Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

Spread the love

From Denyse O’Leary at Evolution News & Views:

We know almost nothing about the human consciousness but naturalism must treat it as evolved from unconscious elements. Much confusion is avoided by recognizing that that is a core assumption, not a discovery.

Naturalist theories of consciousness currently proliferate with abandon because there is no basis for deciding among them. They are tossed, like hats, into a ring.

The third proposal, that everything is conscious, is the subtlest: If everything is conscious, nothing is. If rocks have minds, humans, for all practical purposes, do not. We are back to the first proposal, that consciousness is an evolved illusion, having learned nothing. There is an irony here: Naturalists have learned nothing for tens of millennia. Stone Age naturalists definitely held that inanimate objects are or can be conscious. That belief was the core assumption underlying many superstitions. More.

Naturalists do not want to solve the problem of consciousness.That would mean questioning naturalism. They only want to dance around it, in elegant essays and theory-of-the-month speculations, and keep others from trying new paths.

See also: How naturalism rots science from the head down

The Big Bang: Put simply,the facts are wrong.

What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

Cosmology is naturalism’s playground. But does the fun mask a science decline?

Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence

Cosmic inflation theory loses hangups about the scientific methodWhat if naturalism changes the role of a science program? Perhaps stubbornly contrary evidence merely shows the need for more drive and zeal in generating new naturalist theories, not more reflection and evaluation of that direction.

The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide

Question for multiverse theorists: To what can science appeal, if not evidence?

25 Replies to “Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    ‘Much confusion is avoided by recognizing that that is a core assumption, not a discovery.

    ‘Naturalist theories of consciousness currently proliferate with abandon because there is no basis for deciding among them. They are tossed, like hats, into a ring.’

    Reviewing a book by Hayek, News, Keynes made the same point in much the same barbed as your own. This quote expresses a particularly swlicious, languidly-elliptical irony. The quote is proximately from Wikiquote :

    ‘The book, as it stands, seems to me to be one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read, with scarcely a sound proposition in it beginning with page 45 [Hayek provided historical background up to page 45; after that came his theoretical model], and yet it remains a book of some interest, which is likely to leave its mark on the mind of the reader. It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in bedlam.’

    On Friedrich Hayek’s Prices and Production, in Collected Writings, vol. XII, p. 252′

  2. 2
    J-Mac says:

    News,

    Materialists are clueless about the origins of consciousness with the exception of Hameroff and Penrose…

    I have not been able to find the source of Penrose’s quote for “…the only reason why the universe is here because we are conscious…” something like that…

  3. 3
    vmahuna says:

    “They are tossed, like hats, into a ring”

    The analogy of “tossing your hat into THE ring” comes from the period of bare-knuckles boxing. Specifically, a man could challenge the victor in a previous match by literally throwing his hat (ALL men wore hats) into the boxing ring (which was originally a circle, not a square).

    I’m not sure what happened if more than 1 challenger threw (not “tossed”) a hat into the same ring, but such an event appears to have been uncommon.

    But throwing your hat into the ring in most cases meant that the bloody victor was now going to beat the snot (and other bodily fluids) out of YOU, since if you had any real talent YOU would be the bloody lump he had just dispatched.

    Newspapermen began to use the phrase to describe “upstart” politicians who declared their candidacy outside of the formal party nominating process.

    But anyone you throws a hat into a ring expects to face a tough, uphill fight. And I don’t believe academics who “throw off” a new theory every couple years to show they’re still alive mean to challenge the current champions to take the time to beat the snot out of them, figuratively.

  4. 4
    critical rationalist says:

    It’s unclear why I should conclude there is some boundary at which people are no longer able to explain things, let alone that this boundary happens to fall specifically at conciseness.

    Until such time that we do have a good explanation, “We don’t know.” is a perfectly good response. We’re conscious because “That’s just what some conscious being must have wanted” is bad explanation.

    If anything it’s thesis that don’t want to explain conciseness. Anything that can be explained is just something unseen, and that would exclude God by definition.

  5. 5
    Origenes says:

    CR: It’s unclear why I should conclude there is some boundary at which people are no longer able to explain things, let alone that this boundary happens to fall specifically at conciseness.

    It’s not that unclear. Explanation presupposes consciousness. Consciousness explains things, not vice versa.
    Take home message: consciousness can never be explained by multiple things:

    Take a sentence of a dozen words, and take 12 men and tell to each one word. Then stand the men in a row or jam them in a bunch, and let each think of his word as intently as he wills; nowhere will there be a consciousness of the whole sentence.

    It is clear from the following that, if the soul were a body (soma), there could be no perception. . . . If something is going to perceive anything, it must itself be one and must take hold of it (antilambanesthai) in one act, both if several impressions are [perceived] through many sense-organs, or many qualities [are perceived] in one object, or if one senseorgan [perceives] a complex object, for example, a face. For there isn’t one [perception] of the nose, and another of the eyes, but one identical [perception] of all of them together.
    And if one [sense-object] enters through the eyes, and another through the hearing organ, there must be some one thing to which they both go. Otherwise, how could we state that they are different from each other, if the sense-objects did not all come together to one and the same [percipient]? Therefore, this [unified percipient] must be like a center point, and the perceptions coming from all places, like the lines coming from the circumference of the circle, must terminate there. And what takes hold of these must be of this kind, truly one.
    [Plotinus]

  6. 6
    tjguy says:

    critical rationalist @4

    It’s unclear why I should conclude there is some boundary at which people are no longer able to explain things, let alone that this boundary happens to fall specifically at conciseness.

    Until such time that we do have a good explanation, “We don’t know.” is a perfectly good response. We’re conscious because “That’s just what some conscious being must have wanted” is bad explanation.

    If anything it’s thesis that don’t want to explain conciseness. Anything that can be explained is just something unseen, and that would exclude God by definition.

    Here I’ll rewrite what you meant in a bit clearer fashion:

    Until such time that we do have a good NATURAL explanation, “We don’t know.” is a perfectly good response. We’re conscious because “That’s just what some conscious being must have wanted” is bad explanation.

    What standards do you have for how you judge what is a “good” and “bad” explanation/hypothesis?

    Are you open to the possibility that we might be conscious because some conscious being wanted it to be that way? Or does your worldview rule out that as a possible answer?

    Personally, the conscious being answer makes the best sense to me. How do you get personality and life from impersonal lifeless matter?

    You can punt on the answer by saying “We just don’t know, but hopefully some day we’ll figure it out.”, but basically it is just a way of avoiding the problem.

    There is some truth to the “We just don’t know” answer, but there is a huge problem with it. There is a distinct possibility that you will never figure it out – that you will never find a natural cause able to create life and consciousness.

    So, perhaps we need to make a decision based on what we do know rather than put it off hoping that sometime it will become clear.

    Rationalists have faith too it seems – that natural processes can account for anything and everything that we encounter. But there is absolutely no proof of that at all and the level of problems we are talking about here is vastly superior to the problem of the origin of thunder and lightning or other things that we can actually observe, study, and decipher.

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    Two years ago @ The Economist: The hard problem may thus turn out to be the impossible problem, the one that science can never solve.

    What is consciousness?
    The hard problem
    The final brief in our series looks at the most profound scientific mystery of all: the one that defines what it means to be human
    The Economist
    September 2015

    “The nub of the hard problem, then, is to make this ineffability effable. Other fields of scientific endeavour circumvent ineffability with mathematics. No one can truly conceive of a light-year or a nanosecond, let alone extra dimensions or wave-particle duality, but maths makes these ideas tractable. No such short-cut invented so far can take a human inside the mind of a bat. Indeed, for all the sophistication of theory-of-mind it is difficult, as everyday experience shows, to take a human being inside the mind of another human being. The hard problem may thus turn out to be the impossible problem, the one that science can never solve. The Oracle at Delphi said, “know thyself.” Difficult. But a piece of cake compared with knowing others.”

    Emphasis added.

    Note that The Economist is not a scientific journal.

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @5 & tjguy @6:

    Are you subtly implying that your politely dissenting interlocutor’s atheism relies on knowledge gaps in order to last? Is that ‘atheism-of-the-gaps’ a sustainable proposition? How much longer could it take for their pseudoscientific hogwash to crumble into obviously embarrassing ridicule?
    However, let’s put aside the ‘consciousness’ mystery for a moment. Here’s a much easier problem for your politely dissenting interlocutors to look at:
    Increasingly deeper biology research discoveries are confirming the undeniable presence of complex functionally specified informational complexity within the biological systems. Where does it come from?

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    Let’s put aside the ‘consciousness’ mystery for a moment. Here’s a much easier problem for the politely dissenting interlocutors to look at:
    As far as I’m aware of, apparently no one has dared to present a serious counterargument for gpuccio’s well researched and thoroughly documented articles* on the sudden appearance of substantial amounts of functional information in some protein families.
    There are other complex issues in biology associated with the undeniable presence of complex functionally specified informational complexity within the biological systems, that at least currently have no serious explanation except intelligent design.
    (*) those articles should be published in a scientific journal too. But gpuccio would have to make them sound more ‘politically correct’ by removing any reference to intelligent design.

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    tjguy @6

    Excellent post. I would like to comment on the following:

    tjguy: … there is absolutely no proof of that at all and the level of problems we are talking about here is vastly superior to the problem of the origin of thunder and lightning or other things that we can actually observe, study, and decipher.

    Naturalism has no explanation for the existence of matter, energy and the laws of nature. IOWs the starting point of naturalistic explanations itself lacks a naturalistic explanation.

    Therefore,

    Every naturalistic explanation of a phenomenon is a reduction of that phenomenon to things for which there is no naturalistic explanation.

    Go figure 🙂

  11. 11
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes,

    They don’t need explanations to support their beliefs.

    In fact, they’re better off without evidences that increasingly discredit their unproven assumptions.

    C’est la vie.

    🙂

  12. 12
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    It’s still not clear. We guess and then test our guesses. Some times consciously, and some times subconsciously. So, it’s unclear how consciousness explains things in the sense you’re referring to.

    For example, regardless of how careful we are, it’s alway possible to misinterpret what we write. Yet, for the most part, we interpret things correctly. How is this possible? Because we conjecture a number of possible interpretations and criticize them based on a number of criteria, such as previous sentences, the author, the time of day, etc. And we do so constantly at a subconscious level. You do not have to stop an intentionally consider all of those factors in the vast majority of the time.

    Furthermore, the contents of our theories are not out there anywhere for us to perceive. As such, it’s unclear how theories can be copied into our brains for us to consciously choose. Again, knowledge doesn’t need a knowing subject to criticize it.

    Nor does conciseness explain why organisms appear in the order of least complex to most complex. ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations, such as what it knew or when it knew it. As such, some designer could have chosen to create organisms in the order of most complex to least complex, or all at once. “That’s just what some designer must have wanted”, doesn’t add to the explanation.

  13. 13
    EricMH says:

    The major difference between naturalism and ID in terms of what we expect to observe.

    If naturalism is true, then either randomness and triviality rule the day. We would only expect to see amorphous gas or crystals.

    If ID is true, then we’d expect to see complex order.

    We see complex order, therefore ID is most likely true.

    We don’t have to know anything about the designer to make this inference. We only have to know there is a possible being that can violate nature’s tendency to chaos or simplicity.

  14. 14
    critical rationalist says:

    @tjguy

    “An abstract designer did it” is a bad explanation because it is easily varied.

    For example, contrast our modern day explanation of seasons with the ancient Greek explanation for the seasons, which is shallow and easily varied.

    Persephone, the Goddess of spring, enters into a forced marriage contract with Hades, the God of the underworld. Persephone escapes, but is magically compelled to return to the underworld every year, which causes her mother Demeter, who is goddess of the harvest, to become sad, causing winter.

    If the ancient Greeks knew Australia was at it’s warmest, when they were at it’s coolest, thet could have easily varied their myth to account for this variation. This is because the cast of characters are only connected to seasons though the myth itself, and the roles they play could be varied without significantly reducing it’s ability to explain seasons. Any story of annual action would do. For example, It could just as well be that Demeter is sad when Persephone returns and pushes heat away from her vicinity, causing summer. So, even if they observed the seasons out of phase, they wouldn’t have got one jot closer because their explanation was bad (easy to vary)

    This is in contrast to our current explanation of the seasons, which represents a long chain of hard to vary, independently formed explanations across multiple fields.

    The earth’s rotation is titled in respect to it’s orbit around the sun. A spinning sphere retains it’s tilt. Surfaces titled away from radiant heat are headed less. Along, with out theories of photons, the origin of star light (nuclear fusion), etc. If the seasons were not observed out of phase, there is no easy way to vary this observation without significantly impacting it’s ability to explain the seasons. Its proponents would have no where go.

    So, our explanation for the seasons is good not only because it’s falsifiable, but because it’s hard to vary, which makes the key difference.

    Note that being easily varied is not limited to the supernatural. Natural explanations can be easily varied as well and would also be bad explanations.

    Personally, the conscious being answer makes the best sense to me. How do you get personality and life from impersonal lifeless matter?

    Are we not conscious beings? Why can’t we “make” conscious beings? It’s unclear how consciousness is related to making conscious beings except through the claim itself. how might you go about criticizing this theory to find errors in it? It’s not hard to vary.

    Furthermore, some being that “just was” complete with consciousness,already present does not serve an explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that human beings “just appeared” complete with consciousness already present. This just pushes the problem up a level without improve it.

    You can punt on the answer by saying “We just don’t know, but hopefully some day we’ll figure it out.”, but basically it is just a way of avoiding the problem.

    But that’s what you’ve just done. It’s as if you’ve pushed the food around on your plate, then claimed to have ate it. Yet, it’s still right there staring you in the face.

    If we live in a bubble of explicability, surround by a sea of inexplicability, then no explanation for anything in that sea can be better than “Zeus rules” there. However, since everything inside this bubble supposedly depends on the sea around it, then can no better explanation for anything inside it ether, than “Zeus rules” here, either. So, things would only appear explicable if one careful avoids asking specific questions.

  15. 15
    ET says:

    “An abstract designer did it” is a bad explanation because it is easily varied.

    It is a good start. And yes scientific findings are open to variation as further knowledge is gained.

    Look, saying something was the result of an intelligent agency tells us quite a bit. For one it tells us an intelligent agency existed that produced it. It tells us there is possibly a purpose and reason for that artifact’s existence. And it tells us to keep looking for more artifacts so we can piece together the puzzle that was uncovered by the first artifact.

  16. 16
    Origenes says:

    CR @

    “An abstract designer did it” is a bad explanation because it is easily varied.

    If we were to find certain kinds of objects/phenomena — e.g. an alien battleship — on distant, uninhabited and otherwise desolate planets, would we be able to infer that such were most likely specifically designed by intelligent creatures of some sort for some purpose?
    Or would you say “that’s a bad explanation because it is easily varied”?

  17. 17
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. It is not an alien life form that cannot successfully wage war in space without being augmented by a “battleship”. Nor is it a complex knowledge creating entity. It is merely an authoritative source of knowledge. Aliens are unseen entities, which cannot be God.

    Furthermore, you haven’t indicated whether these battleships are self replicating. Cars cannot build themselves, so, it’s necessary for the knowledge of how to construct them to be external. However, this isn’t the case when it come to the biosphere. Organisms contain a recipe that is used to build a replicator vehicle, which is then used to copy that recipe. So, what needs to be explained is the knowledge in organisms, because that is the origin of the organism’s features.

    In the case of creationism, the explanation for this knowledge is supernatural (and therefore inexplicable by definition). In the case of ID, it’s absent. And in the case of Inductivism, it is irrational.

    Apparently, that knowledge spontaneously appeared when the organism was created? Will and intent are insufficient as I have argued.

    So, ID’s designer is a bad explanation for the knowledge in organisms.

  18. 18
    critical rationalist says:

    @ET

    For one it tells us an intelligent agency existed that produced it.

    You do realize, this is circular logic, right? Since organisms evolved via natural selection, that tells us that natural selection produced them?

    It tells us there is possibly a purpose and reason for that artifact’s existence.

    So, it tells us it has a purpose, except when it doesn’t?

    And it tells us to keep looking for more artifacts so we can piece together the puzzle that was uncovered by the first artifact.

    So, we should look for more designed organisms, because the circular logic before?

  19. 19
    Origenes says:

    CR @18

    ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. It is not an alien life form that cannot successfully wage war in space without being augmented by a “battleship”.

    Why not? How do you know that ID’s designer cannot be such an alien form?

    Nor is it a complex knowledge creating entity.

    What? How do you know this?

    It is merely an authoritative source of knowledge.

    ID’s designer is an “authoritive source of knowledge” but, at the same time, it is not a “complex knowledge creating entity.” How do you square those two statements? What are you talking about?
    And why “authoritative”? Authoritative to whom?

    Aliens are unseen entities, which cannot be God.

    Aliens are not God. So what? Also I do not understand the point. Aliens are unseen, so they cannot be God — because … ,contrary to aliens, God is seen?? You are not making sense.

    Furthermore, you haven’t indicated whether these battleships are self replicating. Cars cannot build themselves, so, it’s necessary for the knowledge of how to construct them to be external. However, this isn’t the case when it come to the biosphere. Organisms contain a recipe that is used to build a replicator vehicle, which is then used to copy that recipe.

    Which makes an organism more complex than a battleship or a car.

    So, what needs to be explained is the knowledge in organisms, because that is the origin of the organism’s features.

    Sure, and Darwinism cannot explain organisms, battleships or cars.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, 17:

    ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations . . .

    Kindly, cease and desist from insistently misrepresenting the design inference. You full well know or should know that the point of that inference is that on empirical, well tested reliable signs, there are markers of design that may be found in the world. And, in particular, that of life and the cosmos as a whole.

    This is an inference to design, which you full well know but insist on distorting, is NOT equivalent to a designer. Repeat, the design inference is to design, as opposed to designer.

    We may infer further that designs come from intelligent, purposeful designers, but that is just another way of saying that design is intelligently directed configuration. This is not setting up a strawman generic designer, it is highlighting the well known fact that designs reflect agency.

    Your strawman ID designer is little more than a rhetorical ploy to hint at motivations that are utterly irrelevant to the focal issue, inference to design on readily observed empirical evidence.

    At this point, the real issue is whether you are indulging calculated cold-blooded rhetorical deception, or whether you have first talked yourself into a view you should know far better than to adopt.

    At this point, it is far beyond time for you to do better.

    G’day,

    KF

  21. 21
    Origenes says:

    //follow-up #19//

    CR: ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. It is not an alien life form that cannot successfully wage war in space without being augmented by a “battleship”.

    I’m trying to understand CR’s argument. Maybe it is this:

    (1) ID’s designer has no defined limitations.

    therefore,

    (2) ID’s designer has no limitations.
    (3) Aliens have limitations.
    (c) ID’s designer is not an alien.

    Obviously premise (2) is wrong. It does not follow from (1). ID does not know what the limitations (if any) of the designers are, but not knowing what the limitations are does not imply that there can be no limitations.

  22. 22
    ET says:

    So the existence of artifacts doesn’t tell us there were intentional agencies around that produced them? Archaeology and forensic science are just a circular arguments relying on circular logic? Really?

    How do you suppose we learn about undocumented ancient civilizations if not via the artifacts they left behind? How do you suppose we learn about artifacts if not by studying them as intelligently designed, for a purpose? And how do you suppose we determine the purpose without first determining it was intelligently designed and then studying it as such- along with all other relevant evidence?

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    ET & Origines,

    by shifting focus from the design inference to debates about designers, CR et al hope to undermine the main argument from evidence to what it supports.

    Design — by sharpest contrast with the objecting rhetoric — is often manifest from signs in objects that are observable. Such is so manifest that it is undeniable, that is why irresponsible distractions are too often in play.

    The design inference is about those signs and inferences, which indeed necessitate that there be a designer capable of such a design. But the logic must go the right way around, it is from object to signs [tested and reliable] that one infers that intelligently directed configuration is credibly part of the causal process leading to the object being observed.

    That something of significant complexity and organised functional coherence is credibly designed then leads onward to there equally credibly was or is an agent capable of the relevant design.

    That may or may not tell us a lot about the designers at work, even if we have not seen them, in a context where humans, beavers etc demonstrate that designers are possible, without constraining that entities closely analogous to us or beavers etc are potential designers. That, too, is another ill-founded but all too common rhetorical distraction unworthy of addressing a scientific issue; revealing of an unduly hostile and in the end less than responsible mindset.

    In the case of life, it has been on the table from TMLO on by Thaxton et al (c. 1982 – 5) that in effect a molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond Venter could account for what we see in the cell, so that a design inference at this level does not constrain us to a designer beyond the cosmos. Life on earth could in principle be the result of design here or design elsewhere within the cosmos plus transfer to earth. It is simple conservative reasoning to therefore note this.

    When we turn to the fine tuned cosmos set to an operating point amenable to C-chem, aqueous medium, galactic habitable zone terrestrial planet life, this does point to a powerful and highly intelligent designer beyond the cosmos. One that obviously would be targetting a cosmos with such life in it.

    The two, together, make an onward case that our cosmos is intentionally set up for us and possibly others of like general architecture of life. Such, then opens up discussions that, however the project of life on earth was done (maybe, even with the cooperation of “elder races”) the root cause is an extra-cosmic designer.

    But this is all far beyond the core warrant for inferring design, which is what CR et al seem to have no good scientific case to dismiss, so they have retreated to endless questionable arguments on epistemology and the logic of inductive reasoning with its inherently provisional character.

    To all such, it is advisable to insist, first things come first: there is good reason to hold that there are reliable, observable signs of design that we may examine and assess. These point to design of life, of our solar system, and our observed cosmos.

    Beyond, let the worldviews discussion be influenced by that core evidence.

    KF

  24. 24
    ET says:

    kairosfocus:

    The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.—Dr Behe

    Reality sets in. But then again our opponents don’t seem to care much about reality…

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    ET, sadly, yes. KF

Leave a Reply