    “MD Miska’s theoretical thesis that the idealist, according to his metaphysical commitment, cannot be experiencing an outside physical world…

    Yes, because I take “physical” to mean: composed of matter. Thus, the subjective idealist—who denies the existence of matter—cannot have an actual/real experience of an outside physical (composed of matter) world, because such a world does not exist.

    Think of it this way, if God does not exist, can I have a real and actual experience of God’s presence? Of course not! That which does not exist cannot give me a real and actual experience.

    This is why I would be cautious about accepting your statement, because the word “physical” seems to be too loaded of a term for me given this discussion. Rather, if I were a subjective idealist, I would say that we all have a uniform and repeated experience of perceiving an immaterial outside world (drop the term physical). Or that we all have a uniform and repeated experience of perceiving an outside world that appears solid and concrete but is actually immaterial.

    You said:

    “Like I said: one can deny the validity of an experience but not the experience itself.”

    Let me just conclude with this: I can concede all your points above, because ultimately, they are not what is of concern to me.

    Why?

    Because my primary concern is the unjustified leap that RDFish makes from claiming that his experience gives him no way of deciding between which metaphysical system is the REAL and ACTUAL one, to suddenly claiming that his experience gives him the grounds to assign a REAL and ACTUAL a priori low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity (which would essentially mean that he is assuming, on the basis of his experience, the high probability that materialism is true in REALITY and in ACTUALITY, which is precisely what he said his experience could not).

    Nothing that you have said above negates this concern or resolves RDFish’s unjustified leap.

    Now, does that resolve the confusion between us or am I still not being clear?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  186. 186
    RD Miksa says:

    As a quick aside to this discussion, I might point out that on a metaphysical level, there are arguments for subjective idealism that are very hard to answer (and which play into our discussion).

    Consider (very quickly and not that rigourously) the following:

    1) My experiences would be the same if I was just having mental/immaterial perceptions/thoughts of an actually non-existent material world (subjective idealism) than if that material world actually existed (materialism or dualism).

    2) I cannot coherently or rationally doubt the actual and real existence of perceptions/thoughts.

    3) I can coherently and rationally doubt the actual and real existence of a material world (subjective ideal is, after all, coherent and rational).

    4) Occam’s Razor posits that I should not multiply entities beyond necessity.

    5) While it is necessary to posit the actual and real existence of immaterial/mental perceptions/thoughts (given 2), it is NOT necessary to posit the actual and real existence of a material world, for, given 1, my experiences would be the same even if such a world did not exist and thus I have no necessity to posit the actual existence of a material world.

    6) Therefore, immaterialism is a more rational position to hold then any form of dualism or materialism is.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  187. 187
    vividbleau says:

    RDm

    Good, but please call me on any point that is unclear as soon as you see it. I would hate to be claiming that RDFish does not understand my points when it in reality, it is actually a lack of clarity on my part that is the problem.

    There is such a thing as cognitive dissonance. In the end we all operate from certain unprovable assumptions.

    Vivid

  188. 188
    RD Miksa says:

    Finally, I just want to add a Comment to my little argument in Comment 177. Note that RDFish admits to these two premises:

    a. Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.

    b. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.

    Now, in my previous argument (Comment 177), I claimed the RDFish’s admission of these two premises guaranteed the truth of ID. What I want to point out now is that with the addition of one minor premise, RDFish has also provided us with the means to guarantee the existence of an un-embodied and immaterial intelligent designer no matter how low of an a priori probability RDFish wishes to assign to such an un-embodied and immaterial intelligent designer.

    Here is the argument with the one additional premise (which is Premise 8 in this argument):

    1. Our experience does not tell us whether things capable of intelligent action or containing CSI are, in reality, material or immaterial. They could be either (RDFish admits this).

    2. Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action (RDFish’s premise).

    3. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI (RDFish’s premise).

    4. Now, something containing CSI exists.

    5. Therefore, that thing containing CSI is (given 2) the result of intelligent action (design).

    6. But that thing capable of intelligent action would (given 3) contain CSI, and so that thing would be the result of intelligent action.

    7. Now, based on RDFish’s premises, this chain would continue with the positing of intelligent designers for infinity, thus guaranteeing the truth of ID.

    8. (Additional premise) But the material world (all space and matter) began to exist.

    9. And yet, given 7, in combination with 1, the chain of intelligent designers does not stop even if the material world began to exist and thus at one point did not exist.

    10. Therefore, given 9, the existence of un-embodied and immaterial intelligent designers is certain.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  189. 189
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    My final point to you—until you have a chance to respond that is—is the following:

    If you really do endorse these two premises…

    a. Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.

    b. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.

    …then, given my arguments based on those premises, I really think that you should be a proponent of some type of ID. Why, then, aren’t you?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  190. 190
    Box says:

    MD Miska,
    In post #149 RDFish states:

    RDFish #149: As I stated in (1) above, we are judging these hypotheses against our experience, and our experience is what it is no matter what may or may not be true of metaphysical speculations.

    Your answer in post #156:

    MD Miska #156: But this is totally incorrect. If either subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism are true (or highly probable), then all our experience with conscious, intelligent entities would show us that such entities are, in actuality, immaterial and un-embodied things.

    You are saying that due to certain metaphysics ‘all our experience (..) would show us that such entities are, in actuality, immaterial and un-embodied things’, but this is simply wrong. Our experience would not suddenly show us immaterial and un-embodied things due to different metaphysics. RDFish is perfectly right when he states that ‘our experience is what it is no matter what may or may not be true of metaphysical speculations’. One may believe that idealism is true but that won’t change one’s experience of the outside world as being solid and concrete, as you seem to suggest would happen.
    Like I said: one can deny the validity of an experience but not the experience itself.

  191. 191
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Box,

    I said:

    “MD Miska #156: But this is totally incorrect. If either subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism are true (or highly probable), then all our experience with conscious, intelligent entities would show us that such entities are, in actuality, immaterial and un-embodied things.”

    I think that you are partially right in your claim that I am mistaken here. I think how I would have to re-phrase the above is as follows:

    If either subjective idealism or Cartesian dualism are true (or highly probable), then all our experience would show us that we perceive conscious intelligent entities to be embodied and solid things (not physical or material), but in actuality and in reality, they immaterial and en-embodied things.

    You said:

    “You are saying that due to certain metaphysics ‘all our experience (..) would show us that such entities are, in actuality, immaterial and un-embodied things’, but this is simply wrong. Our experience would not suddenly show us immaterial and un-embodied things due to different metaphysics. RDFish is perfectly right when he states that ‘our experience is what it is no matter what may or may not be true of metaphysical speculations’. One may believe that idealism is true but that won’t change one’s experience of the outside world as being solid and concrete, as you seem to suggest would happen.”

    Hmm, as I mentioned, I think that you are partially right here. Nevertheless, I reiterate the following:

    My primary concern is the unjustified leap that RDFish makes from claiming that his experience gives him no way of deciding between which metaphysical system is the REAL and ACTUAL one, to suddenly claiming that his experience gives him the grounds to assign a REAL and ACTUAL a priori low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity (which would essentially mean that he is assuming, on the basis of his experience, the high probability that materialism is true in REALITY and in ACTUALITY, which is precisely what he said his experience could not).

    As long as RDFish does not try to do this, then I have little problem with your points.

    Thank you for clarifying the issue. I should have caught my mistake sooner.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  192. 192
    RDFish says:

    RD Miska,

    Because given something like subjective idealism, we do not experience, in actuality, the physical, because nothing physical exists! How can we REALLY experience something which does not exist? That is a contradiction.

    But of course we experience things that do not exist! Dreams, illusions, hallucinations, delusions, phantom limbs, malleable memories, and so on and so on. All of these are quite well documented psychological phenomena. This is one good reason that empiricism relies on our uniform and repeated experience, rather than taking one guy’s word for it that once he saw a flying unicorn.

    We have only our experiences, our sense data – we cannot access the fundamental nature of reality directly (cf. Berkeley). And so when we validate our beliefs, we can consult only what we and others perceive experientially, while admitting that our experience may not in fact represent the true nature of underlying reality. That is what is called “empiricism”, and that is the approach that ID claims to take, and that is the approach we are employing in this debate.

    What we do experience under subjective idealism is the appearance of the physical, but not the physical in actuality. Do you see the distinction?

    Of course. What you fail to see is that under empiricism, this distinction is completely irrelevant. Empricism holds that as long as something reliably appears to us to be material, or immaterial (or to be accelerating, or to be hot, etc) that is all we can say about it. We cannot then doubt our results because somebody somewhere could come up with a metaphysical claim that brings the veracity of our uniform and repeated experience into question.

    Furthermore, please note that my problem is with the fact that RDFish jumps from, on the one hand, claiming that experience gives us no grounds, in reality, to claim that one metaphysical position is true over another, and then suddenly, on the other hand, he claims that our experience gives us the grounds to assign a real and actual low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity. Do you see the contradiction he is engaging in?

    You have mangled my argument, I’m afraid. I’ve framed my argument regarding a low prior probability for ID in two ways. First, I argued that intelligent entities are invariably embodied in our experience, but you dragged us into a discussion of metaphysics with that one, and so I restated the argument in terms of intelligent entities invariably containing high levels of CSI instead. And yes, I have consistently explained that experience cannot resolve questions regarding the ultimate nature of reality (ontology). But I have never contradicted myself by then stating anything about “real and actual” anything. I have consistently held that it is our experience, and not “real and actual metaphysical truth”, that we are referring to here, and upon which we base our epistemic justifications.

    But to assign a probability to something’s actual existence is to make an actual and real claim about reality.

    No, here is where we get crossed up. I have clearly established, over and over and over again, that I am basing the discussion on our uniform and repeated experience, and not on particular metaphysical views. I could not possibly be more clear about this, and I have never contradicted this. Thus when I say that the prior probability of X is low, it should be perfectly clear that I am not talking about the ultimate metaphysical reality regarding X, or people’s religious beliefs about X, or one person’s idea about what X might be. Rather, I am speaking of our uniform and repeated experience of X.

    Our uniform and repeated experience of rocks, brains, and baseballs is that they are material objects. If you refuse to agree with this statement, we simply lack a shared vocabulary with which to discuss “material” and “immaterial” things, and so we need to eliminate these words from our discussion.

    RDF: “So you started out arguing that we could make rational inferences to un-embodied intelligence, but when you realized that I had shown that the a priori probability of such a thing was low, you started denying that we can infer anything about material or immaterial things without sneaking in a metaphysical commitment.”
    RDM: No, as I explained above, first I argued on your terms—for the sake of argument—to show that even on your terms a design inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent agent would be warranted, and now I am trying to show you that your terms are actually flawed, and thus that the inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is much easier than you claim it is.

    Sorry, but I don’t think this makes any sense. If you didn’t mean that we could make rational inferences to un-embodied designers, then you would not have argued the exact opposite. If you were using the terminology of materialism arguendo, to show me that even under materialism my argument failed, then (1) you would have said so, and (2) you would not then conclude the existence of immaterial designers, which do not exist under materialism! No, I think really what has transpired is that when we started out, we both used the terms “material” and “immaterial” in the same everybody else does, all the time, and we were debating whether or not the evidence leads us to believe the cause of biological CSI is material or immaterial. Only when you saw that my argument supports the former conclusion did you begin to deny that we can meaningfully speak of evidence leading to such a conclusion.

    RDF: “I could have just as well accused you of sneaking in dualism or idealism because you said we could rationally conclude the existence of an un-embodied intelligence.”
    RDM: No, because I am not arguing for idealism or dualism.

    Just as I am not arguing for materialism or neutral monism. I am simply following my clearly stated intention to adhere to empiricism.

    What I am arguing is that if idealism or dualism are even possible, then you have no right to assign a real and actual low probability to the possibility of an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity unless you first give reason to think that idealism or dualism have a low probability of being true. Until and unless you do that, your assigning of an a priori low probability to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent agent is unjustified and irrational.

    And yet again: I am assigning low prior probability to the possibility of an un-embodied conscious entity under the empirical epistemology that we have agreed to. Under this epistemology, the “actual and real” nature of things is excluded from discussion, because under empiricism, the only thing that matters is our experience. And when we kick a rock, we experience a material object. And if you don’t believe me, then kick a rock. 🙂

    Perfect. Let’s see how it works. (But you best not be implicitly assuming that CSI requires materiality, or else we are right back to the problem that I have been struggling to clarify).

    I have not, and will not, implicity assume materialism in any aspect of our discussion. For one thing, I do not believe in materialism.

    RDF: “But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.”
    RDM: Agreed, but our experience does not tell us whether anything with CSI is material or immaterial.

    They are experienced as material, which is the only relevant fact under our empirical epistemology. It doesn’t matter anyway though, as long as you just stick to talking about CSI and stop talking about the material/immaterial distinction entirely.

    RDF: “It is therefore improbable that a conscious, intelligent entity could have existed prior to the existence of CSI.”
    RDM: Yes, but that would not preclude a conscious, intelligent entity co-existing with CSI from the beginning of existence.

    Preclude? No, it wouldn’t preclude that. But once the CSI exists, we obviously needn’t posit something else in order to account for the existence of the CSI.

    1. Our experience does not tell us whether things capable of intelligent action or containing CSI are, in reality, material or immaterial. They could be either (You admit this).

    It makes no difference to our discussion, because we are not talking about the ultimate metaphysical nature of reality. We invariably experience intelligent beings as material, and we also invariably experience intelligent beings as containing high levels of CSI.

    6. But that thing capable of intelligent action would (given 3) contain CSI, and so that thing would be the result of intelligent action.

    Following our experience, things containing CSI are produced by intelligent action, yes. But also following our experience, intelligent action requires pre-existing CSI.

    7. Now, based on your premises, this chain would continue with the positing of intelligent designers for infinity, thus guaranteeing the truth of ID.

    🙂 Nice try.
    No, based on my premises, this chain would continue positing both pre-existing CSI and pre-existing intelligent beings in alternation, because according to our experience, neither can exist without the prior existence of the other. Perhaps the whole chain started with uncaused mind, or perhaps the whole chain started with uncaused CSI, or (and this is what I believe) perhaps we really have no idea whatsoever how all this got started and we don’t even understand what mind and matter are in the first place (and that is why I adhere to my own metaphysical position, neutral monism).

    8. And therefore, the truth of ID, given your premises, is certain.

    Again: Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that all intelligent beings require complex form and function in order to design things, which means that the complex form and function we observe in biology could not have been produced by an intelligent being that did not already possess complex form and function. We already know that living things come from other living things, in the most natural way in the world (biological reproduction), so ID certainly doesn’t add to our understanding by suggesting that the CSI in terrestrial organisms simply came from CSI somewhere else.

    Finally, I just want to add a Comment to my little argument in Comment 177. Note that RDFish admits to these two premises:
    a. Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.
    b. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.

    Once again I do not merely “admit” to these premises, I insist on them 🙂

    Now, in my previous argument (Comment 177), I claimed the RDFish’s admission of these two premises guaranteed the truth of ID.

    A claim I have refuted here by reminding you that my premises in no way suggest that the chain of causation leading to CSI in biology started with mind rather than with pre-existing CSI.

    1. Our experience does not tell us whether things capable of intelligent action or containing CSI are, in reality, material or immaterial. They could be either (RDFish admits this).

    No, I said that we experience intelligent beings as material, and under our empirical epistemology, we could not even address what ultimately lies beyond our experience.

    7. Now, based on RDFish’s premises, this chain would continue with the positing of intelligent designers for infinity, thus guaranteeing the truth of ID.

    No, the chain would contain both CSI prior to each instance of mind, and mind prior to each instance of CSI, which does not in any way confirm ID.

    8. (Additional premise) But the material world (all space and matter) began to exist.

    WHAT? Seriously, I’m having trouble here understanding how after all of your complaining about assuming materialist metaphysics (which I have never done!) you turn around and do it yourself? Good grief! How do you know the that space and matter are material? Or perhaps you are referring to our experience of the material world? 🙂

    (The rest of this line of argument is predicated on your mistake in #7, and on your surprising assertion that we somehow know the universe is material).

    My final point to you—until you have a chance to respond that is—is the following:

    If you really do endorse these two premises…

    a. Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.

    b. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.

    …then, given my arguments based on those premises, I really think that you should be a proponent of some type of ID. Why, then, aren’t you?

    Well that is a very good question, RDM.

    Essentially I believe that we do not have an understanding of what consciousness is, and we also don’t understand what matter is, and so coming up with a theory that holds the conscious mind originated the material universe and all the complex form and function therein is nothing but confusion. People are wont to pick the best of a pack of terrible explanations and call it “the best explanation” and believe in it with all their heart, because we are afraid of not knowing. But we have no way of knowing these things.

    I do think that empiricism is a very special way of justifying beliefs, and that scientific knowledge is priveleged in this way. But science cannot tell us ultimate truths about the world. So I think as human beings we need to find the beliefs that feel right to us, but be very, very careful about trying to say that these beliefs are somehow objectively justified. I see ID as the attempt to take these beliefs which reach beyond empirical justification, and co-opt the imprimatur of science, and I strongly object to that.

    In any event, the two premises that I’ve stated here (there is no CSI without mind, and no mind without CSI) tell us that neither of the explanations argued on these boards (ID or “materialism”) can possibly be true, and like most ancient and unsolved problems of philosophy, it should tell us that we don’t even understand the question.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  193. 193
    RDFish says:

    All,

    Let’s all congratulate ourselves on demonstrating that debates on these matters can be held respectfully and in good faith! Look how interesting this can be when nobody resorts to personal attacks, sarcasm, deliberate misreading of others’ arguments, avoidance, and other nasty business.

    Phinehas, I’m gratified to hear you find the discussion edifying. And Vivid, I am flattered to be your favorite anti-ID critic! 🙂

    Thank you!
    -RDFish (aka AIGuy)

  194. 194
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    First, given that I do believe some confusion has arisen in reference to our discussion over the issue of materialism versus immaterialism, I will first answer your points in reference to my argument.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  195. 195
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    First, let me start with this comment of mine:

    “7. Now, based on your premises, this chain would continue with the positing of intelligent designers for infinity, thus guaranteeing the truth of ID.”

    You replied:

    “Nice try. No, based on my premises, this chain would continue positing both pre-existing CSI and pre-existing intelligent beings in alternation, because according to our experience, neither can exist without the prior existence of the other. Perhaps the whole chain started with uncaused mind, or perhaps the whole chain started with uncaused CSI, or (and this is what I believe) perhaps we really have no idea whatsoever how all this got started and we don’t even understand what mind and matter are in the first place (and that is why I adhere to my own metaphysical position, neutral monism).”

    Now the problem here is that you have subtly but critically changed your premises mid-argument, which, of course, is not permissible. Why? Because you are now saying that CSI must pre-exist an intelligent being, but in your original premise, you claimed that “everything capable of intelligent action CONTAINS CSI.” And this is a critical distinction that makes all the difference.

    So look again at your original premises:

    1. Our shared experience confirms that everything CONTAINING CSI is the result of intelligent action.

    2. But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action CONTAINS CSI.

    And now look at what you said about these premises:

    “Once again I do not merely “admit” to these premises, I insist on them.”

    So remember, you insist on these premises. But if you do so, then my argument does go through.

    Observe:

    Object Z, which contains CSI, exists ? Therefore, given your own Premise 1, this “Object Z” is the result of something (Thing A) capable of intelligent action (design), which, in turn, and given your Premise 2, means that this thing (Thing A) that is capable of intelligent action (design) contains CSI ? Therefore, given your own Premise 1, this “Thing A” is the result of something (Thing B) capable of intelligent action (design), which, in turn, and given your Premise 2, means that this thing (Thing B) that is capable of intelligent action (design) contains CSI ? Therefore, given your own Premise 1, this “Thing B” is the result of something (Thing C) capable of intelligent action (design), which, in turn, and given your Premise 2, means that this thing (Thing C) that is capable of intelligent action (design) contains CSI ? And so on for infinity.

    But note, at each step in this chain, it is always something capable of intelligent action (design) that CONTAINS CSI, not that CSI precedes this something capable of intelligent action. There is no alternation in this chain between CSI and intelligent beings, there is just a forever chain of intelligent beings CONTAINING CSI who cause each other. But it is always a chain of intelligent beings, not an alternating chain of pre-existing CSI and pre-existing intelligent beings.

    So, as far as I can tell, your two premises literally guarantee that something capable of intelligent action (design) exists. And remember, these are your own premises after all.

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  196. 196
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “No, the chain would contain both CSI prior to each instance of mind, and mind prior to each instance of CSI, which does not in any way confirm ID.”

    But that is not what you said in your original premises. In your original premise, you said “everything capable of intelligent action CONTAINS CSI.” Now, I am assuming by “mind” here, you mean something capable of intelligent action. But then, as per your original premise, the chain would not contain CSI prior to each instance of mind, but rather each mind would contain CSI, thus needing another mind containing CSI to cause it, and so on endlessly. But at each point in the chain, a CSI containing mind is what is posited. And if that is the case, then again, something like ID is guaranteed.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  197. 197
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “In any event, the two premises that I’ve stated here (there is no CSI without mind, and no mind without CSI) tell us that neither of the explanations argued on these boards (ID or “materialism”) can possibly be true…”

    What is interesting is that we have also failed to take something into account in our discussion that is indeed relevant to it.

    If we are going to put such a high value on our uniform and repeated experience, then, in this ID debate, we must also add an additional piece of evidence, from our uniform and repeated experience, that will support ID.

    And what is this additional piece of evidence? Well, quite simply, that everything in our uniform and repeated experience shows us that things with minds only come from other things with minds, and that living things only come from other living things. But if this is the case, then, based on the weight of our uniform and repeated experience, we have every right to prefer an ID-type explanation (things with minds only come from other things with minds) than any other explanation.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  198. 198
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I said:

    “No, as I explained above, first I argued on your terms—for the sake of argument—to show that even on your terms a design inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent agent would be warranted, and now I am trying to show you that your terms are actually flawed, and thus that the inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is much easier than you claim it is.”

    You replied:

    “Sorry, but I don’t think this makes any sense. If you didn’t mean that we could make rational inferences to un-embodied designers, then you would not have argued the exact opposite. If you were using the terminology of materialism arguendo, to show me that even under materialism my argument failed, then (1) you would have said so, and…”

    I think I did say so. From my Comment 62:

    “if an un-embodied designer is even possible, as it obviously is, then the design inference could itself be so strong as to give us the grounds to infer such a designer. And I could provide numerous examples where this would be the case. So even if, for the sake of argument, it is admitted that our uniform and repeated experience supports materialism, it is nevertheless possible that a design inference, in and of itself, could be so strong that it overrides this uniform and repeated experience by the strength of its own evidentiary value.”
    Notice my use of the term “for the sake of argument.”

    You said:

    “(2) you would not then conclude the existence of immaterial designers, which do not exist under materialism!”

    What I said was, even if I admitted, for the sake of argument, that our uniform and repeated experience SUPPORTS materialism. I was not arguing from a position that materialism was true, because then it obviously would have been absurd to claim that an immaterial designer could exist.

    You said:

    “No, I think really what has transpired is that when we started out, we both used the terms “material” and “immaterial” in the same everybody else does, all the time, and we were debating whether or not the evidence leads us to believe the cause of biological CSI is material or immaterial. Only when you saw that my argument supports the former conclusion did you begin to deny that we can meaningfully speak of evidence leading to such a conclusion.”

    Not really, because you admitted that, given certain conditions, a case of CSI (language) could lead you to posit the existence of an immaterial designer. And thus, as I said above, first I argued on your terms—for the sake of argument—to show that even on your terms a design inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent agent would be warranted, and now I am trying to show you that your terms are actually flawed, and thus that the inference to an un-embodied and immaterial conscious intelligent entity is much easier than you claim it is.
    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  199. 199
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “No, here is where we get crossed up. I have clearly established, over and over and over again, that I am basing the discussion on our uniform and repeated experience, and not on particular metaphysical views. I could not possibly be more clear about this, and I have never contradicted this. Thus when I say that the prior probability of X is low, it should be perfectly clear that I am not talking about the ultimate metaphysical reality regarding X, or people’s religious beliefs about X, or one person’s idea about what X might be. Rather, I am speaking of our uniform and repeated experience of X.”

    Yes, but what I keep repeating over and over and over again, is that when you say that “the prior probability of X is low,” it at least appears that you are speaking about a thing’s real and actual probability of existing, for to talk about the prior probability of a thing, is to talk about its real existence.
    Please explain to me how you connect, in this case, the concept of probability concerning X, to our non-metaphysically committed uniform and repeated experience of X, without, in some way, making a leap from experience to metaphysical reality?

    Are you trying to say that, given empiricism, and given our uniform and repeated experience that intelligent designers are embodied, then there is a low a priori probability of our ever being able to rationally believe an un-embodied and immaterial intelligent designer exists on empiricism (even if, in metaphysical actuality, one does with certainty)?

    Because if that is what you are saying, and if that is the outcome of such an empiricism, then so much the worse for this type of empiricism.

    You said:

    “Our uniform and repeated experience of rocks, brains, and baseballs is that they are material objects. If you refuse to agree with this statement, we simply lack a shared vocabulary with which to discuss “material” and “immaterial” things, and so we need to eliminate these words from our discussion.”

    Given our discussion, and given that the standard definitions of “material” and “immaterial” usually associate these terms with what things are in reality, I do think that for clarity’s sake, we should avoid them.

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  200. 200
    RD Miksa says:

    For all, please note that the numerous “?” in my argument in Comment 195 were supposed to be right-pointing arrows, but for some reason the arrows did not come through.

    RD Miksa

  201. 201
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    But note, at each step in this chain, it is always something capable of intelligent action (design) that CONTAINS CSI, not that CSI precedes this something capable of intelligent action. There is no alternation in this chain between CSI and intelligent beings, there is just a forever chain of intelligent beings CONTAINING CSI who cause each other. But it is always a chain of intelligent beings, not an alternating chain of pre-existing CSI and pre-existing intelligent beings.

    So, as far as I can tell, your two premises literally guarantee that something capable of intelligent action (design) exists. And remember, these are your own premises after all.

    No, your distinction doesn’t help. This relationship between CSI and mind is quite symetrical, and trying to set one above the other is futile.

    To understand why, simply recognize that there is nothing to support the assumption that the chain of causation extends beyond the immediate source of biological CSI. One might assert that an intelligent being somehow existed prior to first life, and this being somehow produced the CSI we observe in biological systems. Alternatively, one might assert that the CSI we observe in biological systems somehow existed prior to first life. Now, if I was forced to pick a “best” explanation here, I suppose it would be the latter, because it is simpler. But of course there is really nothing at all to recommend either of these speculations. Furthermore, even if the former assertion were the case and an intelligent being caused first life, unless you additionally posit that this intelligent being created its own CSI, you still must postulate CSI that preceeded that being.

    In my view, these sorts of arguments amount to counting angels on the head of a pin. It really could not be more clear to me that any result of this sort of philosophical/theological argument can’t possibly be defended well enough to justify our belief. And that of course is why this debate has gone on for millenia without resolution – because nobody can actually tell what the truth of the matter is.

    But at each point in the chain, a CSI containing mind is what is posited. And if that is the case, then again, something like ID is guaranteed.

    No, again in order for a mind to exist in the way our experience confirms there must be CSI; this CSI needs to exist before a mind can commence designing anything. For example, the CSI for a human precedes the human’s ability to design. But even if you want to argue that the CSI and the mind could be caused simultaneously, you end up with a regress that can be terminated in favor of CSI alone (which enables mind to exist), mind alone (which enables CSI to exist), or a mind containing CSI – and no way of deciding which of these possibilities is true. (And by this time, this pinhead is getting pretty crowded with angels!)

    Mind requires CSI, and CSI requires mind. There really is no way to break this symmetry.

    Well, quite simply, that everything in our uniform and repeated experience shows us that things with minds only come from other things with minds, and that living things only come from other living things. But if this is the case, then, based on the weight of our uniform and repeated experience, we have every right to prefer an ID-type explanation (things with minds only come from other things with minds) than any other explanation.

    I’m afraid this path isn’t going to take you anywhere you want to go. We don’t use our minds to design our offspring; we just build them the old-fashioned way with biological reproduction. So arguing that things with minds come from other things with minds is as arbitrary as saying that things with minds come from other things with ribosomes. I think this is a terrible argument.

    RDF: “Sorry, but I don’t think this makes any sense. If you didn’t mean that we could make rational inferences to un-embodied designers, then you would not have argued the exact opposite. If you were using the terminology of materialism arguendo, to show me that even under materialism my argument failed, then (1) you would have said so, and…”
    RDM: I think I did say so. From my Comment 62:

    “if an un-embodied designer is even possible, as it obviously is, then the design inference could itself be so strong as to give us the grounds to infer such a designer. And I could provide numerous examples where this would be the case. So even if, for the sake of argument, it is admitted that our uniform and repeated experience supports materialism, it is nevertheless possible that a design inference, in and of itself, could be so strong that it overrides this uniform and repeated experience by the strength of its own evidentiary value.”
    Notice my use of the term “for the sake of argument.”

    Yes, but you used material/immaterial terminology before that: You started that by saying that an un-embodied designer is obviously possible; right there I could say you are already “smuggling in the assumption” that materialism is false.

    And before that, in the same post @62, you said:

    First, most people are either implicitly and explicitly dualists, so their uniform and repeated experience is of something immaterial (their mind) influencing the material (their body), thus giving weight to the claim that the immaterial can affect the material.

    Here I could say you are “smuggling in the assumption” that dualism is in fact correct – otherwise if materialism was correct then what these dualists would REALLY and ACTUALLY be experiencing was only matter.

    But of course as I’ve explained endlessly now, people’s experience is what it is, irrespective of the truth of metaphysical speculations.

    Not really, because you admitted that, given certain conditions, a case of CSI (language) could lead you to posit the existence of an immaterial designer.

    Not exactly, no, and it is very important to specify this exactly: It is not CSI per se, and not language per se, but rather evidence that something can learn or solve novel problems that indicates intelligence. Only when you added the qualifier that this entity was addressing me directly (a novel situation) does your scenario support the hypothesis of an intelligent being. And of course only your specific stipulation that no material designer was involved did the unlikely hypothesis of an immaterial designer become the most likely explanation. (And by the way, in you seemed comfortable talking about material and immaterial designers in that context without qualifying that you really can’t tell the difference with smuggling in some metaphysics).

    Are you trying to say that, given empiricism, and given our uniform and repeated experience that intelligent designers are embodied, then there is a low a priori probability of our ever being able to rationally believe an un-embodied and immaterial intelligent designer exists on empiricism (even if, in metaphysical actuality, one does with certainty)?

    Because if that is what you are saying, and if that is the outcome of such an empiricism, then so much the worse for this type of empiricism.

    Of course I have said no such thing, and I’ve even said the opposite (@192): But science cannot tell us ultimate truths about the world. So I think as human beings we need to find the beliefs that feel right to us, but be very, very careful about trying to say that these beliefs are somehow objectively justified.

    So I think it is in fact rational to hold such beliefs; I simply point out that these beliefs cannot be justified by our uniform and repeated experience.

    Given our discussion, and given that the standard definitions of “material” and “immaterial” usually associate these terms with what things are in reality, I do think that for clarity’s sake, we should avoid them.

    That’s fine – like I said, since I was never making any metaphysical assumptions in the first place, my argument isn’t affected at all by excluding these concepts.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  202. 202
    kairosfocus says:

    RDM, very interesting argument in 188. Rather turns the attempted regress on its head. KF

  203. 203
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    At this point, let me summarize my understanding of your position. And then, based on what I take to be your own points, I will demonstrate these three theses:

    1. That on the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, and in order to for you to remain consistent, you MUST be an Intelligent Design proponent concerning the CSI existent on earth (although you can avoid being an Intelligent Design proponent about ultimate origins).

    2. That on the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, and in order to remain consistent, you MUST accept the existence of an un-embodied intelligent entity if you accept the one additional premise.

    3. That on the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, there are reasons to prefer the Intelligent Design hypothesis to others hypotheses.

    So, with these three aims in mind, let me articulate what I take to be your core position:

    a) You are an empiricist, which ( in Comment 192) you claim means the following: “…when we validate our beliefs, we can consult only what we and others perceive experientially, while admitting that our experience may not in fact represent the true nature of underlying reality.” So, on your position, the validation / justification for our beliefs comes from what we experience.

    b) Concerning CSI, you INSIST (Comment 192) on the following claim: “Our shared experience confirms that everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.” You summarize this point (in Comment 201) as follows: CSI requires mind. Note your use of the following key terms: “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action” and “CSI REQUIRES mind.” Remember, these are your words, and they are the premises that you have provided.

    c) Concerning intelligent action (design), You INSIST (Comment 192) on the following claim: “But those exact same experiences confirm that everything capable of intelligent action contains CSI.” You summarize this point (in Comment 201) as follows: “Mind requires CSI.” Note again your use of the following key terms: “…EVERYTHING capable of intelligent action contains CSI” and “Mind REQUIRES CSI.”

    Now, these are the only points of yours that I need to make my argument, and they are, I believe, your main points as well. So, with these points in mind, let me prove my three theses in the next few comments.

  204. 204
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    THESIS 1: On the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, and in order to remain consistent, you MUST be an Intelligent Design proponent concerning the CSI existent on Earth (although you can avoid being an Intelligent Design proponent about ultimate origins).

    Now why is this the case?

    Here is the argument:

    1. We experience the existence of things on Earth that contain CSI. (This premise is undeniable given the combination that on Earth we experience things that appear to have minds (things capable of intelligent action) and your claim that Mind requires CSI. What this means is that we experience the existence of CSI exists on Earth, and this cannot be denied.)

    2. Give your own premise the CSI REQUIRES mind, then you must, by a necessity of your own accepted premise, admit that the CSI that we experience as existent on Earth requires a mind to cause it.

    3. Now, it is true that, based on your premises, that mind REQUIRES CSI, but it is still the case that CSI REQUIRES mind.

    4. So, given your own premises (that mind REQUIRES CSI and that CSI REQUIRES mind), then this back and forth between mind and CSI continues endlessly and without an arbitrary stopping point.

    Now note, in Comment 201, you try to pre-empt this endless chain by saying the following: “To understand why, simply recognize that there is nothing to support the assumption that the chain of causation extends beyond the immediate source of biological CSI.”

    But it is YOUR OWN premise that provides us with the support needed to support the chain of causation beyond the immediate source of biological CSI. You are the one that said that CSI REQUIRES mind and that “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.”

    You cannot just arbitrarily stop the chain of causation at your own personally desired stopping point. If CSI requires mind, and if everything containing CSI is the result of intelligent action, then the chain of causation MUST extend beyond the immediate source of biological CSI.

    You then say:

    “One might assert that an intelligent being somehow existed prior to first life, and this being somehow produced the CSI we observe in biological systems.”

    But given your own premises, you would HAVE TO claim that an intelligent being existed prior to first life on this planet, and that this being produced the CSI that we observe in biological systems of the first life. After all, remember, it is your position that CSI REQUIRES mind and that “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.” So it is not just that we “could” posit an intelligent being as the cause of the first CSI on Earth, but rather that, on your own premises, we MUST do so.

    And this is why, given your own premises, you MUST be a proponent of Intelligence Design concerning biological CSI on Earth.

    Now, you can avoid being an Intelligent Design proponent in ultimate terms (given the fact that on your own premises, the alternation between CSI and mind appears to continue indefinitely and with no final decision between the two), but, again, given your premises, you simply cannot avoid being an ID proponent concerning biological CSI on Earth.

    Now, you also try to avoid this conclusion by saying the following in Comment 201: “Alternatively, one might assert that the CSI we observe in biological systems somehow existed prior to first life.”

    But then that CSI would need to be caused by some intelligent action / mind. And on and on the chain goes. It is your premises that create this endless chain, and it is your premise that demonstrates that the first case of CSI on this planet MUST have been caused by a mind.

    Finally, in Comment 201, you also try to invoke Occam’s Razor when you say: “Now, if I was forced to pick a “best” explanation here, I suppose it would be the latter [that CSI existed before the first life], because it is simpler [Occam’s Razor].”

    But Occam’s Razor is useless in this case. Why? Because Occam’s Razor states that that we should not multiply entities beyond necessity. And yet, again, it is your premises that state that: “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action” and “CSI REQUIRES mind.” Yet if this is the case, if CSI REQUIRES mind, then it is necessary to posit a mind for the existence of CSI. And thus, you cannot employ Occam’s Razor to stop the chain of causation at some arbitrary point. For on your view, both CSI and mind are REQUIRED to account for each other, and thus both are necessary. Occam’s Razor, therefore, cannot help you choose one over the other.

    So, given all this, I contend that I have demonstrated my first thesis: On the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, and in order to remain consistent, you MUST be an Intelligent Design proponent concerning the CSI existent on earth (although you can avoid being an Intelligent Design proponent about ultimate origins).

    Now, do you deny this? And if so, why?

    Thesis 2 and Thesis 3 to follow shortly.

    RD Miksa

  205. 205
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    As you attempt to “prove” that my statements compel me into various beliefs, remember that these things in our uniform and repeated experience (i.e. that mind requires CSI and that CSI requires mind) are what establishes a priori probabilities of various hypotheses, and do not by themselves strictly compel beliefs – especially when those beliefs have low a priori probabilities and lack sufficient a posteriori evidence, obviously. It is my position that because of these conflicting aspects of our experience (the mutual dependence of mind and CSI) there are no theories at present that can be justified as knowledge.
    Cheers,
    RDFish

  206. 206
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    THESIS 2: On the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, and in order to remain consistent, you MUST accept the existence of an un-embodied intelligent entity (mind) if you accept the one additional premise.

    Now, note that in Thesis 1, I demonstrated why your own premises require that the chain of causation between CSI and mind continue on indefinitely. There is no way for you to deny this unless you yourself deny one of the very premises that you previously claimed that you INSISTED on. For after all, as you say, “CSI requires mind” and “mind requires CSI.” These two premises, by necessity, create an endless chain of causation between them that cannot be stopped unless one of the premises is denied. But since you don’t deny these premises, then the chain of causation between the two is not stopped.

    So we have established, with certainty, that the acceptance of your two insisted upon premises guarantees an endless chain of alternating causation between mind and CSI.

    But how does any of this relate to the issue of an un-embodied mind? Well, there are two separate arguments, each with one additional premise, which will lead us to an un-embodied mind given your premises.

    ARGUMENT 1’s ADDITIONAL PREMISE:

    a. We have absolutely no uniform and repeated experience of the existence of any embodied minds (designers) other than human beings. At the same time, we also have empirical evidence that human beings did not exist until late in the stage of life on Earth and thus human beings could not have designed the life on Earth before their own existence.

    And yet, the chain of alternate causation between CSI and mind does not stop simply because of this fact. After all, as you say: CSI REQUIRES mind.

    Therefore, since the chain of causation between mind and CSI does not stop, and since CSI REQUIRES mind, but since we have no uniform and repeated experience of the existence of any embodied minds other than human beings, and yet we have empirical evidence that human beings could not be the minds that produced the first CSI on Earth, then we are invariably led to conclude that the first instance of CSI of Earth REQUIRED not only a mind to cause it, but an un-embodied mind. After all, if CSI REQUIRES mind, but if, on empiricism, we have no grounds to posit the existence of an embodied mind that can account for this first case of CSI, then we MUST posit the existence of an un-embodied mind to account for it.

    And simply saying “We don’t know” will not do. Why? Because CSI REQUIRES mind. If we are claiming that we know this (that CSI requires mind), then we cannot say “We don’t know” what caused CSI when we see an instance of it. So such a response of “We don’t know” illegitimately avoids the problem but does not answer it.

    So, again, from your own premises, and with the addition of one minor premise that is entirely justified given our uniform and repeated experience, we MUST posit the existence of an un-embodied mind to account for the CSI that we experience.

    ARGUMENT 2’s ADDITIONAL PREMISE:

    a. We have good empirical grounds to hold that there existed a time when no embodied minds could exist (the Big Bang).

    And yet, the chain of alternate causation between CSI and mind does not stop simply because of this fact. After all, as you say: CSI REQUIRES mind and mind REQUIRES CSI.

    Therefore, since the chain of causation between mind and CSI does not stop, and since CSI REQUIRES mind, but since we have good empirical grounds to hold that there existed a time when no embodied minds could exist, then we are invariably led to conclude that the first instance of CSI of Earth ultimately REQUIRES not only a mind to cause it, but an un-embodied mind. After all, if CSI REQUIRES mind and the chain of causation does not stop, but if we have grounds to posit a time when no embodied mind could exist, then we MUST posit the existence of an un-embodied mind (or minds) to ultimately account for the existence of the CSI that we experience.

    So, again, from your own premises, and with the addition of one minor premise that is entirely justified given our empirical evidence, we MUST posit the existence of an un-embodied mind to account for the CSI that we experience.

    So we have two arguments which, when combined with your own accepted premises, lead us to an un-embodied mind (or minds).

    Now, do you deny this conclusion? And if so, why?

    Thesis 3 to follow shortly.

    RD Miksa

  207. 207
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    1. We experience the existence of things on Earth that contain CSI.

    2. Give your own premise the CSI REQUIRES mind, then you must, by a necessity of your own accepted premise, admit that the CSI that we experience as existent on Earth requires a mind to cause it.

    Actually what this means is that the a priori probability that terrestrial CSI originated without intelligent action is low, just as the probability that mind can exist without pre-existing CSI is low.

    3. Now, it is true that, based on your premises, that mind REQUIRES CSI, but it is still the case that CSI REQUIRES mind.

    Both things are true in our experience.

    4. So, given your own premises (that mind REQUIRES CSI and that CSI REQUIRES mind), then this back and forth between mind and CSI continues endlessly and without an arbitrary stopping point.

    I think you mean “without a non-arbitrary” stopping point. In any event, I think that hypothesis (an endless chain of alternating creation) is far-fetched and has no evidential support whatsoever, and I don’t know anyone who would believe it.

    Now note, in Comment 201, you try to pre-empt this endless chain by saying the following: “To understand why, simply recognize that there is nothing to support the assumption that the chain of causation extends beyond the immediate source of biological CSI.”

    But it is YOUR OWN premise that provides us with the support needed to support the chain of causation beyond the immediate source of biological CSI. You are the one that said that CSI REQUIRES mind and that “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.”

    I said that this is what we experience, which makes the appearance of CSI without intelligent action improbable. It is also the case, of course, that our experience confirms that intelligent beings do not spontaneously appear out of nothing, which is why theists usually say that God exists uncaused and necessary. In the same way, it could be that terrestrial CSI exists as uncaused and necessary, and no intelligent action was involved at any point at all until intelligent beings (animals) existed on Earth.

    “One might assert that an intelligent being somehow existed prior to first life, and this being somehow produced the CSI we observe in biological systems.”

    But given your own premises, you would HAVE TO claim that an intelligent being existed prior to first life on this planet, and that this being produced the CSI that we observe in biological systems of the first life.

    No – again, it could be that terrestrial CSI exists uncaused. You need to understand that I am saying there is no theory of origins that does not violate our uniform and repeated experience. To say that terrestrial CSI exists uncaused is not consistent with our experience, but neither is the claim that an intelligent being exists uncaused.

    So it is not just that we “could” posit an intelligent being as the cause of the first CSI on Earth, but rather that, on your own premises, we MUST do so.

    No, not at all. It is just as unlikely that this intelligent being popped into existence uncaused, or existed eternally or outside of time and space, than it is to posit that the CSI popped into existence uncaused, or existend eternally outside of time and space.

    And this is why, given your own premises, you MUST be a proponent of Intelligence Design concerning biological CSI on Earth.

    But of course this isn’t true. All of these scenarios are just hypotheses that we make up, all of them violate aspects of our uniform and repeated experience, and none of them can be supported by any evidence at all.

    Now, you also try to avoid this conclusion by saying the following in Comment 201: “Alternatively, one might assert that the CSI we observe in biological systems somehow existed prior to first life.”

    But then that CSI would need to be caused by some intelligent action / mind.

    And the intelligent action that caused the CSI could not exist unless the CSI that supports the intelligent action already existed.

    Because Occam’s Razor states that that we should not multiply entities beyond necessity. And yet, again, it is your premises that state that: “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action” and “CSI REQUIRES mind.” Yet if this is the case, if CSI REQUIRES mind, then it is necessary to posit a mind for the existence of CSI. And thus, you cannot employ Occam’s Razor to stop the chain of causation at some arbitrary point. For on your view, both CSI and mind are REQUIRED to account for each other, and thus both are necessary. Occam’s Razor, therefore, cannot help you choose one over the other.

    First, please remember that I believe NONE of these hypotheses have any justifications at all. But compare these two hypotheses:
    1) Terrestrial CSI exists uncaused and necessary
    2) Terrestrial CSI was created by a mind that requires additional CSI that is unexplained or exists uncaused and necessary

    Both have equal explanatory power, but the latter posits more entities.

    So, given all this, I contend that I have demonstrated my first thesis: On the basis of your own accepted assumptions and points, and in order to remain consistent, you MUST be an Intelligent Design proponent concerning the CSI existent on earth (although you can avoid being an Intelligent Design proponent about ultimate origins).

    Now, do you deny this? And if so, why?

    Of course I deny this for all the reasons I’ve given. Simpler than all of these wacky speculations would be to say that life on Earth was spawned by life somewhere else, as many have hypothesized (e.g. Francis Crick, the Raelians). Of course there is no evidence for that either, and it leaves that extra-terrestrial life unexplained, but at least we don’t have endless chains of alternating mind and CSI and so on.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  208. 208
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    But you must note that at this point, I am using your premises in a deductive argument. So if the premises are true (and remember that I am using the very premises that you accept), and if the argument is sound and valid, the conclusion follows necessarily. You cannot rationally deny it.

    So, you must either show me where my logic is invalid or unsound, or you must deny one of the very premises that you have, throughout this whole discussion, insisted upon.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  209. 209
    RDFish says:

    RD Miksa,

    But you must note that at this point, I am using your premises in a deductive argument. So if the premises are true (and remember that I am using the very premises that you accept), and if the argument is sound and valid, the conclusion follows necessarily. You cannot rationally deny it.

    I’m afraid you are confused about this. What you call my “premises” are statements that I have made about our experience. What you fail to understand is that our experience can only determine the prior probabilities regarding hypotheses; we must evaluate hypotheses against the evidence (if we are being empirical) and determine the likelihood of their truth. Sometimes we judge things to have low prior probability but it turns that when we actually accumulate evidence they are true. And sometimes the reverse happens – things we believe are likely true turn out to be false. And what I believe is the case here is that none of our hypotheses have high prior probability or sufficient specific evidential support.

    Based on our experience, it is improbable that mind could have existed before there was CSI, and it is improbable that CSI existed before there was mind. That’s the case, and we have to deal with it. Picking one particular option and declaring that is where truth lies is not irrational, because it helps us as human beings to have such beliefs. But these beliefs are not empirically supported, and we need to be very clear about that.

    In any event, the hypothesis with the highest a priori probability is that life on Earth has descended from life elsewhere. This does not actually conflict with either fact of our experience regarding mind/CSI. However we have no evidence that extra-terrestrial life exists, or has ever existed, nor that life on Earth came from it, and so that hypothesis has languished for lack of evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  210. 210
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I have to say, your last comments appear move the goalposts, deny premises that you have INSISTED upon, and confuse your position greatly.

    Let me explain.

    I said:

    “1. We experience the existence of things on Earth that contain CSI. 2. Give your own premise the CSI REQUIRES mind, then you must, by a necessity of your own accepted premise, admit that the CSI that we experience as existent on Earth requires a mind to cause it.”

    You replied:

    “Actually what this means is that the a priori probability that terrestrial CSI originated without intelligent action is low, just as the probability that mind can exist without pre-existing CSI is low.”

    Well then, why did you use the word REQUIRES? If something requires something else to exist, then it needs it by necessity. Maybe you should have said “very likely requires it.” But that then changes the whole discussion. And note that it was also you that said the following: “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.”

    So please, phrase your premises with precision or else the only result will be confusion (and I too will take this advice).

    Next, I said:

    “3. Now, it is true that, based on your premises, that mind REQUIRES CSI, but it is still the case that CSI REQUIRES mind.”

    You replied:

    “Both things are true in our experience.”

    So you accept that mind requires CSI and that CSI requires mind, which is exactly the premises I used in my argument!

    Next, I said:

    “4. So, given your own premises (that mind REQUIRES CSI and that CSI REQUIRES mind), then this back and forth between mind and CSI continues endlessly and without an arbitrary stopping point.”

    You replied:

    “I think you mean “without a non-arbitrary” stopping point. In any event, I think that hypothesis (an endless chain of alternating creation) is far-fetched and has no evidential support whatsoever, and I don’t know anyone who would believe it.”

    But it does not matter what you think of the endless chain of alternating causation. If your premise are true, which you before INSISTED that they were, they this endless chain of alternating causation is logically necessary. Just because you consider it far-fetched does not remove its logical necessity given the premises that you INSIST on. So, if you don’t like this endless chain of causation, then you only have one choice: deny one of the premises that you previously accepted. But if you do that, then be prepared for your whole argument to break down.

    Next, you said:

    “I said that this is what we experience, which makes the appearance of CSI without intelligent action improbable.”

    No, what you said was that our experience shows us that “CSI REQUIRES mind” and that ““…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.” Are you now denying this and switching to improbability. Because if you are, and yet you wish to remain an empiricist, you will need to show me some instances where I experienced CSI coming about without intelligent action, for it is only by doing so that you can counter our uniform and repeated experience that all CSI comes from mind.

    You said:

    “It is also the case, of course, that our experience confirms that intelligent beings do not spontaneously appear out of nothing,”

    Actually, our experience shows us that not a single thing ever comes from nothing (and our experience, in principle, could never show us that something could come from nothing). So this means that you are stuck. Either accept the endless of chain of alternating causation, or deny one of your accepted premises and admit that either mind or CSI is the stopping point. But if you deny one of your premises, then your whole argument falls apart, because your will be denying your own repeated and uniform experience, which was the very thing you used to create your argument in the first place.

    You said:

    “In the same way, it could be that terrestrial CSI exists as uncaused and necessary, and no intelligent action was involved at any point at all until intelligent beings (animals) existed on Earth.”

    Except that goes against all our uniform and repeated experience, which is supposedly the very thing you use to validate your beliefs.

    You said:

    “No – again, it could be that terrestrial CSI exists uncaused.”

    Except that goes all our uniform and repeated experience.

    You said:

    “You need to understand that I am saying there is no theory of origins that does not violate our uniform and repeated experience.”

    Yes, there is: an endless chain of alternating causation, which I showed is logical necessary to accept if all we are using to validate our beliefs is our uniform and repeated experience. It does not matter if you do not like this theory of origins, because it logically and necessarily follows from YOUR OWN position. So either change your position or accept it. Anything else is just being completely inconsistent.

    I said:

    “And this is why, given your own premises, you MUST be a proponent of Intelligence Design concerning biological CSI on Earth.”

    You replied:

    “But of course this isn’t true. All of these scenarios are just hypotheses that we make up, all of them violate aspects of our uniform and repeated experience, and none of them can be supported by any evidence at all.”

    I took YOUR premises and used them in a DEDUCTIVE argument to show that you, in order to be consist with everything you have said up to this point, would need to be a proponent of Intelligent Design concerning the origin of CSI on Earth. I am not talking about hypotheses, or probabilities, etc. It was a deductive argument. If the premises are true (and they are your premises), and if the logic is sound and valid, then the conclusion follows logically and necessarily.

    So I say again: either show me where my logic is flawed, or tell me which of the very premises you have insisted upon this whole time you now deny?

    You said:

    “And the intelligent action that caused the CSI could not exist unless the CSI that supports the intelligent action already existed.”

    Which is why the endless chain of causation follows from your premises.

    You said:

    “But compare these two hypotheses: 1) Terrestrial CSI exists uncaused and necessary. 2) Terrestrial CSI was created by a mind that requires additional CSI that is unexplained or exists uncaused and necessary.
    Both have equal explanatory power, but the latter posits more entities.”

    Except you were the one who claimed that CSI REQUIRES mind and that “…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.” And if what you claim is the case, then BY NECESSITY, we must posit mind as a cause of CSI. And Occam’s Razer says: Do not multiply entities WITHOUT NECESSITY. So if we have a necessity to posit them, which you say we do, we should posit them.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  211. 211
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “I’m afraid you are confused about this.”

    And I am afraid that in this case, you are the one who caused the confusion. After all, how else should I have taken your statements:

    1. “Our shared experience confirms that EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.” And that “CSI REQUIRES mind.”

    And:

    2. “But those exact same experiences confirm that EVERYTHING capable of intelligent action contains CSI.” And that “Mind REQUIRES CSI.”

    And remember, YOU INSISTED on these premises!

    So look, you need to be absolutely clear before we continue: are you now denying one of these premises? And if so, how are you denying it?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  212. 212
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miska,

    I have to say, your last comments appear move the goalposts, deny premises that you have INSISTED upon, and confuse your position greatly.

    That is entirely baseless, RDM. Everything we’ve said is right here on this page, and you can search all you’d like but you will not find that I have ever stated any commitment to any “premises” from which to draw deductive conclusions regarding origins. What you call “premises” are statements regarding our uniform and repeated experience, and I could not possibly have been more clear about that! I was very, very, very careful to explain that over and over again, for exactly this reason.

    Well then, why did you use the word REQUIRES?

    Mind requires CSI; CSI requires mind. This was my short phrase capturing what I have been explaining consistently throughout our discussion. We observe that intelligent behavior does not commence without pre-existing CSI AND that CSI does not appear without pre-existing intelligence.

    You attempt to take these (hopefully obvious) statements about our uniform and repeated experience and assume that I have offered them as premises in a formal deductive proof of something, which is not at all a fair interpretation of my position, given how often I’ve carefully qualified my remarks. You also accuse me of moving goalposts and denying statements I’ve made previously, when I have been so consistent that I’m sure I’ve bored whatever readers are still with us by my consistent repetitions 🙂

    So please, phrase your premises with precision or else the only result will be confusion (and I too will take this advice).

    Yes, I’m sure I could always be more precise and clear, and I do endeavor to do that, and will redouble my efforts in the future.

    But it does not matter what you think of the endless chain of alternating causation. If your premise are true, which you before INSISTED that they were,…

    And again, I have never insisted that any “premises” were known to be true – I have insisted that our uniform and repeated experience we invariably confirm that there is no mind without CSI and there is no CSI without mind.

    Just because you consider it far-fetched does not remove its logical necessity given the premises that you INSIST on.

    I’m confident that any fair reader of our discussion will agree that I never proposed any formal deductive argument which concluded with certainty something or other about origins. Rather, I stated as clearly as possible what our uniform and repeated experience demonstrates, and showed how our experience indicates that mind requires CSI to exist and that CSI requires mind to exist, and how these facts set the a priori probability of both ID and “materialistic” theories of origins low, and how there is no good a posteriori evidence for any particular theory of origins, and so we ought to say that we don’t know how life got started.

    Honestly, I’m boring myself by having to repeat this so many times 🙂

    No, what you said was that our experience shows us that “CSI REQUIRES mind” and that ““…EVERYTHING containing CSI is the result of intelligent action.” Are you now denying this and switching to improbability.

    I will say that in this instance you do seem to be disingenuous. My arguments have been clearly and explicitly based on a priori / a posteriori probabilities from the outset, as anyone can confirm simply by reading this thread. I have not denied or switched anything, RDM. Let’s continue to try and give each others’ arguments the most honest and charitable interpretation possible, rather than putting words in each others’ mouths, OK?

    Because if you are, and yet you wish to remain an empiricist, you will need to show me some instances where I experienced CSI coming about without intelligent action, for it is only by doing so that you can counter our uniform and repeated experience that all CSI comes from mind.

    And to continue my endless chain of repetition, in our uniform and repeated experience, CSI does not arise without intelligent action, and intelligent action does not arise without CSI. 🙂

    Except that goes against all our uniform and repeated experience, which is supposedly the very thing you use to validate your beliefs.

    Please re-read what I said about this (@209):

    RDF: What you fail to understand is that our experience can only determine the prior probabilities regarding hypotheses; we must evaluate hypotheses against the evidence (if we are being empirical) and determine the likelihood of their truth. Sometimes we judge things to have low prior probability but it turns that when we actually accumulate evidence they are true. And sometimes the reverse happens – things we believe are likely true turn out to be false. And what I believe is the case here is that none of our hypotheses have high prior probability or sufficient specific evidential support.

    We have no uniform and repeated experience of the origin of life, quite obviously, and so our experience here is how we determine the a priori probabilities of our hypotheses about origins. Do you understand this? If so, you will realize that none of these facts of our uniform and repeated experience constitute “premises” from which we can logically deduce the correct empirically supported theory of origins!

    You said:“No – again, it could be that terrestrial CSI exists uncaused.”
    Except that goes all our uniform and repeated experience.

    Yes, so that hypothesis gets a low a priori probability. Do you understand?

    If I somehow lead you to believe that I was mounting a formal argument where I propose logical premises which are known to be certainly true and from which I could deductively infer specific conclusions regarding the origin of life, I apologize. But for the life of me I can’t imagine how you or anyone else might get that from anything I’ve written.

    Rather, what I have consistently intended to show was that our uniform and repeated experience of minds and of CSI shows that neither ever exists without the other, and therefore any hypothesis that requires one to preceed the other is not likely to be true. Such a hypothesis could be true, but the only way we could empirically justify a belief in such a hypothesis (such as ID or abiogenesis) would be to acquire actual evidence that mind can operate without pre-existing CSI, or that CSI could arise without pre-existing mind.

    So, what about this: The hypothesis with the highest a priori probability is that life on Earth has descended from life elsewhere. This does not actually conflict with either fact of our experience regarding mind/CSI. However we have no evidence that extra-terrestrial life exists, or has ever existed, nor that life on Earth came from it, and so that hypothesis has languished for lack of evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  213. 213
    RD Miksa says:

    Just so that you are aware, the reason that I keep using CAPS is because I am a half-wit and I don’t know how to use bold or italics with this system!

    RD Miksa

  214. 214
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I know that you did not present your argument as a deductive one! I am the one that did that. But my point was that you clearly made certain Statements which were entirely legitimate for me to use as premises in a deductive argument of my own creation in order to show you where your own statements logically and necessarily led. And those are the Statements that you yourself INSISTED upon: namely, that in our repeated and uniform experience, there is “no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind.” I used those Statements in a deductive argument to show that if we are validating our beliefs through experience, then the belief that we should hold based on those two Statements is that an endless chain of alternate causation between CSI and mind exists, and thus that ID for biological origins is undeniable.

    And as far as repeating yourself till you are blue in the face…trust me, I know the feeling! Lol!

    RD Miksa

  215. 215
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    And those are the Statements that you yourself INSISTED upon:…

    Ah, one thing that may have introduced a miscommunication is the word “INSISTED” (or insisted :-)). You have a habit of saying that I “admit” things, which implies that these are things which do not support my position by I have no choice but which to accede to – i.e. things that I concede. But these facts of our experience are not concsessions that I make; they are facts which I have brought into the argument, and so I said I “insisted” rather than “admitted” that our experience was thus.

    I think you interpreted my use of the word to mean that I was positive that our experience proved that these things were absolutely and inviolately true (intelligent behavior is necessary to create CSI, and CSI is necessary to produce intelligent behavior). Of course that was not my intent.

    It should be obvious that both of these things cannot possibly be true, any more than someone can lift themselves by their own bootstraps, because “A precedes B” and “B precedes A” are contradictory statements. Something obviously has to give. The argument I have been making here is that we have no evidence by which we can decide which of these experientially observed things did not hold when life was originated, and that perhaps neither of them were.

    Would you care to comment, however, on the hypothesis that life on Earth is simply descended from life elsewhere? That hypothesis has a higher prior probability than the ones you’ve been discussing, since no experientially observed principles are violated (we know, after all, that biological systems do in fact reproduce). That seems to be the best hypothesis, even though that one too doesn’t explain the origin of CSI, and we have no actual evidence that it is true. Given that both ID and abiogenesis violate our experience, do you agree that “ET life forms were our ancestors” is the best explanation for life on Earth? And do you agree that even that hypothesis does not warrant our belief, since we have no evidence that it is true?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  216. 216
    RD Miksa says:

    OK, let’s start this again, and in enough painful detail that I hope there will be no confusion!

    This is MY deductive argument, using RDFISH’s Statements / Ideas as premises, to show why RDFish, if he is to be consistent, should believe in an ID-type theory concerning the biological origins of CSI on Earth (even if that theory is not true in reality).

    Onward (and given my own repetition, plus the fact that I am getting tired, I will present this version of the argument in my own words but with RDFish’s ideas)!

    PREMISE 1: As empiricists, when we validate our beliefs, we can consult only what we and others perceive experientially. So, the validation / justification for our beliefs comes from what we experience.

    PREMISE 2: All of our uniform and repeated experience has shown us that there is no mind without CSI (CSI requires mind). We have no experiences that counter this.
    PREMISE 3: All of our uniform and repeated experience has shown us that there is no CSI without mind (Mind requires CSI). We have no experiences that counter this.

    PREMISE 4: We experience that something with CSI exists on Earth (undeniable).

    PREMISE 5: If we are justifying our beliefs based on our uniform and repeated experience, then, given that ALL our uniform and repeated experience has shown us that there is no CSI without mind, then we must believe that that something with CSI from Premise 4 was caused by a mind because that is what all of our uniform and repeated experience has shown us (even if this is not true in reality).

    PREMISE 6: But if we are justifying our beliefs based on our uniform and repeated experience, then, given that ALL our uniform and repeated experience has shown us that there is no mind without CSI, then we must believe that the mind in Premise 5 was caused by CSI because that is what all of our uniform and repeated experience has shown us (even if this is not true in reality).

    PREMISE 7: But if Premise 5 is the case, and if Premise 6 is the case, then we must believe in an endless chain of alternate causation between mind and CSI (even if this endless chain of alternate causation does not exist in reality), because that is what we would logically and necessarily have to believe if we were consistently basing our beliefs on what we uniformly and repeatedly experience.

    CONCLUSION 1: Therefore, given the endless chain of alternate causation between mind and CSI that we must believe in if we are consistently basing our beliefs on what we uniformly and repeatedly experience (even if this endless chain of alternate causation does not exist in reality), then we must believe that ID is the cause of CSI on Earth, for all our uniform and repeated experience shows us that CSI requires a mind (no CSI without mind), and thus we must believe that the first CSI on Earth requires a mind to account for it (even if this is not true in reality). And therefore, we must believe in an ID-type theory of origins for the first instance of CSI on Earth (even if this is not true in reality).

    So now, is it finally clear why I say that when RDFish’s Statements are taken in totality and are put in a deductive argument, they logically and necessarily lead to the conclusion that “we must believe in an ID-type theory of origins for the first instance of CSI on Earth (even if this is not true in reality).”

    Someone? Anyone? Is this argument clear? Lol!

    RD Miksa

  217. 217
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    This is MY deductive argument, using RDFISH’s Statements / Ideas as premises, to show why RDFish, if he is to be consistent, should believe in an ID-type theory concerning the biological origins of CSI on Earth (even if that theory is not true in reality).

    It is pointless to attempt to constuct a deductive argument based on these facts of our experience, because as I’ve already shown they already stand in contradiction to each other when one considers the origin of either mind or CSI. It cannot both be true that mind preceded CSI and that CSI preceded mind, even though in our experience those two things are invariably true.

    As far as an “endless chain of alternate causes”, yes this would not violate the facts of our experience regarding CSI and mind, but it is a perfectly outlandish theory that has no evidence at all. But you keep ignoring the obvious point that there is a much better theory that also does not violate these facts of our experience, which is that life on Earth came from life elsewhere! Why is it you don’t wish to consider this possiblity?

    In summary, if you insist on picking the best explanation for the origin of life on Earth, it clearly must be that it came from some other planet somehow. But that is a terrible theory too, since it fails to explain how life came to exist on that other planet, and how it got to Earth, and besides we don’t have any evidence to support that it actually happened this way.

    So in the end, it is my position on the matter which is only intellectually honest one: There is no empirically supported explanation for the origin of life on Earth; nobody knows how we came to exist.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  218. 218
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    How do you define ‘mind’? How do you define ‘CSI’? Does mind contain CSI? If not, why not?

  219. 219
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Good questions – it’s always important to define terms that may be ambiguous in some context.

    For most of the discussion above I used the terms “intelligent” and “conscious” specifically, and gave definitions for those that distinguished between these two mental attributes. Later, for shorthand, I used “mind”, which really might refer to either or both of those mental attributes. But later in the debate the distinction between intelligence and consciousness was not relevant to the discussion.

    With regard to my point about CSI and mind, it is our experience that neither intelligence nor consciousness ever occurs without preceding CSI, so “mind” can be considered to mean “something that is intelligent and conscious”.

    As for “CSI”, I mean generally what ID proponents mean, although I don’t care to get into a discussion about how CSI might be quantified or made objective. I simply agree with ID proponents that the complex form and function we observe is something that demands explanation, and nobody has demonstrated rigorously that something like random variation and selection (or anything else) could possibly result in such systems given the age of the Earth (or even of the universe).

    Regarding if mind contains CSI: Let me be careful with the way I phrase this so as not to confuse. First, we observe that there is a reliable correlation between CSI and minds: minds are invariably associated with bodies that contain high levels of CSI. But the relationship is stronger than a mere correlation, because of what we know about the brain’s role in storing and processing information. So I’d say in our shared experience, mind operates only in the presence of CSI, and there is also reason to believe that CSI is in fact necessary in order for mental operations to proceed.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  220. 220
    vividbleau says:

    RDF

    So in the end, it is my position on the matter which is only intellectually honest one: There is no empirically supported explanation for the origin of life on Earth; nobody knows how we came to exist.

    I mentioned this before but for me personally after all these years, going back to the ARN days,you have clearly articulated your position. As you should know I have great respect for you and its great to know where you are coming from. That is not to say you had not clearly articulated your position before but for whatever reason getting into this nitty gritty has answered many questions that have rattled around in my head from time to time.

    Obviously you put a premium on empericism but you did mention somewhere up thread that you do not consider empericism the sole repository of knowledge.I would be interested to read what other sources of knowledge you do accept.

    It seems to me if only that which we can empericaly demonstrate is objective fact, that position itself cannot be emperically demonstrated. Of course I am not telling you something you havent considered so I am interested in what you consider , if any, other knowledge (objective) sources. Thanks in advance.

    Vivid

  221. 221
    vividbleau says:

    RDF

    Would you care to comment, however, on the hypothesis that life on Earth is simply descended from life elsewhere? That hypothesis has a higher prior probability than the ones you’ve been discussing, since no experientially observed principles are violated

    Although this quesion was not addressed to me I thought I would answer it anyway. Based strictly on emperical knowledge I would YES.

    Vivid

  222. 222
    vividbleau says:

    I should have written “based stricly on emeprical evidence I would say yes”

    Vivid

  223. 223
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    First, I just and re-read most of your comments on this thread, so that was a refreshing remainder of your points.

    Now, you said:

    “It should be obvious that both of these things cannot possibly be true, any more than someone can lift themselves by their own bootstraps, because “A precedes B” and “B precedes A” are contradictory statements. Something obviously has to give.”

    You have phrased this incorrectly, and because you have done so, you think they are logically contradictory when they are not. And they are indeed not logically contradictory. Why? Because we are not saying that “A precedes B” and “B precedes A” at the same time and in the same way. What we are saying, is that “If A, then A caused by B” and then “If B, then B caused by A.” So, A, then caused by B, then caused by A, then caused by B, then caused by A, and so on. There is a temporal distinction there. And thus, there is nothing logically contradictory about that chain.

    So, for the ID debate: If CSI, then mind, then CSI, then mind, then CSI, then mind, and so on. There is nothing contradictory about that!

    You said:

    “It is pointless to attempt to constuct a deductive argument based on these facts of our experience, because as I’ve already shown they already stand in contradiction to each other when one considers the origin of either mind or CSI.”

    But they don’t. They just lead to an infinite regress, but such a regress is not logically contradictory (see above). You might try to show that such a regress is impossible, but you cannot claim it to be contradictory.

    And furthermore, even if you showed that a regress was metaphysically impossible, I would then remind you of something you said earlier:

    “Empricism holds that as long as something reliably appears to us to be material, or immaterial (or to be accelerating, or to be hot, etc) that is all we can say about it. We cannot then doubt our results because somebody somewhere could come up with a metaphysical claim that brings the veracity of our uniform and repeated experience into question.”

    So, on your view, empiricism holds that as long as something reliably appears to us, like that “CSI requires mind” and that “mind requires CSI”, that is all we can say about it. We cannot then doubt our results because somebody somewhere could come up with a metaphysical claim that brings the veracity of our uniform and repeated experience into question.

    So your objection against the endless chain of alternate causation seems to fail, because you are attempting to use a metaphysical point to doubt what our uniform and repeated experience tells us is the case, and you yourself admit that doing so is unjustified.

    You said:

    “It cannot both be true that mind preceded CSI and that CSI preceded mind, even though in our experience those two things are invariably true.”

    Whoa!!! Remember, we are supposedly not interested here in what is actually true, but what we should believe based on the evidence of our uniform and repeated experience (even if it is not true in actuality). And thus, given that I can believe in an endless chain of alternate causation, then, given that such a chain is highly probable because it does not violate our uniform and repeated experience, I should believe it based on your own empiricism.

    Now do you see the problem that your combination of ideas and statements causes for you?

    More to follow.

  224. 224
    Box says:

    RDFish

    With regard to my point about CSI and mind, it is our experience that neither intelligence nor consciousness ever occurs without preceding CSI, so “mind” can be considered to mean “something that is intelligent and conscious”.

    Your position is that intelligence and consciousness occurs with ‘preceding’ CSI. What do you mean by preceding? Your position would be clearer if you would have stated that intelligence and consciousness occurs in the presence of (or in combination with) CSI (the brain). What exactly do you mean with preceding? Does the brain (CSI) precede the mind? If so, is the mind something else entirely – immaterial perhaps?

  225. 225
    RDFish says:

    Hi Vivid,

    I mentioned this before but for me personally after all these years, going back to the ARN days,you have clearly articulated your position. As you should know I have great respect for you and its great to know where you are coming from. That is not to say you had not clearly articulated your position before but for whatever reason getting into this nitty gritty has answered many questions that have rattled around in my head from time to time.

    Thank you again, Vivid. I will say that what I have articulated here is not really what I have most often been arguing on these boards. This interplay between mind and matter (or mind and CSI) that I’ve been discussing here is only one thing that I believe undermines the notion that ID represents an empirically supported theory of origins. I think there are actually even more important problems with ID, namely that it actually lacks a specific and coherent notion of what the term “intelligent” is supposed to encompass in the context of ID, and that the defense of ID actually rests on undemonstrable metaphysical commitments to dualism and libertarian free will.

    Obviously you put a premium on empericism but you did mention somewhere up thread that you do not consider empericism the sole repository of knowledge.I would be interested to read what other sources of knowledge you do accept.

    I do think however that empirically supported facts are special, and deserve higher regard. However, empiricism has nothing to offer regarding the most important questions to me (those involving origins, meaning, morality, and so on). And again, I believe it is critically important to have beliefs about these things anyway, and so it follows that it is rational to adopt or accept beliefs about these issues without good empirical reasons. I just maintain that it is very important to be explicit about this, and not confuse the status of our beliefs about origins, etc. with our empirically supported knowledge.

    It seems to me if only that which we can empericaly demonstrate is objective fact, that position itself cannot be emperically demonstrated.

    That’s true of course – epistemology is one of many, many important things in philosophy that can’t be solved by appeal to our experience.

    Of course I am not telling you something you havent considered so I am interested in what you consider , if any, other knowledge (objective) sources. Thanks in advance.

    I hesitate to use the word “objective” at all – that is a concept that can consume a lifetime of epistemological debate to attempt (and fail) to clarify.

    But with respect to how we justify our beliefs outside of empiricism, I think these justifications are actually post hoc rationalizations for beliefs we hold without compelling, rationally coherent supporting evidence. In fact, I have argued at length here against doxastic voluntarism: I do not believe that we have conscious, volitional control over what we believe and what we do not believe.

    What does this mean for us as humans in the world? First, that science should be (1) highly respected and (2) acknowledged as inapplicable for many important questions. Second, that we should acknowledge that for all the questions science can’t help answer, while we can certainly hold and defend definite positions, we should always temper our certainty, be willing to entertain opposing views, and never claim that we are absolutely, certainly correct without possibility of error.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  226. 226
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Because we are not saying that “A precedes B” and “B precedes A” at the same time and in the same way. What we are saying, is that “If A, then A caused by B” and then “If B, then B caused by A.” So, A, then caused by B, then caused by A, then caused by B, then caused by A, and so on. There is a temporal distinction there. And thus, there is nothing logically contradictory about that chain.

    That’s right – I said in my last post that you can avoid this contradiction by an infinite causal chain, although that was a bad hypothesis for other reasons. But what I also said was that these two premises “stand in contradiction to each other when one considers the origin of either mind or CSI”. And an infinite causal chain does not address the origin of either CSI or mind.

    But they don’t. They just lead to an infinite regress, but such a regress is not logically contradictory (see above). You might try to show that such a regress is impossible, but you cannot claim it to be contradictory.

    Again, the endless chain is not contradictory, but it fails to resolve the origin of mind or CSI. And no, these premises do not “lead to an infinite regress”, because there are other explanations for the origin of CSI on Earth that do not involve mind at all.

    So your objection against the endless chain of alternate causation seems to fail, because you are attempting to use a metaphysical point to doubt what our uniform and repeated experience tells us is the case, and you yourself admit that doing so is unjustified.

    No, none of this is right. My objection to an endless chain of alternate causation is the same as yours should be of course – it’s just a far-fetched theory that nobody takes seriously, lacks any evidence whatsoever, and fails to identify the source of either mind or CSI!

    It cannot both be true that mind preceded CSI and that CSI preceded mind, even though in our experience those two things are invariably true.”

    Whoa!!! Remember, we are supposedly not interested here in what is actually true, but what we should believe based on the evidence of our uniform and repeated experience (even if it is not true in actuality).

    Please, RDM, please pay attention to this: We have already, and at excruciating length, agreed that our experiential facts are true under the epistemology we have adopted (empiricism), and that empiricism excludes – does not consider – what metaphysical truths may lay beyond the realm of our experience. Thus when I say something is invariably true in this context, it clearly means that it holds true in our uniform and repeated experience. Please do no make me go through this again!

    And thus, given that I can believe in an endless chain of alternate causation, then, given that such a chain is highly probable because it does not violate our uniform and repeated experience, I should believe it based on your own empiricism.

    What? You can believe in anything you want to, but as I said if you believe in an endless chain of alternate causation simply because it doesn’t happen to violate these experiential facts about mind and CSI, you will be quite alone, because nobody else I know would believe such a speculative hypothesis at all! There are other hypotheses that likewise do not violate these experiential facts of course, and some of them are not as far-fetched as your endless chain (such as that life on Earth came from life elsewhere). None of them warrant our empirical belief however.

    Now do you see the problem that your combination of ideas and statements causes for you?

    I have shown how our experience (our observations) render the a priori probability of both abiogenesis and ID low, and I have said that there is no further evidence for either hypothesis that would suggest either is true. I have explained that the theory that life on Earth comes from life elsewhere (let’s call this “ET-ancestor” theory) is the least terrible theory that we have, but that one is still a very bad theory of origins (doesn’t explain the origin of extra-terrestrial life, no evidence for it).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  227. 227
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Since I noticed that in many of your comments you keep referring to “hypotheses,” I thought it would be beneficial to re-phrase my argument in an abductive form so that you will hopefully finally understand what I am getting at.

    Mode of Operation: Empiricism: when we validate our beliefs, we can consult only what we and others perceive experientially. So, the validation / justification for our beliefs comes from what we experience. Additionally, empiricism holds that as long as something reliably appears to us to be material, or immaterial (or to be accelerating, or to be hot, etc) that is all we can say about it. We cannot then doubt our results because somebody somewhere could come up with a metaphysical claim that brings the veracity of our uniform and repeated experience into question.

    Now, consider this:

    OBSERVATION: Something on Earth contains CSI (first life, for example).

    Now, the hypotheses proposed to account for this observation.

    HYPOTHESIS ONE: Mind is the ultimate and final cause of CSI.

    HYPOTHESIS TWO: CSI is the ultimate and final cause of itself.

    HYPOTHESIS THREE: We don’t know the cause of CSI or mind.

    HYPOTHESIS FOUR: An endless chain of alternate causation exists where mind causes CSI and then CSI causes mind, and then so on and so forth endlessly.

    Now, given our empiricism, let us consider the evidence from our experience:

    EXPERIENCE 1: CSI requires mind (no CSI without mind). Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    EXPEREINCE 2: Mind requires CSI (no mind without CSI). Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    EXPERIENCE 3: Something does not come from nothing (things do not pop into existence uncaused). Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    Now, compare the four hypotheses to our experience:

    HYPOTHESIS ONE: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 2.

    HYPOTHESIS TWO: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 3.

    HYPOTHESIS THREE: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 1 and 2.

    HYPOTHESIS FOUR: HIGHLY LIKELY as it is fully consistent with all our experiences.

    Therefore, since HYPOTHESIS FOUR (an endless chain of alternate causation exists where mind causes CSI and then CSI causes mind, and then so on and so forth endlessly) is highly likely and is fully consistent with our experience, then given our empiricism, even though HYPOTHESIS FOUR may not be true in actuality, it can be justifiably believed because it is highly likely given the evidence from our experience.

    And so, the best explanation for the existence of CSI on Earth is that it was caused by a mind. And thus, ID (whether in the form on an embodied or un-embodied mind) is the best explanation for the existence of CSI on Earth (even though it fails to explain the ultimate origin of CSI).

    Now, is this finally clear?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  228. 228
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “What? You can believe in anything you want to, but as I said if you believe in an endless chain of alternate causation simply because it doesn’t happen to violate these experiential facts about mind and CSI, you will be quite alone, because nobody else I know would believe such a speculative hypothesis at all!

    And yet given our the evidence from our experiences, such a chain is highly likely. Why should it not be believed? What are your empirical grounds for rejecting it?

    You said:

    “There are other hypotheses that likewise do not violate these experiential facts of course, and some of them are not as far-fetched as your endless chain (such as that life on Earth came from life elsewhere).”

    First, nothing in my argument precludes that life on Earth came from life elsewhere, but that would just push the problem one step back and would still lead to Intelligent Design, for if life on Earth came from life elsewhere, and that other life had CSI, then, as per your own points, it would have been caused by a mind, and thus a mind would be indirectly responsible for life on Earth – meaning ID.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  229. 229
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Therefore, since HYPOTHESIS FOUR (an endless chain of alternate causation exists where mind causes CSI and then CSI causes mind, and then so on and so forth endlessly) is highly likely and is fully consistent with our experience, then given our empiricism, even though HYPOTHESIS FOUR may not be true in actuality, it can be justifiably believed because it is highly likely given the evidence from our experience.

    On the contrary, although there is nothing in our experience that would preclude this hypothesis, I think it should be clear that it is a perfectly terrible explanation, given that there is no evidence for even one link of this chain, and it fails to explain how either CSI or mind originated, and it requires an infinity of causation. We would need good evidence to justify this endless chain hypothesis, but there is none at all.

    And so, the best explanation for the existence of CSI on Earth is that it was caused by a mind.

    No, this is wrong. As I’ve explained repeatedly now, the best explanation is “ET-ancestor theory” (that life on Earth came from life elsewhere)… and even that is a very bad explanation indeed!

    Cheers,
    RD Fish

    p.s. I will be away from the keyboard for a few hours but hope to return to find you’ve conceded my point that ET-ancestor theory is the best empirically-supported theory we have of the origin of life on Earth, and also agree that that explanation isn’t good either!

  230. 230
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I also wish to point out that my deductive argument still stands, and it needs to be answered.

    Why?

    Because in Comment 217, you said:

    “It is pointless to attempt to constuct a deductive argument based on these facts of our experience, because as I’ve already shown they already stand in contradiction to each other when one considers the origin of either mind or CSI.”

    But the argument was never meant to show the origin of CSI in the ultimate sense (in a specific sense, like on Earth, then yes). Rather, it was meant to demonstrate that if we are justified believing what our experience shows us is highly probable—that CSI requires mind and that mind requires CSI—then we are also justified in believing what logically and necessarily follows from those two justifiable beliefs: namely, that we are justified in believing in an endless chain of alternate causation, which is what logically follows from the argument.

    It is no good to say that that it is a “far-fetched” conclusion or a bad hypothesis, because none of those things matter for a deductive argument.

    Thus, if you think the conclusion is not justified, you need to tell me why the logic is wrong or which premise (Statement) you disagree with.

    Until and unless you do that, the argument, as far as I can see, still stands.

    Ultimately, I am, as best as possible and to the best of my abilities, trying to follow YOUR ideas and Statements wherever they leads, even if it is to a very strange place!

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  231. 231
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Just to be clear: we need to understand the difference between an immediate explanation of something, and an ultimate explanation of something.

    Thus, my parents are the immediate explanation of the reason for my existence, but they are not the ultimate explanation of the reason for my existence (which could be God, or matter, etc.)

    This is important because ID may be the best immediate explanation for the existence of earthly CSI, but not the ultimate explanation of CSI.

    Yet it would still be rational to accept the immediate explanation even if we did not know the ultimate one.

    More to follow.

  232. 232
    Phinehas says:

    Hey RD Miksa

    If you are interested, you can use the following to help format your posts:

    *In your post, substitute a less-than symbol for [ and a greater-than symbol for ]

    [i]Italicized[/i]

    [b]Bolded[/b]

    [blockquote]

    Quoted

    [/blockquote]

    Hope that helps!

  233. 233
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    You said:

    “No, this is wrong. As I’ve explained repeatedly now, the best explanation is “ET-ancestor theory” (that life on Earth came from life elsewhere)… and even that is a very bad explanation indeed!”

    First, note that you have made a minor but understandable error: I said that a mind is the best explanation for the existence of CSI, and that CSI was the thing needing to be explained, not first life being the thing needing an explanation, which is what you are focusing on here (although I did use first life as a potential example of CSI, so I can understand the confusion).

    Now, let me explain why the ET-Ancestor Theory is not a better explanation of CSI than ID is.

    First, all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that living things are full of CSI. Therefore, if life came from somewhere else, then our uniform and repeated experience would make it justified to believe that this life was full of CSI, and then, since CSI requires mind (no CSI without mind), then a mind would have to be responsible for that other life, and thus ID is still the best explanation for life on Earth (A mind caused life with CSI, and then that life caused by the mind came to Earth and was the start of life on Earth).

    Now, if you deny that life is full of CSI, and if you claim that that the ET-Ancestor does not have CSI, then this theory is irrelevant to the issue at hand, because you agree that we experience that some things on Earth have CSI, and thus that they require a mind to explain them. Thus the first thing with CSI would still have a mind as the required cause. So either way, the ET-Ancestor theory is absolutely no help in allowing you to deny that ID is the best explanation for our experience of CSI in living things on Earth.

    However, the problems with the ET-Ancestor Theory do not stop there.

    Consider that the issue of the origin of life on Earth and the origin of CSI on Earth are, ultimately, conceptually distinct. After all, it would be logically possible to claim that life itself requires other life, but that the CSI in life is caused by a mind. Thus, our uniform and repeated experience that life causes life is entirely possible to accept while still holding to our experience that CSI in life requires a mind.

    Next, the ET-Ancestor Theory suffers from the same objections as the endless chain of alternate causation does. Consider that the ET-Ancestor Theory fails to ULTIMATELY explain how either CSI or mind originated. Next, the ET-Ancestor Theory also leads to an infinite regress: namely, our repeated and uniform experience shows us that life causes life. So if life, then life, then life, then life, and so on endlessly.

    Finally, ET-Ancestor Theory violates Occam’s Razor. Why? Because we only experience the existence of embodied living things with CSI on Earth. And we must posit mind to account for the CSI in embodied living things on Earth (no CSI without mind). So those two things must be posited by necessity to account for the experience of CSI in embodied living things on Earth. But is it necessary to multiply our entities by positing alien life that we have no evidence of? I say that it is not.

    So, for all these reasons, the ET-Ancestor Theory is not a better explanation than ID for our experience of CSI in embodied livings things on Earth.

    And thus, not only do we have a deductive argument that gives a reason to see ID as the explanation for our experience of CSI on Earth (but not as an ultimate explanation), but we also see that ID is the “best” abductive explanation for our experience of CSI on Earth as well (but not as an ultimate explanation).

    Now, let me concede that when your ideas/statements are used, ID (as I have argued for it in the endless chain of alternate causation idea) is indeed a very poor explanation, but will you finally admit that it is the best one that we have given your own ideas/statements?

    Look, I am not asking you to accept the ID explanation, for I do not think that it is rationally compelling, but I really think that given your own ideas/statements, it is the best relative explanation that we have, even if it is an objectively poor explanation.

    Will you admit this?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  234. 234
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear Phinehas,

    [blockquote]

    Hope that helps!

    [/blockquote]

    It does help!

    Thank you very much. Greatly appreciated!

    RD Miksa

  235. 235
    RD Miksa says:

    Or not…hahahaha!

    Man, I am a moron sometimes!

  236. 236
    RD Miksa says:

    Let’s try that again!

    Dear Phinehas,

    Hope that helps!

    It does help!

    Thank you very much. Greatly appreciated!

    RD Miksa

  237. 237
    Phinehas says:

    RD Miksa:

    You are welcome, though I must admit that there is a self-serving aspect to my assistance: I greatly enjoy reading your posts and would like to make it as easy on myself as possible to continue doing so!

    😉

  238. 238
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    I also wish to point out that my deductive argument still stands, and it needs to be answered.

    The problem with your deductive argument was that it did not yield any good explanation of CSI in biology – either the immediate or the ultimate cause. Thus you must either revist your premises to see which one might not apply in the context of origins, or you must opt for some other sort of solution that does not rely on these premises.

    The solution that best explains the origin of life on Earth (the immediate cause anyway) is ET-ancestor theory, which does not violate either of these premises.

    Rather, it was meant to demonstrate that if we are justified believing what our experience shows us is highly probable—that CSI requires mind and that mind requires CSI—then we are also justified in believing what logically and necessarily follows from those two justifiable beliefs: namely, that we are justified in believing in an endless chain of alternate causation, which is what logically follows from the argument.

    I don’t think such a belief is justified at all, mainly because there is no evidence at all to indicate that it is true.

    It is no good to say that that it is a “far-fetched” conclusion or a bad hypothesis, because none of those things matter for a deductive argument.

    So much the worse for your deductive argument. Again, it indicates that either one or both of these premises do not apply in the context you are trying to apply them in (origins), or it indicates that the solution to the problem of origins has nothing to do with mind at all.

    Thus, if you think the conclusion is not justified, you need to tell me why the logic is wrong or which premise (Statement) you disagree with.

    The conclusion of your argument follows from the premises. Although both premises are true in our experience, it may be that in the ancient context of the appearance of first life on Earth, for some unknown reason one or both of these premises did not apply, or that the appearance of first life on Earth simply had nothing to do with minds at all (as in ET-ancestor theory).

    Until and unless you do that, the argument, as far as I can see, still stands.

    I don’t actually know what you mean by saying your argument “stands”. Do you see this “endless-chain” explanation as a good explanation for life origins?

    Ultimately, I am, as best as possible and to the best of my abilities, trying to follow YOUR ideas and Statements wherever they leads, even if it is to a very strange place!

    Ah, perhaps you are attempting to construct a reductio ad absurdum argument to show that these premises are false? But again, that is a futile endeavor, for all the reasons I’ve given you. I have already explained to you several times that these two experiential facts I have pointed out to you do not at all lead to any sort of well-supported explanation of origins that has to do with mind!!! That is my point! That is why we need to accept that no known solution to the problem of origins (the source of the first CSI in life on Earth) can be supported by our uniform and repeated experience of minds and CSI!!!

    I have also carefully explained perhaps six different times now that there is another hypothesis that does not violate either of these premises because it has nothing to do with mind. That is the “ET-ancestor” hypothesis. The fact that you are studiously ignoring this particular option leads me to believe you actually do understand that this hypothesis is a poor explanation of first life on Earth, but it is still better than ID.

    Just to be clear: we need to understand the difference between an immediate explanation of something, and an ultimate explanation of something.

    Thus, my parents are the immediate explanation of the reason for my existence, but they are not the ultimate explanation of the reason for my existence (which could be God, or matter, etc.)

    Yes, that is quite clear.

    This is important because ID may be the best immediate explanation for the existence of earthly CSI, but not the ultimate explanation of CSI.

    But ID is a terrible explanation for the existence of earthly CSI. In fact, it is almost as bad as ET-ancestor theory, which immediately explains the existence of earthly CSI quite well, but doesn’t even attempt to explain it ultimately.

    If we considered these poorly supported hypotheses as “theories”, I would rank them like this (ordered from BAD to WORSE):

    1) ET-ancestor theory: Terrestrial life is descendent from life on another planet. On the plus side, we know that all life does indeed reproduce and adapt, and we know that there are lots of other planets in the galaxy/universe similar to Earth. On the negative side, we have no evidence that ET life has ever existed, and this theory also leaves the existence of ET life unexplained, which makes this a BAD THEORY.

    2) ET-engineer theory: Terrestrial life was engineered by life forms on another planet. On the plus side, we know that life forms can be intelligent and design things. On the negative side, we have no evidence that ET life has ever existed, and this theory leaves the existence of ET life unexplained, and we must make yet another unsupported assumption compared to ET-ancestor theory, which is that ET’s not only have to exist, but they also have to be more advanced at bio-engineering than human beings, which makes this theory even less probable than (1). WORSE THEORY

    3) Non-living-thing-engineer theory: Terrestrial life was engineered by something that was not in fact a life form at all. This is just a terrible theory, having all the problems of (2), but adding to that we have to believe that, contrary to our experience, something that was non-living could perform tasks like living things do (for which there is no evidence), and manage to produce novel life forms from scratch. WORST THEORY

    Cheers,
    RD Fish

  239. 239
    RDFish says:

    Hi RDM,
    Sorry, I missed your response at 223! I shall respond to that shortly.
    RDFish

  240. 240
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    First, note that you have made a minor but understandable error: I said that a mind is the best explanation for the existence of CSI, and that CSI was the thing needing to be explained, not first life being the thing needing an explanation, which is what you are focusing on here (although I did use first life as a potential example of CSI, so I can understand the confusion).

    Let’s agree we’re trying to explain the existence of “Earthly CSI” – that is, CSI in terrestrial biological systems – OK?

    First, all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that living things are full of CSI. Therefore, if life came from somewhere else, then our uniform and repeated experience would make it justified to believe that this life was full of CSI, and then, since CSI requires mind (no CSI without mind), then a mind would have to be responsible for that other life…

    You’ve already gone too far. ET-ancestory theory explains the immediate cause of Earthly CSI, but doesn’t address how the ET CSI came to exist. Just as ET-engineer theory doesn’t address how the ETs came to exist, and just like Non-living Engineer theory doesn’t address how the non-living Engineer came to exist. So don’t bother asking “who designed the designer?” OR “who was the ancestor of the ancestor?”.

    , and thus ID is still the best explanation for life on Earth (A mind caused life with CSI, and then that life caused by the mind came to Earth and was the start of life on Earth).

    “ID” encompasses two different hypotheses (or theories), what I am now calling ET-engineer theory and Non-living Engineer theory. Both of these theories are even worse than ET-ancestor theory, as I’ve explained in post 238.

    Now, if you deny that life is full of CSI, and if you claim that that the ET-Ancestor does not have CSI,…

    I don’t deny those things.

    Consider that the issue of the origin of life on Earth and the origin of CSI on Earth are, ultimately, conceptually distinct.

    As you stated early on, and I just reiterated, ID (and we here) are trying to explain the existence of CSI in biological systems on Earth (“Earthly CSI”).

    After all, it would be logically possible to claim that life itself requires other life, but that the CSI in life is caused by a mind. Thus, our uniform and repeated experience that life causes life is entirely possible to accept while still holding to our experience that CSI in life requires a mind.

    ET-ancestor theory explains how life (including the CSI-rich mechanisms therein) appeared on Earth quite simply and naturally, by appeal to something we all can observe: biological reproduction.

    Next, the ET-Ancestor Theory suffers from the same objections as the endless chain of alternate causation does. Consider that the ET-Ancestor Theory fails to ULTIMATELY explain how either CSI or mind originated.

    I have made this point many times – please refer to post 238. This is one reason ET-ancestor theory is a bad theory. But ET-engineer theory suffers from the exact same problem, and Non-living engineer theory suffers from the same problem plus requires another assumption that contradicts our shared experience (that non-living things can engineer anything).

    Next, the ET-Ancestor Theory also leads to an infinite regress: namely, our repeated and uniform experience shows us that life causes life. So if life, then life, then life, then life, and so on endlessly.

    Again you are making the mistake of trying to figure out the ultimate cause, when ET-ancestor theory only addresses the immediate cause!

    Finally, ET-Ancestor Theory violates Occam’s Razor. Why? Because we only experience the existence of embodied living things with CSI on Earth. And we must posit mind to account for the CSI in embodied living things on Earth (no CSI without mind).

    No, this wrong too. Under ET-Ancestor Theory, the CSI in biological systems comes from our ET ancestors of course. That is the simplest source possible (least additional hypotheses). It has nothing to do with minds at all.

    So those two things must be posited by necessity to account for the experience of CSI in embodied living things on Earth. But is it necessary to multiply our entities by positing alien life that we have no evidence of? I say that it is not.

    All of these theories post entites that we have no evidence of!!! That is the point! There is no evidence for ET-ancestors, or ET-engineers, or non-living engineers! That is why all of these are bad theories! But at least ET-ancestor theory doesn’t have to bring in anything about mind or advanced bio-engineering skills – it simply appeals to something we are all very familiar with, which is biological reproduction.

    So, for all these reasons, the ET-Ancestor Theory is not a better explanation than ID for our experience of CSI in embodied livings things on Earth.

    I thought we were going to stop talking about things that are “embodied”? Anyway, that’s fine – I don’t care one way or the other. The least worst theory is ET-Ancestor theory, then ET-engineer theory (which posits not only ET life forms but life forms who are very good at bio-engineering), and finally Non-living-thing (or un-embodied) engineer theory, which not only posits the unexplained existence of these engineers and their advanced skills, but requires we believe that can accomplish their creative feats without the benefit of a living body!

    ID is the “best” abductive explanation for our experience of CSI on Earth as well (but not as an ultimate explanation).

    “ID” is both the very worst, and the second worst, abductive explanation for Earthly CSI. The least worst theory is ET-ancestor theory, and that theory is really bad too.

    Now, let me concede that when your ideas/statements are used, ID (as I have argued for it in the endless chain of alternate causation idea) is indeed a very poor explanation, but will you finally admit that it is the best one that we have given your own ideas/statements?

    No, it is both of the two worst theories we are considering.

    Look, I am not asking you to accept the ID explanation, for I do not think that it is rationally compelling, but I really think that given your own ideas/statements, it is the best relative explanation that we have, even if it is an objectively poor explanation.

    Please see 238 to hear me explain as clearly as I can why I was the one who first pointed out that the experiential facts pertaining to mind and CSI are not consistent with either ID or abiogenesis, nor do they indicate any other solution.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  241. 241
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    The problem with your deductive argument was that it did not yield any good explanation of CSI in biology…

    The fact that it did not yield a good ultimate explanation of CSI in biology is irrelevant. The outcome of a deductive argument is what it is, whether it is a “good” explanation or not.

    – either the immediate or the ultimate cause.

    I completely disagree. In fact, I deductively demonstrated that, given your own statements, which I used as premises, the only possible immediate cause of CSI in biology on Earth that we can justifiably believe in is a mind (even if this is not the true explanation), for, after all, “no CSI with mind”, right?

    And this is what I seriously do not understand about what you keep telling me: On the one hand, you tell me that all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that “no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”, and thus that we are justified to believe these experiences, and then, on the other hand, when I show you what deductively follows from that, you seem to suddenly just deny the logically necessary conclusion because you don’t like it. But that is just backwards. Unless you deny the logic or deny the premises, you must accept the conclusion on pain of irrationality.

    I don’t think such a belief is justified at all, mainly because there is no evidence at all to indicate that it is true.

    But the conclusion follows deductively from the very premises that you yourself provided. It does not matter that there is no “evidence” for the conclusion. The deductive argument is the “evidence” (so to speak). The only place that “evidence” comes in is to support the premises, but you already admit that the premises—that “no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”—are justified as beliefs given our uniform and repeated experience. So again, nothing you have said has defeated the conclusion of my deductive argument.

    So much the worse for your deductive argument.

    Do you say that for all the deductive arguments you encounter where you don’t like the conclusion. ?

    Again, it indicates that either one or both of these premises do not apply in the context you are trying to apply them in (origins)…

    But they are your premises (or Statements), and I am applying them in the exact context you say they should be applied to (“no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”).

    The conclusion of your argument follows from the premises.

    Thank you.

    Although both premises are true in our experience

    Thank you.

    …it may be that in the ancient context of the appearance of first life on Earth, for some unknown reason one or both of these premises did not apply, or that the appearance of first life on Earth simply had nothing to do with minds at all (as in ET-ancestor theory).

    But now it’s your turn to understand that none of this matters to my argument. These are all things that may have been true in reality, but I am not arguing that the endless chain of alternate causation (which, given what you said in the two points above, you thus admit is the logical and inescapable conclusion of the argument) is true in reality. What I am saying is that if we are basing our beliefs on what we experience, and if all our experience shows us that there is “no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”, then the only logical conclusion that comes from those two experientially-based beliefs is the belief in an endless chain of alternate causation. I am not saying that this idea is true, but it is the one that we must believe in if we are to take our uniform and repeated experience both seriously and consistently.

    Is the difference clear now?

    Do you see this “endless-chain” explanation as a good explanation for life origins?

    It does not matter if it is a “good” explanation. Rather, it shows that it is the only belief that we can hold if we take our uniform and repeated experience both seriously and consistently.

    Ah, perhaps you are attempting to construct a reductio ad absurdum argument to show that these premises are false?

    First, they are your premises (or Statements), not mine. And if you find the conclusion absurd, then I should you tell me which premises you now reject.

    But again, that is a futile endeavor, for all the reasons I’ve given you. I have already explained to you several times that these two experiential facts I have pointed out to you do not at all lead to any sort of well-supported explanation of origins that has to do with mind!!! That is my point!

    And I am trying to explain that you are confusing an explanation with a deductive conclusion that follows logically and necessarily from a deductive argument.

    You may not like the conclusion, but you cannot deny it unless you reject one of the premises or find a flaw in the argument’s logic. But since you admit that our repeated and uniform experience completely supports both premises (“no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”), and since you admit that there is no logical flaw in the argument, then the conclusion follows logically and necessarily!

    So yes, the deductive argument shows, that logically and necessarily, you must believe that the cause of the first CSI on Earth is a mind (for again, “no CSI without mind”, right?), even as you admit that that may not be true in reality.

    Is that clear now?

    And if you reject this conclusion, then I would argue that you are simply being inconsistent of your application of the evidence that we get from our uniform and repeated experience.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  242. 242
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Before I even get into any discussion concerning your ET-Theory, etc., as a hypothesis, let me just show you that I, once again, and based on your premises, can deductively demonstrate that we must believe that the cause of Earthly CSI is, logically and necessarily, a mind.

    Consider the following:

    Premise 1: All our uniform and repeated experience shows us that there can be “no CSI without mind.” (CSI requires mind), so we are justified to believe that CSI requires mind.

    Premise 2: There is the first case of Earthly CSI.

    Therefore: We are justified to believe that the cause of the first case of Earthly CSI must, by logical necessity, be a mind (for after all, there cannot be “no CSI without mind / CSI requires mind”).

    This argument is sound and valid, and you agree to both premises. And so the conclusion follows necessarily and logically.

    And thus, with the strength of a deductive argument, we must believe that the first case of Earth CSI requires a mind.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  243. 243
    RD Miksa says:

    I am done for the night…will reply to the rest tomorrow!

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  244. 244
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    The fact that it did not yield a good ultimate explanation of CSI in biology is irrelevant. The outcome of a deductive argument is what it is, whether it is a “good” explanation or not.

    Very well, suit yourself. Your deduction is irrelevant to our discussion then, except to illustrate my point again (that there is no good empirical theory of origins that are consistent with our uniform and repeated experience of intelligent entities).

    And this is what I seriously do not understand about what you keep telling me: On the one hand, you tell me that all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that “no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”, and thus that we are justified to believe these experiences,…

    What do you mean “we are justified to believe these experience”? Do you mean we are justified to believe that we are not hallucinating?

    …and then, on the other hand, when I show you what deductively follows from that, you seem to suddenly just deny the logically necessary conclusion because you don’t like it. But that is just backwards. Unless you deny the logic or deny the premises, you must accept the conclusion on pain of irrationality.

    I have tried pretty hard to explain this to you, especially in post 238. Here is another way to explain it – perhaps this will be more helpful:

    Do you disagree with either of the following statements?
    (1) In our experience, CSI always results from intelligent action
    (2) In our experience, intelligent action always results from CSI-rich bodies

    I presume you agree with those. Now, do you actually believe that this “endless alternating chain of causation” hypothesis is a good explanation of CSI origins? I think you don’t.

    So there you have it. Two premises that you agree with, and a conclusion that you do not believe in. What do you make of it?

    RDF: So much the worse for your deductive argument.
    RDM: Do you say that for all the deductive arguments you encounter where you don’t like the conclusion. ?

    Funny! Anyway, I don’t think you like the conclusion either! At least you shouldn’t.

    But now it’s your turn to understand that none of this matters to my argument. These are all things that may have been true in reality, but I am not arguing that the endless chain of alternate causation (which, given what you said in the two points above, you thus admit is the logical and inescapable conclusion of the argument) is true in reality.

    Excellent – you don’t accept this silly conclusion either! So much for the “endless chain” hypothesis.

    What I am saying is that if we are basing our beliefs on what we experience, and if all our experience shows us that there is “no mind without CSI” and “no CSI without mind”, then the only logical conclusion that comes from those two experientially-based beliefs is the belief in an endless chain of alternate causation.

    I’ve already explained that other theories do not run into this problem, notably ET-ancestor theory.

    I am not saying that this idea is true, but it is the one that we must believe in if we are to take our uniform and repeated experience both seriously and consistently.

    I’ve already explained (about 100 times) that our prior experience with CSI and minds serves to set the a priori probability that these dependencies (CSI on mind, mind on CSI) are seen to hold invariably. It cannot guarantee that these dependencies will in fact hold in every context; in order to ascertain that, you actually need to do research and collect evidence!

    It does not matter if it is a “good” explanation. Rather, it shows that it is the only belief that we can hold if we take our uniform and repeated experience both seriously and consistently.

    No, this is confused. Empiricism requires that we take our uniform and repeated experience both seriously and consistently, but not that an inductive inference is necessarily inviolate! That is simply not how science (or any empirically-based system of knowledge generation) works! Our experiential are always provisional and can always be over-ridden by a posteriori evidence, as I have explained here many, many times. Our general experience and reasoning tells us how likely it is that something might be true (e.g. un-embodied consciousness) prior to actually looking at the specific evidence at hand; then the a posteriori evidence either confirms our expectations or refutes them.

    First, they are your premises (or Statements), not mine.

    All right then, which of these statements do you disagree with, and why?

    And if you find the conclusion absurd, then I should you tell me which premises you now reject.

    Nobody knows, of course! That is our experience, whether you like it or not. My advice is to admit that we have no theory of origins. If you don’t like that, then my advice is to adopt the theory that is the least bad theory, which is ET-ancestor theory, which does not violate either of these experiential facts.

    So yes, the deductive argument shows, that logically and necessarily, you must believe that the cause of the first CSI on Earth is a mind (for again, “no CSI without mind”, right?), even as you admit that that may not be true in reality.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Experience sets our expectations, they do not guarantee what we find. I have been perfectly clear about this since the very start of our discussion! Look at what I wrote way back in #36:

    RDF: Based on our knowledge and experience, nothing without complex physical mechanisms for data acquisition, information processing, and motor output could produce other complex physical systems. In other words, it’s a priori unlikely that the ID hypothesis is true.

    I didn’t say “it can be deductively proven” that ID is false – our knowledge and experience set our a priori probabilities, they do not guarantee that our inferences will hold in all contexts!

    Welcome to the world of abductive reasoning!

    I completely explained this also in #209:

    RDF: I’m afraid you are confused about this. What you call my “premises” are statements that I have made about our experience. What you fail to understand is that our experience can only determine the prior probabilities regarding hypotheses; we must evaluate hypotheses against the evidence (if we are being empirical) and determine the likelihood of their truth. Sometimes we judge things to have low prior probability but it turns that when we actually accumulate evidence they are true. And sometimes the reverse happens – things we believe are likely true turn out to be false. And what I believe is the case here is that none of our hypotheses have high prior probability or sufficient specific evidential support.

    Perhaps if you copied my quotes and responded to them in order, the way I do with you, these important responses would not get lost?

    Consider the following:

    Premise 1: All our uniform and repeated experience shows us that there can be “no CSI without mind.” (CSI requires mind), so we are justified to believe that CSI requires mind.

    NO!!! WRONG!!! STOP!!! YOU HAVE MADE AN ERROR!!!
    We are NOT justified to believe that CSI always requires mind in all contexts with absolute certainty simply because that is what happens in our uniform and repeated experience!!!!!!!

    The only thing our uniform and repeated experience does is to set the a priori probability – before we examine specific evidence – that CSI will require mind in all contexts.

    That is why these statements are NOT PREMISES IN DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS. They are statements of our experience, used to help us determine the PROBABILITY that any particular hypothesis will turn out to be true!!!!

    We all use our general knowledge and reasoning to judge our a priori probabilities of various claims all the time, and they are important. If I tell you I am late for your party because I ran into unexpected traffic on the freeway, you would likely take me at my word. If instead I claimed to be late because I was abducted by aliens and spent time traversing a wormhole to a distant galaxy, you would likely consider this excuse unlikely, and ask for additional evidence.

    But that doesn’t mean we have proven that aliens or wormholes are impossible and we are forced to believe every logical implication of that!!! It simply means in our uniform and repeated experience, those things are not found to delay party-goers.

    And thus, with the strength of a deductive argument, we must believe that the first case of Earth CSI requires a mind.

    This is entirely and radically wrong, for all the reasons I have explained and repeated ad nauseum, above.

    The only good answer to the question of the origin of Earthly CSI is “We do not know”.

    Aside from that, all explanations are unwarranted.

    The least terrible answer is ET-ancestor theory, which posits unexplained and unobserved aliens. Bad theory.

    Next we have ET-engineer theory, which posits unexplained and unobserved aliens, and also posits that these aliens are really good at bio-engineering. Very bad theory.

    Next we have Non-living-thing engineer theory, which posits unexplained and unobserved entities, and also posits that these entities are really good at bio-engineering, and also posits that they can do all this without having CSI-rich mechanisms with which to store and process information and actually construct CSI-rich structures. Terrible theory.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  245. 245
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Before dealing with any other subject—and because I think that due to our differing approaches to these subjects we are confusing certain issues between ourselves—let me address my thought process concerning the deductive argument. And to do that, I beg your patience and ask you to read this longish quote from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy concerning “Evidence” (with key parts emphasized in bold…and note that I have provided the whole quote so that no one can accuse me of quote-mining):

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/evidence/#SH1a

    START QUOTE

    b. Can Experiences Be Evidence? The Regress Argument

    It seems almost a truism that whether a person’s belief is reasonable or unreasonable—justified or not—depends upon the evidence he possesses. For instance, if I believe that my wife is having an affair, but I have no evidence at all to think so, then such a belief seems patently unreasonable. Given my lack of evidence, I am not justified in holding the belief, and rationality would demand that I relinquish it. If, on the contrary, I have overwhelming evidence in support of my wife’s infidelity, but persist in believing that she is being faithful, then such a belief would be equally unreasonable. In this situation, the only belief I would be justified in having, in the light of my evidence, is that my wife is indeed having an affair. Arguably, then, there is another important role that evidence plays: evidence is that which justifies a person’s belief. We shall examine the matter in more detail below (§1c).

    This being granted, suppose we were to accept, in addition, that evidence consists only in propositions, as was urged in §1a. If so, the natural conclusion would be that what justifies a subject’s belief are other propositions he believes (his evidence). More formally, we would say that, for any proposition p that a subject S believes at a time t, if S is justified in believing p at t, there must be at least one other proposition q that S believes at t, which counts as S’s evidence for p. But if this is so, it seems we should also require that S’s belief in q itself be justified; for if S is groundlessly assuming q, how could it justify his belief in p? Yet if S’s belief that q must be justified, then by the same reasoning S must possess evidence for q, consisting in yet another proposition r that S is justified in believing. And, of course, there shall have to be another proposition serving as S’s evidence for r. The question is: where, if at all, does this chain of justifications terminate? We refer to this as the epistemic regress problem. As we shall soon see, the regress problem may support the conclusion that experiences can count as evidence as well (see especially Audi 2003).

    Now, granted that we cannot possibly entertain an infinite number of justifying propositions, one possible way out of the regress would be simply to reject an assumption used to generate it, namely, that only propositions a person believes can count as his evidence. If we reject this assumption, perhaps we can hold, on the one hand, that the regress does terminate in what S is justified in believing, but on the other, the evidence for these beliefs does not consist in other propositions he believes. And aren’t we perfectly familiar with such cases? Consider beliefs we have about our own perceptual experiences. I believe that I have a pain in my lower back. What justifies this belief is surely not some other belief I have, but simply my experience of pain in my lower back. Here, the belief is grounded directly in the perceptual experience itself, and not in any other proposition I believe. Or consider my belief that there is something yellow in my visual field. Again, what justifies this belief is not any other proposition I believe, but simply my experience of something yellow in my visual field. Moreover, the point arguably need not be limited to beliefs about our perceptual experiences (Audi, 2003; see also Pryor 2000). For example, suppose I hear thunder and a patter at my window, and come to believe that it is raining outside. That it is raining outside is not a belief about my perceptual experiences, yet seems to be grounded in them.

    The idea, then, would be that the regress of justifications terminates in a body of beliefs grounded directly in the evidence of the senses, and not by any other beliefs that would themselves need to be justified. This maneuver would terminate the regress, precisely because—unlike a belief—it makes no sense to demand evidence for an experience. Indeed, how can I give evidence for a pain in my lower back? At the same time, experiences do seem to justify certain beliefs, ostensibly making this an ideal solution to the regress problem. It is worth noting that, since this view postulates a body of beliefs that ultimately support all other beliefs without resting on any beliefs themselves, it is an instance of a more general position on the structure of justification known as foundationalism.

    While this line of thought may give some reason for accepting that experiences count as evidence, it still does not tell us anything about the particular relationship between experience and belief by virtue of which the former can constitute evidence for the latter. Indeed, if Williamson’s arguments from §1a are correct, we know that experience can neither stand in an explanatory, nor probabilistic or deductive relationship with a proposition believed. By virtue of what sort of relationship, then, can a subject’s experience count as evidence for what he believes? Donald Davidson (1990) has argued that experience can only stand in a causal relationship to belief. For example, my hearing thunder and a patter at the window merely causes me to believe that it is raining outside. For Davidson and others, this is the wrong sort of relationship to account for justification; what we need for the latter is not the sort of relationship in which billiard balls can stand, but the sort of relationship that propositions can stand—again, like an explanatory, probabilistic or deductive relationship. Accordingly, like Williamson, Davidson claims that only propositions a person believes can count as evidence for his other beliefs, and opts for a coherence theory of the structure of justification (and knowledge), rather than a foundationist theory.

    Engaging further with Davidson’s claim would take us too far afield. For our purposes, it suffices to say that many philosophers still do think that experience can count as evidence. Indeed, some, such as John McDowell (1996), think that experiences have conceptual and even propositional content—we can see, hear, feel that such-and-such is the case—and thus that experiences can stand in rational relationships to beliefs, and not just causal ones. Part of the urgency for McDowell is that, in his view, the very survival of empiricism demands that experiences count as evidence; indeed, Davidson, who denies this, is perfectly happy to retire empiricism.

    However, even those who deny that experiences count as evidence need not think that a person’s experiences are irrelevant to the evidence he possesses. For instance, Williamson entertains the possibility that there are some propositions that would not count as a person’s evidence unless he was undergoing some kind of experience. According to Williamson, in such a case, experience may be said to provide evidence, without constituting it. Whether this will be seen as sufficient to save empiricism depends, of course, on how one understands that doctrine.

    END QUOTE

    So, it is my view that empiricism requires that experiences count as evidence, and this fact makes all the difference in the world to my deductive argument and to our whole discussion.

    Why?

    Because you admit that:

    (1) In our experience, CSI always results from intelligent action.
    (2) In our experience, intelligent action always results from CSI-rich bodies.

    But if empiricism demands that experience counts as evidence, then empiricism gives us good evidentiary reasons to accept these claims: namely that all our experience supports them and we have absolutely no other evidence to counter them.

    But then if this is the case, then, while still holding to empiricism, these claims can be used in a deductive argument as premises, and the premises are evidenced by our very experience of these claims.

    Thus, if the deductive argument leading to the endless chain of alternate causation is sound and valid, and if the premises are true (or highly probability, which is the case if experience counts as evidence), then the conclusion follows and has evidentiary support.

    Now, given the weaknesses inherent in empiricism, I don’t necessarily believe that the endless chain of alternate causation is true in reality, but if, on empiricism, it follows from a deductive argument as the belief that holds the greatest degree of evidentiary support (given the experiential evidence for the two premises), then we must accept it as that (namely, the belief that has been deductively the most evidentiary support going for it).

    Now, we might argue as to whether the premises hold enough evidentiary support to render the conclusion a justified belief that should be accepted, but we cannot argue that it is the explanation that has the most evidentiary support (remembering that on empiricism, our experience counts as evidence).

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  246. 246
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Now, concerning your ET-Ancestor Theory, I think that the confusion between us is arising due to a lack of common understanding concerning what constitutes “Earthly CSI” – that is, CSI in terrestrial biological systems.

    Namely, under my understanding, the minute that an ET full of CSI landed on Earth, that ET would, by definition, be the first case of “Earthly” CSI – that is, by virtue of landing and living on Earth, it would automatically be the first terrestrial biological system filled with CSI.

    Now if you disagree with this, then you run into a problem. Namely, what then makes a biological system “terrestrial” if not its locational existence on Earth? After all, if an ET landed on Earth, but was not considered a terrestrial case of CSI, then why should it’s off-spring be considered terrestrial rather than just ET’s.

    But anyway, this whole issue can be avoided if we simply re-phrase the issue more precisely. Namely, what is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth (and I kind of tried to do this in Comment 242).

    Now, remembering that empiricism seems to demand that our experiences count as evidence, let me once again provide the deductive argument for why, even if your ET-Ancestor Theory were true, it still would not negate ID.

    Remember these:

    (1) In our experience, CSI always results from intelligent action – meaning CSI requires mind (and thus, under empiricism, our experience provides evidence of this premise).

    (2) In our experience, intelligent action always results from CSI-rich bodies – meaning mind requires CSI (and thus, under empiricism, our experience provides evidence of this premise).

    QUESTION: What is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth?

    DEDUCTIVE ANSWER:

    Premise 1: In our experience, CSI always results from intelligent action – meaning CSI requires mind (and thus our experience provides evidence of this premise).

    Premise 2: There is a first case of CSI that existed on the Earth (and note that it is irrelevant whether this first case is an ET or not, the only thing that is relevant is whether it had CSI, was on the Earth, and was the first thing with CSI on the Earth).

    Conclusion: Therefore, given Premise 1, the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth must be a mind (for CSI requires mind) – meaning that ID is the cause of the first CSI that existed on the Earth.

    And thus, as stated, if our experience counts as evidence, then we have good evidence for Premise One. Furthermore, the logic of the argument is sound and valid, and thus the conclusion follows.

    So now do you understand why I take deductive arguments to be important to this discussion?

    More to follow on your abductive arguments shortly.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  247. 247
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I guess a key question for you then is this: as an empiricist, do you count our experiences as actual evidence?

    And if you not, then how do you overcome the problems that such a view seems to cause for empiricism?

    RD Miksa

  248. 248
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I’m afraid you are confused about this. What you call my “premises” are statements that I have made about our experience. What you fail to understand is that our experience can only determine the prior probabilities regarding hypotheses; we must evaluate hypotheses against the evidence (if we are being empirical) and determine the likelihood of their truth. Sometimes we judge things to have low prior probability but it turns that when we actually accumulate evidence they are true. And sometimes the reverse happens – things we believe are likely true turn out to be false. And what I believe is the case here is that none of our hypotheses have high prior probability or sufficient specific evidential support.

    And indeed, it seems, from your repetition of the above, that you do count experience as evidence. For how else, as an empiricist, could you rationally assign a low a priori probability to a hypothesis that went against our uniform and repeated experience if that experience did not count as evidence against the hypothesis? Indeed, if it is our experience that allows us to assign a priori low probabilities to certain hypotheses, it seems that this can only be done if our experience actually counts as some evidence against the hypothesis in question, which thereby lets us assign a low a priori probability to a hypothesis. And then, this initial experiential evidence that can only be countered with more evidence that we might gather from other sources.

    But if we have no other evidence, then the evidence from our experience is the best and only evidence that we have.

    So it seems to me that you do implicitly accept the idea that experience counts as actual evidence, and if you do, then you should now begin to understand why my deductive arguments are important, and why they lead to ID.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  249. 249
    RD Miksa says:

    And again, if our experiences do count as evidence, then this changes a great deal about the abductive argument as well.

    So, the question is: do our experiences count as evidence.

    Once this is clearly established, then we can proceed.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  250. 250
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    So, the question is: do our experiences count as evidence.

    Once this is clearly established, then we can proceed.

    I will respond to your posts a bit later today. To get things a bit more clear in the meanwhile, consider this from ID superstar Stephen Meyer:

    The central argument of my book is that intelligent design—the activity of a conscious and rational deliberative agent—best explains the origin of the information necessary to produce the first living cell. I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power.
    http://www.signatureinthecell......l-falk.php

    I could cite many dozens of quotes from Meyer and other ID proponents who insist that the conclusion that an Intelligent Designer created the CSI for first life is based on things we know from our uniform and repeated experience. The essence of my argument here is that while Meyer et al pretend that their conclusions are based on our shared experience, they choose to ignore the equally obvious and valid evidence that contradicts their position: In our uniform and repeated experience, there is no such thing as an intelligent agent who is not itself composed of living cells rich in functionally specified information.

    If Meyer et al were in good faith in basing their conclusions on our experience, they would thus conclude that the CSI for first life came from some other living thing, which means that ET-ancestor theory would be the best explanation for Earthly biological CSI, for all the reasons I’ve described.

    ID can’t have its cake and eat it too. If they are going to claim that ID is an empirically supported theory, then experience must count as evidence. But contra Meyer et al, our experience does not suggest that anything that is not itself a complex physical system can process information, reason, plan, solve problems, or do anything else we usually think of as “intelligent”. Meyer then even goes far beyond the evidence to decide that not only is the origin of CSI “intelligent”, but also “conscious and rational”. Bluntly put, these are not conclusions that follow from the evidence, they are conclusions that follow from Meyer’s religious beliefs.

    As I’ve said many times, it is important that people believe in whatever they feel is true regarding origins, and I would never say that theism (of whatever flavor) is irrational. It is certain, though, that the conclusions of ID do not follow from our uniform and repeated experience, and it is important to make that clear. There are lots of scientific results that are confirmed by our experience, and that knowledge deserves a privileged status that ought not be diluted by philosophical and religious beliefs about which we all disagree, and which cannot be resolved by appeal to our shared experience.

    More to follow…

    RDFish

  251. 251
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miska,

    Regarding your argument vis-a-vis deducing conclusions from premises drawn from our experience, I’m not sure I can be more clear than I have already been, but let me try once more.

    Scientific reasoning proceeds from our experience, but the results are always provisional, and we must always accept that what we have induced from our experience might not hold in all contexts. Newtonian physics was incredibly successful, and indeed based on confirmed experience, but it was found that in contexts that Newton had not considered (strong gravitational fields, high relative velocities, and so on) his equations did not actually describe what we find in our experience, and even his underlying ontology (fixed time and space, matter distinct from energy, etc) had to be abandoned in order to rectify our understanding with our experimental results.

    The conservation laws (of mass/energy, momentum, etc) are cornerstones of our understanding of physics, and have never been observed to be violated. However, they would seem to imply that the universe could not have had a beginning. Other aspects of our experience have strongly suggested that the universe did indeed have a beginning, and so physicists attempt to see how these conflicting lines of evidence can be reconciled. So far, we don’t understand it.

    The same is true in our theories of origins. On one hand, it appears that complex form and function does not arise unless something intelligent creates it, but on the other hand it appears that nothing can be intelligent except systems that are complex and functional. Again, so far, we do not understand how it all began.

    The fact that ID does not take our knowledge about intelligent systems into account but blithely makes all sorts of conclusions about the Designer – that it was rational and conscious for example – is a blatant violation of scientific reasoning.

    More to follow,
    RDFish

  252. 252
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    I hope to have convinced you that

    1) ID does not simply follow from our experience, because there are aspects of our experience that indicate intelligent beings could not have existed prior to the same sort of complex functional information that ID purports to explain.

    2) Nobody has a good theory that reconciles all of these various aspects of our experience, and so the answer to the question of the origin of CSI in living systems remains unanswered.

    3) If one insisted on picking the “best” explanation to date, the idea that life on Earth has descended from living things elsewhere is clearly the most consistent with what we already know. The existence of extra-terrestrial life violates nothing in our experience, we do know that living things reproduce and adapt.

    Perhaps you are aware that Francis Crick at one time took the idea of panspermia quite seriously, where living organisms elsewhere in the galaxy may have transported their genetic material to other planets, including Earth. He later changed his view and decided that abiogenesis wasn’t too unlikely after all.

    But if you (like me) doubt that the CSI we observe could form by known physical/chemical processes, the idea that our CSI came from elsewhere does not contradict anything we know, and is of course an extremely simple theory.

    The main problem with this explanation is obvious: We can’t say how those ET organisms came to exist! But of course ID has that very same problem, and has other problems as well, as I’ve shown in my comparisons of ET-ancestor, ET-engineer, and Non-living (or un-embodied) Engineer theories.

    Intellectual honesty requires us, then, to admit we have no well-supported theory of origins, and the best guess we have based on our experience is that we are simply the descendants of prior life forms.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  253. 253
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Having thought about it, I realized that the original abductive argument that I provided was less than adequate. So here is a better version of the argument that takes into account your objections and which demonstrates why ID is the best explanation for the existence of the first CSI on Earth.

    Mode of Operation: Empiricism: when we validate our beliefs, we can consult only what we and others perceive experientially. So, the validation / justification for our beliefs comes from what we experience. Additionally, experience counts as evidence.

    Now, consider this:

    Thing to be Explained:: What is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth?

    Note that your ET-Ancestor Theory is irrelevant to this issue. Why? Because what we are seeking to explain is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth. That first case of CSI on Earth may have been the ET CSI, so that is what why are trying to explain.

    Nor does your appeal to life causing life address this objection. Why? Because the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth may not have been life! Imagine that ET sends to Earth a highly complex nano-machine that is able to construct livings cells with CSI. Well then, the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth would be the nano-machine, not a living thing! And so, the thing needing to be explained would be the nano-machine, not life. This is why it is crucial to distinguish between CSI itself and life itself. Life may contain CSI, but other non-livings things may contain CSI as well, so that is why we must focus on the CSI itself and not the combination of life and CSI.

    So, the thing to be explained is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth.

    Now, the explanations proposed to account for this observation.

    EXPLANATION ONE: We don’t know what is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth.

    EXPLANATION TWO: CSI is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth (CSI caused itself).

    EXPLANATION THREE: CSI just popped into existence uncaused and out of nothing, and thus nothingness the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth.

    EXPLANATION FOUR CSI came about naturally (abiogenesis), and thus the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on Earth was abiogenesis.

    EXPLANATION FIVE: Mind is cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth.

    Now, given our empiricism, let us consider the evidence from our experience:

    EXPERIENCE 1: CSI requires mind (no CSI without mind). Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    EXPEREINCE 2: Mind requires CSI (no mind without CSI). Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    EXPERIENCE 3: Something does not come from nothing (things do not pop into existence uncaused). Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    EXPERIENCE 4: Nothing can cause itself. Confirmed by ALL our repeated and uniform experience; thus, extremely probable.

    EXPEREINCE 5: We have absolutely no experience or evidence of abiogenesis occurring; thus, extremely probable that abiogenesis did not occur.

    Now, compare the five explanations to our experience:

    EXPLANATION ONE – “We Don’t Know”: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 1. All our repeated and uniform experience tells us that CSI is caused by mind (CSI requires mind), and thus we cannot claim that we do not know the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth.

    EXPLANATION TWO – “CSI caused itself”: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 1 and 4. All our repeated and uniform experience tells us the CSI is caused by mind and that nothing can cause itself.

    EXPLANATION THREE – “CSI popped into existence uncaused and out of nothing”: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 1 and 3. All our repeated and uniform experience tells us the CSI is caused by mind and that something does not come from nothing.

    EXPLANATION FOUR – “Abiogenesis”: Highly unlikely as it is inconsistent with Experience 1 and 5. All our repeated and uniform experience tells us the CSI is caused by mind and we have no experience or evidence of abiogenesis occurring.

    EXPLANATION FIVE – “Mind caused CSI”: HIGHLY LIKELY as it is fully consistent with all our experiences and we have no current defeaters for it.

    Therefore, since HYPOTHESIS FIVE—that Mind is cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth—is the most likely explanation of the four explanations, then it is the relatively best explanation of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth.

    And so, the best explanation for the existence of the first case of CSI on Earth is that it was caused by a mind. And thus, ID is the best explanation for the existence of the first case CSI on Earth specifically (even though it has not been shown to be the best explanation for the existence of CSI in general)

    Now, is it finally clear why I keep saying that given the ideas you accept (CSI requires mind), then you have both good deductive and abductive reasons to hold that the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on Earth is ID?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  254. 254
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I could cite many dozens of quotes from Meyer and other ID proponents who insist that the conclusion that an Intelligent Designer created the CSI for first life is based on things we know from our uniform and repeated experience. The essence of my argument here is that while Meyer et al pretend that their conclusions are based on our shared experience, they choose to ignore the equally obvious and valid evidence that contradicts their position: In our uniform and repeated experience, there is no such thing as an intelligent agent who is not itself composed of living cells rich in functionally specified information.

    I completely understand your objection, and I actually think that it is a powerful one that has made me think about the issue quite deeply. However, here is the key: in the end, your objection only applies to accounting for the existence of CSI in ultimate terms (and even here I think it can be overcome, as I will try to argue shortly), but it does not apply to accounting for the first case of CSI on Earth specifically!

    Why?

    Because ID proponents are adamant that they are unable to determine the ultimate designer based on the CSI on Earth. Rather, the most they wish to do is posit a designer for the case of CSI that we find on Earth in our universe, and nothing in your objection prevents that from happening. Your objection may cause some hard conclusions from an ultimate perspective, but it does not negate our ability to make an inference to ID.

    And just to counter your quote of Meyer, let me provide this one from him from Signature in the Cell (Hardcover):

    Page 428-429:

    “The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information in life acted from the natural or the “supernatural” realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information. The theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine the identity or any other attributes of that intelligence, even if philosophical deliberation or additional evidence from other disciplines may provide reasons to consider, for example, a specifically theistic design hypothesis.”

    So it seems that Meyer’s agrees with you!

    And what is very interesting, is that in re-reading my copy of Signature in the Cell, I realized that Meyer had posited your objection and he had answered it as well! On pages 392 to 395 of Signature in the Cell, Meyer addresses your exact objection!

    So it seems that you may not be representing Meyer that fairly!

    Did you want me to type out that section for you so that you can see how Meyer addresses your objection?

    More to follow.

    RD Miksa

  255. 255
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    If Meyer et al were in good faith in basing their conclusions on our experience, they would thus conclude that the CSI for first life came from some other living thing, which means that ET-ancestor theory would be the best explanation for Earthly biological CSI, for all the reasons I’ve described.

    Again, Meyer addresses your objection and comes to a different conclusion. Nothing “bad faith” about that, just a different assessment of the evidence. And furthermore, see my Comment 253 in order to see why I also disagree with your ET Theory and why it does nothing to explain CSI.

    ID can’t have its cake and eat it too. If they are going to claim that ID is an empirically supported theory, then experience must count as evidence. But contra Meyer et al, our experience does not suggest that anything that is not itself a complex physical system can process information, reason, plan, solve problems, or do anything else we usually think of as “intelligent”.

    And? ID has never claimed that their design inference, absent other evidences/information, could lead beyond “a complex physical system that can process information, reason, plan, solve problems, or do anything else we usually think of as “intelligent.””

    That is we they keep saying that the design inference might be taken further than the above conclusion, but doing so would require additional philosophical argumentation above and beyond the simple design inference and our uniform and repeated experience.

    Meyer then even goes far beyond the evidence to decide that not only is the origin of CSI “intelligent”, but also “conscious and rational”. Bluntly put, these are not conclusions that follow from the evidence, they are conclusions that follow from Meyer’s religious beliefs.

    Now you are just appear to be disingenuous, thereby forcing me to be blunt: honestly, this statement makes me wonder how much of Meyer’s work you have read!

    First, remember in the quote that you gave above, Meyer is arguing from the information in DNA, and he argues that that information is a code / language. Meyer than argues that all our uniform and repeated experience shows that language only comes from an intelligent cause. And he then also argues that all our uniform and repeated experience shows that a language only comes, ultimately, from a conscious and rational agent. All the inferences Meyer makes come from our uniform and repeated experience! They do not go beyond that. They are argued for from our uniform and repeated experience. In fact, Meyer is reaching a conclusion very similar to the one that you admitted to reaching when confronted with the “writing in the stars.” So to claim that he is going beyond the evidence to support his religious views is just plain wrong!

    Furthermore, as an aside, even if ID reached the conclusion that “an un-embodied conscious intelligent designer” exists, this would not be a religious conclusion. After all, all religions could be false, and yet this entity could still exist. Furthermore, an atheist could believe in such a being, for it is not necessarily God. And even if it was God, it could just be the “God of the philosophers” and would not be a religious conclusion at all.

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  256. 256
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Having thought about it, I realized that the original abductive argument that I provided was less than adequate. So here is a better version of the argument that takes into account your objections and which demonstrates why ID is the best explanation for the existence of the first CSI on Earth.

    You keep going through new epicycles in your attempt to find that pre-existing mind, rather than pre-existing CSI, is the cause of what we seek to explain. But if you step back you will see that the relationship between the two is, as far as we can tell, utterly mutual. Neither can exist without the other, and we have no experience of either of them appearing unless the other is already present. You can go through all sorts of contortions trying to make it come out the way you want it to, but somebody else will always just flip it around and make the same argument in reverse.

    Note that your ET-Ancestor Theory is irrelevant to this issue. Why? Because what we are seeking to explain is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth. That first case of CSI on Earth may have been the ET CSI, so that is what why are trying to explain.

    ET-Ancestor theory explains the cause of the first appearance of CSI on Earth by saying it arrived in some sort of physical transport from somewhere (probably an Earth-like planet); it was caused to arrive here by extra-terrestrial life forms. If you’d like to ask how the CSI got to be inside those extra-terrestrial life forms, then you are seeking the ultimate explanation for the origin of the CSI, which ET-ancestor theory does not address.

    ID theory doesn’t address that either; in fact, no theory can, for the very simple reason that we have no idea how CSI is created from no-CSI. Folks like Dembski like to say that “intelligent agents” create CSI, but that’s just a bald metaphysical assertion of libertarianism (he’s admitted as much); since all humans are rich in CSI, nobody can say that the CSI we output is not present in us from the start, and only transformed by our brains. And around and around we go 🙂

    Nor does your appeal to life causing life address this objection. Why? Because the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth may not have been life! Imagine that ET sends to Earth a highly complex nano-machine that is able to construct livings cells with CSI. Well then, the first case of CSI that existed on the Earth would be the nano-machine, not a living thing! And so, the thing needing to be explained would be the nano-machine, not life.

    ET-ancestor theory simply claims that the CSI came in the form of genetic material from other living beings, and does not address the mechanics of how this CSI turned into something living.

    Obviously ID theory is even worse in this regard, however, because it fails to describe anything whatsoever about how the CSI was created, how it was encoded or stored into physical form, how it was incorporated into the first living cell, etc.

    Again, all of these “theories” are terrible explanations – they all fail to explain what we want them to explain, or require assumptions that have no empirical support.

    ID proponents are adamant that they are unable to determine the ultimate designer based on the CSI on Earth.

    Right, just like ET-ancestor theory.

    Rather, the most they wish to do is posit a designer for the case of CSI that we find on Earth in our universe, and nothing in your objection prevents that from happening. Your objection may cause some hard conclusions from an ultimate perspective, but it does not negate our ability to make an inference to ID.

    I’m not trying to “negate your ability” to make that inference; I’m pointing out that the conclusion isn’t supported by any evidence.

    MEYER: Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience.

    What Meyer doesn’t realize here (because he apparently lacks even a passing familiarity with philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences) is that if his theory cannot say anything about the Designer beyond what our observations confirm, then his theory is perfectly vacuous! It is an empty tautology to say that cause of the CSI we observe was something that was capable of causing the CSI that we observe. But of course Meyer doesn’t really mean what he says here, because he goes on and says all sorts of things that go beyond what is “on display in our experience” (viz. that the Designer is conscious and rational).

    So it seems that Meyer’s agrees with you!

    As far as I can tell, he really doesn’t.

    And what is very interesting, is that in re-reading my copy of Signature in the Cell, I realized that Meyer had posited your objection and he had answered it as well! On pages 392 to 395 of Signature in the Cell, Meyer addresses your exact objection! So it seems that you may not be representing Meyer that fairly!

    That could well be the case, as I’ve never read his book. I’d be quite interested to see if I’ve misunderstood him, yes.

    Did you want me to type out that section for you so that you can see how Meyer addresses your objection?

    Yes by all means!

    Now you are just appear to be disingenuous, thereby forcing me to be blunt: honestly, this statement makes me wonder how much of Meyer’s work you have read!

    I freely admit that I stopped reading the original ID literature after reading books from Behe, Dembski, and Johnson. What I know of what Meyer says comes from quotes on the internet, I’m afraid. If I’ve gotten him wrong, I apologize.

    First, remember in the quote that you gave above, Meyer is arguing from the information in DNA, and he argues that that information is a code / language. Meyer than argues that all our uniform and repeated experience shows that language only comes from an intelligent cause.

    Note that he fails to say what the term “intelligent cause” is supposed to mean in this context, which is a classic ID equivocation. On one hand he means “able to produce language”, which is again a vacuous tautology. On the other hand he means “conscious and rational being”, which is true of human beings, but suggesting it is true for the cause of DNA goes far beyond the evidence at hand.

    And he then also argues that all our uniform and repeated experience shows that a language only comes, ultimately, from a conscious and rational agent.

    Ah yes, there it is. Perhaps he has constructed some empirical argument based on linguistics and neuroscience that explains how we can know that all possible language-producing systems must be conscious and rational, but I’m not aware of any such theory. My computer generates natural language, and I don’t believe it is conscious, for example. (Oh, and be careful about that “Who designed the designer?” fallacy when responding to that!)

    All the inferences Meyer makes come from our uniform and repeated experience! They do not go beyond that.

    Yes, they do when he says anything about the Designer beyond the empty statement that It can produce whatever it is we observe and wish to explain.

    In fact, Meyer is reaching a conclusion very similar to the one that you admitted to reaching when confronted with the “writing in the stars.”

    You are misremembering that I’m afraid (it was, after all, a long time ago we talked about that :-)). I only concluded a human-like being when It called me by name, because I considered that it was addressing a novel problem (communicating with me) in much the way a human would. Observing the existence of DNA is not even remotely the same.

    So to claim that he is going beyond the evidence to support his religious views is just plain wrong!

    Not that there is anything wrong with religious views per se – there certainly isn’t! – but yes, it really is what he’s doing.

    Furthermore, as an aside, even if ID reached the conclusion that “an un-embodied conscious intelligent designer” exists, this would not be a religious conclusion. After all, all religions could be false, and yet this entity could still exist. Furthermore, an atheist could believe in such a being, for it is not necessarily God. And even if it was God, it could just be the “God of the philosophers” and would not be a religious conclusion at all.

    I agree with all this; I was being very loose with my use of the word “religious” You’re right.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  257. 257
    StephenB says:

    RDFish:

    The essence of my argument here is that while Meyer et al pretend that their conclusions are based on our shared experience, they choose to ignore the equally obvious and valid evidence that contradicts their position: In our uniform and repeated experience, there is no such thing as an intelligent agent who is not itself composed of living cells rich in functionally specified information.

    There is no empirically-based reason to believe that CSI, as such, can play any role in producing CSI, and all our experience shows that it cannot. The CSI that you produced in your written paragraph, for example, is an effect of intelligent agency and cannot design anything—it can only point to a designer, which, in this case, happens to be you. Indeed, there is no reason to think that the CSI in your body can cooperate in the production of design any more than the CSI in your written paragraph can play a similar role. Thus, contrary to your trumped-up claims, no OOL conclusion has been based on the observation of CSI present in humans, either explicitly or implicitly. It is a strawman argument.

    Since intelligence is the only known cause of CSI, and since CSI is not a cause of CSI, it follows as an empirically based conclusion that any intellect agent at all, embodied or disembodied, could be responsible for the design of life. This is precisely what ID argues. That intelligent agents also happen to possess CSI is irrelevant. To qualify as ‘best’ a historical explanation a cause must be uniquely adequate, one that has “alone” demonstrated the capacity to produce the effect in question. CSI as a feature of the human body does not qualify as a known cause of CSI.

  258. 258
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    There is no empirically-based reason to believe that CSI, as such, can play any role in producing CSI, and all our experience shows that it cannot.

    That is very much the same as saying that our experience shows that minds cannot create complex mechanisms, but rather only bodies can, for that is what we observe to happen.

    It is certainly possible you haven’t read this entire long thread, but if you had you’d know that the reason I am referring to “CSI” when I would normally refer to “complex physical mechanism” is because of a metaphysical argument that RDM was pressing for awhile. He has actually dropped that argument, though, so you may assume that when I say that “CSI” is responsible for producing something, what I mean is a “complex, physical system rich in CSI”.

    The CSI that you produced in your written paragraph, for example, is an effect of intelligent agency and cannot design anything—it can only point to a designer, which, in this case, happens to be you.

    And another way of looking at this is that the mind that allows me to design these sentences cannot put the words into this computer; only I can.

    Thus, contrary to your trumped-up claims,…

    You know, RD Miksa and I have been having a delightful time arguing these issues, and in 256 posts neither of us has ever had an unkind word for the other. We have treated each other with respect and both argued in good faith. And then here you come and insist that I am not merely wrong, but that I have “trumped-up” my claims. It really is unpleasant. If you’d like to join in the discussion I’d be happy to hear your arguments, but I will ask you be polite and earnest the way we are. If you can’t do that, I will not be responding to your posts.

    Since intelligence is the only known cause of CSI,…

    “Intelligence” does not, in our experience, produce anything, any more than “CSI” produces things. To produce a complex machine, physical material must be crafted into specific forms that will carry out the intended functions, and “intelligence” is not the sort of thing that can shape material objects any more than “information” can. Complex physical machines are only produced by other complex physical machines. Please note that I am not saying human beings are nothing but physical machines. However, I believe we agree that our bodies are complex physical machines, and our bodies are what we observe in our experience to produce other complex physical machines. Likewise we have created other things (like robots) that can in turn produce complex physical machines… but not without complex physical machinery!

    …and since CSI is not a cause of CSI, it follows as an empirically based conclusion that any intellect agent at all, embodied or disembodied, could be responsible for the design of life.

    Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that intelligent beings are never disembodied, and everything we know about intelligent systems (i.e. systems that can plan, learn, reason, and solve novel problems) indicates that complex physical state systems are necessary to store and process information.

    That intelligent agents also happen to possess CSI is irrelevant.

    No, this is central.

    To qualify as ‘best’ a historical explanation a cause must be uniquely adequate, one that has “alone” demonstrated the capacity to produce the effect in question. CSI as a feature of the human body does not qualify as a known cause of CSI.

    CSI as a feature of human bodies (and in particular, brains) is utterly essential for acquiring and interpreting sense data, storing and retrieving memories, and processing information. Neuroscience does not understand how humans manage to think, but we know a tremendous amount about the role of complex neural structures that are observed to be necessary to our design abilities.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  259. 259
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    I will answer the rest of your points shortly, and I know that you have put a lot of stock in your ET-Ancestor Theory, but I need you to understand that it really and truly is irrelevant to the discussion.

    Why?

    Because as I keep repeating, what we are trying to explain is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on Earth. And the minute your ET-Ancestor full of CSI lands on Earth, it is, by definition, the first case of CSI that existed on Earth, and thus he is in need of an explanation. And since all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that CSI requires mind (as you yourself admit), then the ultimate cause of the first case of CSI on Earth MUST be a mind (even though we remain agnostic about the cause of the first case of CSI in general).

    Do you understand this?

    If not, what is unclear about it?

    And if anyone else is reading this, am I being unclear here? Does my point make sense?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  260. 260
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    I will answer the rest of your points shortly, and I know that you have put a lot of stock in your ET-Ancestor Theory,…

    Actually no, as I’ve endlessly explained, I think ET-Ancestor theory is a perfectly terrible explanation of OOL. It’s just that it is better than ID is.

    Because as I keep repeating, what we are trying to explain is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on Earth.

    ET-Ancestor theory states that the first CSI that existed on Earth was caused by something that brought it from some other planet. That is the immediate cause, which you have said many times is what we are attempting to find. You are seeking an ultimate cause, which is outside the scope of ET-Ancestor theory.

    And the minute your ET-Ancestor full of CSI lands on Earth, it is, by definition, the first case of CSI that existed on Earth, and thus he is in need of an explanation.

    I was thinking (like Crick) that it wasn’t the living being that landed on Earth, but rather some CSI-rich precursor of life. Just like ID though, all the details are left out of ET-ancestor theory.

    And since all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that CSI requires mind (as you yourself admit), then the ultimate cause of the first case of CSI on Earth MUST be a mind (even though we remain agnostic about the cause of the first case of CSI in general).

    Now you are talking about ultimate causes again? I thought you said “ID proponents are adamant that they are unable to determine the ultimate designer based on the CSI on Earth.” So why are you attempting to discern the ultimate cause?

    In ET-ancestor theory, the immediate cause of the CSI in Earthly life is that it came here from life forms elsewhere – say from another planet. If you wish to ask what was the cause of the CSI on that other planet, ET-ancestor theory is agnostic about that.

    In ID theory, the immediate cause of the CSI in Earthly life is that it came from an unidentified type of “intelligent designer” which was capable of producing new life forms. If you wish to ask what that “intelligent designer” was, or how it produced this CSI, or indeed what was the cause of the CSI that enabled that intelligent designer to design anything, ID theory is agnostic about that.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  261. 261
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    ET-Ancestor theory explains the cause of the first appearance of CSI on Earth by saying it arrived in some sort of physical transport from somewhere (probably an Earth-like planet); it was caused to arrive here by extra-terrestrial life forms.

    All these are Red Herrings. They are telling me how the CSI got here (physical transport), and what the CSI is in (life), but they are not telling me the cause of the CSI itself.

    If you’d like to ask how the CSI got to be inside those extra-terrestrial life forms, then you are seeking the ultimate explanation for the origin of the CSI, which ET-ancestor theory does not address.

    No, it is not asking for an ultimate explanation of CSI in general. Why? Because the moment the ET with CSI lands on Earth, it is, by definition, the first case of CSI that existed on Earth, and is thus in need of an explanation. And that is the very thing we are trying to explain: what is the cause of the first case of CSI that existed on Earth. And, as you admit, all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that CSI requires mind, and thus, the best (and only) cause of the first case of CSI on Earth, regardless of whether it is an ET or not, is a mind.

    This is not the ultimate explanation of the first case of CSI in general, but it is the ultimate explanation of the first case of CSI on Earth.

    And thus, I say again, given your own empiricism and your own accepted uniform and repeated experience, mind is the best explanation of the first case of CSI on Earth.

    Is this clear, or am I still being unclear at some point?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  262. 262
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    ET-Ancestor theory states that the first CSI that existed on Earth was caused by something…

    And that something, based on our uniform and repeated experience, would have to be a mind (remember, no CSI without mind). And thus, the cause of the first CSI on Earth was caused by a mind.

    So, here is your sentence again: ET-Ancestor theory states that the first CSI that existed on Earth was caused by something, which, based on our uniform and repeated experience, must have been a mind (no CSI without mind).

    …that brought it from some other planet.

    Red Herring. We are not asking for an explanation of “How the CSI got on Earth?” We are asking for an explanation of the Earthly CSI itself. Two different things! And as we saw above, that cause is a mind.

    That is the immediate cause, which you have said many times is what we are attempting to find.

    Perhaps it was my fault for the confusion, but look at the clear distinction here:

    1 – Ultimate cause for the first case of CSI on Earth? Mind!

    2 – Ultimate cause for the first case of CSI in general? Unknown (or the endless chain of alternate causation).

    Do you see the difference?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  263. 263
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDF:

    You wrote,

    “That is very much the same as saying that our experience shows that minds cannot create complex mechanisms, but rather only bodies can, for that is what we observe to happen.”

    No one has ever observed a body’s CSI designing complexity. We have observed a body executing it, but not conceiving it. The conception comes from somewhere else and may even come from another person in the form of instructions. Insofar as the design inference is concerned, CSI is an effect of a design, not a cause of design. CSI is also an attribute of a human body, but that observation remains irrelevant.

    “It is certainly possible you haven’t read this entire long thread, but if you had you’d know that the reason I am referring to “CSI” when I would normally refer to “complex physical mechanism” is because of a metaphysical argument that RDM was pressing for awhile. He has actually dropped that argument, though, so you may assume that when I say that “CSI” is responsible for producing something, what I mean is a “complex, physical system rich in CSI”.

    That isn’t what CSI means. A complex, physical system rich in CSI is not synonymous with CSI, which is a formal and, by definition, a non-physical pattern. Form does not equal matter. Cause not equal effect. A physical system does not equal its CSI. Words mean things. If you are going to accuse Meyer of refusing to argue in good faith simply because he couldn’t possibly have predicted your novel attempt to reinvent the meaning of words, then you should not be offended if I say that your charges are trumped up. They are.

    “And another way of looking at this is that the mind that allows me to design these sentences cannot put the words into this computer; only I can.”

    That’s right. The mind (the I) conceives the form and the body rearranges the matter according to the specifications. This is what ID concerns itself with. This is also what we have experienced. We have never observed a body conceiving the purposeful arrangement of matter. What we witness is the body following the mind’s instructions. We don’t have to observe minds to know that they exist.

    “You know, RD Miksa and I have been having a delightful time arguing these issues, and in 256 posts neither of us has ever had an unkind word for the other.”

    If you are going to accuse Meyer of refusing to argue in good faith simply because he couldn’t possibly have predicted your novel attempt to convert the non-material effect of CSI into a material cause –which is completely illegitimate and contrary to ID’s claims–then you should not be offended if I say that your charges are trumped up and coming from out of left field. They are. There is no reason to believe that Meyer is being duplicitous in omitting any discussion along those lines.

    “Intelligence” does not, in our experience, produce anything”

    I have already dealt with this.

    So, again, I make the point: CSI is not a cause of CSI; it is an effect of mind. It follows as an empirically based conclusion that any intellect agent at all, embodied or disembodied, could be responsible for the design of life.

    “Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that intelligent beings are never disembodied, and everything we know about intelligent systems (i.e. systems that can plan, learn, reason, and solve novel problems) indicates that complex physical state systems are necessary to store and process information.”

    You misunderstand completely. ID is not about playing the music; it is about writing the score.

    Peace.

  264. 264
    Brent says:

    RDFish,

    Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that intelligent beings are never disembodied, and everything we know about intelligent systems (i.e. systems that can plan, learn, reason, and solve novel problems) indicates that complex physical state systems are necessary to store and process information.

    While one by no means has to grant you that our uniform and repeated experiences do not confirm disembodied intelligent beings, it doesn’t matter even if it is technically true. For our non-uniform and (somewhat) non-repeated experiences do confirm a disembodied intelligence, God. And how many uniform and repeated, or non-uniform and non-repeated, experiences do we have to have to conclude that black swans, or even that one black swan, exists?

    It is nice, however, that you concede that information itself does exist independently of the “hardware” necessary to store it. This seems perilously close to checkmating yourself. Either the information itself comes, then, from another non-physical part of the being, or from outside of it. If you say it is a product of the physical system itself, then you contradict yourself in any way in which you hope to persuade anyone here, or anywhere, of anything.

  265. 265
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    They are telling me how the CSI got here (physical transport), and what the CSI is in (life), but they are not telling me the cause of the CSI itself…. Because the moment the ET with CSI lands on Earth, it is, by definition, the first case of CSI that existed on Earth, and is thus in need of an explanation.

    None of these theories explain how the CSI is created from no-CSI, but they all explain how CSI came to exist on Earth.
    1) ET-ancestor theory explains that the CSI in terrestrial organism originated in biological organisms from another planet.
    2) ET-engineer theory explains that the CSI in terrestrial organisms were produced by some sort of bio-engineering technology or process, by biological organisms on another planet.
    3) Non-living-engineer theory explains that the CSI in terrestrial organisms originated by some completely unknown method by some completely unknown sort of thing which is an intelligent but non-living (and perhaps non-physical) being.

    And, as you admit, all our uniform and repeated experience tells us that CSI requires mind,

    … and mind requires CSI.

    …and thus, the best (and only) cause of the first case of CSI on Earth, regardless of whether it is an ET or not, is a mind.

    In our experience, it is not a “mind” that produces complex structures, of course, but rather a complex physical organism that is able to form matter into complex structures.

    This is not the ultimate explanation of the first case of CSI in general, but it is the ultimate explanation of the first case of CSI on Earth.

    None of these theories address ultimate causes. In ID, the question of the origin of the Intelligent Designer lies outside the scope of the theory. In ET-ancestor theory, the question of the origin of our ancestors lies outside the scope of the theory.

    Is this clear, or am I still being unclear at some point?

    I think the part you are confused about might be that NONE of these explain how it all got started. ID admits that the Intelligent Designer might be an extra-terrestrial life form, right? In that case, you’ve already posited the existence of these CSI-rich embodied life forms that cooked up terrestrial life forms. Well, ET-ancestor theory simply says that once you’ve hypothesized that some CSI-rich life form exists someplace, we might as well assume that their own genetic material somehow came to Earth, which does indeed explain where all that complex specified information came from.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  266. 266
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    No one has ever observed a body’s CSI designing complexity. We have observed a body executing it, but not conceiving it.

    Right – we cannot observe people think, we can only observe their physical behavior.

    The conception comes from somewhere else and may even come from another person in the form of instructions.

    Well yes, most complex mechanisms are designed by teams of engineers rather than individuals. But if I sat here and thought up some complex machine by myself, then the design would of course come from me, and I would need my brain to be functioning in order to do that.

    Insofar as the design inference is concerned, CSI is an effect of a design, not a cause of design. CSI is also an attribute of a human body, but that observation remains irrelevant.

    The fact that CSI is a necessary attribute of human bodies is critically relevant, because everything we know that can output CSI-rich structures critically depends upon the complex form and function of their bodies in order to produce these structures. Nothing in our experience can produce CSI-rich structures without complex physical bodies.

    That isn’t what CSI means.

    You have missed some of the posts where we discuss this, and I explained how I was using the term here. I can understand how you could be confused by us co-opting a term using in ID and using it differently. When I refer to “CSI” here, what I meant was the complex functional mechanisms we observe in biological organisms, which is what ID (and the various other theories we’ve discussed) purport to explain. Instead of calling these mechanisms “CSI”, I will refer to them as “CSI-rich mechanisms” or “CSI-rich structures” or “CSI-rich bodies” in order to avoid further confusion.

    Words mean things. If you are going to accuse Meyer of refusing to argue in good faith simply because he couldn’t possibly have predicted your novel attempt to reinvent the meaning of words, then you should not be offended if I say that your charges are trumped up. They are.

    Take a lesson from RD Miksa, Phinehas, Box, Vividbleau, and other folks here who have all been perfectly polite despite the fact that we disagree about these issues. Anyway, as I explained, somewhere upthread is an exchange between RD Miksa and me regarding what this was to mean in our discussion, so no, I was not attempting to reinvent the meaning of words in general. Again, from now on, we’ll use “CSI-rich bodies” or mechanisms, etc.

    The mind (the I) conceives the form and the body rearranges the matter according to the specifications.

    You are saying that a mind is identical with the self, which I find to be odd; I would say that “I” am the whole package, mind and body both. You also seem to be saying that it is the mind, rather than the body, that rearranges matter into CSI-rich mechanisms. I find that simply false, and makes me think we might be using the word “mind” differently. To me, a “mind” is what we call our conscious experience and our cognitive abilities (learning, planning, interpreting sense data, and so on). A “mind”, then, is not a physical thing, but an abstract concept (abilities) plus our subjective conscious awareness. And so, a “mind” is not what actually rearranges matter into machines; that is accomplished by our CSI-rich bodies.

    We have never observed a body conceiving the purposeful arrangement of matter. What we witness is the body following the mind’s instructions. We don’t have to observe minds to know that they exist.

    I don’t think there is any question of whether minds exist or not, given the way I am using the term (unless somebody doubts that there is no such thing as consciousness or cognitive abilities!). But again, what we observe of course is the physical person building a machine.

    There is no reason to believe that Meyer is being duplicitous in omitting any discussion along those lines.

    Ah, I see – you take offense at how I was talking about Meyer. Yes, you’re right, I was unduly suggesting that Meyer is aware of his equivocations and so on, and I have no reason to believe that is the case. I hope Meyer is not reading this thread; if so, I apologize to you Dr. Meyer!

    So, again, I make the point: CSI is not a cause of CSI; it is an effect of mind.

    I would say this: We do not observe intelligent behavior in anything except complex organisms, and this is not just happenstance: CSI-rich mechanisms are observed to be necessary for processing information in support of intelligent action.

    It follows as an empirically based conclusion that any intellect agent at all, embodied or disembodied, could be responsible for the design of life.

    Well, you say “could be”, so I hesitate to contradict you. However, I’ve shown that the idea that alien life forms engineering terrestrial life forms is not a good theory, because we have no evidence that aliens exist, much less aliens who are that good at bio-engineering. And the idea that a disembodied being could produce CSI-rich mechanisms is very much at odds with our uniform and repeated experience. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but ID would have to provide good repeatable evidence that disembodied beings can exhibit intelligent behaviors, and I don’t think such evidence exists.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  267. 267
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,

    While one by no means has to grant you that our uniform and repeated experiences do not confirm disembodied intelligent beings, it doesn’t matter even if it is technically true. For our non-uniform and (somewhat) non-repeated experiences do confirm a disembodied intelligence, God. And how many uniform and repeated, or non-uniform and non-repeated, experiences do we have to have to conclude that black swans, or even that one black swan, exists?

    You bring up an obvious point, and we could certainly have a long (endless!) discussion regarding the unsolved problems of epistemology. However, this whole ungainly phrase “uniform and repeated experience” was chosen by Darwin, and then Stephen Meyer after him, in order to specify particular sorts of experiences and exclude others. In particular, individual observations that are not replicable or observations that some people can make but not others, are excluded. If somebody can describe how to observe black swans so that anyone can see them, then black swans are part of our uniform and repeated experience. Otherwise they are not, even though they may exist.

    Please, though, if you start challenging this by bringing up blind people or hallucinating people or these other sorts of things, I won’t argue this with you. In short, I’m simply pointing out that the very observations Meyer refers to that confirm that complex mechanisms only arise out of intelligent action confirm that intelligent action only arises our of complex mechanism.

    It is nice, however, that you concede that information itself does exist independently of the “hardware” necessary to store it.

    Well, again we could really be sucked down a philosophical rabbit hole debating the sense in which information “exists” apart from physical states.

    This seems perilously close to checkmating yourself. Either the information itself comes, then, from another non-physical part of the being, or from outside of it.

    Sorry but I don’t understand this.

    If you say it is a product of the physical system itself, then you contradict yourself in any way in which you hope to persuade anyone here, or anywhere, of anything.

    Sorry, I’ve read this a couple times but I don’t understand it. In case this helps, I am taking no position on metaphysics here, and I do not defend any particular ontological stance (I am not defending or assuming materialism, for example).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  268. 268
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    None of these theories explain how the CSI is created from no-CSI, but they all explain how CSI came to exist on Earth.
    1) ET-ancestor theory explains that the CSI in terrestrial organism originated in biological organisms from another planet.
    2) ET-engineer theory explains that the CSI in terrestrial organisms were produced by some sort of bio-engineering technology or process, by biological organisms on another planet.
    3) Non-living-engineer theory explains that the CSI in terrestrial organisms originated by some completely unknown method by some completely unknown sort of thing which is an intelligent but non-living (and perhaps non-physical) being.

    I now see where the confusion between us lies: I think that you think that when I say that a “mind” was responsible for the first case of CSI on Earth, you think I mean your Option 3. But I don’t! I am perfectly happy to concede—at this point and for the sake of argument—that the “mind” that I am speaking of is some ET-Mind. But an ET-Mind being the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth is still a form of ID, as you yourself admit!

    ID admits that the Intelligent Designer might be an extra-terrestrial life form, right?

    Now, the point I am trying to get across to you is that when we are discussing the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth, your Theory 1 necessarily collapses into your Theory 2. Given what you accept as our uniform and repeated experience, and given that the thing that we are trying to explain is the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth (not how it got here, etc.), then your two options (1 & 2) necessarily collapse into one.

    Let me explain with this example: CSI requires mind. So, on some ET planet, everything with CSI is caused by mind, say ET-Mind. Now, ET-CSI organism flies in from another planet and lands on Earth. At that very instant, that ET-CSI organism is that first case of CSI on Earth. And what is the cause of that ET-CSI? An ET-Mind! So what is the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth? A mind…meaning the ET-Mind.

    All your talk of how the biological organism from another planet got here is not relevant, because it does not explain the cause of the first CSI on Earth (which would be the ET-CSI organism), it only explains how the CSI got here, where it came from, etc. But the fact is, given your own accepted point that all our uniform and repeated experience is that mind is the cause of CSI (whether an ET-Mind or otherwise), then the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth must be a mind (whether ET-Mind or not).

    So again, when the thing needing explanation is the cause of the first cause of CSI on Earth (not how it got here, etc.) then, necessarily, your Theory 1 collapses into something like your Theory 2.

    Furthermore, note that your Theory 1 confuses “origin” and “cause”. The “origin” of the first case of CSI on Earth may be a biological organism from another planet, but “origin” is not the same as a “cause.” The “cause” of the CSI is still a mind (an ET Mind).

    And note that I am not positing an ultimate explanation of the first case of CSI in general (which would be the ultimate ultimate explanation of CSI), but rather, I am just positing an ultimate explanation of the first case of CSI on Earth only.

    Consider this clear difference between the two:

    1 – Ultimate cause for the first case of CSI on Earth only? Mind (An ET-Mind)!

    2 – Ultimate cause for the first case of CSI in general? Unknown (or the endless chain of alternate causation).

    Do you see the difference between the two? Mind is the cause of CSI when we restrict our question to the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth specifically (the immediate (Earth-restricted) cause of CSI), while we don’t unknown the cause of CSI when we open that question to consider the cause of CSI in general (the ultimate cause of all CSI).

    So, is this finally clear? And do you see why I keep saying that given your own ideas—that CSI requires mind—that you must be some type of an ID proponent (ET-Mind, for example) when it comes to the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth?

    More to follow.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  269. 269
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish

    … and mind requires CSI.

    Yes, I concur! And since I have been arguing based on your own ideas, I have more or less accepted this for the majority of our past discussion.

    In our experience, it is not a “mind” that produces complex structures, of course, but rather a complex physical organism that is able to form matter into complex structures.

    Again—for the sake of argument—I agree. I am just using “mind” as a short-form to mean the above. However, I am cautious about the word “physical”; at best, given our discussion about material and immaterialism, we should use “appear to us physically” or “appear to us as embodied.”

    I think the part you are confused about might be that NONE of these explain how it all got started.

    No, I have understood that since the beginning of you bringing up your objection, which is why I showed you that, based on your own ideas, our best explanation of CSI (concluded via deductive argument) is an endless chain of alternate causation between mind and CSI. This may be a wacky explanation, but so is a lot of Quantum mechanics. But this aspect is irrelevant to the current discussion of the best explanation of cause of the first case of CSI on Earth specifically and only!

    ID admits that the Intelligent Designer might be an extra-terrestrial life form, right? In that case, you’ve already posited the existence of these CSI-rich embodied life forms that cooked up terrestrial life forms. Well, ET-ancestor theory simply says that once you’ve hypothesized that some CSI-rich life form exists someplace, we might as well assume that their own genetic material somehow came to Earth, which does indeed explain where all that complex specified information came from.

    Yes, but ”explaining where all that complex specified information came from is not the same as explaining its cause. The cause is a mind, even if it is an ET-Mind. Where it came from is not relevant. See what I said earlier: Furthermore, note that your Theory 1 confuses “origin” and “cause”. The “origin” of the first case of CSI on Earth may be a biological organism from another planet, but “origin” is not the same as a “cause.” The “cause” of the CSI is still a mind (an ET Mind).

    So again, if an ET-CSI landed on Earth, then the minute that it did, it would be the first case of CSI on Earth. And the cause of this first case of CSI on Earth would be a mind, namely an ET-Mind. And so, again, the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth is a mind…an ET-Mind. How it got here is irrelevant to its cause.

    And so, finally, given our uniform and repeated experience, ID of some type (an ET-Mind) is the best explanation for the first case of CSI on Earth.

    Do you finally see this? Because if so, then we can move on to the next phase of the discussion.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  270. 270
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    Just one additional point for now: I think that you seriously need to avoid engaging in what’s called the “Taxi-Cab” Fallacy, which means that you cannot just arbitrarily drop the very thing that you have been arguing for—the “CSI requires mind” and that “mind requires CSI”—when it suits you.

    That is why I say, if we are to be consistent in following the evidence from our uniform and repeated experience wherever it leads, then, at present, our best explanation of CSI in general (the ultimate explanation of CSI) is an endless chain of alternate causation (although I will eventually demonstrate why God is the best stopping point….but that is getting ahead of ourselves). Stopping short of this point is fallacious and arbitrary, which shows that doing so is unjustified.

    And yes, an endless chain of alternate causation may be weird, but so are many explanations in science.

    So, this Taxi-Cab fallacy is a concern to be aware of.

    But for now, I just want you to admit—as I demonstrated in my two above posts—that the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth must be a mind (ET-Mind).

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  271. 271
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    I now see where the confusion between us lies: I think that you think that when I say that a “mind” was responsible for the first case of CSI on Earth, you think I mean your Option 3. But I don’t! I am perfectly happy to concede—at this point and for the sake of argument—that the “mind” that I am speaking of is some ET-Mind. But an ET-Mind being the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth is still a form of ID, as you yourself admit!

    No, that is not where the confusion lies I’m afraid. My options are exactly as I describe them:

    (1) terrestrial species are the biological descendents of alien life forms
    (2) alien life forms designed and manufactured terrestrial species (or some sort of precursor)
    (3) something that was not a life form designed and manufactured terrestrial species (or some sort of precursor)

    I think these alternatives are pretty clear. We don’t have to fuss over definitions of “mind” or “CSI” or “ID” or anything else. I would say ID encompasses theories #2 and #3.

    Now, the point I am trying to get across to you is that when we are discussing the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth, your Theory 1 necessarily collapses into your Theory 2.

    No, that’s not correct. In (1), our genetic material derives directly from those of the alien forms, and we needn’t posit that the aliens even understood anything about bio-engineering. In contrast, theories (2) and (3) both posit entities that are capable of bio-engineering genetic material from scratch.

    There is nothing confusing about these theories, RDM – don’t try to make them more complicated than they are.

    Let me explain with this example: CSI requires mind. So, on some ET planet, everything with CSI is caused by mind, say ET-Mind.

    No, you are simply assuming your conclusion here. It could be on that all of the CSI on that planet comes from some other planet, of course! We can’t determine the cause of the CSI on that planet any more than we can determine the cause of CSI on our own!

    Furthermore, note that your Theory 1 confuses “origin” and “cause”. The “origin” of the first case of CSI on Earth may be a biological organism from another planet, but “origin” is not the same as a “cause.” The “cause” of the CSI is still a mind (an ET Mind).

    Sorry but we’ve gone over this. None of these theories explain how CSI is constructed originally, because we have no understanding of that. In (1) the genetic material simply comes from previous organisms via biological reproduction, in (2) and (3) it comes from previous organisms using the CSI that they contain to produce novel CSI. That doesn’t mean they “cause” CSI any more than in (1) – it just means they use a different means. In none of these theories does the CSI appear from something that did not already contain CSI.

    You are just going to have to admit that (1) is a perfectly valid theory, and it requires fewer assumptions than (2) or (3), and finally that all three theories are completely speculative and without any evidence.

    So, is this finally clear? And do you see why I keep saying that given your own ideas—that CSI requires mind—that you must be some type of an ID proponent (ET-Mind, for example) when it comes to the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth?

    As I have explained until I’m blue in face (or the keyboard), the fact that CSI comes only from intelligent action is not “my idea”!!!!! I have never posited this as an inviolable law of nature! It is simply what we invariably find to be true in our experience, and so we expect it will probably be true in other contexts. It could be wrong of course! There could always be some utterly unknown (or perhaps incomprehensible) aspect of quantum physics or something that guarantees the formation of complex structures that has nothing to do with intelligent reasoning at all!

    You keep trying to pretend that I have commited to the absolute truth of these experiential facts and you keep calling them “my ideas” but that is simply false. You need to understand this, please.

    No, I have understood that since the beginning of you bringing up your objection, which is why I showed you that, based on your own ideas,…

    Not my ideas! You cannot use these facts to base theories on without confirming evidence!

    …our best explanation of CSI (concluded via deductive argument) is an endless chain of alternate causation between mind and CSI.

    If you insist on these silly deductions, then I will simply respond with slightly less silly – but still ridiculous – deduction of my own:

    1) Biological life always is born to other biological life
    2) Therefore we can logically and rigorously deduce that life on Earth descends from an infinite chain of biological organisms!

    How about that? Are we done? That is the simplest explanation of all!!!

    This may be a wacky explanation, but so is a lot of Quantum mechanics.

    Well, I’d say the important difference is that QM has been confirmed in thousands of experiments by thousands of different people with perfect accuracty and precision to 13 significant digits. In contrast, there is precisely zero evidence for any of the theories we’re discussing. Do you take my point?

    Just one additional point for now: I think that you seriously need to avoid engaging in what’s called the “Taxi-Cab” Fallacy, which means that you cannot just arbitrarily drop the very thing that you have been arguing for—the “CSI requires mind” and that “mind requires CSI”—when it suits you.

    Pardon me? I have not changed my position on this or anything else in this discussion. You simply refuse to acknowledge all that I have said regarding how our experience is used in abduction. I wrote a long explanation of this in #251, complete with examples from real science; I repeat this in the faint hope you will read it:

    RDF: Scientific reasoning proceeds from our experience, but the results are always provisional, and we must always accept that what we have induced from our experience might not hold in all contexts. Newtonian physics was incredibly successful, and indeed based on confirmed experience, but it was found that in contexts that Newton had not considered (strong gravitational fields, high relative velocities, and so on) his equations did not actually describe what we find in our experience, and even his underlying ontology (fixed time and space, matter distinct from energy, etc) had to be abandoned in order to rectify our understanding with our experimental results.

    The conservation laws (of mass/energy, momentum, etc) are cornerstones of our understanding of physics, and have never been observed to be violated. However, they would seem to imply that the universe could not have had a beginning. Other aspects of our experience have strongly suggested that the universe did indeed have a beginning, and so physicists attempt to see how these conflicting lines of evidence can be reconciled. So far, we don’t understand it.

    The same is true in our theories of origins. On one hand, it appears that complex form and function does not arise unless something intelligent creates it, but on the other hand it appears that nothing can be intelligent except systems that are complex and functional. Again, so far, we do not understand how it all began.

    I beg you to read that carefully and apply it to your arguments.

    That is why I say, if we are to be consistent in following the evidence from our uniform and repeated experience wherever it leads,

    If we blindly followed our repeated experience where it leads, we conclude that all life is invariably born to other life, and we needn’t say another word.

    …then, at present, our best explanation of CSI in general (the ultimate explanation of CSI) is an endless chain of alternate causation (although I will eventually demonstrate why God is the best stopping point….but that is getting ahead of ourselves). Stopping short of this point is fallacious and arbitrary, which shows that doing so is unjustified.

    Yes, it is apparent that you are trying very, very hard to build a track to God here. My suggestion is that you take the direct route to God and believe in Him without attempting these misguided detours.

    And yes, an endless chain of alternate causation may be weird, but so are many explanations in science.

    Can’t you see that once we take our previous experience as inviolable and allow for these silly deductions, you’re stuck with the conclusion that life has always existed and mind never played a role at all? An endless chain of biological reproduction is the simplest and most clearly supported deduction you could make if you decided to deduce explanations from your prior experience dogmatically instead of using the abductive reasoning that scientists use.

    So, this Taxi-Cab fallacy is a concern to be aware of.

    Chickens always come from eggs, and eggs always come from chickens. Which came first, RDM? Remember not to commit the Taxi-Cab fallacy!

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  272. 272
    RD Miksa says:

    Dear RDFish,

    No, that is not where the confusion lies I’m afraid. My options are exactly as I describe them:

    (1) terrestrial species are the biological descendents of alien life forms
    (2) alien life forms designed and manufactured terrestrial species (or some sort of precursor)
    (3) something that was not a life form designed and manufactured terrestrial species (or some sort of precursor)

    Then this is what you are not getting: we are not interested in providing an explanation for terrestrial species per se, we are interested in providing an explanation for the first case of CSI on Earth. This may have been a living thing containing CSI. It may have been a non-living thing containing CSI (a molecular machine, or just a mechanical machine, etc.). It may have just been CSI. Whether the CSI was in a living thing or not is irrelevant. Indeed, given that the first case of CSI on Earth may have been non-living (we don’t know, and thus we cannot assume), that is why I was specific and clear in what needed to be explained: the first case of CSI on Earth. And, based on our uniform and repeated experience, the first case of CSI on earth will always lead back to a mind.

    It is no good appealing to alien life if the first case of CSI on Earth was a machine, for example (and our uniform and repeated experience clearly tells us that machines exist). Nor is it any good appealing to alien life if the first case of CSI on Earth was just a molecular machine incapable of reproducing itself (because then it would not account for the CSI in Earthly living things). And given that we do not know what the first case of CSI was on Earth, and as good empiricists we cannot assume either way, but given that we know that there must have been a first case of some-type of CSI on Earth, then the question once again returns: what is the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth? And, since all our uniform and repeated experience informs us that the cause of CSI is mind, then the best explanation for the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth (whether living or not) is mind.

    However, even with the above, I get your point, which is the following:

    “No, you are simply assuming your conclusion here. It could be on that all of the CSI on that planet comes from some other planet, of course! We can’t determine the cause of the CSI on that planet any more than we can determine the cause of CSI on our own!

    So you are saying that your Option One would simply lets you continue positing an infinite number of unintelligent biological organisms containing CSI as the cause of first case of CSI on Earth.

    Except the issue is the following: with a best explanation, we also need to look at such thing as background evidence, explanatory scope, etc.

    And when we do that, we realize that we have other empirical evidence—such as the Big Bang—that provides a defeater to the claim that biological organisms could carry on in an infinite cycle.

    This background evidence then places into our decision of what is the best explanation.

    However, with your Option One now clear to me (an endless chain of biological organisms), I will return to the topic shortly.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  273. 273
    RD Miksa says:

    Oh, and just as an aside, I did consider your deductive argument.

    <blockquoteIf you insist on these silly deductions, then I will simply respond with slightly less silly – but still ridiculous – deduction of my own:

    1) Biological life always is born to other biological life
    2) Therefore we can logically and rigorously deduce that life on Earth descends from an infinite chain of biological organisms!

    How about that? Are we done? That is the simplest explanation of all!!!

    And I would—if I were wearing my empiricist hat, which I am for the sake of argument—accept that conclusion as the best explanation for life, except for one thing: I have a defeater for that belief. Namely, I have good empirical evidence that there was a time when nothing “living (biologically-speaking)” or “physical” (what appears to us as physical) could have existed (Big Bang). And therefore, I have empirical evidence that defeats the belief that biological life always comes from other biological life given that at some point, biological life did not exist. So I am not afraid to follow the argument where it leads based on the evidence that we have (which, at this point, comes just from our experience).

    But here’s a good one for you:

    1) Something living always comes from something living (confirmed by all our repeated and uniform experience, which, remember, is evidence).
    2) Therefore, we can logically and rigorously deduce that something living comes from something else that is living.
    3) But there was a time when no biological / embodied living thing could exist (Big Bang). Therefore, there are living things that is not biological and not embodied.

    And another:

    1) A conscious life-form always comes from another conscious life form (confirmed by all our repeated and uniform experience, which, remember, is evidence).
    2) Therefore, we can logically and rigorously deduce that all conscious life-forms come from other conscious life-forms.
    3) But there was a time when no biological / embodied life-form could exist (Big Bang). Therefore, there are conscious life-forms that are not biological and not embodied.

    Now, as an “acting” empiricist, I obviously hold to these conclusions tentatively, but if our experience counts as evidence, why do you reject these conclusions (you may not believe them to be sufficiently justified to warrant belief, but the conclusion is the best evidenced one that we have).

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  274. 274
    RD Miksa says:

    Remember not to commit the Taxi-Cab fallacy!

    This being told to the guy willing to accept the endless chain of alternate causation as an explanation. 🙂 ?

  275. 275
    RDFish says:

    Hi RD Miksa,

    Then this is what you are not getting: we are not interested in providing an explanation for terrestrial species per se, we are interested in providing an explanation for the first case of CSI on Earth. This may have been a living thing containing CSI. It may have been a non-living thing containing CSI (a molecular machine, or just a mechanical machine, etc.). It may have just been CSI. Whether the CSI was in a living thing or not is irrelevant.

    I agree (except I don’t really understand what “just CSI” might mean – it has to be in some form or another, right?)

    Indeed, given that the first case of CSI on Earth may have been non-living (we don’t know, and thus we cannot assume), that is why I was specific and clear in what needed to be explained: the first case of CSI on Earth. And, based on our uniform and repeated experience, the first case of CSI on earth will always lead back to a mind.

    Which will always lead back to a complex mechanism.

    …the question once again returns: what is the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth?

    In ET-ancestor theory, the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth was the method in which it was transported from another planet.

    And, since all our uniform and repeated experience informs us that the cause of CSI is mind, then the best explanation for the cause of the first case of CSI on Earth (whether living or not) is mind.

    No, because that mind required pre-existing complex mechanism in order to design anything.

    So you are saying that your Option One would simply lets you continue positing an infinite number of unintelligent biological organisms containing CSI as the cause of first case of CSI on Earth.

    For the 1000th time, if you take our experience and try to draw deductive conclusions, that is what you get. The lesson you refuse to learn is that we can’t find the solution that way.

    Except the issue is the following: with a best explanation, we also need to look at such thing as background evidence, explanatory scope, etc.

    Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Really? You mean we can’t simply take one aspect of our experience and logically deduce the answer to this question? Sorry, I apologize for my sarcasm, but you really must admit I have written about 10,000 words to get you to see just that.

    And when we do that, we realize that we have other empirical evidence—such as the Big Bang—that provides a defeater to the claim that biological organisms could carry on in an infinite cycle.

    I have made this point to you over and over and over again – including the point about the Big Bang! – and now you are making this point to me. That’s fine, RDM, you finally agree about this. We cannot take one or another of these aspects of our experience and hold to it dogmatically and insist that wherever that evidence leads must be the truth. Thank goodness we’ve established this at long last.

    RDF:
    1) Biological life always is born to other biological life
    2) Therefore we can logically and rigorously deduce that life on Earth descends from an infinite chain of biological organisms!
    How about that? Are we done? That is the simplest explanation of all!!!

    RDM: And I would—if I were wearing my empiricist hat, which I am for the sake of argument—accept that conclusion as the best explanation for life, except for one thing: I have a defeater for that belief.

    Again, you have made my point for me! You have been trying for days to demonstrate how you can take these single inductions (like CSI comes from mind) and formally deduce what must be true about origins, and now you finally realize that if you actually followed these sorts of deductions, you would be forced to believe that all life simply is born to other life!

    Progress! We now can finally abandon your misguided attempt to use simple deduction to solve chicken-egg problems by ignoring either one or the other dependency.

    Namely, I have good empirical evidence that there was a time when nothing “living (biologically-speaking)” or “physical” (what appears to us as physical) could have existed (Big Bang).

    Yes – we have defeaters for all of our theories of origins!!! And by the way it would appear that the Big Bang itself violates our uniform and repeated experience that mass/energy is never created or destroyed!

    That is why you need to admit we cannot deduce the answers to these questions simply by inference from our shared experience. Rather, we must put forth our hypotheses and find actual evidence to support them. Until then, we must admit we do not know what happened.

    Anyway, it appears that you now realize that contra Stephen Meyer, and contra your earlier position, we cannot simply take the statement that “experience confirms that CSI always comes from intelligent agency” and claim that this means the best explanation for CSI in biology is “intelligent agency”! That really is a big step, thank you.

    But here’s a good one for you:…And another:…

    Yes, you get it! We can both do this until the cows come home, and we won’t have advanced our knowledge one iota! We will only advance our knowledge by gathering new evidence – there really is no way around it.

    And one way that ID can do that is to look for evidence for disembodied intelligence. Why do you think nobody in ID is pursuing research on this?

    Now, as an “acting” empiricist, I obviously hold to these conclusions tentatively, but if our experience counts as evidence, why do you reject these conclusions (you may not believe them to be sufficiently justified to warrant belief, but the conclusion is the best evidenced one that we have).

    I reject them for all the reasons I have explained in the past dozens and dozens of posts. None of our theories have high a priori probabilities based on our experience, and none of them have any specific evidence to indicate that they are true.

    This being told to the guy willing to accept the endless chain of alternate causation as an explanation. 🙂 ?

    I know you are joking, RDM, because it was you who has been attempting to draw these deductive conclusions and I who consistently argued that it was very silly to do so!

    I’ve been making very much the same argument since I first outlined it many, many posts ago. You have gone through a fair number of attempts to refute it, including that metaphysical concerns render my position incoherent (they don’t), that it is reasonable to accept poor theories if no better theories are available (it isn’t), that reliance on our experience as evidence can be used to formally prove an endless causal chain (it doesn’t), and so on.

    Here is where we stand now:

    1) ID proponents like Meyer focus on one aspect of our uniform and repeated experience, namely that complex mechanisms arise only by means of intelligent behavior. Using this, they argue that intelligence is the best explanation for the complex mechanisms we observe in biology.

    2) I have pointed out here that ID ignores another equally valid aspect of our experience, namely that intelligent behavior arises only by means of complex mechanisms. This means that mind and mechanism stand in a mutually dependent relationship, just like a chicken and an egg. Which came first? We have no way of knowing.

    3) In the past couple of hundred posts, I have managed to convince RDM that we cannot take any particular fact of our experience and accept whatever that implies, because there are many different aspects of our experience that might stand in contradiction to each other. I have given many examples of this – how conservation laws are always observed to be true but may contradict the Big Bang, how Newton’s laws were always observed to be true but failed in new experimental contexts, and so on.

    4) This means that just because chickens always come from eggs in our experience doesn’t ensure that they have always done so from the beginning of time, and just because intelligent behavior always arises from complex mechanisms in our experience doesn’t ensure that is always the case, and that just because mechanism always arises from mind in our experience doesn’t mean it always has, and so on.

    5) Once we understand (4), we need to remember that our uniform and repeated experience is still the best guide we have to what we expect to be true – what I have called setting the a priori probabilities that our various hypotheses might turn out to be true. This is very important, because when we propose some hypothesis that violates our experience, we know that we must gather strong a posteriori evidence before we accept the hypothesis. (Remember my example about being late to the party because of being abducted by aliens vs. being stuck in traffic).

    That leaves us with the realization that in order to justify any one of our hypotheses about how life got started, we actually need to do research and come up with some specific evidence! Until then, all we can say is “Nobody knows!”

    I think we have made tremendous progress here!

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  276. 276
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDFish:

    I wrote: CSI is not a cause of CSI; it is an effect of mind.

    RDF: “I would say this: We do not observe intelligent behavior in anything except complex organisms, and this is not just happenstance: CSI-rich mechanisms are observed to be necessary for processing information in support of intelligent action.”

    Granted, the mind, insofar as it functions in living humans, cannot function without the CSI-rich mechanisms contained in the brain. However, the mind itself contains no CSI since it is not composed of matter. Our common experience testifies to the existence of both a material brain and a non-material mind.

    “You also seem to be saying that it is the mind, rather than the body, that rearranges matter into CSI-rich mechanisms. I find that simply false, and makes me think we might be using the word “mind” differently.
    Well, no. I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body). The mind is the cause and the rearrangement is the effect. On the other hand, the mind cannot be an effect of a physical rearrangement (CSI rich mechanism) since matter cannot produce non-matter.

    “To me, a “mind” is what we call our conscious experience and our cognitive abilities (learning, planning, interpreting sense data, and so on). A “mind”, then, is not a physical thing, but an abstract concept (abilities) plus our subjective conscious awareness. And so, a “mind” is not what actually rearranges matter into machines; that is accomplished by our CSI-rich bodies.”

    Right. However, we cannot stop there. Mind is not physical, and, therefore, contains no CSI (or CSI-rich mechanisms). At the same time, we cannot say that it is an “abstract concept” because concepts have no causal power. A mind is a non-material faculty. That is why it can, unlike a mere concept, interact with and influence the brain, though obviously we do not know how.

    Peace

  277. 277
    StephenB says:

    This section was not separated above so I repeat it to make it easier to read:

    RDF: “You also seem to be saying that it is the mind, rather than the body, that rearranges matter into CSI-rich mechanisms. I find that simply false, and makes me think we might be using the word “mind” differently.”

    Well, no. I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body). The mind is the cause and the rearrangement is the effect. On the other hand, the mind cannot be an effect of a physical rearrangement (CSI rich mechanism) since matter cannot produce non-matter.

    Since I coined this phrase, I will repeat it. ID is not about playing the music; it is about writing the score.

  278. 278
    Box says:

    StephenB #276: Our common experience testifies to the existence of both a material brain and a non-material mind.

    Indeed, our common experience is not restricted to the outside world.

    StephenB #277: Well, no. I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body). The mind is the cause and the rearrangement is the effect. On the other hand, the mind cannot be an effect of a physical rearrangement (CSI rich mechanism) since matter cannot produce non-matter.

    This analysis effectively puts an end to the idea that CSI causes mind. There is no endless loop. There is no chicken-egg problem. The mind can rearrange meaning, words and sentences just fine all by itself. Only when sentences needs to be expressed in the physical world the body becomes a necessary (typing) tool. And surely, nor the sentences nor the body are capable of creating a mind.
    Probably MD Miska is just hopping along with the latter hypothesis in order to show even in that scenario ID is the best explanation; as a intellectual exercise.

  279. 279
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Granted, the mind, insofar as it functions in living humans, cannot function without the CSI-rich mechanisms contained in the brain. However, the mind itself contains no CSI since it is not composed of matter. Our common experience testifies to the existence of both a material brain and a non-material mind.

    For the purpose of this discussion so far I can agree with this statement just fine, but what you are claiming is of course metaphysical dualism, which is not in fact demonstrable by observation. Every observation in our experience is equally compatible with dualism or any of the various flavors of monism (idealism, physicalism, neutral monism, etc). The reason we have never solved the metaphysical problem of ontology is exactly that: We cannot appeal to our shared experience to see which might be true (at least not yet). And that is why I take no position on metaphysics in the arguments I’ve proposed here.

    I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body).

    Here you are getting a bit closer to requiring Cartesian interactionism, which we cannot currently support by our experience.

    The mind is the cause and the rearrangement is the effect.

    Well, no, now you are taking your interactionism too far, well beyond what we can support by empirical investigation. All we know from experience is that we each have conscious awareness about some of what we do, and that if our brains and bodies are functioning properly we are able to design complex mechanisms. Nobody actually knows how this takes place; one could just as easily say the body initiates the behaviors and the mind steps in to perceive the results and veto certain actions (this would be consistent with the Libet-type experiments, for example).

    So here it is: If you want to base your theory of OOL on the metaphysical position of interactionist dualism, that’s fine – but please be sure to make that clear, and be aware that this metaphysical stance cannot be determined to be true by appeal to our shared experience.

    Right. However, we cannot stop there. Mind is not physical, and, therefore, contains no CSI (or CSI-rich mechanisms). At the same time, we cannot say that it is an “abstract concept” because concepts have no causal power. A mind is a non-material faculty. That is why it can, unlike a mere concept, interact with and influence the brain, though obviously we do not know how.

    Thank you for being explicit about your commitment to interactionism, and your acknowledgement that the method of interaction remains a problem for that philosophy (Descartes’ suggestion that “It happens in the pineal gland” just didn’t pan out, I guess).

    So it appears the main point of contention between you and me is that you seem to think we can justify the truth of interactionist dualism by means of experience and observation. I would agree that if you were right about that, it would strengthen the case of ID a great deal… but I absolutely disagree that there is, to date, any good empirical evidence at all (that is, nothing that we can uniformly and repeatedly experience) that shows dualism to be true.

    Since I coined this phrase, I will repeat it. ID is not about playing the music; it is about writing the score.

    I understand your point, and it is well put… but again it is just a nice way to say that your justification for ID rests squarely on the empirically unsupportable claim that you have somehow solved the mind/body problem, and that the answer is Cartesian Dualism.

    There are some experiments that have tried to shed light on these questions, of course – most famously the experiments by Benjamin Libet that I mentioned – and there are other suggestions for “experimental philosophy” that might go further in elucidating the relationship between mind and body, the nature of volition, and so on. Given your position, I should think you would agree with me that it behooves ID researchers to focus their efforts on exactly this sort of research that might demonstrate that dualism is true. Until then, ID is predicated on an unsubstantiated metaphysical claim, and ID proponents need to be clear about that.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  280. 280
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    This analysis effectively puts an end to the idea that CSI causes mind.

    No, complex mechanisms do not cause mind, nor does mind cause complex mechanisms. Rather, they each appear to reliably depend on the other: We never see complex mechanisms appear without being designed and assembled by things with minds, and we never see things with minds that are not themselves complex mechanisms.

    There is no endless loop. There is no chicken-egg problem.

    Why yes, there really is – at least as far as we can reliably observe.

    Probably MD Miska is just hopping along with the latter hypothesis in order to show even in that scenario ID is the best explanation; as a intellectual exercise.

    🙂
    No, I believe RD Miksa has been valiant in his attempt to salvage the notion that ID is well-supported empirically, or even the best of a pack of very bad theories, but I’m afraid there is no way to do this. As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how life got started.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  281. 281
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how life got started.

    So?

  282. 282
    Mung says:

    Arson Investigator:

    As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how this fire got started.

  283. 283
    RDFish says:

    RDFish: As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how life got started.
    Mung: So?

    Q.E.D.

  284. 284
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDF:

    I am grateful that you raised the issue of Cartesian dualism since it represents a common (and legitimate) stumbling block for rational discourse on matters such as these. To be sure, I am arguing for the observed reality of two realms (hylermorphic dualism), but that is a radically different thing from Cartesian dualism, which, in my judgment, cannot be defended. Humans are not, as I am sure you would agree, two things; we are one thing made of a single composite reality (mind and body).

    Still, you are right that I am proposing two realms for the simple reason that either your philosophy (materialistic monism) or my philosophy (hylermorphic dualism) will always be the elephant in the room that quietly asserts itself in much of the discussion. If I were to foolishly agree that only our sensual experience counts in our efforts to define what we observe in our repeated and uniform experience (a common element in materialstic monism), then I would be forfeiting the privilege of explaining how our judgment is what really makes sense of these experiences (a common element in hylermorphic dualism).

    Thus, we must consider the matter of which philosophy reflects our honest experience. I don’t mind it if we discuss it primarily in empirical terms, since ID science is on the table, but I am not prepared to throw rational analysis out the window since we must unpack and interpret what we observe. (I realize that you are not asking me to do that, but I think the point deserves to be put on the table).

    What, then, do we observe and why does it indicate a non-material mind, and why should we factor that in when we extrapolate to OOL matters. Well, the obvious answer is that we are trying to identify true causes, and if a cause is of a certain nature, then we need to acknowledge that fact. True, we cannot observe a “mind” in action through our sensual experience alone, but we can perceive it with our intelligence, which is the faculty that judges what we observe. The empirically-documented phenomenon of the medical placebo, for example, indicates the presence of a non-physical counterpart to the physical brain. We know that the mind can influence the brain in this and many other ways.

    On this point alone we have transcended material monism. The brain, as a physical organ, follows the laws of nature, but the mind, as an immaterial faculty, can, if it chooses, challenge or even reverse that momentum. It is that same mind that rearranges patterns and cannot be arranged by patterns. The laws of nature, after all, and the human brain which is subject to those laws, do not reverse themselves. Instincts remain what they are; they do not change texture. Thus, the mind, which is not bound by that same dynamic, must exist in another realm, the immaterial realm.

    Peace

  285. 285
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Still, you are right that I am proposing two realms for the simple reason that either your philosophy (materialistic monism)…

    Actually I don’t believe materialism is even coherent, much less that it can even in principle explain the fact of conscious experience. I usually call myself a neutral monist, but my position is actually that we simply don’t what is true about ontology and the ultimate nature of reality.

    Anyway, I think your post is interesting, but I’ll say again my purpose arguing in this long thread is not to debate whether ID has any merit as a philosophical stance. I’ve been crystal clear from the very start (as I am in every debate I enter) that the only thing I object to is the way ID folks (like Meyer) go out of their way to claim that it is not philosophy they are doing, but rather empical science.

    With that in mind…

    What, then, do we observe and why does it indicate a non-material mind, and why should we factor that in when we extrapolate to OOL matters. Well, the obvious answer is that we are trying to identify true causes, and if a cause is of a certain nature, then we need to acknowledge that fact. True, we cannot observe a “mind” in action through our sensual experience alone, but we can perceive it with our intelligence, which is the faculty that judges what we observe.

    I can’t figure out what the sentence “We perceive our minds with our intelligence” means. In all honesty, it makes more sense to me to say “We perceive our intelligence with our minds”: To me, that would mean that we are consciously aware of our abilities to learn, plan, and so on. But that certainly doesn’t establish the truth of dualism in any way.

    The empirically-documented phenomenon of the medical placebo, for example, indicates the presence of a non-physical counterpart to the physical brain. We know that the mind can influence the brain in this and many other ways.

    Well good, now we are getting to the point about empirical evidence. I find all sorts of people – from Denise O’Leary to Dennis Prager to Deepak Chopra to you, and many more – seem to think that placebos are somehow evidence of immaterial, causal minds, because they show that “the mind can influence the brain”. Look! Simply by thinking about something, your mind can actually change the physical brain! Proof of mind over matter!. But this seems utterly backwards to me. If I was a materialist, I would predict that thinking about anything always physically changes the brain, because the core premise of materialism is that thought is a physical process! Physicalism of all sorts holds that there can be no mental change without a physical change, and so monists would say that thought must always cause (or be identical to) physical changes in the brain. Only a dualist could imagine that a thought could occur without there being a brain change.

    So unless you can correct my understanding here about this placebo thing which is so often trotted out as empirical evidence of dualism, or unless you have some other empirical evidence we could go by, I’d have to stick to my position and say ID remains a philosophical argument without empirical support.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  286. 286
    StephenB says:

    Box
    “This analysis effectively puts an end to the idea that CSI causes mind.”

    I believe this to be the case.

    RDF: “We never see complex mechanisms appear without being designed and assembled by things with minds, and we never see things with minds that are not themselves complex mechanisms.”

    I don’t think your second clause is the logical counterpart of the first clause. The first clause compares the mind with complex mechanisms, but the second clause compares complex mechanisms not with mind but with things that have minds. So, your analysis here does not support your claim that CSI can produce minds.

    Also, it is at variance with your first sentence:

    “No, complex mechanisms do not cause mind, nor does mind cause complex mechanisms.”

    There you go. Complex mechanisms do not cause minds to exist.

    Box: “There is no endless loop. There is no chicken-egg problem.”
    I agree.

  287. 287
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF: “We never see complex mechanisms appear without being designed and assembled by things with minds, and we never see things with minds that are not themselves complex mechanisms.”

    SB: I don’t think your second clause is the logical counterpart of the first clause. The first clause compares the mind with complex mechanisms, but the second clause compares complex mechanisms not with mind but with things that have minds. So, your analysis here does not support your claim that CSI can produce minds.

    I am not claiming that CSI can produce minds; I’m saying that CSI-rich physical structures appear to be necessary for minds to operate, according to our experience.

    Box: “There is no endless loop. There is no chicken-egg problem.”
    I agree.

    Well yes, there is really is a chicken-egg situation here:

    According to our experience:
    1) Mind cannot operate without CSI-rich physical structure.
    2) CSI-rich physical structures cannot arise without the operation of mind.

    So, which came first?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  288. 288
    Mung says:

    RDFish: As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how life got started.

    Mung: So?

    RDFish: Q.E.D.

    Mung: Wow, you got me there.

    RDFish: As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how life got started.

    Why didn’t you follow that with a Q.E.D.?

    Is it because it’s no such thing?

    And of course, it follows that my response of “So?” doesn’t all of a sudden convert what was not previously a proof into a proof.

    RDFish:

    As far as what we can tell from our uniform and repeated experience, nobody knows how life got started.

    So?

  289. 289
    Mung says:

    You just have to love people who think they are smarter than everyone else. It invariably leads them into make fools of themselves.

  290. 290
    bornagain77 says:

    RDfish you state:

    According to our experience:
    1) Mind cannot operate without CSI-rich physical structure.
    2) CSI-rich physical structures cannot arise without the operation of mind.

    Actually RDfish, ‘according to “OUR” experience’ Mind can operate without CSI-rich physical structure:

    A (Harvard) neurosurgeon confronts the non-material nature of consciousness – December 2011
    Excerpted quote: To me one thing that has emerged from my experience and from very rigorous analysis of that experience over several years, talking it over with others that I respect in neuroscience, and really trying to come up with an answer, is that consciousness outside of the brain is a fact. It’s an established fact. And of course, that was a hard place for me to get, coming from being a card-toting reductive materialist over decades. It was very difficult to get to knowing that consciousness, that there’s a soul of us that is not dependent on the brain.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ciousness/

    In fact, according to OUR experience, the evidence that mind and soul can exist outside the body, as far as empirical evidence is concerned, is established far more rigorously scientifically than evolution is:

    Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,,
    The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species (or origin of life, or origin of a protein, or origin of any functional information whatsoever), which is never.,,,
    The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.
    Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65301.html

    “A recent analysis of several hundred cases showed that 48% of near-death experiencers reported seeing their physical bodies from a different visual perspective. Many of them also reported witnessing events going on in the vicinity of their body, such as the attempts of medical personnel to resuscitate them (Kelly et al., 2007).”
    Kelly, E. W., Greyson, B., & Kelly, E. F. (2007). Unusual experiences near death and related phenomena. In E. F. Kelly, E. W. Kelly, A. Crabtree, A. Gauld, M. Grosso, & B. Greyson, Irreducible mind (pp. 367-421). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Michaela’s Amazing NEAR death experience – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....age#t=629s

    Moreover, these states of consciousness, when mind and soul are separated from the temporal/material body, are far more vivid (i.e. real) than our states of consciousness whilst we are in our temporal/material body:

    ‘Afterlife’ feels ‘even more real than real,’ researcher says – Wed April 10, 2013
    Excerpt: “If you use this questionnaire … if the memory is real, it’s richer, and if the memory is recent, it’s richer,” he said.
    The coma scientists weren’t expecting what the tests revealed.
    “To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors,” Laureys reported.
    The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. “The difference was so vast,” he said with a sense of astonishment.
    Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich “as though it was yesterday,” Laureys said.
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/.....periences/

    A Doctor’s Near Death Experience Inspires a New Life – video
    Quote: “It’s not like a dream. It’s like the world we are living in is a dream and it’s kind of like waking up from that.”
    Dr. Magrisso
    http://www.nbcchicago.com/on-a.....31791.html

    Which is exactly the result we should expect in a “Mind First’ view of reality

    RDfish, you then ask:

    So, which came first?

    Mind!

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    (Max Planck, as cited in de Purucker, Gottfried. 1940. The Esoteric Tradition. California: Theosophical University Press, ch. 13).

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    (Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.)

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961 – received Nobel Prize in 1963 for ‘Quantum Symmetries’

    the argument for God from consciousness can be framed like this:

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

    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect):
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit

    Verse and Music

    Colossians 1:17
    And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

    Flyleaf – Fully Alive
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/flyl.....OCT0600148

  291. 291
    StephenB says:

    RDF: “Well good, now we are getting to the point about empirical evidence. I find all sorts of people – from Denise O’Leary to Dennis Prager to Deepak Chopra to you, and many more – seem to think that placebos are somehow evidence of immaterial, causal minds, because they show that “the mind can influence the brain”. Look! Simply by thinking about something, your mind can actually change the physical brain!”

    Well, yes, that’s a pretty solid indication.

    “Physicalism of all sorts holds that there can be no mental change without a physical change, and so monists would say that thought must always cause (or be identical to) physical changes in the brain. Only a dualist could imagine that a thought could occur without there being a brain change.”

    The question is this: How does the individual resist the brain’s impulses if not with mind? Appealing to the physical brain is of no avail. Under physicalism, why would it even occur to the individual to challenge the brain? The brain, which is a physical organ (albeit of the most glorious kind) is hardly in a position to resist its own impulses, which are prompted by physical laws and circumstances. From whence comes the resistance? From whence comes the internal conflict between the real and the ideal. According to physicalism, there is only the real: Nature prompts the brain and the brain, a slave to physical laws, follows without raising a fuss.

    RDF: “According to our experience:
    1) Mind cannot operate without CSI-rich physical structure.
    2) CSI-rich physical structures cannot arise without the operation of mind.

    So, which came first?”

    Since both elements must have a source, and since we agree that CSI cannot be the source, it follows that mind must be the source.

  292. 292
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    The brain, which is a physical organ (albeit of the most glorious kind) is hardly in a position to resist its own impulses, which are prompted by physical laws and circumstances.

    Sorry but I find this confused. I will argue from the materialist viewpoint here, although as I’ve explained I do not think materialism is a viable metaphysics. Still, this placebo business says nothing against materialism:

    Under materialism (or at least under functionalism; let’s leave things like biological naturalism aside for the moment) the computer is taken as an analogy for the mind/brain. If you said that a computer cannot resist its own impulses, which are prompted by physical laws and circumstances, I’d say that was false for the obvious interpretation of what you’re saying: Imagine a computer that is programmed to beep when you press a key. Then you say into the microphone “do not beep any more”, and the computer system actually alters its own internal logic and – voila! – it no longer beeps.

    I imagine your objection to this will be simply to say that the computer was programmed to do these things, and did not display free choice. But of course the question becomes how is it you can empirically demonstrate that people have free choice? And we’re back to where we started.

    From whence comes the resistance? From whence comes the internal conflict between the real and the ideal. According to physicalism, there is only the real: Nature prompts the brain and the brain, a slave to physical laws, follows without raising a fuss.

    A brain/computer (under materialism) reacts to various stimuli in different ways depending on its intitial programming, its history, changes to its programming due to its history (self-re-programming), and so on.

    In any event, I have no hope of resolving the ancient puzzle of free will with you here. I will reiterate that the reason it is ancient and virtually no progress has been made in terms of reaching consensus is because we cannot use experiments or observations to tell what is true. I would ask you again if you are familiar with experiments that have been performed and suggested in this area, and why you think ID researchers do not perform these experiments?

    RDF: “According to our experience:
    1) Mind cannot operate without CSI-rich physical structure.
    2) CSI-rich physical structures cannot arise without the operation of mind.

    So, which came first?”

    Since both elements must have a source, and since we agree that CSI cannot be the source, it follows that mind must be the source.
    But the mind cannot operate until there is already a CSI-rich physical mechanism present, which would indicate that the physical mechanism came first. Ah, but how could that arise without intelligent action? Hmmm.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  293. 293
    RDFish says:

    All,
    I will be away from the internet, returning Sunday night. I look forward to continuing with RD Miksa and StephenB (and anyone else who would like to participate in this stimulating discussion with polite and salient comments).

    RDM, I hope to see you’ve given up on the approach where you attempt deductive solutions from singular inductive generalizations, and realize that once you consider all the possible “defeaters” against all of these theories, you will come to agree with me that we have no theory with good empirical support.

    StephenB, I would hope we could separate empirically supported theories from metaphysical claims about the mind/body problem, and I’d like to see us agree that while ID may be philosophically compelling, it cannot be inferred based on our uniform and repeated experience the way Stephen Meyer suggests.

    Cheers!
    -RDFish

  294. 294
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    I will be away from the internet, returning Sunday night.

    Q.E.D.

  295. 295
    Brent says:

    Mung; always good for a laugh.

  296. 296
    Brent says:

    This thread has become rather comical overall, actually.

    My commentary:

    RDF demonstrates clearly and persistently why a materialist/physicalist/empericist position cannot work, but will not concede that we therefore are forced to metaphysical reasoning and answers.

    I realize he/she isn’t arguing that materialism is sufficient, but if it clearly is not, then why not abandon the fence post?

    RDF, it is a wrong view of empirical reasoning to think metaphysics doesn’t count. When physics lead necessarily to a metaphysical exercise, it is silly to say, “well, now we are not on solid ground because we cannot weigh something in the lab.” It just is the empirical demonstration that not only should we not embrace materialism, but absolutely reject it and the naturalist view in favor of what must be the case; theism is knocking very, very loudly, RDF.

  297. 297
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDFish

    You wrote, “Under materialism (or at least under functionalism; let’s leave things like biological naturalism aside for the moment) the computer is taken as an analogy for the mind/brain.”

    A human being is not like a computer because it can reject its own program. That is why functionalism cannot describe the human condition. It ignores the reality of an immaterial mind, which is confirmed by the placebo affect and many other psychological phenomena, such as the breaking of a bad habit. Physicalism cannot account for it.

    “A brain/computer (under materialism) reacts to various stimuli in different ways depending on its intitial programming, its history, changes to its programming due to its history (self-re-programming), and so on.”
    You didn’t even begin to answer my question. From whence comes the resistance? From whence comes the internal conflict between the real and the ideal. According to physicalism, there is only the real, according to which nature prompts the brain and the brain, a slave to physical laws, follows without raising a fuss. With physicalism, there is no conflict between the real and the ideal. Under those circumstances, the brain cannot resist nature, which is its master. Only the mind can do that because only a mind, which exists in another realm, can judge nature and decide if it wants to follow.

    “In any event, I have no hope of resolving the ancient puzzle of free will with you here. I will reiterate that the reason it is ancient and virtually no progress has been made in terms of reaching consensus is because we cannot use experiments or observations to tell what is true.”
    No, the reason it is ancient is because human nature tempts people to deny free will so they can rationalize bad behavior. At a deeper level, though, everyone believes in free will—even you. That is why you scolded me when you thought I was being rude.

    “But the mind cannot operate until there is already a CSI-rich physical mechanism present, which would indicate that the physical mechanism came first. Ah, but how could that arise without intelligent action? Hmmm.”
    A non-material, eternal mind can operate without a CSI rich mechanism. Otherwise, it could not design the first CSI-rich physical mechanism, which, according to empirical science, did not always exist. By contrast, a CSI-rich physical mechanism, which did not always exist, cannot design a mind that always existed. Hence, the mind came first.

  298. 298
    StephenB says:

    I neglected to separate these comments above:

    “A brain/computer (under materialism) reacts to various stimuli in different ways depending on its intitial programming, its history, changes to its programming due to its history (self-re-programming), and so on.”

    You didn’t even begin to answer my question. From whence comes the resistance? From whence comes the internal conflict between the real and the ideal. According to physicalism, there is only the real, according to which nature prompts the brain and the brain, a slave to physical laws, follows without raising a fuss. With physicalism, there is no conflict between the real and the ideal. Under those circumstances, the brain cannot resist nature, which is its master. Only the mind can do that because only a mind, which exists in another realm, can judge nature and decide if it wants to follow.

  299. 299
    StephenB says:

    and again

    “In any event, I have no hope of resolving the ancient puzzle of free will with you here. I will reiterate that the reason it is ancient and virtually no progress has been made in terms of reaching consensus is because we cannot use experiments or observations to tell what is true.”

    No, the reason it is ancient is because human nature tempts people to deny free will so they can rationalize bad behavior. At a deeper level, though, everyone believes in free will—even you. That is why you scolded me when you thought I was being rude.

    “But the mind cannot operate until there is already a CSI-rich physical mechanism present, which would indicate that the physical mechanism came first. Ah, but how could that arise without intelligent action? Hmmm.”

    A non-material, eternal mind can operate without a CSI rich mechanism. Otherwise, it could not design the first CSI-rich physical mechanism, which, according to empirical science, did not always exist. By contrast, a CSI-rich physical mechanism, which did not always exist, cannot design a mind that always existed. Hence, the mind came first.

  300. 300
    5for says:

    Brent i think you are missing RDFs point. He is not against metaphysics or theology. He is just saying don’t pretend you are doing science when you are in fact trying to rationalise religious beliefs. Just admits it’s religion. It’s really thellie that underlies this whole site.

  301. 301
    jerry says:

    A slight re-writing to express the real truth

    don’t pretend you are doing science when you are in fact trying to rationalize atheistic beliefs. Just admits that atheism is what it is all about. It’s really the lie that underlies all atheist’s faux beliefs in science.

  302. 302
    Brent says:

    Jerry: Thank you. Quite correct indeed.

    5for,

    I do know that is what RDF is trying to say. I really do. In fact, I started to write that in my reply but decided not to (probably should have).

    However, RDF’s position (not his argument, per se) is still refuted by my post in that it is really an empirical enterprise to do metaphysics when physics forces us into them. RDF is trying to hold to a position that is so thin it doesn’t exist.

    RDF is essentially saying, “I’m not assuming materialism . . . but since we don’t have any evidence of non material things, I’m not going to consider anything outside of the material realm for a second.”

    RDF, whenever you get back here please don’t take offense at my remarks. It would be easy to assume they are made in a tone which they are not. It just seems to me your position is a very strange one indeed. I’ll say, however, I think your approach to try to exploit a perceived crack in the ID argument is interesting and has led to some good thoughts going back and forth here.

  303. 303
    Box says:

    StephenB #277: I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body). The mind is the cause and the rearrangement is the effect.

    Indeed, my common internal experience tells me that I (mind) can create a sentence (CSI) before I express it in the external physical world with the assistance of CSI rich mechanisms (body, computer, internet).
    RDFish’s version of empiricism is restricted to the experience of the external world when he states: (#292)
    “(…) the mind cannot operate until there is already a CSI-rich physical mechanism present, which would indicate that the physical mechanism came first.”
    Clearly this is a view on the mind from a third person perspective. I believe this naturalistic appeal to intersubjectivity to be the central flaw in RDFish’s reasoning. He should have described it more accurately:
    “[from a third person perspective] (…) the [human] mind cannot operate [in the physical world] until there is already a CSI-rich physical mechanism present (..)”
    ,which does not in any way support his thesis that the mind depends on CSI in principle.

    StephenB #277: On the other hand, the mind cannot be an effect of a physical rearrangement (CSI rich mechanism) since matter cannot produce non-matter.

    True. The whole idea does not compute.

  304. 304
    Box says:

    RDFish #280: No, complex mechanisms do not cause mind, (…)

    Indeed, they simply don’t. Computers are designed by mind, which needs the body as a intermediary tool in order to assemble the computer parts. It’s crucial not to conflate mind and body and it’s equally important not to conflate body – as an intermediary tool- and computers.

    RDFish #280: (…) nor does mind cause complex mechanisms.

    Mind does cause CSI – complex specified information. You do it all the time. According to your uniform repeated internal experience your mind does create meaning, concepts, ideas, sentences. However in order to express CSI in the physical world your mind needs intermediary tools – like your body. To conceive of a concept (CSI) is a distinct act from expressing it into the physical world.
    You may want to discard your internal uniform repeated experience – of mind causing CSI – because you demand experience to be intersubjective, but that is ultimately irrational.

  305. 305
    kairosfocus says:

    5for:

    don’t pretend you are doing science when you are in fact trying to rationalise religious beliefs. Just admits it’s religion. It’s really thellie that underlies this whole site.

    I have highlighted where you have gone off the rails badly and betray a fundamentally hostile mindset.

    FYI, the inference to design on signs such as FSCO/I is an inductive, empirically grounded and even scientific one, much as you would like to dismiss it as Creationism behind a false front. (Should we, as Jerry did, point out the frequent association between atheism, a priori materialist ideology and the warping of science through such?)

    The irony is, the theme of this thread is that one should first take time to understand ID before attacking it, especially attacking it with strawman caricature based arguments. Especially ones as loaded and unfair as the ones that lie behind your words. (I suggest, as a start, you can and should scroll up to the top of the page and click on the resources tab, thence the weak argument correctives.)

    The exchange with RDF is only in part, scientific. There are major underlying worldview issues on possible kinds of entities that exist. Once these are possible, they should not be a priori excluded by imposition of a priori ideological materialism and scientism. That boils down to grand scale question-begging.

    And in a world where the proper discipline for discussing worldview level issues is philosophy, this is not a matter of hiding “religion” [the subtext that this is a dirty word in your remarks is blatant] behind a false front of science.

    There is a significant issue as to whether mind is a fundamental reality, and as to whether it can ever be shown that mind emerges from software working on material hardware. There is a closely linked issue as to whether specifically functional software of the requisite complexity can come about without design.

    This last is amenable to empirical, scientific study and linked mathematical analysis.

    The science tells us that FSCO/I is never observed to originate save as a product of design, and the needle in haystack analysis backs that up, as the atomic and temporal resources of our solar system or observed cosmos [500 – 1,000 bits resp.] are utterly overwhelmed by the search challenge.

    FSCO/I is an empirically reliable sign of design, and that points to cell based life — which uses digital info processing and codes — being designed. Related, a fine tuned cosmos fitted for such, and with a beginning, also shows indications of being designed. And onwards the logic of cause and sufficient reason points to the root of reality being a necessary being that is immaterial — pointing to mind as the root of reality. That same logic is the foundation of science.

    These may be uncomfortable for atheists and for the domination of science and science edu by a priori Lewontin-Sagan style materialism, but that does not mean that they are unreasonable.

    So, I think you have some serious walking back of unjustified accusations of organised lying by this blog as an entity to do.

    KF

  306. 306
    Axel says:

    Do you really think, RD, that those specialists, perhaps most notably, the neuropsychiatrist and neurophysiologist, Dr Peter Fenwick MD (love his modesty), would not have considered the objections you raise?

    Fenwick is also very knowledgeable about visions at the bedside of some dying patients, which were experienced simultaneously with the patient, by more than one family member and/or medical staff, of supernatural beings, mostly, I believe, the spirits of deceased relatives.

    Really, RD, you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

  307. 307
    Axel says:

    KN: I’m all too aware of the thrall atheists are held in by the wildly farcical claim of scientism to be the ultimate form of all knowledge, so it seems to me that you are being really pedantic in criticising my assertion that an a priori truth was scientific.

    We recognise the word, ‘scientific’, as the only imprimatur of truth atheists will acknowledge, having closed down the better half of their brain. So forgive me for resorting to this extremely loose shorthand. Desperately farcical situations sometimes require equally desperate remedies.

  308. 308
    Phinehas says:

    Brent:

    RDF is essentially saying, “I’m not assuming materialism . . . but since we don’t have any evidence of non material things, I’m not going to consider anything outside of the material realm for a second.”

    He also appears to be stacking the deck a bit by limiting his empiricism to only that which we experience externally through our five senses. This cashes out as just one more way to rule out-of-bounds any immaterial causes and ensures that only materialist explanations will be given a fair hearing. For all of his protestations, RDF seems to land consistently on the side of materialism.

  309. 309
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Would you say that, in practice, there is any difference between an empiricist and a materialist? If so, what would it be?

  310. 310
    Brent says:

    Nicely put @305, KF.

  311. 311
    kairosfocus says:

    Phinehas @ 308:

    also appears to be stacking the deck a bit by limiting his empiricism to only that which we experience externally through our five senses. This cashes out as just one more way to rule out-of-bounds any immaterial causes and ensures that[RDF] only materialist explanations will be given a fair hearing. For all of his protestations, RDF seems to land consistently on the side of materialism.

    H’mm, just what is the first empirical fact? Is it not of being a conscious, self-aware individual and agent? Then, are we not aware in that context of the world we live in?

    Is there any good reason to assume or assert that that self, a condition of sensing the world, can be ruled out of bounds for empirical evidence?

    That seems to me a capital case of blatantly self-referential incoherence.

    Mind is a fundamental datum of our experience, period.

    In that context, we have to address the issue of ourselves as self-moved, actuating purposeful causal agents. That is, we are not credibly chains or loops of blind chance and/or mechanical necessity, or reason itself collapses. Reason, must be free to choose to follow evident facts and cogent logic.

    But then, we run into a brick wall, if we reduce mind to material arrangements of signal processing neurons and software floating on that or any similar hard-soft system: such entities are not, cannot be free. That is why they have no common good sense and will happily compute rubbish in rubbish ways till things crash. Hence the dictum GIGO.

    Anybody recall the Pentium processor recall?

    Similarly, the notion of software of the complexity required resulting from chance errors incrementally filtered through improved performance writing what is needed does not even pass the giggle test.

    That looks a lot like reductio ad absurdum to me.

    There is a serious need to rethink.

    We need a worldview that makes sense out of mind.

    And, materialism — explicit or implicit be the back door of so called methodological naturalism, or otherwise, does not cut it.

    KF

  312. 312
    RDFish says:

    Hi All,

    Brent: RDF is essentially saying, “I’m not assuming materialism . . . but since we don’t have any evidence of non material things, I’m not going to consider anything outside of the material realm for a second.”

    What most people think of as “materialism” is somthing like “matter in motion” or “particles bumping into each other”, but physicists have known this view to be false for 100 years, since the advent of quantum physics. Even before then, concepts that seemed “immaterial” – like fields – had been accepted into our physical ontology. Einstein worked hard to reject both the indeterminacy and non-locality of quantum mechanics, but both of these distinctly non-material concepts are part of modern physics anyway. Why? Because they successfully explain and predict our uniform and repeated experience.

    So no, it isn’t because of “materialism” that we say that there is no evidence for disembodied mind; it is because there is no evidence.

    Phinehas: Would you say that, in practice, there is any difference between an empiricist and a materialist? If so, what would it be?

    Yes, a big difference. Again, most people would say “materialism” means “nothing exists except matter in motion” or something along those lines. Given what I just said here, I think the best description of “materialism” would be the position that the current theoretical constructs of physical science constitute the entirety of reality. I think either formulation of this philosophy is certainly false.

    Empiricism is a very different sort of concept entirely. While “materialism” refers to a metaphysical ontology, “empiricism” refers to an epistemological theory that holds that knowledge is derived from experience.

    Box: “[from a third person perspective] (…) the [human] mind cannot operate [in the physical world] until there is already a CSI-rich physical mechanism present (..)”
    ,which does not in any way support his thesis that the mind depends on CSI in principle.

    I think there is pretty good reason to think that complex mechanism is required to store and process information, which is a prerequisite of mind. But in any event, I haven’t been arguing that we know mind depends on mechanism in principle; rather I’ve argued that we invariably find mind depending on mechanism in our experience.

    Apparently I haven’t made my position sufficiently clear in these many posts. Here it is:

    1) I am not arguing that materialism is true, or that dualism is false.
    2) I am not arguing that ID is false
    3) I am not arguing that empiricism is the only valid theory of knowledge.
    4) What I AM arguing is that IF one adopts empiricism, THEN neither ID nor any other theory of origins can be justified.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  313. 313
    Brent says:

    What most people think of as “materialism” is somthing like “matter in motion” or “particles bumping into each other”, but physicists have known this view to be false for 100 years, since the advent of quantum physics. Even before then, concepts that seemed “immaterial” – like fields – had been accepted into our physical ontology. Einstein worked hard to reject both the indeterminacy and non-locality of quantum mechanics, but both of these distinctly non-material concepts are part of modern physics anyway. Why? Because they successfully explain and predict our uniform and repeated experience.

    Could you elaborate a little more, because as stated, this is very misleading and equivocal. It seems like a bait and switch here, because you speak as if quantum physics isn’t dealing with matter, when what you really are only saying is that it isn’t understood how, in this case, “particles [are] bumping into each other”, which is completely different. And at bottom, physicists still believe that particles are being acted upon by some material substance, or else they have rationally abandoned physicalism and materialism; I don’t care, nor should anyone else, if they call it a force or concept, but if you’ve given up a completely physical, material world, you’ve given up physicalism and materialsim.

  314. 314
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    So no, it isn’t because of “materialism” that we say that there is no evidence for disembodied mind; it is because there is no evidence.

    If experience counts for evidence, then my internal experience of mind is indeed of a disembodied mind. Further, it is of a mind that can freely and willfully choose.

  315. 315
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,

    Could you elaborate a little more, because as stated, this is very misleading and equivocal. It seems like a bait and switch here, because you speak as if quantum physics isn’t dealing with matter, when what you really are only saying is that it isn’t understood how, in this case, “particles [are] bumping into each other”, which is completely different. And at bottom, physicists still believe that particles are being acted upon by some material substance, or else they have rationally abandoned physicalism and materialism; I don’t care, nor should anyone else, if they call it a force or concept, but if you’ve given up a completely physical, material world, you’ve given up physicalism and materialsim.

    Physicists have indeed been forced to abandon the sort of physicalism and materialism that physics was based upon in Newton’s day and all the way up until the early 20th century. They didn’t want to, but their uniform and repeated experience (in experimental results) forced it upon them.

    The “particles” that physicists talk about in modern physics are not material objects in the way we understand those words. They do not exist as little bits of matter in time and space. In the words of Werner Heisenberg, “atoms are not things, they are only tendencies”. In modern physics, these particles are understood not as bits of stuff, but rather as “excited states of quantum fields”; they are “wave-like” or “particle-like” depending on how you measure them; they may spontaneously pop into existence and then disappear; their behavior is not deterministic; they can be effected instanteously by events happening on the other side of the universe; and so on.

    There is nothing “material” about materialism any more, and hasn’t been for a long time. What is “physical” is not something that is “made of matter”, but rather something that can described in terms of physics.

    In our uniform and repeated experience, information exists only as patterns in some physical substrate, and intelligent behavior requires the operation of some sort of complex physical state machine. There is no prescription for observing intelligence operating outside of physical information processing mechanisms.

    This is why empiricists must consider the hypothesis that a non-physical intelligent being can design and complex produce physical mechanisms to be unlikely, and require empirical evidence in order to consider this a justified belief.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  316. 316
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    If experience counts for evidence, then my internal experience of mind is indeed of a disembodied mind. Further, it is of a mind that can freely and willfully choose.

    This would be true if you were in fact disembodied, or for example if you could continue to act intelligently when your brain was rendered inoperable or removed. I do not believe this to be the case.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  317. 317
    Brent says:

    So no, it isn’t because of “materialism” that we say that there is no evidence for disembodied mind; it is because there is no evidence.

    Wrong as a matter of fact. You and others (here, at least, hiding behind empiricism) simply define what evidence counts as evidence, and then say there is no evidence.

    We have thus concluded our search and have found no material evidence for a proposed immaterial being.

    And what of the miracle accounts?

    Well, miracle accounts, besides being witnessed by superstitious people (obviously, because they believed they had seen a miracle), happened in the physical world, and therefore physics would explain it if we just had our equipment in the right place at the right time.

    And the life of Jesus, and resurrection?

    Well, again, superstitious people, ya know? A little embellishing here, a little stretching there, and well, you can create quite a story.

    One compelling enough to become lion lunch, even?

    Yeah.

    Well, clearly, there is no evidence then, except that logical reasoning forces us to believe in something outside of our realm of existence which must be able to bring what exists into existence.

    Ah! But you are not being empirical now. You’re just doing metaphysics.

    So you’re a materialist?

    No.

    What are you?

    An empiricist.

    What’s the difference practically?

    One is an ontological philosophy while the other is an epistemological theory (i.e., FACT).

    No. I said practically.

    Well, if you cannot see the difference between a philosophy and a theory, I don’t know what else to say.

    Oh, I see the difference quite well. But I also see the similarity, which you seem to avoid, that if empiricism as understood today is accepted as a true epistemological theory, materialism will necessarily follow.

    So, practically, what is the difference between an empiricist and a materialist? And further, how can a materialist ever hope to have evidence of an immaterial being?

    . . .

    As for the argument you have been making directly at ID, I would tell you personally two things:

    One, it isn’t necessary for me or others to accept your definition of empiricism. It seems that definition is used to hold to materialism, but materialism is what informed the current idea of empiricism in the first place.

    Two, ID cannot be ruled unscientific because the science leads to a metaphysical conclusion! Once that conclusion is reached, fine, call it philosophy. But don’t say ID isn’t science. That’s like saying because there are boundaries around the football field that a player is disallowed the yards he gained while in the field of play because he eventually stepped out. Ridiculous!

  318. 318
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,

    Wrong as a matter of fact. You and others (here, at least, hiding behind empiricism) simply define what evidence counts as evidence, and then say there is no evidence.

    No, I am not defining what counts as evidence. Rather, I am pointing out what empiricists define as evidence. Empiricism is not the only theory of knowledge of course; rationalism for example considers that reason, rather than shared experience, is the primary method for justifying our beliefs.

    And what of the miracle accounts?… And the life of Jesus, and resurrection?

    The reason Stephen Meyer speaks of “uniform and repeated experience” is to exclude the idea that ID appeals to miracles. If ID proponents were justifying their theory on the basis of miracles and the life of Jesus, then they would not use the language of empiricism.

    So you’re a materialist?
    No.
    What are you?
    An empiricist.

    Actually no, I’m neither a materialist nor an empiricst, as I’ve made clear many times.

    What’s the difference practically?
    One is an ontological philosophy while the other is an epistemological theory (i.e., FACT).

    No, an epistemological theory is not a “fact”. It is a theory of how beliefs are justified.

    One, it isn’t necessary for me or others to accept your definition of empiricism.

    It isn’t my definition. Look it up, or ask ID proponents like Stephen Meyer.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  319. 319
    Brent says:

    Well, now it’s my time for a break. I’ll be interested to see your response to the very last bit of my previous, though, when I get back later.

    And I know, of course, you didn’t define empiricism all by yourself. And I said, “. . . I would tell you personally two things.” But yes, I get that you are using someone’s own position against them. But please think about the last remark I made (#2), which seems the more reasonable and obvious way to look at it.

  320. 320
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,

    Two, ID cannot be ruled unscientific because the science leads to a metaphysical conclusion!

    ID is not unscientific because it leads to a metaphysical conclusion. Rather, ID is unscientific because it requires an assumption (viz that disembodied minds can produce complex physical mechanisms) which is contrary to our uniform and repeated experience, and it fails to provide new evidence that such things take place. If ID wishes to be considered a science, it ought to actually perform scientific research into paranormal phenomena. There are people who do this already, of course, but they have yet managed to provide strong evidence that disembodied intelligence can act in the physical world.

    Once that conclusion is reached, fine, call it philosophy. But don’t say ID isn’t science.

    In order for ID to be considered scientific, it must provide evidence grounded in our uniform and repeated experience, just as Stephen Meyer says. But when only that evidence is considered (and we do not consider the life of Jesus Christ, miracles, and so on), then the likelihood that ID is true is very low.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  321. 321
    Mung says:

    It’s our uniform and repeated experience that minds are embodied. Therefore ID is scientific.

  322. 322
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    In our uniform and repeated experience, information exists only as patterns in some physical substrate, and intelligent behavior requires the operation of some sort of complex physical state machine. There is no prescription for observing intelligence operating outside of physical information processing mechanisms.

    In our repeated and uniform experience information exists only in minds, for only a mind is capable of understanding and interpreting “informational patterns.”

  323. 323
    LarTanner says:

    @321:

    Is it your contention that the Intelligent Designer (of life on Earth, including humanity) possesses a body and a mind (i.e., discrete parts)?

  324. 324
    StephenB says:

    RDF: — “ID is not unscientific because it leads to a metaphysical conclusion. Rather, ID is unscientific because it requires an assumption (viz that disembodied minds can produce complex physical mechanisms) which is contrary to our uniform and repeated experience, and it fails to provide new evidence that such things take place.”

    The issue is whether one adopts [a] an epistemological philosophy of radical empiricism or whether one uses [b] empirical methods to arrive at a conclusion. The former approach imposes methodological naturalism, in which case all evidence for an immaterial mind (placebo effect, mind over matter, self discipline, self reflection etc) is reinterpreted in materialistic terms. The latter approach allows the researcher to follow the evidence of empirical observation wherever it might lead.

    It is not a requirement for empirical methods that the scientist must study nature as if nature is all there is. That limitation is found only in radical empiricism and methodological naturalism, both of which rule out immaterial minds apriori and in principle. In the final analysis, your objection amounts to nothing more than a refusal to respect the logical conclusions of empirical evidence if it happens to point to an immaterial mind.

    –“If ID wishes to be considered a science, it ought to actually perform scientific research into paranormal phenomena. There are people who do this already, of course, but they have yet managed to provide strong evidence that disembodied intelligence can act in the physical world.”

    We need no scientific proof of that which is obvious. That we can reflect on our own existence is proof enough that we can get outside our own matter, which means that we have an immaterial mind. Matter cannot get outside of itself .

  325. 325
    Mung says:

    LarTanner:

    Is it your contention that the Intelligent Designer (of life on Earth, including humanity) possesses a body and a mind (i.e., discrete parts)?

    Give that is is our uniform and repeated experience that minds are embodied, that would be a reasonable inference. Therefore ID is scientific.

  326. 326
    LarTanner says:

    Mung@325,

    OK, but is it your inference? Yes or no, does the ID of life and humanity have a body and a mind?

  327. 327
    StephenB says:

    LT: “Is it your contention that the Intelligent Designer (of life on Earth, including humanity) possesses a body and a mind (i.e., discrete parts)?”

    According to our uniform and repeated experience, mind (not body, its parts, or CSI) is responsible for CSI. The presence of CSI in nature, therefore, points only to the presence of mind. There is no indication that the designer has a body.

  328. 328
    LarTanner says:

    @327, You should read comments 321 and 325, then.

    Now, are you claiming that CSI can be produced without an embodied mind? Are you claiming that this is part of our uniform and repeated experience?

  329. 329
    Upright BiPed says:

    ID is unscientific because it requires an assumption (viz that disembodied minds can produce complex physical mechanisms)

    The design inference is reached without any dependence whatsoever in an unembodied agent. This is just false.

  330. 330
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    The issue is whether one adopts [a] an epistemological philosophy of radical empiricism or whether one uses [b] empirical methods to arrive at a conclusion. The former approach imposes methodological naturalism,…

    Empiricism does not entail naturalism any more than it entails materialism. It simply requires that evidence for any claim need be grounded in facts that anyone can ultimately verify by sensory experience.

    … in which case all evidence for an immaterial mind (placebo effect, mind over matter, self discipline, self reflection etc) is reinterpreted in materialistic terms.

    None of these things you mention are evidence for any particular ontology; they are all equally compatible with idealism or monism of any sort.

    It is not a requirement for empirical methods that the scientist must study nature as if nature is all there is.

    Empiricism does not define what “nature” is! Empricism simply says whatever we wish to claim has objective reality must be grounded in our uniform and repeated experience.

    In the final analysis, your objection amounts to nothing more than a refusal to respect the logical conclusions of empirical evidence if it happens to point to an immaterial mind.

    Show me an instance of intelligent behavior without a physical body and you’d be right.

    There are people who believe these things are in evidence of course – they are called paranormal investigators, who claim to have evidence of poltergesists, ghosts, demons, and other ostensibly immaterial beings acting displaying intelligent behavior. The evidence is very poor, however, and so is not accepted yet by the scientific community in general. There is nothing in principle preventing clear, repeatable evidence of these phenomena, however, which is why I encourage ID proponents to invest in paranormal research.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  331. 331
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upgright BiPed,

    The design inference is reached without any dependence whatsoever in an unembodied agent. This is just false.

    ID consists of two hypotheses: (1) something that is itself a complex physical entity was responsible for first life, and (2) something that was not itself a complex physical entity was responsible.

    If we posit (1), then ID is simply invoking a cause that is precisely what it purports to explain, and thus it fails to explain where complex mechanisms originated. Moreover, once we posit that some complex physical beings existed extra-terrestrially, we may as well simply assume that we are their descendents rather than the products of their bio-engineering.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  332. 332
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    P: If experience counts for evidence, then my internal experience of mind is indeed of a disembodied mind. Further, it is of a mind that can freely and willfully choose.

    RDF: This would be true if you were in fact disembodied, or for example if you could continue to act intelligently when your brain was rendered inoperable or removed. I do not believe this to be the case.

    Again, my self-reflective experience of mind is non-localized. Though my senses feel tied to my body, the part of me that thinks, reasons, dreams, and wills does not feel connected in the same way. There is nothing of my self-reflective experience of these processes that would indicate they must end when my body or brain ceases to function. In fact, it is not inconsistent with my experiences at all to suppose that I will go on thinking, reasoning, dreaming, and willing forever. And while I may have experienced through my external-facing senses that those without a brain do not continue to act intelligently, I have no experience indicating that do not continue to think intelligently. Do you?

    If you stop to think about it, the moment you separate the “metaphysical” from the “empirical” you have already started down the path to assuming materialism. You are basically claiming that only the physical can be experienced and that the metaphysical cannot be experienced. How will you warrant such a claim? For someone who isn’t a materialist, once again, you seem to assume its premises with fascinating consistency.

  333. 333
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Empiricism does not entail naturalism any more than it entails materialism. It simply requires that evidence for any claim need be grounded in facts that anyone can ultimately verify by sensory experience.

    LOL! So internal experience of self is ruled out a priori. And the focus on sensory experience limits us to what can be ascertained through the physical senses. Should anyone be surprised that, at this point, materialism is the unavoidable result of empiricism so defined?

  334. 334
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Show me an instance of intelligent behavior without a physical body and you’d be right.

    Why do you insist on an instance of intelligent behavior, when it is thought that is at issue? As far as I know, no one is claiming that we can experience others performing physical acts without a physical body.

    Instead, why don’t you show empirically that intelligent thought requires a physical body. Otherwise, our experience leaves open the question of disembodied minds, at least to those who are not already committed to only material explanations.

  335. 335
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    If we posit (1), then ID is simply invoking a cause that is precisely what it purports to explain, and thus it fails to explain where complex mechanisms originated.

    Absolute baloney. I’ve never heard any ID claim to explain ultimate origins. ID only looks to explain the proximate origin of any instance of CSI.

  336. 336
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Again, my self-reflective experience of mind is non-localized. Though my senses feel tied to my body, the part of me that thinks, reasons, dreams, and wills does not feel connected in the same way.

    Mine does. The way it feels to me is that my thoughts occur in my head, a few inches behind my eyes. I’m not being facetious here – that honestly is my subjective experience.

    But even if the experience you describe was our uniform and repeated experience, it appears that even you require a functioning brain in order to have that experience! You do not have that experience when your brain is physically interfered with (say, with a dose of propofol). That is the ubiquitous evidence I’m referring to that nothing experiences anything – even thought – without a complex functional mechanism processing information.

    You are basically claiming that only the physical can be experienced and that the metaphysical cannot be experienced. How will you warrant such a claim? For someone who isn’t a materialist, once again, you seem to assume its premises with fascinating consistency.

    On the contrary, I am saying that what is “physical” is not restricted to our everyday concepts of matter in motion. Physical reality is quite bizarre and unintuitive, and physics requires belief in all sorts of things that are distinctly “immaterial”. I believe in all of that, and I believe that those beliefs are grounded in experiences that are available to anybody.

    I don’t believe in disembodied entities that can produce effects in the material world, however. For example, I’ve never seen a novel complex mechanism arise spontaneously as if assembled by a spirit. That would certainly constitute evidence for disembodied intelligence, but it is not what we experience – ever.

    Should anyone be surprised that, at this point, materialism is the unavoidable result of empiricism so defined?

    You have not taken my point about how our modern understanding of the physical universe is not “material” in any intuitive, normal sense of that word.

    Why do you insist on an instance of intelligent behavior, when it is thought that is at issue?

    Because in ID, it is not thought that is at issue! It is in fact the formation of complex form and function such as we observe in biological systems, and that ID purports to explain, that is at issue.

    As far as I know, no one is claiming that we can experience others performing physical acts without a physical body.

    ??? That is the claim of ID (at least the form of ID that seeks to explain the origin of complex form and function in the universe).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  337. 337
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Absolute baloney. I’ve never heard any ID claim to explain ultimate origins. ID only looks to explain the proximate origin of any instance of CSI.

    In that case, if ID posits that an extra-terrestrial life form was the proximate origin of complex form and function on Earth, why don’t you simply assume that life on Earth descended from those prior life forms?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  338. 338
    Box says:

    I would like to stress the fact that internal and external experience leads to two different semi-permeable realms. There are no physical objects in the internal realm. The mental, by contrast, does have to capacity to enter the physical realm, in many ways.
    And allow me stress the fact that internal experience (mind) is fundamental to external experience. Without internal experience there is no experience at all.
    My question to RDFish is: what does this tell us about empiricism that excludes internal experience with regard to the logical fallacy of “self-referential incoherence.”?

  339. 339
    Upright BiPed says:

    ID consists of two hypotheses: (1) something that is itself a complex physical entity was responsible for first life, and (2) something that was not itself a complex physical entity was responsible.

    ID posits that there are observations made of nature which are best explained by the act of an agent, as opposed to undirected material process. The inference is derived from nature as we find it. This does not require knowledge of the physical complexity of the agent.

    If we posit (1), then ID is simply invoking a cause that is precisely what it purports to explain, and thus it fails to explain where complex mechanisms originated.

    ID does not purport to explain ultimate causes, including where complex mechanisms ultimately originate; it can only seek to explain the appearance of biological complexity on earth.

    once we posit that some complex physical beings existed extra-terrestrially, we may as well simply assume that we are their descendents rather than the products of their bio-engineering.

    You are certainly welcome to that belief if you wish. It does nothing to alter the inference to design on earth, although it might be difficult to understand why a descendent capable of the dimensional semiotic code required for cell organization would not rise on Earth for billions of years later. But again, you are welcome to that speculation if you wish.

  340. 340
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF:

    What most people think of as “materialism” is somthing like “matter in motion” or “particles bumping into each other”, but physicists have known this view to be false for 100 years, since the advent of quantum physics. Even before then, concepts that seemed “immaterial” – like fields – had been accepted into our physical ontology. Einstein worked hard to reject both the indeterminacy and non-locality of quantum mechanics, but both of these distinctly non-material concepts are part of modern physics anyway. Why? Because they successfully explain and predict our uniform and repeated experience.

    Red herring and strawman.

    In several ways.

    First, the self referential incoherence and want of empirical grounding for evolutionary materialism are not dependent on whether or not one uses the more sophisticated term, physicalism. (On this multidimensional self referential incoherence cf here.)

    Next, in terms of neurons, ion flows and the like, there is nothing inherent in a neural network that is not a matter of software sitting on hardware. Both need to be accounted for, and the emergence of complex software by successive accidents yielding incrementally improved performance has yet to be empirically grounded, other than on materialist just so stories and gross extrapolations.

    Going one way, the emergence of conscious, self aware mind from software riding on hardware has simply not been demonstrated, nor is it reasonable that this will be so, as software is inherently about deterministic processes with maybe controlled random processes involved. Software has no conscious awareness, genuine understanding [Chinese rooms notwithstanding] or common sense, which is what is captured in GIGO.

    Going another way, OOL — which involves a considerable amount of software (and thus language, algorithms and more) — is simply not empirically grounded in blind chemistry and physics in a warm little pond or elsewhere. The same extends to origin of body plans, including our own.

    And that brings us right back full circle to the point that our very first experience is that we are minded, responsible, choosing creatures, who are not controlled by blind chance and mechanical necessity but who can and do reason and act in light of reason, evidence and principles.

    Just what is such mind made up of, or is that even the right question?

    We do not know, and it is folly to pretend that — as we live in a physical world — we must confine our discussions tho that which we are not in a position to show accounts for mind.

    However dressed up, that boils down to begging some pretty big questions.

    What we can and do show empirically, is that functionally specific complex organisation and associated information is not credibly reachable by blind chance and mechanical necessity on the gamut of solar system or observable cosmos, but is routinely produced by design, which in turn depends on intelligent action.

    That is, we empirically know and can back up on the needle in haystack search analysis, that FSCO/I is an empirically reliable indicator of design as cause. Based on what we know.

    Going further, at OOL we know that cell based life is chock full of FSCO/I. Such could possibly be accounted for on a molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond Venter et al. We cannot rule that out so we must be open.

    When we move on to looking at a cosmos finely tuned in ways that set it at a narrow operating point that enables cell based life, we are looking again at signs that point to design, and raise serious questions of a designer that is beyond matter, a designer with the power to build a cosmos.

    Yes, all of this is very uncomfortable for materialists of one stripe or another.

    But it does not mean that these things do not sit at the table as of right, not sufferance.

    KF

  341. 341
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    I would like to stress the fact that internal and external experience leads to two different semi-permeable realms. There are no physical objects in the internal realm. The mental, by contrast, does have to capacity to enter the physical realm, in many ways.

    There are many, many, many different views on the relationship between the mind and the body; if you put five philosophers in a room and ask for their solution to the mind/body problem you will get ten different answers. I personally don’t think we understand the categories in a way that would enable anyone to explain the relationship – but of course that’s just my take, and I’d never claim my understanding could be grounded in our shared experience. The reason this issue is unresolved – not even approaching a consensus view – is because it cannot be tested against our shared experience.

    And allow me stress the fact that internal experience (mind) is fundamental to external experience.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “external experience”.

    Without internal experience there is no experience at all.

    I would certainly agree with this.

    My question to RDFish is: what does this tell us about empiricism that excludes internal experience with regard to the logical fallacy of “self-referential incoherence.”?

    I do not agree that empiricism excludes “internal experience”. I think there is only experience – that which we apprehend in our conscious awareness.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  342. 342
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    But even if the experience you describe was our uniform and repeated experience, it appears that even you require a functioning brain in order to have that experience! You do not have that experience when your brain is physically interfered with (say, with a dose of propofol). That is the ubiquitous evidence I’m referring to that nothing experiences anything – even thought – without a complex functional mechanism processing information.

    I’m not sure it is that simple. I had a cousin who dislocated his shoulder. When I took him to the hospital, they gave him a drug that didn’t address the pain so much as his memory of the pain. I watched as he experienced the pain of them putting his shoulder back in place. I also watched as, a few minutes later, he asked when they were going to do the procedure. So, what did he experience?

    That we are not aware of having experienced something post medication doesn’t necessarily mean we haven’t experienced something. It seems quite plausible to me that I and my experiences persist even when my body’s ability to remember those experiences is shut down temporarily.

    Because in ID, it is not thought that is at issue! It is in fact the formation of complex form and function such as we observe in biological systems, and that ID purports to explain, that is at issue.

    But you’ve said that ID turns on disembodied minds, which you say stands in contradiction of our experiences. So, disembodied minds are very much what is at issue and your appeal to the lack of intelligent behavior among the dead as evidence against disembodied minds does not follow. So again, what experience can you provide that intelligent thought cannot persist without a brain/body?

    P: You are basically claiming that only the physical can be experienced and that the metaphysical cannot be experienced. How will you warrant such a claim? For someone who isn’t a materialist, once again, you seem to assume its premises with fascinating consistency.

    RDF: On the contrary…

    So, you agree that it may be possible to experience the metaphysical? Why then, in your discussion with RD Miksa, did you seek to set aside metaphysical issues when taking your empirical approach?

    I don’t believe in disembodied entities that can produce effects in the material world, however. For example, I’ve never seen a novel complex mechanism arise spontaneously as if assembled by a spirit. That would certainly constitute evidence for disembodied intelligence, but it is not what we experience – ever.

    Well, if you’ve ruled out the possibility that your disembodied mind spontaneously and creatively directs your body to give rise to novel complex mechanisms (like this post, for example), then I don’t suppose you would ever accept such as evidence. However, what you’ve described is pretty much exactly what I experience – all. the. time. So again, my universal and repeated experience of your stated perspectives points to an underlying commitment to materialism on which your empiricism hangs.

  343. 343
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    In that case, if ID posits that an extra-terrestrial life form was the proximate origin of complex form and function on Earth, why don’t you simply assume that life on Earth descended from those prior life forms?

    I suppose for the same reason that Darwinist’s don’t stop at, “Your mom,” as a proximate origin for your complex form and function. Even more, I don’t see self-replication as an adequate explanation of self-replication. I’m looking for the proximate origin, but this doesn’t mean that I’m not looking for the proximate origin.

  344. 344
    Box says:

    Box: And allow me stress the fact that internal experience (mind) is fundamental to external experience.

    RDFish #341: I don’t understand what you mean by “external experience”. (…) I do not agree that empiricism excludes “internal experience”. I think there is only experience – that which we apprehend in our conscious awareness.

    You don’t seem to make a distinction between the realm of internal experience (thoughts, feelings, meaning, consciousness, plans, ethics) and the realm of external experience (rocks, bodies, moon, water). For several posts now, I’m arguing on the basis of this distinction. Do you have an objection to this distinction or did I not express myself clearly enough?

  345. 345
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    I’m not sure it is that simple. I had a cousin who dislocated his shoulder. When I took him to the hospital, they gave him a drug that didn’t address the pain so much as his memory of the pain. I watched as he experienced the pain of them putting his shoulder back in place. I also watched as, a few minutes later, he asked when they were going to do the procedure. So, what did he experience? That we are not aware of having experienced something post medication doesn’t necessarily mean we haven’t experienced something. It seems quite plausible to me that I and my experiences persist even when my body’s ability to remember those experiences is shut down temporarily.

    Ah, you are deep in the thick of it now! How can we tell that anything is real? Perhaps you are the only consciousness in existence, and the world is your dream! Would you endure pain and torture that was more horrible than the worst you could imagine, and suffer that for a hundred years, if you could guarantee that at the end you would emerge, physically unscathed, and that no Eartly time had passed, and that you had no memory of your ordeal, for the sum of $10? Why not?

    I’m not interested in these sorts of questions. I assume that the world exists when I am not conscious of it. I assume that when I lose consciousness I assume I lose consciousness. We could all be wrong, but there’s no way of ever knowing.

    But you’ve said that ID turns on disembodied minds, which you say stands in contradiction of our experiences. So, disembodied minds are very much what is at issue and your appeal to the lack of intelligent behavior among the dead as evidence against disembodied minds does not follow.

    I’m not talking about “the dead” in particular; I’m simply pointing out the obvious: Each time we observe that complex mechanism requires the operation of an intelligent agent (the basis for the design inference), we also observe that intelligent agents require the operation of complex mechanism.

    So, you agree that it may be possible to experience the metaphysical?
    “The metaphysical” does not refer to particular types of experiences; rather, it refers to our understanding of what underlies our experiences.

    Why then, in your discussion with RD Miksa, did you seek to set aside metaphysical issues when taking your empirical approach?

    Because we cannot resolve metaphysical questions by appeal to the empircal. There is no experiment we can run to determine whether the moon exists when you are not observing at it.

    Well, if you’ve ruled out the possibility that your disembodied mind spontaneously and creatively directs your body…

    You can stop there: My body is a complex physical mechanism, without which I can do nothing at all. You think of yourself as a mind inhabiting a body; I think of myself as my mind and body in a unified whole; others think of themselves differently still. There is no empirical test to see which one of us is correct.

    So again, my universal and repeated experience of your stated perspectives points to an underlying commitment to materialism on which your empiricism hangs.</blockquote
    How do you define "materialism"?
    How do you define "empiricism"?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  346. 346
    RDFish says:

    Sorry Phinehas, here’s the last paragraph again:

    So again, my universal and repeated experience of your stated perspectives points to an underlying commitment to materialism on which your empiricism hangs.

    How do you define “materialism”?
    How do you define “empiricism”?

  347. 347
    StephenB says:

    RDF “ID is unscientific because it requires an assumption (viz that disembodied minds can produce complex physical mechanisms) which is contrary to our uniform and repeated experience, and it fails to provide new evidence that such things take place.”

    No such assumption is involved. CSI is, insofar as our experience is concerned, always an effect of intelligence and never a cause of intelligence. A written paragraph, for example, is an effect; it cannot produce CSI–it can only exhibit it. It is the same with the CSI in a DNA molecule, which also cannot cause intelligence.

    If, in our repeated and uniform experience, an intelligent agent, whose body also happens to exhibit CSI, creates a design, we can safely attribute the cause to the agent’s intelligence–not to the agent’s CSI, which plays no causal role in that context. It is on that basis that we can extrapolate and conclude that CSI in a DNA molecule is also likely the result of an intelligent agent and that the agent’s CSI (or lack of it) is not a factor to be considered.

  348. 348
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    CSI is, insofar as our experience is concerned, always an effect of intelligence and never a cause of intelligence. A written paragraph, for example, is an effect; it cannot produce CSI–it can only exhibit it. It is the same with the CSI in a DNA molecule, which also cannot cause intelligence.

    Again, my point is that complex, physical mechanisms, capable of storing and processing information, is what appears to be necessary in order for intelligent behavior to occur.

    You are correct that complex physical mechanisms (like cars or computers, or like flagella or eyeballs or blood clotting cascades) are always, in our shared experience, an effect of intelligent behavior. But it is equally correct to say that intelligent behaviors are always the result of the operation of complex physical mechanisms, such brains, or computer systems.

    If, in our repeated and uniform experience, an intelligent agent, whose body also happens to exhibit CSI, creates a design, we can safely attribute the cause to the agent’s intelligence–not to the agent’s CSI, which plays no causal role in that context.

    To say that neural processing in the brain plays no causal role in the context of a human being designing and building a complex machine simply flies in the face of everything we know about such things. If you would like to hold to this position – that the brain is irrelevant to our ability to design and build machines – then I will be happy to leave our debate at this point and let the fair reader decide who has the stronger position.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  349. 349
    Brent says:

    Again, my point is that complex, physical mechanisms, capable of storing and processing information, is what appears to be necessary in order for intelligent behavior to occur.

    And now you are claiming (rightly, because your empiricism demands materialism) that determinism is true, and have undercut everything you’ve been trying to say.

    You’re very intent on having your cake and eating it too, but you aren’t fooling anyone.

    StephenB has nailed you thoroughly in post 324:

    The issue is whether one adopts [a] an epistemological philosophy of radical empiricism or whether one uses [b] empirical methods to arrive at a conclusion. The former approach imposes methodological naturalism, in which case all evidence for an immaterial mind (placebo effect, mind over matter, self discipline, self reflection etc) is reinterpreted in materialistic terms. The latter approach allows the researcher to follow the evidence of empirical observation wherever it might lead.

    You are using empiricism (of a type) to justify a practical materialism, but when accused of that materialism, you slide behind empiricism (of a type) by saying, “it is our uniform and repeated experience that all minds are embodied”, as if that doesn’t simply beg the question by saying that our knowledge can only come from our senses of the material world, and that metaphysically necessary conclusions grounded on rock-solid reasoning doesn’t count towards true knowledge, but only speculative ideas.

  350. 350
    StephenB says:

    RDF:

    —“Again, my point is that complex, physical mechanisms, capable of storing and processing information, is what appears to be necessary in order for intelligent behavior to occur.”

    No one disputes that point as a rule, certainly not me. Even so, there is empirical evidence that exceptions abound. In some circumstances, intelligent behavior can occur in the absence of the mechanism.

    —“You are correct that complex physical mechanisms (like cars or computers, or like flagella or eyeballs or blood clotting cascades) are always, in our shared experience, an effect of intelligent behavior.”

    Yes.

    —“But it is equally correct to say that intelligent behaviors are always the result of the operation of complex physical mechanisms, such brains, or computer systems.”

    As far as we know, the intelligent behavior exhibited by a human that results in CSI is a product of a mind working through the brain, with the mind calling the shots, though the brain is typically (not always) required for function. The higher functions of judgment, self-reflection, and creativity (necessary to design CSI) belong to the mind–not the complex physical mechanisms of the brain. Further, the brain, which is an organ made of matter, cannot get outside of itself to reflect on itself. The mind, which is a faculty, can perform self reflection because it can get outside of matter. On this issue you have been silent.

    I wrote, “if, in our repeated and uniform experience, an intelligent agent, whose body also happens to exhibit CSI, creates a design, we can safely attribute the cause to the agent’s intelligence–not to the agent’s CSI, which plays no causal role in that context.

    —“To say that neural processing in the brain plays no causal role in the context of a human being designing and building a complex machine simply flies in the face of everything we know about such things.”

    Please read carefully what I wrote above. I didn’t say that the neural processing in the brains plays no causal role. I said that the “CSI plays no role.” The brain’s CSI is not synonymous with the brain itself.

    –“If you would like to hold to this position – that the brain is irrelevant to our ability to design and build machines – then I will be happy to leave our debate at this point and let the fair reader decide who has the stronger position.”

    If you will fairly characterize my comments and refrain from reframing them into strawmen, I, too, will leave it to the reader. The brain (or its CSI) is irrelevant to the to the production of intelligence or an intelligent agent. On the other hand, the brain is not irrelevant to the production of CSI. CSI is an effect of intelligence. It is not a cause of intelligence.

  351. 351
    Mapou says:

    StephenB @350:

    The brain (or its CSI) is irrelevant to the to the production of intelligence or an intelligent agent. On the other hand, the brain is not irrelevant to the production of CSI. CSI is an effect of intelligence. It is not a cause of intelligence.

    As a Christian who believes that the brain is controlled by a non-material entity or spirit, I find the above incomprehensible. I would like to clarify something. Are you saying that intelligence is only in the spirit (mind?) and not in the brain?

    I am asking because, as someone who also does research in AI, I would definitely place intelligence in the brain’s cortical network. It seems to me that the spirit (what I think you are referring to as the mind) is just the conscious motivational (decides likes and dislikes) and goal-selecting “mechanism”, without which we would just be zombies or unconscious robots. But robots certainly do not need a spirit/mind to be intelligent. They just need a way to be motivated.

    Based on the above, we could say that we don’t like music because the brain motivates us to like music. We like music because the spirit motivates the brain to focus on music.

  352. 352
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,

    And now you are claiming (rightly, because your empiricism demands materialism) that determinism is true, and have undercut everything you’ve been trying to say.

    1) You are mistaken to believe that empricism demands (entails) materialism
    2) You are mistaken to believe that I have made some sort of claim about determinism, which is completely orthogonal to my point
    3) You are mistaken to believe that I have undercut anything that I’ve said before.

    That would make three mistakes, in a single sentence.

    The issue is whether one adopts [a] an epistemological philosophy of radical empiricism or whether one uses [b] empirical methods to arrive at a conclusion. The former approach imposes methodological naturalism, in which case all evidence for an immaterial mind (placebo effect, mind over matter, self discipline, self reflection etc) is reinterpreted in materialistic terms. The latter approach allows the researcher to follow the evidence of empirical observation wherever it might lead.

    Empiricism does not entail naturalism any more than it entails materialism. It simply requires that evidence for any claim need be grounded in facts that anyone can ultimately verify by sensory experience. None of these things you mention are evidence for any particular ontology; they are all equally compatible with idealism or monism of any sort.

    You are using empiricism (of a type) to justify a practical materialism, but when accused of that materialism, you slide behind empiricism (of a type) by saying, “it is our uniform and repeated experience that all minds are embodied”,…

    I am not justifying any sort of materialism, as you would know full well if you actually read my posts. I am not “sliding behind” empiricism, nor am I adopting it as my epistemology. Rather, I am making a point about the empiricism that ID proponents such as Stephen Meyer adopt, and how that empiricsm does not support ID theory.

    …as if that doesn’t simply beg the question by saying that our knowledge can only come from our senses of the material world, and that metaphysically necessary conclusions grounded on rock-solid reasoning doesn’t count towards true knowledge, but only speculative ideas.
    You are arguing against empiricism, but I am not arguing for it. Please read this again:

    1) I am not arguing that materialism is true, or that dualism is false.
    2) I am not arguing that ID is false
    3) I am not arguing that empiricism is the only valid theory of knowledge.
    4) What I AM arguing is that IF one adopts empiricism, THEN neither ID nor any other theory of origins can be justified.

    Brent, our debate would be far more interesting if you argued against my position, rather than a position that you are making up by yourself.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  353. 353
    StephenB says:

    Mapou @351, in my judgement, the mind relies on the body (brain) for sensory input, without which conceptual knowledge is impossible, but the acts of knowing, reasoning, judging, and creating are primarily spiritual (mind, soul).

    I think that the lower mental functions, such as sensory abilities, physiology, and appetites are fundamentally physical and material, being closely correlated with brain anatomy, while the higher mental functions, such as reason, judgment, and creativity, are fundamentally immaterial and spiritual, being scarcely correlated with brain anatomy (mind).

  354. 354
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF: ”Again, my point is that complex, physical mechanisms, capable of storing and processing information, is what appears to be necessary in order for intelligent behavior to occur.”
    SB: No one disputes that point as a rule, certainly not me. Even so, there is empirical evidence that exceptions abound. In some circumstances, intelligent behavior can occur in the absence of the mechanism.

    The last claim is actually at the very center of our debate, and if you can describe how to bring about these “circumstances” so that other people can in fact observe intelligent behavior in the absence of physical mechanism, I will concede this debate on the spot.

    The higher functions of judgment, self-reflection, and creativity (necessary to design CSI) belong to the mind–not the complex physical mechanisms of the brain.

    I’m curious regarding the specific evidence you have for this division of functionality, but this is actually beside the point. The point is whether or not we have reason to think that complex physical mechanism is necessary for intelligent behavior to take place. You have claimed that it is not, and what I am asking is how can I ascertain the truth of your claim?

    My guess is you will refer to some article talking about a flat-lining patient, or a microencephalic, or NDE experiences, or something along those lines. The problems with that evidence are many: (1) In contrast to our vast experience with losing consciousness and mental functioning due to brain disruptions (injury, anesthesia, etc), these reports are so rare that they cannot be reliably replicated; (2) In each case the subject was still a complex, physical, embodied human whose metabolism had not ceased to function; (3) None of these patients actually designed anything, (4) Both the actual data and the interpretation of these isolated reports are very controversial, and so on.

    However, I really do not want to enter a debate regarding the quality of this evidence. I would be quite happy if you would simply admit that the likelihood that ID is true is predicated upon this sort of evidence, and we can agree to disagree about the strength of that evidence (and perhaps other paranormal phenomena you’d like to add).

    Further, the brain, which is an organ made of matter, cannot get outside of itself to reflect on itself. The mind, which is a faculty, can perform self reflection because it can get outside of matter. On this issue you have been silent.

    I haven’t remained silent; I showed how self-reflection is perfectly compatible with functionalism, and explained why the placebo effect was not only perfectly consistent with physicalism, but why experiencing a mental change that was not accompanied by a physical change would actually violate physicalism.

    SB: “if, in our repeated and uniform experience, an intelligent agent, whose body also happens to exhibit CSI, creates a design, we can safely attribute the cause to the agent’s intelligence–not to the agent’s CSI, which plays no causal role in that context.
    RDF: —”To say that neural processing in the brain plays no causal role in the context of a human being designing and building a complex machine simply flies in the face of everything we know about such things.”
    SB: Please read carefully what I wrote above. I didn’t say that the neural processing in the brains plays no causal role. I said that the “CSI plays no role.” The brain’s CSI is not synonymous with the brain itself.

    Ok then, you agree that neural processing plays a causal role in design/production. If you agree that neural processing plays a necessary causal role in design/production then we can also end our debate, because I would consider that to be a confirmation of my point. Otherwise, if you believe neural processing is not required in order to design/build some complex machine, tell me what evidence you have that this is the case.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  355. 355
    StephenB says:

    RDF: “I am making a point about the empiricism that ID proponents such as Stephen Meyer adopt, and how that empiricism does not support ID theory.”

    I don’t think that you have successfully made that case for reasons already indicated. Meyer’s argument satiesfies the empirical standard in question as it is based on repeated and uniform experience. Wherever we find CSI, we find intelligence. The complicated add-ons and reformulations are yours exclusively and are not part of Meyer’s (or ID’s) argument. You are arguing against your own unwarranted reframing of Meyer’s argument.

    RDF: “What I AM arguing is that IF one adopts empiricism, THEN neither ID nor any other theory of origins can be justified.”

    If “empiricism” entails the admission of sense experience in the absence of rational judgment, then neither ID or any other scientific theory can be justified; if empiricism entails both the admission of sense experience and rational judgment, then ID can be justified quite easily.

  356. 356
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Meyer’s argument satiesfies the empirical standard in question as it is based on repeated and uniform experience. Wherever we find CSI, we find intelligence.

    And wherever we find intelligent behavior, we find it comes from CSI-rich physical structures of exactly the type ID purports to explain.

    The complicated add-ons and reformulations are yours exclusively and are not part of Meyer’s (or ID’s) argument.

    It couldn’t be simpler, actually.

    You are arguing against your own unwarranted reframing of Meyer’s argument.

    I’m not reframing his argument, I’m just pointing out the other half of that reciprocal relationship.

    You appear to be attempting to counter my argument by claiming that there is empirical evidence for the ability of disembodied entities to exhibit intelligent behavior and produce complex machines. The evidence has not been identified, however.

    If “empiricism” entails the admission of sense experience in the absence of rational judgment, then neither ID or any other scientific theory can be justified;

    Of course not.

    …if empiricism entails both the admission of sense experience and rational judgment, then ID can be justified quite easily.

    No, because (1) it contradicts our experience of invariably-embodied intelligent beings, and (2) there is no actual evidence that this (or any other disembodied intelligent being) exists or has ever existed.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  357. 357
    StephenB says:

    RDF: “Ok then, you agree that neural processing plays a causal role in design/production.”

    To say emphatically that CSI does not play a causal role is not the same as saying that neural processing does play a role. I have serious doubts that higher mental functions depend much on the brain, as opposed to lower mental functions, which seem to. However, none of this speaks to the main point: Neither CSI or neural processing can produce an intelligent agent with a CSI rich mechanism.

    —“If you agree that neural processing plays a necessary causal role in design/production then we can also end our debate, because I would consider that to be a confirmation of my point.”

    Not necessarily. If the mind uses the brain, then it would not support your claim since the mind would still be the cause and the brain would simply be the organ or physical vessel through which mind expresses itself. If, on the other hand, the brain was the cause, then the mind would simply be following the brain’s non-volitional impulses, yet we know that the mind is not that passive. This brings us back to the point about the mind reversing the brain’s impulses, which you have not addressed.

    —“Otherwise, if you believe neural processing is not required in order to design/build some complex machine, tell me what evidence you have that this is the case.”

    There are empirically based reasons to think that neural processing may not always be necessary. Consult the research alluded to @290. Also, don’t forget about angels, who have been observed and who have no bodies.

  358. 358
    StephenB says:

    RDF: “I’m not reframing his (Meyer’s) argument, I’m just pointing out the other half of that reciprocal relationship.”

    I am afraid that you are, indeed, reframing his argument. A hypothesis is a delicate thing. When you tamper with it, you change its structure by introducing extraneous elements. The concept of intelligent agency can be well understood without introducing other factors such as the CSI in the agent.

    For that matter, an intelligent agent cannot design CSI without the physical support of air and water. That doesn’t mean that we should inject air and water into the hypothesis.

    Also, as I have pointed out several times, the relationship is not reciprocal in a causal way. Intelligence causes CSI and neural processes, but CSI and neural processes do not cause intelligence.

  359. 359
    Brent says:

    RDF,

    That would make three mistakes, in a single sentence.

    Like striking out on a single pitch? That’s gotta count for somethin’! 🙂

    But I didn’t strike out.

    You act as if certain beliefs don’t entail other beliefs (I know, you’ll say “I never said that”, even though you’ve demonstrated it thoroughly). Now, I didn’t say (as long as you remember that when I say empiricism I only mean of a certain type, as StephenB has articulated) that empiricism entails materialism, but only that a certain ideologically constrained form of it does. You hold to that certain type that so does, as evidenced by your insistence that Meyer et al. must adhere to that same idea of empiricism. If not, then you have no argument against anyone.

    But, since demanding that Meyer’s empiricism be of a certain type, it can be reliably assumed that it is your own form of empiricism too, and that empiricism does in fact entail materialism. So, strike one is wiped out.

    I’ll note for now, you have built a nice space from which you can equivocate when saying “materialism”. But I’ll let it go for now.

    Further, if materialism is true, then it seems to follow that there is nothing but physics acting on the material world, of which our brains and thinking are just pieces and that our thoughts and reasoning, then, are determined by physics alone. If our reasoning cannot be explained in physical terms, then materialism isn’t true; there is something outside of the material world pressing in. But this is the thing you say there is no empirical (ideologically constrained form) evidence of, which leaves you with determinism. Strike two is wiped out.

    If determinism is true, then the practice of trying to reason things out is just a natural, unguided process that leaves no reason to believe that our thinking leads to truth. All of our thoughts, even the contradictory ones, would be true, in a sense, simply because of the fact that we thought them. So, strike three is wiped out.

    You had stated:

    Again, my point is that complex, physical mechanisms, capable of storing and processing information, is what appears to be necessary in order for intelligent behavior to occur.

    As typed, you say the physical is necessary for the intelligent behavior to occur. This is putting the material and physical in the driver’s seat, and intelligence in the back. This sounds exactly like determinism to me, as the intelligence would be at the whim of physics.

    You said:

    3) I am not arguing that empiricism is the only valid theory of knowledge.

    Perhaps not, but you are saying that there can only be one acceptable idea of what counts as empirical knowledge/empiricism. And since you do, everyone here is going to think it is because you adhere to it yourself.

    4) What I AM arguing is that IF one adopts empiricism, THEN neither ID nor any other theory of origins can be justified.

    But what you are REALLY saying is:

    ‘that IF one adopts the form of empiricism that I embrace, THEN neither ID nor any other theory of origins can be justified.’

  360. 360
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I have serious doubts that higher mental functions depend much on the brain, as opposed to lower mental functions, which seem to.

    So you believe that this thing inside our skulls that uses 20-25% of our total energy and is the most complicated bit of machinery that we know of in the universe is just something that really doesn’t do all that much? That it may have something to do with lower mental functions, but that’s about it? It seems you haven’t even glanced at any sort of overview of what we know about brains – try even this to see that the brain performs information processing, perception, learning, and memory – all requisite for intelligent behavior: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain

    RDF: If you agree that neural processing plays a necessary causal role in design/production then we can also end our debate, because I would consider that to be a confirmation of my point.
    SB: Not necessarily. If the mind uses the brain, then it would not support your claim since the mind would still be the cause and the brain would simply be the organ or physical vessel through which mind expresses itself.

    You are describing dualist interactionism. If you concede that ID is fully predicated on the truth of interactionist metaphysics, then I’m happy to conclude at this point.

    This brings us back to the point about the mind reversing the brain’s impulses, which you have not addressed.

    There is nothing difficult to understand about a physical machine changing its own operation, or programming, so I don’t understand why you think is somehow evidence of dualism.

    Also, don’t forget about angels, who have been observed and who have no bodies.

    Just curious – how does one observe a disembodied angel? Are angels’ existence detected by various effects they have in the physical world? What sorts of effects, and how do you know they are caused by angels?

    In any event, if you concede that ID is predicated on claims such that angels have been observed and have no bodies (and presumably they can design complex machines?) then I am happy to conclude the debate.

    The concept of intelligent agency can be well understood without introducing other factors such as the CSI in the agent.

    The question is not if such a thing can be conceptually well understood, but rather whether such a thing exists or has ever existed except as a complex physical being.

    For that matter, an intelligent agent cannot design CSI without the physical support of air and water. That doesn’t mean that we should inject air and water into the hypothesis.

    Brains are apparently essential for designing things, because designing requires the ability to process information, which is what the brain does.

    Also, as I have pointed out several times, the relationship is not reciprocal in a causal way. Intelligence causes CSI and neural processes, but CSI and neural processes do not cause intelligence.

    It isn’t matter if CSI/neural processes “cause” intelligence; I am arguing that they are necessary for intelligence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  361. 361
    Box says:

    RDFish #341: I don’t understand what you mean by “external experience”. (…) I do not agree that empiricism excludes “internal experience”. I think there is only experience – that which we apprehend in our conscious awareness.

    You did not respond to my post#344. Do let me know if you choose to stand by your belief that there is no point in making a distinction between internal and external experience – and in effect conflating the mental and physical realm into ‘one experience’.

  362. 362
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,

    But, since demanding that Meyer’s empiricism be of a certain type, it can be reliably assumed that it is your own form of empiricism too, and that empiricism does in fact entail materialism. So, strike one is wiped out. I’ll note for now, you have built a nice space from which you can equivocate when saying “materialism”.

    Brent, you are saying that I am a materialist and an empiricist, and I am in fact neither.

    At this point it would help for you to provide your definitions of empiricism and materialism.

    Further, if materialism is true, then it seems to follow that there is nothing but physics acting on the material world, of which our brains and thinking are just pieces and that our thoughts and reasoning, then, are determined by physics alone.

    Well, the physical world is not deterministic – and we don’t really understand what it is made of – but yes, I’d say this would be entailed by materialism.

    If our reasoning cannot be explained in physical terms, then materialism isn’t true; there is something outside of the material world pressing in.

    Not necessarily, no. It could also be that the material world simply cannot be comprehended by our minds (cf. Colin McGinn).

    But this is the thing you say there is no empirical (ideologically constrained form) evidence of, which leaves you with determinism. Strike two is wiped out.

    You are arguing that materialism is false, so therefore I must be a determinist??? I honestly can’t begin to imagine what you’re thinking here.

    If determinism is true…

    This argument has nothing to do with determinism.

    3) I am not arguing that empiricism is the only valid theory of knowledge.
    Perhaps not, but you are saying that there can only be one acceptable idea of what counts as empirical knowledge/empiricism. And since you do, everyone here is going to think it is because you adhere to it yourself.

    I get to determine what I think, not other people 🙂
    In any event, I’ll ask you again, what do you mean by “emprical”, and what distinguishes empirical evidence from other evidence?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  363. 363
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N’s: I think a few notes may help (as a somewhat peripheral participant in this thread):

    1 –> I think we need to distinguish design as process and designer as cause of that process.

    2 –> The process tends strongly to leave characteristic features that may be observed and correlated with cases of design, and through the needle in haystack analysis, shown to be not plausible on blind chance and mechanical necessity.

    3 –> So, once those features have been observed and sufficiently strongly correlated with design as causal processes, one is entitled to infer on sign to known characteristic causal process provisional as is inevitable in scientific work, but plainly reliable per observations.

    4 –> This is an obviously inductive, empirically grounded exercise that is not even controversial in many contexts that are indisputably scientific.

    5 –> Onward, we see that design tends to come from designers.

    6 –> And, commonly [notice, I have not said uniformly, that is to beg big questions and to dismiss literally millions of cases as delusional, usually on a prioris that are loaded with contempt similar to Lewontin’s alleged imaginary demons . . . ], the designers we observe in action are embodied.

    7 –> Can we properly then infer that all designers are embodied and we may only infer to embodiment? Nope.

    8 –> Here, I allude to the basic problem of material interaction vs intelligent action. As we know from hard and software systems, processing is a matter of appropriately configured material elements, sequenced to use symbols, rules, signals under such and systems to move from inputs in accordance with processing steps to yield outputs that achieve goals. But the processing itself is blind, the meaning is injected by design and comes about by design, or may fail to do so because of errors.

    9 –> That is our actual observation of processors and processing is that this too is a manifestation of design, and that the material elements involved are characteristically blind to the issues involved. Hence GIGO.

    10 –> We have zero experience of such processors and software arising by blind processes, and in fact this is a manifestation of the same pattern of FSCO/I arising by by design.

    11 –> But we are ourselves using brains that have neural networks etc, that manifest software patterns and signal processing. Which suggests that we are ourselves designed. (The same basic point goes down to the living cell which has in it miniature microcontrollers and NC machinery.)

    12 –> Eng Derek Smith’s model of a two-tier controller in a cybernetic loop that interfaces and interacts with the external world allows us to see this in ways that move the discussion forward. The lower level controller is an I/O and storage unit that interfaces to the cybernetic loop directly under a given processor and controller architecture.

    13 –> But there is a higher order, supervisory/strategic influencing controller that carries out higher level functions linked to goals, envisioning of paths to them, etc. There has been a suggestion of quantum-level influences on the lower level controller at the interface between the two.

    14 –> So we see here room to accept the brain in body loop and room for a higher order controller that interacts with and influences it. Which also means that by trying to lock attention down to the brain-body loop, something may be being missed that may be at least as important.

    15 –> Do I need to “prove” that such exists? Depends on what you mean by proof. The very first fact of our existence as intelligent creatures is that we are conscious, willful, able to think, reason and interface with the world in accord with that intention. So, where does this come from and where is it located?

    16 –> Conscious agency is in our bodies and obviously primarily intersects with our brains and central nervous systems. It is not marked by characteristic features of material bodies, as has been known since Leibniz talked about mill cogs grinding against one another blindly, in accord with a plan they were blatantly not conscious of.

    17 –> Mind, in short, is not to be found in processing.

    18 –> If you want to claim empirical warrant for rejecting that, kindly show us a case where mind is created from processing in our observation. (And onwards, kindly show that such can happen by blind chance and mechanical necessity forming the physical substrate and the software through incremental chance variations and success filtering with elimination of the “less fit.”)

    19 –> I freely dare to assert that none of this has been shown empirically, and therefore the agenda that depends on such implicit assumptions is empirically unground3ed, and is in fact also self referential and incoherent in many ways.

    20 –> Moreover, thought his is beyond strict science, it is incapable of grounding our experience of being morally governed, that is that we find ourselves inescapably under the binding power of OUGHT. Indeed, the above exchange pivots on the concept that we are obligated to seek the truth and to seek a reasonable view and OUGHT to hold such once we find it.

    21 –> Therefore, the only worldviews worth even considering seriously are those that have in them a foundational IS capable of grounding OUGHT. It is not hard to see that matter and energy in space and time, interacting by blind chance and mechanical necessity spectacularly fails this test. The only serious candidate for such an IS, is the inherently good Creator God of an ethical theism. (One may duck, side-slip, caricature and deride such an argument, but its force is still going to be there after the rhetorical smoke clears.)

    22 –> As noted, OOL etc can be accounted for to logical sufficiency by the possibility of a molecular nanotech lab. But we also live in a cosmos that sits at a locally deeply isolated multiply fine tuned operating point that facilitates the existence of the sort of C-Chemistry, cell based aqueous medium life we have. So strong is this that the lifelong agnostic and Nobel equivalent prize holding astrophysicist, Sir Fred Hoyle, spoke about a super-intellect monkeying with the physics of the cosmos so that there are no blind forces to speak of in nature. Thence we point beyond an evidently contingent world to a necessary being at its causal root. Where, such a being will blatantly be beyond patently contingent matter.

    23 –> Where also, obviously, we are now speaking ontologically prior to the physical, material cosmos and to the setting up of such. Mind beyond matter is not an absurdity.

    ======

    So, in a wider context, to believe in mind beyond matter is not an obvious absurdity at all. Nor is it without evidence, despite what many would wish to suggest.

    KF

  364. 364
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF: Once one confines him-/her-self to discussing in a matter-energy, signal- processing circle, we are dealing with the determinism of mechanical necessity, as modified only by chance/random circumstances and processes. KF

  365. 365
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Re def’n of empirical:

    em·pir·i·cal
    (m-pîr-kl)
    adj.
    1.
    a. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment: empirical results that supported the hypothesis.
    b. Verifiable or provable by means of observation or experiment: empirical laws.
    2. Guided by practical experience and not theory, especially in medicine.
    em·piri·cal·ly adv.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    Empirical cannot properly be used to beg worldview level questions by becoming a stalking horse for materialism, by whatever name. In particular, observe the priority of the conscious observer in all of the above.

    The first empirical datum is the existence of the conscious, minded observer and agent. One, who finds him- or her- self bound by the force of OUGHT,a s already discussed.

  366. 366
    Brent says:

    RDF,

    I get to determine what I think, not other people

    Of course. And if you read my last post again you’ll see that I worded it carefully so that there was room for me being mistaken about what YOU actually believe. What you should also notice, though, is that whether it happens to be your personal belief or not, you are using an idea of empiricism that is only allowed to confirm and work within a materialistic worldview.

    You’ve become confused on some other points I made (I’m sure it’s my fault) and perhaps I’ll try to clarify later, but at least know that my point about determinism was that if other of your assertions hold, it seems to lead to determinism, and thereby any and all arguments are just meaningless as you’ve cut off the branch on which you are trying to sit. Again, perhaps you don’t personally hold to the position you are arguing from, but if that position nonetheless leads to determinism, then the consequences are the same; you’ve defeated all of your arguments.

  367. 367
    Brent says:

    RDF,

    For clarification, I had said earlier:

    Further, if materialism is true, then it seems to follow that there is nothing but physics acting on the material world, of which our brains and thinking are just pieces and that our thoughts and reasoning, then, are determined by physics alone. If our reasoning cannot be explained in physical terms, then materialism isn’t true; there is something outside of the material world pressing in. But this is the thing you say there is no empirical (ideologically constrained form) evidence of, which leaves you with determinism. Strike two is wiped out.

    Here, by “But this is the thing you say there is no empirical (ideologically constrained form) evidence of, which leaves you with determinism”, I mean that, according to what you have written, there is no evidence of mind apart from material, which would indicate that materialism is true, and therefore determinism.

  368. 368
    RDFish says:

    Hi Brent,
    1) Even if empiricism were tied to materialism (it isn’t),
    Materialism is not well-defined anyway (what are your definitions for these terms?)
    2) Even if one adopted materialism, that does not imply determinism, since the physical world is not deterministic
    3) Determinism has nothing at all to do with my argument
    4) I am also not arguing that there is no evidence for mind apart from material
    5) What I am arguing is that complex physical mechanism is invariably necessary in order to design complex physical mechanisms

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  369. 369
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    If you concede that ID is fully predicated on the truth of interactionist metaphysics, then I’m happy to conclude at this point.

    I think a more appropriate concession would be that your argument against ID is fully predicated on metaphysics of any kind being false and materialism being true. Will you concede this?

  370. 370
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDFish

    You wrote, “So you believe that this thing inside our skulls that uses 20-25% of our total energy and is the most complicated bit of machinery that we know of in the universe is just something that really doesn’t do all that much? That it may have something to do with lower mental functions, but that’s about it?”

    From what I have read about neuro science in the past, the higher mental functions depend less on the brain than the lower mental functions–not just a little less–a lot less. To me, that suggests that the mind is calling the shots insofar as creativity and design are concerned.

    —“You are describing dualist interactionism. If you concede that ID is fully predicated on the truth of interactionist metaphysics, then I’m happy to conclude at this point.”

    The point is that dual interactionism does not, as you seem to imply, prevent mind from being the cause

    —“There is nothing difficult to understand about a physical machine changing its own operation, or programming, so I don’t understand why you think is somehow evidence of dualism.”

    A physical machine cannot get outside of its own matter in order to reflect on itself. We can reflect on ourselves. Therefore, we posses a faculty (immaterial mind) that transcends matter and brain. If you want to challenge that argument, then you need to explain how a machine made solely of matter (brain) can get outside of itself.

    —“Brains are apparently essential for designing things, because designing requires the ability to process information, which is what the brain does.”

    Even if that is the case, and you have twice ignored the evidence @290 that isn’t always the case, it doesn’t follow that ID must take account of it in order to make an empirically-based argument. It is necessary only to note that the capacities to plan, form, or arrange matter into a design are present whenever CSI is observed–either in a sand castle or a DNA molecule. Contrary to your claims, dual interactionism is not part of the hypothesis and need not be assumed or carried forward in the design inference.

    Peace

  371. 371
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    I think a more appropriate concession would be that your argument against ID is fully predicated on metaphysics of any kind being false and materialism being true. Will you concede this?

    Materialism is metaphysics, Phinehas, so your accusation is nonsense.

    You (and others) really don’t know how to respond to my arguments, and so all you have left is to label with as a “materialist” (or a “determinist” or an “evolutionist” or some such thing). You simply skip over the parts where I actually explain why I think materialism fails (among other things, it is incoherent, and cannot in principle deal with phenomenology). Neither Materialism nor any other metaphysics has anything to do with any of my arguments.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  372. 372
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    From what I have read about neuro science in the past, the higher mental functions depend less on the brain than the lower mental functions–not just a little less–a lot less. To me, that suggests that the mind is calling the shots insofar as creativity and design are concerned.

    You need to read a lot more science before you express your opinions, I’m afraid. What you would learn is that different parts of the brain are involved with different mental functions, and scientists have learned a tremendous amount about these localized brain functions, and that all mental functions are associated with the brain, not just some of them, and that all mental functions can be affected by things that affect the brain.

    RDF: ”You are describing dualist interactionism. If you concede that ID is fully predicated on the truth of interactionist metaphysics, then I’m happy to conclude at this point.”
    SB: The point is that dual interactionism does not, as you seem to imply, prevent mind from being the cause

    I’m not implying anything about dualism, because it is irrelevant to my arguments. You, however, are predicating your counter-argument on this metaphysical stance, and I am simply asking you to be explicit about that.

    A physical machine cannot get outside of its own matter in order to reflect on itself.

    Nothing need get “outside of its own matter” in order to reflect on itself. Computer programs routinely reflect upon their own operation and reprogam themselves when they deem it necessary; I’ve written countless programs that do exactly that.

    RDF: —”Brains are apparently essential for designing things, because designing requires the ability to process information, which is what the brain does.”
    SB: Even if that is the case, and you have twice ignored the evidence @290 that isn’t always the case,

    I responded several times, actually, that I was well aware of all this evidence, and that it is extremely sparse and weak, and that it doesn’t begin to address the vast mountain of experience and scientific data that exists which contradicts it, and that NONE of this has anything to do with anyone designing anything without relying on neural functions!

    …it doesn’t follow that ID must take account of it in order to make an empirically-based argument. It is necessary only to note that the capacities to plan, form, or arrange matter into a design are present whenever CSI is observed–either in a sand castle or a DNA molecule.

    And each time this happens, the designer critically relies on a complex mechanism – the exact sort of thing ID purports to explain. How then can ID posit that complex mechanisms were originated by something that itself required complex mechanisms in order to function?

    Contrary to your claims, dual interactionism is not part of the hypothesis and need not be assumed or carried forward in the design inference.

    Very well! In that case, let us not mention dualism again or refer to the dualistic concepts you’ve been employing in your responses.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  373. 373
    Mapou says:

    StephenB @353:

    Mapou @351, in my judgement, the mind relies on the body (brain) for sensory input, without which conceptual knowledge is impossible, but the acts of knowing, reasoning, judging, and creating are primarily spiritual (mind, soul).

    I think that the lower mental functions, such as sensory abilities, physiology, and appetites are fundamentally physical and material, being closely correlated with brain anatomy, while the higher mental functions, such as reason, judgment, and creativity, are fundamentally immaterial and spiritual, being scarcely correlated with brain anatomy (mind).

    I think you are mistaken. I think the brain (or an intelligent computer program) can reason without help from some non-material spirit. Some programs can reason now, albeit within a limited domain. Otherwise, there would be no need to have 100 billion neurons and trillions of synaptic connections. Just the sensors and the motor effectors would be sufficient and there are not much more than a few million of those.

    But the main reason that I think that the spirit needs a brain to reason and perform all the higher mental functions that you mentioned is that I believe there can be no change in the spirit realm. Change only exists in the physical realm. The spirit that is in our brains only directs its operation by selecting goals in the cortical sequences and directing attention. It does not do much more than that. I don’t believe animals have spirits and yet they can do some pretty intelligent things that require reason and the ability to plan and make predictions.

  374. 374
    RDFish says:

    I think the brain (or an intelligent computer program) can reason without help from some non-material spirit. Some programs can reason now, albeit within a limited domain. Otherwise, there would be no need to have 100 billion neurons and trillions of synaptic connections. Just the sensors and the motor effectors would be sufficient and there are not much more than a few million of those.

    Ah, very good points, Mapou! I guess even Christian dualist interactionists can see that the complex physical mechanism we call “brain” really is required for thought!

    Once you actually begin to study the mind, these conclusions are inescapable. It is truly absurd that “The Science of Intelligent Design” never even touches on the scientific disciplines relevant to understanding intelligence! (cognitive psychology, neuroscience, AI research – all of the cognitive sciences).

    But the main reason that I think that the spirit needs a brain to reason and perform all the higher mental functions that you mentioned is that I believe there can be no change in the spirit realm. Change only exists in the physical realm. The spirit that is in our brains only directs its operation by selecting goals in the cortical sequences and directing attention. It does not do much more than that.

    I’ll leave it to you two to hammer our the details of the spirit realm. In any event, looks like Mapou has put to rest the final objections to my arguments.

    Anyone else?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  375. 375
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDF

    You wrote,

    —“You need to read a lot more science before you express your opinions, I’m afraid. What you would learn is that different parts of the brain are involved with different mental functions, and scientists have learned a tremendous amount about these localized brain functions, and that all mental functions are associated with the brain, not just some of them, and that all mental functions can be affected by things that affect the brain.”

    Please read what I write with more care. I didn’t say that there are mental functions that are not associated with the brain. I said that some are more closely tied to brain anatomy than others and that the higher functions are the least closely tied of all. This has implications about the primacy of mind whether you like it or not.

    In any case, the materialistic account of the mind-brain relationship, which you argue for incessantly while disassociating yourself from personally (I am not sure how that works) is not all that easy to defend. According to UCSF neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet, the mind-brain relationship is best described as property dualism. Other dualists include Wilder Penfield, Sir John Eccles, Charles Sherrington, and Jeffery Schwartz. Perhaps the problem is that you read only about the materialist understanding of the mind-brain problem while ignoring the work of those who take a different perspective.

    —“I’m not implying anything about dualism, because it is irrelevant to my arguments. You, however, are predicating your counter-argument on this metaphysical stance, and I am simply asking you to be explicit about that.”

    I have been very clear that that my arguments (and Meyer’s arguments) are not predicated on dualism. Your attempts to make it so have not succeeded.

    —“Nothing need get “outside of its own matter” in order to reflect on itself. Computer programs routinely reflect upon their own operation and reprogam themselves when they deem it necessary; I’ve written countless programs that do exactly that.”

    If you really believe that computers can reflect on themselves, then I think that you need to do a lot more reading on the subject of self-reflection. Your world view, whatever it is, has clouded your judgment on this matter.

    —“And each time this happens, the designer critically relies on a complex mechanism – the exact sort of thing ID purports to explain. How then can ID posit that complex mechanisms were originated by something that itself required complex mechanisms in order to functions.”

    How we describe the agent’s capacity to create CSI is of no consequence. It doesn’t change anything about the fact that it is that same capacity (regardless of the extent to which it may or may not require a brain to be realized), as opposed to law or chance, that is responsible for the result. Suppose we use your account and say that a given person designed a sand castle by virtue of relying on the complex mechanism of his brain. So what? It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with the argument, which is that the artifact in question was intelligently designed and was not the result of naturalistic forces, such as wind, air, and erosion. How much or how little the designer relies on his brain in order to conceive a design is irrelevant to the point that it is precisely that capacity and not a chance happening that produced the result.

    Peace

  376. 376
    Mapou says:

    RDFish:

    It is truly absurd that “The Science of Intelligent Design” never even touches on the scientific disciplines relevant to understanding intelligence! (cognitive psychology, neuroscience, AI research – all of the cognitive sciences).

    How do you know that there aren’t many ID believers and Christians hard at work in those fields? At the risk of being branded a crackpot on this forum (by those who didn’t already think so), I am about to say something that will astound some here. I get almost all my understanding of the brain’s operation from the Bible. This includes things like sensory learning, hierarchical pattern learning, hierarchical sequence learning, goal-oriented motor learning/coordination, motivation, etc. You didn’t think this kind of stuff could be found in the Bible, did you? Well it can and it’s hidden in plain sight. And yes, the Bible does say that the brain has the ability to reason. 😀

    I will be releasing (in the not too distant future) a robust, noise-tolerant speech recognition demo program based on those principles. Wait for it.

  377. 377
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    In any case, the materialistic account of the mind-brain relationship, which you argue for incessantly while disassociating yourself from personally (I am not sure how that works)…

    The reason you think I argue for materialism is because you don’t seem to understand the implications of these ontologies. Dualism does not imply that brains are not required for thought; rather, it implies that both brains and something else are required for thought. Materialism implies that brains are sufficient for thought, which I have never argued.

    So you are mistaken in two important ways:
    1) You think I am arguing for materialism, but you are wrong, since I do not claim that nothing over and above the physical brain is required for designing and building things.
    2) You think that dualism implies that brains are not required for designing and building things, but you are wrong, since in dualism both brains and something else are required.

    According to UCSF neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet, the mind-brain relationship is best described as property dualism. Other dualists include Wilder Penfield, Sir John Eccles, Charles Sherrington, and Jeffery Schwartz. Perhaps the problem is that you read only about the materialist understanding of the mind-brain problem while ignoring the work of those who take a different perspective.

    I’m pretty certain that I’ve read at least as much about dualism (yes, including hylomorphism) as you have, and a good deal more about other metaphysics I’d bet. I’m surprised you want to list the dualists, however; if you want to compare how many famous scientists believe in dualism vs. other positions, I hope you know you will lose quite badly. But that of course is besides the point: The point is that there is no experiment or observation that resolves the question, and so these discussions remain unresolved philosophical debates.

    I have been very clear that that my arguments (and Meyer’s arguments) are not predicated on dualism. Your attempts to make it so have not succeeded.

    On the contrary, when you say the following, you are assuming dualism:

    “I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body).”
    and
    “A mind is a non-material faculty.”
    and
    “A physical machine cannot get outside of its own matter in order to reflect on itself. We can reflect on ourselves. Therefore, we posses a faculty (immaterial mind) that transcends matter and brain.
    and so on, and so on. [emphasis added]

    All of these arguments of yours assume dualism quite explicitly!

    Again: You assume dualism; I make no assumptions about the matter whatsoever.

    How we describe the agent’s capacity to create CSI is of no consequence.

    On the contrary. By pointing out that no agent can exhibit intelligent behaviors without pre-existing complex form and function, I have shown that ID cannot explain the origin of complex form and function by appealing to our uniform and repeated experience of intelligent behavior, as Meyer claims.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  378. 378
    RDFish says:

    Hi Mapou,

    How do you know that there aren’t many ID believers and Christians hard at work in those fields?

    I don’t, and I would be very happy to find that to be the case! I’m just going on everything that I’ve seen published to date.

    And yes, the Bible does say that the brain has the ability to reason. 😀

    Ah, far be it from me to doubt the Bible! 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  379. 379
    StephenB says:

    Hi RDF:

    You wrote, “I’m pretty certain that I’ve read at least as much about dualism (yes, including hylomorphism) as you have, and a good deal more about other metaphysics I’d bet.”

    I have very serious doubts about that. However, I don’t think very much would be accomplished by comparing our reading history. I am more concerned about your capacity to apply what you think you have learned.

    RDF “On the contrary, when you say the following, you are assuming dualism:

    SB“I am saying that the mind directs the rearrangement, but the body does the rearranging. Again it’s the distinction between the conception of the rearrangement (mind) and the execution of the rearrangement (body).”

    Nope. It’s just my philosophical description of the factors involved. It is not an assumption that informs the empirical ID argument.

    The empirical ID argument is very simple: We observe that each time CSI is observed, intelligence is present. The DNA molecule contains CSI, therefore, intelligence was also likely present. Show me where dualism is assumed in that argument.

    SB: “A physical machine cannot get outside of its own matter in order to reflect on itself. We can reflect on ourselves. Therefore, we posses a faculty (immaterial mind) that transcends matter and brain.”

    That is a philosophical argument for dualism, not a philosophical assumption that informs ID science. Don’t you know the difference? Again, if, as you claim, you have done the requisite reading in metaphysics, it is not showing up in our comments.

    (By the way, your attempt to circumvent the philosophical argument by saying that a computer is capable of self reflection did not help your cause. That response is simply not credible).

    —“All of these arguments of yours assume dualism quite explicitly!”

    I argue on behalf of dualism because I believe that it is true and because it is consistent with empirical ID arguments. That doesn’t mean that the former informs the latter. I will ask you for the second time. Show me where I assume dualism in the ID argument as expressed above (not where I argue on behalf of dualism).

    —“You assume dualism; I make no assumptions about the matter whatsoever.”

    No, actually, you make a great many assumptions and many of them turn out to be false, such as your assumption that my ID arguments depend on dualism.

    —“By pointing out that no agent can exhibit intelligent behaviors without pre-existing complex form and function, I have shown that ID cannot explain the origin of complex form and function by appealing to our uniform and repeated experience of intelligent behavior, as Meyer claims.”

    You have not made your case. You have not explained why the mind/brain mutual dependency factor is relative to the search for a cause of CSI. You have not explained why repeated and uniform experience about the capacity of intelligent agents must be characterized in terms of CSI rich mechanisms and why it isn’t enough to simply say that intelligence is present. You have not offered an alternative explanation or description of what the cause of CSI could be if not intelligence, or how it should be expressed. You have not even addressed the main ID argument, i.e. intelligence as an alternative explanation to naturalistic forces.

    Peace

  380. 380
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    RDF “On the contrary, when you say the following, you are assuming dualism:

    SB: Nope. It’s just my philosophical description of the factors involved. It is not an assumption that informs the empirical ID argument.

    You brought up the matter in order to defeat my argument’s main premise, which is that according to uniform and repeated experience, nothing can produce complex physical form and function without itself being a complex, physical entity.

    The empirical ID argument is very simple: We observe that each time CSI is observed, intelligence is present.

    And each time intelligent behavior is observed, CSI-rich physical mechanism is present.

    The DNA molecule contains CSI, therefore, intelligence was also likely present.

    Therefore, CSI-rich physical mechanism was likely to have preceded that intelligence.

    Show me where dualism is assumed in that argument.

    Here is where dualism comes in: I point out that our uniform and repeated experience indicates that intelligent behavior requires complex physical form and function, and that would mean that the origination of complex form and function cannot be due to intelligent behavior. Then you say maybe the intelligence that caused the first complex mechanisms did not require physical form, because dualism is true.

    “A physical machine cannot get outside of its own matter in order to reflect on itself. We can reflect on ourselves. Therefore, we posses a faculty (immaterial mind) that transcends matter and brain.”

    That is a philosophical argument for dualism, not a philosophical assumption that informs ID science. Don’t you know the difference?

    Funny! You say that a physical machine cannot reflect on itself, and I say it can. Exactly how do you propose we settle our disagreement by appeal to empirical evidence?

    Again, if, as you claim, you have done the requisite reading in metaphysics, it is not showing up in our comments.

    Oh, I’m pretty confident the fair reader would find I’m doing pretty well 🙂

    (By the way, your attempt to circumvent the philosophical argument by saying that a computer is capable of self reflection did not help your cause. That response is simply not credible).

    Ah, the “simply not credible” argument! Quite the philosophical tour-de-force! Please forgive the sarcasm, but these “computers cannot ever do X” arguments that are based on nothing but sheer insistence get very, very old after thirty-five years in the business.

    Anyway, of course programs are capable of self-reflection; if you disagree it is obvious that we are simply using different definitions of “self-reflection”. My definition does not require conscious awareness, for example.

    I will ask you for the second time. Show me where I assume dualism in the ID argument as expressed above (not where I argue on behalf of dualism).

    Very well, let us then stick to the argument I’ve been pressing in this thread, and you are attempting to counter, and leave ontology out of the discussion entirely! Excellent!!

    You have not made your case. You have not explained why the mind/brain mutual dependency factor is relative to the search for a cause of CSI.

    Yes I have. If intelligence requires brains (so to speak), you cannot conclude the cause of brains to be a pre-existing intelligence.

    You have not explained why repeated and uniform experience about the capacity of intelligent agents must be characterized in terms of CSI rich mechanisms and why it isn’t enough to simply say that intelligence is present.

    Because ID claims very prominently that it is based on our uniform and repeated experience, and yet it completely ignores our experience of intelligent agency. The reason this is important is because once you acknowledge that intelligence comes from CSI-rich mechanisms, it no longer is a likely hypothesis that the original CSI-rich mechanism was caused by intelligence.

    You have not offered an alternative explanation or description of what the cause of CSI could be if not intelligence, or how it should be expressed.

    That is correct. I really have no idea how it happened. I’m just arguing that nobody else does either.

    You have not even addressed the main ID argument, i.e. intelligence as an alternative explanation to naturalistic forces.

    Yes I have – I’ve shown that due to our experience of intelligent agency, it is unlikely that intelligence could have been responsible for the first complex physical mechanisms. Not impossible, but unlikely, and thus it is very clear that in order to warrant an empirically-supported belief in this hypothesis, we would need actual evidence that anything exists which could design complex machinery without the benefit of complex physical mechanism for information processing, reasoning, motor coordination, and so on.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  381. 381
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: on seeing the onward exchanges, I draw attention to 363 ff above. KF

  382. 382
    Box says:

    Mapou #373: I think the brain (or an intelligent computer program) can reason without help from some non-material spirit. Some programs can reason now, albeit within a limited domain. Otherwise, there would be no need to have 100 billion neurons and trillions of synaptic connections.

    Fundamental to reasoning is that there is something – an agency- that reasons. When someone says ‘some computer programs can reason’ he is assuming agency where there is none. There cannot be thought without a thinker.
    Fundamental to reason is understanding. Programs are merely manipulating symbols without any understanding of their meaning; see Searl’s Chinese Room. There cannot be reasoning without understanding.

    RDFish #380: Anyway, of course programs are capable of self-reflection; (…)

    Of course not.

    RDFish #380: (…) if you disagree it is obvious that we are simply using different definitions of “self-reflection”. My definition does not require conscious awareness, for example.

    There can be no coherent definition of self-reflection which excludes a self. This discussion is getting more and more ridiculous.

  383. 383
    5for says:

    StephenB, Brent et al, it is getting to the point where you have no choice but to admit that god did it and give up the charade that there is a scientific basis for that belief. There is no shame in that.

  384. 384
    StephenB says:

    The empirical ID argument is very simple: We observe that each time CSI is observed, intelligence is present.

    —“And each time intelligent behavior is observed, CSI-rich physical mechanism is present.”

    Perhaps, but that is not part of the hypothesis, which alludes only to intelligence, which is part of our uniform and repeated experience. Intelligence is not broken down further in terms of a CSI brain or an immaterial mind, nor does it need to be. All that is simply your add-on and your attempt to reframe the hypothesis.

    The DNA molecule contains CSI, therefore, intelligence was also likely present.

    —“Therefore, CSI-rich physical mechanism was likely to have preceded that intelligence.”

    You are extending to your add on, not to the hypothesis.

    —“Therefore, CSI-rich physical mechanism was likely to have preceded that intelligence.”

    Now you are extending to your own add-on, not the hypothesis.

    *Show me where dualism is assumed in that argument.

    —RDF: “Here is where dualism comes in: I point out that our uniform and repeated experience indicates that intelligent behavior requires complex physical form and function, and that would mean that the origination of complex form and function cannot be due to intelligent behavior. Then you say maybe the intelligence that caused the first complex mechanisms did not require physical form, because dualism is true.”

    Sorry, that won’t do. Show me where dualism is assumed in the argument—not in your characterization of the argument or your assessment of my responses to your objections.

    —“Anyway, of course programs are capable of self-reflection; if you disagree it is obvious that we are simply using different definitions of “self-reflection”. My definition does not require conscious awareness, for example.”

    I am aware of the way computers are said to “self reflect,” but it has nothing to do with the ability to be introspective, which was the context in which I used the word. As I pointed out, matter cannot reflect on itself, and I was clearly comparing that limitation to human self-awareness. All that is necessary is for you to concede that computers or matter cannot do introspection, which means that they cannot mimic the human capacity to consider their own fundamental nature, purpose, essence or worth.

    —“Yes I have. If intelligence requires brains (so to speak), you cannot conclude the cause of brains to be a pre-existing intelligence.”

    You have yet to show that intelligence always requires a physical brain. Remember, that claim is your responsibility. ID neither assumes it or claims it or makes it a part of its hypothesis.

  385. 385
    Brent says:

    RDF,

    5) What I am arguing is that complex physical mechanism is invariably necessary in order to design complex physical mechanisms

    Fine, then (only for the sake of argument, for the moment, though).

    So, it is turtles all the way down then?

    It is becoming wildly ironic that, you, RDF, are getting a bit perturbed at what you think is my, Stephen’s, and others’ inaccurate “accusations” of what your personal position is, but which you say you do not hold to. Doesn’t it occur to you that the pot is calling the kettle black here? You are doing that very thing by demanding that Meyer et al. must have a certain position, which, clearly they do not hold to. You are saying that, for some reason, they are only able to explain the source of CSI by referring to complex physical mechanisms. Well, they don’t, and they’d be wrong if they did.

    If Meyer were taking part in this discussion he could just copy and paste your responses to us and say, like you, that isn’t his position. And that is what StephenB has been saying to you already.

  386. 386
    Brent says:

    5for,

    StephenB, Brent et al, it is getting to the point where you have no choice but to admit that god did it and give up the charade that there is a scientific basis for that belief. There is no shame in that.

    Correct. There is no shame in saying “God did it”, because it is true that He did. But, there is always shame in saying things that are not true. Therefore, we will say both, “God did it”, and “There is every good scientific and philosophic reason to believe that God did it.”

    Got it?

  387. 387
    kairosfocus says:

    5for:

    I think I need to remind you of your duty of care to truth, and to fairness in even debating a contentious issue.

    Methinks you continue to owe an apology for projecting a clearly false and unwarranted, well-poisoning accusation that this whole site is predicated on a lie, cf. correction at 305 above.

    You need to be very careful indeed about making accusations like that, not least because they then feed a self-reinforcing circle of fallacious reasoning. And that is without highlighting that you have wronged those whom you have falsely accused and have constructed in your mind as a circle of liars. (Which construction is blatant in the subtext of the just above comment to SB.)

    Perhaps it has not registered with you that:

    1 –> there is a valid distinction between that there is a cluster of evidence and inductive reasoning that warrants the inference on FSCO/I that something is credibly and best explained on design, and

    2 –> the further, broader inference that design is as a rule associated with a designer, and beyond

    3 –> the identification of a particular designer as most credible candidate.

    Signs can point decisively to arson long before we are able to identify a given arsonist.

    So long as a designer is abstractly possible in a situation, the chain of reasoning on signs holds good.

    FSCO/I, such as is found in posts in this thread (and in the functional organisation of the PCs etc used to view such), is the material issue. The one that is now insistently being dodged, and which we need to remind you of.

    On billions of cases, it is reliably produced by design.

    By contrast, there are no credible cases where it is seen to occur by blind chance and necessity. (The needle in haystack analysis helps us see why.)

    So, we have excellent reason to reason on reliable sign from FSCO/I to design.

    Including, of the world of cell based life — which inter alia uses copious quantities of coded, algorithmic information.

    (In addition, unsurprisingly, there is no good observational evidence warranting a conclusion that cell based life originated by blind physics or chemistry in a warm little pond or the like; similarly, there is no good — non question-begging — observationally based case that warrants that blind forces originated body plans. )

    Before making accusations of lying, you should have reckoned carefully with the fact that ever since the very first modern design theory technical work by Thaxton et al in 1984, design thinkers have consistently and openly acknowledged that the empirical, inductive, scientific inference on signs pointing to design in the context of the world of life does not allow us to identify that a relevant designer is within or beyond the cosmos. In simple terms, post Venter et al, we can see that a molecular nanotech lab could account for what we see on earth.

    Many design thinkers do think that the evidence of design on earth is in actuality a mark of the work by God as designer, but that is not a scientific argument, it is a part of a much wider worldview case. One that finds on serious philosophical and historical etc investigation [cf. here on for a 101 survey of such a case . . . ], that there is credible evidence and cogent logic that points to God as the root of our being, and that of the cosmos we inhabit.

    There is of course another scientific context of the design inference, cosmological fine tuning. The cumulative force of dozens of marks of fine tuning that set up our cosmos at an operating point that is deeply isolated, and facilitates C-Chemistry cell based life based on its underlying physics, is such that it led lifelong agnostic and Nobel equivalent prize holding astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle to infer that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics of our cosmos, and that there are no blind forces of note in the cosmos as a consequence.

    That case is even more crushing in cumulative force than the one for life, and it points to an extracosmioc designer of awesome power, knowledge and skill capable of building such a cosmos as we inhabit.

    Multiply that by the logic — here, a branch of philosophy, we are over the border into the parent discipline of science — of sufficient reason in a credibly contingent cosmos and we are looking at needing a necessary immaterial being and mind as the root of being. Further multiply by worldview factors such as how we find ourselves inescapably morally governed and we have a need for a reality-foundational IS that can solidly ground OUGHT, and before whom we are accountable. Many other strands bind with these in a strong cumulative case.

    Thus, it is quite reasonable to hold as a worldview that our cosmos is a creation and we are creatures in it, thus we are under an inherently good God as our creator and Lord. Also, in this context, it is quite reasonable that that there are extra-physical minds, and if one such actually created our cosmos, the interaction between mind and matter may be mysterious but it is not exceptionally so in a world of quantum weirdness. (Have you ever thought about the implications of the electron beam double slit experiment where the observation of which slit is made AFTER the beam encounters the slit?)

    Coming back to the issue of signs of design in life, the cosmological case on design and the broader case on our world being a creation and us being morally accountable creatures in it, is independent of the case on origin of life and of body plans. Had it been credibly shown that FSCO/I could and likely did arise by blind chance and mechanical necessity, it would not have materially changed the cumulative power of the argument