Intelligent Design

Quote of the Day

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From our WJM:

When one is asked to support the view that the most highly complex and sophisticated, precise, self-correcting, multi-level & interdependent software-controlled hardware machinery known to exist most likely did not come into existence by happenstance interactions of chemistry, you know that we are in an age of rampant, self-imposed, ignorant idiocy.

Happenstance physical interactions are not up to the task of creating such sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology. There is no rational contrary position. You simply cannot argue such willful idiocy out of its self-imposed state. Thankfully, such exchanges are useful for other onlookers with more reasonable perspectives.

107 Replies to “Quote of the Day

  1. 1
    Armand Jacks says:

    Happenstance physical interactions are not up to the task of creating such sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology.

    That strawman isn’t going to knock itself over. OK. Put your shoulder to it. Now, PUSH.

  2. 2
    LocalMinimum says:

    AJ:

    Would you care to contrast your position with that which you label as a “strawman”? Are you arguing that evolution is driven by deliberate interactions? Or that biology isn’t sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology? Is there a third way? Please elucidate.

  3. 3
    Armand Jacks says:

    LM, I am stating that calling physical interactions “happenstance” demonstrates a woeful ignorance of physical and chemical processes.

  4. 4

    AJ: What do I mean when I use the term “happenstance”?

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Something — molecular interactions driven by molecular energy distributions and similar phenomena such as diffusion — that would be dominated by statistical thermodynamics considerations can be described in such terms when speaking in a non technical manner. That is part of why I often sum up on blind chance and mechanical necessity.

  6. 6

    KF:

    Or, as Merriam-Webster defines the adjective usage:

    happening without being planned

  7. 7

    But, we can’t really blame the biological automaton known as Armand Jacks for making the noises and having the nonsensical thoughts caused by the happenstance chemical interactions that drive it. IMO, if an entity claims to be a meatbot, why not treat it as one? A meatbot cannot be reasoned with. A meatbot doesn’t understand reason or truth. They are only useful as a educational example.

  8. 8
    Armand Jacks says:

    KF:
    Or, as Merriam-Webster defines the adjective usage:

    Happenstance: a circumstance especially that is due to chance.

  9. 9
    Armand Jacks says:

    WJM:

    IMO, if an entity claims to be a meatbot, why not treat it as one?

    Well, that is certainly one way to avoid admitting that your statement is a complete misrepresentation of physics and chemistry. A cowardly way, but an effective one.

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    Armand Jacks @9

    If a person claims to be a meatbot, why exactly is it “cowardly” to treat a person in accord with that claim? What would be the bold/correct way to treat such a person?

  11. 11
    Armand Jacks says:

    O:

    If a person claims to be a meatbot, why exactly is it “cowardly” to treat a person in accord with that claim? What would be the bold/correct way to treat such a person?

    I must have missed the part where I claimed to be a meatbot. That was just WJM’s cowardly attempt to win an argument by dehumanizing his opposition. The strategy has a long and storied past.

  12. 12
    Origenes says:

    You must be mistaken, WJM won the argument by citing Merriam-Webster in post #6. BTW Armand Jacks, in what sense are you not a meatbot?

  13. 13
    Armand Jacks says:

    O:

    You must be mistaken, WJM won the argument by citing Merriam-Webster in post #6.

    And I won by citing Mercian-Webster in post #8.

    BTW Armand Jacks, in what sense are you not a meatbot?

    In the same sense that you aren’t.

  14. 14
    LocalMinimum says:

    AJ:

    Coincidence is a synonym for happenstance. Coincidence means there’s no causal connection between events, i.e. one cannot be predicted with respect to the other; and thus it follows that their intersection cannot be predicted with respect to either event.

    If you demand no coincidences or “chance” in your OOL, then you are demanding that a single, predictable or even deterministic event produced your first life form.

    If you are demanding no “chance” in your evolution, then you are demanding that mutations are predictable with respect to the genotype they are affecting.

    Firstly, evolutionists in general refer to “random” (i.e. unpredictable in general, thus unpredictable with respect to the target genome) mutations and a great many OOL schemes fall back on the Darwinian analogy. Therefore, it’s obviously not a straw man, and your line of argument is clearly in conflict with the majority of evolutionary thinking.

    Secondly, the reason evolutionists like to use randomness is it allows them a certain fuzziness. If you assume some random input whose interval is all possible inputs, it will eventually give you every combination of inputs. If you don’t, then you quite possibly won’t get every sequence of inputs. Thus, demanding that the sequence of inputs you needed happened is nothing more than special pleading if you can’t offer the causal sequence with any degree of (stochastic) confidence.

    If mutation is actually predictable, it could very well doom materialistic accounts of life, as it could very well show that the necessary sequence to produce various features of biology simply does not happen.

  15. 15
    Origenes says:

    Armand Jacks:

    Origenes: BTW Armand Jacks, in what sense are you not a meatbot?

    In the same sense that you aren’t.

    I hold that I am a free responsible rational person, whose essence is immaterial. In that sense I am not a meatbot. What’s your excuse?

  16. 16
    Armand Jacks says:

    LM:

    If you demand no coincidences or “chance” in your OOL, then you are demanding that a single, predictable or even deterministic event produced your first life form.

    I never said that chance didn’t play a part.

    If you are demanding no “chance” in your evolution, then you are demanding that mutations are predictable with respect to the genotype they are affecting.

    Again, who has suggested that Chance doesn’t play a role?

    Firstly, evolutionists in general refer to “random” (i.e. unpredictable in general, thus unpredictable with respect to the target genome) mutations and a great many OOL schemes fall back on the Darwinian analogy. Therefore, it’s obviously not a straw man, and your line of argument is clearly in conflict with the majority of evolutionary thinking.

    Chance is only one aspect of evolution. When WJM makes a rediculous statement like “Happenstance physical interactions are not up to the task of creating such sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology.”, he is building a big beautiful strawman ripe for being knocked down. He completely ignores the significant impact that non-chance interactions can have.

    Secondly, the reason evolutionists like to use randomness is it allows them a certain fuzziness.

    No, the reason they use the word ‘random’ is because all evidence indicates that mutations are random with respect to fitness. It’s a very discriptive and accurate term.

    If mutation is actually predictable, it could very well doom materialistic accounts of life, as it could very well show that the necessary sequence to produce various features of biology simply does not happen.

    Sorry, I don’t follow your argument here. In some respects, mutations are predictable. Every generation has them. We know that exposure to certain chemicals or radiation will increase mutations. We know that certain parts of the genome are more prone to mutations than others.

  17. 17
    Armand Jacks says:

    O:

    I hold that I am a free responsible rational person, whose essence is immaterial.

    I hold that I am a free responsible rational person, whose “essence” is the result of material processes. As with many things, we are more than the sum of our parts. That doesn’t require an immaterial causation. Water is more than the sum of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. But it is wet at room temperature and solid at -10 because of material processes.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Notice the sidetracking from a serious issue, dragging on and on instead of taking a well merited correction? The motive at work is clearly to find an excuse to side-track rather than face sobering issues.

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    Let us refocus from OP, doing away with the sidetracking excuse:

    When one is asked to support the view that the most highly complex and sophisticated, precise, self-correcting, multi-level & interdependent software-controlled hardware machinery known to exist most likely did not come into existence by happenstance [= blind chance and/or mechanical necessity-driven, non-foresighted] interactions of chemistry [and physics in a Darwin’s pond or the like prelife envt, etc], you know that we are in an age of rampant, self-imposed, ignorant idiocy.

    Happenstance physical interactions are not up to the task of creating such sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology. There is no rational contrary position. You simply cannot argue such willful idiocy out of its self-imposed state.

    I predict, there will be no serious engagement of the OOL info and organisation by blind forces challenge, nor of those tied onward to origin of body plans.

    And in particular, there will be no evidence observed in the here and now that requisite functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information beyond 500 – 1,000 bits can and does come about by blind process.

    In order to object or distract, objectors will be forced to create further examples of FSCO/I by intelligently directed configuration.

    KF

  20. 20
    Armand Jacks says:

    KF:

    Notice the sidetracking from a serious issue, dragging on and on instead of taking a well merited correction? The motive at work is clearly to find an excuse to side-track rather than face sobering issues.

    KF, I have been talking about WJM’s statement. The very same statement that is central to this OP. If you have something to add to the discussion other than groundless accusations, please do so. If not, your best approach would be to keep quiet. You only make yourself look childish and foolish otherwise.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    I will add, that while some will make the bare assertion that blind chance and mechanical necessity can and do give rise to rational, responsible freedom, they cannot substantiate such or address the copious evidence that in fact such forces are simply irrelevant to freedom to reason and responsibility to do so aright. When those specific issues have been on the table, the same sidetrack tactics were what were in use. To start with, the info and organisation just to get to a computational substrate cannot be explained on such grounds, nor the software. And that is the easy problem. Hard ones start with the fact that no computational substrate or process exhibits rational, responsible freedom, instead it is a matter of carefully organised mill wheels grinding away oblivious to meaning, intentionality, decision or purpose. Further, such is simply not governed from within by ought with freedom to choose beyond programming and blind random forces. We see here the confusion of concepts and the corruption of language to evade a critical example of the self referential incoherence of evolutionary materialistic scientism and/or its fellow traveller ideologies. Where, we would be well advised to heed Plato’s warning of the inherent amorality and ruthless factionalism that flow from those tainted springs. KF

  22. 22
    Armand Jacks says:

    KF:

    Where, we would be well advised to heed Plato’s warning of the inherent amorality and ruthless factionalism that flow from those tainted springs. KF

    Notice the sidetracking from a serious issue?

  23. 23

    As I’ve already pointed out to Armand in 2 threads now, I used the term “happenstance” as an adjective according to the Merriam-Webster definition of the adjective use of “chance”:

    happening without being planned

    Unless it is Armand’s position that according to atheism/materialism, planning was involved in the construction of OOL biological cellular nanotechnology, then his claim that I have misrepresented such ideas is misguided.

    IOW, another way to say what I said: “According to atheists/materialists, there was no planning involved in the construction of the biological nanotechnology of the living cell.”

    Will Armand disagree with that statement? Will it say it’s not a valid representation of the atheist/materialist position on OOL biological nanotechnology? Will it offer another definition of “chance” that supports its objection even though the validity of Armand’s criticism of what I said depends on how **I** was using the term “happenstance”, not upon however he might have mistakenly interpreted it?

    Let’s see what nonsense the meatbot spits out next.

  24. 24

    Only an idiot thinks that the sophisticated software/information driven/controlled, highly precise, multi-layered, interdependent, self-correcting nanotechnological machinery we find in a living cell can be the product of unplanned interactions of chemistry and physics.

    It’s beyond rational debate. The only meaningful debate is about the source, nature, implementation and goals of the planning, not whether or not planning was involved at all.

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Plato’s warning on how minds and consciences are warped through evolutionary materialism, leading to marches of ruinous folly, never mind clever little turnabout rhetorical stunts:

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X 2,350+ ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

    [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

    [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

    Notice, how the urge to the truth and the right are undermined through such ideologies and where it ends. Then, re-examine the issue put in the OP and the course of the thread. Then ask, are we simply seeing what Plato warned against playing out yet again?

    KF

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Let’s refocus again, from 19:

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>

    19
    kairosfocusApril 14, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Let us refocus from OP, doing away with the sidetracking excuse:

    When one is asked to support the view that the most highly complex and sophisticated, precise, self-correcting, multi-level & interdependent software-controlled hardware machinery known to exist most likely did not come into existence by happenstance [= blind chance and/or mechanical necessity-driven, non-foresighted] interactions of chemistry [and physics in a Darwin’s pond or the like prelife envt, etc], you know that we are in an age of rampant, self-imposed, ignorant idiocy.

    Happenstance physical interactions are not up to the task of creating such sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology. There is no rational contrary position. You simply cannot argue such willful idiocy out of its self-imposed state.

    I predict, there will be no serious engagement of the OOL info and organisation by blind forces challenge, nor of those tied onward to origin of body plans.

    And in particular, there will be no evidence observed in the here and now that requisite functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information beyond 500 – 1,000 bits can and does come about by blind process.

    In order to object or distract, objectors will be forced to create further examples of FSCO/I by intelligently directed configuration.

    KF

  27. 27

    Take a look at these dramatic videos of people having color blindness seeing color for the first time …
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601782/how-enchromas-glasses-correct-color-blindness/?utm_campaign=add_this&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post

    and
    https://youtu.be/XSD7-TgUmUY

    I’m wondering if these episodes illustrate how many people (including myself in past years) develop a type of blindness towards what is obvious to many others. I’m thinking of folks like RVB8 and Armand Jacks on this site, and Darwinian popularizers such as Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne.

    In such cases, it seems like no amount of intellectual effort and argument sways the hardened mind to even consider an alternative view of evidence that is right before our eyes. I say evidence rather than proof, because each will interpret what we are presented through the glasses of our particular world view.

    But often, as in my own particular case, we are surprised when we find ourselves looking through lenses of a different sort and see things for the very first time and are touched dramatically in an entirely new way, and a way that we can’t easily deny. As in these color blind folks seeing colors for the first time, we can no longer insist that the orange ball is in fact green.

    Perhaps the best we can do is continue to press the evidence of modern science in hopes that onlookers will find themselves suddenly, or not so suddenly, looking through corrective lenses. Lenses that continue to illustrate and illuminate the designs in nature that are all around and within us.

  28. 28
    Armand Jacks says:

    WJM:

    Only an idiot thinks that the sophisticated software/information driven/controlled, highly precise, multi-layered, interdependent, self-correcting nanotechnological machinery we find in a living cell can be the product of unplanned interactions of chemistry and physics.

    Only an idiot would make such a statement about something that they have no evidence one way or the other as to how it developed. Myself, I prefer to say that I don’t know whether the origin of life was natural or designed. But I do know that there is extensive research being conducted looking at possible natural means of OOL. I look forward to reading all of the research being conducted into the designed means of OOL. Do you have links to any peer reviewed papers that I should start with?

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    Hmm, where did WJM get the idea: “sophisticated software/information driven/controlled, highly precise, multi-layered, interdependent, self-correcting nanotechnological machinery we find in a living cell” from, again? Oh, I forget, remind me: Nobel prize winning work starting with identifying DNA’s structure and it’s protein synthesis function, then onward, I presume. KF

    PS: I do not like WJM’s tone here but find his substantial point hard to dismiss, precisely because I have had to work with such technologies, primitive though ours are by contrast.

  30. 30

    Armand said:

    Only an idiot would make such a statement about something that they have no evidence one way or the other as to how it developed.

    Only an idiot (meaning, meatbot) looks at the interdependent, sophisticated, highly-complex, precision-operating, self-correcting software/hardware find in biological nanotechnology and says “there is no evidence one way or the other as to how it developed”.

    Myself, I prefer to say that I don’t know whether the origin of life was natural or designed.

    I’m sure your happenstance physical programming causes everything you say, along with the sensation that you prefer to say such things.

    But I do know that there is extensive research being conducted looking at possible natural means of OOL. I look forward to reading all of the research being conducted into the designed means of OOL. Do you have links to any peer reviewed papers that I should start with?

    Unfortunately, under Armand’s worldview premise, there is no means by which for him to “know” any such thing other than that happenstance physical interactions cause it to have a sensation that it “knows” something (or prefers to say it doesn’t know). Those physical interactions might cause it to say “I know I’m made of peppermint cotton candy” or “impsh ujojke you .lyouj ajjyy” and also make it think it has responded appropriately to written stimuli. Who knows?

    And here it is, “arguing” with another set of happenstance physical interactions as if the noises or markings produced in the exchange have some sort of significant value.

    But, the meatbots do what they must do, and think what they must think. They serve their purpose for those of us with supernatural sentience and will – cautionary tales of what the path of atheistic materialism can lead to.

  31. 31
    Armand Jacks says:

    WJM:

    Only an idiot (meaning, meatbot) looks at the interdependent, sophisticated, highly-complex, precision-operating, self-correcting software/hardware find in biological nanotechnology and says “there is no evidence one way or the other as to how it developed”.

    Actually, that is what intelligent people would say. But I understand why you wouldn’t know that.

    Those physical interactions might cause it to say “I know I’m made of peppermint cotton candy” or “impsh ujojke you .lyouj ajjyy” and also make it think it has responded appropriately to written stimuli. Who knows?

    Another lesson by WJM on the fine art of using childish behaviour in a debate. I concede. I am not capable of acting so childishly. Another win for objective morality and supernaturalism. When you are willing to take off the diapers and act like a mature adult, get back to me. Until then, I think it might be your nap time.

  32. 32
    john_a_designer says:

    I think there are two basic type of people who actively participate in conversations here at UD: those who are motivated by truth and reason and those who are motivated by smugness.

    I see myself as someone who is motivated by truth and reason. I have said this before for me truth trumps faith. If you can convince me with facts and reason that my beliefs are untrue, I will change my beliefs.

    I see most of our regular interlocutors as being motivated by smugness, an arrogant self-centered belief that what they believe is true. Why? Because they believe it and whatever smug people believe must be true.

    After eleven years of participating in on-line discussions I can spot these people from their very first posts. They always start from a contrarian even hostile stance and a condescending tone, from which never back off. And they never ever try to establish any kind of common ground. They also appear to believe that high-minded but otherwise vacuous rhetoric is equivalent to good reasoning. Apart from a few occasional glib comments I no longer engage with people motivated by smugness. You cannot reason with people who do not understand what reasoning is.

    Unfortunately, too many people on my side (and you don’t need to be an ID’ist to be on my side) enable these peoples smugness by trying to reason with them. Like I said above, they aren’t interested in truth, reason or establishing any kind of common ground. For them winning is being able to shut down the discussion and debate. So when you try to reason with them they don’t see it as an offer to play fair but an opportunity to obstruct and obfuscate. Again if they are able undermine the discussion in any way they see that as winning.

    Notice that I haven’t named any names or given any specific examples. Why? Because that is one of the things that plays into their hands. Smug people crave being noticed, even if it’s negative. If nothing else they can feign being offended and that gives them an opportunity to counter attack with sarcasm, mockery and ridicule… which causes frustration on the ID side… which cause retaliation, which then gets the discussion going in the direction the want it to go– downhill.

    Maybe it’s time for some us who are frustrated by decreasing quality of the discourse on this site to circle the wagons and have a public discussion on how to improve the conversation and debate. Of course anyone would be welcome as long as they can be respectful and constructive. If they can’t engage honestly and respectfully their comments would be deleted. That’s my suggestion for a future OP.

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    Leibniz, Monadology 17:

    It must be confessed, however, that perception, and that which depends upon it, are inexplicable by mechanical causes, that is to say, by figures and motions. Supposing that there were a machine whose structure produced thought, sensation, and perception, we could conceive of it as increased in size with the same proportions until one was able to enter into its interior, as he would into a mill. Now, on going into it he would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find anything to explain perception.

    In short, materialist reductionism (or even emergentism) reduces to blindly mechanical chains of cause and effect, modified by blind chance processes. In that there is simply no room for responsible, rational freedom.

    Reppert counsels:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Evolutionary materialism and its fellow travellers are inherently irrational through being incoherent and self-falsifying.

    KF

  34. 34
    Armand Jacks says:

    JaD:

    Unfortunately, too many people on my side (and you don’t need to be an ID’ist to be on my side) enable these peoples smugness by trying to reason with them.

    Are you calling WJM’s childish behaviour an attempt to reason? Or KF’s condescending sermonizing? All you have to do is look at KF’s comment immediately above, calling those who disagree with him irrational.

    I have had several good discussions here with people like yourself, UB, JoshuaB, etc.

    I would argue that there is an equal amount of smugness on both sides. And I am ashamed to admit that I can all be smug at times.

  35. 35
    Origenes says:

    How does one debate a “rational” person who insists that his thoughts are not about stuff?

    Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort. There are just fermions and bosons and combinations of them. None of that stuff is just, all by itself, about any other stuff. There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter. So, when consciousness assures us that we have thoughts about stuff, it has to be wrong. … But the thoughts are not about stuff. Therefore, consciousness cannot retrieve thoughts about stuff. There are none to retrieve. So it can’t have thoughts about stuff either.

    [A. Rosenberg, TAGTR, Ch.8]

    And how does one debate with a “person” who insists that he is not a person?

    Science provides clear-cut answers to all of the questions on the list: there is no free will, there is no mind distinct from the brain, there is no soul, no self, no person that supposedly inhabits your body, that endures over its life span, and that might even outlast it. So, introspection must be wrong.
    [A. Rosenberg, TAGTR, Ch.7]

    A consistent materialist at last, but my question is: how does one debate him?

  36. 36

    Some more meatbot shenanigans:

    Are you calling WJM’s childish behaviour an attempt to reason? Or KF’s condescending sermonizing?

    He says this as he expect some some kind of behavior out of KF or I other than what happenstance chemical reactions produce. Notice how he assigns inane qualities to the effects of physical processes like some physical effects being “childish” or others “condescending” – as if those perceptions were actually qualities of physics outside of his own personal experience. It’s really pretty bizarre.

    All you have to do is look at KF’s comment immediately above, calling those who disagree with him irrational.

    But under atheistic materialism, everyone and everything is irrational. Physics has nothing to do with logic – what happens is just whatever happens. Whatever anyone thinks or says is just whatever sensations or utterances physics happens to produce. There’s notion rational or logical about any of it.

    Armand might as well be complaining about the particular markings on the dirt because of a light rain.

    I have had several good discussions here with people like yourself, UB, JoshuaB, etc.

    All discussions are just the noises that happenstance chemistry and physics produces. But then, so is Armand’s sensation of what conversations are “good” and which are “not good”. Such things are determined by physical things bumping around in Armand’s body. If he had eaten a different dinner last night, perhaps he would think the opposite. Who knows?

    I would argue that there is an equal amount of smugness on both sides. And I am ashamed to admit that I can all be smug at times.

    While there is no rational reason to be ashamed (I mean, am I ashamed of my dark hair, or height, or eye-color?) of a physics-produced series of occurrences, who knows what might produce a sensation of shame?

    Perhaps cut down on the sourdough? Maybe drink a some Earl Grey? Sadly, who knows if he’ll remember the preventative for feeling shame – who knows what might cause his memory to change at any time. That’s just part of the sad lot of being an atheist materialist meatbot.

  37. 37

    Armand said:

    Actually, that is what intelligent people would say. But I understand why you wouldn’t know that.

    Actually, under atheistic materialism, people say whatever happenstance interactions of chemistry makes them say, and I would experience as “knowing” whatever such interactions produces with such a sensation. Nothing more, nothing less.

    When you are willing to take off the diapers and act like a mature adult, get back to me. Until then, I think it might be your nap time.

    Note how the meatbot says things as if it expects others to have some sort of supernatural top-down power to redirect or change the onward march of physical processes. As if “I” was something other than whatever was producing the behavior in question; as if “I” was something that could reach down or in and stop it.

    How would he expect me to even do this? Does Armand expect me to know how to mix the right chemicals and fire a certain sequence of neurons to produce the desired behavioral effects? Am I (whatever he imagines that to be other than what is producing the behavior) supposed to understand what each enzyme and acid will contribute? Does he expect me to read DNA codes and do some editing on the fly?

    Armand argues as if all that is required is for me to simply will an imagined course change and **poof**, sudden WJM is acting in an entirely different manner. Am I supposed to be able to do this without reading some peer-reviewed papers on how to chemically induce various behaviors in certain body types and in certain DNA structures?

    What, does he think my **will** has some sort of magical capacity to override the ongoing physical processes of my body and brain and produce the desired physical effects with no chemistry or biological knowledge about how to do so? Does Armand believe in witchcraft and voodoo as well?

  38. 38
    Armand Jacks says:

    Now WJM. Calm down. If you can’t play nice with the big kids, there will be no ice cream for you. Take a deep breath and count till ten. Go sit in the corner until can play nicely with the other kids.

  39. 39
    Origenes says:

    Armand Jacks

    AJ: Now WJM. Calm down.

    Why do you say that? Do you hold that WJM has some magical capacity to override the ongoing physical processes of his body and brain? How is that compatible with materialism?

    AJ: I hold that I am a free responsible rational person, whose “essence” is the result of material processes.

    Can you explain how you can be free and a material process? And while you are at it, can you also explain how you can be responsible and a material process? And how you can be rational and a material process? And finally how you can be a person and a material process?

  40. 40
    Armand Jacks says:

    O:

    Why do you say that? Do you hold that WJM has some magical capacity to override the ongoing physical processes of his body and brain? How is that compatible with materialism?

    If you are going to take the same childish tactics as WJM, can you explain to me why I should engage with you in discussion?

    Or are you denying that in a materialist/physicalist environment the end product can be greater than the sum of the parts? Otherwise, how do you explain water, crystals, etc.? I am willing to discuss this, but if you are going to adopt WJM’s immature, childish approach, I will say my good byes.

  41. 41
    Origenes says:

    Armand Jacks: … are you denying that in a materialist/physicalist environment the end product can be greater than the sum of the parts? Otherwise, how do you explain water, crystals, etc.? I am willing to discuss this …

    Great. Are you arguing for emergentism? Are you saying that mental stuff is an emergent property of brain chemicals?

  42. 42
    Armand Jacks says:

    O:

    Great. Are you arguing for emergentism? Are you saying that mental stuff is an emergent property of brain chemicals?

    I think the term “emergent” is a weak term. But if you are comfortable with it, I am fine.

  43. 43
    Origenes says:

    AJ

    Would you like to begin? Do you want to argue how freedom emerges from physical stuff? Or would you prefer me to show you that this cannot be done? Your call.

  44. 44
    Armand Jacks says:

    All I know is that freedom can be removed through the use of physical “stuff”. We can destroy consciousness through the use of chemistry and physical changes to the brain. Damage to the physical brain has turned people from socially well adjusted sociopaths. All of this through purely physical changes to the brain.

  45. 45
    Origenes says:

    You are saying that, since freedom can be destroyed by physical stuff, it is reasonable to assume that it can also be constructed by physical stuff. Do I understand you correctly?

  46. 46
    Armand Jacks says:

    O:
    It is a reasonable inference.

  47. 47
    Seversky says:

    When one is asked to support the view that the most highly complex and sophisticated, precise, self-correcting, multi-level & interdependent software-controlled hardware machinery known to exist most likely did not come into existence by happenstance interactions of chemistry, you know that we are in an age of rampant, self-imposed, ignorant idiocy.

    “[S]oftware-controlled hardware machinery” is an analogy not a description. Human computing and engineering are the nearest metaphors from human technology that we have for what we see happening in the cell, for example. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the cell was designed in the way a computer or a factory was. No, we do not have a plausible step-by-step account of how to get from inanimate chemicals to complex living organisms, although there is intriguing work being done in the field. But neither do we have any compelling evidence of a designer capable of such things as life and universes nor any better idea, if such exists, of how it might have accomplished its purposes. Only human hubris would insist that it must be design in the face of a lack of evidence to decide the matter either way.

    Happenstance physical interactions are not up to the task of creating such sophisticated, information-driven nanotechnology. There is no rational contrary position. You simply cannot argue such willful idiocy out of its self-imposed state. Thankfully, such exchanges are useful for other onlookers with more reasonable perspectives.

    You know as well as I do that neither Darwin nor any other evolutionist has argued that the evolution of life on Earth was due entirely to happenstance. That’s a tired old creationist canard. The mutations on which natural selection acts are caused by something, whether radiation or viruses or chemicals. But the cause is random in the sense that there is no reason to think those mutations were intended to affect the processes of evolution in any way. They just happen. They also occur in the context of an ordered universe the laws of which ultimately determine whether the effects of a mutation are neutral, detrimental or beneficial. If you want to point out that we have no idea where that order comes from and that intelligent agency is one possible explanation, I would agree. But, call it “idiocy” all you like, being possible is a long way from the existence of such a designer being established and even further from it being necessarily the God of Christianity.

  48. 48
    Origenes says:

    AJ @46
    Freedom isn’t quite clear in your example (post #44). Maybe you can improve?

    On the difference between correlation and causation I would like to quote William Lane Craig:

    A dualist-interactionist does not take the soul to operate independently of the brain like a ghost in a machine. Rather, as the Nobel Prize-winning neurologist Sir John Eccles emphasizes, the soul uses the brain as an instrument to think, just as a musician uses a piano as an instrument to make music. If his piano is out of tune or damaged, then the pianist’s ability to produce music will be impaired or even nullified. In the same way, says Eccles, if the soul’s instrument of thought, the brain, is damaged or adversely affected, then the soul’s ability to think will be impaired or nullified.

    I’m not saying that I share Eccles/Craig’s view, but he presents a valid counter-argument.

  49. 49
    Armand Jacks says:

    O, thank you for engaging in an honest discussion. I do not get that from WJM or KF.

    The big question is whether the “soul” uses the brain, or whether the brain produces the “soul”. Since there is absolutely no evidence of the “soul” existing without the brain, the most parsimonious answer is the latter.

  50. 50

    Seversky @47

    Among other things you say “But neither do we have any compelling evidence of a designer capable of such things as life and universes nor any better idea, if such exists, of how it might have accomplished its purposes. Only human hubris would insist that it must be design in the face of a lack of evidence to decide the matter either way.”
    _________

    Consider the following:

    Some of the fundamentals of Darwinian Evolution, as I understand it are:

    The complexities of life we see all around us, and within us are assembled from the bottom up in a Natural Selection process which chooses beneficial mutations among a long series of such changes, while allowing less beneficial changes to wither away, or perhaps allowed to remain as flotsam or “junk.”

    The resulting “designs” we see from such a process are merely illusions, the appearance of design … not actual design as we see in all of the human artifacts we dwell among such as the automobile and computers.

    Evolution is said to be without purpose, without direction and without goals. What we may see as purpose, direction and goals are simply the result of the workings of natural processes – simply illusions of and the appearance of design,

    ——-
    So then why do we see purpose, direction and goals at every level of life – from the cellular level, to the systems level to the completed body plan?

    We see purpose in the various machines and structures within each of several trillion cells in our bodies. We see the Kinesin motor transporting cargo from one place on the cell to another. We see the marvel of DNA which, coupled with other cellular components, represents not only a massive mass storage capability, but also represents a type of blueprint package defining all aspects of the end product body. This DNA package also contains what can be described as a complete set of “shop travelers” which, much like a manufacturing process, provides step by step instructions and bills of materials for the manufacture of the myriad parts making up the completed human body – bones, hair, brain, liver, eye, nose … and more.
    And each of these subunits exhibits purpose — specific purpose.  What is finally assembled as an arm and hand for example, takes on a myriad of functional purposes such as accurately throwing a baseball, playing a musical instrument such as a violin and cradling a new born baby.

    Each of our vital organs play specific and necessary roles in keeping our body alive and functioning – there are goals and purpose expressed in each and every one of our body parts.

    What we see and experience in the finished goal directed and purposeful human body is beautifully expressed in many ways, such as when we witness a magnificent choral and orchestral performance such as Handel’s Messiah. What we experience in that concert hall is not an illusion — it is real and is the culmination of a multitude of designs, both in the natural as well as the realm of human intelligence and ingenuity.
    ________

    Folks like me see the compelling evidence all around and within us.         

  51. 51
    jdk says:

    Hi AJ. I think emergent is a perfectly good term: in this world, things form from constituent parts so as to have properties that aren’t in any obvious way contained in those constituent parts.

    The iconic example is table salt, although water is another good example. Going further, stars, galaxies, and planets are emergent objects, as well as many features of the weather dynamics of our planet.

    Going even further, my view is that intelligence is an emergent property that arises from the integrated organization of biological organisms. This view involves accepting that life on earth is itself an emergent property of matter; that it has evolved through the vast diversity of life forms and features up to what exists today, including human beings; and that the parts of biological organisms are integrated such that they act in concert for the benefit of the organism as a whole.

    I also know that all I just said in that last paragraph is strenuously denied as possible by most of the people here, but I thought I’d share this very quick summary of my thoughts with you.

  52. 52

    Seversky said:

    You know as well as I do that neither Darwin nor any other evolutionist has argued that the evolution of life on Earth was due entirely to happenstance. That’s a tired old creationist canard. The mutations on which natural selection acts are caused by something, whether radiation or viruses or chemicals.

    Try reading a thread before rushing headlong into foolishness, Seversky. Find where I defined “happenstance”, then continue.

    Armandbot tries to draw a rather bizarrre equivalence:

    Or are you denying that in a materialist/physicalist environment the end product can be greater than the sum of the parts? Otherwise, how do you explain water, crystals, etc.?

    Water crystals are the product of physics and chemistry. Nothing more. Is Armand attempting to say that a water crystal has some sort of top-down control over the physical processes generating it? Do Snowflakes design their patterns, manipulating the physical commodities involved to create a desired pattern?

    See how easily meatbots throw around phrases like “greater than the sum of its parts” and “emergence” as if something can be magically manifested by physical things into a state free of the binding of physics and chemistry, able to magically plan and design and understand beyond the physical cause-and-effect of that which is generating this “emergent” property?

    Unless these physical interactions have manifested an emergence of supernatural will and power above and over the cause-and-effect sequences and patterns of chemistry and physics, all the meatbot is doing is waving its hands, spouting some words and having no idea what those words actually must mean. Perhaps they say them as an incantation to ward off the discomfort of realizing they have no room, in atheistic materialism, for being anything other than a meatbot no matter what terms and phrases they hide behind.

    But, we can’t blame them. It would be like holding a river accountable for its pathway. Yes, turbulence and flow are greater than the sum of the parts and must be expressed with formulas beyond simple patterning, but the patterns of those emergent properties are still governed by the patterns of physics and chemistry. They’re not magical or supernatural, are they?

  53. 53
    Origenes says:

    Armand Jacks and JDK

    How would you define ‘freedom’? Water, table salt crystals have to do with freedom in what sense?

    In my book freedom is a property of persons. It makes no sense to speak of a ‘free chemical process’ — unless that chemical process is a person.

    It may be difficult to reach agreement on a definition of freedom. However I think we can agree upon what it is not. Can we agree on this: a person cannot be free if he is not in control of his thoughts and actions.

  54. 54

    Armand the meatbot says:

    O, thank you for engaging in an honest discussion. I do not get that from WJM or KF.

    Armand insists he is entirely the product of cause-and-effect physical processes; that every word and act is governed by such physical cause-and-effect. Armand insists he (and everyone) has no top-down supernatural power over those processes; he is entirely the puppet of physical cause-and-effect.

    So, to keep the debate honest, I use the designation “meatbot” in deference to Armand’s position that he is, in fact, a biological automaton that is entirely governed by physical programming and cause-and-effect. It is not only an honest designation, it is one I use in deference to Armand’s insistence even though I disagree with his view of what he is.

    I then respond to Armand in the manner I would respond to (or about) a biological automaton. What would be dishonest of me would be to assume (for the sake of argument) that Armand is what he claims to be and then interact with him as if he possessed a free will power over his physical processes, or possessed some magical ability to acquire/discern universal truths and force it upon his physical nature.

    IOW, Armand wants others to treat him as if everything he claims about his existential nature is false. That’s not honest interaction; Armand wants to be treated as if he has libertarian free will and supernatural capacities while he denies those things exist. He doesn’t want honesty; he wants us to enable his mad denialism by ignoring the self-refuting nature of his contributions.

  55. 55
    Origenes says:

    WJM: Armand insists he is entirely the product of cause-and-effect physical processes; that every word and act is governed by such physical cause-and-effect. Armand insists he (and everyone) has no top-down supernatural power over those processes; he is entirely the puppet of physical cause-and-effect.

    In defense of Armand Jacks, he did claim that matter can ground freedom responsibility rationality and personhood (see post #17).
    So far AJ has provided us with two arguments in favor of his view:

    (1) Like water and crystals, we are more than the sum of our parts.
    (2) Freedom (and so forth) can be destroyed by matter, therefor it is reasonable to assume that it can be constructed by matter.

    His second argument seems to rest on notions of parsimony. This is unconvincing in this case, to say the least, so it all hings on his first argument.

    Obviously, pointing to water and table salt crystals, doesn’t get us to freedom responsibility rationality and personhood. Therefor AJ needs to present his case for emergentism.

  56. 56
    jdk says:

    Origenes asks, “How would you define ‘freedom’?”

    That’s a good question: I like the idea of trying to get clearer about what we are actually talking about.

    Origenes then asks, “Can we agree on this: a person cannot be free if he is not in control of his thoughts and actions.”

    I don’t think that helps too much, because then the question is what does it mean to be “in control of” one’s thoughts and actions.

    Rather than start with definitions, it might be better to start with observations. Both looking at ourself, from the inside, so to speak, and looking at others from the outside, what does the exercise of “free will” look like.

    Here are some questions, the answers to which might illuminate what we think.

    Do I control my heart beating? Is that an action of free will? I would say no.

    In general, do I control, as an act of free will, the vast array of physiological processes that are taking place in me all the time: oxygen exchange in the lungs, digestion, the production of neurotransmitters at the nerve synapses, etc.?

    If these all are also not actions of free will, want do we call them?

    Now lets think about movement, which is more often thought of as something we can control. Yesterday I decided (which most of us would consider an act of free will) to go to the gym and walk. But as I walked, to what extent, and of what, was I in control. I certainly don’t will each movement: walking appears to happen somewhat like the heart beating in that all the myriad muscular movements appear to be biologically integrated below the level of conscious choice. If I decide to run for a bit, that is a choice, but once I have that intent, again a huge set of actions beyond my conscious control start to happen.

    So where exactly is the free will here? What part of our experience is willful as opposed to the parts that seem to flow biologically beyond our control? Is there a distinction between what I “control” more or less automatically via my biology and those things that I control via free will. If I control my choices via free will, is it wrong to say “I” control my running? Do I say “I” choose to run, and then my body runs? Does “my body” belong to “me”, or is “my body” part of “me”.

    And now, on to thoughts. Our conscious thoughts are, I think, the place where we most center our concept of free will. However, how do thoughts arise?

    Here’s an experiment. Lie quietly and pay attention to the stream of thoughts occupying your mind. Imagine them as streaming somewhat linearly from one side of your head to the other. Now, pay attention to the start of a thought: perhaps an idea you have stimulated by this topic. What I have noticed for myself is that when the thought starts most of the time I can “feel”, holistically, that I know what the whole thought is: I don’t have to let it spin out linearly in language. Therefore, I can let that thought go, and wait for the next thought to start. I use this technique to help quiet my mind, especially in going to sleep.

    So where are these thoughts coming from: they seem to arise unbidden from my subconscious.

    But am I in control of my subconscious? Or is the production of thoughts by my subconscious more like the movement of my muscles when I run: something biologically produced by my body?

    So, to summarize: where exactly is the demarcation between what we control via our will and what we don’t. Where does will actually manifest itself?

    As kf would say, FFT

  57. 57
    john_a_designer says:

    Armand wrote,

    O, thank you for engaging in an honest discussion. I do not get that from WJM or KF.

    Based on materialism how can someone like Armand even talk about honesty? Honesty based on what standard? Whose standard? Some of our other atheist interlocutors insist that moral values and obligations are totally subjective. But how do they know this? How can they prove this? But if they are subjective, whose moral standard is everyone else obligated to follow?

    Ironically, we can’t even have an honest discussion about honesty with these people.

  58. 58
    Origenes says:

    jdk @56

    jdk:
    Origenes then asks, “Can we agree on this: a person cannot be free if he is not in control of his thoughts and actions.”
    I don’t think that helps too much, because then the question is what does it mean to be “in control of” one’s thoughts and actions.

    You are correct. But in order to understand freedom one has to have an understanding of control. For one thing, controlling something implies having causative influence on something.
    Maybe this helps:

    If A causes B, and we have no control (causative influence) over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.

    Summarizing: freedom implies control, which, in turn, implies causative influence.

    Do we agree that freedom and controlling something is not possible without causative influence on something?

  59. 59
    jdk says:

    to Origenes: I’m not sure I find this very helpful. Freedom may not be possible without causative influence, but neither are purely material effects possible without causative influence. The question is not whether there are chains of causation – I think there have to be – but whether we have a will which can initiate chains of material causes-and-effects without itself being a material thing and without being subject to a prior chain of causes.

    So, I’ll return to all the questions I asked. Let’s leave metaphysics aside for a bit, and try to identify in ourselves exactly what constitutes an act of will as opposed to a relatively obvious bit of material biology, such as a neurotransmitter being created and used at a nerve synapse.

  60. 60
    Origenes says:

    jdk @59

    jdk: I’m not sure I find this very helpful.

    I am sorry but I have to insist. Without agreement I cannot make my point.

    jdk: Freedom may not be possible without causative influence …

    Whence cometh the doubt?

    jdk: … but neither are purely material effects possible without causative influence.

    I absolutely agree.
    – – – –
    Again, this is what I want you to agree on:
    If A causes B, and we have no control (causative influence) over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.

  61. 61
    john_a_designer says:

    And beside the moral questions that the materialist apparently cannot answer (see #57 above) there are the epistemological questions. How do I know materialism is true? Is it self-evidently true? Can you prove it to me? If you can’t prove it to me, why should I accept it? Why should I even consider it? Because you believe it?

    Again, those are more questions our atheist interlocutors for some reason never answer. Is that what they mean by honesty?

  62. 62
    jdk says:

    The reason I find your italicized question not helpful is that it still leaves aside the question of “control”, and for that matter, “we” (or “I”.)

    Essentially, your statement is just a statement of causation, throwing in the very question under consideration at A. It leaves unanswered the question of whether we can or cannot have control over A, whatever A may be, and thus returns to the question of control itself.

    So, as I said above,

    The question is not whether there are chains of causation – I think there have to be – but whether we have a will which can initiate chains of material causes-and-effects without itself being a material thing and without being subject to a prior chain of causes.

    So, I’ll return to all the questions I asked. Let’s leave metaphysics aside for a bit, and try to identify in ourselves exactly what constitutes an act of will as opposed to a relatively obvious bit of material biology, such as a neurotransmitter being created and used at a nerve synapse.

  63. 63
    Origenes says:

    jdk @62

    jdk: The reason I find your italicized question not helpful is that it still leaves aside the question of “control”, and for that matter, “we” (or “I”.)

    Control implies causative influence, that’s all we need to know in order to agree with the statement.
    Indeed “we” or “I” are not defined, but it is up to you to show a scenario in which you cannot agree with the statement.
    For instance if by “we” is meant “aliens” or “trees”, then the statement still holds.

    jdk: It leaves unanswered the question of whether we can or cannot have control over A, whatever A may be, …

    Also here I see no problem, if we cannot (in principle) have control over A, then the statement still holds (we have no control over B).

  64. 64
    jdk says:

    Ok, Origenes, let’s stay with your point rather then addressing mine.

    You write, “If A causes B, and we have no control (causative influence) over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.”

    I believe you might mean necessary, not sufficient. The way you have written this, we might still have control over B even without control over A, because we might have control over B directly through some other means than A.

    But, would this restatement, which I would agree with, be equivalent to your point. If A is the necessary cause of B and if we can’t control A, then we can’t control B.”?

    If this is an OK restatement, what conclusion do you then reach?

  65. 65
    Armand Jacks says:

    JaD:

    Based on materialism how can someone like Armand even talk about honesty?

    I see that you opt to use WJM’s childish tactics rather than discuss the actual issues. If using these childish antics against me brings meaning to your otherwise dreary existence, I am glad to be of help. 🙂

  66. 66
    Origenes says:

    jdk @64

    By “sufficient” I meant to say that there is no need for anything else than A to get B. A is a sufficient cause for B. I did not mean to say that only A can cause B.
    A car accident is a sufficient cause of death, but not the only cause of death.

    Okay without further ado, here comes:
    – – – – –
    Materialism cannot ground freedom, responsibility, rationality and/or personhood.

    If materialism is true, then either determinism is true or there are (sporadic) undetermined events.

    1. If determinism is true, then all our actions and thoughts are consequences of events and laws of nature in the remote past before we were born.
    3. We have no control over circumstances that existed in the remote past before we were born, nor do we have any control over the laws of nature.
    4. If A causes B, and we have no control over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.
    Therefore
    5. If determinism is true, then we have no control over our own actions and thoughts.
    Therefore, assuming that rationality requires control,
    6. If determinism is true, we are not rational.

    Regarding undetermined events, here is Van Inwagen, who argues that undetermined events (also) fail to ground freedom, control and rationality:

    “Let us look carefully at the consequences of supposing that human behavior is undetermined …
    Let us suppose that there is a certain current-pulse that is proceeding along one of the neural pathways in Jane’s brain and that it is about to come to a fork. And let us suppose that if it goes to the left, she will make her confession;, and that if it goes to the right, she will remain silent. And let us suppose that it is undetermined which way the pulse goes when it comes to the fork: even an omniscient being with a complete knowledge of the state of Jane’s brain and a complete knowledge of the laws of physics and unlimited powers of calculation could say no more than: ‘The laws and present state of her brain would allow the pulse to go either way; consequently, no prediction of what the pulse will do when it comes to the fork is possible; it might go to the left, and it might go to the right, and that’s all there is to be said.’
    Now let us ask: does Jane have any choice about whether the pulse goes to the left or to the right? If we think about this question for a moment, we shall see that it is very hard to see how she could have any choice about that.
    …There is no way for her to make it go one way rather than the other. Or, at least, there is no way for her to make it go one way rather than the other and leave the ‘choice’ it makes an undetermined event.”
    [Van Inwagen]

  67. 67
    Armand Jacks says:

    O, thank you for actually engaging in discussion and not resorting to the childish antics of WJM.

    His second argument seems to rest on notions of parsimony. This is unconvincing in this case, to say the least, so it all hings on his first argument.

    How is this unconvincing? Science has long gained better understanding of how things work by interfering with their function or breaking them down. We know that we can temporarily disrupt consciousness threw chemical and physical means. We know that we can permanently disrupt consciousness, again through chemical and physical means. We know that we can alter a person’s personality through chemical and physical means. Much of the “evidence” for something outside the affects of the physical brain is near death experience. The same experience that has been replicated through the modifying physical parameters.

    This certainly does not rule out the existance of something else, but that “something else” does not appear to be necessary.

    As I mentioned, I think that “emergent” is an often misused term, but there are plenty of examples. I used the example of water as it is a very simple one (3 atoms) and one everyone can understand. You can dive into a pond but I wouldn’t advise diving into a block of ice.

    At the biological level, a single skin cell does very little for you. However, as a group they provide a good protective layer.

    Got to go stuff the turkey.

  68. 68
    jdk says:

    I understand, and have heard quite a few times, the argument you offer, Origenes. It basically is a kind of tautology: chains of physical causation can’t account for a kind of freedom that requires causes that are free from physical causation. That is true, by definition.

    But it leaves unanswered the question of whether such non-material causes exists. If they don’t, then the kind of freedom and rationality that you would like to exist doesn’t in fact exist.

    That is why I think examining our experience of will would be useful: let the metaphysical questions be unanswered for a bit, and just look at the question of what things clearly seem to be uncontrolled by will, freedom, and rationality, and which do.

    So would you be willing to go back to my questions at 56 above, and,addressing your original question of “what is freedom,” consider the reality of what we’re talking about. Do we control out heart beating? In what sense do we control our running? In what sense do we control our thoughts? (Could you freely choose to quit having thoughts?”

    Can you comment on some of those questions?

  69. 69
    Origenes says:

    Jdk @68

    jdk: I understand, and have heard quite a few times, the argument you offer, Origenes. It basically is a kind of tautology: chains of physical causation can’t account for a kind of freedom that requires causes that are free from physical causation.

    That’s not the point of the argument. The point of the argument is that, given materialism (which offers only determinism or indeterminism), we are not in control of our actions and thoughts — irrespective of questions wrt our physicality. Therefore materialism fails to ground freedom, responsibility, rationality and personhood.

    jdk: But it leaves unanswered the question of whether such non-material causes exists.

    True.

    jdk: If they don’t, then the kind of freedom and rationality that you would like to exist doesn’t in fact exist.

    True again.

    jdk: That is why I think examining our experience of will would be useful …

    Not so fast! Wait. This is a crucial moment. Please.

    Before we start, must we not assume that we are free to do so? Must we not assume that we are rational? Must we not assume that we have control over our thoughts and behavior?
    And if so, what does that tell us about materialism which only offers determinism and/or indeterminism?
    Must we not, before we proceed, assume that materialism is false?

  70. 70
    jdk says:

    No, but we are caught in a vicious circle in our discussion that I don’t think we can get out of. I want to explore the possibility that we have a freedom, control, and rationality that is grounded in material processes, although obviously not exactly the same things as freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes. If you insist, and I think many here do, that the only freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes are really, truly freedom, control, and rationality, then further discussion is impossible.No, but I think we are caught in a vicious circle in our discussion that I don’t think we can get out of. I want to explore the possibility that we have a freedom, control, and rationality that is grounded in material processes, although those would obviously not be exactly the same things as freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes. If you insist, and I think many here do, that only freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes are really, truly freedom, control, and rationality, then further discussion is impossible.

    That is why I am asking to leave aside metaphysics for a bit. Assume a couple of people with slightly different metaphysical perspectives, but none a materialist, are talking about freedom and will. Wouldn’t the questions I ask be of interest? Just how much, and in what ways, are we in control of ourselves? Are not these interesting questions?

  71. 71
    jdk says:

    Ooops – fixing 70

    No, but we are caught in a vicious circle in our discussion that I don’t think we can get out of. I want to explore the possibility that we have a freedom, control, and rationality that is grounded in material processes, although obviously not exactly the same things as freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes. If you insist, and I think many here do, that only freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes are really, truly freedom, control, and rationality, then further discussion is impossible.

    That is why I am asking to leave aside metaphysics for a bit. Assume a couple of people with slightly different metaphysical perspectives, but none a materialist, are talking about freedom and will. Wouldn’t the questions I ask be of interest? Just how much, and in what ways, are we in control of ourselves? Are not these interesting questions?

  72. 72
    Armand Jacks says:

    I think the concept of free will is an interesting but I also think that it is an intractable one.

    We certainly have the perception of free will but I don’t think that it is possible to prove one way or the other. By stimulating different parts of the brain we can certainly trigger different feelings, senses and actions. Which would suggest no free will but may simply be the physical pathways that are used to act on free will.

    We also know that activity in the brain precedes any action or thought. But, again, what does that mean.

    It would be nice to be able to do controlled studies to see if we are really capable of making decisions other than the ones we do, but it would be impossible to control the millions (if not billions) of factors that may affect a decision.

    It may simply be that the number of inputs (stimuli, chemical, physical) that go into any action might be so large that our perception of free will is just that, a perception.

  73. 73
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM (a former nihilistic materialist) has the better of the exchange, we deal with someone who routinely tries to dismiss the man through manipulation of moral and logical constructs and concepts his scheme of thought forbids to have any serious reality. See my own discussion here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-629418 KF

  74. 74
    Eric Anderson says:

    Armand Jacks @72:

    By stimulating different parts of the brain we can certainly trigger different feelings, senses and actions. Which would suggest no free will but may simply be the physical pathways that are used to act on free will.

    Two things that are rather obvious on a quick read through your comment:

    (1) To what extent can we trigger different feelings, senses and actions by stimulating the brain? To the same extent that you have the ability to make decisions in your day-to-day life? Not even close.

    (2) It certainly doesn’t “suggest no free will”. It suggests that the brain is closely involved in actions and interactions, even discerning, storing, reacting to our experiences. No-one is disputing that the brain is critical and has remarkable capabilities of helping us interface with the world. But a few brain-sensory stimulations most certainly does not “suggest no free will.”

    We also know that activity in the brain precedes any action or thought.

    What is your basis for this claim, specifically as it relates to thought, not physical action?

  75. 75
    Eric Anderson says:

    jdk @51:

    Hi AJ. I think emergent is a perfectly good term: in this world, things form from constituent parts so as to have properties that aren’t in any obvious way contained in those constituent parts.

    The iconic example is table salt, although water is another good example. Going further, stars, galaxies, and planets are emergent objects, as well as many features of the weather dynamics of our planet.

    But such “emergent” things are well explained by the parts and how they come together, purely on the basis of chemistry and physics. There is no mystery about how table salt and water form, for example. We don’t need to invoke “emergence” to explain their existence.

    And, by the way, it is completely unhelpful to call a chemical reaction an “emergent” process. It is a chemical reaction that proceeds according to well-known principles. Let’s use the right scientific terminology and not try to pretend some mysterious process is at work.

    Indeed, the whole concept of “emergence” is largely unhelpful when it is used as an attempted “explanation” for something’s existence. See, for example, this OP as it relates to living systems:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....g-systems/

    —–

    This view involves accepting that life on earth is itself an emergent property of matter .
    . .

    Which again, doesn’t mean anything beyond the claim that a series of law-like, as well as happenstance, physical interactions somehow stumbled upon life.

    The reason most people reject that idea is not because there is an inability to comprehend this great principle of emergence. It is because people can see through the smoke and mirrors of emergence and realize it is just a word that masks ignorance. It is like invoking a miracle. It is like saying something unexpected happens. It is just another surrogate for claiming that life came about either by force of chemistry and physics or by pure dumb luck.

    —–

    Now, circling back to the more interesting question in your comment:

    Going even further, my view is that intelligence is an emergent property that arises from the integrated organization of biological organisms.

    There are lot of people, believers, theists, Christians, and so on who — at least in my assessment — implicitly, if not explicitly, accept the idea that matter can be organized in such a way as to create intelligence. Many would balk at this characterization, but when pressed, would have to admit that this is essentially their position.

    Specifically, anyone who thinks that God has the ability to create a knowledgable, sentient, physical being, implicitly believes it is possible for matter to be organized in such a way as to produce such a being.

    So there is actually an interesting open question in many theological and philosophical circles about whether matter can indeed be organized in such a way, or whether “intelligence” (mind, soul, spirit, whatever you want to call it) is inherently independent of matter and must be viewed as existing separately and independently from the matter.

    —–

    Regardless, for purposes of intelligent design, it is certainly possible for someone to believe that matter can be organized in such a way as to produce an intelligent being.

    But such an intelligent design proponent would point out that there is no evidence such organization can come about on its own, or “emerge” from the largely random and stochastic interactions of physics and chemistry.

    Rather, they would argue that such a creative process itself requires a creative intelligence.

  76. 76
    jdk says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Eric.

    I don’t think I mean to use the term emergent for the chemical process by which, for instance, hydrogen and oxygen unite to form water. I mean that once that process is complete, the result has properties, to quote myself, “that aren’t in any obvious way contained in those constituent parts.”

    The properties emerge as a result of the process. “Emergence” doesn’t explain how salt or water form – as you say, they form by basic chemical processes, but I don’t think it’s a bad adjective for the fact that the result has properties that the original parts didn’t have. I don’t mean to use the word to imply some mystery, and I don’t believe I used the phrase “emergent process”.

    I looked at some of the article you wrote last year. I agree, I think, with what you wrote.

    Emergence itself is not necessarily controversial, at least not in its simple, observationally-based definition. Wikipedia describes it as “a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.” Fine. Nothing particularly controversial there. I’m willing to accept that as a reasonable working definition for purposes of discussion.

    The problem arises when researchers or theorists imagine that emergence is an explanation for a particular phenomenon…

    To go back to water, as an example. It may be (I don’t know) that chemists have a pretty good understanding of why two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen is a liquid, has the freezing and boiling points it does, etc., knowing what they do about the properties of the two elements separately. Or maybe chemists don’t know very much about that. But in case, I think saying those are emergent properties is a good adjective, as the first paragraph above seems to say, but that merely saying that emergent properties exist does not in itself explain why those properties have the form they do: that is a further question.

    So it seems like I am in agreement with you on this distinction.

    Then you wrote some interesting replies to my statement that “my view is that intelligence is an emergent property that arises from the integrated organization of biological organisms.

    I think that, given the discussion above, that “evolved” property might be a better descriptor than “emergent.” Very simple organisms have very simple stimulus-response system, with very little “internal” processing between the stimulus and the response. However, over the course of time, organisms with the ability to behave more “intelligently” in respect to the environment have evolved, with that ability fostered greatly by the ability to store and process information internally as a middleman, so to speak, between stimulus and response.

    I’m not sure there are any emergent properties in this evolutionary history. at least not dramatically analogous to that of salt or water. As you write,

    There are lot of people, believers, theists, Christians, and so on who … implicitly, if not explicitly, accept the idea that matter can be organized in such a way as to create intelligence.

    I agree that matter can be organized, and is, in such a way to create intelligence, although, as a non-theist I would disagree with how matter got that way and about whether our intelligence depends on any non-material aspect of our being.

    But I appreciate your comments about “emergence”, and will keep them in mind as I think about these things.

  77. 77
    Eric Anderson says:

    jdk @76:

    Thanks for your thoughts. Couple of follow-up items:

    To go back to water, as an example. . . . But in case, I think saying those are emergent properties is a good adjective, as the first paragraph above seems to say, but that merely saying that emergent properties exist does not in itself explain why those properties have the form they do: that is a further question.

    There are two issues here, so we need to be careful we do not conflate them.

    As you say, calling something emergent does not tell us why its resultant properties are as they are.

    Moreover, and more relevant to the question of where something came from, calling something emergent does not tell us where the properties came from.

    In the case of intelligence, for example, we can probably all acknowledge that there are things about intelligence that we do not understand, such as precisely how it works. And we can agree that calling it an emergent property of matter does not tell us anything useful about the properties of intelligence.

    But more importantly, calling intelligence “emergent” does not tell us anything about how it came about in the first place.

    —–

    However, over the course of time, organisms with the ability to behave more “intelligently” in respect to the environment have evolved . . .

    Well, that’s precisely the question, isn’t it?

    We can’t just assume that intelligence evolved through natural processes (such as random mutations + natural selection, or whatever other evolutionary mechanism we posit) and then conclude that intelligence can arise from matter through purely natural processes. That is circular and begs the question.

    The very issue on the table is: (1) whether intelligence can arise from a particular arrangement of matter, and (2) whether such arrangement can arise through purely natural processes.

    If we are to think clearly about the issue, if we are to avoid falling into an intellectual trap, we cannot, we must not, adopt as an assumption the very conclusion we are trying to reach. On either one of these open questions.

    —–

    What typically happens in these discussions about emergence — what you also seem to be doing to some degree, if you’ll permit me to make the observation — is that people say something like, “Well, intelligence (or any other capability) is an emergent property, because, after all, it developed over time through the purely natural processes of evolution.”

    But whether that in fact occurred is precisely the issue at question.

    And if someone uses “emergence” to describe how this capability came about, or to explain its origin, then they have committed a logical fallacy and are fooling themselves.

    Thus we see the primary practical problem with the popular “emergence” term: it doesn’t explain anything, but it is often put forward as though it were an explanation.

    We need to keep in mind that “emergence” is really just a convenience label, a placeholder for our current ignorance and lack of understanding of the underlying processes.

    And if we slip up and offer “emergence” as an explanation, then the term actually does more harm than good by masking our ignorance. In that case it becomes a kind of anti-knowledge, giving the false impression that an explanation is at hand (and, of course, tacitly hinting it is a purely natural and physical one), when in fact no explanation has been provided.

  78. 78
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Physical-chemical “emergence” involves components, their arrangement, coupling and interaction. NaCl involves ions migrating to a minimum potential equilibrium that leads to crystal unit cells. Random tars come together through precipitation and uncontrolled chaining reactions. Functionally specific complex organisation and associated information reflect contrivance towards a coherent purpose. Orgel and Wicken knew that 40+ years ago. Indeed, the former noted that trying to conflate crystalisation or random tars etc with biofunctional complex organisation would have little future. Save, I suppose, as handy rhetoric. KF

  79. 79

    jdk:

    Are emergent behaviors physically caused by the properties of the physically interacting elements and natural laws involved?

    If not, then what causes such behaviors?

    If so, then in what sense can a human with emergent intelligence, will and consciousness be “free”? What is it “free” from? What justifies the use of the term “free”?

    In my view, we have free will because that will is uncaused – it is an acausal loci of observation and intent. While it may act on influencing information, it cannot be caused to act by that influence. In my view, that is the only reason to use the term “free will” because, otherwise, one’s will is physically caused by preceding and current physical states and conditions, whether one refers to it as “emergent” or not.

    Now, surely you understand the existential problem that we face if our will is caused by physical conditions and states? If our consciousness and intelligence and all other mental states are “emergent properties” caused by underlying physics and chemistry? Surely you realize what this does to our concept of truth and knowledge? Surely you realize what such a state of affairs would with regards to an attempt to make a rational argument?

  80. 80
    jdk says:

    Hi Eric. It seems like you repeated some things in 77 that I agreed with you about in 76: the concept of emergent may be a good adjective for certain kinds of situations, but it is certainly not itself an explanation.

    You write,

    The very issue on the table is: (1) whether intelligence can arise from a particular arrangement of matter, and (2) whether such arrangement can arise through purely natural processes.

    If we are to think clearly about the issue, if we are to avoid falling into an intellectual trap, we cannot, we must not, adopt as an assumption the very conclusion we are trying to reach. On either one of these open questions.

    Yes, those are the big questions, and are well stated. I know where I stand on those issues (which goes far beyond the proper use of the concept “emergent” going on here). I also agree that one should not explicitly or implicitly embed one’s conclusions in one’s assumptions.

    Also, to wjm, my post at 51 was about intelligence. I didn’t say anything about free will. I did discuss will at 56, and invite you to respond to some of the questions I asked there.

  81. 81
    Origenes says:

    jdk: No, but we are caught in a vicious circle in our discussion that I don’t think we can get out of. I want to explore the possibility that we have a freedom, control, and rationality that is grounded in material processes, although obviously not exactly the same things as freedom, control, and rationality grounded in non-material processes.

    Can you show me where (in post #66) I argue for freedom control and rationality grounded in non-material processes? You have made a similar claim in #68, and in #69 I have replied that this is not part of the argument as presented in #66.
    So, do show me where (in #66) I argue for freedom control and rationality grounded in non-material processes.

    The argument, in post #66, shows that if reality is solely caused by determined and/or undetermined physical events, then we — whether we are physical or not — are not in control over our actions and thoughts.

    Perhaps you can agree with me. Perhaps you can say: “I agree, but there is a third kind of causation in a physical universe, namely, the causation that stems from emergent properties.”
    If so, we can proceed our discussion and break the “vicious circle.”

  82. 82
    jdk says:

    Hmmm. I assumed that your argument that material causes couldn’t ground freedom et al was an argument that true freedom must have a non-material cause, as that is the usual argument. If that is not your position, I apologize for my assumptions.

    Can you explain your position? What are your thoughts on a “third kind of causation”?

  83. 83
    Armand Jacks says:

    Having read Jdk’s and Eric’s comments, I see that some may have misinterpreted my use of the term “emergent” as to imply an explanation. I merely meant to say that there are properties of natural “things” that cannot currently be explained by the properties of the individual components. The wetness or hardness of water being an example. This is not to say that the properties are unexplainable. Consciousness is another example. We cannot yet explain how it “emerged” from examining the component parts. But we are as certain as we can be that it is dependent on these component parts. It may be completely natural or it may require something else. Nobody knows. But nobody is insisting that the trillions of other examples of “emergent” properties are the result of the supernatural. Well, almost nobody. As far as I can tell, the only reason people invoke it here, aside from the obvious religious implications, is that it hits very close to home. We would all like to think that our existence has some intrinsic and lofty purpose.

  84. 84
    Origenes says:

    William J Murray @79

    WJM: In my view, we have free will because that will is uncaused – it is an acausal loci of observation and intent.

    For clarity, WJM, am I correct that by “uncaused” you mean “externally uncaused” (without an external cause) as opposed to “self-moved” or “self-caused”?
    Aquinas wrote: “”LIBER EST CAUSA SUI” — the free is the cause of itself.

  85. 85
    jdk says:

    Yes, I think that we are all clear that calling something emergent does not explain it: it just points to something about it (properties which the constituent parts did not have) that needs further explanation. It may be that the further explanation is pretty easy to come by for those that understand the subject, or it may be that at this time the emergent properties are not easy to explain.

  86. 86
    Origenes says:

    *On emergent properties and freedom*

    The volume, pressure, temperature and the number of molecules of a gas, are “emergent properties” because they are not properties of any of the individual molecules involved.

    Those emergent properties are indeed not caused by any of the individual molecules but they are certainly constrained by them. Despite the lack of a clear causal relationship, there is no independency of emergent properties from a lower level. Obviously, the volume, pressure, temperature of a gas cannot change itself.

    The relevant point — wrt freedom — is that those emergent properties fully depend on the properties of those (lower level) molecules and are therefore thoroughly unhelpful if the naturalist attempts to ground freedom.

    The molecules that underlie the emergent properties are themselves determined by natural law. That determined state of the molecules transpires to the higher level of the (constrained) emergent properties.

    Emergent properties may not be explainable/predictable from the parts from which they arise, but, to my knowledge, no one has claimed that emergent properties are not fully constrained by what underlies them.

    Again, emergent properties do arise from a lower level and not on their own. So, if we are, wrt emergent properties, not allowed to say that those properties are caused by the underlying lower level, then, at the very least, we are allowed to say that those emergent properties are fully constrained by the underlying lower level.

    Logic informs us, that this state of constrainment blocks any conceivable route from emergent properties to freedom.

  87. 87

    Origenes @84 – Exactly. Unless our will/intent is ultimately self-moved (causal origination), we run into the existential problem of being caused things.

  88. 88
    jdk says:

    So I’m wondering how the self decides to act based on exclusively internal factors to itself? If the self has constituent parts, are they causally connected among themselves? If the self is an undifferentiated whole, from where does the decision arise.

    Is every one of our decisions an uncaused act? It is is hard for me to imagine what this means. Obviously it does not mean uncaused in the sense of random (such as the result of a quantum probability) because that would be not be rational in the sense of being appropriate to the situation.

    Would either of you like to say more about how the self makes decisions by solely relying on factors within itself?

  89. 89

    “Freedom” and “unpredictable” are not synonymous. Just because a physical phenomena is unpredictable from the underlying causal factors does not mean it is free from causal factors.

    Unpredictability of behavior doesn’t provide what is necessary in terms of top-down, free, willful capacity to direct physical phenomena into agreement with conceptual truths or knowledge. Unless we have true top-down power to reorganize physical, biological storage media and processing throughput, we have no rational basis for thinking we can acquire truths and impose them upon our physical states (brain/mind infrastructure).

    If we exist in a structure where our beliefs and thoughts and reactions and impressions are ultimately caused by unthinking chemistry and physics, then we have no basis by which we can say our views are based on evidence, reason, or truth. The will be based on physical cause alone, not evidence, reason or truth.

    Logically speaking, the capacity to apprehend and impose true thoughts upon the physical body can only be supernatural; if it were natural, that process would be caused by unthinking physical commodities interacting however they happen to interact. It is an intractable problem for materialism which virtually all major philosophers agree on. There is no true free will under materialism.

  90. 90

    jdk:

    Acausal intent cannot be described in terms of what causes it or how it works. Do you not see the logical problem in what you are asking for?

    Don’t mistake a “decision” for “intent” or “will”. IMO, a decision is what occurs when intent is translated through the particulars of a situation. A situation must exist in order for intent/will to be translatable into action. The intent is not caused by the situation; the intent causes various decisions in various situations – and a “situation” also includes some aspects of personality/mind/brain which, IMO, are part of the interface.

  91. 91
    Origenes says:

    jdk 88

    A few comments:

    There is a very good reason to believe that self-causation exists: the idea that everything has an external cause is logically incoherent.

    Jdk: Just how much, and in what ways, are we in control of ourselves? Are not these interesting questions?

    Here is a related idea I’m working on. We learn and next automatize behavior. First some action requires all our effort and attention and next it gets more and more automatic — a skill. Somehow we keep in control, but the learned behavior drifts away from the center of our conscious experience, so to speak. We see this for instance wrt the ability of driving a car.
    The interesting thing is that automization of behavior increases control and freedom. Perhaps one could say that it takes one’s behavior and control to a higher level.

  92. 92
    Eric Anderson says:

    Armand Jacks @83:

    Consciousness is another example. We cannot yet explain how it “emerged” from examining the component parts. But we are as certain as we can be that it is dependent on these component parts.

    No we aren’t “as certain as we can be”. You are just drawing materialistic conclusions without support. There is no comparison, logically or practically, between consciousness and something like water.

    It may be completely natural or it may require something else. Nobody knows.

    Are you claiming that the so-called “emergent” property of water is not completely natural? Of course not. Then why consider the possibility that consciousness is not completely natural? Where is the consistency in your position?

    But nobody is insisting that the trillions of other examples of “emergent” properties are the result of the supernatural. Well, almost nobody. As far as I can tell, the only reason people invoke it here, aside from the obvious religious implications, is that it hits very close to home. We would all like to think that our existence has some intrinsic and lofty purpose.

    You mean the trillions of other examples of “emergent” properties that we can readily see are the result of physical and material processes? The ones that don’t need anything beyond physics and chemistry to provide a full and detailed description of them?

    Again, your logic fails, as you completely miss the difference between consciousness/intelligence and something like water.

    —–

    You claim you aren’t using “emergence” as an explanation. Yet you keep bringing it up as though it explains something, namely that consciousness “emerges” as the result of matter coming together.

    If you really want to think through the issue clearly and stop falling into intellectual knots, stop using the unhelpful term “emergence” for your next several comments and instead try offering a real explanation for consciousness/intelligence based solely on material and physical processes.

    Then you will more clearly see that there is no relationship between those remarkable characteristics of intelligent beings and something like water forming from hydrogen and oxygen.

  93. 93

    The reason people invoke the term “supernatural” is to distinguish one kind of phenomena (one caused by physical interactions) from another (one that is uncaused by any physical interactions, and thus “free”). It has nothing to do with some “intrinsic” or “lofty” purpose.

  94. 94
    Eric Anderson says:

    jdk @80:

    Yes, those are the big questions, and are well stated. I know where I stand on those issues (which goes far beyond the proper use of the concept “emergent” going on here).

    That’s fine. As long as you have some independent evidence for the purely material nature of intelligence (which I’m sure we would all be interested in hearing).

    Just make sure you don’t (as you did in your previous comment, which was why I reiterated my point), rely on your belief in evolution to support your assumption that intelligence arises through purely natural processes.

    That is where it becomes circular and a logical fallacy.

  95. 95
    jdk says:

    Hi Eric.

    Earlier you wrote,

    We can’t just assume that intelligence evolved through natural processes (such as random mutations + natural selection, or whatever other evolutionary mechanism we posit) and then conclude that intelligence can arise from matter through purely natural processes. That is circular and begs the question.

    I agree with that.

    However, in 94 you wrote,

    Just make sure you don’t (as you did in your previous comment, which was why I reiterated my point), rely on your belief in evolution to support your assumption that intelligence arises through purely natural processes.

    That is where it becomes circular and a logical fallacy.

    That is different, as beliefs are different than assumptions. I don’t think it’s a logical fallacy to accept the basic history of life as evolved, and therefore to draw the conclusion that various internal cognitive skills have also evolved. I know many here who would want to argue that my acceptance of evolution is unwarranted, but my beliefs are definitely more than just assumptions.

  96. 96
    Eric Anderson says:

    jdk:

    It doesn’t matter how strongly you hold your belief or what you call it.

    If you use the claim that “various internal cognitive skills have also evolved” (meaning, of course, that they came about through purely natural and physical processes), as one of the bases to support the further conclusion that cognitive skills can come about through purely natural processes, then it is circular.

    The first claim may be a belief, a guess, a wild idea, whatever. But in terms of logic it functions as an “assumption” in support of the subsequent argument.

    Logically, we are just following the simple structure: Assumption A + Assumption B . . . => Conclusion X.

    So you can never use the idea that “various cognitive skills” came about through a purely natural process to support the claim that . . . cognitive skills came about through a purely natural process. It will always be circular and will fail as a matter of logic.

    Instead, what you need to do is show — with actual evidence — that various cognitive skills can indeed (a) arise through a certain configuration of matter, and (b) arise through natural processes, like random mutations and natural selection.

    Neither of those have ever been demonstrated. Not even close. AI researchers have been working on this feverishly for decades. (b) is utterly unsupported. And even (a) is very much an open question.

  97. 97
    Eric Anderson says:

    Folks, let’s put this “emergence” business into plain English.

    It has been noted that the properties of some things are different than the properties of the components. This is quite true. In the case that was brought up of chemical reactions producing water, for example, the product of the reaction has properties that were not there in the reactants.

    Some individuals apparently view this as a significant observation, as an unexpected circumstance, as something that might mean that all sorts of unexpected and amazing things can happen when particles of matter come together.

    But the observation does not support the claim. The fact that a product has different properties than the reactants is true, yes. But it is true to the point of being utterly trivial. It is true of every reaction. Otherwise, we would not have a reaction. Rather, we would have an inert substance.

    Pointing to the fact that a product has different properties than its reactants is neither here nor there. And it doesn’t help to apply a label like “emergence” to the result of such a process.

    It is really quite simple: either a series of chemical reactions can produce something like intelligence and consciousness on its own or it can’t.

    But pointing to the facts that (a) the product of a reaction has different properties than the reactants, and (b) the properties of the product might be “unexpected” to the untrained eye, in no way allows us to conclude that the so-called “emergence” of this product might lead to intelligence or consciousness or that such a process has anything whatsoever to do with intelligence or consciousness.

    —–

    Here is the bottom line:

    When we strip away the fancy rhetoric surrounding this concept of “emergence” we see that the claim is really this:

    An unknown quantity and type of matter might have come together in an undefined way through some unspecified series of natural processes at some unspecified point in time to produce the unexpected result of intelligence/consciousness.

    That’s it. That is the claim.

    There is utterly no logical or empirical support for such a claim. And calling it “emergence” does not provide any additional information or support. Worse, applying the label tends to mask the lack of evidence, giving the false impression that the concept of “emergence” can somehow help explain the existence of intelligence and consciousness.

  98. 98
    jdk says:

    Hmmm re 96. Perhaps we aren’t talking about the same thing when I say “various cognitive skills”, or perhaps you don’t accept any of evolution as happening through natural causes: I don’t know where you stand on that.

    The simplest organisms have simple stimulus-response systems, such as reacting towards or away from a light source. If one studies the comparative anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, along with associated behaviors, of existing life and match it with the evolution of various life forms over time, it is obvious that intelligent behaviors have evolved over time: organisms to various degrees can react to situations in the environment based on knowledge from past experience, they can solve certain kinds of problems, they can respond flexibly and appropriately to circumstances as they change, etc. These changes in skills can be correlated with changes in the nervous systems of organisms, including that of mammals and eventually human beings.

    Now if you don’t accept that this evolution of life forms over time has happened, including the evolution of different species all connected by common descent, then we have different beliefs and we’ll have to leave it at that.

    Or perhaps you are meaning something more rarified by “intelligence” than the kinds of behaviors I listed above.

    Added after 97: I just see that you have now written intelligence/consciousness. Those are two different, although related, things. I assume (and this an assumption) that other animals are conscious of the world. Look at a cat surveying its surroundings while stalking a mouse. Do you or do you not think it is having an internal, conscious experience of the world it is watching?

    So I think that this internal experience we have of consciousness has evolved, also, along with intelligence. But intelligence and consciousness are not synonyms. I personally am agnostic about the nature of consciousness, but I think that whatever it is is embedded in the physical world, that it is dependent on brain states, and that its presence in organisms has evolved in conjunction with the evolution of the nervous system.

    And last point: I’m not quite sure why you’re continuing to discuss emergence, as it seems most, or all, of the people in this discussion have agreed that the word does not explain anything.

  99. 99
    Axel says:

    @ your 97, Eric Anderson

    A pungently amusing expose’ concerning the reagents and ’emergentism’, Eric, because so obviously, devastatingly true, once the contorted flim-flam has been succinctly broken down. That has normally been William J Murray’s genius, albeit in a more prolific way. Not to detract from your observations, since you can only expose what is in front of you.

  100. 100
    Eric Anderson says:

    jdk @98:

    Or perhaps you are meaning something more rarified by “intelligence” than the kinds of behaviors I listed above.

    We would probably get many different ideas of intelligence, if we were to ask many different people. At the heart of it, though, I think we have to go back to the etymology of the word, which means “to choose between.” Thus, real intelligence ultimately involves an ability to choose between contingent possibilities, not just to be automatically driven to a particular outcome by physics and chemistry, no matter how intricate or appropriate such an automatic response may seem.

    I just see that you have now written intelligence/consciousness.

    I’m not necessarily trying to equate them (although I would say they are extremely closely related), so I apologize if that was confusing. You used the word “intelligence”. Armand Jacks referred to “consciousness”. I was responding to both of your comments, so I just wrote both words, since the same principles I was discussing apply to both.

    Look at a cat surveying its surroundings while stalking a mouse. Do you or do you not think it is having an internal, conscious experience of the world it is watching?

    Yes, I think at some level it is. There is a danger in assuming that human thought and experience is just an extension of what we see in the animal world; that it is just “more” of the same thing. However, I think some animals are conscious of their experience and are even making choices, which is a key aspect of intelligence.

    —–

    And last point: I’m not quite sure why you’re continuing to discuss emergence, as it seems most, or all, of the people in this discussion have agreed that the word does not explain anything.

    Well, you are the one who stated @51 that “intelligence is an emergent property that arises from the integrated organization of biological organisms.” And also that “life on earth is itself an emergent property of matter . . .”

    Yes, I appreciate that you and Armand Jacks have accepted my point that emergence cannot be an explanation.

    And yet . . . you keep coming back to the claim that intelligence evolved (this means, we must remember, through a purely natural and material process) in order to support your conclusion that intelligence (and in your 2nd-to-last paragraph, “consciousness”) is solely the result of purely natural and material processes.

    I apologize if it seems that I am beating a dead horse, but it is well worth noting and pointing out that this continues to be a circular argument, notwithstanding the acceptance of my point about the lack of explanatory power.

    What seems to be happening is that you and Armand Jacks accept my point on logical grounds, but then slip back into viewing whatever emerged as some kind of explanation. You rightly note that it shouldn’t be used that way, but then it isn’t so easy to avoid the circularity in practice.

    In any event, enough on that. Thanks for sticking with the discussion long enough for us to delve into the nuances.

    I don’t know if you want to go forward to consider how this might impact your other points about freedom and choice and so on, but it is always valuable to step back a bit to look at our assumptions, so I trust the discussion at least this far has been worthwhile.

  101. 101
    jdk says:

    Thanks, Eric, for the cordial conversation.

  102. 102
    Origenes says:

    jdk, sorry to see you leaving, I was hoping you would comment on post #86.

  103. 103
    jdk says:

    I was hoping someone would respond to 56, and no one did.

  104. 104
    Phinehas says:

    jdk @56:

    Do I control my heart beating? Is that an action of free will? I would say no.

    If these all are also not actions of free will, want do we call them?

    We typically call them involuntary. How much of what you wrote @56 should we take as originating from these sorts of involuntary processes? Do you have any expectation that other entities will respond to your involuntary processes? Will you next share the pattern of heartbeats and hope others will respond to that?

    So where exactly is the free will [in running]? What part of our experience is willful as opposed to the parts that seem to flow biologically beyond our control? Is there a distinction between what I “control” more or less automatically via my biology and those things that I control via free will. If I control my choices via free will, is it wrong to say “I” control my running? Do I say “I” choose to run, and then my body runs? Does “my body” belong to “me”, or is “my body” part of “me”.

    How much of what you wrote @56 should we take as analogous to you running? Did you write it more or less automatically via your biology? Why would you expect other entities to respond to things you do more or less automatically via your biology? Will you next share the details or your running gait and expect that it will make some sort of salient debate point that we should respond to?

    So where are these thoughts coming from: they seem to arise unbidden from my subconscious.

    But am I in control of my subconscious? Or is the production of thoughts by my subconscious more like the movement of my muscles when I run: something biologically produced by my body?

    How much of what you wrote @56 arose unbidden from your subconscious? Will you next write out in detail you last dream and submit it as a crucial point in a logical argument?

    So, to summarize: where exactly is the demarcation between what we control via our will and what we don’t. Where does will actually manifest itself?

    What kind of response do you expect to your heartbeat?
    What kind of response do you expect to your running gait?
    What kind of response do you expect to things that arise unbidden from your subconscious?
    What kind of response did you expect to your post @56?

    Is the point of demarcation becoming any clearer to you?

  105. 105
    Origenes says:

    jdk @103,

    I did respond to some of your questions in #91.
    BTW Phinehas’ post #104 is elucidating and would like to add that (obviously) running is an acquired skill as well, something that we (thankfully) somehow firmly control, but which has been automatized and has, for the better part, drifted away from the center of our conscious experience. Of course after serious injury one may have to start all over again.

    This whole automatization process which involves learning, effort and attention, automization and ‘distant’ control and newly acquired freedom is very interesting. It has the potential to learn us a thing or two about consciousness, control and freedom.

    There may be some striking similarities with cell/organ differentiation in organisms. Also here we see special skills being ‘automatized’ into distinct organs. But also here there is no real independence from ‘central control’, so to speak.

    I freely admit that my contribution is very sketchy.

  106. 106
    Eric Anderson says:

    jdk:

    @56 you have provided a series of examples of things that seem to lie on a continuum, from purely involuntary physical responses to thoughts.

    If your point is that our knowledge of biology is still incomplete, that our understanding of how intelligence and consciousness work is still quite limited, that there are some interesting corner cases in which it might be difficult to tell whether something is voluntary or involuntary — if this is your point, then I think you would find few who would disagree. Certainly I would wholeheartedly agree. There is much we still have to learn, there are interesting corner cases that are hard to pin down.

    However, if you are trying to claim that because some things are involuntary and because there are some difficult corner cases, then we should conclude that everything is involuntary or that everything is simply driven by biochemistry, then I think you will find many who will disagree with your claim.

    When proposing a broad theory (such as the claim that it is all just chemistry and physics), it is extremely helpful to not only look at the difficult and tricky corner cases, but to examine the obvious and clear-cut cases. That is why several commenters (including Phineas @104, Origines elsewhere, and others) have drawn attention to the very decisions you have made in even being here and producing comments.

    And when we look at some of these clear-cut cases, it becomes clear that the materialistic explanation undercuts itself. And from a logical standpoint we have no basis for accepting or believing in a theory that undercuts itself.

    So, if you are looking for someone to answer all the interesting corner cases @56, you are right, probably no-one can satisfactorily explain all of them at this stage of our knowledge. But the question of whether free will is an illusion and is all just a result of biochemistry has been answered multiple times.

    —–

    I would take your final request @56 for an exact demarcation (you seem to want a bright-line test that can be applied across the board), and ask you to respond to a related question:

    Do you think there are any clear examples in which you do exercise free will?

  107. 107
    Origenes says:

    Jdk, this may be an interesting read:

    excerpt:

    Do Reflexes Exist?

    Goldstein remarks,

    If you jump down a steep incline in such a way that you always touch the ground first with your heel, then the muscles located on the anterior [front] part of the lower segment of the leg and the quadriceps are first passively stretched and then contracted reflexively. This very sensible reaction seems to take place without any voluntary innervation and to be the consequence of a reflex process. It seems to happen without any relation to the organism as a whole.

    “But,” he goes on, “correct and plausible as such an explanation seems to be, it is not really so.”

    This is to be seen by the fact that, under other conditions of the whole organism, we observe a totally different phenomenon during the same kind of abnormal tension of these muscles. If, as one walks, let us say, through a forest, one’s foot sticks fast behind an object, say a stone, the muscles we mentioned before are stretched. They do not contract, however, in response to that tension. On the contrary, they relax, and the opposite muscles—those of the back of the leg—contract, for only so can the foot be released and a fall be avoided. This reaction, too, takes place…reflexively; yet it is certainly not an innervation caused by the abnormal tension alone, but one determined rather by the condition of the organism as a whole. (2, p. 124f. Emphasis in original.)

    If the reflex were truly an independently functioning mechanism as it is commonly portrayed, then the latter reaction would not have occurred. There is reflexive activity in our actions, but it is determined just as much by the state and needs of the whole organism as by the specific stimulation. Only in the context of the isolated experimental situation is the reflex an isolated, automatic, and stereotypic behavior.

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