13 Replies to “Pointing at the Moon

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Consciousness Does Not Compute (and Never Will), Says Korean Scientist – May 05, 2015
    Excerpt: “Non-computability of Consciousness” documents Song’s quantum computer research into TS (technological singularity (TS) or strong artificial intelligence). Song was able to show that in certain situations, a conscious state can be precisely and fully represented in mathematical terms, in much the same manner as an atom or electron can be fully described mathematically. That’s important, because the neurobiological and computational approaches to brain research have only ever been able to provide approximations at best. In representing consciousness mathematically, Song shows that consciousness is not compatible with a machine.
    Song’s work also shows consciousness is not like other physical systems like neurons, atoms or galaxies. “If consciousness cannot be represented in the same way all other physical systems are represented, it may not be something that arises out of a physical system like the brain,” said Song. “The brain and consciousness are linked together, but the brain does not produce consciousness. Consciousness is something altogether different and separate. The math doesn’t lie.”
    Of note: Daegene Song obtained his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Oxford

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    For all this time I’ve been thinking the entire universe has been giving me the finger. But I was wrong. Thanks Barry!

  3. 3
    gilthill says:

    Roman 1:20

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    LOL! Back on form, Mung.

  5. 5
    fossil says:

    Thank you BA for that extra information and I appreciate the shorter format rather than the usual thesis.

    Mung, you certainly have produced far better comments in the past than this silly bit of nothing that does more subtraction from the discussion than it adds.

  6. 6
    Popperian says:


    “When the wise man points at the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

    And, I take it, you’re supposedly the wise man? Yet, as I’ve been pointing out, it’s you that appear to be looking at the finger, not me.

    But, unlike you, I’ll illustrate why this is the case with a series of what we will both likely consider uncontroversial aspects of biology. Please indicate where in this series that you disagree.

    – Unlike cars or computers, organisms are not built in an “organism factory”. Nor have we observed new organisms in recent history appearing out of thin air. Instead, organisms make copies of themselves.

    – As von Neumann pointed out, self-replication cannot occur without an internal recipe for how to perform the copy and a means of error correction to prevent an error catastrophe. In the case of biological organisms, self replication occurs when cells follow an internal recipe containing instructions of how to adapt raw materials such as air, water, etc. into copies of themselves. Cells contain discrete mechanisms that are reasonably effective enough against specific kinds of errors that can occur to, significantly more often than not, prevent a complete error catastrophe when copying its recipe.

    – The concrete features of an organism are a result of those transformations. Had an organism’s cells contain a different recipe, it would have had different concrete features. Different organisms have different adapted concrete features because their cells contain different recipes.

    With me so far? Again, I would think even you would find these aspects are uncontroversial, Right? if not, please indicate any objections you might have.

    However, as I continue, I suspect we may start to diverge somewhere below.

    – An organism’s recipe represent the knowledge of what transformations are necessary to result in an accurate copy of those organisms. Specifically, copies of organisms occur when the requisite knowledge of what transformations to perform are present in their cells. Again, organisms are not made in organism factories, where the knowledge of what transformations to perform would be external to the organism. Nor do organisms appear out of thin air by fiat.

    – As such, the origin of those features is the origin of the knowledge of what adoptions to perform.

    Still with me? Assuming you actually try to take previous section seriously, I don’t think there is anything controversial here, as they would represent the logical consequences of those points, Right? Again, if not, where do you disagree? What would be the other logical consequences and why? Or perhaps you think there can be no logical consequences of that section? If so, why?

    Going forward, here’s where we will disagree. And we will disagree for philosophical reasons, not scientific reasons. Specially, we hold different epistemological views about what knowledge is, how it grows (or if it actually grows at all), etc., which you have not argued for, but merely implicitly assumed as theism is a special case of justificationism. ID’s designer, by nature of being abstract and having no limitations, is an authoritative source of knowledge. This is, well, by design, as it allows a hole big enough to drive your preferred designer.

    – Saying that knowledge was previously located in one place (in an abstract designer) then copied to another (in organisms) does not explain the origin of that knowledge. It merely pushes the problem up a level without actually improving it.

    – As Popper pointed out, the more a theory prohibits, the better theory. Without some kind of limitations about the knowledge ID’s abstract designer possessed, when it possessed it, etc. one could appeal to ID’s designer to explain anything, including a biosphere that appeared to have evolved naturally.

    In other words, the moon would represent an explanation for that specific knowledge in an organism’s cell, and the finger would be ID’s designer. “Some designer wanted it that way”, doesn’t actually explain why organisms have different concrete features. The knowledge in their cells is the proximate cause.

    A designer that “just was”, complete with the knowledge of just the right genes that would result in just the right proteins that would result in just the right concrete features, already present, doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared”, complete with the knowledge of just the right genes that would result in just the right proteins that would result in just the right concrete features, already present. But, by all means, if you think ID has an explanation for that knowledge, then what is it?

    Note: I’m not suggesting the latter represents neo-Darwinism.

    To continue…

    – The question evolutionary theory addresses is why biological organisms exhibit specific concrete features over time. How the first self replicating cells came about or what concrete form they initially took is not one of those questions. Rather those questions fall under the field of abiogenesis.

    – We can have a working theory of evolution without a working theory of abiogenesis. Specifically, even if the first replicators appeared out of thin air by the sheer will of a supernatural being, this does not pose a problem for evolutionary theory because, going forward, the origin of those feature is still the recipe that controls what adaptions of matter to perform.

    – The idea that all scientific theories must be reductionist in nature is a specific philosophical view about science, not a scientific fact. To assume the latter is scientism. Furthermore, science is ripe with high level explanations that are non-reductionist in nature. For example, when making tea, we do not care about exactly how many water molecules are in the pot, what their initial positions are are, the exact initial external conditions are, etc. Those aspects are currently intractable to all of the current day supercomputers running for the current age of the universe. But, fortunately for us, we do not care about those aspects. All we need is the approximate mass of the water and the power of the heating element, which is easy to measure.

    Neo-Darwinism doesn’t predict what features will appear, but it explains why features exhibit the pattern we observe. This is because it suggests this knowledge was genuinely created over time and did not exist at some previous point in the past. ID’s designer has no such limitation. As such, it could have created organisms in the order of most complex to least complex, simultaneously, or to appear as if they had evolved naturally. A theory that could be used to explain everything and anything explains nothing. Nor does ID take into account what we know about designers, such as how the things we design reflect trades offs of our limitations, wants and needs or the role that knowledge plays in the concrete things we design. In doing so it implicitly denies that we can and have made progress in this area. It implies design is an immutable primitive in which rational criticism and problem solving cant pass.

    IOW, ID grossly underestimates the role that knowledge plays in design.

  7. 7
    Jim Smith says:

    The beginning of the universe and the fine-tuning of the universe to support life is like a finger pointing to God. That the many factors needed to support life arise from natural laws, physical constants, and the initial conditions of the universe points to God. The origin and evolution of life point to God. The existence of humankind: intelligent, moral, and creative points to God. The intelligibility of the universe by humankind points to God.


  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    Popperian @ 6. The OP has nothing to do with biology or Darwinism. You are kinda looking at the elbow.

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The entire natural order points to design. The materialist looks at individual particles.

    Speaking of missing the point entirely … no Zachriel for a few days here. Did we win?

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    “The materialist looks at individual particles.”

    The materialist looks at individual particles and says, oh look, they are colorless. Color must be an illusion.

  11. 11
    mike1962 says:

    “When the wise man points at the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

    A finger is a preposterously more functionally complex object than the moon. So, the question of why the person is focused on the finger instead of the moon, would have to be factored in when considering any suspected idiocy. 😀

  12. 12
    mike1962 says:

    Mung: The materialist looks at individual particles and says, oh look, they are colorless. Color must be an illusion.

    They never seem able to tell us what it is an illusion of. Of course, color is not an illusion. It is a property of consciousness, and consciousness is the primary fact for everyone.

  13. 13
    Popperian says:


    The OP has nothing to do with biology or Darwinism. You are kinda looking at the elbow.

    That’s like complaining that Confucius’ proverb has nothing to do with the universe

    Confucius’ proverb has reach beyond the concrete subject matter it contains – the moon. You know this, otherwise, you would be appealing to that reach in your OP.

    I’m pointing out that ID proponents are making the same mistake. And I’m explaining why, starting out with what you would likely consider uncontroversial aspects of biology. What needs to be explained is the origin of the knowledge in an organisms cell. That’s because the origin of an organisms features is the origin of that knowledge.

    Saying it was merely previously located in an abstract designer with no limitations doesn’t explain the origin of that knowledge. it just pushes the problem up a level with actually improving it. it’s like looking at the finger, rather than the moon.

    So, again, where in my previous comment do we begin to disagree? When disagreement occurs, how does your view differer, in detail?

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