74 Replies to “Quote of the Day

  1. 1
    Latemarch says:

    True

    Beauty. I don’t mean only the beauty of a woman which the evolutionist will claim has a foundation in sexual selection. I include the beauty of a flower. Beauty of the stars whether seen from the Hubble or with nothing more than the naked eye. Beauty of a sunset or sunrise. There is no materialist explanation for the concept of beauty…..and yes that’s a challenge.

  2. 2
    outside_observer says:

    True.

    If a jug of water had a hole and all the water leaked out, then we would probably say that there was something wrong with the jug. But all the atoms and energy involved in the process were simply conforming to the natural laws of the universe.
    So if we are just the products of material forces, how can there be anything “wrong” when those material forces follow their course? Our atoms were just following the material laws of nature.

    The fact that we even realize that something is actually “wrong” hinges upon immaterial thought about immaterial things (e.g. what actually constitutes good/bad, etc.).

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    False.

    A fictional character saying something about some undefined people isn’t really strong evidence for very much.

    FWIW, I think Them is a great book.

  4. 4
    outside_observer says:

    @3 Bob O’H

    I didn’t know you were fictional!

  5. 5
    ET says:

    To expand on Bob’s answer-

    False, as the fictional character, Rust Cohle, from True Detective, Season 1, isn’t really strong evidence for very much, with the exception of human imagination.

  6. 6
    outside_observer says:

    @5 I construed it as it’s own sort of analogy.
    But yes, playing off the OP is what Bob probably intended with his original post.

    My apologies.

  7. 7
    Bob O'H says:

    outside_observer – don’t tell my imaginary girlfriend that.

  8. 8
    outside_observer says:

    @7 Don’t worry I won’t…I’ll just imagine doing it instead.

  9. 9
    Latemarch says:

    I took it that the OP was riffing off of Rust Cohle’s philosopy of life (materialism) and wanted examples that falsified it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oX2xFo7JA4

    This is what I get with trying to read people’s minds“;^)

    UD: Rust Cohle is one of the most intellectually challenging and profound characters to appear on the screen in the last 10 years. And Matthew McConaughey’s portrait of him andhis journey from nihilism to hope was tour de force. But to answer your question, nope. We are talking about something else.

  10. 10
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bob O’H

    A fictional character saying something about some undefined people isn’t really strong evidence for very much.

    You don’t think fiction ever illuminates truth? Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Cervantes, just words on a page?

    What a stunningly anti-intellectual Philistine you are Bob. Wait, didn’t you say you are a teacher? God help us.

    Wow. A-Mats are incurious folks.

  11. 11
    Dick says:

    If materialism is true there’s nothing “wrong” with anyone. What could it mean, given the truth of materialism, to say that there’s something wrong with someone?

  12. 12
    ET says:

    My apologies Barry. I meant a follow up to prove your point even given the attempted distraction.

    The mere fact that there is a fictional character named Rust Cohle is strong evidence against materialism. Our existence is strong evidence against materialism. So yes, clearly our ability to contemplate ourselves and that existence is strong evidence against materialism.

    Why? Because materialism cannot begin to account for any of it. As Dr Behe once wrote (DBB):

    Nonetheless, we can say that if there is such a process, no one has a clue how it would work. Further, it would go against all human experience, like postulating that a natural process might explain computers.

  13. 13
    Bob O'H says:

    Barry @ 10 – had you bothered to ask, you would have found that I do believe fiction can illuminate truth.

    In this case, the quote you gave is so contextless that it’s meaningless as evidence of anything: we have a fictional character making a sweeping generalisation about what (fictional) people think about some other fictional people. There is no context to explain what the quote is about.

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bob @ 13,

    Pretty much everyone else who commented was able to figure out what Cohle was getting at and address it.

    You say you can’t. OK. I believe you. Is it true you are a teacher?

  15. 15
    Bob O'H says:

    Yes, Barry. I’ve just spent the last two hours lecturing on linear models. One thing I have to be careful about is being clear and unambiguous.

    Seriously, how can the “them” not be ambiguous without any further context? The comment is probably hyperbolic (unless the “everyone” has been clarified by the context), and the “them” could refer to pretty much any group of people (including university professors and lawyers).

  16. 16
    john_a_designer says:

    How does the fact this was said by “a fictional character” change its truth or meaning if it’s about real human beings? Isn’t the script writer who wrote it a real human being? Isn’t he a human being who has some serious things to say about other human beings? That’s not meaningful?

    But let’s rewrite so it’s not a fictional character saying it:

    All human beings know there is something wrong with them as members of the human race.

    That was written by me. I am not a fictional character.

    I think that’s true, because being perfectly honest with myself, I know I do not live up to my full potential and I need to lose weight (to name just a couple of things.) I can see a lot of faults in other human beings.

    We can even create a simple syllogism:

    1. All human beings know there is something wrong with them.

    2. I am a human being.

    3. Therefore, I know there is something wrong with me.

    That’s the most basic of basic logic.

    Why doesn’t Bob understand this? Is it because he doesn’t believe the first premise is true? Or is it because he is not human?

  17. 17
    Bob O'H says:

    john_a_designer – the fictional character was talking about other fictional people knowing about even more fictional people. Without any context given, how can we know who any of these fictional people are?

    I notice that you assume that the “them” refers to “themselves”, but there’s nothing in the quote to suggest that that is the correct interpretation. Again, there is no context.

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    John @ 16

    “Why doesn’t Bob understand this?”

    Bob says he could not possibly figure out the simple logic you laid out. Everything is just so hopelessly ambiguous don’t you know (never mind that everyone else who commented picked up on the gist of the statement instantly).

    Let’s just take that at face value (even though everyone reading this knows it is false). It’s not worth arguing about.

  19. 19
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    I notice that you assume that the “them” refers to “themselves”, but there’s nothing in the quote to suggest that that is the correct interpretation. Again, there is no context.

    Given what we have it is a safe assumption/ interpretation/ inference. Seeing that no other people were singled out as “them” we have to fall back on “them” is “themselves”.

    English 101

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    ET @ 19 – English 101 would say that “themselves” is correct, because “them” is too ambiguous at best. It may be that the character is using informal dialect, but again there is no context.

  21. 21
    ET says:

    Right and without any other context we have to go with what we have. Or we can complain that we don’t have enough to go by. But only one of those is the correct way.

    But yes, for the sake of clarity, especially knowing the audience, Barry should have posted:

    “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them[selves].”

  22. 22
    Barry Arrington says:

    ET,

    Give it a rest. Bob’s imagination is far too stunted to do the work you are asking it to do. Leave him be.

  23. 23
    Bob O'H says:

    ET @ 21 – indeed. That would have been clearer.

  24. 24
    ET says:

    To the minutiae!

    (To the minutiae)

    Dilly, Dilly

    (Dilly, Dilly)

  25. 25
    john_a_designer says:

    If you are not here to engage in honest discussion and debate but rather to obstruct and obfuscate we have an example of how that is done.

  26. 26

    I find a/mat trolls mildly entertaining, sort of like watching a harmless drunk person walking in circles muttering the same thing over and over again.

    It is fascinating to me that many a/mats use their one lifetime to regularly visit websites they so obviously disagree with. Very strange behavior.

  27. 27
    StephenB says:

    ET

    But yes, for the sake of clarity, especially knowing the audience, Barry should have posted:

    “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them[selves].”

    In this case, clarity doesn’t matter. If everybody knows that there is something wrong with anything at all, self referential or otherwise, then that would be powerful evidence that materialism is false.

  28. 28
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB – can you explain your reasoning? As far as I can see, you would have to make several assumptions to get to that conclusion.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: not assumptions, he is compressing and outlining or hinting at a case. For example, if we are under moral government (including on duties to truth and sound reasoning etc), instead of a self-defeating self-referential grand delusion that would take down rationality with it, that sharply constrains the plausibilities on the kind of world we inhabit. In what kind of world would we find a self-aware, rationally and responsibly significantly free creature capable of love and other virtues? In what sort of world can the IS-OUGHT gap be soundly bridged at the only level that does not face ungrounded ought, i.e. the roots of reality? After many centuries, given the evidence, there is but one serious candidate world-root level explanation: the inherently good, wise creator God; a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty [even, fealty] and the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature. If one doubts, simply put up a cogent, coherent world-root level alternative: ______ and address comparative worldview level difficulties. KF

  30. 30
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – I hope that’s not StephenB’s argument. You’re saying that the world is like it is because there is one explanation. To which the obvious reply is “why is that the one explanation?”

    You also fail to deal with the possibility that the inherently good, wise creator God is also a purely material entity. 🙂

  31. 31
    ET says:

    Bob- There isn’t any evidence that materialistic processes can produce such a creator. There isn’t even a way to test such a concept. The same goes for the simplest form of living organism possible. Materialism is a non-starter.

  32. 32
    Bob O'H says:

    ET – not being evidence for something doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. It just means that there is no evidence.

    Anyway, I’m sure Barry would prefer us to not deviate too far from the discussion of the quote of the day.

  33. 33
    ET says:

    There isn’t any evidence nor a way to test the claim. It’s about as possible as nature producing the Antikythera mechanism.

  34. 34
    asauber says:

    not being evidence for something doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. It just means that there is no evidence.

    Bob O’H,

    But isn’t the argument Atheists use to become Atheists that there is no evidence for God, therefore there is no God?

    Why does your side argue inconsistently? And why does your side still act like they know what they are talking about?

    Andrew

  35. 35
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber – that’s certainly not the argument I use.

    I was hoping to have a discussion, rather than an argument. But in these discussions both side allow themselves to get drawn into an argument, and quite often skip that and go straight to Abuse.

  36. 36
    asauber says:

    asauber – that’s certainly not the argument I use.

    Bob,

    Which one do you use? If I may ask?

    Andrew

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: The argument is mine hence the for example, SB will doubtless speak for himself. next, observe my reference to comparative difficulties? As in: “After many centuries, given the evidence, there is but one serious candidate world-root level explanation . . . If one doubts, simply put up a cogent, coherent world-root level alternative: ______ and address comparative worldview level difficulties That is an invitation to philosphical analysis on factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power, it is not an imposition of one answer; though after centuries I am confident that there is no serious alternative on the table. That _____ is an invitation to try. It will prove much harder to successfully fill in than one may think, especially on coherence given the problem of self reference regarding rational, responsible reasoning creatures such as we are. Next, a material being is necessarily composite [as in: atoms etc] so such cannot be a necessary being. As a side point, maximally great implies only and all great-making characteristics across possible worlds, and no lesser-making characteristics — no being will be greater. A necessary being is independent of external enabling causes and a serious candidate will be either incoherent and impossible of being as a square circle is, or will exist in all possible worlds, being framework to a world existing. Try two-ness as a necessary property of any possible world, for simple example: W = {A | ~A} to have distinct identity, thence twoness and thence the naturals in endless succession. The argument is still deeply compressed but there is enough there at the in a nutshell level to deal with seriously. KF

  38. 38
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber – I’m afraid Ill have to decline, as I think it would take too long to explain, and would really derail this thread.

  39. 39
    asauber says:

    I’m afraid Ill have to decline

    Excellent, Bob.

    You get the Brave Sir Robin Award for Most Courageous Atheist of the Day for today.

    Andrew

  40. 40
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bob,
    “I was hoping to have a discussion”

    Was that what you were hoping to have when you responded to the OP by saying the quote was so hopelessly ambiguous that you really didn’t know what it means?

    Bob, when you tell whoppers like that aren’t you worried that people will, you know, glance up thread and spot the lie for what it is? Do you not care?

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    Bob

    StephenB – can you explain your reasoning? As far as I can see, you would have to make several assumptions to get to that conclusion.

    Bob, if something is “wrong” with anything, then that thing is defective in some way; it does not meet the standard of what it ought to be. There can be no *ought to be* except in the context of design and intent.

  42. 42
    Bob O'H says:

    Barry @ 40 – Actually, yes. You asked a question, I provided an answer. We could even have had a discussion about the ambiguities I saw, and that might have been instructive (e.g. about differences between British and American informal speech).

    StephenB @ 41 – your explanation says nothing about materialism. If design and intent have a material cause, then your argument doesn’t hold. So I think you have to show that something being wrong means that design and intent can’t have a material cause.

  43. 43
    StephenB says:

    Bob

    StephenB @ 41 – your explanation says nothing about materialism. If design and intent have a material cause, then your argument doesn’t hold. So I think you have to show that something being wrong means that design and intent can’t have a material cause.

    If there is something wrong with a thing, then it doesn’t meet the objective standard of right established by an intelligent agent. That rules out materialism, which is incompatible with right and wrong values.

  44. 44
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bob @ 42:

    So by “discussion” you mean “bad faith attempt to deflect from substance and wallow in endless definition debates.” I will keep that in mind Bob the next time you want to have a “discussion.”

  45. 45
    john_a_designer says:

    How is it possible to have any kind of honest discussion or debate unless there is some kind of common ground? For example, I would argue that the proposition, “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them,”* is a proposition which is self-evidently true. I say that because I know from my own experience that I fall short of my own expectations. From the evidence I can see no human being is morally, spiritually or intellectual without fault, so there is something more or less wrong with everyone. However, I find it incredible that another human is incapable of not even comprehending such a basic idea. Of course, if they really can’t comprehend it or are pretending not to understand it that only goes to demonstrate the truth of the proposition. .

    (*Or, as I stated more rigorously above @ #16: All human beings know there is something wrong with them as members of the human race.)

  46. 46
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB @ 43 – first, why does “wrong” have to be objective? Why can’t it be subjective? Second, you seem to be assuming that intelligent agents are material. But if (for the sake of this argument) intelligent agents can be material, then can’t they also set standards (objective or subjective!) by which wrongness can be judged? If so, then I don’t see how the statement in the OP provides evidence either way.

  47. 47
    Bob O'H says:

    Barry @ 44 – No, my comment was in bad faith. And the discussion was not endless – my discussion on this with ET was short, and helpful.

    I should also say that I appreciated ET’s comments, and I’m also appreciating the discussion with StephenB. It has substance, and so far has been without the rancour that’s common in these parts.

  48. 48
    Bob O'H says:

    JAD @ 45 – I agree that it can be difficult to have a discussion when there is little common ground. I would suggest you try to create common ground, and also try to listen to what the other person is saying. It won’t always work, but it’s nice when it does.

  49. 49
    asauber says:

    I would suggest you try to create common ground

    Bob,

    This is interesting coming from someone who won’t answer questions they don’t like, which is not exactly a finding common ground kind of behavior. If everyone behaved that way, there would be a lot of division.

    Of course you knew that already.

    Andrew

  50. 50
    john_a_designer says:

    The following is some insightful commentary:

    Rust Cohle understands how humans work. That’s why he’s such a great detective and interrogator. When asked about how he’s able to obtain so many confessions, he explains, “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them—they just don’t know what it is. Everybody wants confession, everyone wants some cathartic narrative. . . . Everybody’s guilty.” Cohle’s methods of interrogation are really no different than the message of the preacher at the revival. Interestingly, Cohle has nothing but disgust for the preacher’s methods. “The ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel,” Cohle explains, “well, that’s what the preacher sells, same as a shrink.” Both Cohle and the preacher get people to confess to their wrongdoings with the promise that doing so will release them from their guilt. Cohle knows that people are aware on some level that they are messed up, and they are looking for a way to make things right. Perhaps the salient difference is that Cohle doesn’t really believe there is a way to mend the brokenness people feel as a result of sin, whereas the preacher does.

    http://www.thecritique.com/art.....ne-of-sin/

  51. 51
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber – Barry was already complaining about distractions from the thread, hence I didn’t want to distract further. If some one puts up a relevant thread, then I would be happy to contribute.

    JAD – thanks. That’s interesting, and now I understand more of the context!

  52. 52
    asauber says:

    If some one puts up a relevant thread, then I would be happy to contribute.

    OK. If the UD admins are agreeable, can we have an OP that goes like, “If Lack of Evidence Doesn’t Say Anything About Creative Materialism, Then Why Does Lack Of Evidence Say Anything About God?”

    Andrew

  53. 53
    john_a_designer says:

    This is well worth a few minutes of your time:

    “Houston Police Detective Fil Waters sat with Mark Castellano for hours to gain his trust. Watch how the seasoned detective gets Castellano to crack and confess to murdering his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Warner.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lDxSQvHo8E

    This a real interview of a real (non-fictional) police detective interviewing a real suspect to get him to make a real confession. I would argue that the creators of the fictional HBO series base their characters and scripts on real life detective work. While I suspect Waters is nowhere as nihilistic and cynical as Rust Cohle (indeed, to me he comes across as an ideal grandfather) I think that he would agree with Cohle’s statement that, “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them…”

    Like Cohle he “understands how humans work… That’s why he’s such a great detective and interrogator.”

  54. 54
    cmow says:

    JAD @ 53,

    Wow. Good video.
    Interesting dynamic — Mere seconds after breaking this man down, Waters begins to build him back up and offer comfort and hope.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    Bob

    StephenB @ 43 – first, why does “wrong” have to be objective? Why can’t it be subjective?

    The author said that something “is” wrong (objective) with the thing, not “seems” wrong to him (subjective). “Is” is objective; “seems” is subjective. If you “are” dead, then you are objectively dead. If you only “seem” dead, then you may not be.

    Second, you seem to be assuming that intelligent agents are material.

    On the contrary. Intelligent agents are not material.

    But if (for the sake of this argument) intelligent agents can be material, then can’t they also set standards (objective or subjective!) by which wrongness can be judged? If so, then I don’t see how the statement in the OP provides evidence either way.

    Material things cannot set value standards. Matter is understood to operate by way of law-like regularity. That means it cannot perform creative acts or do something new. Nature’s laws allow matter to do the same thing over and over again and nothing else. Matter cannot do anything new. If it could, it would not be subject the the laws that govern it’s behavior. To do anything creative, set new standards, or any standard at all, one must be able to operate independently of law-like behavior. Only an intelligent agent can do that.

  56. 56
    Bob O'H says:

    The author said that something “is” wrong (objective) with the thing, not “seems” wrong to him (subjective). “Is” is objective; “seems” is subjective.

    Right, but it could be objectively wrong according to a subjective standard. I could say (subjectively) that games of football with (approximately) spherical balls are superior to other games of football. From which you could objectively conclude that soccer is superior to rugby. Regardless of your opinions of the subjective standard, you can make objective decisions.

    Material things cannot set value standards.

    But if humans are material then they can. You can’t assume that humans are not material, because that’s what you’re trying to demonstrate.

    Unless you have some independent demonstration of this.

  57. 57
    Latemarch says:

    SB@55

    StevenB@55:
    Material things cannot set value standards.

    BobO@56:
    But if humans are material then they can.

    None so blind as those that refuse to see.

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    SB: The author said that something “is” wrong (objective) with the thing, not “seems” wrong to him (subjective). “Is” is objective; “seems” is subjective.

    Bob

    Right, but it could be objectively wrong according to a subjective standard.

    I will make if more concrete so that it can be readily understood. Water is objectively wrong for your gas tank. Even if your subjective standard tells you that water is right for your gas tank, it will still be wrong. Your subjective standard may make it *seem* objectively right, but it would still *be* objectively wrong.

    SB: Material things cannot set value standards.

    But if humans are material then they can. You can’t assume that humans are not material, because that’s what you’re trying to demonstrate.

    No. I didn’t assume that humans are not material. I demonstrated that matter is governed by nature’s laws and does not, therefore, have the power to do anything other than to repeatedly and slavishly obey those laws. Thus, matter does not have the freedom or the power to set values or do anything more than it haws ever done, which us to obey nature’s laws. If, therefore, anything has the power to set values, it must be something that is not material and the only candidate for that would be an intelligent agent. That isn’t an assumption, it is a conclusion. .

  59. 59
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB @ 58 – I also gave an example, which you haven’t shown is wrong. So how do we know which example provides a better analogy to Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them[selves].”?

    I demonstrated that matter is governed by nature’s laws and does not, therefore, have the power to do anything other than to repeatedly and slavishly obey those laws. Thus, matter does not have the freedom or the power to set values or do anything more than it haws ever done, which us to obey nature’s laws.

    But you haven’t demonstrated that nature’s laws prohibit things from setting value standards.

    If, therefore, anything has the power to set values, it must be something that is not material and the only candidate for that would be an intelligent agent.

    And why can’t that intelligent agent be material?

  60. 60
    StephenB says:

    Bob

    I also gave an example, which you haven’t shown is wrong.

    Do you mean this?

    I could say (subjectively) that games of football with (approximately) spherical balls are superior to other games of football. From which you could objectively conclude that soccer is superior to rugby. Regardless of your opinions of the subjective standard, you can make objective decisions.

    You cannot say subjectively that something *is* is case, you can only say subjectively that something *seems* to be the case. Also, you cannot say that one game of football is superior to another game of football without appealing to and justifying some objective standard that defines the *best* kind of football. Without that standard, you can only say that you prefer one over the other.

    But you haven’t demonstrated that nature’s laws prohibit things from setting value standards.

    I did, indeed, show that nature’s laws prevent material things from setting value standards, or from doing anything else other than to follow those laws. The ball is now in your court. You need to explain how material things, as slaves to nature’s laws, can free themselves from those laws so that they can set values. Then you need to explain how they can be free and not be free at the same time.

    And why can’t that intelligent agent be material?

    Because an intelligent agent, which is *not* a slave to nature’s laws, cannot also be a material thing, which *is* a slave to nature’s laws.

  61. 61
    Bob O'H says:

    You cannot say subjectively that something *is* is case, you can only say subjectively that something *seems* to be the case

    But, in practice, people do say that, e.g. saying that Pele was a better footballer than Ronaldo. Perhaps that’s loose language, but that’s what people do. Or they’ll say that team X were the better team and should have won.

    I did, indeed, show that nature’s laws prevent material things from setting value standards, or from doing anything else other than to follow those laws.

    Do you mean this?

    Material things cannot set value standards. Matter is understood to operate by way of law-like regularity. That means it cannot perform creative acts or do something new. Nature’s laws allow matter to do the same thing over and over again and nothing else. Matter cannot do anything new. If it could, it would not be subject the the laws that govern it’s behavior. To do anything creative, set new standards, or any standard at all, one must be able to operate independently of law-like behavior. Only an intelligent agent can do that.

    But once more, if humans are material then this is wrong. Once can also do creative things within laws: after all creativity is recognised in games like chess and Go, where the laws are strict.

    I especially don’t see why “[t]o do anything creative … one must be able to operate independently of law-like behavior.”. If the laws are flexible enough, can’t something creative still happen?

    Actually, how do you even define creativity?

  62. 62
    StephenB says:

    Bob

    But, in practice, people do say that, e.g. saying that Pele was a better footballer than Ronaldo. Perhaps that’s loose language, but that’s what people do. Or they’ll say that team X were the better team and should have won.

    Irrelevant. The point is, which you ignored, is that one thing cannot be objectively superior to another thing unless there is an objective standard of what is best. This is basic logic.

    But once more, if humans are material then this is wrong. Once can also do creative things within laws: after all creativity is recognised in games like chess and Go, where the laws are strict.

    Again, I have already demonstrated that an intelligent agent cannot be material.. Since humans are intelligent agents, it follows that humans cannot be material. That is called a syllogism.

    I especially don’t see why “[t]o do anything creative … one must be able to operate independently of law-like behavior.”. If the laws are flexible enough, can’t something creative still happen?

    If laws were flexible, they wouldn’t be laws. Since they are not flexible, they can only repeat their behavior patterns. They do not have the creative freedom to do otherwise, which means that they do not have the creative power to break away from their patterns, do something different, and set standards for right and wrong.

    Actually, how do you even define creativity?

    I already defined it. In this context, it is the capacity and the freedom to do something different than what it has always done. Obviously, a law does not have that capacity.

    Did you say that you were a teacher? What do you teach?

  63. 63
    Bob O'H says:

    Since humans are intelligent agents, it follows that humans cannot be material.

    I’m sorry, I’ve still not seen a convincing argument for this. You seem to think that intelligence can’t obey laws, but you haven’t demonstrated that. To be fair, it would be difficult to do, I think.

    I already defined it. In this context, it is the capacity and the freedom to do something different than what it has always done. Obviously, a law does not have that capacity.

    I’m glad I asked, because that’s a much broader definition than I think most people would use. It also means that laws most definitely do have that capacity – anything that’s chaotic will (by your definition) be creative.

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H:

    Kindly, notice:

    [B] And why can’t that intelligent agent be material?

    [S] Because an intelligent agent, which is *not* a slave to nature’s laws, cannot also be a material thing, which *is* a slave to nature’s laws.

    SB is pointing to the issue of being a self-moved initiating cause. Something locked up in the chain of material causation does not have rational, responsible freedom and cannot be trusted to actually be reasoning. Computational substrates are not carrying out insight based rational inferences but are churning out outputs based on signal processing through purely mechanical means, including stochastic phenomena as well as lawlike low contingency regularities.

    They compute because they are set up to mechanise essentially mathematical operations. The logic gate combination called the full adder or the operational amplifier integrator or the memristor crossbar matrix multiplying array are typical cases in point.

    All of this gives telling force to Plato’s point in The Laws Bk X:

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

    We have reason, for cause, to believe we exhibit the sort of agency unreachable by mechanistic computation. That is evidence for and good reason to infer that such mindedness goes beyond the material. Indeed, long ago J B S Haldane counselled:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    KF

  65. 65
    Bob O'H says:

    kf –

    [S] Because an intelligent agent, which is *not* a slave to nature’s laws,

    Really? Do you have evidence of this? Does in mean that because I’m an intelligent agent, I can step outside my window and fly?

    Something locked up in the chain of material causation does not have rational, responsible freedom and cannot be trusted to actually be reasoning.

    In what sense is computer solving a chess puzzle not reasoning? (I guess the question is pretty close to “what do you mean by reasoning?”, but that looks like I’m trying to argue about semantics)

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H:

    This is revealing on the crux of the matter:

    In what sense is computer solving a chess puzzle not reasoning?

    Reasoning is not the same thing as computation. Reasoning depends on understanding and insight, drawing and warranting inferences. It is a meaning based process. Computation is about mechanical signal processing.

    The Computer is not solving a chess problem, it is simply blindly executing chains of instructions ultimately at machine code and register transfer, with ALU operations level. It is a very flexible machine, and the programmer has set it up so that, utterly unknown to the refined and specially arranged Si chips inside, its output makes moves in what we are interested in as a chess game.

    To give an insight, if they had mis-programmed, the computer would have churned out just as hard, spewing forth gibberish until it crashes. No common sense. Just ask anyone who has had to do machine level troubleshooting.

    Thus, the computer is not even solving a chess problem, though it may look like it. Second, it is not reasoning as understanding and creative insight etc have nothing to do with its action.

    The same holds for the robot that just “passed” the Medical Licensing written paper in China.

    As to our not being a slave to nature’s laws, the first obvious one is that you and he and I are all routinely creating text in English, with meaning, that is far beyond the blind mechanical search capability of the observed cosmos.

    Going beyond, just to be having a reasoned argument, we are relying on each of us being just what the computer is not: intelligent, responsible, reasoning, inferring on warrant, able to really and freely choose one way over another. Dismiss this, and we are left to manipulation and imposition of power.

    Third, the first fact through which you access all other facts is that of self-aware, responsible, reasoning mindedness. Deny that, and all else collapses at once in absurdity.

    KF

    PS: let me clip from Reppert:

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

  67. 67
    Bob O'H says:

    The Computer is not solving a chess problem, it is simply blindly executing chains of instructions ultimately at machine code and register transfer, with ALU operations level.

    How can you be sure that what is going on inside pour brains/minds is not equivalent?

    To give an insight, if they had mis-programmed, the computer would have churned out just as hard, spewing forth gibberish until it crashes.

    Hm. I know a few humans who do that too.

    As to our not being a slave to nature’s laws, the first obvious one is that you and he and I are all routinely creating text in English, with meaning, that is far beyond the blind mechanical search capability of the observed cosmos.

    Are you saying that English is contrary to the laws of physics? What particular law does it break?

    Can you give a specific proof that English “is far beyond the blind mechanical search capability of the observed cosmos”? Can you also explain why the Cosmos would be searching for English in the first place?

  68. 68
    gpuccio says:

    Bob O’H:

    “How can you be sure that what is going on inside pour brains/minds is not equivalent?”

    The thing that is not equivalent is that we have subjective experiences. While strong AI theories assume that subjectivity emerges from material configurations of objects, there is absolutely nothing that justifies that view.

    As KF said, the Computer is not solving a chess problem, it is simply blindly executing chains of instructions ultimately at machine code and register transfer, with ALU operations level.

    In essence, there is no difference between an abacus and a computer. Adding simple operations to a computation, or increasing its speed, or varying the general structure of the computation (linear, parallel, what else) does not change the essence of the thing: it remains a computation effected by some material tool.

    There is absolutely no reason to think that an abacus has subjective experiences related to the computation we effect by it. In the same way, there is absolutely no reson to think that a computer has subjective experiences related to the siftwrae operations it is implementing, whatever they are.

    On the contrary, we know that we have subjective experiences.

    That’s all the difference.

    “Hm. I know a few humans who do that too.”

    Something like that, I can agree 🙂 . But even those humans, however unlikely it may appear, have probably subjective experiences. That they may use them badly (because of their won choice, or of other causes which do not depend on them) does not change the subjective nature of their representations.

    “Are you saying that English is contrary to the laws of physics? What particular law does it break?

    Can you give a specific proof that English “is far beyond the blind mechanical search capability of the observed cosmos”? Can you also explain why the Cosmos would be searching for English in the first place?”

    I would say that English language, like any other form of complex functional information in objects, is well beyond any power of any non conscious system.

    As I have often argued, complex functional configuration, bearing meaning (descriptive information) or function (prescriptive information) with a specificity beyond, say 500 – 1000 bits, have never been observed as the result of any non conscious system.

    And, beyond the empirical fact, there is also a deep reason for that: non conscious system can generate functional information only randomly, and 500 – 1000 bits of specific functional information (indeed, even much less than that) are definitely beyond the probabilistic resource of our universe.

    Of course, non random mechanisms have also been invoked: NS is of course the best known. But NS can only proceeed from the information that alredy exists (biological beings that reproduce with limited resources), and can only optimize that alredy existing function, and with extremely limited power.

    For a more complete discussion about that, see here:

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/what-are-the-limits-of-natural-selection-an-interesting-open-discussion-with-gordon-davisson/

    English is not beyond the capabilities of our cosmos, but only because our cosmos includes conscious intelligent beings. English is certainly beyond the capabilities of any non conscious system in our cosmos.

    By the way, for an attempt at computing the functional information in English language texts, look here:

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/an-attempt-at-computing-dfsci-for-english-language/

  69. 69
    gpuccio says:

    Bob O’H:

    As I have argued, many times, the specific ability of conscious intelligent beings like us to break the probabilistic barriers and generate tons of complex functional information (in machines, software and language) can easily be traced to those subjective experiences that allow them to design complex objects:

    – The subjective experience of cognition, in particular of understanding meanings

    – The subjective experience of feeling, in particular of having purposes related to desires.

    So, there is an appropriate rationale that can explain why conscious intelligent beings can generate complex functional information, and non conscious systems cannot do that.

  70. 70
    Latemarch says:

    KF, GP, and StephenB:

    I find that this quote from CS Lewis adequately describes the situation that you find yourselves in when arguing with BobO.

    To reach the positions held by the real scientists — which are then taken over by the Myth —you must — in fact, treat reason as an absolute. But at the same time the Myth asks me to believe that reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. The content of the Myth thus knocks from under me the only ground on which I could possibly believe the Myth to be true. If my own mind is a product of the irrational — if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel — how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution? They say in effect ‘I will prove that what you call a proof is only the result of mental habits which result from heredity which results from bio-chemistry which results from physics.’ But this is the same as saying: ‘I will prove that proofs are irrational’: more succinctly, ‘I will prove that there are no proofs’. The fact that some people of scientific education cannot by any effort be taught to see the difficulty, confirms one’s suspicion that we here touch a radical disease in their whole style of thought. But the man who does see it, is compelled to reject as mythical the cosmology in which most of us were brought up. That it has embedded in it many true particulars I do not doubt: but in its entirety, it simply will not do. Whatever the real universe may turn out to be, it can’t be like that.

    Portion in bold for clarity.

  71. 71
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    I’m sorry, I’ve still not seen a convincing argument for this.

    Since when do you care about evidence? You don’t have any evidence that materialistic processes produced living organisms, the earth, the solar system or the universe.

    You seem to think that intelligence can’t obey laws, but you haven’t demonstrated that.

    There isn’t any evidence that intelligence can arise from the laws of physics

    In what sense is computer solving a chess puzzle not reasoning?

    Only a computer programmed to do so can solve chess problems. And in that case the reasoning traces back to that programmer.

    Are you saying that English is contrary to the laws of physics?

    Languages are arbitrary and as such not determined by any laws

  72. 72
    kairosfocus says:

    LM, sadly, yes. I keep on noting on what happens if one makes a crooked yardstick the standard for straightness, accuracy and uprightness: what is genuinely such will never pass the test of crookedness. And some compound that by refusing to heed a plumbline. KF

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    SB: Since humans are intelligent agents, it follows that humans cannot be material.

    I’m sorry, I’ve still not seen a convincing argument for this.

    I have already presented an unassailable argument. It is logically impossible for a material thing that is a slave to nature’s laws to also be an intelligent agent that can transcend nature’s laws. There is simply no question about it. It’s basic logic.

  74. 74
    StephenB says:

    I’m glad I asked, because that’s a much broader definition than I think most people would use. It also means that laws most definitely do have that capacity – anything that’s chaotic will (by your definition) be creative.

    No. Creativity in this context involves either [a] the ability of a material thing to break away from law like behaviors and do something else. Obviously, that is impossible. Or it would [b] involve the capacity of an intelligent agent to use law like behavior for a purpose. Chaos has nothing to do with either case, so it does not transcend nature’s laws. It simply has nothing to do with them.

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