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Do we have free will?

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From Prager University, here. From transcript of audio:

Now, if all you are is a brain, an exhaustively physical system of neurons and synapses, then there’s no “you” that’s gonna be making a “choice” at all. Your thought processes are basically just a complex series of colliding electron-dominos crashing into one another. It’s just physical cause and effect, right — something that can be exhaustively understood in terms of physics and chemistry? There’s no “you” that’s an agent that’s deliberating, or choosing, or exercising free will.

And that’s why, if you are just a brain, you cannot have free will. You would just be a physical machine — a very complex but programmed computer.

But, if you’re something more than your brain — if you’re the thing that has the brain — then, when I ask you “Where do you want to go for lunch?,” you’re going to start deliberating — you’re going to be weighing your taste preferences, the commute time, perhaps even counting calories. You’d be weighing various reasons to choose one place over another. You wouldn’t be caused to think about any of these things. You would choose to think about these things, and you could stop anytime you wanted to.

So, what we have here, therefore, are two different types of things: an immaterial mind and the material brain. You are the thing that has the brain — you are not your brain.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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77 Replies to “Do we have free will?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Do We Have Free Will? – Prager University – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDkLUBdvOkw

  2. 2
    bb says:

    Here’s the Prager-U link with video. I’m a layman. A picture is worth a thousand words.

  3. 3
    DillyGill says:

    Scientific materialism is just nihilism in a straight jacket!

  4. 4
    Mapou says:

    Free will is a fact. The brain does the thinking automatically but the spirit chooses what it likes and dislikes and what to think about, i.e., what to pay attention to. But even though the spirit is the inner eye (or seven inner eyes according to my own research) that moves back and forth from one end of cortical memory to another, there can’t be no thinking without the brain. This is why I don’t believe in so-called out of body or near-death experiences. One man’s opinion.

  5. 5
    Box says:

    Mapou: (…) there can’t be no thinking without the brain.

    Why not? What is your argument?

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Now, if all you are is a brain, an exhaustively physical system of neurons and synapses, then there’s no “you” that’s gonna be making a “choice” at all.

    And if that is the case, you cannot “choose” to perform an experiment or a measurement, and there is no science.

  7. 7
    Mapou says:

    Box:

    Mapou: (…) there can’t be no thinking without the brain.

    Why not? What is your argument?

    There are many reasons. Here are a few off the top of my head.

    1. Thinking is a cause-effect process.
    2. The brain is a cause-effect mechanism.
    3. The spirit is not a cause-effect mechanism. It is not a mechanism.
    4. The spirit is the knower and the brain is the known.
    5. Spirit and matter are opposites: matter can be destroyed or changed but spirit can neither be destroyed nor changed.

    I know that thinking in the human brain requires the help of the spirit, otherwise we would be like robots and animals. The spirit is what gives us likes and dislikes such as our infatuation for the beauty and the arts. Physical systems have nothing to do with beauty.

  8. 8
    ppolish says:

    ” You are the thing that has the brain — you are not your brain.”

    True, but what is this “thing” that is you? Plenty of labels- mother, son, employee at abc, coach, wife, etc etc etc. But as soon as you put a label on you, you are a “thing” and that’s not you.

    You is deep down. Without label. Thingless.
    A Soul. Yes, “soul” is a label too:) Meditation is hard. Prayer is easier;) Feel the Holy Spirit and be glad.

    BTW, does Soul have a biological gender? I doubt it.

  9. 9
    Box says:

    Mapou,

    Mapou:
    1. Thinking is a cause-effect process.
    2. The brain is a cause-effect mechanism.

    There is a disconnect between (1) and (2), as Reppert points out:

    (…) 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.

    I would like to add that thinking is impossible without ‘context’. Letters have words as context, words have sentences as context and sentences a story as context. IOW there is hierarchical top-down causation—which results in a hierarchical coherence of meaning. A story is more important than sentences, which in turn are more important than words, which in turn are more important than letters. It’s not bottom-up, as it is in fact in chemistry, so the letters are not in charge.
    So cause and effect wrt to rationality (1) is entirely different than cause and effect on a chemical level (2).

    For now, I won’t address (3),(4) and (5).

  10. 10
    KevNick says:

    We most likely don’t, especially according to the atheo-gods. Coyne got invited to an Indian restaurant by Larry Moran in Vancouver. He absolutely couldn’t refuse it even though the owner “is very, very religious”.

  11. 11
    Mapou says:

    Box @9,

    I now realize I inadvertently and wrongly used a double negative in my sentence earlier. Change:

    … there can’t be no thinking without the brain

    to:

    … there can be no thinking without the brain

    I believe the brain does the job of thinking and that the spirit simply guides it. You are apparently arguing against naturalism. Note that I am not a materialist. I am a dualist. You wrote:

    A story is more important than sentences, which in turn are more important than words, which in turn are more important than letters. It’s not bottom-up, as it is in fact in chemistry, so the letters are not in charge.

    Certainly. However, while importance is not determined bottom-up, there is no question that learning is bottom up and is done by the brain. This is how context is built. I do agree that the importance of things is not determined by the brain but by the spirit. But that is not thinking, IMO. That is just a selection process by a top-down authority. Thinking is goal-driven planning and goal-oriented behavior. This is what the brain does under the supervision of the spirit. The spirit is helpless without the brain. But even our strongest instincts, such as survival or pain avoidance, can be overpowered by the spirit.

  12. 12
    mike1962 says:

    Do we have free will?

    Yes. To a degree.

  13. 13
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    since barry has chased all the ‘disagreeables’ away…i suppose it falls upon me to say…”WHAT?” None of this makes any sense whatsoever.

  14. 14
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    …and haven’t we had this conversation a thousand times before? Perhaps there is a real difference of opinion?..no? Perhaps there isn’t a “UNIVERSAL MORAL LAW”, hmm?

  15. 15
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    Maybe every person does what they do. Maybe a bunch of persons make a system of laws about their community. because they don’t want random persons doing whatever they want in their community. so they make some laws. they adapt them to their changing community.

  16. 16
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    this is america. this is what freedom is. “gummint” is just more of us doing what the rest of us want done. if you are really interested in changing anything then focus on the banks. on the career politicians. if we don’t care, then democracy is useless.

  17. 17
    Box says:

    Mapou #11:

    there can be no thinking without the brain (…)

    I believe the brain does the job of thinking and that the spirit simply guides it.

    So, a non-thinking spirit guides the thinking activity of the brain—which consists of non-thinking unintentional dumb matter.
    The blind is leading what does not want to see. It doesn’t make sense.

    Mapou: Note that I am not a materialist. I am a dualist.

    I know.

    Mapou: Certainly. However, while importance is not determined bottom-up, there is no question that learning is bottom up and is done by the brain.

    Wrong. There is no rational activity that is a bottom-up process. Understanding anything—foundational to any rational activity— is not possible without context. In fact “understanding” is to place something in a context—top-down.
    It follows that any bottom-up (non-contextual) process is not rational. To be sure, the brain is chemistry and chemistry can be neither learning nor thinking.

    Mapou: This is how context is built.

    Context is not being built, but is foundational to rationality. Consciousness is the ultimate context.

    Mapou: I do agree that the importance of things is not determined by the brain but by the spirit. But that is not thinking, IMO. That is just a selection process by a top-down authority.

    It must be thinking. Determining the importance of e.g. an argument is an irrational act if it is not based on reason. So, if the spirit is unthinking (irrational) then it is not capable of selecting / determining / weighing the importance of an argument.

    Mapou: Thinking is goal-driven planning and goal-oriented behavior. This is what the brain does under the supervision of the spirit.

    Matter has no goals. And an irrational unthinking spirit has no goals either.

    Mapou: The spirit is helpless without the brain.

    Your unthinking spirit is helpless no matter what. Luckily for us, your theory doesn’t make sense and our spirits are profoundly rational.

  18. 18
    Mapou says:

    See you around, Box.

  19. 19
    Box says:

    Mapou,

    One more question: why do you offer your implausible ideas if you are not willing to defend them?

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    Mapou, I found Box’s arguments against your position to be well stated and very reasonable.

    Perhaps you can lay pride aside and humbly exercise your free will and admit that you have been wrong in your thinking about contextual understanding?

    Your Computer Doesn’t Know Anything – Michael Egnor – January 23, 2015
    Excerpt: Your computer doesn’t know a binary string from a ham sandwich. Your math book doesn’t know algebra. Your Rolodex doesn’t know your cousin’s address. Your watch doesn’t know what time it is. Your car doesn’t know where you’re driving. Your television doesn’t know who won the football game last night. Your cell phone doesn’t know what you said to your girlfriend this morning.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....92981.html

    What Is a Mind? More Hype from Big Data – Erik J. Larson – May 6, 2014
    Excerpt: In 1979, University of Pittsburgh philosopher John Haugeland wrote an interesting article in the Journal of Philosophy, “Understanding Natural Language,” about Artificial Intelligence. At that time, philosophy and AI were still paired, if uncomfortably. Haugeland’s article is one of my all time favorite expositions of the deep mystery of how we interpret language. He gave a number of examples of sentences and longer narratives that, because of ambiguities at the lexical (word) level, he said required “holistic interpretation.” That is, the ambiguities weren’t resolvable except by taking a broader context into account. The words by themselves weren’t enough.
    Well, I took the old 1979 examples Haugeland claimed were difficult for MT, and submitted them to Google Translate, as an informal “test” to see if his claims were still valid today.,,,
    ,,,Translation must account for context, so the fact that Google Translate generates the same phrase in radically different contexts is simply Haugeland’s point about machine translation made afresh, in 2014.
    Erik J. Larson – Founder and CEO of a software company in Austin, Texas
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....85251.html

    Defending the Christian Faith – Pastor Joe Boot – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqE5_ZOAnKo

    “If you have no God, then you have no design plan for the universe. You have no prexisting structure to the universe.,, As the ancient Greeks held, like Democritus and others, the universe is flux. It’s just matter in motion. Now on that basis all you are confronted with is innumerable brute facts that are unrelated pieces of data. They have no meaningful connection to each other because there is no overall structure. There’s no design plan. It’s like my kids do ‘join the dots’ puzzles. It’s just dots, but when you join the dots there is a structure, and a picture emerges. Well, the atheists is without that (final picture). There is no preestablished pattern (to connect the facts given atheism).”
    Pastor Joe Boot – quoted from the 13:20 minute mark of the video

  21. 21
    Box says:

    Bornagain77,
    Thank you very much for those illuminating additions. They reminded me of ‘Irriducible Mind’ by Edward F. Kelly et al.

    I must also acknowledge here that I myself initially embraced the computational theory practically without reservation. It certainly seemed an enormous step forward at the time. Fellow graduate students likely remember my oft-repeated attempts to assure them that the CTM [Computational Theory of the Mind] would soon solve this or that fundamental problem in psychology. But all was not well.
    [‘Irriducible Mind’, ch.1, E.F.Kelly]

    Rationality is not bottom-up, but contextual instead:

    Any scheme based on atomization of meaning would necessarily fail to capture what to me had become the most characteristic property of word-meaning, a felt Gestalt quality or wholeness, at a level of generality that naturally supports extensions of usage into an indefinite variety—indeed whole families—of novel but appropriate contexts.

    The existing proposals could only represent the content of a general term such as “line” by some sample of its possible particularizations, and in so doing rendered themselves systematically unable to distinguish between metaphorical truth and literal falsehood.

    I also noted with a certain degree of alarm that this crucial property of generality underlying the normal use of words seemed continuous with developmentally earlier achievements. Skilled motor acts and perceptual recognition, for example, require similar on-the-fly adaptations of past learning to present circumstance.
    The importance of incorporating more general knowledge of the world into language-processing models, for example, had already begun to be recognized, and new formal devices were being introduced to represent what the computer needed to know (what we ourselves know) about various sorts of “typical” situations it might encounter. But it seemed clear to me that all of these knowledge-representation devices, such as “frames” (Minsky, 1975), “scripts” (Schank & Colby, 1973), and “schemata” (Neisser, 1976), suffered essentially the same problems I had identified in the Katz and Fodor account of word meaning. Specifically, they required the possible scenarios of application to be spelled out in advance, in great but necessarily incomplete detail, and as a result ended up being “brittle,” intolerant of even minor departures from the preprogrammed expectations.

    Many of the themes just sounded have been confirmed and amplified in more recent work. On the positive side, our knowledge of the content, organization, and development of the human conceptual system has increased enormously. The old Socratic idea that concepts must be defined in terms of necessary and sufficient features has given way to a recognition of the role of perceptual-level examples, prototypes, and family resemblances in the content of real human concepts (Medin & Heit, 1999; Rosch & Lloyd, 1978; E. E. Smith & Medin, 1981). The contributions of a fundamental human capacity for metaphorizing at levels ranging from everyday language to the highest flights of creativity, are also now more widely appreciated (Gentner, Holyoak, & Kokinov, 2001; Hofstadter & FARG, 1995; Holyoak & Tha-gard, 1995; Lakoff, 1987, 1995; see also our Chapter 7).

    [‘Irriducible Mind’, ch.1, E.F.Kelly]
    [My emphasis]

  22. 22
    Silver Asiatic says:

    evnfrdrcksn

    since barry has chased all the ‘disagreeables’ away…

    I’m glad you responded because it has been quieter. I assumed that the disagreeables weren’t chased away, but they just went away after their arguments were defeated so often.

    if we don’t care, then democracy is useless.

    True, but if there’s no free will, then everything is useless.

  23. 23
    harry says:

    How can anyone take seriously the proponents of the notion that we have no free will? According to their own proposition: They have no choice but to assert that we have no free will. That they experience a sense of “certainty” as they make that assertion is beyond their control. They can’t help but make that assertion, regardless of the truth of the matter. “No free will” is not really their own idea, but is the merely the result of the workings of whatever mindless forces have taken possession of them.

    On the one hand, as stupid as that assertion is, it seems reasonable to believe that mindless forces have indeed taken possession of those who assert that we have no free will. On the other hand, the implications of believing one has no free will are so diabolical that it seems more reasonable to conclude that those who sincerely make that assertion are indeed possessed by dark forces, but not mindless ones.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    EF:

    “gummint” is just more of us doing what the rest of us want done

    I suggest you look up the principal-agent problem, i/l/o Government agents as agents who can develop their own agendas and interests, and also where democratic polities are prone to manipulations and marches of folly.

    This may help:

    http://kairosfocus.blogspot.co.....-year.html

    KF

  25. 25
    Mapou says:

    Box:

    Mapou,

    One more question: why do you offer your implausible ideas if you are not willing to defend them?

    Implausible in YOUR opinion, of course. The chasm between your worldview and mine is so wide and deep, we would both be wasting our time arguing back and forth about it.

    Please note that I have been researching intelligence and the brain for decades. I understand a little bit about its operation and various functions. It is an insult to my intelligence when I hear someone argue on the basis of second-hand medieval church dogma that the mind is 100% immaterial and that, therefore, the brain is essentially gelatinous goo, i.e., good for nothing. It is also an insult to my God who designed the brain in all of its intricate glory.

    I am a card carrying dualist, through and through. I am not a partial dualist like some Christians. You people are not true dualists as you claim. You are a bunch of closet monists.

    The truth about the brain and mind is so strange and magnificent that, when revealed, it will blow everybody’s socks off, materialists and Christians alike. It won’t be too long now. Do keep your ears and eyes open. And I say this as a Christian.

    PS. No need to reply. I’m done with this discussion.

  26. 26
    tarmaras says:

    Since we don’t actually control the generation of our thoughts (propositions for action), we can’t be said to be absolutely free. However, we can accept or reject said thoughts by continuing or discontinuing our attention for them.

    According to Eastern philosophies, apparent determinism of thought-into-action is in fact a symptom of a conditioned person who is living their life on autopilot. Thoughts are proposed by the unconscious mind (called citta — the reservoir of all past impressions) and then are automatically accepted into the next stage of development, until it comes to the senses who perform action.

    The stages are called (translated) as thinking, feeling, willing, knowing (procedures/planning) and acting. At every stage of this development the thought-into-action process can be arrested by the conscious soul who stands apart from the faculties of the mind. Thus “free will” is in fact a much more bureaucratic process, in which the soul approves or disapproves thoughts-into-action at various stages of development.

    But the kicker in this philosophy is that, although the approve/reject decisions of the conscious being are “responsible” for how this process end up (action or no action), it doesn’t mean that the soul is the one who “does” it.

    In this philosophy, the approve/reject decisions of the soul are implemented through matter by God’s energies, called Shaktis.

  27. 27
    mike1962 says:

    Obviously “the mind” is not completely immaterial. Consciousness is immaterial. The brain determines the experiences that consciousness experiences. The brain plus consciousness equal “the mind.” It’s a merge of the two. Easy to prove that. Brain asleep, consciousness not experiencing anything. Brain damage alters personalities and the entire experience and capacity for thinking. Or just drink a fifth of Jack Daniels. Or take a hallucinogenic. It seems to be a bi-lateral union. OK then.

  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    A few readers may find these videos interesting:

    The Case for the Soul – InspiringPhilosophy – (4:03 minute mark, Brain Plasticity including Schwartz’s work) – Oct. 2014 – video
    The Mind is able to modify the brain (brain plasticity). Moreover, Idealism explains all anomalous evidence of personality changes due to brain injury, whereas physicalism cannot explain mind.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBsI_ay8K70

    The Case for the Soul: Refuting Physicalist Objections – video
    Computers vs. Qualia, Libet and ‘Free won’t’, Split Brain (unified attention of brain despite split hemispheres, visual and motion information is shared between the two hemispheres despite the hemispheres being split),
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB5TNrtu9Pk

  29. 29
    Box says:

    Mapou: Please note that I have been researching intelligence and the brain for decades.

    Obviously you are not the only one. In post #21 I cite E.F.Kelly Ph.D. Professor of research and member of the Neuroscience Group at University of Virginia. IMHO he supports the arguments against your position I offered in post #17.

    Mapou: I understand a little bit about its operation and various functions.

    Based on what you write I find that extremely unlikely.

    Mapou: The truth about the brain and mind is so strange and magnificent that, when revealed, it will blow everybody’s socks off, materialists and Christians alike. It won’t be too long now. Do keep your ears and eyes open. And I say this as a Christian.

    If so, this revelation won’t be consistent with your absurd version of dualism.

  30. 30
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    well…this blog has become a weird echo chamber since barry chased away the dissidents. it’s unreadable and not at all entertaining. have fun with getting page views from now on. i suppose this will end up in the web graveyard that world news blog is buried in. sad. this blog would make me think, occasionally.

  31. 31
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    …signed, A Long Time Reader, Small Time Commenter. So long!

  32. 32
    Box says:

    #31, let the doorknob hit you where the good Lord split you.

  33. 33
    Mung says:

    Not that he’s leaving of his own free will, lol.

  34. 34
    Axel says:

    31

    No kidding, mung?!

    Take care, evnfrdrcksn. Watch the door doesn’t bang you on the butt on the way out, .

  35. 35
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    22…It has been quieter. And less interesting. The appeal of this blog was seeing opinions clash. I rarely contributed comments, but I surely paid in page views.

  36. 36
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    Box, Mung, Axel: I’ve always scrolled right past your posts (a man has to retain his sanity). Funny you should speak up now.

  37. 37
    Silver Asiatic says:

    evnfrdrcksn

    I think the quality of some of the clashes actually decreased quite a lot – some of the people who generated a number of posts were just making a lot of noise.

    I hope you’ll still take the time to read news items and articles here – as well as the many resources offered from guys like BA77. That’s the more serious material and some of the posters who either left or were banned really didn’t take the material seriously. It seemed like they just wanted to hear themselves talk.

    But I’ll also repeat my previous comment – I think the case for ID is so strong that nobody can really debate it in a civil manner. Our opponents tend to attack and then get irrational. So that’s why it has gotten quieter here, in my opinion.

  38. 38
    Box says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    I think the case for ID is so strong that nobody can really debate it in a civil manner. Our opponents tend to attack and then get irrational. So that’s why it has gotten quieter here, in my opinion.

    I second that. Other than “against all odds things might be due to chance” the other side hasn’t been able to present one single counter-argument to ID, during the past several years.

  39. 39
    Silver Asiatic says:

    True words, Box.

    I don’t mind it being a little quieter here.

    It’s the sound of victory. 🙂

  40. 40
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Are there any ID opponents left out there? Zachriel seems to be the last man standing.

    I had hoped that Larry Moran would be able to engage in the debate but he got demoralized, apparently, and just ran away. I was surprised that he had so little to say anyway.

    I guess it’s like Mark Frank, spending years here arguing in circles and just shutting out everything that his position simply couldn’t comprehend.

    Or RDFish … totally incoherent.

  41. 41
    Virgil Cain says:

    ID’s “opponents” are busy singing to their own choir in their own echo chambers. That way they can get away with lying, misrepresenting, equivocating and overselling their position’s claims.

    Heck ID’s opponents actually believe that genetic and evolutionary algorithms simulate unguided evolution even though those algorithms are goal-oriented and guided towards a solution. You can’t debate people who think that way and there isn’t any sense in trying.

  42. 42
    Box says:

    Silver Asiatic:
    Zachriel seems to be the last man standing. I had hoped that Larry Moran would be able to engage in the debate but he got demoralized, apparently, and just ran away.

    Zachriel, and to a lesser degree Moran, belong to that rare kind of people who actually feel quite comfortable arguing in favor of “against all odds things might be due to chance” at UD. Clearly not everyone is cut out for this—most ppl rather prefer to remain quiet.

  43. 43
    Carpathian says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    But I’ll also repeat my previous comment – I think the case for ID is so strong that nobody can really debate it in a civil manner.

    I disagree.

    I think the case for ID is very weak.

    What I see instead is different forms of the argument that evolution without a guiding intelligence is very improbable.

    What I would like to see from the ID side is an argument that stands on its own.

    For instance, how does an intelligent designer know what a future unseen environment will do to an organism that he is designing today?

    As improbable as “materialistic” evolution is, I see the solution to this ID problem as being much more unlikely.

  44. 44
    Carpathian says:

    Mapou:

    It is also an insult to my God who designed the brain in all of its intricate glory.

    This is also something I wonder about when I hear the arguments of most IDists.

    They seem to believe that the god they believe in has some sort of restrictions that they have somehow identified.

    In this mind/brain debate, they have reduced the brain to a dumb terminal.

    In the case of evolution itself, they seem to think that their intelligent designer is not powerful enough to design a life-form that could evolve on its own in response to changes in that organism’s environment.

    Humans however have developed systems that respond to external changes such as autopilots for aircraft.

    Why is the intelligent designer not capable of this?

  45. 45
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Carpathian

    For instance, how does an intelligent designer know what a future unseen environment will do to an organism that he is designing today?

    Because the intelligent designer designed the environment – which shows evidence of having been fine-tuned for life.

    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.1

  46. 46
    Carpathian says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Because the intelligent designer designed the environment – which shows evidence of having been fine-tuned for life.

    This is no longer a creator simply of life then and excludes a lot of possible designers including aliens with only intelligence at their disposal.

    As far as the fine tuning argument goes, I have a lot of difficulty accepting that the forces of nature don’t simply balance themselves.

    Calling that fine-tuning is a stretch.

  47. 47
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Carpathian

    This is no longer a creator simply of life then and excludes a lot of possible designers including aliens with only intelligence at their disposal.

    ID proposes that there is evidence of intelligent design in nature. As to the possible designers, that’s a different area of study. But nobody could claim that every possible intelligent designer is a candidate for the design of life. At the same time, you couldn’t exclude all aliens since you don’t know what aliens are capable of.

    As far as the fine tuning argument goes, I have a lot of difficulty accepting that the forces of nature don’t simply balance themselves.

    Calling that fine-tuning is a stretch.

    If you haven’t read it, you might enjoy the article I posted. It’s not just the forces of nature … it’s the components that the forces work on. Carbon, water, oxygen, CO2 – how these have multiple diverse properties that work together in an ‘ensemble’, for example:

    Henderson also was struck by the same wonderful synergy and parsimony by which each compound satisfies several different ends. His prose grows practically rhapsodic as he considers the fact that water and CO2
    are not only physically fit in so many ways for carbon-based life, but are made up of the three atoms that together form the universe of organic chemicals, the material basis of all living things [3: p. 220]. The same few atoms which are uniquely fit to make up the complex molecular fabric of living things (proteins, DNA, etc.) are also uniquely fit to form an ideal matrix and ideal buffer for the thriving of those same ‘life forms.’

    So the question would be how these diverse elements happened to come together to create an environment where life could emerge and develop. They call it “fitness of the environment”.

    Merely saying “that’s the way nature is” is not different than saying “that’s the way God made it”.

  48. 48
    Carpathian says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    At the same time, you couldn’t exclude all aliens since you don’t know what aliens are capable of.

    Aliens cannot be the designers of life if they themselves are alive.

    Merely saying “that’s the way nature is” is not different than saying “that’s the way God made it”.

    We’re not saying “that’s the way nature is” as much as “that’s what nature does”.

    When it comes to God however, we don’t have that same forensic evidence.

    No one has a list of the forces God uses but we can describe nature’s forces and exactly how they relate to each other.

  49. 49
    Mung says:

    Carpathian: Aliens cannot be the designers of life if they themselves are alive.

    And humans will never be able to design life in the lab, or artificial life.

    And yet they keep trying. Silly people.

  50. 50
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Carpathian

    No one has a list of the forces God uses but we can describe nature’s forces and exactly how they relate to each other.

    The way forces relate to each other and to various elements in the universe is what we consider fine-tuning.

    Denton: Nearly everything discovered in the 20th century from biochemistry to cosmology supports the notion [that] …the cosmos is uniquely fit for carbon-based life [and] the anthropocentric claim that nature is uniquely fit for beings of our biology and physiological design

    One might aptly paraphrase Hoyle, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with the laws of chemistry and biology towards the specific end of organisms like us.”

  51. 51
    Box says:

    Carpathian #43:
    What I see instead is different forms of the argument that evolution without a guiding intelligence is very improbable.

    What I would like to see from the ID side is an argument that stands on its own.

    The two go hand in hand:

    Stephen Meyer, ‘Darwin’s Doubt’, ch.18 :

    What natural selection lacks, intelligent design—purposive, goal-directed selection—provides. Rational agents can arrange both matter and symbols with distant goals in mind. They also routinely solve problems of combinatorial inflation. In using language, the human mind routinely “finds” or generates highly improbable linguistic sequences to convey an intended or preconceived idea. In the process of thought, functional objectives precede and constrain the selection of words, sounds, and symbols to generate functional (and meaningful) sequences from a vast ensemble of meaningless alternative possible combinations of sound or symbol.18 Similarly, the construction of complex technological objects and products, such as bridges, circuit boards, engines, and software, results from the application of goal-directed constraints.19 Indeed, in all functionally integrated complex systems where the cause is known by experience or observation, designing engineers or other intelligent agents applied constraints on the possible arrangements of matter to limit possibilities in order to produce improbable forms, sequences, or structures. Rational agents have repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to constrain possible outcomes to actualize improbable but initially unrealized future functions. Repeated experience affirms that intelligent agents (minds) uniquely possess such causal powers.
    Analysis of the problem of the origin of biological information, therefore, exposes a deficiency in the causal powers of natural selection and other undirected evolutionary mechanisms that corresponds precisely to powers that agents are uniquely known to possess. Intelligent agents have foresight. Such agents can determine or select functional goals before they are physically instantiated. They can devise or select material means to accomplish those ends from among an array of possibilities. They can then actualize those goals in accord with a preconceived design plan or set of functional requirements. Rational agents can constrain combinatorial space with distant information-rich outcomes in mind. The causal powers that natural selection lacks—by definition—are associated with the attributes of consciousness and rationality—with purposive intelligence. Thus, by invoking intelligent design to overcome a vast combinatorial search problem and to explain the origin of new specified information, contemporary advocates of intelligent design are not positing an arbitrary explanatory element unmotivated by a consideration of the evidence. Instead, we posit an entity possessing precisely the causal powers that a key feature of the Cambrian explosion—the explosive increase in specified information—requires as a condition of its production and explanation.

  52. 52
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Carpathian: Aliens cannot be the designers of life if they themselves are alive.

    Mung: And humans will never be able to design life in the lab, or artificial life.

    That is why “fine-tuning” is evidence for creationism, not ID.

    In ID, the “designer” has only created life while in creationism, the “designer” has created the entire universe.

  53. 53
    Box says:

    Carpathian: In ID, the “designer” has only created life while in creationism, the “designer” has created the entire universe.

    ID does not limit its scope to life. And contrary to creationism, ID does not posit a specific designer.
    For a definition of ID take a look here.

    Excerpt: The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

  54. 54
    Mung says:

    Carpathian, it seems the point was completely lost on you. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

    Aliens cannot be the designers of life if they themselves are alive.

    By that same “reasoning” then, humans cannot be the designers of life if they themselves are alive

    My question to you is rather simple.

    Why then are humans trying to design life?

    Do they just not know better? And why are you here arguing with us rather than out there warning all those misguided humans that they are on a fool’s errand?

  55. 55
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    In ID, the “designer” has only created life while in creationism, the “designer” has created the entire universe.

    That is incorrect. The book “The Privileged Planet” is about the design of the universe and our place in it. It does not posit God did it.

  56. 56
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Mung: Carpathian, it seems the point was completely lost on you. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

    Carpathian: Aliens cannot be the designers of life if they themselves are alive.

    The point seems to be lost on you that we are talking about the “ID” designer of life, not any other after-the-fact designers.

    Aliens cannot be the designer of life that ID claims was responsible for the origin and design of life.

    If life is impossible without a designer as the cause, then how could you have living aliens existing before they designed life?

    Claiming that living aliens designed life would be a paradox.

    Claiming that their existence did not require a designer would be evidence that no designer is required for life.

  57. 57
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    That is incorrect. The book “The Privileged Planet” is about the design of the universe and our place in it. It does not posit God did it.

    If the universe was designed, who else could have?

    Is God subordinate to the designer of the universe?

    Did the designer of the universe create God?

  58. 58
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Carpathian

    Aliens cannot be the designer of life that ID claims was responsible for the origin and design of life.

    ID does not claim that a specific designer was responsible for the origin of life. Instead, ID shows that there is evidence of design in the origin of life. The question of who the designer was is a separate issue, not part of ID.

    If life is impossible without a designer as the cause, then how could you have living aliens existing before they designed life?

    That’s a metaphysical question, not science. ID can only say that the life we observe scientifically now, here on earth, could not have arisen without a designer. ID cannot make scientific claims about aliens which have not been observed. It’s enough, however, to recognize that it’s possible that some sort of alien life could have designed life on earth.

    To evaluate the origin of that alien life, we would have to observe it.

    Claiming that their existence did not require a designer would be evidence that no designer is required for life.

    Again, we can’t evaluate the origin of alien life scientifically. But it’s enough to know that intelligence was required to design life as we know it, and that intelligence could come from aliens, if such beings existed.

  59. 59
    Carpathian says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Again, we can’t evaluate the origin of alien life scientifically. But it’s enough to know that intelligence was required to design life as we know it, and that intelligence could come from aliens, if such beings existed.

    But their existence would be proof that life itself is not improbable and could exist without an intelligent designer of any type.

    Why would their non-designed existence be accepted but not ours?

    If they too had to be designed, then they are not the cause of life and yet that is the question we are trying to answer.

  60. 60
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Carpathian

    But their existence would be proof that life itself is not improbable and could exist without an intelligent designer of any type.

    It depends. Their existence could be proof that life is even more improbable than we thought. There could be beings with even more sophistication, complexity and intelligence that we can imagine – far beyond what natural processes could create.

    The challenge remains – show how blind, unintelligent processes can produce sophisticated, intelligent life. That task doesn’t necessarily get easier if we find alien life.

    Why would their non-designed existence be accepted but not ours?

    The mere act of finding alien life does not mean their life wasn’t also designed. It moves the problem of the ultimate cause of all life in the universe back a step. Anything dependent on the universe for existence cannot be the cause of the universe to exist.

    You’ve claimed that ID is not science because the designer would have to be supernatural. But what we mean by “nature” is that which exists in space and time, in the known universe (all the physical reality that we know of).

    So, any claim of a multiverse is pointing to something “beyond nature” — its something outside of the universe. But the origin of the universe is accepted by many to be scientific research. ID would be science in the same way.

    If they too had to be designed, then they are not the cause of life and yet that is the question we are trying to answer.

    There are different questions that ID answers. One would be the cause or origin and development of life on earth. That’s the life we can observe scientifically.

    If alien life forms created life on earth, then we know that no material processes on earth created life.

    This doesn’t answer what the origin of alien life is, but it does prove ID correct. The life that we observe on earth is the product of intelligent design. In this case, alien intelligence.

    ID would then have to move to the next question — is the origin and existence of alien life evidence of intelligent design?

    Even without observing aliens, there would need to be some answer as to the origin of any aliens. That’s the same as questions about the origin of the universe, or the origin of matter and physical forces.

    ID looks at those arguments also. The universe itself shows evidence of having been designed by intelligence.

  61. 61
    Mung says:

    Carpathian, the point seems lost on you that your “logic” is not logical.

    The point seems to be lost on you that we are talking about the “ID” designer of life, not any other after-the-fact designers.

    This sentence doesn’t even make sense.

    Aliens cannot be the designer of life that ID claims was responsible for the origin and design of life.

    This sentence makes no sense.

    If life is impossible without a designer as the cause, then how could you have living aliens existing before they designed life?

    You’re equivocating.

    Claiming that living aliens designed life would be a paradox.

    No it wouldn’t.

    Claiming that their existence did not require a designer would be evidence that no designer is required for life.

    No one is making such a claim.

    Not that you’ll pay any more attention to this than anything else I’ve ever written, but ID does not claim that life was designed. ID is about certain features of living things. This is a separate question from what it is that makes something alive.

  62. 62
    Carpathian says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    If alien life forms created life on earth, then we know that no material processes on earth created life.

    ID’s argument is that life is improbable without intelligent design.

    Adding alien lifeforms does not change that improbability argument.

    It also does nothing to diminish the argument that life did not require a designer.

    We would be in the same position in this debate with alien designers that we find ourselves in now, i.e. was alien life improbable?

    Adding aliens does not solve the question of improbability that exists now in regards to our own origins.

    Aliens must be as improbable and designed as we are otherwise they are proof that we don’t need a designer ourselves.

  63. 63
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Not that you’ll pay any more attention to this than anything else I’ve ever written, but ID does not claim that life was designed. ID is about certain features of living things.

    Of course ID claims that life is designed!

    Kairosfocus constantly brings up the improbability of replicators needing to be designed. He is talking about the origins of life here and mentions it often.

    ID is about the design of life.

  64. 64
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    If the universe was designed, who else could have?

    Q

    ID is about the design of life.

    ID is about the design of life AND the universe- see “The Privileged Planet” and “Signs of Intelligence”.

  65. 65
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian- Concerning life on earth it is very possible to have an ET designer. And SOP requires that we take it one step at a time- proximate as opposed to ultimate.

  66. 66
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian- Concerning life on earth it is very possible to have an ET designer. And SOP requires that we take it one step at a time- proximate as opposed to ultimate.

    While an alien designer may be possible, it’s existence is at least as improbable as ours.

    Since the improbability of life is what is driving ID, then the improbability of an alien life-form must be considered at the same time, otherwise we are no closer to an answer than we were without the additional alien life.

  67. 67
    Mung says:

    Carpathian, you are among the absolute last people on earth I’d go to to find out what ID is about or says.

  68. 68
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    While an alien designer may be possible, it’s existence is at least as improbable as ours.

    Non-sequitur.

    What next- the square root of Tuesday is blue?

    Since the improbability of life is what is driving ID…

    We disagree with Mung. No one should ever go to you to find out about ID.

  69. 69
    Mung says:

    Carpathian’s problem (well, one of them at least) is that he thinks all life must be the same. But ID could care less what he thinks about that.

    There’s nothing in ID that says that aliens could not have designed aspects of the biological life we all know and love.

    There’s nothing in ID that says that alien life must display the same features that lead us to infer that some features of living things AS WE KNOW THEM are designed.

    Even if aliens somehow evolved from space dust and designed features of living things found here on earth, it just doesn’t follow that those features were not designed or that the design inference would be false.

  70. 70
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Carpathian, you are among the absolute last people on earth I’d go to to find out what ID is about or says.

    See the following…

    Mung: Not that you’ll pay any more attention to this than anything else I’ve ever written, but ID does not claim that life was designed. ID is about certain features of living things.

    Carpathian: Of course ID claims that life is designed!

    Virgil Cain: ID is about the design of life AND the universe- see “The Privileged Planet” and “Signs of Intelligence”.

    You appear to be the odd man out Mung.

  71. 71
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Even if aliens somehow evolved from space dust and designed features of living things found here on earth, it just doesn’t follow that those features were not designed or that the design inference would be false.

    What you’re saying is that you accept that life’s first cause, i.e. the aliens, were not necessarily intelligently designed.

    This means that the first link in the chain of events that led to life on Earth did not require ID.

  72. 72
    Mung says:

    Carpathian: This means that the first link in the chain of events that led to life on Earth did not require ID.

    Yes, you finally get it. You were equivocating over the term “life” as if the life on earth is the only possible kind of life.

    This means that the first link in the chain of events that led to life on Earth did not require ID.

    So? The living organisms we do know of have features that appear to be designed.

  73. 73
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Carpathian: This means that the first link in the chain of events that led to life on Earth did not require ID.

    Mung: So? The living organisms we do know of have features that appear to be designed.

    This means Dembski’s improbability argument is meaningless since an intelligent designer is not required as a first cause.

  74. 74
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    This means Dembski’s improbability argument is meaningless since an intelligent designer is not required as a first cause.

    Only if true. Big if. Also Donald Johnson says that Dembski’s probability argument is meaningless as your position doesn’t even deserve a place at that table.

    You seem to want to abandon science and jump straight to ultimate causes. Is that out of ignorance or do you have an agenda?

  75. 75
    Mung says:

    Carpathian: This means Dembski’s improbability argument is meaningless since an intelligent designer is not required as a first cause.

    That doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

    ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

    Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

  76. 76
    Box says:

  77. 77
    Carpathian says:

    Mung,

    Let us assume that aliens created life on Earth.

    Let us also assume that aliens did not require an intelligent designer.

    The chain of events that led to life on Earth then did not require ID which is completely contrary to the claims of ID.

    Can someone answer me what would be the CSI of alien beings intelligent enough to create life on Earth?

    Is that CSI higher or lower than ours?

    If the aliens’ CSI is higher than ours, are they more or are they less improbable than we are?

    Why does Dembski’s improbability argument not factor into the existence of alien lifeforms?

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