Home » Culture, Darwinism » Winds of change? Humanist deflates popcorn neuroscience

Winds of change? Humanist deflates popcorn neuroscience

In “Mind in the Mirror,” Raymond Tallis reflects on V.S. Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human, “Neuroscience can explain many brain functions, but not the mystery of consciousness”:

The subtitle of V.S. Ramachandran’s latest book prompts a question: Why should “A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human” be of particular interest? The answer is obvious if you believe, as so many do, that humans are essentially their brains. When a brain scientist speaks, we should pay attention, for “What makes us human” then boils down to what makes our brains special, compared with those of other highly evolved creatures.

RaymondTallis

Dr. Ramachandran and many others, including prominent philosophers like Daniel Dennett and Patricia and Paul Churchland, promise that neuroscience will help us understand not only the mechanism of brain functions (such as those that coordinate movement or underpin speech) but also key features of human consciousness. As of yet, though, we have no neural explanation of even the most basic properties of consciousness, such as the unity of self, how it is rooted in an explicit past and explicit future, how experience is owned and referred to a self, and how we are, or feel that we are, voluntary agents. Neuroscience, in short, has no way of accommodating everyday first-person being.

No, and neuroscience is often invoked to explain things it doesn’t:

Here, as elsewhere, the intellectual audit trail connecting the neuroscience to the things he claims to explain is fragile. For a start, mirror neurons have been observed not just in monkeys and humans but also in swamp sparrows, enabling them to learn to sing the songs they hear. They are admirable birds, but their cultural achievements are modest. Moreover, the existence in humans of a distinct mirror neuron system with properties such as “mind-reading” is still contested. At any rate, the claim that mirror neurons are a “specialized circuitry for social cognition” in humans is a death-defying leap beyond the humble “Monkey see, Monkey do” function they were first observed to have.

Tallis describes himself, at his own site, as a humanist.

He is emeritus professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester, and will publish Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity, presumably a bash at evolutionary psychology and related pseudosciences.

It’s good to see actual humanists weighing in on these questions. Humanism had a respectable history before it was taken over by Darwin worshippers, at which point, the term might better have become “primatist.” What the new humanists were really interested in of human experience is what a chimpanzee could replicate. And once Apes R’ Us hit pop culture, it did considerable damage. After all, many people do not want to rise to the challenge of being human.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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107 Responses to Winds of change? Humanist deflates popcorn neuroscience

  1. “…neuroscience will help us understand not only the mechanism of brain functions (such as those that coordinate movement or underpin speech) but also key features of human consciousness….Neuroscience, in short, has no way of accommodating everyday first-person being.”

    I agree that neuroscience has made no progress helping us understand conscious experience. However, we have learned that brain functions underpin not only movement coordination and speech production and understanding, but also perception, memory, emotion, planning, problem solving of all sorts… in other words, our brains are responsible for thinking. The connection between thinking and conscious experience remains mysterious.

    So while Dennett and the Churchlands overstate neuroscience’s ability to explain consciousness, Tallis and O’Leary understate the evidence that brains support cognition. Any theory (such as ID) that suggests thinking can proceed without a complex physical brain contradicts a huge body of evidence.

  2. Any theory (such as ID) that suggests thinking can proceed without a complex physical brain contradicts a huge body of evidence.

    Since when does ID make that claim? Since ID proponents repeatedly note that inferring design does not get one a positive identification of a designer – and that the spread of possible designers ranges from computer simulations, impersonal telic processes, aliens and alien civilizations, demiurges, and more – any suggestion that ID itself requires a position on the designer’s constitution would be undercut.

    Which isn’t to say someone couldn’t take any design ID infers and mount an argument for a specific identification – but that wouldn’t be an ID argument, anymore than arguing for the presence of teleology based on the function of the human heart is a (scientific) biological argument.

  3. Since when does ID make that claim? Since ID proponents repeatedly note that inferring design does not get one a positive identification of a designer – and that the spread of possible designers ranges from computer simulations, impersonal telic processes, aliens and alien civilizations, demiurges, and more – any suggestion that ID itself requires a position on the designer’s constitution would be undercut.

    Which isn’t to say someone couldn’t take any design ID infers and mount an argument for a specific identification – but that wouldn’t be an ID argument, anymore than arguing for the presence of teleology based on the function of the human heart is a (scientific) biological argument.

    I don’t know what an “impersonal telic process” is, or a “demiurge”, and I don’t think you do either. Logically an alien life form cannot be said to be responsible for first life, but if you’d like to argue they created life on Earth then you may join the Raelians in that and I’d leave you to your speculations. Likewise if you’d like to suggest that a computer was responsible, I won’t argue with you.

    If you refuse to say what it is you are talking about, then you simply aren’t saying anything at all. If you refuse to say what it is you are talking about except to insist that it “thinks”, then we’re back to where we started: To be consistent with our neuroscientific findings you’d need to eliminate anything without a brain of some sort (a complex physical information processing mechanism).

    O’Leary wants to pretend that because neuroscience can’t explain phenomenology, it means that we don’t need brains to think. My point here is that she’s wrong about that.

  4. I don’t know what an “impersonal telic process” is, or a “demiurge”, and I don’t think you do either.

    A demiurge? Some brutely existing creative entity, I believe. Impersonal telic process? I don’t see what’s hard about that at all – a process that reliably produces particular or a range of ends, yet is not itself a person.

    Logically an alien life form cannot be said to be responsible for first life, but if you’d like to argue they created life on Earth then you may join the Raelians in that and I’d leave you to your speculations. Likewise if you’d like to suggest that a computer was responsible, I won’t argue with you.

    The Raelians, or John Gribbin, or Nick Bostrom, or a number of multiverse advocates, or…

    If you won’t argue with me, then you have no argument with ID on this front. ID purports to identify design, not the designer, and the range of possible designers is not at all limited to the immaterial. So no, ID as ID is not wedded to a position on the viability of an immaterial mind.

    You may say ‘Well, okay, but the aliens and computer simulations are just silly’, and that’s fine. I find plenty of popular or obscure ideas silly. But the focus remains what it is.

    O’Leary wants to pretend that because neuroscience can’t explain phenomenology, it means that we don’t need brains to think. My point here is that she’s wrong about that.

    Is she making that argument here? If so, she has a funny way of doing it – quoting some skeptical atheist/humanist doctor who says “Neuroscience can explain many brain functions, but not the mystery of consciousness”. It seems to me she’s doing precisely the opposite – that even among people who do claim that brains are necessary for thinking, materialism (certainly not Dennett-style materialism) doesn’t follow, and in fact some of those people regard such a conclusion as absurd.

    You don’t have to be a materialist to thinking the physical is important, even essential, for thinking. And on the flipside, believing the brain is essential for humans to think doesn’t suffice to show someone is a materialist.

    I’d think you of all people would enjoy having this pointed out.

  5. @aiguy

    -”we have learned that brain functions underpin not only movement coordination and speech production and understanding, but also perception, memory, emotion, planning, problem solving of all sorts… in other words, our brains are responsible for thinking.”

    What we know about brain functions is that they correlate to those things you mentioned. At best one can claim that they provide a structure that facilitates the mental. But it’s the mental that does the thinking. That’s all we can claim to know. That of course does nothing to undermine dualism. Interractionist dualists have already addressed that numerous times and showed how the findings of neuroscience is compatible with dualism.

    So any attempt to use neuroscience to support materialism as it is so often done by the dogmatic types is simply circular logic.

  6. Null,

    A demiurge? Some brutely existing creative entity, I believe.

    I don’t think I’ve seen one of those… do they have brains? Are they conscious? How can you tell if you see one?

    Impersonal telic process? I don’t see what’s hard about that at all – a process that reliably produces particular or a range of ends, yet is not itself a person.

    Are these supposed to be conscious? We know of lots of impersonal processes that reliably produce particular ends (like nuclear fusion) – how can you tell which ones are “telic”? Do they solve novel problems? How do you know?

    If you won’t argue with me, then you have no argument with ID on this front.

    Right – if ID means “alien life forms put life on Earth” then I won’t argue about it, except that ID should be renamed.

    ID purports to identify design, not the designer, and the range of possible designers is not at all limited to the immaterial. So no, ID as ID is not wedded to a position on the viability of an immaterial mind.

    Nobody will say what “design” (noun) means. If it means “the result of thinking” then we’re back to where we started.

    You may say ‘Well, okay, but the aliens and computer simulations are just silly’, and that’s fine. I find plenty of popular or obscure ideas silly. But the focus remains what it is.

    I don’t think these ideas are silly, but I don’t think there is any good reason for us to believe they are true. Moreover I don’t think there is a tremendous amount of popular interest in these ideas; that only arises when it appears the Designer is God-like.

    AIGUY: O’Leary wants to pretend that because neuroscience can’t explain phenomenology, it means that we don’t need brains to think. My point here is that she’s wrong about that.
    NULL: Is she making that argument here? If so, she has a funny way of doing it – quoting some skeptical atheist/humanist doctor who says “Neuroscience can explain many brain functions, but not the mystery of consciousness”.

    Apparently you haven’t read O’Leary much. Anyway my point here was about how Tallis/O’Leary downplay brain function – it isn’t just about movement and speech and a few other things; it is about thinking in general modulo consciousness.

    It seems to me she’s doing precisely the opposite – that even among people who do claim that brains are necessary for thinking, materialism (certainly not Dennett-style materialism) doesn’t follow, and in fact some of those people regard such a conclusion as absurd.

    You don’t have to be a materialist to thinking the physical is important, even essential, for thinking. And on the flipside, believing the brain is essential for humans to think doesn’t suffice to show someone is a materialist.

    I’d think you of all people would enjoy having this pointed out.

    Yes of course I agree with that part.

    above,

    What we know about brain functions is that they correlate to those things you mentioned. At best one can claim that they provide a structure that facilitates the mental. But it’s the mental that does the thinking. That’s all we can claim to know. That of course does nothing to undermine dualism. Interractionist dualists have already addressed that numerous times and showed how the findings of neuroscience is compatible with dualism.

    I’m not arguing against dualism. I’m pointing out that neural mechanisms are known to be responsible for memory, emotion, planning, problem solving, personality, and so on. We don’t understand consciousness, and it could still be true that certain aspects of cognition require mechanisms/processes/effects that are still fundamentally unknown (a la Penrose for example).

  7. There is currently no explanation for consciousness, materialist or otherwise, so nothing to oppose except rah rahs for a materialism that has done nothing significant in this area.

    If someone wants to write in and explain that in such-and-such a brain area researchers found … forget it.

    Anyone who has been under anaesthesia a few times, as I have, will not be surprised to learn how consciousness is temporarily lost.

    We do not thereby learn what it is.

  8. aiguy,

    I don’t think I’ve seen one of those… do they have brains? Are they conscious? How can you tell if you see one?

    Do they have brains? Possibly. Conscious? Maybe we can infer that. How can you tell if you see one? Inference borne out of investigation I suppose.

    Are these supposed to be conscious? We know of lots of impersonal processes that reliably produce particular ends (like nuclear fusion) – how can you tell which ones are “telic”? Do they solve novel problems? How do you know?

    Good questions. Worthy of investigation, don’t you think? We still have trouble ‘knowing’ that other human beings are conscious. Hell, as per Chalmers, we have trouble determining whether thermometers are conscious.

    Right – if ID means “alien life forms put life on Earth” then I won’t argue about it, except that ID should be renamed.

    ID means, as near as I can tell, that some things, even considered ‘natural’, may be the result of design and science can infer this. What could be responsible for said design? There’s a range of possibilities. It’s not at all limited to ‘some immaterial mind’.

    Nobody will say what “design” (noun) means. If it means “the result of thinking” then we’re back to where we started.

    No, we’re not. Not when you’ve based your arguments here on the claim that thinking requires a physical substrate, as if that stance alone were enough to undercut ID. All I have to do is show that ID doesn’t rule out a physical being as a source of design. It doesn’t.

    I don’t think these ideas are silly, but I don’t think there is any good reason for us to believe they are true. Moreover I don’t think there is a tremendous amount of popular interest in these ideas; that only arises when it appears the Designer is God-like.

    And I think it only arises when there appears to be design. Francis Crick suddenly found the suggestion that aliens were responsible for life on earth to be a very interesting idea when he made an ID inference. Dawkins has been cagey, but similarly toyed with such an idea. Others have as well.

    And ‘God-like’? That’s pretty murky. You don’t need to be immaterial to be ‘God-like’. (If you accept that, say, the roman pantheons were gods, you certainly don’t need to be immaterial.)

    Apparently you haven’t read O’Leary much. Anyway my point here was about how Tallis/O’Leary downplay brain function – it isn’t just about movement and speech and a few other things; it is about thinking in general modulo consciousness.

    I’ve read plenty of O’Leary, and I enjoy her writings. I’m pointing out that O’Leary right here is quoting *a self-described humanist who apparently thinks brains are needed for thought* to illustrate skepticism about materialist explanations of mind. It’s the oddest time to suggest she’s mounting the argument you think she is.

    Sometimes people you normally disagree with can be expected to make a point you agree with. I’d really think this is one of those times, honestly. Or what, do you actually prefer the popular idea that the only people who doubt materialism vis a vis minds are theists?

  9. O’Leary,

    There is currently no explanation for consciousness, materialist or otherwise, so nothing to oppose except rah rahs for a materialism that has done nothing significant in this area.

    Just as I said – consciousness is mysterious. Thought on the other hand is less so. And the connection between the two (i.e. is consciousness causal?) remains mysterious as well.

    Anyone who has been under anaesthesia a few times, as I have, will not be surprised to learn how consciousness is temporarily lost.

    Huh? We lose consciousness easily by means of drugs, injury, or disease. This seems to imply that consciousness is also lost when our brain is not just injured but destroyed. Likewise, something without a brain to begin with is likely not to experience consciousness.

    null,

    Do they have brains? Possibly. Conscious? Maybe we can infer that. How can you tell if you see one? Inference borne out of investigation I suppose.

    Demiurges have conscious brains? Then perhaps I’m a demiurge… how can I tell?

    ID means, as near as I can tell, that some things, even considered ‘natural’, may be the result of design and science can infer this.

    What is the scientific definition of “design”?

    What could be responsible for said design? There’s a range of possibilities. It’s not at all limited to ‘some immaterial mind’.

    The range of possibilities are your scientific hypotheses. They need to be evaluated against the evidence if you want to do science. One possibility is a computer, another is a living organism, another is an immaterial mind. I don’t think any of these are good hypotheses, and lumping them all together doesn’t help.

    It’s the oddest time to suggest she’s mounting the argument you think she is.

    Sorry if my timing is bad. I just noticed the thread talking about mind/body stuff and the way Tallis’ argument seemd to imply that brain function was limited to supporting a few robotic-like functions rather than the vast breadth of cognition that we know it actually does underpin.

  10. aiguy,

    Demiurges have conscious brains? Then perhaps I’m a demiurge… how can I tell?

    Well, you’re certainly a designer. Or wait, is that untrue? Or possibly untrue?

    Can I make a reasonable inference about that question, even if I lack utter and certain knowledge?

    What is the scientific definition of “design”?

    You tell me – apparently you’ve got a definition in mind, since you seem certain this can’t even be reasonably inferred.

    The range of possibilities are your scientific hypotheses. They need to be evaluated against the evidence if you want to do science. One possibility is a computer, another is a living organism, another is an immaterial mind. I don’t think any of these are good hypotheses, and lumping them all together doesn’t help.

    Sure it helps, if it’s being noted against the claim that ID fails because it requires an immaterial mind. If in fact it doesn’t, so much for that objection.

    Do I need to provide you with links to debates where Behe himself argues that the designer, for all we know, could be aliens or otherwise? How about links to Dembski admitting to the possible range of designers? If that would help, I’d be happy to do it. I have a feeling you’ve seen it before, though.

    Sorry if my timing is bad. I just noticed the thread talking about mind/body stuff and the way Tallis’ argument seemd to imply that brain function was limited to supporting a few robotic-like functions rather than the vast breadth of cognition that we know it actually does underpin.

    Tallis did this? Really? Did you read the article?

    Here’s a quote: “While it is incontrovertible that a brain in some sort of working order is necessary for everything from the most primitive tingle to the most exquisitely constructed sense of self, that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.”

  11. Just to add one thing.

    Huh? We lose consciousness easily by means of drugs, injury, or disease. This seems to imply that consciousness is also lost when our brain is not just injured but destroyed. Likewise, something without a brain to begin with is likely not to experience consciousness.

    Actually, we don’t even know this. We make inferences given various assumptions, but for all we know consciousness is constant, but memory is what fails. Back to Chalmers and the thermometer.

    Thought on the other hand is less so. And the connection between the two (i.e. is consciousness causal?) remains mysterious as well.

    Actually, even ‘thought’ is plenty mysterious, unless one is comfortable importing final causes right into matter (Where this or that brain state is ‘about’ this or that definitive tihng). Thought, intentionality and aboutness are just as, or more, problematic as consciousness/qualia is, at least on what used to be the typical materialist picture.

    It reminds me of a question I saw asked on scienceblogs, after someone ranted and raved about how materialism was obviously true and could explain everything about minds. So someone asked, “What is matter?” Their response? “We’re not sure about that yet, but we’ll find out eventually.”

  12. null,

    Well, you’re certainly a designer. Or wait, is that untrue? Or possibly untrue? Can I make a reasonable inference about that question, even if I lack utter and certain knowledge?

    If you deign to tell me what a “designer” is then I can answer the question.

    What is the scientific definition of “design”?

    You tell me – apparently you’ve got a definition in mind, since you seem certain this can’t even be reasonably inferred.

    Ok, if I get to define it, then I say the scientific definition of “design (noun)” is “patterns of complex form and function”. Therefore I agree with you and Dembski and Meyer that we can detect design in biology… and I agree with Dawkins about that too!

    And the definition of “design (verb)” is “to cause a design (noun) to exist”… so I agree with Dembski and Meyer and Dawkins about that too. We all agree!

    Now all we have to decide is what the designer of biological designs was. Dawkins thinks it’s evolutionary processes, but Meyer thinks it’s a rational conscious “agent” that is not itself a biological organism. You and Dembski seem to hedge a lot more about what you think it is, so I don’t think you two are saying anything specific at all.

    Do I need to provide you with links to debates where Behe himself argues that the designer, for all we know, could be aliens or otherwise?

    I don’t think “alien life forms” is a very good hypothesis, but if you and Behe like that one, go with it.

    How about links to Dembski admitting to the possible range of designers? If that would help, I’d be happy to do it. I have a feeling you’ve seen it before, though.

    Again: Each designer that you posit is a different hypothesis. An alien life form is one hypothesis. A demiurge is another one (although I still don’t know what those are). And so on.

    Here’s a quote: “While it is incontrovertible that a brain in some sort of working order is necessary for everything from the most primitive tingle to the most exquisitely constructed sense of self, that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.”

    mea culpa, apologies to Tallis. I was going from O’Leary’s quotes of him, which only mentions things “such as” movement and speech.

    Our ability to design is surely mediated by our physical brains and bodies.

  13. null,

    Actually, we don’t even know this. We make inferences given various assumptions, but for all we know consciousness is constant, but memory is what fails. Back to Chalmers and the thermometer.

    This verges hyper-skepticism. Even O’Leary admits we “lose consciousness” rather than just memory under anathesia. If people believed that they endured hideous conscious agony under the surgeon’s knife but then forgot about it, would they still submit to cosmetic surgery?

    Actually, even ‘thought’ is plenty mysterious, unless one is comfortable importing final causes right into matter (Where this or that brain state is ‘about’ this or that definitive tihng). Thought, intentionality and aboutness are just as, or more, problematic as consciousness/qualia is, at least on what used to be the typical materialist picture.

    All mysterious, yes, and obviously no less so under dualism! What is not unclear is that neural processes mediate memory, perception, language, etc.

    It reminds me of a question I saw asked on scienceblogs, after someone ranted and raved about how materialism was obviously true and could explain everything about minds. So someone asked, “What is matter?” Their response? “We’re not sure about that yet, but we’ll find out eventually.”

    Matter? Never mind… Mind? No matter…

  14. aiguy

    I’d like to address your claim that “brain functions underpin not only movement coordination and speech production and understanding, but also perception, memory, emotion, planning, problem solving of all sorts… in other words, our brains are responsible for thinking.”

    I would respond by citing an old saying of the late philosopher Mortimer Adler: we can’t think without our brains, but we don’t think with them. The problem with your choice of verb (“underpin”) is that it fails to distinguish between two kinds of dependence: extrinsic dependence and intrinsic dependence. This distinction is nicely illustrated by the philosopher Dr. David Oderberg in his online essay, Concepts, Dualism and the Human Intellect :

    The idea is that intellectual activity – the formation of concepts, the making of judgments, and logical reasoning – is an essentially immaterial process. By essentially immaterial is meant that intellectual processes, in the sense just mentioned, are intrinsically independent of matter, this being consistent with their being extrinsically dependent on matter for their normal operation in the human being. Extrinsic dependence, then, is a kind of non-essential dependence. For example, certain kinds of plant depend extrinsically, and so non-essentially, on the presence of soil for their nutrition, since they can also be grown hydroponically. But they depend intrinsically, hence essentially, on the presence of certain nutrients that they normally receive from soil but can receive via other routes. Something similar is true of the human intellect…

    Until you can demonstrate that the dependence of thought on the brain is intrinsic rather than merely extrinsic, you have failed to make a convincing case for materialism. In which the case, the possibility of a non-material intelligence existing, be it natural or supernatural, remains a live option.

  15. aiguy,

    Now all we have to decide is what the designer of biological designs was. Dawkins thinks it’s evolutionary processes, but Meyer thinks it’s a rational conscious “agent” that is not itself a biological organism. You and Dembski seem to hedge a lot more about what you think it is, so I don’t think you two are saying anything specific at all.

    ID does not bother with identifying the designer – if someone wants to make that argument, they’re free to do so. It just happens to be an argument distinct from ID as I’ve ever seen it.

    What’s more, I’d be more than happy to see Dawkins argue that design exists in nature and is real. But Dawkins doesn’t take that line and you know it – he regards design as illusory. But even if he didn’t, we can all have a nice little argument about what can in fact be responsible for given designs, what sort of inferences are possible in principle, and so on.

    Let’s see who’s hedging after it plays out. And besides, I recall Dawkins being open to the possibility of alien design in the OoL. Looks like the man entertains the possibility of more designers than you’d suspect, eh?

    I don’t think “alien life forms” is a very good hypothesis, but if you and Behe like that one, go with it.

    It’s not a question of liking, it’s a question of what’s possible given the constraints of ID.

    Again: Each designer that you posit is a different hypothesis. An alien life form is one hypothesis. A demiurge is another one (although I still don’t know what those are). And so on.

    So if an archaeologist identifies a given carved flute as designed, but he doesn’t know who made said flute, he doesn’t have one hypothesis (this flute was designed) but dozens, even thousands (depending on the range of individual possible suspects)?

    If you want to consider the question in that light, go right ahead.

    Our ability to design is surely mediated by our physical brains and bodies.

    Our ability, sure. Maybe all others’, maybe only some others’. ID certainly doesn’t rule that out.

  16. aiguy,

    This verges hyper-skepticism. Even O’Leary admits we “lose consciousness” rather than just memory under anathesia. If people believed that they endured hideous conscious agony under the surgeon’s knife but then forgot about it, would they still submit to cosmetic surgery?

    If it’s hyper-skepticism, then hyper-skepticism is getting pretty popular in philosophy of mind – it’s part of the panpsychist and related views, and possibly part of at least some neutral monist views.

    Further, why does it follow said people ‘endured hideous conscious agony’ necessarily? We aren’t certain of *that* either. People can hallucinate, they can have conscious experiences detached from external stimuli. When we don’t know, we don’t know. No one who’s thought it through ever says “I remember being unconscious”.

    Do I only have dreams when I remember the dreams? Do people ever have experiences they clearly forget? Mind, by your own view, has a lot of mysteries associated with it – we may as well take stock of what we do know, don’t know, and what assumptions we’re making.

    All mysterious, yes, and obviously no less so under dualism! What is not unclear is that neural processes mediate memory, perception, language, etc.

    And dualists, even idealists, would shrug and say ‘We don’t deny that’. The mystery remains, and deeply – s’all I’m pointing out on this front.

  17. vjtorley,

    The fact that physical mechanisms in our brains (and other parts of bodies) are responsible for our abilities to perceive, remember, speak, plan, understand music, perform mathematico-logical inferences, and so on is beyond doubt. These information processing tasks are implemented by our brains in the same sense (though not in the same fashion) as computers implement their information processing tasks, or automobile drive trains implement their locomotive tasks. To think otherwise would render incomprehensible a gigantic body of empirical knowledge.

    Now, what we do not know is if there are some aspects of cognition that require something (force, property, substance, ???) in addition to the physiological processes we’re familiar with. And I agree with O’Leary, Tallis, you, and most here that consciousness remains a hard (mysterious) problem toward which neuroscience has not made progress; it is nonsense to try and explain sentience as an emergent property of complex neural function.

    The idea is that intellectual activity – the formation of concepts, the making of judgments, and logical reasoning – is an essentially immaterial process. By essentially immaterial is meant that intellectual processes, in the sense just mentioned, are intrinsically independent of matter, this being consistent with their being extrinsically dependent on matter for their normal operation in the human being. Extrinsic dependence, then, is a kind of non-essential dependence.

    Apparently Dr. Oderberg believes in dualism, but nobody knows if he’s right or not. It could be that “intellectual activity” is an abstract way of describing certain physical (neural?) processes, the way “processing spreadsheets” is an abstract way of describing other physical processes (in semiconductors).

    For example, certain kinds of plant depend extrinsically, and so non-essentially, on the presence of soil for their nutrition, since they can also be grown hydroponically. But they depend intrinsically, hence essentially, on the presence of certain nutrients that they normally receive from soil but can receive via other routes. Something similar is true of the human intellect…

    Nobody knows if this is true or not. We certainly have nothing to indicate this is true in our shared experience; as far as we know nothing without a human brain in good working order is capable of displaying human intellect.

    Until you can demonstrate that the dependence of thought on the brain is intrinsic rather than merely extrinsic, you have failed to make a convincing case for materialism.

    I’m not making a case for materialism at all. What gave you that idea?

    In which the case, the possibility of a non-material intelligence existing, be it natural or supernatural, remains a live option.

    There are infinite numbers of “live options” about everything. We do not, however, tend to believe in “live options” unless there is some reason to believe it. When it comes to consciousness, we have very, very good reason to believe that consciousness requires a brain in good working order, and that if something goes wrong (drugs, injury, disease, death) consciousness goes away.

    null,

    AIGUY: Now all we have to decide is what the designer of biological designs was. Dawkins thinks it’s evolutionary processes, but Meyer thinks it’s a rational conscious “agent” that is not itself a biological organism. You and Dembski seem to hedge a lot more about what you think it is, so I don’t think you two are saying anything specific at all.
    NULL: ID does not bother with identifying the designer – if someone wants to make that argument, they’re free to do so. It just happens to be an argument distinct from ID as I’ve ever seen it.

    In that case, according to our definition of “design”, “ID” consists of the following proposition:

    “The complex form and function in biology was caused by something that causes complex form and function.”

    Great theory!! I guess science isn’t so hard after all!

    What’s more, I’d be more than happy to see Dawkins argue that design exists in nature and is real.

    If you tell Dawkins to use the definition we’ve agreed upon here, he and everyone else will agree that “real design” exists in biology of course.

    Now, if you would like to offer a different definition, please do so.

    AIGUY: Again: Each designer that you posit is a different hypothesis. An alien life form is one hypothesis. A demiurge is another one (although I still don’t know what those are). And so on.

    NULL: So if an archaeologist identifies a given carved flute as designed, but he doesn’t know who made said flute, he doesn’t have one hypothesis (this flute was designed) but dozens, even thousands (depending on the range of individual possible suspects)?

    Archeologists infer that human beings build these characteristic artifacts of course. Because of what they know about human beings and everything else, they do not hypothesize that these are the products of dogs, or chimps, or aliens from outer space, or that they are products of nuclear fusion, or a demiurge, or an impersonal telic process, or… They invariably conclude that human beings built them! If we found a carved flute that existed before humans did, we would need a new hypothesis. (I would say the first clue would be we were looking for something with fingers and a mouth and that could blow air and hear.)

    If it’s hyper-skepticism, then hyper-skepticism is getting pretty popular in philosophy of mind – it’s part of the panpsychist and related views, and possibly part of at least some neutral monist views.

    Further, why does it follow said people ‘endured hideous conscious agony’ necessarily? We aren’t certain of *that* either. People can hallucinate, they can have conscious experiences detached from external stimuli. When we don’t know, we don’t know. No one who’s thought it through ever says “I remember being unconscious”.

    Do I only have dreams when I remember the dreams? Do people ever have experiences they clearly forget? Mind, by your own view, has a lot of mysteries associated with it – we may as well take stock of what we do know, don’t know, and what assumptions we’re making.

    All mysterious, yes, and obviously no less so under dualism! What is not unclear is that neural processes mediate memory, perception, language, etc.

    And dualists, even idealists, would shrug and say ‘We don’t deny that’. The mystery remains, and deeply – s’all I’m pointing out on this front.

    You know that I agree with all this, and I appreciate in you a fellow traveller down the rabbit hole and (hopefully) back to world of solid tables and chairs and breakfast cereal. You know that I’m all for saying “WE DO NOT KNOW”. That is certainly my answer for OOL, and for consciousness.

    (WRT to unremembered pain – I assume you saw the movie “The Prestige”?)

  18. I think the following statement pretty much sums it up:

    “And dualists, even idealists, would shrug and say ‘We don’t deny that’. The mystery remains, and deeply – s’all I’m pointing out on this front.”

    I don’t see what aiguy is trying to argue here.

  19. above,

    One thing I argue here is that ID can’t make a scientific case by simply alluding to “design” as a cause. Instead, you must say what it is you think caused the complex form and function you are trying to explain. If you say a complex physical life form was the cause, that is one theory (not a very good theory, though). Alternatively if you say something without complex physical form and function was the cause and that it could reason and plan and build complex mechanisms, then you have another theory (which is even a worse theory, because it contradicts neuroscience).

  20. aiguy,

    In that case, according to our definition of “design”, “ID” consists of the following proposition:

    “The complex form and function in biology was caused by something that causes complex form and function.”

    Great theory!! I guess science isn’t so hard after all!

    And we know some classes of candidates that can be best considered responsible for various particular types of form and function.

    Yes, sometimes it isn’t all that hard to at least start asking questions and making reasonable inferences.

    If you tell Dawkins to use the definition we’ve agreed upon here, he and everyone else will agree that “real design” exists in biology of course.

    Now, if you would like to offer a different definition, please do so.

    No, I don’t think they’d agree. They’d question whether that was rightly called design – hell, already there’s been rumblings from ID critics (and I say this as an ID critic of sorts) that merely using certain words is a bad idea, because it ‘gives the impression of design’. And again, this ignores Dawkins himself, and of course Crick, entertaining a certain other type of ‘design’.

    And really, you charge me with hyperskepticism for pointing out a pretty obvious limitation with regards to consciousness and memory, but I’m supposed to take seriously an idea which at heart implies we can’t even make an inference about (say) what could be responsible for a given artifact in nature?

    If we found a carved flute that existed before humans did, we would need a new hypothesis. (I would say the first clue would be we were looking for something with fingers and a mouth and that could blow air and hear.)

    A new hypothesis? If only ID had some ideas on that front! Also, your ‘clue’ is an inference, not a certainty. Just like we wouldn’t necessarily be looking for 28 foot long caskets when trying to find the grave of the subject of the Lincoln Memorial.

    You know that I agree with all this, and I appreciate in you a fellow traveller down the rabbit hole and (hopefully) back to world of solid tables and chairs and breakfast cereal. You know that I’m all for saying “WE DO NOT KNOW”. That is certainly my answer for OOL, and for consciousness.

    If ‘WE DO NOT KNOW’ were uttered more often when appropriate, it wouldn’t be as necessary as it is for everyone from Tallis to O’Leary to otherwise to make the observations they do. I’d even be very happy with people making inferences, so long as they stressed they were making exactly that – inferences. A problem pops up when, as is very common, only certain inferences are allowed, and said inferences are boosted to ‘truth’ or close to it without warrant. Part of Tallis’ complaint isn’t just that he thinks Ram doesn’t really explain all that much, but the certainty that comes with that non-explanation (and likewise the implicit or explicit suggestion that any doubt about such explanations are not just wrong, but delusional. Dennett was the master of this before the tide turned against him.)

    (WRT to unremembered pain – I assume you saw the movie “The Prestige”?)

    I did not, alas. I skip many popular movies and shows.

  21. null,

    And we know some classes of candidates that can be best considered responsible for various particular types of form and function.

    I disagree! You fail to distinguish or characterize at all the class of “intelligent” candidates except for the functional specification (“able to produce complex form and function”). So you can’t claim this “class” as the best explanation of anything, because we know nothing about it.

    No, I don’t think they’d agree. They’d question whether that was rightly called design – …

    You are ignoring the conditional… that Dawkins is told to use my definition that I offered here for the term “design(n/v)”. Nobody denies that biological systems are characterized by complex form and function. Thus, if we use definition I supplied, nobody would deny that biological systems are designs, or that they have been designed. Dawkins would simply be forced to add “…and the designer of these designs is unguided evolution”.

    …hell, already there’s been rumblings from ID critics (and I say this as an ID critic of sorts) that merely using certain words is a bad idea, because it ‘gives the impression of design’. And again, this ignores Dawkins himself, and of course Crick, entertaining a certain other type of ‘design’.

    All this simply underscores my point when I ask for ID’s definition of the word. So how about it – can you provide an actual definition of the noun “design” and the verb “design” (assuming that the noun “designer” means “something that designs”)?

    I’ll anticipate you’ll say it entails “foresight”, but deny that it necessarily requires consciousness (we’ve been down this road). Is that right?

    And really, you charge me with hyperskepticism for pointing out a pretty obvious limitation with regards to consciousness and memory, but I’m supposed to take seriously an idea which at heart implies we can’t even make an inference about (say) what could be responsible for a given artifact in nature?

    You can surely make inferences about causes of things in nature, and if you can test them then you can call them scientific hypotheses. If you infer something outside of our experience (like immaterial intelligence) then you’ll need to provide evidence that such a thing exists (because a priori it is highly unlikely). That leaves ID with the only other possibility – intelligent alien life forms.

    AIGUY: If we found a carved flute that existed before humans did, we would need a new hypothesis. (I would say the first clue would be we were looking for something with fingers and a mouth and that could blow air and hear.)
    NULL: A new hypothesis? If only ID had some ideas on that front! Also, your ‘clue’ is an inference, not a certainty. Just like we wouldn’t necessarily be looking for 28 foot long caskets when trying to find the grave of the subject of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Yes… your point here is? I pointed out that archeologists do not infer “intelligent cause” but rather they infer “human being” as the cause of the flutes they find. There are lots of intelligent causes – like dogs and chimps – but archeologists don’t think those were responsible. Neither do they think ghosts or gods or demiurges or nuclear reactions caused the flute to exist.

    Now, if their inference to human involvement was falsified (because the flute is older than humanity, say), that would require the archeologists to start thinking of what else could have made the flute. And yes, they would hypothesize something with fingers and lips but not be certain of that. Nobody would know what could have been responsible until there was actual evidence of something with the ability to carve flutes that existed at the time.

    Or, if it was an “ID archeologist”, they would just say “I think something capable of carving flutes made it”, which would be of no help at all.

    If ‘WE DO NOT KNOW’ were uttered more often when appropriate, it wouldn’t be as necessary…

    I agree with everything you said from here on; well put.

  22. aiguy,

    I disagree! You fail to distinguish or characterize at all the class of “intelligent” candidates except for the functional specification (“able to produce complex form and function”). So you can’t claim this “class” as the best explanation of anything, because we know nothing about it.

    We know plenty about it, and are able to abstract to a reasonable degree from there. Questions of whether it’s the ‘best’ inference are on another level – I’m aiming for ‘reasonable’ here. A lower bar.

    Thus, if we use definition I supplied, nobody would deny that biological systems are designs, or that they have been designed. Dawkins would simply be forced to add “…and the designer of these designs is unguided evolution”.

    Dawkins also seems open to the prospect of alien designers conceivably, and I think ID proponents would be more than happy to consider ‘evolution’ as a design candidate to compare to. Isn’t that really the point?

    All this simply underscores my point when I ask for ID’s definition of the word. So how about it – can you provide an actual definition of the noun “design” and the verb “design” (assuming that the noun “designer” means “something that designs”)?

    I’ll anticipate you’ll say it entails “foresight”, but deny that it necessarily requires consciousness (we’ve been down this road). Is that right?

    I’m just not interested here – been there, done that, wasn’t persuaded. It was enough for me to point out that ID doesn’t require the designer be immaterial, and to note the range of designers even noted ID proponents entertain as possible candidates.

    There are lots of intelligent causes – like dogs and chimps – but archeologists don’t think those were responsible. Neither do they think ghosts or gods or demiurges or nuclear reactions caused the flute to exist.

    Why? Because certain designers, in principle even if not specifically identified, are judged as being more capable of this or that given design?

    Frankly, I’ve said outright that a large part of my sympathy for ID comes from the fact that many ID critics think it’s entirely possible to scientifically infer a positive lack of design or guidance in nature (or even go beyond inference to demonstrable fact, and scientific to boot.) You’ve read this from me before, I noted it recently in my own thread when explaining my position on ID. My sympathy for ID is conditional – if declaring evolution to be ‘unguided’, or certain biological/’natural’ things to be ‘not designed’ is the stuff of science, then so is contesting said claims and moving in the opposite direction. If that makes science messy, so be it – wild speculation based on little to no evidence doesn’t seem like much of a barrier at any other time lately.

  23. null,

    AIGUY: There are lots of intelligent causes – like dogs and chimps – but archeologists don’t think those were responsible. Neither do they think ghosts or gods or demiurges or nuclear reactions caused the flute to exist.

    NULL: Why? Because certain designers, in principle even if not specifically identified, are judged as being more capable of this or that given design?

    How in the world are you supposed to judge the capabilities of a demiurge?! Even worse, how is one to judge the capabilities of a completely undefined, uncharacterized “intelligent agent”? Clearly, such purely hypothetial entities can be said to be capable of anything at all, which renders them useless as explanatory constructs.

    Frankly, I’ve said outright that a large part of my sympathy for ID comes from the fact that many ID critics think it’s entirely possible to scientifically infer a positive lack of design or guidance in nature (or even go beyond inference to demonstrable fact, and scientific to boot.) You’ve read this from me before, I noted it recently in my own thread when explaining my position on ID.

    I think you can indeed summon some scientific reasoning to defend the specific null hypothesis that no conscious entities preceded the complex form and function (CSI) that ID is intended to account for. I agree with you that this conclusion is by no means a definitive result(!), and that no other positive hypothesis accounting for the first CSI can be supported.

    My sympathy for ID is conditional – if declaring evolution to be ‘unguided’, or certain biological/’natural’ things to be ‘not designed’ is the stuff of science, then so is contesting said claims and moving in the opposite direction. If that makes science messy, so be it – wild speculation based on little to no evidence doesn’t seem like much of a barrier at any other time lately.

    Your strategy is like that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster proponents. To counter what they felt was an unsupported viewpoint (theism) they made up another one (Pastafarianism). If all we have is wild speculation then the correct thing to argue for is what I argue for: mysterianism. Not ID.

  24. aiguy,

    How in the world are you supposed to judge the capabilities of a demiurge?! Even worse, how is one to judge the capabilities of a completely undefined, uncharacterized “intelligent agent”? Clearly, such purely hypothetial entities can be said to be capable of anything at all, which renders them useless as explanatory constructs.

    The ID position, I believe, is that one doesn’t need to ‘judge the capabilities’ in that way, because said abilities don’t need to be known in advance – or at least, not to that level of detail. I likewise point out that the sheer run of possible designers hasn’t kept many ID skeptics from making positive claims of the lack of design. Apparently, this whole ‘being able to infer design’ thing only works if the inference offered is negative. Then, suddenly, we know quite a lot about what a (any!) designer would have REALLY done, and this is scientific knowledge no less.

    I think you can indeed summon some scientific reasoning to defend the specific null hypothesis that no conscious entities preceded the complex form and function (CSI) that ID is intended to account for. I agree with you that this conclusion is by no means a definitive result(!), and that no other positive hypothesis accounting for the first CSI can be supported.

    Sure you can summon ‘some scientific reasoning’, depending on what that means. Is it therefore science to say ‘no design’? If so, you’ve made the question of design a scientific question – and thus the contrary views are also ‘scientific’, even if in the minority. Or the majority, for that matter.

    And honestly, the very idea of a ‘null hypothesis’ of that type seems absurd here. The reasonable ‘null hypothesis’ is ‘science is incapable of determining this one way or the other’. But if the door is open, the door is open, and ID is science.

    Your strategy is like that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster proponents. To counter what they felt was an unsupported viewpoint (theism) they made up another one (Pastafarianism). If all we have is wild speculation then the correct thing to argue for is what I argue for: mysterianism. Not ID.

    The FSM was a smear job from start to finish, an exercise in mockery. I’m merely pushing for consistency, and specifically I’m pushing for consistency among what is largely a pack of hypocrites.

    Quick Quiz: At the NCSE website, home base of those blessed defenders of science, a book is cited: Stenger’s “God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.” Is this book on their list of works that pollute science by importing theological and metaphysical concepts into a realm (science) where they don’t belong, and passing them off as wholly scientific views?

    Or is it on their recommended reading list?

    If pursuing consistency results in groups like that copping to mysterianism (at least insofar as science is concerned), I’ll be pleased. But so long as detecting the lack of design is considered scientific, and scientists who claim to be able to detect the acts of a designer (either broadly, or specifically God) are tolerated, even celebrated *as long as the detection turns up negative*, consistency and intellectual honesty demands supporting those who argue the (honestly, comparatively moderate) claim that a design inference is both reasonable and scientific.

    I’m willing to bet that advocating consistency will produce much more sympathy for mysterianism than advocating mysterianism.

  25. null,

    The ID position, I believe, is that one doesn’t need to ‘judge the capabilities’ in that way, because said abilities don’t need to be known in advance – or at least, not to that level of detail.

    In ID, the capabilities are simply assumed to be adequate to the task of producing any phenomenon we should choose to explain!!! That is exactly why “ID” cannot be evaluated against the evidence.

    I likewise point out that the sheer run of possible designers hasn’t kept many ID skeptics from making positive claims of the lack of design.

    Again, I would say the evidence against the existence of conscious processes occuring outside of CSI-rich mechanisms is significant.

    Apparently, this whole ‘being able to infer design’ thing only works if the inference offered is negative. Then, suddenly, we know quite a lot about what a (any!) designer would have REALLY done, and this is scientific knowledge no less.

    First Dembski says Junk DNA is fully consistent with ID (human programmers don’t write optimal code either, he points out). The rest of the ID movement doesn’t get the memo, and starts “predicting” function will be found for junk DNA because designers wouldn’t junk up the genome. This is all ridiculous precisely because ID makes no attempt to characterize the Designer it is proposing! It can’t be more obvious that anything we observe is compatible with the existence of a completely hypothetical being who can do anything but may choose not to.

    So no, the hypothesis of a “designer” isn’t testable one way or another.

    Sure you can summon ‘some scientific reasoning’, depending on what that means. Is it therefore science to say ‘no design’?

    I’d say this: The concept of “design” isn’t operational in this context, so science in general doesn’t answer that. Neuroscience does indicate that complex thought is necessarily tied to complex brains, which seems to preclude the notion that whatever caused first life employed what we know as conscious thought.

    The reasonable ‘null hypothesis’ is ‘science is incapable of determining this one way or the other’. But if the door is open, the door is open, and ID is science.

    There is some evidence against the specific proposition of conscious minds preceding CSI, which would count against some types of candidate Designers. When ID can think of any way to provide a testable characterization of the proposed entity(ies) there will be more to discuss, but until then it is a scientific non-starter. Science can’t determine the existence of a spaghetti monster one way or another either, but we needn’t give it another thought until the Pastafarians tell us something about this monster that would enable us to demonstrate that it exists.

    Quick Quiz: At the NCSE website, home base of those blessed defenders of science, a book is cited: Stenger’s “God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.” Is this book on their list of works that pollute science by importing theological and metaphysical concepts into a realm (science) where they don’t belong, and passing them off as wholly scientific views?

    Or is it on their recommended reading list?

    So your answer is to suggest “intelligent designers” and “spaghetti monsters”? I don’t think this is a good response.

    Oh, what’s that? Just one of these but not the other? Hmm, doesn’t seem fair.

    If pursuing consistency results in groups like that copping to mysterianism (at least insofar as science is concerned), I’ll be pleased. But so long as detecting the lack of design is considered scientific, and scientists who claim to be able to detect the acts of a designer (either broadly, or specifically God) are tolerated, even celebrated *as long as the detection turns up negative*, consistency and intellectual honesty demands supporting those who argue the (honestly, comparatively moderate) claim that a design inference is both reasonable and scientific.

    I’m willing to bet that advocating consistency will produce much more sympathy for mysterianism than advocating mysterianism.

    We really don’t disagree about anything except… honesty. Neither of us defends a scientific explanation for OOL, but while I want to say exactly that truth, you want to push one particular unfounded speculation (which may run afoul of neuroscience, but is so ambiguous that you can’t say) in order to even the score with the people pushing atheism.

    No, I think you should argue that people shouldn’t push unfounded conclusions – that can’t be mistaken as a religious argument like ID is. Push to get the NCSE to stop detecting no-gods, not to get them to push demigods (or …urges).

  26. aiguy,

    In ID, the capabilities are simply assumed to be adequate to the task of producing any phenomenon we should choose to explain!!! That is exactly why “ID” cannot be evaluated against the evidence.

    Even if you take the line that it’s assumed, there’s plenty of evidence that supports the capability in principle. Is there evidence humanity is capable of eventually, say… landing a human on Mars?

    Again, I would say the evidence against the existence of conscious processes occuring outside of CSI-rich mechanisms is significant.

    Really? Because, while I note that there is zero evidence available that any particular process is either in particular or as a whole unguided and unplanned ultimately or proximately (you can’t ‘see’ non-guidance – at best you can fail to find some correlations) there’s tremendous evidence of intelligent agents orchestrating not only CSI-rich mechanisms and processes, but non-CSI-rich mechanisms and processes as well. Any assumption that other processes and mechanisms take place or originate without a plan is exactly that – an assumption. Not even verifiable in principle.

    It can’t be more obvious that anything we observe is compatible with the existence of a completely hypothetical being who can do anything but may choose not to.

    So no, the hypothesis of a “designer” isn’t testable one way or another.

    And what – nature has limits? At least in the case of designers we actually know, first-hand, some designers do exist and are capable. Actual evidence. Meanwhile, ‘nature’ is an abstract every bit as unbounded as a hypothetical designer, doubly so once we start looking at multiverse ideas (whether in the David Lewis form or the cosmological forms.)

    Neuroscience does indicate that complex thought is necessarily tied to complex brains, which seems to preclude the notion that whatever caused first life employed what we know as conscious thought.

    Necessarily? It couldn’t establish that in the relevant sense if it tried – questions of the idea of an immaterial mind is outside the bounds of science by definition. Questions of necessity are where philosophy and metaphysics take over.

    But even if that were the case – hey, maybe there was no ‘first life’. Maybe it goes back eternally, some chain of designers in Biocosm or Gribbin or even Bostrom style. Maybe our understanding of conscious thought is woefully inadequate (really, that seems to be the case whether we like it or not.) Hell, maybe ‘first matter’ and ‘first life’/'originating thought’ were identical. Even our concept of ‘physical’ is up in the air at a fundamental level.

    There is some evidence against the specific proposition of conscious minds preceding CSI, which would count against some types of candidate Designers.

    And there’s quite a lot of evidence in favor of the proposition that life on earth was preceded by a mind of some sort. We have our evidence and our observations, and we make our inferences. The only difference is that some people don’t like certain inferences, and wish the field was restricted to only one kind.

    Oh, what’s that? Just one of these but not the other? Hmm, doesn’t seem fair.

    It’s their inconsistency, aiguy. Not mine. *They* rule that guys like Stenger or Dawkins are ‘okay’, people they can turn a blind eye to when they mix metaphysics/philosophy and science, but it’s those “other guys” who have to be put on a different list.

    Let me know when they become consistent. Don’t hold your breath.

    We really don’t disagree about anything except… honesty. Neither of us defends a scientific explanation for OOL, but while I want to say exactly that truth, you want to push one particular unfounded speculation (which may run afoul of neuroscience, but is so ambiguous that you can’t say) in order to even the score with the people pushing atheism.

    There’s nothing dishonest about my position. I say explicitly what standards I’m using, and that standard is consistency. I could just as easily say you’re being dishonest, since you walk around hammering against ID proponents for daring to make a design inference and call it ‘science’, but really, the design inferences made by Stenger and company seem not nearly to bother you as much – despite their being vastly more common, and wielding considerably more influence as a group in the relevant areas.

    No, I think you should argue that people shouldn’t push unfounded conclusions – that can’t be mistaken as a religious argument like ID is. Push to get the NCSE to stop detecting no-gods, not to get them to push demigods (or …urges).

    Funny thing is, I’m doing that – all by simply being consistent and honest. If detecting the lack of design is allowed and acceptable and scientific, then necessarily so is detecting the presence of design. If it’s permissible to mix metaphysics and philosophy with science and pass it off as science, then it’s permissible.

    What I am against here, first and foremost, is hypocrisy. If people are happy with science becoming the home of utter unbounded speculation, I’ll live with that. I’ll just fight against hypocrisy in the process. If people want – truly want – metaphysics, socio-political agendas, and (a)theology out of science, I’m fine with that too. But again, it’s across the board.

  27. aiguy

    You write:

    Neuroscience does indicate that complex thought is necessarily tied to complex brains… (emphasis mine – VJT.)

    No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t even indicate that complex thought is necessarily tied to complex brains for human beings. (For instance, there have been reports of NDEs occurring in the absence of brain function – bornagain77 has lots of videos.) All we can say is that so far, we’ve never observed complex thought occurring under controlled laboratory conditions, in the absence of a brain. That’s a vastly weaker claim.

    You also write:

    The fact that physical mechanisms in our brains (and other parts of bodies) are responsible for our abilities to perceive, remember, speak, plan, understand music, perform mathematico-logical inferences, and so on is beyond doubt. These information processing tasks are implemented by our brains in the same sense (though not in the same fashion) as computers implement their information processing tasks, or automobile drive trains implement their locomotive tasks. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

    The fatal assumption you are making here is that thought is nothing but information processing. Thought involves adverting to, or paying attention to, rules, and following those rules as norms that govern how we ought to think. That’s a very different thing from merely behaving in accordance with a rule, which is all that computers can ever be said to do (the rule in question being the one that they’ve been programmed to follow). A computer just processes information. It can’t say to itself: “I ought to do it this way, and not that way.”

    The attempt to reduce intentionality (or the normativity of thought) to physical processes is a philosophical failure. To see why, I’d recommend Dr. Angus Menuge’s article, Dennett Denied: A Critique of Dennet’s Evolutionary Account of Intentionality .

    Lastly, I’d like to make a plea for genuinely open-ended scientific inquiry. The search for a Designer of the CSI we find in living things should not be constrained in advance by a set of generalizations about designers, which are based on purely inductive evidence. We’s never have discovered the platypus with thinking like that.

  28. aiguy:
    >Any theory (such as ID) that
    >suggests thinking can proceed
    >without a complex physical brain >contradicts a huge body of >evidence.

    What evidence tells us that “thinking” cannot proceed without a brain?

    The closest example of knowing what happens when our brain dies would be a “Near Death Experience”, and studies into such experiences seems to indicate that consciousness can infact exist without a brain.

  29. Dala:

    In addition AIG is failing to address the evidence that the observed cosmos as a whole reflects fine-tuned purposeful design that puts it at an operating point supportive of C-chemistry cell based life.

    A fairly simple analysis points from that radical contingency — even through any of several multiverse type suggestions — to a necessary, intelligent, deeply knowledgeable and powerful being that is prior to the sort of matter-energy space time world we observe.

    GEM of TKI

  30. null

    Even if you take the line that it’s assumed, there’s plenty of evidence that supports the capability in principle. Is there evidence humanity is capable of eventually, say… landing a human on Mars?

    Humans are smart, but didn’t create first life. Whatever created first life was (obviously, by definition) not itself alive, so it is something very different from anything we know from experience. We know nothing about things that are not complex organisms but can somehow perform complex tasks; we can make up stories that something like that exists, but they’re just stories.

    Really? Because, while I note that there is zero evidence available that any particular process is either in particular or as a whole unguided and unplanned ultimately or proximately (you can’t ‘see’ non-guidance – at best you can fail to find some correlations) there’s tremendous evidence of intelligent agents orchestrating not only CSI-rich mechanisms and processes, but non-CSI-rich mechanisms and processes as well. Any assumption that other processes and mechanisms take place or originate without a plan is exactly that – an assumption. Not even verifiable in principle.

    You misunderstood: I said there is evidence that consciousness requires complex (CSI-rich) mechanism, not that we can’t build both complex and simple artifacts. All I’m saying is as far as our uniform and repeated experience goes, everything that thinks needs a working brain.

    But even if that were the case – hey, maybe there was no ‘first life’. Maybe it goes back eternally, some chain of designers in Biocosm or Gribbin or even Bostrom style. Maybe our understanding of conscious thought is woefully inadequate (really, that seems to be the case whether we like it or not.) Hell, maybe ‘first matter’ and ‘first life’/’originating thought’ were identical. Even our concept of ‘physical’ is up in the air at a fundamental level.

    All completely true, null. All up in the air, so to speak. Exactly so.

    And there’s quite a lot of evidence in favor of the proposition that life on earth was preceded by a mind of some sort. We have our evidence and our observations, and we make our inferences. The only difference is that some people don’t like certain inferences, and wish the field was restricted to only one kind.

    I don’t think the observable evidence suggests that, and you do… No problem there unless you claim that our shared experience confirms your particular inference, because it doesn’t. Shared experience confirms all sorts of scientific results, but nothing about how life started (or why it exists, etc).

    Again, our disagreement is about what to argue, not what we believe. You want to level the field by repeating the mistakes of people who overstate the scientific case for OOL without mind; I want everyone to admit that science doesn’t tell us things things – at least yet.

    vjtorley

    AIGUY:Neuroscience does indicate that complex thought is necessarily tied to complex brains…
    VJT: No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t even indicate that complex thought is necessarily tied to complex brains for human beings. (For instance, there have been reports of NDEs occurring in the absence of brain function – bornagain77 has lots of videos.) All we can say is that so far, we’ve never observed complex thought occurring under controlled laboratory conditions, in the absence of a brain. That’s a vastly weaker claim.

    Thinking without a working brain hasn’t been reliably observed in or out of the lab, even though our experience of embodied thought is gigantic. You can imagine brains are unnecessary, sure… but you could also imagine that complex form and function pops into existence without intelligent cause! Just because we haven’t observed that in a lab doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, right?

    In fact, our experience confirms both of these beliefs: complex machinery does not come to exist without the action of mind, and mind does not operate without the action of complex machinery.

    The fatal assumption you are making here is that thought is nothing but information processing.

    If you read what I’ve written to you, you’ll see I make no such assumption. I say information processing is necessary for thought; I do not say that it is necessarily sufficient.

    Thought involves adverting to, or paying attention to, rules, and following those rules as norms that govern how we ought to think.

    That’s your opinion; I don’t happen to think that describes how thought works.

    That’s a very different thing from merely behaving in accordance with a rule, which is all that computers can ever be said to do (the rule in question being the one that they’ve been programmed to follow). A computer just processes information. It can’t say to itself: “I ought to do it this way, and not that way.”

    Sorry but this is a very naive challenge to strong AI. Any competent philosopher – no matter what their particular stance – would agree that this sort of argument doesn’t even pose a challenge to functionalism, much less materialism. But in any event, I’m not even arguing for materialism! All I’m saying is that minds do not appear to function without the action of complex machinery.

    The attempt to reduce intentionality (or the normativity of thought) to physical processes is a philosophical failure. To see why, I’d recommend Dr. Angus Menuge’s article, Dennett Denied: A Critique of Dennet’s Evolutionary Account of Intentionality .

    I don’t think you’re reading me carefully enough. I happen to think Menuge fails miserably, but that is completely irrelevant to the argument I’m making here. My argument can be compatible with dualism.

    Lastly, I’d like to make a plea for genuinely open-ended scientific inquiry.

    YES! We agree completely here.

    The search for a Designer of the CSI we find in living things should not be constrained in advance by a set of generalizations about designers, which are based on purely inductive evidence. We’s never have discovered the platypus with thinking like that.

    LOL… I think we would have discovered the platypus one way or the other just by swimming in Australian rivers :-)

    Anyway, I am as open-minded about this as one can get.

    Dala

    What evidence tells us that “thinking” cannot proceed without a brain?

    You need to be able to measure “thinking” (or “intelligence”), so you have to have some operationalized definition for that. Then you apply it to everything you can find and test to see if it can think or not. What you find is that every single thing that can think has an active, complex, physical information processing mechanism operating in it, and if this mechanism ceases to operate, the indications of thinking also cease. This is highly suggestive evidence that thinking requires brains.

    The closest example of knowing what happens when our brain dies would be a “Near Death Experience”, and studies into such experiences seems to indicate that consciousness can infact exist without a brain.

    You don’t have to make the brain die to test my claim; you can incapacitate it easily with drugs.

    And about the NDEs – If you think this is strong evidence for the existence of mind that can operate independently of mechanism, then this is a very important result. If true, it would convince me and many other people that an immaterial mind may have been responsible for creating life. So this is crucial to ID! Why do you think no major ID authors mention anything like this in their books?

    KF

    You believe that fine-tuning suggests a “necessary, intelligent, deeply knowledgeable and powerful being”. I disagree, and suggest that we do not know why the universe exists, or why physics is the way it is. We have no knowledge of anything remotely like anything that can “create natural laws” or “set physical constants”. We have no reason to believe we understand anything about this stuff, and we most certainly can’t call any speculation we come with a scientific inference or result (rather than our own personal faith-based belief).

  31. aiguy,

    Humans are smart, but didn’t create first life. Whatever created first life was (obviously, by definition) not itself alive, so it is something very different from anything we know from experience.

    Again, you assume that ultimately when we go back, there A) has to be an end to the chain, and B) that this end cannot be alive or intelligent in any way. You cop to this later in the reply, but the fact is we can make inferences at this moment about these things. At so many other times and situations said inferences are allowed and are call scientific. Why not now?

    All I’m saying is as far as our uniform and repeated experience goes, everything that thinks needs a working brain.

    Again, it’s not the case. We never observe thought directly – what we do is make inferences. And I’ve pointed out repeatedly that ID doesn’t say “Well, whatever is responsible for life on earth didn’t have a working brain!” The inference is available.

    Further, you yourself claim later that thinking is not observed outside the lab, insofar as ‘thinking’ is given certain operational definitions. And what if that definition is wrong? You note Menuge and Dennett, but while I happen to think Menuge’s argument points out serious flaws in Dennett’s thinking, I’ll note that Dennett played the game of ‘agreeing everyone is conscious’ by going back and radically redefine what ‘conscious’ could possibly mean straight from the beginning.

    It’s an open question of whether those ‘operational definitions of thought and intelligence’ are apt. But insofar as the question is open, it makes problematic these claims about observation of ‘thought’.

    Incidentally, you’re wrong about the ‘rule’ argument. Plenty of competent philosophers, from Searle to otherwise, think it’s a powerful argument – in part because it helps show that when we talk about ‘brains following rules’, we either aren’t actually embracing materialism, or our example doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means – and we have to give up the explanatory power of such and move towards an eliminative materialism.

    No problem there unless you claim that our shared experience confirms your particular inference, because it doesn’t. Shared experience confirms all sorts of scientific results, but nothing about how life started (or why it exists, etc).

    It provides support to a very reasonable inference. This inference may or may not change over time, depending on what data comes in. But yes, we really can make an inference now. Apparently everyone agrees – so long as that inferences is “in spite of everything, no design or mind”.

    Again, our disagreement is about what to argue, not what we believe. You want to level the field by repeating the mistakes of people who overstate the scientific case for OOL without mind; I want everyone to admit that science doesn’t tell us things things – at least yet.

    No, I simply want consistency strived for on this topic. If making inferences about design based on science is not a mistake, then it’s not a mistake – and making the inferences offered in this thread are not only scientific, but valid as far as they go. If making such inferences is a mistake, then let’s see condemnations of those who are making them like Stenger, etc.

    When the game is “This sort of thing is horrible, condemnable, and must be fought when ID proponents do it. But when everyone else do it, let’s shake our heads sadly – but ignore it and go back to criticizing ID proponents”, it’s an unfair game.

  32. Onlookers:

    The above thread shows several of the characteristic challenges faced by a priori evolutionary materialistic thinkers on issues linked to origins.

    Let us list:

    a: Lewontinian a priori materialism, which is self refuting [once one has to account for the credibility of mind on chance plus necessity acting on matter],

    b: selective hyperskepticism that injects a radical inconsistency in standards of warrant for knowledge claims — reflective of that a priorism [especially the impact of the ideologised mind that leads one to filter off and reject out of hand relevant, cogent contrary evidence that simply does not fit with materialism -- our conscious, minded, enconscienced state], and

    c: the embarrassing point of needing to be free to think with a credible mind and to speak as one recognises one ought to — logically and factually — instead of simply playing out genetic and socio-cultural programming blindly; while using these faculties to compose and announce theories that deny the very faculties that you are forced to use to develop and communicate a theory.

    When it comes to the existence and import of the fine-tuned observed cosmos, we unfortunately can see all of these fallacies in action.

    GEM of TKI

  33. AIG:

    In light of the just above, pardon: I think you need to answer some issues on the merits, showing us in factual and logical steps how you justify your views.

    Dismissive assertions and quips (as appear above) will not do.

    While you are at it, I think this paper by O’Connor will be a useful first point of reference on the issue of the significance of freedom in agency.

    GEM of TKI

  34. F/N: We should also note that the design inference, strictly, is from observation of reliable signs of design to the conclusion that that which manifests such signs of design is designed. This then opens up the question who or what are credible candidates, but that is a secondary question. The primary issue is: can we identify reliable signs of design as cause? Obviously yes. On such signs, if the sign is present the cause is the best explanation. Beyond that, who dunit, and howtweredun, are onward questions. But they are not the decisive ones — that is why we ever so often see a persistent skipping over of what is primary to try to debate what is secondary. G

  35. null,

    Again, you assume that ultimately when we go back, there A) has to be an end to the chain, and B) that this end cannot be alive or intelligent in any way.

    I make neither of these assumptions. I believe we do not know if there is an end (beginning) of the causal chain for either life or the universe, and I do not assume anything at all about the nature of the first cause if does indeed exist. I think we do not know. I’m not sure I can make this any more clear than I already have.

    AIGUY: All I’m saying is as far as our uniform and repeated experience goes, everything that thinks needs a working brain.
    NULL: Again, it’s not the case.

    That’s patently ridiculous. It is exactly the case of course.

    We never observe thought directly – what we do is make inferences.

    Duh.

    And I’ve pointed out repeatedly that ID doesn’t say “Well, whatever is responsible for life on earth didn’t have a working brain!” The inference is available.

    ID doesn’t say much of anything of course! That is the problem, and why it can’t be evaluated against evidence.

    ONE MORE TIME: By the law of the excluded middle, the Designer of ID must either 1) have been a living thing and relied on a complex, physical information processing mechanism (like a brain) as all intelligent animals do, or 2) not. We look at these two mututally exclusive and exhaustive possibilities:

    Under hypothesis (1) ID does not explain the origin of life or CSI, and instead merely reiterates what we all already know, that life begets life and complex machinery begets complex machinery. Also there is no evidence that anything with a brain existed before life on Earth.

    Hypothesis (2) is worse, since there is no evidence to support it and it contradicts neuroscientific findings.

    So whether ID is talking about alien life, gods, demiurges, or whatever, none of its hypotheses enjoy any scientific support at all.

    Further, you yourself claim later that thinking is not observed outside the lab, insofar as ‘thinking’ is given certain operational definitions. And what if that definition is wrong?

    LOL! If you can’t define these mentalistic terms once and for all that is clearly ID’s problem, not mine. ID Theory offers “thought” or “conscious deliberation” or “intelligence” as it’s sole explanatory concept… but can’t operationalize any of these concepts.

    It’s an open question of whether those ‘operational definitions of thought and intelligence’ are apt. But insofar as the question is open, it makes problematic these claims about observation of ‘thought’.

    You couldn’t be more correct here! We can’t even decide how to tell if things that we can observe are ‘thinking’ or not… yet ID pretends we can discern whether or not something we cannot observe is capable of thinking! It’s just ridiculous.

    Incidentally, you’re wrong about the ‘rule’ argument. Plenty of competent philosophers, from Searle to otherwise, think it’s a powerful argument – in part because it helps show that when we talk about ‘brains following rules’, we either aren’t actually embracing materialism, or our example doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means – and we have to give up the explanatory power of such and move towards an eliminative materialism.

    Uh, no, I am not wrong about this at all. Read the post again: Neither Searle nor any other philosopher argues against functionalism or materialism by claiming that “A computer just processes information. It can’t say to itself: ‘I ought to do it this way, and not that way’”. Obviously a computer can “say to itself” precisely that, and they do that all the time. I had previously said I don’t happen to think thought proceeds by following rules, but I didn’t say that all philosophers agreed with that.

    It provides support to a very reasonable inference. This inference may or may not change over time, depending on what data comes in. But yes, we really can make an inference now. Apparently everyone agrees – so long as that inferences is “in spite of everything, no design or mind”.

    You seem to be repeating yourself without listening to me. We are discussing whether we have good evidential support to characterize the cause of life or the universe. I believe we both agree that we do not. You can infer what you’d like, but you can’t suggest any way to use our shared experience in order to demonstrate your inference is valid… so your inference can’t be considered scientific. Period.

    it’s an unfair game.

    You can argue tu quoque to your heart’s content. That doesn’t change the truth of the matter.

  36. aiguy,

    I make neither of these assumptions. I believe we do not know if there is an end (beginning) of the causal chain for either life or the universe, and I do not assume anything at all about the nature of the first cause if does indeed exist. I think we do not know. I’m not sure I can make this any more clear than I already have.

    We do not know with certainty? Sure. But ID doesn’t claim otherwise – what is claimed is that we can, at this moment, with the knowledge we have, make certain inferences, and that such inferences are scientific. If you think ID touts itself as demonstrating utter truth, you’ve not been following ID much.

    That’s patently ridiculous. It is exactly the case of course.

    No, it’s subject to exactly the problems and limitations I’ve mentioned. They’re pretty common sense limitations of such investigations – you yourself spoke of operational definitions. I’m just pointing it out.

    So whether ID is talking about alien life, gods, demiurges, or whatever, none of its hypotheses enjoy any scientific support at all.

    Only if you freely redefine the boundaries of science, of what counts as support, and cast a blind eye towards what others are doing in that regard.

    But approach the question consistently, and that changes fast.

    LOL! If you can’t define these mentalistic terms once and for all that is clearly ID’s problem, not mine. ID Theory offers “thought” or “conscious deliberation” or “intelligence” as it’s sole explanatory concept… but can’t operationalize any of these concepts.

    I’ve noted repeatedly that ID makes inferences about design, and that said inferences do not require a mind to be utterly immaterial. My point on these definitions of ‘thought’ and ‘intelligence’ was more general, and related to the Menuge comments.

    You couldn’t be more correct here! We can’t even decide how to tell if things that we can observe are ‘thinking’ or not… yet ID pretends we can discern whether or not something we cannot observe is capable of thinking! It’s just ridiculous.

    My being correct comes at a price. We can’t decide, but we can come up with definitions and see how far we get with said definitions. These definitions may not be full-proof, they may involve some a prioris, and yet progress can be made – and in other contexts, this is treated as scientific.

    Uh, no, I am not wrong about this at all. Read the post again: Neither Searle nor any other philosopher argues against functionalism or materialism by claiming that “A computer just processes information. It can’t say to itself: ‘I ought to do it this way, and not that way’”. Obviously a computer can “say to itself” precisely that, and they do that all the time. I had previously said I don’t happen to think thought proceeds by following rules, but I didn’t say that all philosophers agreed with that.

    A computer has a self? It has consciousness? When last we spoke about this, you said you didn’t believe these things.

    As for Searle, from 47 of Minds, Brains and Science:

    “Now, the moral for this discussion of cognitivism can be put very simply: In the sense in which human beings follow rules (and incidentally human beings follow rules a whole lot less than cognitivists claim they do), in that sense computers don’t follow rules at all. They only act in accord with certain formal procedures. The program of the computer determines the various steps the machinery will go through; it determines how one state will be transformed into a subsequent state. And we can speak metaphorically as if this were a matter of following rules. But in the literal sense in which human beings follow rules computers do not follow rules, they only act as if they are following rules.” (His emphasis, not mine.)

    Yes, Searle would agree a computer can “say to itself” this or that. Quotes included. Treated as a metaphor.

    You can infer what you’d like, but you can’t suggest any way to use our shared experience in order to demonstrate your inference is valid… so your inference can’t be considered scientific. Period.

    Is valid meaning what? Undeniably true with no hope of being wrong? Or a reasonable view considering the evidence? You seem to be suggesting that an inference isn’t valid unless it’s universally accepted, or that something isn’t scientific unless same. That seems flatly incorrect.

    You can argue tu quoque to your heart’s content. That doesn’t change the truth of the matter.

    And the truth of the matter is there’s nothing innately dishonest about arguing for consistency, anymore than it’s necessarily dishonest for the definition of science to be argued about. But hypocrisy, beating up on one group for their excesses and candidly ignoring another, more prominent group’s excesses, for violating the same “rule”s? I question that.

  37. aiguy

    Thank you for your comments. First, I’d like to go back to an earlier comment of yours:

    I’m not arguing against dualism. I’m pointing out that neural mechanisms are known to be responsible for memory, emotion, planning, problem solving, personality, and so on. We don’t understand consciousness, and it could still be true that certain aspects of cognition require mechanisms/processes/effects that are still fundamentally unknown (a la Penrose for example).

    If you believe that neural mechanisms are responsible for the distinctively human operations that people do – solving problems, planning ahead and so on – then in my book, that makes you effectively a materialist. Even if you were to maintain that “some aspects of cognition” may possibly be non-material, they seem to not do any real work in your scheme of things. So at best, you’re an epiphenomenalist, which still makes you a kind of materialist.

    You also write:

    But in any event, I’m not even arguing for materialism! All I’m saying is that minds do not appear to function without the action of complex machinery.

    “Do not appear to function” or “cannot function”? Which is it? If the former, then why are you so skeptical regarding the possibility of an immaterial intelligence, simply because of experiments performed in the laboratory on one planet, and on one species of intelligent being, over a very short sliver of the history of the cosmos (100 years, compared with the 13.7 billion years that the cosmos has existed)? The fact that a gigantic number of experiments have been performed is simply irrelevant: the sample is biased, because it is confined to a single species, and a single planet.

    But if you mean “cannot function”, then you are dogmatically asserting that minds – of whatever stripe – cannot function without underlying complex machinery. Now, I suggested to you previously the possibility that the dependence of the human mind on the underlying machinery of the brain is merely extrinsic (like that of plants on soil), rather than intrinsic as many scientists think. You rejected this proposal, so I take it you think that minds are intrinsically dependent on some sort of complex machinery. But if that’s what you believe, then that makes you a materialist. In which case, I have to say I am perplexed by your bizarre denial that you are arguing for materialism. You must have a very strange definition of materialism.

    Second, I’d like to ask whether you have actually read Dr. Oderberg’s article, Concepts, Dualism, and the Human Intellect . Judging from your comment:

    You can imagine brains are unnecessary, sure… but you could also imagine that complex form and function pops into existence without intelligent cause!

    … you seem to think that the principal argument against materialism is that I can conceive of thought occurring without a brain – which suggests to me that you haven’t read Oderberg’s article. Now, I quite agree with you that conceivability proves little or nothing regarding real possibility. I can conceive of a winged horse, but that doesn’t make it possible.

    In fact, however, the arguments against materialism are far more philosophically sophisticated than you seem to think. On my Website, at http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....oul-formal , I list no less than seven major arguments against materialism, with links to essays by leading philosophers of mind. I would invite you to peruse these essays. Later on, I also discuss transcendental and phenomenological arguments, as well as attempted reductio ad absurdum arguments, but I attach less importance to these. I regard the seven formal arguments as the best.

    You seem to think that my claim that computers can’t follow rules is a “very naive challenge” to strong AI. Methinks you haven’t read the literature. Here are a few good links that will set you straight:

    Conscious computers are a delusion by Professor Raymond Tallis.

    Minds and machines by Dr. Gerard Casey.

    Immaterial Aspects of Thought by Professor James Ross.

    I would also like to note in passing that you have nowhere defined “machine.”

    Third, regarding Near-Death Experiences, you wrote to Dala (#28):

    And about the NDEs – If you think this is strong evidence for the existence of mind that can operate independently of mechanism, then this is a very important result. If true, it would convince me and many other people that an immaterial mind may have been responsible for creating life. So this is crucial to ID! Why do you think no major ID authors mention anything like this in their books?

    OK. You want links? Here they are, courtesy of bornagain77.

    The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The Extremely ‘Monitored’ Near Death Experience of Pam Reynolds – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045560

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience (NDE) – Pim von Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their Near Death Experiences (NDEs). 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth. (of note: This ‘anomaly’ is also found for deaf people who can hear sound during their Near Death Experiences(NDEs).)
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

    Enjoy!

    Fourth, you have asserted on this post that ID does not define “design.” Here are two definitions from The Design of Life by Professor William Dembski and Dr. Jonathan Wells:

    design (as entity) An event, object or structure that an intelligence brought about by matching means to ends.

    design (as process) A four-part process by which a DESIGNER forms a designed object: (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute that plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) The designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. What emerges is a designed object. The designer is successful to the extent that the object fulfills the designer’s purpose.

    designer An intelligent agent that arranges material structures to accomplish a purpose. Whether this agent is personal or impersonal, part of nature or beyond nature, active through miraculous intervention or through ordinary physical causes are all possibilities within the theory of INTELLIGENT DESIGN. In particular, a designer need not be a CREATOR.

    I hope that answers your questions.

    Finally, I’d like to address your central claim that if life on Earth (and elsewhere in the cosmos) was designed, then the Designer must have been immaterial. ID doesn’t assert this. You could, if you wished, maintain that aliens from another universe designed life in this universe. Do I think that’s a good explanation? No, I don’t. But ID, as a scientific research program, cannot rule this explanation out.

    P.S. Regarding the platypus, this might be of interest to you:

    When the Platypus was first encountered by Europeans in 1798, a pelt and sketch were sent back to Great Britain by Captain John Hunter, the second Governor of New South Wales. British scientists’ initial hunch was that the attributes were a hoax. George Shaw, who produced the first description of the animal in the Naturalist’s Miscellany in 1799, stated that it was impossible not to entertain doubts as to its genuine nature, and Robert Knox believed it may have been produced by some Asian taxidermist. It was thought that somebody had sewn a duck’s beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal. Shaw even took a pair of scissors to the dried skin to check for stitches.

    When doing research of any kind, it pays to keep an open mind. That is why we should reject dogmatism about what minds do and do not need.

  38. aiguy (#35)

    I just noticed your comment:

    ONE MORE TIME: By the law of the excluded middle, the Designer of ID must either 1) have been a living thing and relied on a complex, physical information processing mechanism (like a brain) as all intelligent animals do, or 2) not. We look at these two mutually exclusive and exhaustive possibilities:

    Under hypothesis (1) ID does not explain the origin of life or CSI, and instead merely reiterates what we all already know, that life begets life and complex machinery begets complex machinery. Also there is no evidence that anything with a brain existed before life on Earth.

    Hypothesis (2) is worse, since there is no evidence to support it and it contradicts neuroscientific findings.

    I’ve finally figured out what’s bugging you. You seem to be laboring under a misapprehension: that ID purports to explain the origin of life or CSI, as a whole. It doesn’t!

    ID claims that each and every instance of CSI exceeding a certain threshold level (500 bits) is best explained as the work of an intelligent agent. ID doesn’t claim that there is one intelligent agent (or group of agents) that produced all instances of life and CSI in our cosmos. To make that inference would be to commit the Fallacy of Composition.

    If you want a global explanation of the origin of all life and all CSI, please contact the philosophy department on a campus near you, and find a theistic philosopher who is willing to assist you. ID is a scientific program; as such, it has certain limitations. ID alone cannot tell us whether an immaterial agent produced all CSI in our cosmos – that’s not a scientific assertion. But the statement that an intelligent agent is required to produce CSI exceeding a certain threshold level of complexity is a falsifiable scientific assertion.

    You assert that under hypothesis (1), ID “merely reiterates what we all already know, that life begets life and complex machinery begets complex machinery.” No. ID asserts that intelligent agents are required to produce living things from non-living matter, and that only intelligent agents can produce complex machinery. Even if these agents happen to be composed of machinery, the point is that it’s their intelligence that’s critical to explaining what they produce. To assert that intelligent agents are required to produce living things from non-living matter is not “reiterating” anything – it’s a genuinely informative scientific result, especially as many scientists continue to labor under the misapprehension that life on Earth arose without any input of intelligent agency.

    Even if we never find the ultimate source (or sources) of CSI in our cosmos, the discovery that an intelligent agent or agents produced life on Earth is still a useful one, and well worth knowing. I think most people would be fascinated to learn that.

    Incidentally, your assertion that “there is no evidence that anything with a brain existed before life on Earth” is unduly dogmatic, even by your standards. I could understand if you insisted on a material intelligence, but why should it need a brain as such? Surely that’s being rather parochial. Intelligent animals need brains; intelligent agents may or may not.

    As for hypothesis (2), ID neither asserts it nor precludes it. We should keep an open mind. However, I would also like to note in passing that you have made a highly questionable assumption: that all intelligent agents are animals. We don’t know that; all we can say is that we’ve never encountered an agent in a laboratory who isn’t an animal. The neuroscientific findings you cite only apply to animals; they cannot be extrapolated beyond animals.

    Finally, let me state in passing that I have ten years’ experience as a computer programmer and analyst/programmer. I can’t claim any expertise on AI, but having worked with computers, I have acquired a healthy disrespect for them. Really, they’re just very sophisticated toys, and they don’t impress me.

  39. null,

    We do not know with certainty? Sure

    We have no reason to think we know at all.

    But ID doesn’t claim otherwise – what is claimed is that we can, at this moment, with the knowledge we have, make certain inferences, and that such inferences are scientific. If you think ID touts itself as demonstrating utter truth, you’ve not been following ID much.

    “ID” has added precisely zero evidence to ancient theological beliefs. If you call that scientific then I have no idea how you are using that word. Trotting out probability calculations about life or physical constants does not constitute one single shred of evidence about how something with recognizable mental characteristics must have been involved.

    I have no evidence to support any particular theory of how and why the universe exists as it does. Neither do you.

    No, it’s subject to exactly the problems and limitations I’ve mentioned. They’re pretty common sense limitations of such investigations – you yourself spoke of operational definitions. I’m just pointing it out.

    And I pointed out that if you can’t even tell me what things in our experience qualify as thinking, intelligent, mindful entities, it hardly stands to reason that your “scientific theory” that attempts to explain the universe by invoking an unobservable “thinking mind” has an iota of validity.

    Only if you freely redefine the boundaries of science, of what counts as support, and cast a blind eye towards what others are doing in that regard.

    Tu quoque

    I’ve noted repeatedly that ID makes inferences about design, and that said inferences do not require a mind to be utterly immaterial. My point on these definitions of ‘thought’ and ‘intelligence’ was more general, and related to the Menuge comments.

    You failed to define “design” – because you have no definition that makes ID both meaningful and testable. Until you come up with definitions, ID is nonsense. Dembski tosses out ridiculously detailed calculations, probability bounds, pages of math… and then refuses to say what his conclusion might actually mean. What a joke.

    My being correct comes at a price. We can’t decide, but we can come up with definitions and see how far we get with said definitions. These definitions may not be full-proof, they may involve some a prioris, and yet progress can be made – …

    Then DO IT! Don’t just pretend that these definitions exist – tell me what they are!

    design (verb):
    design (noun):
    designer (noun):
    intelligent (adj):
    intelligence (noun):
    think (verb):

    …and in other contexts, this is treated as scientific

    Make no mistake: Every paper that invokes “intelligence” as an explanation of anything provides operationalized definitions, or it does not get published in a reputable journal. Why? Because in science every explanatory construct must be operationalized. This should be obvious to you.

    AIGUY: Uh, no, I am not wrong about this at all. Read the post again: Neither Searle nor any other philosopher argues against functionalism or materialism by claiming that “A computer just processes information. It can’t say to itself: ‘I ought to do it this way, and not that way’”. Obviously a computer can “say to itself” precisely that, and they do that all the time. I had previously said I don’t happen to think thought proceeds by following rules, but I didn’t say that all philosophers agreed with that.

    NULL: A computer has a self?

    You disagree??? GREAT!!!! Just tell me the operationalized definiton of “self” and we can see who is right?

    Is it becoming clear that these discussions have no place in science? I hope so.

    It has consciousness? When last we spoke about this, you said you didn’t believe these things.

    Where did I say that? You are becoming very confused! I never said computers were conscious – where in the world did you get that idea?

    I’ll tell you where: Because none of these mentalistic terms are operationalized, so everyone constantly talks past each other, and we could argue about these questions for millenia without being able to resolve them by appeal to experience. Oh yeah… people have been doing that already.

    As for Searle, from 47 of Minds, Brains and Science:

    “Now, the moral for this discussion of cognitivism can be put very simply: In the sense in which human beings follow rules (and incidentally human beings follow rules a whole lot less than cognitivists claim they do), in that sense computers don’t follow rules at all. They only act in accord with certain formal procedures. The program of the computer determines the various steps the machinery will go through; it determines how one state will be transformed into a subsequent state. And we can speak metaphorically as if this were a matter of following rules. But in the literal sense in which human beings follow rules computers do not follow rules, they only act as if they are following rules.” (His emphasis, not mine.)

    Yes, Searle would agree a computer can “say to itself” this or that. Quotes included. Treated as a metaphor.

    Yes, of course Searle agrees with me that a computer can say things to itself, metaphorically or not (I can build a computer that verbally instructs itself to do various things, listens to the instructions, and then even acts on them… or decides on the spot not to…). And nothing in your quote contradicts anything I said: Cognitivists of course believe that minds are rule-based, but I am not a cognitivist (although I was a long time ago).

    And the truth of the matter is there’s nothing innately dishonest about arguing for consistency, anymore than it’s necessarily dishonest for the definition of science to be argued about.

    Let me retract my complaint about your “honesty” because it’s too harsh for what your point is, sorry. Instead let me put it this way: If you want to argue in good faith for consistency, then you must consistently treat all proposed solutions to the Big Mysteries according to the evidence. This means we must look at all current solutions and say “Sorry, we can’t judge if that is true or not because there are no observations we can make that would confirm that this cause exists and actually has the causal powers you attribute to it. So please do not present this as a scientific result.”

    But hypocrisy, beating up on one group for their excesses and candidly ignoring another, more prominent group’s excesses, for violating the same “rule”s? I question that.

    I do not expect you to start writing letters to Dembski and Meyer and Behe; I expect you instead to complain to Stenger and Dawkins and Coyne.

    I actually spend plenty of time ripping on Dawkins and Dennett myself, but it’s not hypocrisy to allocate one’s time unequally when condemning both parties in a debate. It’s only hypocrisy to apply different criteria yourself. So I would like to confirm the truth yourself, just between you and me and the rest of us oddballs that still participate in these forums :-)

  40. AIG:

    F/N: I believe you would benefit from reading the introductory survey on ID at NWEhttp://www.newworldencyclopedi.....ent_design. (NB: It is common for NWE articles to start from the relevant Wiki article and do an editorial cleanup, giving credit to Wiki. This one is a start from scratch, which should tell you something.)

    Excerpting the opening statement:
    _______________

    >> Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos [I add: i.e. fine tuning that sets the cosmos at a delicately balanced operating point friendly to C-chemistry, cell based, intelligent life (also cf here for more elaborate discussions)]; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things [I add: e.g. the digitally coded functionally specific complex and algorithm-implementing information and related organisation in DNA and associated elements in the cell].

    Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. [I add: so the illustration of a Paleyan watch at Wiki is inapt and strawmannish, especially as Paley does make a legitimate and detachable inference to design argument on the watch that includes in Ch 2, a discussion of the implication of a self-replicating watch, which I have simply never seen addressed by those who dismiss him -- a lot of good science has been done by people along the way of trying to do something else] ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

    ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an “argument from ignorance”; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans).

    ID may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution). Because of such conflicts, ID has generated considerable controversy . . . >>
    __________________

    You will see that this article is utterly different from the ideologically loaded strawmannish mischaracterisation at Wiki.

    Similarly, you might benefit from a scan through the weak argument correctives at the top right this and every UD page.

    GEM of TKI

  41. vjt,

    I’ve finally figured out what’s bugging you. You seem to be laboring under a misapprehension: that ID purports to explain the origin of life or CSI, as a whole. It doesn’t!

    ID claims that each and every instance of CSI exceeding a certain threshold level (500 bits) is best explained as the work of an intelligent agent.

    I was aware of this, yes. That is not what is bugging me.

    What is bugging me primarily is that ID uses the concept of “intelligent agent” as though everyone knows and agrees on what that means. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    The concept of agency is used in philosophy (usually moral philosophy, sometimes philosophy of mind) or sometimes in fields like sociology. In those fields agency is discussed deeply: What is an agent? What distinguishes agents from non-agents? Do agents, according to some particular definition, exist or not?

    In contrast, “ID Theory” uses the term without clarification or qualification. Worse still, ID invokes this notion as an explanation for observed phenomena. This renders ID specious, unscientific, meaningless, and really annoying.

    ID doesn’t claim that there is one intelligent agent (or group of agents) that produced all instances of life and CSI in our cosmos. To make that inference would be to commit the Fallacy of Composition.

    None of this is relevant to my argument at all.

    Even if we never find the ultimate source (or sources) of CSI in our cosmos, the discovery that an intelligent agent or agents produced life on Earth is still a useful one, and well worth knowing. I think most people would be fascinated to learn that.

    If by “intelligent agent(s)” you mean alien life forms, then I understand what you mean, and yes that would be a terribly exciting discovery. Unfortunately people have been talking about that for a very long time, but there isn’t a scrap of evidence that alien life forms even exist, much less brought life to Earth.

    If by “intelligent agent(s)” you mean something that isn’t a life form at all, then I really don’t have any idea what you might be talking about, and so it seems impossible to judge whether or not that idea has any merit. If you decide to characterize this thing in such a way that we might look to see if such a thing exists or not, then we could talk about that.

    And please don’t imagine that the very phenomena you are trying to explain (certain high-CSI features of biology, say) constitutes evidence that your particular conception of the “intelligent agent” responsible actually exists! That mistake is endlessly tiresome. Just in case you’re tempted, let me illustrate the problem:

    Q: What accounts for crop circles?
    A: The crop-circle-creation-force.
    Q: How do you know a crop-circle creation force exists?
    A: Just look at all the crop circles!

    Incidentally, your assertion that “there is no evidence that anything with a brain existed before life on Earth” is unduly dogmatic, even by your standards. I could understand if you insisted on a material intelligence, but why should it need a brain as such? Surely that’s being rather parochial. Intelligent animals need brains; intelligent agents may or may not.

    By “brain” I refer to a complex (high-CSI if you will) physical information-processing mechanism. Information processing mechanisms are capable of assuming large numbers of discrete physical states.

    If ID attempts to account for the initial origin of high-CSI mechanisms by invoking “intelligence”, then it is invoking something that – as far as our experience-based knowledge confirms – invariably is (or contains) a high-CSI mechanism. That is logically impossible of course.

    However, I would also like to note in passing that you have made a highly questionable assumption: that all intelligent agents are animals. We don’t know that; all we can say is that we’ve never encountered an agent in a laboratory who isn’t an animal. The neuroscientific findings you cite only apply to animals; they cannot be extrapolated beyond animals.

    If you provide a useful definition of “intelligent agent” then we can decide this question; until then we can’t. Since we can’t even tell what things on Earth are “intelligent agents” and what things aren’t, it seems pretty silly to imagine that we can decide if some unspecified, unobservable thing(s) that produced flagella and eyeballs and set the strength of the strong nuclear force was an intelligent agent or not.

    Finally, let me state in passing that I have ten years’ experience as a computer programmer and analyst/programmer. I can’t claim any expertise on AI, but having worked with computers, I have acquired a healthy disrespect for them. Really, they’re just very sophisticated toys, and they don’t impress me.

    Ahahahahahaha. Watch the upcoming Jeoparday challenge! Anyway, like your other claims, we can’t really debate the point unless you operationalize your definitions (what is a toy and what isn’t?).

  42. F/N 2: Design, in the relevant sense for ID:

    on family resemblance to known cases and our experience as designing intelligences:–

    design is a causal process of intelligently directed configuration, shaping, adaptation or arrangement of components that fulfills a functional purpose/end/goal, and that often manifests functionally specific complex information, irreducibly complex function, or other characteristic, observable and reliable signs of design.

    For instance in this sense the ASCII text strings used to create this definition are designed, and fulfill a linguistic function. A similar symbol string that implements object code on a computer is also designed, and the computer is designed.

    The UD Glossary has a relevant set of definitions, that onlookers, has repeatedly been brought to AIG’s attention previously.

    Excerpting:
    ____________________

    >>Chance – undirected contingency. That is, events that come from a cluster of possible outcomes, but for which there is no decisive evidence that they are directed; especially where sampled or observed outcomes follow mathematical distributions tied to statistical models of randomness. (E.g. which side of a fair die is uppermost on tossing and tumbling then settling.)

    Contingency – here, possible outcomes that (by contrast with those of necessity) may vary significantly from case to case under reasonably similar initial conditions. (E.g. which side of a die is uppermost, whether it has been loaded or not, upon tossing, tumbling and settling.). Contingent [as opposed to necessary] beings begin to exist (and so are caused), need not exist in all possible worlds, and may/do go out of existence.

    Necessity — here, events that are triggered and controlled by mechanical forces that (together with initial conditions) reliably lead to given – sometimes simple (an unsupported heavy object falls) but also perhaps complicated — outcomes. (Newtonian dynamics is the classical model of such necessity.) In some cases, sensitive dependence on [or, “to”] initial conditions may leads to unpredictability of outcomes, due to cumulative amplification of the effects of noise or small, random/ accidental differences between initial and intervening conditions, or simply inevitable rounding errors in calculation. This is called “chaos.”

    Design — purposefully directed contingency. That is, the intelligent, creative manipulation of possible outcomes (and usually of objects, forces, materials, processes and trends) towards goals. (E.g. 1: writing a meaningful sentence or a functional computer program. E.g. 2: loading of a die to produce biased, often advantageous, outcomes. E.g. 3: the creation of a complex object such as a statue, or a stone arrow-head, or a computer, or a pocket knife.)

    Contingencies – possible outcomes that (by contrast with those of necessity) may vary significantly from case to case under reasonably similar initial conditions. (E.g. which side of a die is uppermost, whether it has been loaded or not, upon tossing, tumbling and settling.). Contingent [as opposed to necessary] beings begin to exist (and so are caused), need not exist in all possible worlds, and may/do go out of existence.

    Information — Wikipedia, with some reorganization, is apt: “ . . that which would be communicated by a message if it were sent from a sender to a receiver capable of understanding the message . . . . In terms of data, it can be defined as a collection of facts [i.e. as represented or sensed in some format] from which conclusions may be drawn [and on which decisions and actions may be taken].”

    Intelligence – Wikipedia aptly and succinctly defines: “capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”

    Intelligent design [ID] – Dr William A Dembski, a leading design theorist, has defined ID as “the science that studies signs of intelligence.” That is, as we ourselves instantiate [thus exemplify as opposed to “exhaust”], intelligent designers act into the world, and create artifacts. When such argents act, there are certain characteristics that commonly appear, and that – per massive experience — reliably mark such artifacts. It it therefore a reasonable and useful scientific project to study such signs and identify how we may credibly reliably infer from empirical sign to the signified causal factor: purposefully directed contingency or intelligent design. Among the signs of intelligence of current interest for research are:

    [a] FSCI — function-specifying complex information [e.g. blog posts in English text that take in more than 143 ASCII characters, and/or -- as was highlighted by Yockey and Wickens by the mid-1980s -- as a distinguishing marker of the macromolecules in the heart of cell-based life forms], or more broadly

    [b] CSI — complex, independently specified information [e.g. Mt Rushmore vs New Hampshire's former Old Man of the mountain, or -- as was highlighted by Orgel in 1973 -- a distinguishing feature of the cell's information-rich organized aperiodic macromolecules that are neither simply orderly like crystals nor random like chance-polymerized peptide chains], or

    [c] IC – multi-part functionality that relies on an irreducible core of mutually co-adapted, interacting components. [e.g. the hardware parts of a PC or more simply of a mousetrap; or – as was highlighted by Behe in the mid 1990's -- the bacterial flagellum and many other cell-based bodily features and functions.], or

    [d] “Oracular” active information – in some cases, e.g. many Genetic Algorithms, successful performance of a system traces to built-in information or organisation that guides algorithmic search processes and/or performance so that the system significantly outperforms random search. Such guidance may include oracles that, step by step, inform a search process that the iterations are “warmer/ colder” relative to a performance target zone. (A classic example is the Weasel phrase search program.) Also,

    [e] Complex, algorithmically active, coded information – the complex information used in systems and processes is symbolically coded in ways that are not preset by underlying physical or chemical forces, but by encoding and decoding dynamically inert but algorithmically active information that guides step by step execution sequences, i.e. algorithms. (For instance, in hard disk drives, the stored information in bits is coded based a conventional, symbolic assignment of the N/S poles, forces and fields involved, and is impressed and used algorithmically. The physics of forces and fields does not determine or control the bit-pattern of the information – or, the drive would be useless. Similarly, in DNA, the polymer chaining chemistry is effectively unrelated to the information stored in the sequence and reading frames of the A/ G/ C/ T side-groups. It is the coded genetic information in the successive three-letter D/RNA codons that is used by the cell’s molecular nano- machines in the step by step creation of proteins. Such DNA sets from observed living organisms starts at 100,000 – 500,000 four-state elements [200 k – 1 M bits], abundantly meriting the description: function- specifying, complex information, or FSCI.)

    Irreducible Complexity, IC — A system performing a given basic function is irreducibly complex if it includes a set of well-matched, mutually interacting, nonarbitrarily individuated parts such that each part in the set is indispensable to maintaining the system’s basic, and therefore original, function. The set of these indispensable parts is known as the irreducible core of the system. (Dembski, No Free Lunch, p. 285 [HT: D O'L]) >>
    __________________

    I believe the above should be enough to make it clear what design proponents typically mean when they use design-related vocabulary.

    GEM of TKI

  43. @VJ

    -”ID claims that each and every instance of CSI exceeding a certain threshold level (500 bits) is best explained as the work of an intelligent agent.”

    Has any darwinist produced any evidence to refute that?

  44. aiguy,

    “ID” has added precisely zero evidence to ancient theological beliefs. If you call that scientific then I have no idea how you are using that word. Trotting out probability calculations about life or physical constants does not constitute one single shred of evidence about how something with recognizable mental characteristics must have been involved.

    Remember, what I consider ‘scientific’ depends in part on how others treat the word. Are you honestly making the claim here that we can infer nothing about the capabilities of designers, even ‘embodied designers’, such that if we were to come across a given artifact we couldn’t even make a reasonable inference based on the artifact itself?

    And I pointed out that if you can’t even tell me what things in our experience qualify as thinking, intelligent, mindful entities, it hardly stands to reason that your “scientific theory” that attempts to explain the universe by invoking an unobservable “thinking mind” has an iota of validity.

    Unobserved, not unobservable. And really, I have to tell you? Let me ask this: What would constitute good evidence, a good definition of an intelligent agent, in your own view?

    Tu quoque

    Ain’t effective when all I want is consistency. ;)

    Make no mistake: Every paper that invokes “intelligence” as an explanation of anything provides operationalized definitions, or it does not get published in a reputable journal. Why? Because in science every explanatory construct must be operationalized. This should be obvious to you.

    I have less faith in reputable journals than you do, clearly.

    Where did I say that? You are becoming very confused! I never said computers were conscious – where in the world did you get that idea?

    You didn’t say that. I was seeking clarification, because in the past – if I recall right – you specifically claimed to think computers were NOT thinking, were not conscious.

    I’ll tell you where: Because none of these mentalistic terms are operationalized, so everyone constantly talks past each other, and we could argue about these questions for millenia without being able to resolve them by appeal to experience. Oh yeah… people have been doing that already.

    Wait. Are you maintaining that ‘no mentalistic terms’ have been ‘operationalized’ – ever? No one has defined, say.. intentionality?

    Yes, of course Searle agrees with me that a computer can say things to itself, metaphorically or not (I can build a computer that verbally instructs itself to do various things, listens to the instructions, and then even acts on them… or decides on the spot not to…). And nothing in your quote contradicts anything I said: Cognitivists of course believe that minds are rule-based, but I am not a cognitivist (although I was a long time ago).

    No, he doesn’t. Read what he wrote. The only way a computer ‘follows rules’ is, in Searle’s view, in a purely mechanical fashion. We impute mental behavior (the computer is following this rule!) to the machine. It is not, unless you’re taking on some kind of interesting hylemorphism/hylozoism, ‘following rules’ consciously.

    You say ‘Searle agrees with me that a computer can say things to itself, metaphorically or not’ – as if the ‘metaphorical’ distinction isn’t central here. He agrees, metaphorically, they can. Actually? No. He said it himself – the way a computer ‘follows rules’ is unlike the way a human ‘follows rules’.

    Unless you’re making the claim that a computer consciously decides ‘I am going to follow this rule’ – and has a ‘self’, and conscious thoughts of self.

    Instead let me put it this way: If you want to argue in good faith for consistency, then you must consistently treat all proposed solutions to the Big Mysteries according to the evidence. This means we must look at all current solutions and say “Sorry, we can’t judge if that is true or not because there are no observations we can make that would confirm that this cause exists and actually has the causal powers you attribute to it. So please do not present this as a scientific result.”

    But the alternate view is that, while we can’t get to the absolute certain truth, we can make inferences – and these inferences are scientific themselves. Further, how am I not arguing in good faith? If I were defending ID as science while secretly not believing it were science, that would be one thing. I outright lay out my reasoning for all to see, and have done so repeatedly in the past. I’m just some guy – I don’t decide what science is for all. But I can decide what to treat or defend as science, based on the behavior of others.

    I think the willingness to tolerate inconsistency and hypocrisy is what leads to these problems in the first place.

    I actually spend plenty of time ripping on Dawkins and Dennett myself, but it’s not hypocrisy to allocate one’s time unequally when condemning both parties in a debate. It’s only hypocrisy to apply different criteria yourself. So I would like to confirm the truth yourself, just between you and me and the rest of us oddballs that still participate in these forums.

    You do have a low view of Dennett. Dawkins, sure, probably – I’ve no reason to deny that. Perhaps you’ll see my point about the uneven handling of one side v the other. (Remember, the NCSE bills itself as the premier defender of science, the frontline champions keeping metaphysics and philosophy out of science. Yet there’s Stenger, right on the recommended reading list. And that’s small potatoes compared to other nonsense they pull.)

  45. -”Trotting out probability calculations about life or physical constants does not constitute one single shred of evidence about how something with recognizable mental characteristics must have been involved”

    This is just dogma. There is no substance behind your words whatsoever.

    Beyond a certain probabilistic breaking point lies the impossible and if mindless happenstance cannot account for it then we must look elsewhere for the answer. I could cite the law of excluded middle to put an end to this silly argument you’re trying to produce but I don’t even thing that’s necessary.

  46. AIG:

    Re 38: “ID” has added precisely zero evidence to ancient theological beliefs. If you call that scientific then I have no idea how you are using that word. Trotting out probability calculations about life or physical constants does not constitute one single shred of evidence about how something with recognizable mental characteristics must have been involved.

    1 –> Are you able to show that Paley’s discussion of the hypothesized self-replicating watch [already linked, 39] is not cogent?

    2 –> Can you show us how the implications of the von Neumann self replicator do not consittute an advance that multiplies the force of Paley’s inference on common sense?

    3 –> Can you show us a case where digitally coded functionally specific complex information beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of storage capacity, is of known directly observed source, and the source is not an intelligent and skilled, knowledgeable designer? [If you cannot write English, you cannot write linguistically functional English text strings of over about 125 characters, for simple instance.]

    4 –> Can you show us where Plato’s trichotomy of main causal factors, chance, mechanical necessity, agency, has been superseded by reduction of the three to two or less, or augmented by a fourth?

    5 –> Or, that said factors cannot be (and are not routinely) distinguished on empirical characteristics? (such as: (i) chance:fiweg35ygf, (ii) mechanical necessity: ggggggggggggg, (iii) art producing dFSCI, all in their priper context.)

    6 –> Can you show that inference to best explanation on reliable sign is inductively improper? Or, that it is so untrustworthy that it is not generally used in inductive reasoning?

    7 –> On what grounds do you dismiss the calculation that 1,000 2-state elements has 1.07*10^301 possible configs? Or that an observed cosmos of 10^80 or so atoms, changing state every 10^-45s for 4.3 * 10^17 s will go through some 4.3 *10^^142 states? Or that this is less than 1 in 10^150 of 10^301?

    8 –> If not, then why are you so harshly dismissive of the observation that the search capacity of the observed cosmos is such that if it acts as a state search machine running at maximum reasonable capacity and rate [think of a cosmos of monkeys, typewriters, tables, paper and banana plantations], on a random walk starting from an arbitrary initial configuration, it would be unable to search out as much as 1 in 10^150 of the possible states of a 1,000 bit storage unit?

    9 –> Is it then reasonable to suggest that chance based search strategies will be able to find islands of specific and complex function beyond that threshold in coded systems?

    10 –> is it not true that, routinely, intelligent agents produce entities showing dFSCI beyond this threshold, on intelligence and knowledge, so that it is reasonable to infer from such dFSCI to intelligence as from sign to signified causal factor?

    11 –> And, since DNA is just such a case of dFSCI, is it not therefore reasonable to infer on best explanation on reliable sign, that DNA is best explained on design?

    ______________

    In short, the cited assertion reflects selective hyperskepticism, rather than any cogent rebuttal to the design inference.

    Now, further, we note that he inference is to a process, not to an identified, specific designer. That’s fine so far.

    When we shift to the cosmos in which we observe the DNA, we find that it sits on a finely balanced operating point that on multiple parameters, creates a context in which C-chemistry, cell based, intelligent life can originate and thrive. A cosmos that credibly had a beginning 13.7 BYA. One that is therefore contingent — and is caused.

    In turn, that points beyond itself (even through a multiverse, as already linked) to a root cause that is a necessary being, one that is intelligent and powerful enough to create a fit habitat for cell based life.

    The tone and want of substance as cited and as further found above, tell us that the harsh dismissal reflects a detestation of the conclusion, not the want of cogency in the point. And, if even a proof can be rejected on saying P => Q, NOT=Q so NOT=P, how much more an inference to best explanation.

    But, that comes at a stiff price. For, had there not been an issue in contention that provoked such ire, you would never have rejected the argument. How do we know that?

    Simple: you have routinely accepted posts in this thread as being produced by intelligent agents, not lucky noise. So, instinctively, you have acknowledged the power of dFSCI as a sign pointing to intelligent design. Similarly, you have recognised that functionally complex and purposeful effects — posts — have intelligent causes.

    All we are asking for is consistency and being willing to follow reasonable signs to where they point.

    And, unless you have clear evidence that a necessary being as the root of a cosmos with a beginning is IMPOSSIBLE, the fact of that beginning and the logic of necessary causal factors [if absent, they block an effect] implies thathere must be an adequate cause of such a finetuned cosmos.

    An intelligent extra-cosmic designer intending to produce a cosmos in which life is possible, is by far and away the best alternative.

    (Certainly, that is simpler than a quasi-infinite unobserved multiverse, with a cosmos-baking base-universe that is set up to produce a distribution of sub-cosmi that lo and behold covers a range that captures such an incredibly locally isolated finetuned sub-cosmos as we inhabit. Isolated flies on walls hit by bullets point to marksmen and rifles set up to tack-driving condition. )

    G’night

    GEM of TKI

  47. Above,

    -”ID claims that each and every instance of CSI exceeding a certain threshold level (500 bits) is best explained as the work of an intelligent agent.”

    Has any darwinist produced any evidence to refute that?

    If by “intelligent agent” you mean “human being” then this question makes sense and can be answered: No, only human beings have produced such things.

    Now, here’s one for you: “AIGuy claims that each and every instance of intelligent agency requires CSI exceeding a 500 bit threshold”. Has any IDist produced any evidence to refute that?

    AIGUY: ”Trotting out probability calculations about life or physical constants does not constitute one single shred of evidence about how something with recognizable mental characteristics must have been involved”
    ABOVE: This is just dogma. There is no substance behind your words whatsoever.

    You have a very weird view of what “dogma” is.

    Beyond a certain probabilistic breaking point lies the impossible and if mindless happenstance cannot account for it then we must look elsewhere for the answer.

    “Mindless happenstance” is not a satisfactory causal explanation for anything at all, of course. But if we don’t know how something came about, we do indeed need to look for an answer. When you come up with one that explains how the CSI we observe in living systems and the physical constants, then I’ll be interested to hear it so I can judge whether or not your explanation can be verified. If you invoke “intelligent agency” as your explanation then of course you’ll need to provide an operationalized definition for that so we can decide if such a thing exists or not. Otherwise I will assume all you mean is what we already know about (“human beings and other animals”), which could not possibly be responsible for the phenomena we observe.

    I could cite the law of excluded middle to put an end to this silly argument you’re trying to produce but I don’t even thing that’s necessary.

    You’re very confused – watch:

    1) Either the universe was created by natural causes or it was created by supernatural magical self-organization.
    2) You can’t explain explain how natural causes can account for the existence of the universe.
    3) Therefore the universe was created by supernatural magical self-organization.

    See – it’s easy to use the excluded middle to prove any darn thing you’d like to :-)

    null,

    Remember, what I consider ‘scientific’ depends in part on how others treat the word. Are you honestly making the claim here that we can infer nothing about the capabilities of designers, even ‘embodied designers’, such that if we were to come across a given artifact we couldn’t even make a reasonable inference based on the artifact itself?

    OK, we’ll leave science behind then. As to whether inferences are reasonable or not, that’s a hard question obviously – some are and some aren’t. I don’t find inferring a human-like mind in something that is obviously nothing whatsoever like a human to be reasonable, but since we can’t adjudicate these assessments by appeal to shared experience, let’s just agree to disagree about that.

    Unobserved, not unobservable. And really, I have to tell you? Let me ask this: What would constitute good evidence, a good definition of an intelligent agent, in your own view?

    I do not believe there is any definition of “intelligent agent” that makes ID meaningful and allows us to judge the proposition against the evidence. If you disagree, let’s hear your definition (fat chance of that :-)).

    You didn’t say that. I was seeking clarification, because in the past – if I recall right – you specifically claimed to think computers were NOT thinking, were not conscious.

    I would say that computers of today think without consciousness, that they make choices and decisions but lack libertarian free will, and that they have goals and desires but they are not consciously aware of them, and that they cannot experience emotions. Nobody can demonstrate that I am right or wrong about any of these things, for two different reasons. The first reason is because most of these propositions are analytic rather than synthetic, and the second reason is because the actual characteristics in question can’t be observed.

    Wait. Are you maintaining that ‘no mentalistic terms’ have been ‘operationalized’ – ever? No one has defined, say.. intentionality?

    Of course ALL of the terms are operationalized… over and over again in every different conceivable fashion. Let us operationalize “intelligence”, shall we? “Intelligence” is the ability to score over 70 on a Stanford-Binet IQ test, adminstered with a #2 pencil and a Scantron form. OK? Intentionality is a bit harder, but the beauty of operationalized definitions is that they cannot be wrong… by definition!

    AIGUY: Yes, of course Searle agrees with me that a computer can say things to itself, metaphorically or not (I can build a computer that verbally instructs itself to do various things, listens to the instructions, and then even acts on them… or decides on the spot not to…). And nothing in your quote contradicts anything I said: Cognitivists of course believe that minds are rule-based, but I am not a cognitivist (although I was a long time ago).

    NULL: No, he doesn’t. Read what he wrote. The only way a computer ‘follows rules’ is, in Searle’s view, in a purely mechanical fashion. We impute mental behavior (the computer is following this rule!) to the machine.

    Yes, that is what he thinks, and I disagree with him about that. I never denied that! What I said no competent philosopher would agree with is that one can refute functionalism or materialism by claiming “computers can’t say to themselves ‘I ought to do such-and-such’”.

    Unless you’re making the claim that a computer consciously decides ‘I am going to follow this rule’ – and has a ‘self’, and conscious thoughts of self.

    I think we already have far too many undefined mentalistic terms floating about and needn’t add ‘self’ to the mix. Anyway, computers decide things, know things, and yes (sorry Searle) understand things too – but I don’t think they are conscious about it. Here I actually do agree with Dennett (and plenty of others): Intentional idioms like these don’t really impute real characteristics to the entity, so there is nothing metaphorical about saying “my word processor keeps trying to reformat my paragraph because it thinks that I want to change the margins”.

    When people object to using intentional idioms this way it is because they are associating sentience with them; even if they think there should be other differences, they can’t come up with any.

    But the alternate view is that, while we can’t get to the absolute certain truth, we can make inferences – and these inferences are scientific themselves.

    Everybody makes inferences about everything all the time. They become scientific when they can be verified by appeal to shared experience. No such luck on the questions we’re discussing.

    Further, how am I not arguing in good faith? If I were defending ID as science while secretly not believing it were science, that would be one thing. I outright lay out my reasoning for all to see, and have done so repeatedly in the past. I’m just some guy – I don’t decide what science is for all. But I can decide what to treat or defend as science, based on the behavior of others.

    Really – you have no opinion whatsoever about what distinguishes a scientific result from any other proposition?

    You do have a low view of Dennett. Dawkins, sure, probably – I’ve no reason to deny that. Perhaps you’ll see my point about the uneven handling of one side v the other. (Remember, the NCSE bills itself as the premier defender of science, the frontline champions keeping metaphysics and philosophy out of science. Yet there’s Stenger, right on the recommended reading list. And that’s small potatoes compared to other nonsense they pull.)

    Advocates on both sides overstate their case.

  48. -“Now, here’s one for you: “AIGuy claims that each and every instance of intelligent agency requires CSI exceeding a 500 bit threshold”. Has any IDist produced any evidence to refute that?”

    Without materialism your example is null.

    Regardless. You just basically stated that intelligence gives rise to intelligence (and by intelligence you reduce the notion to simply 500 bits basically – semantic gimmick?). Remove the underlying materialistic / reductionistic presupposition that is lurking in your comment and it becomes a non-issue.

    -“You have a very weird view of what “dogma” is.”

    Not at all. But you seem have a very strange way of trying to mask it.

    “Mindless happenstance” is not a satisfactory causal explanation for anything at all, of course. But if we don’t know how something came about, we do indeed need to look for an answer. When you come up with one that explains how the CSI we observe in living systems and the physical constants, then I’ll be interested to hear it so I can judge whether or not your explanation can be verified. If you invoke “intelligent agency” as your explanation then of course you’ll need to provide an operationalized definition for that so we can decide if such a thing exists or not. Otherwise I will assume all you mean is what we already know about (“human beings and other animals”), which could not possibly be responsible for the phenomena we observe”

    This whole paragraph is testament to the above dogma I mentioned. Specifically reductionism and verificationism. Verificationism as a theory is dead. It has been for 50 years now. Karl Popper says hello by the way! ?

    -“1) Either the universe was created by natural causes or it was created by supernatural magical self-organization.
    2) You can’t explain explain how natural causes can account for the existence of the universe.
    3) Therefore the universe was created by supernatural magical self-organization.”

    This is the best you can do? What’s next? You’re going to give us the son of the great pumpkin argument? LOL!

    Parody arguments hardly serve to undermine much but nice try.

    Anyway, that is not the argument I had in mind at all. So to parody that is irrelevant. Your formulation in fact commits the fallacy of the excluded middle. I don’t think it is I that is confused.

    Anyways the bottom line is that your whole argument hinges on materialism, reductionism and verificationism. All of which are self refuting.

  49. aiguy,

    I don’t find inferring a human-like mind in something that is obviously nothing whatsoever like a human to be reasonable, but since we can’t adjudicate these assessments by appeal to shared experience, let’s just agree to disagree about that.

    Fair enough.

    I would say that computers of today think without consciousness, that they make choices and decisions but lack libertarian free will, and that they have goals and desires but they are not consciously aware of them, and that they cannot experience emotions. Nobody can demonstrate that I am right or wrong about any of these things, for two different reasons. The first reason is because most of these propositions are analytic rather than synthetic, and the second reason is because the actual characteristics in question can’t be observed.

    They can question the coherency of ‘making decisions’ and ‘having desires’ while lacking consciousness. At least unless you’re ditching materialism in one hell of a way.

    Yes, that is what he thinks, and I disagree with him about that. I never denied that! What I said no competent philosopher would agree with is that one can refute functionalism or materialism by claiming “computers can’t say to themselves ‘I ought to do such-and-such’”.

    What Menuge is attempting to refute with his example is a particular argument about how minds, brains and computers work, or at least a particular materialist argument. I suppose you can say he’s going after materialism as a whole by taking down said argument, but I think even Menuge would realize that refutation in his field would at best amount to a claim of ‘Alright, we have to think about this more’, or a slide into eliminative materialism on this front.

    Anyway, computers decide things, know things, and yes (sorry Searle) understand things too – but I don’t think they are conscious about it. Here I actually do agree with Dennett (and plenty of others): Intentional idioms like these don’t really impute real characteristics to the entity, so there is nothing metaphorical about saying “my word processor keeps trying to reformat my paragraph because it thinks that I want to change the margins”.

    When people object to using intentional idioms this way it is because they are associating sentience with them; even if they think there should be other differences, they can’t come up with any.

    And here you’re flat wrong. Even Dennett wouldn’t take this line, in part because – last I read – Dennett thinks all intentionality is derived. There is no fact of the matter about what one physical state or another ‘means’ or ‘is about’, in part because on a materialist reading there can’t be. Mental properties – aboutness, intention, consciousness, take your pick – are what was intentionally (ha) left out the view of matter so long ago.

    Now, if I recall, you’re a neutral monist. Maybe you’re walking down the road of saying that well, our concept of matter was wrong – there really IS aboutness in the world at the ground level, and thus a calculator really is ‘calculating’, not just ‘simulating calculating’ in some derived way. This isn’t some derived intentionality, something we attribute to the computer but is ‘really’ just in our minds (or some ultimate mind that does have original intentionality), but the computer’s intentionality is original. In which case, congratulations – you don’t agree with Dennett after all, and you are (as you, if I recall, after all admit) not a materialist. At least, you weren’t until ‘materialism’ was cocked up as a word, capable of meaning everything from panpsychism to neutral monism to quite possibly idealism.

    And Dennett would likely agree with that much as well. Hell, so would Searle probably.

    Everybody makes inferences about everything all the time. They become scientific when they can be verified by appeal to shared experience. No such luck on the questions we’re discussing.

    I think you’ll find your view is sadly in the minority. If it wasn’t, there would probably be no ID movement as such. It’d be a very different world.

    Really – you have no opinion whatsoever about what distinguishes a scientific result from any other proposition?

    Who the hell am I, aiguy? I’m someone writing under a pseudonym in the comments section of a blog. My opinion hardly matters.

    But, marginal as I am, I can make a decision about who or what to support when these far better funded people start to argue, and point out what follows if one is consistent. Sometimes it’s better to comment and think that way.

    Advocates on both sides overstate their case.

    Perhaps. Do you think that decades of overstatement and abuse on one side may have precipitated the other side to finally play much the same game, by the same rules?

  50. @null

    This is from the other thread, but since you’re active here I thought of asking:

    -”Are you aware of James Lennox’s views about how Darwinism is inherently teleological (if wedded to ‘randomness’)? And if so, do you have any opinion of such?”

    Can you give me the cliff notes of this idea of Lennox? Or a link perhaps?

  51. above,

    Actually I don’t have the pdf onhand, but I intend to make a greater post about that in the future on here. However, lacking that, Lennox did the entry for ‘Darwinism’ at plato.stanford.edu – he touches on the subject there, have a look.

  52. Excellent! Thank you.

    I really look forward to reading your entry on the matter.

  53. above

    AIGUY: “Now, here’s one for you: “AIGuy claims that each and every instance of intelligent agency requires CSI exceeding a 500 bit threshold”. Has any IDist produced any evidence to refute that?”
    ABOVE: Without materialism your example is null.

    Materialism has absolutely nothing to do with my question.

    It really is quite simple: Just tell us one single example of something that you consider an example of “intelligent agency” that is not a complex physical organism containing a huge amount of CSI. That’s all you have to do!

    Can you do it? No, of course you cannot do it, because there is no such thing in our experience. Perhaps such a thing exists, and perhaps there are pigs that can fly, but in our uniform and repeated experience pigs do not fly and intelligent agents invariably have physical bodies that are chock-full of CSI.

    Just as our experience confirms that complex mechanism never arises without the action of mind, our experience confirms that mind never exists without the action of a complex mechanism. Perhaps you wish otherwise, but wishing won’t make it so. These are not philosophical opinions, but rather incontrovertible facts that no reasonble person can deny.

    Regardless. You just basically stated that intelligence gives rise to intelligence (and by intelligence you reduce the notion to simply 500 bits basically – semantic gimmick?).

    What I said was clearly not that “intelligent gives rise to intelligence”. What I said was that all entities in our experience require complex physical information processing mechanisms in order to be judged as “intelligent agents”. I am not reducing “intelligence” at all, nor do I even argue against dualism! I really don’t know where you are coming up with this stuff.

    Remove the underlying materialistic / reductionistic presupposition that is lurking in your comment and it becomes a non-issue.

    I am neither materialist nor reductionist, so either you meant this criticism for someone else or you are very, very confused. If you disagree, all you need to do is provide the accurate quote from this page showing where I said anything that could reasonably be interpreted as arguing for materialism or reductionism. You will find none. (hint: Saying that mind evidently requires mechanism is not a materialist proposition, in case you were confused about that).

    Perhaps you have only a single set of arguments that you array against anyone who you perceive does not agree with you. I’m afraid this strategy will not serve you well when arguing against me.

    null

    They can question the coherency of ‘making decisions’ and ‘having desires’ while lacking consciousness. At least unless you’re ditching materialism in one hell of a way.

    I see no question of coherency at all. In fact, intentional language helps us construct coherent narratives about complex behavior at a high level of abstraction.

    AIGUY: Anyway, computers decide things, know things, and yes (sorry Searle) understand things too – but I don’t think they are conscious about it. Here I actually do agree with Dennett (and plenty of others): Intentional idioms like these don’t really impute real characteristics to the entity, so there is nothing metaphorical about saying “my word processor keeps trying to reformat my paragraph because it thinks that I want to change the margins”.

    When people object to using intentional idioms this way it is because they are associating sentience with them; even if they think there should be other differences, they can’t come up with any.

    NULL: And here you’re flat wrong. Even Dennett wouldn’t take this line, in part because – last I read – Dennett thinks all intentionality is derived. There is no fact of the matter about what one physical state or another ‘means’ or ‘is about’, in part because on a materialist reading there can’t be. Mental properties – aboutness, intention, consciousness, take your pick – are what was intentionally (ha) left out the view of matter so long ago.

    I’m afraid I wasn’t clear, or that you went off the rails a bit there, for after telling me I was flat wrong you have reiterated exactly what I just said. Yes, Dennett believes intentionality is derived, which is precisely what I meant when I said intentional idioms do not impute real characteristics to the entity. When I tell Dennett that my car didn’t want to start this morning, Dennett knows I am simply using intentional idioms to describe the complex behavior of a machine – which is exactly that same thing we’re doing when I say I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning.

    I went on to say that for anyone who objects to using intentional idioms to describe cars or word processors, claiming that machines don’t really want, try, or know anything, their objection is based on the (implicit or explicit) commitment that bona-fide intentionality requires conscious awareness. I understand that many philosophers would disagree, and argue that original vs. derived intentionality entails more than conscious awareness… but I think we’re getting a bit deep here.

    Now, if I recall, you’re a neutral monist. Maybe you’re walking down the road of saying that well, our concept of matter was wrong – there really IS aboutness in the world at the ground level, and thus a calculator really is ‘calculating’, not just ‘simulating calculating’ in some derived way.

    No, this isn’t what I think at all. As I said above, I happen to agree with Dennett on this point (all intentionality is derived).

    This isn’t some derived intentionality, something we attribute to the computer but is ‘really’ just in our minds (or some ultimate mind that does have original intentionality), but the computer’s intentionality is original. In which case, congratulations – you don’t agree with Dennett after all, and you are (as you, if I recall, after all admit) not a materialist.

    Once again: I agree with Dennett on this point, but disagree with him on many others.

    At least, you weren’t until ‘materialism’ was cocked up as a word, capable of meaning everything from panpsychism to neutral monism to quite possibly idealism.
    And Dennett would likely agree with that much as well. Hell, so would Searle probably.

    And of course I do too. The funniest take on this confusion is this: People attack materialism by first defining “materialism” as “the belief that everything is explicable by 19th century physics”… then they proceed to point out that 19th century physics cannot explain everything! Really funny (I’ve seen Deepak Chopra do this for example).

    Do you think that decades of overstatement and abuse on one side may have precipitated the other side to finally play much the same game, by the same rules?

    Oh good grief no – that’s ridiculous, honestly. Almost everyone has an ideological axe to grind in the debate, and both “sides” overstate their certainty for that reason alone.

    Although I’m sure the friendly folks here will scoff, I do not have any desire to see mind included or excluded from our explanations. My argument is not ideological, but epistemological. My goal is not to argue for or against gods, but rather to keep people from overstepping the limits of empiricsm in support of their conclusions.

    That is why I argue for mysterianism, rather than taking one side or the other to even the score (or achieve consistency by multiplying errors).

  54. aiguy,

    I see no question of coherency at all. In fact, intentional language helps us construct coherent narratives about complex behavior at a high level of abstraction.

    So do plenty of other useful fictions. They don’t cease being fictions just because they’re useful.

    I went on to say that for anyone who objects to using intentional idioms to describe cars or word processors, claiming that machines don’t really want, try, or know anything, their objection is based on the (implicit or explicit) commitment that bona-fide intentionality requires conscious awareness. I understand that many philosophers would disagree, and argue that original vs. derived intentionality entails more than conscious awareness… but I think we’re getting a bit deep here.

    It goes beyond consciousness. In fact you can put consciousness entirely aside – there’s no difference between saying all intentionality is derived and saying there is no intentionality at all.

    Further, saying that ‘all intentionality is derived’ means that no, a computer or machine actually isn’t ‘trying to do anything’ on its own – you’re imputing that motive to it. That’s pretty much what it means for intentionality to be derived – there is no ‘fact of the matter’ what someone or something means. If all of your intentionality is derived, the same holds – in which case, your words here don’t ‘really mean’ anything. Heck, there aren’t even ‘real words’ to speak of.

    And of course I do too. The funniest take on this confusion is this: People attack materialism by first defining “materialism” as “the belief that everything is explicable by 19th century physics”… then they proceed to point out that 19th century physics cannot explain everything! Really funny (I’ve seen Deepak Chopra do this for example).

    The alternative is to say that ‘materialism’ is a fairly recent philosophical innovation, because the pre-20th century iterations (and thus, the pre-20th century materialists) turned out to be dead wrong. Deepak has many faults, but people can hardly be blamed for knocking materialism as such when numerous proponents like to pretend ‘materialism’ today means anything close to what it meant in the past. On pain of having to focus on the ‘actually, some fundamental ideas turned out incorrect, or we’ve lost faith in them’ parts.

    On the flipside, there’s also the charge that many ‘materialist’ philosophers want to pretend that 19th century physics remains, and that any changes since then are easily forgotten.

    That is why I argue for mysterianism, rather than taking one side or the other to even the score (or achieve consistency by multiplying errors).

    How many well-known mysterians are you aware of on these questions? Do you even need a hand to count them?

  55. null,

    AIGUY: I see no question of coherency at all. In fact, intentional language helps us construct coherent narratives about complex behavior at a high level of abstraction.

    NULL: So do plenty of other useful fictions. They don’t cease being fictions just because they’re useful.

    You’ve shifted from an accusation of incoherency to falsity? Hmmm. In any case, whether or not intentional idioms are true obviously depends on what you think they mean (e.g. if you think they entail consciousness or libertarianism).

    In fact you can put consciousness entirely aside – there’s no difference between saying all intentionality is derived and saying there is no intentionality at all.

    Not really; it means that intentionality is a way of constructing coherent narratives about complex behavior at a high level of abstraction.

    Further, saying that ‘all intentionality is derived’ means that no, a computer or machine actually isn’t ‘trying to do anything’ on its own – you’re imputing that motive to it.

    No. When you say a computer is “trying” to do something, you can well mean that it is performing certain behaviors consistent with carrying out the task, but the task remains uncompleted.

    That’s pretty much what it means for intentionality to be derived – there is no ‘fact of the matter’ what someone or something means. If all of your intentionality is derived, the same holds – in which case, your words here don’t ‘really mean’ anything. Heck, there aren’t even ‘real words’ to speak of.

    No, it means that there is nothing intrinsic about P that makes P represent Q. The meaning of P (the notion that it is about Q) is a property of something else which is apprehending P and Q. It is not that words have no meaning; it is rather that the meaning of words are in the mind of the beholder.

    The alternative is to say that ‘materialism’ is a fairly recent philosophical innovation, because the pre-20th century iterations (and thus, the pre-20th century materialists) turned out to be dead wrong.

    Well, I suppose the reasonable interpretation would be that materialism is the idea that all explanations can be grounded in our current understanding of physics. I am not a materialist under any of these interpretations.

    Deepak has many faults, but people can hardly be blamed for knocking materialism as such when numerous proponents like to pretend ‘materialism’ today means anything close to what it meant in the past.

    I don’t blame him for knocking materialism, but for knocking it with a really dumb argument. Anyway, which materialists are you thinking of when you say they pretend it means what it did the past… you are speaking of anyone who denies QM plays a role in thought or something?

    On pain of having to focus on the ‘actually, some fundamental ideas turned out incorrect, or we’ve lost faith in them’ parts.

    So you think there are materialists who are embarassed by the discoveries of QM and Relativity because they disconfirmed Newton? Really? That’s weird. Who are you thinking of?

    On the flipside, there’s also the charge that many ‘materialist’ philosophers want to pretend that 19th century physics remains, and that any changes since then are easily forgotten.

    Seriously? Who are you talking about?

    How many well-known mysterians are you aware of on these questions? Do you even need a hand to count them?

    None. I am always amazed and fascinated that the vast majority of people find it inconceivable that one can accept “We do not know” as an answer. There have been many times on these boards when people actually say “But you must take one side or the other!” or simply assume (like above does in this thread) that I’m a materialist/evolutionist just because I attack ID. People just don’t know how to deal with mysterianism; they absolutely hate that I can be comfortable with not knowing, and insist that deep down inside I must want one thing or another to be true. It really is quite bizarre; I don’t understand it.

  56. aiguy,

    You’ve shifted from an accusation of incoherency to falsity?

    ‘This thing has derived intentionality’, possibly false. ‘There is no original intentionality’, incoherent. Off into woo-woo eliminative materialist magic land.

    In any case, whether or not intentional idioms are true obviously depends on what you think they mean (e.g. if you think they entail consciousness or libertarianism).

    Why would I link intentionality with either? Non-conscious things can exhibit intrinsic ‘aboutness’ or intentionality of a sort.

    Not really; it means that intentionality is a way of constructing coherent narratives about complex behavior at a high level of abstraction.

    Yes, a narrative. A story. An ultimately useful fiction, except one that has no ‘real’ meaning, because ‘real’ meaning isn’t available.

    No. When you say a computer is “trying” to do something, you can well mean that it is performing certain behaviors consistent with carrying out the task, but the task remains uncompleted.

    I have no doubt that you can ascribe derived intentionality to computers, or maps for that matter. Again, you’re imputing a motive to the computer – ‘behaviors consistent with’. But it’s not actually ‘trying to do that’. That’s derived intentionality for you. A useful way of talking, a nice fiction. Accent on the fiction.

    No, it means that there is nothing intrinsic about P that makes P represent Q. The meaning of P (the notion that it is about Q) is a property of something else which is apprehending P and Q. It is not that words have no meaning; it is rather that the meaning of words are in the mind of the beholder.

    No, meaning of words being in the mind of the beholder would be a claim of original intentionality. The beholder’s mind isn’t home to meaning either if one denies original intentionality in humans. And if all intentionality is derived, there is no actual ‘home’ to meaning. It’s roughly analogous to pointing at a length of pipe and saying ‘That’s where water comes from’, then the length attached to it and saying ‘And that part brings the water to that pipe’ until you get to the end, and it’s connected to nothing. You haven’t shown where water’s coming from. You’re showing that there’s no water coming.

    Well, I suppose the reasonable interpretation would be that materialism is the idea that all explanations can be grounded in our current understanding of physics. I am not a materialist under any of these interpretations.

    If that’s materialism, and there’s nothing to note about how many times this has proven to be false, there’s a problem.

    I don’t blame him for knocking materialism, but for knocking it with a really dumb argument. Anyway, which materialists are you thinking of when you say they pretend it means what it did the past… you are speaking of anyone who denies QM plays a role in thought or something?

    I mean what I said above. Go by your own standard – ‘the idea that all things can be grounded in our current understanding of physics’. Given that said understanding has changed radically at multiple times in the past, it means ‘materialism’ has failed repeatedly. To say ‘I think the physical can explain everything! I don’t know what the physical will turn out to be’ though is an exercise in Deepak-worthy comedy.

    None. I am always amazed and fascinated that the vast majority of people find it inconceivable that one can accept “We do not know” as an answer. There have been many times on these boards when people actually say “But you must take one side or the other!” or simply assume (like above does in this thread) that I’m a materialist/evolutionist just because I attack ID. People just don’t know how to deal with mysterianism; they absolutely hate that I can be comfortable with not knowing, and insist that deep down inside I must want one thing or another to be true. It really is quite bizarre; I don’t understand it.

    I think some people are uncomfortable not knowing, but not everyone. ID proponents admit outright that while they make inferences, said inferences may turn out to be incorrect. Other people make inferences with the same stipulation. Are you a mysterian if you say ‘I make an inference, but I don’t claim said inference is the absolute truth’?

  57. null,

    ‘This thing has derived intentionality’, possibly false. ‘There is no original intentionality’, incoherent. Off into woo-woo eliminative materialist magic land.

    Perhaps false but I don’t think incoherent at all.

    Why would I link intentionality with either? Non-conscious things can exhibit intrinsic ‘aboutness’ or intentionality of a sort.

    That’s your take; others disagree.

    Yes, a narrative. A story. An ultimately useful fiction, except one that has no ‘real’ meaning, because ‘real’ meaning isn’t available.

    I disagree; meaning is real, just not intrinsic.

    I have no doubt that you can ascribe derived intentionality to computers, or maps for that matter.

    We can but don’t ascribe intentionality to maps, because maps do not have complex behaviors.

    Again, you’re imputing a motive to the computer – ‘behaviors consistent with’. But it’s not actually ‘trying to do that’. That’s derived intentionality for you. A useful way of talking, a nice fiction. Accent on the fiction.

    We disagree. I impute nothing to the computer, but choose to adopt the intentional stance because it is an appropriate level of abstraction to describe its behavior.

    No, meaning of words being in the mind of the beholder would be a claim of original intentionality.

    No, because I do not think minds are qualitatively different from any other system we’re talking about in the context of intentionality. I do not believe that minds confer intentionality upon things; I believe that they confer meaning.

    The beholder’s mind isn’t home to meaning either if one denies original intentionality in humans.

    Yes I think it is.

    And if all intentionality is derived, there is no actual ‘home’ to meaning.

    No one home; lots of homes. Computers can also confer meaning upon things.

    It’s roughly analogous to pointing at a length of pipe and saying ‘That’s where water comes from’, then the length attached to it and saying ‘And that part brings the water to that pipe’ until you get to the end, and it’s connected to nothing. You haven’t shown where water’s coming from. You’re showing that there’s no water coming.

    In your analogy, there is no water.

    I mean what I said above. Go by your own standard – ‘the idea that all things can be grounded in our current understanding of physics’. Given that said understanding has changed radically at multiple times in the past, it means ‘materialism’ has failed repeatedly. To say ‘I think the physical can explain everything! I don’t know what the physical will turn out to be’ though is an exercise in Deepak-worthy comedy.

    Yes, and just as funny is the dualist who says “I know there is something besides the physical (although I don’t know what the physical is either)… and I don’t know what that something else is either!”

    That is exactly why I am a neutral monist. I am certain our comprehension of ontology is faulty and incomplete and it cannot account for consciousness, but do not pretend to know what could account for it, and see no advantage in multiplying mysteries.

    I think some people are uncomfortable not knowing, but not everyone.

    Most.

    ID proponents admit outright that while they make inferences, said inferences may turn out to be incorrect. Other people make inferences with the same stipulation. Are you a mysterian if you say ‘I make an inference, but I don’t claim said inference is the absolute truth’?

    No, you’re not. You are a mysterian if you say “We do not know”. Just because scientists and IDists say their conclusions are tentative doesn’t change the fact that they think their conclusions are justified as true (i.e. they represent knowledge). A mysterian denies that we are justified in believing one thing or another.

    See – I don’t think you are comfortable with mysterianism either!

  58. @aiguy

    I’m going to start off by addressing the issue of design and indicate how your argument fails; at least the way you explicated it in reference to the order observed in the physical constants and in life. Your claim that such things did not provide a shred of evidence for ancient theological ideas as you put it, is patently wrong, if not downright dishonest. What modern science has done is corroborate such ideas beyond even our wildest imagination. As astrophysicist Rober Jestrow once put it:

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    Rather telling isn’t it? Maybe those theologians were on to something, no? ? So unless of course you want to indulge into the delusion that just because an idea is older than some other it is by implication inferior, then I see no grounds of how you can deny the blatantly obvious.

    You can of course, as you have tried to do, suggest other alternatives. Simulations? Self-organizing magical universe? But have a look and see which of these are intellectually defensible – especially in considering reality in its entirety – and you will find very little if anything at all. At any rate, a simulation needs a simulator, a self-organizing universe is either magical or would itself need to be designed as so to self-organize (for it would be even more impossible than the non-self-organizing one). Not to mention issues such as contingency, the nature of causality, the reality of immateriality etc, which would make such so-called alternatives even weaker as explanatory principles.

    So despite what you chose to believe, such scientific findings not only provide evidence for the ancient theologian’s thesis but provide more than he could even wish for!

    Now let’s go ahead and deconstruct your typical argument to uncover the hidden presuppositions I mentioned before.

    You start off by presupposing materialism (neutral monism is not really that far from it if that’s what you believe so…). This is something I told you about in the past as well. The force of your argument lies on an un-argued materialistic / monistic presupposition. I gave you the example of an engineer in the past and explained to you that when an engineer is constructing something – given dualism – what you are observing is the mind’s creative activity. The physical impressions that hit your retina have as an efficient cause the immaterial mind. Given our limitations as humans we see the mind’s creative action via an instantiation through the physical body. Now as you know, given substance dualism the mind is distinct from the body so your whole CSI counter-argument fails for it refers to the body and not the mind. Only if you conflate them – as you always seem to do – can you make the argument and even that doesn’t take you that far. In short, dualism defeats your argument.

    Intimately tied to this is again, an un-argued reductionism that attempts to link mind and body in a unified substratum as so for you to be able to launch the argument. But that too fails. As willard quine put it in his book the two dogmas of empiricism (something your perspective heavily relies on) reductionism is “a metaphysical article of faith”. Without it, your argument falls apart for if dualism is true and mind and body are ontologically distinct then you have said nothing at all. So once again, comes the dogmatic presupposition to the rescue. I should also mention another underlying assumption that seems to flow from your arguments, namely the type of causal connections you appear to accept are themselves reductionistic. This is especially evident in your hostile treatment of anything not materialistic (mentalistic as you call it). To not allow for any sui generis reality to me is so misconstrued and unrealistic that it must be abandoned. Maybe you should read what Roger Sperry said about the matter.

    Finally, the third prong of your argument is again, an unwarranted commitment to verificationism. Now as I have said before, verificationism has not only been dead for some time now, it is also self-refuting when taken to its logical conclusion, just like reductionism and materialism. So then, is your neutral monism / materialism verifiable? Have you verified it yourself? What direct observation do you have to support such a premise? None, because it’s a metaphysical position. What about reductionism? Can you verify reductionism? Of course not! You see how if scrutinized, your commitments end up annihilating one another?

    Much of your argument reminds me of hume in fact. And we all know how that went down, when it was shown that if upheld his skepticism undermines much of science as it does religion. Speaking of, in the past I gave you several examples such postulates of science that would be destroyed given your stringent criteria, but it seems that was to no avail.

    The sole alleviating factor for you here would be the possibility that all this arguing you are engaged in is not so much directed at anything specific such as Theism but simply an expression of your desire for some sort of instrumentalist approach. You keep speaking of operationalizing and such and the only reasonable understanding I can extract, given the topic, is that you’re only interested in how all this can be applied to practical matters, namely technology. If your whole argument is not directed at ontology, but is simply an attempt to apply certain concepts instrumentally – if that is what you mean by operationalizing – then I’m afraid you and I have no axe to grind and we’ve been simply arguing over a misapprehension.

    So in sum, if you’re arguing for ontology, all you’ve managed to do is refute yourself. If you’re arguing for instrumentalism then there really is no issue at hand.

  59. above,

    Your claim that such things did not provide a shred of evidence for ancient theological ideas as you put it, is patently wrong, if not downright dishonest.

    Downright dishonest? Ouch! I can always tell when I hit a nerve :-)

    Maybe those theologians were on to something, no?

    No, I don’t think so.

    So unless of course you want to indulge into the delusion that just because an idea is older than some other it is by implication inferior, then I see no grounds of how you can deny the blatantly obvious.

    If theism were “blatantly obvious” then everybody would agree about it. What is blatantly obvious is that not all smart reasonable people do agree about it, so calling your particular take on these questions “blatantly obvious” seems wrong.

    You can of course, as you have tried to do, suggest other alternatives. Simulations? Self-organizing magical universe?

    You misunderstand completely (honestly I don’t think you read my posts very carefully). I am not suggesting these as alternative explanations of anything; I was pointing out one really does need to provide empirical evidence for a theory in order to justify it scientifically, and simply attacking some other theory isn’t enough.

    People in ID often set up a false dichotomy. In effect they are saying “Either the universe (or life or certain features thereof…) was created by a conscious rational being, or it was created by blind unguided forces. Therefore if we show that blind unguided forces couldn’t manage it, it must be agency (or a god, etc).

    I do not believe we have any idea how the universe came to exist, whether it has always existed, if there are more than one of them, why our universe looks as it does, and so on. I am not a materialist, so I do not believe that our current understanding of physics accounts for any of this, or for conscious awareness either. But neither do I believe that invoking “intelligent agency” or “God” constitutes a meaningful and justified explanation of these things, because these concepts are not sufficiently well characterized to judge against the evidence (essentially they are the same as saying “something that can do anything”, and that is not specific enough to judge against the evidence).

    You start off by presupposing materialism (neutral monism is not really that far from it if that’s what you believe so…).

    If you’d like to discuss this with me, I suggest that you tell me what you think and I tell you what I think. If you tell me what I think we’re really not going to get very far here. Neutral monism is farther away from materialism than ID is from Creationism, certainly, but I am not even particularly wed to the label of neutral monism either. My stance is that consciousness is a hard problem, and that we cannot yet account for fine-tuning or the origin of biological complexity, and that neutral monism is merely a way of expressing that ontology is unknown (and perhaps unknowable) without multiplying our mysteries by opting for dualism.

    Now as you know, given substance dualism the mind is distinct from the body so your whole CSI counter-argument fails for it refers to the body and not the mind. Only if you conflate them – as you always seem to do – can you make the argument and even that doesn’t take you that far. In short, dualism defeats your argument.

    First, if dualism defeated my argument then we would be in the same situation, because we do not know if dualism is true or not. But dualism does not defeat my argument, because dualism per se does not hold that res extensa is superfluous to mental function – it only holds that res cogitans is necessary.

    Intimately tied to this is again, an un-argued reductionism that attempts to link mind and body in a unified substratum as so for you to be able to launch the argument.

    This is ridiculous – you haven’t read what I wrote. If you wish to continue, you’ll need to quote me (the way I do with you) so you can address what I am saying instead of the straw men you want to argue against.

    Without it, your argument falls apart for if dualism is true and mind and body are ontologically distinct then you have said nothing at all.

    What I have said is that every intelligent agent in our experience requires complex mechanism in order to exhibit intelligent behaviors. Since you have no response to this simple, undeniable, perfectly true observation, you sweep it under the rug and change the subject to argue against materialism and reductionism, which nobody is arguing here.

    So once again, comes the dogmatic presupposition to the rescue. I should also mention another underlying assumption that seems to flow from your arguments, namely the type of causal connections you appear to accept are themselves reductionistic. This is especially evident in your hostile treatment of anything not materialistic (mentalistic as you call it). To not allow for any sui generis reality to me is so misconstrued and unrealistic that it must be abandoned. Maybe you should read what Roger Sperry said about the matter.

    Sorry, but this is all total nonsense. If you bothered to read and quote my posts you would see that you are arguing against somebody else, not me. It’s really quite extraordinary.

    Finally, the third prong of your argument is again, an unwarranted commitment to verificationism. Now as I have said before, verificationism has not only been dead for some time now, it is also self-refuting when taken to its logical conclusion, just like reductionism and materialism. So then, is your neutral monism / materialism verifiable? Have you verified it yourself? What direct observation do you have to support such a premise? None, because it’s a metaphysical position. What about reductionism? Can you verify reductionism? Of course not! You see how if scrutinized, your commitments end up annihilating one another?

    If you actually scrutinized my comments we might be able to discuss them. As it is, you seem to be addressing somebody else. I have not argued for materialism, reductionism, or verificationism. I have said that scientific explanatory constructs need to be operationalized and verified against experience, but that is obviously not the same as verificationism. If you disagree, can you tell us what (if anything) you believe might distinguish scientific results from any other type of belief?

    You keep speaking of operationalizing and such and the only reasonable understanding I can extract, given the topic, is that you’re only interested in how all this can be applied to practical matters, namely technology.

    Again I would suggest that if you’d like to know what I am actually saying, you need to read what I actually write. As it is, pretty much everything you attribute to me is wrong.

    So in sum, if you’re arguing for ontology, all you’ve managed to do is refute yourself. If you’re arguing for instrumentalism then there really is no issue at hand.

    I am not arguing for a particular ontology. I am not arguing for instrumentalism. My position (as I’ve made clear many times in this thread and many others) is probably best described as “mysterianism”, but specifically the point I make here is that there is no good reason to think that whatever created these features of the universe and life had the sort of mental characteristics that we know subjectively as embodied human beings.

  60. Onlookers, cf 46 above [and various other posts by various people], to see what AIG is skipping over to make his talking points. G

  61. aiguy (#39, #41, #47)

    Why didn’t you declare in your very first post that you were an operationalist? That could have saved us all a lot of time and trouble, as we’ve been talking past each other.

    You wrote (to null, #39):

    Make no mistake: Every paper that invokes “intelligence” as an explanation of anything provides operationalized definitions, or it does not get published in a reputable journal. Why? Because in science every explanatory construct must be operationalized. This should be obvious to you.

    I hate to have to break this to you, but operationalism has been widely discredited in philosophical circles for about 50 years now. If you look at the article on Operationalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy you’ll quickly realize that it’s a theory attended by severe philosophical problems. Here are just a few (with selected quotes from the article):

    1. Operational definitions do not exhaust meaning.

    “The entire world can agree to define length by the standard meter in Paris (or by the wavelength of a certain atomic radiation), and that still comes nowhere near exhausting all that we mean by length.” Moreover, “if we accept the most extreme kind of operationalism, there is no point in asking whether a measurement method is valid; if the measurement method defines the concept and there is nothing more to the meaning of the concept, the measurement method is automatically valid, as a matter of convention or even tautology” (emphasis mine – VJT).

    2. Operational definitions are not required for all useful concepts

    “If operationalism means demanding that every concept and every inferential step should have an immediate operational significance, it constitutes an overly restrictive empiricism… The crux of the problem here for the operationalist is that theoretical concepts are much too useful in science. Bridgman actually acknowledged from early on that there were good theoretical concepts that were not amenable to direct operationalization, illustrating the point with the example of stress and strain inside a solid body (1927, 53–54), and the wavefunction in quantum mechanics (Bridgman in Frank 1956, 79)…

    “For [Bridgman], the initial position to take was that if there are different methods of measurement we have different concepts, as he said about ‘tactual’ and ‘optical’ length being two different concepts. Bridgman’s ambivalence about conceptual unity elicited a serious worry about the systematic import of scientific concepts and theories, most astutely expressed by Hempel (1966, 91–97). Bridgman’s skeptical caution would result in an intolerable fragmentation of science, Hempel argued. It would result in ‘a proliferation of concepts of length, of temperature, and of all other scientific concepts that would not only be practically unmanageable, but theoretically endless.’”

    3. What are operations?

    “Apart from the questions of whether operational definitions are sufficient or necessary, it is actually unclear what types of things operations are, and how they should be specified… Bridgman himself was troubled by the question regarding the nature of operations and admitted late in his life that he had not really provided ‘an analysis of what it is that makes an operation suitable’, or ‘in what terms can operations be specified’ (Bridgman in Frank 1956, 77).”

    4. Are operations private or public?

    “…Bridgman was insistent that operations were a matter for private experience. He could see no warrant in simply taking someone else’s testimony as true or reliable, or in regarding the report of an operation performed by someone else as the same kind of thing as an operation performed and experienced by himself.”

    Now can you recognize the philosophical naivete of your remark, addressed to null (#47):

    Let us operationalize ‘intelligence’, shall we? ‘Intelligence’ is the ability to score over 70 on a Stanford-Binet IQ test, administered with a #2 pencil and a Scantron form. OK? Intentionality is a bit harder, but the beauty of operationalized definitions is that they cannot be wrong… by definition!

    Cannot be wrong“? As my lecturer used to say when we were studying Wittgenstein’s private language argument at university, if you can’t get it wrong, you can’t get it right either. Your definition of intelligence is precise, but arbitrary. What makes it better (or worse) than a definition based on the Wechsler test, for instance?

    Incidentally, I can now see why you don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast difference between people and computers. If all we do is perform “operations”, then of course there isn’t.

    In reality, your own discourse fails to live up to the lofty standards you have set for null and for me. You claim that “in science every explanatory construct must be operationalized.” Rubbish! What about a law of nature? What about a wave function? What about an atom? What about natural selection? What about sexual selection? What about a meme?

    Let’s see you operationalize some of your own terms. Operationalize “computer.” Operationalize “meaning.” Operationalize “explain.” Operationalize “consciousness.” Operationalize “operation.” Operationalize “behavior.” Operationalize “science.”

    Anyway, if you want a definition of “intelligence”, then I’ll give it to you. Here’s an excerpt from The Design of Life (Dembski & Wells, 2008, p. 315):

    intelligence A type of cause, process or principle that is able to find, select, adapt, and implement the means needed to effectively bring about ends (or achieve goals or realize purposes). Because intelligence is about matching means to ends, it is inherently teleological.

    Dembski & Wells don’t provide a definition of agency in their book, but it could be defined broadly as any kind of operation, more narrowly as an operation that helps an individual attain an end by some means; and in its narrowest sense, as as an operation that helps an individual attain an end by some means, where the individual is capable of justifying his performance of the operation, by explaining how his chosen means helps him attain the end he seeks. On a broad definition, the sun’s shining is a form of agency; on a narrower definition, agency would be confined to living things (not necessarily conscious ones); and on the narrowest definition, only to conscious rational beings.

    An intelligent agent is therefore an individual using a means to attain an end, who is capable of justifying his performance of the operation, by explaining how his chosen means helps him attain the end he seeks. (I would add that the explanation has to be given in some sort of language.)

    And no, don’t ask me to define “individual”. I don’t play games. Some terms have to be treated as basic.

    The reason why I haven’t chosen to define “individual” as “organism” or “animal” for instance, is that there is nothing in the definition of “means” or “end” that requires the entity attaining the end by some means, to be an animal. “Individual” is, and should be, an open-ended term.

    And if you want an operational definition of “goal”, “purpose”, “means” and “end”, then I’m not going to play ball. To demand that is just ridiculous. One has to stop somewhere, when providing definitions.

    I hope this answers your objection:

    The concept of agency is used in philosophy (usually moral philosophy, sometimes philosophy of mind) or sometimes in fields like sociology. In those fields agency is discussed deeply: What is an agent? What distinguishes agents from non-agents? Do agents, according to some particular definition, exist or not?

    In contrast, “ID Theory” uses the term without clarification or qualification. Worse still, ID invokes this notion as an explanation for observed phenomena. This renders ID specious, unscientific, meaningless, and really annoying.

    You wanted a definition, and I gave you one. The ball’s in your court.

  62. vjt,

    Why didn’t you declare in your very first post that you were an operationalist? That could have saved us all a lot of time and trouble, as we’ve been talking past each other.

    You folks here are pretty funny! If you can’t fit somebody into one “ism” or another you just don’t know how to discuss anything at all!

    I hate to have to break this to you, but operationalism has been widely discredited in philosophical circles for about 50 years now.

    I hate to break this to you, but you aren’t breaking anything to me. I’m not an operationalist, nor is any scientist I know.

    AIGUY: Let us operationalize ‘intelligence’, shall we? ‘Intelligence’ is the ability to score over 70 on a Stanford-Binet IQ test, administered with a #2 pencil and a Scantron form. OK? Intentionality is a bit harder, but the beauty of operationalized definitions is that they cannot be wrong… by definition!

    VJT: Cannot be wrong“? As my lecturer used to say when we were studying Wittgenstein’s private language argument at university, if you can’t get it wrong, you can’t get it right either. Your definition of intelligence is precise, but arbitrary. What makes it better (or worse) than a definition based on the Wechsler test, for instance?

    OF COURSE that definition is arbitrary! Moreover, is a perfectly useless definition outside of a very narrow context. That was of course my point to null. However, it is in no way wrong… by definition!

    Incidentally, I can now see why you don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast difference between people and computers. If all we do is perform “operations”, then of course there isn’t.

    No, I’m afraid you’re wrong again: I think there is a huge difference between people and computers. For one thing, I believe human beings experience conscious awareness and computers do not!

    You folks just can’t deal with anyone who disagrees with you but isn’t a materialist, reductionist, instrumentalist, operationalist, functionalist, or some other -ist who you love to hate :-)

    Sorry, but you’re not arguing against me either, vjt. You need to find somebody else to debate if these are the arguments you want to use.

    In reality, your own discourse fails to live up to the lofty standards you have set for null and for me. You claim that “in science every explanatory construct must be operationalized.” Rubbish! What about a law of nature? What about a wave function? What about an atom? What about natural selection? What about sexual selection? What about a meme?

    But of course our characterizations of the laws of nature are operationalized. That is why they are scientific – they are characterized precisely in terms of how to test their effects! Let’s take an easy one – Newton’s laws of motion or gravity. Do I need to explain to you how these laws are fully operationalized? I will if you’d like.

    A wave function is not an explanatory construct per se. Atoms are, and they are operationalized by describing them (with, among other things, wave functions) in ways that can be measured. Natural selection is easily operationalized (you can measure differential reproduction and heritable traits). Same with sexual selection. I don’t think a “meme” is a good scientific explanatory construct, so let’s not talk about those.

    Let’s see you operationalize some of your own terms. Operationalize “computer.” Operationalize “meaning.” Operationalize “explain.” Operationalize “consciousness.” Operationalize “operation.” Operationalize “behavior.” Operationalize “science.”

    And let’s see you show me where I have ever used any of these terms as explanatory constructs in a scientific theory! Oh yeah – you can’t, because I haven’t. If I was an operationalist I would insist on operational definitions anyway…. but I’m not.

    Anyway, if you want a definition of “intelligence”, then I’ll give it to you.

    Yay!

    intelligence A type of cause, process or principle that is able to find, select, adapt, and implement the means needed to effectively bring about ends (or achieve goals or realize purposes). Because intelligence is about matching means to ends, it is inherently teleological.

    Ok then! Excellent, thank you!

    Now, how do I decide what things are intelligent and what things are not? I have something sitting in the next room and I’d like to know if it is intelligent – please tell me how to figure that out.

    I also have a little computer here that is able to find, select, adapt, and implement the means needed to effectively bring out ends or achieve goals and realize purposes, so apparently my computer is an intelligent agent – cool! I thought it was just a mindless unconscious machine deterministically doing what its physical structure makes it do, but now I know that it is intelligent in just the same way as Bill Dembski!

    An intelligent agent is therefore an individual using a means to attain an end, who is capable of justifying his performance of the operation, by explaining how his chosen means helps him attain the end he seeks. (I would add that the explanation has to be given in some sort of language.)

    Really? In that case I’m wrong about ID – it is most definitely testable! All you need to do now is get the Designer to solve some novel problems and then explain how His chosen means helps Him attain the end He seeks, and I’ll be a True Believer!

    By the way my computer here still qualifies as an intelligent agent, because it can not only perform means-ends problem solving but explain what it is doing in English too.

    Meanwhile, this thing in the next room seems to be building all sorts of highly complex functional machinery… oooh it just created a 3D television set from raw materials! – but I still don’t know if it is intelligent because I can’t give it any novel problems to solve or ask it to justify its actions…

    And no, don’t ask me to define “individual”. I don’t play games. Some terms have to be treated as basic.

    Yes, most terms are basic. I don’t play games either.

    The reason why I haven’t chosen to define “individual” as “organism” or “animal” for instance, is that there is nothing in the definition of “means” or “end” that requires the entity attaining the end by some means, to be an animal. “Individual” is, and should be, an open-ended term.

    Yes of course – no problem.

    And if you want an operational definition of “goal”, “purpose”, “means” and “end”, then I’m not going to play ball. To demand that is just ridiculous. One has to stop somewhere, when providing definitions.

    You are absolutely right. None of these terms is problematic (with the possible exception of “purpose” or “purposeful” which for some people seems to carry a connotation of conscious awareness of purpose, but let’s let that go).

    You wanted a definition, and I gave you one. The ball’s in your court.

    Yes you did give me definitions and I appreciate the effort. Now I hope you can see that in the context of ID theory you have no hope of demonstrating the existence of anything that actually matches your definition which designed flagella and eyeballs and the radius of the proton.

  63. aiguy (#62)

    Thank you for your comments. I assumed, because of your remarks bout the need to operationalize scientific definitions, that you were a thoroughgoing operationalist. Evidently I misjudged you, and for that I apologize. Sorry for sounding a bit abrupt in my last post.

    Getting back to your comments about intelligent agents, you write:

    I also have a little computer here that is able to find, select, adapt, and implement the means needed to effectively bring out ends or achieve goals and realize purposes, so apparently my computer is an intelligent agent – cool! I thought it was just a mindless unconscious machine deterministically doing what its physical structure makes it do, but now I know that it is intelligent in just the same way as Bill Dembski!

    … By the way my computer here still qualifies as an intelligent agent, because it can not only perform means-ends problem solving but explain what it is doing in English too.

    A few comments:

    (a) I also stipulated, “An intelligent agent is therefore an individual…”

    I don’t regard computers (at least, current ones) as bona fide individuals, because the parts don’t “hang together” the right way. They are designed to work together to achieve a stipulated goal, yes; but in a genuine individual, each and every operation of the parts, from the tiniest micro-component to the largest part, is dedicated to the proper functioning of the whole. This is a property sometimes known as dedicated functionality. A computer would have to be built from the bottom up (and not just from the top down) before it could be legitimately termed an individual.

    (b) In addition, your references to computers as solving problems and explaining how they do so are based on an intentional stance which we choose to adopt when talking about computers, because it is convenient to do so. We could equally well explain how your computer produces the output it does without recourse to means-end terminology or intentional terms. We could explain everything a computer does at the electronic level, in a deterministic fashion.

    “How do you know we can’t do that with people?” you might ask. Well, if you ever manage to show that human behavior when performing typical means-end tasks, and when justifying said performance, is deterministic at the physical level, then I’ll happily agree that there’s no behavioral difference between people and computers. But I have yet to see such a proof, and I would regard the assertion that one will soon be forthcoming as nothing more than “promissory materialism” (to cite a phrase often used by Eccles).

    With human agents, unlike computers, the intentional stance is utterly indispensable when we are attempting to explain what they are doing: we have to postulate that they are following a rule, as a “guiding star” which renders intelligible everything that they are doing when accomplishing said tasks.

    (c) In any case, I could have sharpened my definition of “intelligent agent” by stipulating that any entity which is known to perform said tasks (means-end activity and subsequent justification) in a wholly deterministic fashion, and which is known to be the product of another entity (e.g. a human creator), shall be deemed a tool of the latter, provided that the latter is not known to perform said tasks in a deterministic fashion.

    (d) As regards tasks, I agree with you that for any given operationally defined task (e.g. completing the Stanford Binet test; answering Jeopardy questions) a computer could be designed to perform it as well or better than a human. But that does not imply that a computer could, in principle, perform all of the tasks that a human can perform, as well as a human agent can. To affirm that would be to commit the fallacy of composition, which I discussed in an earlier post.

    (e) You seem to regard the essential difference between people and computers as consciousness. I have to say that this sounds a bit fuzzy to me. If a computer could do everything that I did as well as I can do it, then I’d be inclined to say that there’s no fundamental difference between it and me.

    As a humorous example, consider the following case. Imagine for argument’s sake that you’re single. You meet a fascinating, charming lady who shares the same interests you do and can discourse at length about topics that are important to you. She is also passionate about the things that interest her – she’s heavily involved in local groups, belongs to several clubs and is active in community work – in short, she’s anything but a cerebral nerd. But one day, you make a horrifying discovery – she’s not conscious. She’s a robot.

    I imagine you would want to break off the relationship at this point, but would you say hello to her if you met her in the street? And would you warn her to get out of the way if you saw a truck hurtling towards her?

    Got to run now. I’ll get back to ID in my next post.

  64. aiguy

    In your previou posts, you’ve argued that we could never have adequate warrant for believing in a disembodied Designer, even if we could conceive of one. I’d like to address that claim.

    First, we can conceive of a disembodied Designer. A designer is an intelligent agent, and as we’ve seen, nothing in my definition of “intelligent agent” requires that it be embodied. I stipulated that it had to be an individual. I didn’t say “animal.” I didn’t even say “material object.” Agency can be characterized in terms of its effects: means-end activity plus an ability to justify said activity, or explain why it was done that way (which presupposes a capacity for language). Incidentally, this capacity doesn’t have to be exercised; most of the time, when I act, I don’t say why I did it that way. The point is, however, that I could if I wanted to.

    Second, we need to distinguish three kinds of inferences: inductive, abductive and deductive. Abductive reasoning is another term for inference to the best explanation. It’s stronger than merely inductive reasoning, but not as strong as deductive reasoning, which is ironclad, provided that the argument is sound.

    The observation that all the intelligent agents we’ve encountered to date are embodied animals (specifically, human beings) warrants the inductive inference that if I see a tool lying on the ground, probably a human being made it.

    However, if I encountered what appeared to be a very complex artefact in an undisturbed layer of rock dated at 500 million years old, I’d have to infer something different. If its structure was highly specific, and designed to do a particular task (e.g. add), I’d infer that it was made by an unknown species of intelligent being who visited the planet a long time ago. In making this inference, I’m relying on abductive reasoning: the amount of complex specified information in the artefact is so high that I can confidently rule out an origin by unintelligent natural processes. I’d have to infer that an intellgent agent made it – not just because I’ve never encountered an unintelligent natural process that could make such an artefact, but because I have strong reasons (based on probabilistic reasoning) for believing that the production of such an artefact by unintelligent natural processes is astronomically unlikely. This abductive reasoning therefore warrants me in inferring that an alien made the artefact.

    Now suppose that someone puts forward an argument, based on the amount of CSI required to specify the constants of nature precisely enough to allow life to emerge, that the universe itself requires a large amount of CSI to ensure that is hospitable for life. In other words, it appears that the universe is an artefact. Then I still have to assume that an intelligent agent made it, based on abductive reasoning. I can no longer ascribe it to an alien inside the universe, so I have to suppose that the universe is a put-up job, made by some Intelligence outside it. The inductive argument that all the intelligent agents we’ve met so far are animals doesn’t over-ride my reasoning here, because abductive reasoning trumps merely inductive reasoning.

    I can go one level higher: deductive reasoning, which affords me absolute certainty. I can be absolutely certain that a program has to be written by a programmer. Dr. Don Johnson has argued in his book, The Programming of Life that there are programs inside the cell – and he’s speaking literally, not metaphorically. Since organic cellular life has not always existed in our universe, I reason that it must have emerged at some point, somewhere. If it requires programs to run, then I infer deductively that since only a programmer is capable of writing a program, an Invisible Programmer produced the first cellular life in our cosmos.

    That’s just a short sketch of the reasoning I imply when inferring the existence of an Invisible Designer. I hope that helps make my position plainer.

    By the way, the programming argument is meant to show why God doesn’t have to explain His methods to us for us to be warranted in inferring His existence. Presumably God could explain Himself to us if He wished; at present, however, He does not.

  65. vjt,

    I don’t regard computers (at least, current ones) as bona fide individuals…

    So you believe that in addition to performing means-ends analysis and being capable of explaining their actions in language, in order to be an intelligent agent an entity must exhibit “dedicated functionality” and be “built from the bottom up”. This wasn’t clear from Dembski’s definition, but you’re the one providing the definition here, so that’s fine. As I said before, definitions can be more or less useful, arbitrary, and meaningful, but they can’t be wrong.

    In addition, your references to computers as solving problems and explaining how they do so are based on an intentional stance which we choose to adopt when talking about computers, because it is convenient to do so. We could equally well explain how your computer produces the output it does without recourse to means-end terminology or intentional terms. We could explain everything a computer does at the electronic level, in a deterministic fashion.

    You are implying that if something can be explained in terms of deterministic physics, then it cannot be “truly intentional”, and if we use intentional idioms they are metaphorical. Three issues there: First, it’s certainly not clear that determinism is incompatible with intentionality; second, not all computers are deterministic; and third, we do not know if humans transcend deterministic cause (or deterministic + random cause).

    How do you know we can’t do that with people?” you might ask. Well, if you ever manage to show that human behavior when performing typical means-end tasks, and when justifying said performance, is deterministic at the physical level, then I’ll happily agree that there’s no behavioral difference between people and computers. But I have yet to see such a proof, and I would regard the assertion that one will soon be forthcoming as nothing more than “promissory materialism (to cite a phrase often used by Eccles).

    You assume the burden of proof is to show humans are deterministic. But whether or not humans are deterministic is unknown, and there is no default assumption that ought to be accepted as true just because we can’t demonstrate the case one way or the other. We simply do not know if human cognition and behavior relies on something that transcends physics. Some (most functionalists like Dennett) believe that classical physics is sufficient to account for mentality; some (like Penrose) believe that quantum effects are somehow involved, and some (like Chalmers) think that mentality requires something qualitatively different from the physical realm entirely (although there is the question of whether our mental abilities require non-physical cause or if it is just our phenomenal experience that requires it).

    With human agents, unlike computers, the intentional stance is utterly indispensable when we are attempting to explain what they are doing: we have to postulate that they are following a rule, as a “guiding star” which renders intelligible everything that they are doing when accomplishing said tasks.

    I think you’re wrong here: It is impossible (even in principle) to explain what certain computer systems are doing at the level of electronics, for the same reason we cannot explain weather systems at the level of atomic interactions. So we use intentional idioms (and other abstractions) to talk about computer systems, and they are utterly indispensible. The same is true of human beings.

    So, our choice of using the intentional stance or not simply does not answer our metaphysical questions. It remains unknown if contra-causal powers of mind and free will exist in human beings or anywhere else.

    (c) In any case, I could have sharpened my definition of “intelligent agent” by stipulating that any entity which is known to perform said tasks (means-end activity and subsequent justification) in a wholly deterministic fashion, and which is known to be the product of another entity (e.g. a human creator), shall be deemed a tool of the latter, provided that the latter is not known to perform said tasks in a deterministic fashion.

    Yes, I’m very used to this. I ask endlessly for a definition of “intelligence”, and people grumble that everyone knows what it means and there’s no need for a definition. I point out that any scientific theory that uses “intelligent cause” as its sole explanatory concept really is obliged to say what that might mean in the context of the theory, and finally somebody deigns to take a crack at providing a meaningful definition. But as soon as we examine the implications of the definition and we see that it renders “ID Theory” either incoherent or completely impossible to judge against the evidence, ID proponents begin to add new stipulations and extensions, making up new definitions as they go along to counter these problems.

    So you started with Dembski’s definition, and to that you have already added that intelligent agents must also be
    “built from the bottom up” and exhibit “dedicated functionality”, and be able to justify their actions in language, and that they can’t be “wholly deterministic” nor can they be “known to be the product of another entity” etc.

    I would suggest everyone ponder this: ID has had a very long time to come up with a canonical statement of its central theoretical claim. Between Meyer and Dembski and Wells and everyone else who writes and blogs and does “research” in ID, one would think that somebody, somewhere, would have said what “Intelligent Design” actually meant. Here you have chosen the definition that Bill Dembski, a famous and prominent ID theorist if there ever was one, committed to in his book. Yet you have had to immediately correct and amend his definition to account for the simple and obvious objections I’ve raised in a single post. These are not trivial changes; these are not just clarifications. The fact that you now insist that intelligence is incompatible with determinism, and that it can’t be the product of another creator – these are substantive claims. And we have just started!

    (I’ve emphasized this because I’d like other readers to notice it).

    As regards tasks, I agree with you that for any given operationally defined task (e.g. completing the Stanford Binet test; answering Jeopardy questions) a computer could be designed to perform it as well or better than a human. But that does not imply that a computer could, in principle, perform all of the tasks that a human can perform, as well as a human agent can. To affirm that would be to commit the fallacy of composition, which I discussed in an earlier post.

    So? Not all humans can perform all the tasks that I can perform – does that make other humans not intelligent agents? Image a human being with cognitive deficits that prevent them from doing mathematics, or generating grammatical language, or coordinating movement… would you consider this person as something which is not an intelligent agent? I don’t think you would (I hope not). So I think this argument is a non-starter too.

    You seem to regard the essential difference between people and computers as consciousness. I have to say that this sounds a bit fuzzy to me. If a computer could do everything that I did as well as I can do it, then I’d be inclined to say that there’s no fundamental difference between it and me.

    I may be inclined to that too – when they get there we’ll see if that is what we conclude. There is no sure solution to the problem of other minds; we judge others based on behavior, so if we make a computer that acts sufficiently like a person (or even a dog, say) we probably will conclude that they have conscious experience – and we will have no way of knowing if we are right or wrong (unless perhaps we some day come up with a principled understanding of the necessary and sufficient physical correlates of consciousness in human brains).

    In your previou posts, you’ve argued that we could never have adequate warrant for believing in a disembodied Designer, even if we could conceive of one. I’d like to address that claim.

    No, I didn’t argue that. I argued that in the context of ID (i.e. trying to explain cosmic fine-tuning, OOL, and high-CSI features of biology) we have no way of determining if the cause of these things matches your definition of intelligent agency.

    First, we can conceive of a disembodied Designer.

    Sure, but we can also conceive of an unknown natural process that generates CSI; that doesn’t mean it exists. So this doesn’t help either.

    Second, we need to distinguish three kinds of inferences: inductive, abductive and deductive… The inductive argument that all the intelligent agents we’ve met so far are animals doesn’t over-ride my reasoning here, because abductive reasoning trumps merely inductive reasoning.

    First, your assertion that abductive reasoning trumps inductive reasoning is groundless; there is no theory that quanitifies or orders our confidence in the result of these two types of inference, and obviously some inductions are very strong and some abductions are very weak. Second, the belief that intelligence requires complex mechanism is based on at least two types of evidence: A) We have a huge base of observations upon which to induce that intelligence arises invariably from complex physical information processing mechanisms like brains or computers, and B) we have theoretical justifications (including implications of Landauer’s princple) for claiming that anything which processes information requires physical mechanism (and that all means-ends analysis requires exactly this sort of information processing, even if it is ultimately non-algorithmic!).

    I do not claim this evidence proves that disembodied intelligence is impossible of course – we simply don’t know how minds work, or what consciousness is and what it does (or doesn’t do), so we can’t rule out that mind may exist in ways inconceivable to us now. But as far as our current understanding of intelligent agency goes, we cannot simply invoke disembodied agency as our explanation with any confidence whatsoever, since it violates both our uniform and repeated experience and our (very limited!!) theoretical understanding of intelligent agency.

    I can go one level higher: deductive reasoning, which affords me absolute certainty. I can be absolutely certain that a program has to be written by a programmer. Dr. Don Johnson has argued in his book, The Programming of Life that there are programs inside the cell – and he’s speaking literally, not metaphorically. Since organic cellular life has not always existed in our universe, I reason that it must have emerged at some point, somewhere. If it requires programs to run, then I infer deductively that since only a programmer is capable of writing a program, an Invisible Programmer produced the first cellular life in our cosmos.

    This is the worst of your arguments so far. Of course we cannot possibly know that “a program requires a programmer”! Aside from the fact that you have failed to define either of these terms (and that is no easy matter, especially for the latter!), you are up against nothing less than problems of arguments of first cause here. It is certainly hard to argue for a “program” existing eternally, or necessarily, or transcendentally, or popping into existence spontaneously. But it is no easier to argue for a “programmer” existing eternally, necessary, transcendentally, or emerging spontaneously. Recasting these ancient theological conundrums in modern terminology doesn’t resolve them.

    That’s just a short sketch of the reasoning I imply when inferring the existence of an Invisible Designer. I hope that helps make my position plainer.

    I think I understand your position. Mine is simple: WE DO NOT KNOW.

    By the way, the programming argument is meant to show why God doesn’t have to explain His methods to us for us to be warranted in inferring His existence. Presumably God could explain Himself to us if He wished; at present, however, He does not.

    Maybe that’s it. Or maybe He’s a savant – He’s really good at building interesting universes and life forms, but he is simply incapable of expressing His thoughts in language. Or maybe His mind is really different from ours and He doesn’t have any conscious awareness of what He is doing at all (we know that human beings can do all sorts of complex cognitive tasks without conscious awareness – why couldn’t He?).

    And on and on and on. In my view, God is a hypothesis which is full of anthropomorphic projections – explicit and implicit – that have no justifications at all (and really are unlikely to be true given what we know). The best description of God that I hear from religious folks is this: He is mysterious and unknowable and beyond our comprehension. That is the God that I believe in.

  66. aiguy I disagree with just about everything you wrote, but to one point in particular, let us be clear that computers are not ‘intelligent’:

    I wrote the following in response to this article on ‘artificial intelligence’ this morning:

    Computer could make 2 ‘Jeopardy!’ champs deep blue
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....-blue.html

    Sure the computer can recall massive amounts of information, and probably win at Jeopardy, but can it create the functional ‘prescriptive’ information that clearly sets transcendent intelligence (mind) apart from inanimate matter?

    LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW – William Dembski – Robert Marks – Pg. 13
    Excerpt:.,,, Information does not magically materialize. It can be created by intelligence or it can be shunted around by natural forces. But natural forces, and Darwinian pro…cesses in particular, do not create information. Active information enables us to see why this is the case.
    http://evoinfo.org/publication.....ation-law/

    In other words, no one has ever seen purely material processes generate functional ‘prescriptive’ information.

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language’
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    The Law of Physicodynamic Insufficiency – Dr David L. Abel – November 2010
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”,,, After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_L.....iency.html

    The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: Stunningly, information has been shown not to increase in the coding regions of DNA with evolution. Mutations do not produce increased information. Mira et al (65) showed that the amount of coding in DNA actually decreases with evolution of bacterial genomes, not increases. This paper parallels Petrov’s papers starting with (66) showing a net DNA loss with Drosophila evolution (67). Konopka (68) found strong evidence against the contention of Subba Rao et al (69, 70) that information increases with mutations. The information content of the coding regions in DNA does not tend to increase with evolution as hypothesized. Konopka also found Shannon complexity not to be a suitable indicator of evolutionary progress over a wide range of evolving genes. Konopka’s work applies Shannon theory to known functional text. Kok et al. (71) also found that information does not increase in DNA with evolution. As with Konopka, this finding is in the context of the change in mere Shannon uncertainty. The latter is a far more forgiving definition of information than that required for prescriptive information (PI) (21, 22, 33, 72). It is all the more significant that mutations do not program increased PI. Prescriptive information either instructs or directly produces formal function. No increase in Shannon or Prescriptive information occurs in duplication. What the above papers show is that not even variation of the duplication produces new information, not even Shannon “information.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_G.....ciple.html
    http://www.us.net/life/index.htm

    Dr. Don Johnson explains the difference between Shannon Information and Prescriptive Information, as well as explaining ‘the cybernetic cut’, in this following Podcast:

    Programming of Life – Dr. Donald Johnson interviewed by Casey Luskin – audio podcast
    http://www.idthefuture.com/201....._life.html

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity – David L. Abel
    Excerpt: “To stem the growing swell of Intelligent Design intrusions, it is imperative that we provide stand-alone natural process evidence of non trivial self-organization at the edge of chaos. We must demonstrate on sound scientific grounds the formal capabilities of naturally-occurring physicodynamic complexity. Evolutionary algorithms, for example, must be stripped of all artificial selection and the purposeful steering of iterations toward desired products. The latter intrusions into natural process clearly violate sound evolution theory.”
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf

    Thus aiguy, all you, or anyone else, has to do is to violate Abel’s null hypothesis.

  67. bornagain,

    aiguy I disagree with just about everything you wrote, but to one point in particular, let us be clear that computers are not ‘intelligent’:

    I guess you aren’t up to telling me why you disagree with everything I wrote, so ok then, let’s look at what you think about AI.

    Sure the computer can recall massive amounts of information, and probably win at Jeopardy, but can it create the functional ‘prescriptive’ information that clearly sets transcendent intelligence (mind) apart from inanimate matter?
    Why yes it can, of course. If you disagree, then please describe the experiment that will resolve the issue!

    In other words, no one has ever seen purely material processes generate functional ‘prescriptive’ information.

    Yes they have – many computer programs do this routinely. If you disagree, then please describe the experiment that will resolve the issue!

    Oh, bornagain, you really aren’t even a beginner at this I can see. There are lots of people who mount serious challenges to the claims of strong AI – start with John Lucas or Hubert Dreyfus or John Searle or Roger Penrose… – but these things you’re bringing up are just silly. You confidently claim that mind is transcendent without telling us how you know, and that “prescriptive” information (your scare quotes!) can’t be created by inanimate matter without telling us how one can decide when that is happening at all, or why a computer is “inanimate”…

    Sorry, but you’re out of your league here. Read nullasulus or vjtorley here for some views you might agree with and with whom I disagree – these guys have at least done their homework.

    Thus aiguy, all you, or anyone else, has to do is to violate Abel’s null hypothesis.

    “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”

    LOL. Here’s AIGuy’s null hypothesis: “There is nothing but chance and necessity operating inside human brains”.

    Thus bornagain, all you, or anyone else, has to do is to violate AIGuy’s null hypothesis.

    :-)

    (And please spare us the extended quotes and links; we can all read on the net. If you think you can mount an argument yourself please do so).

  68. Well Well aiguy, please excuse poor ole ignorant me for intruding on such a exalted intellect as you seem to esteem yourself to be, but I do have a few problems with you saying that,,,,

    “There is nothing but chance and necessity operating inside human brains”.

    here are some links for you to detest:

    the assertion that consciousness is to be treated as a separate entity when dealing with quantum mechanics, and thus with the universe, has some very strong clout behind it.

    Quantum mind–body problem
    Parallels between quantum mechanics and mind/body dualism were first drawn by the founders of quantum mechanics including Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Niels Bohr, and Eugene Wigner
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.....dy_problem

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Wigner

    The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, Physicists shy away from the truth because the truth is so alien to everyday physics. A common way to evade the mental universe is to invoke “decoherence” – the notion that “the physical environment” is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in “Renninger-type” experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The universe is entirely mental,,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    That the mind of a individual observer would play such an integral, yet not complete ‘closed loop’ role, in instantaneous quantum wave collapse to uncertain 3-D particles, gives us clear evidence that our mind is a unique entity. A unique entity with a superior quality of existence when compared to the uncertain 3D particles of the material universe. This is clear evidence for the existence of the ‘higher dimensional soul’ of man that supersedes any material basis that the soul/mind has been purported to emerge from by materialists. I would also like to point out that the ‘effect’, of universal quantum wave collapse to each ‘central 3D observer’, gives us clear evidence of the extremely special importance that the ’cause’ of the ‘Infinite Mind of God’ places on each of our own individual souls/minds.

    Psalm 139:17-18
    How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

    These following studies and videos confirm this ‘superior quality’ of existence for our souls/minds:

    Miracle Of Mind-Brain Recovery Following Hemispherectomies – Dr. Ben Carson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994585/

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives:
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining; In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08.....lives.html

    The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The Extremely ‘Monitored’ Near Death Experience of Pam Reynolds – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045560

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience (NDE) – Pim von Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their Near Death Experiences (NDEs). 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth. (of note: This ‘anomaly’ is also found for deaf people who can hear sound during their Near Death Experiences(NDEs).)
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

  69. Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

    Study suggests precognition may be possible – November 2010
    Excerpt: A Cornell University scientist has demonstrated that psi anomalies, more commonly known as precognition, premonitions or extra-sensory perception (ESP), really do exist at a statistically significant level. Psi anomalies are defined as “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms.”
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....ition.html

    Mind-Brain Interaction and Science Fiction (Quantum connection) – Jeffrey Schwartz & Michael Egnor – audio
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....8_39-08_00

    In The Wonder Of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind, Eccles and Robinson discussed the research of three groups of scientists (Robert Porter and Cobie Brinkman, Nils Lassen and Per Roland, and Hans Kornhuber and Luder Deeke), all of whom produced startling and undeniable evidence that a “mental intention” preceded an actual neuronal firing – thereby establishing that the mind is not the same thing as the brain, but is a separate entity altogether.
    http://books.google.com/books?.....8;lpg=PT28

    “As I remarked earlier, this may present an “insuperable” difficulty for some scientists of materialists bent, but the fact remains, and is demonstrated by research, that non-material mind acts on material brain.” Eccles

    “Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder.”
    Heinrich Heine – in the year 1834

    A Reply to Shermer Medical Evidence for NDEs (Near Death Experiences) – Pim van Lommel
    Excerpt: For decades, extensive research has been done to localize memories (information) inside the brain, so far without success.,,,,Nobel prize winner W. Penfield could sometimes induce flashes of recollection of the past (never a complete life review), experiences of light, sound or music, and rarely a kind of out-of-body experience. These experiences did not produce any transformation. After many years of research he finally reached the conclusion that it is not possible to localize memories (information) inside the brain.,, In trying to understand this concept of mutual interaction between the “invisible and not measurable” consciousness, with its enormous amount of information, and our visible, material body it seems wise to compare it with modern worldwide communication.,,,
    http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel.....sponse.htm

    And though it is not possible to localize memories (information) inside the brain, it is interesting to note how extremely complex the brain is in its ability to manipulate rudimentary information:

    Boggle Your Brain – November 2010
    Excerpt: One synapse, by itself, is more like a microprocessor–with both memory-storage and information-processing elements–than a mere on/off switch. In fact, one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20101119a

    This following experiment is really interesting:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiment, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    Here is another article that is far more nuanced in its discerning of our ‘transcendent mind’ from our material brain, than the ‘brute’ empirical evidence I’ve listed:

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....super.html

    Genesis 2:7
    And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

  70. Also of related note:

    The predominance of quarter-power (4-D) scaling in biology
    Excerpt: Many fundamental characteristics of organisms scale
    with body size as power laws of the form:

    Y = Yo M^b,

    where Y is some characteristic such as metabolic rate, stride length or life span, Yo is a normalization constant, M is body mass and b is the allometric scaling exponent.
    A longstanding puzzle in biology is why the exponent b is usually some simple multiple of 1/4 (4-Dimensional scaling) rather than a multiple of 1/3, as would be expected from Euclidean (3-Dimensional) scaling.
    http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/~dre.....18_257.pdf

    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.,,, The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection.” Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-369806

    Though Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini rightly find it inexplicable for ‘random’ Natural Selection to be the rational explanation for the scaling of the physiology, and anatomy, of living things to four-dimensional parameters, they do not seem to fully realize the implications this ‘four dimensional scaling’ of living things presents. This 4-D scaling is something we should rightly expect from a Intelligent Design perspective. This is because Intelligent Design holds that ‘higher dimensional transcendent information’ is more foundational to life, and even to the universe itself, than either matter or energy are. This higher dimensional ‘expectation’ for life, from a Intelligent Design perspective, is directly opposed to the expectation of the Darwinian framework, which holds that information, and indeed even the essence of life itself, is merely an ‘emergent’ property of the 3-D material realm.

    Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH
    Excerpt: It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate.
    http://journals.witpress.com/journals.asp?iid=47

    Quantum entanglement holds together life’s blueprint – 2010
    Excerpt: “If you didn’t have entanglement, then DNA would have a simple flat structure, and you would never get the twist that seems to be important to the functioning of DNA,” says team member Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford.
    http://neshealthblog.wordpress.....blueprint/

    Further notes:

    The ‘Fourth Dimension’ Of Living Systems
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Gs_qvlM8-7bFwl9rZUB9vS6SZgLH17eOZdT4UbPoy0Y

  71. bornagain

    Well Well aiguy, please excuse poor ole ignorant me for intruding on such a exalted intellect as you seem to esteem yourself to be, but I do have a few problems with you saying that,,,,

    Sorry to have hurt your feelings, but I stand by my assessment. You don’t seem to have any grasp of the issues or the ability to construct an argument. And copying and pasting text and links from what other people say (or the Bible! :o) does not constitute your constructing an argument either.

  72. Well aiguy, I see no argument, I see that you are severely misguided. Yet you refuse to acknowledge as such though provided with ample proof. It seems that proof only counts when you want it to count.

  73. aiguy:

    Yes, I’m very used to this. I ask endlessly for a definition of “intelligence”, and people grumble that everyone knows what it means and there’s no need for a definition. I point out that any scientific theory that uses “intelligent cause” as its sole explanatory concept really is obliged to say what that might mean in the context of the theory, and finally somebody deigns to take a crack at providing a meaningful definition.

    Well ID does not use “intelligent cause” as it’s “sole explanatory concept” and we have defined “intelligence”.

    For one the “intelligent” in Intelligent Design” refers to agency. It also refers to that which can create counterflow.

    IOW it is all about cause and effect relationships.

    And the sad part about this little chat is that I have been over and over this with you already and you just refuse to listen.

  74. aiguy since the programming in a cell is vastly more complex than that found in any computer program:,,,

    Welcome to CoSBi – (Computational and Systems Biology)
    Excerpt: Biological systems are the most parallel systems ever studied and we hope to use our better understanding of how living systems handle information to design new computational paradigms, programming languages and software development environments. The net result would be the design and implementation of better applications firmly grounded on new computational, massively parallel paradigms in many different areas.
    http://www.cosbi.eu/index.php/.....rticle/171

    ,,, then according to your logic it should be fairly easy for us to see the generation of functional prescriptive information in these vastly advanced computers. Yet when we test these living ‘marvels of programming’ we never find a gain of information that would violate what is termed Genetic Entropy,,,

    Evolution Vs Genetic Entropy – Andy McIntosh – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4028086

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    For a broad outline of the ‘Fitness test’, required to be passed to show a violation of the principle of Genetic Entropy, please see the following video and articles:

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – ‘The Fitness Test’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    List Of Degraded Molecular Abilities Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria:
    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    The following study is far more extensive than the preceding study, and solidly backs up the preceding conclusion:

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.(that is a net ‘fitness gain’ within a ‘stressed’ environment i.e. remove the stress from the environment and the parent strain is always more ‘fit’)
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

    Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness – Ann K. Gauger, Stephanie Ebnet, Pamela F. Fahey, and Ralph Seelke – 2010
    Excerpt: When all of these possibilities are left open by the experimental design, the populations consistently take paths that reduce expression of trpAE49V,D60N, making the path to new (restored) function virtually inaccessible. This demonstrates that the cost of expressing genes that provide weak new functions is a significant constraint on the emergence of new functions. In particular, populations with multiple adaptive paths open to them may be much less likely to take an adaptive path to high fitness if that path requires over-expression.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2010.2

    Response from Ralph Seelke to David Hillis Regarding Testimony on Bacterial Evolution Before Texas State Board of Education, January 21, 2009
    Excerpt: He has done excellent work showing the capabilities of evolution when it can take one step at a time. I have used a different approach to show the difficulties that evolution encounters when it must take two steps at a time. So while similar, our work has important differences, and Dr. Bull’s research has not contradicted or refuted my own.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/9951

  75. This is one of the main reasons why chance and necessity will never generate novel information over and above what is already present in ‘massively parallel’ genomes ,,

    Poly-Functional Complexity equals Poly-Constrained Complexity
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....Zmd2emZncQ

    DNA – Evolution Vs. Polyfuctionality – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4614519

    Thus aiguy since you actually have zero evidence for material processes, in life or out of life, generating information over and above what was already present, and yet you yourself have generated, in your own post, more information than can reasonably be expected from the entire ‘chance and necessity’ resources of the universe over the entire history of the universe,,,

    Book Review – Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
    Excerpt: As early as the 1960s, those who approached the problem of the origin of life from the standpoint of information theory and combinatorics observed that something was terribly amiss. Even if you grant the most generous assumptions: that every elementary particle in the observable universe is a chemical laboratory randomly splicing amino acids into proteins every Planck time for the entire history of the universe, there is a vanishingly small probability that even a single functionally folded protein of 150 amino acids would have been created. Now of course, elementary particles aren’t chemical laboratories, nor does peptide synthesis take place where most of the baryonic mass of the universe resides: in stars or interstellar and intergalactic clouds. If you look at the chemistry, it gets even worse—almost indescribably so: the precursor molecules of many of these macromolecular structures cannot form under the same prebiotic conditions—they must be catalysed by enzymes created only by preexisting living cells, and the reactions required to assemble them into the molecules of biology will only go when mediated by other enzymes, assembled in the cell by precisely specified information in the genome.
    So, it comes down to this: Where did that information come from? The simplest known free living organism (although you may quibble about this, given that it’s a parasite) has a genome of 582,970 base pairs, or about one megabit (assuming two bits of information for each nucleotide, of which there are four possibilities). Now, if you go back to the universe of elementary particle Planck time chemical labs and work the numbers, you find that in the finite time our universe has existed, you could have produced about 500 bits of structured, functional information by random search. Yet here we have a minimal information string which is (if you understand combinatorics) so indescribably improbable to have originated by chance that adjectives fail.
    http://www.fourmilab.ch/docume.....k_726.html

    ,,, then aiguy are you now going to say that you are not intelligent just so to maintain your atheistic prejudice?

  76. joseph,

    Well ID does not use “intelligent cause” as it’s “sole explanatory concept” and we have defined intelligence”.

    For one the “intelligent” in Intelligent Design” refers to agency. It also refers to that which can create counterflow.

    By “counterflow” I assume you mean contra-causal effects, and so by “agency” it appears you mean libertarian free will. That’s fine and dandy, but it is not an assertion that can be empirically tested, at least at the present time.

    If you meant something else by these terms please tell me, along with some suggestion as to how we might decide if such a thing exists or not.

    IOW it is all about cause and effect relationships.

    I have no idea what you mean by this.

    And the sad part about this little chat is that I have been over and over this with you already and you just refuse to listen.

    I don’t recall our chat, sorry. But I’m listening – really am trying my hardest here. I would ask you to try also to make your ideas as clear as you can so we can debate the issues themselves rather than just terminology.

    above,
    It would be nice if you could stop cluttering up the thread with excerpts from other sources. If you have an argument to make, see if you can articulate it in a concise manner, will you please?

  77. aiguy,

    You assume the burden of proof is to show humans are deterministic. But whether or not humans are deterministic is unknown, and there is no default assumption that ought to be accepted as true just because we can’t demonstrate the case one way or the other.

    Humans never could be deterministic and act as if that conclusion were known. Knowing something means that the entity that knows it is separate from the thing known. It requires a position outside, looking in. If we were fully determined, we could never know it, for all things we thought we knew would also be determined, there could be no escape, no objective vantage point, no way to “determine” anything at all, you would be the one “determined” instead, every bit of you, from top to bottom, including all thoughts.

  78. AIG:

    I must second Joseph: you [AIG] just refuse to listen..

    Repeatedly, including in this thread, you have been offered perfectly adequate definitions of intelligence and other key terms, especially in the context that we ourselves are intelligent and routinely produce objects that exhibit intentionally directed, complex contingency that is often functional towards achieving evident goals, e.g. text in posts in this thread.

    You have selectively hyperskeptically objected in order to brush aside, using objections that you would never use where you would be inclinded to agree with the direction the argument is trending.

    Worse, you now pretend that you have not been offered adequate definitions, as though that has made you win the argument:

    Yes, I’m very used to this. I ask endlessly for a definition of “intelligence”, and people grumble that everyone knows what it means and there’s no need for a definition.

    Sorry, you HAVE been offered a cluster of relevant and consistent definitions, which trace to the known characteristics of known intelligences, and infer that if something else acts like that, it is reasonable on family resemblance, to conclude that it too is intelligent.

    And, if the only empirically known source of dFSCI is intelligence [and we have an islands of function in config spaces analysis that shows us why that is so], and we see similar dFSCI in the living cell in DNA etc, we have we]every epistemic right to conclude that the cell traces to intelligent cause.

    In short, you have committed serious misrepresenations amounting to false accusations in the teeth of easily accessible evidence to the contrary.

    That’s not cricket.

    And, as we look on at your latest performance above, it becomes plain that we are dealing with an ideologised, closed, objecting mind that refuses to be corrected or to respond seriously to serious points.

    Surely, you can do better than that. A lot better.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  79. aiguy,

    By “counterflow” I assume you mean contra-causal effects, and so by “agency” it appears you mean libertarian free will. That’s fine and dandy, but it is not an assertion that can be empirically tested, at least at the present time.

    The philosophical position that all things valid should be empirically verifiable is not itself empirically verifiable.

  80. aiguy,

    You don’t seem to have any grasp of the issues or the ability to construct an argument. And copying and pasting text and links from what other people say (or the Bible!) does not constitute your constructing an argument either.

    Sure it does.

  81. CH:

    You are right: absent real freedom to think, reason and choose on rational grounds [not merely play out cause-effect chains tracing to accidental initial circumstances and chance or mechanically necessary laws], knowledge — warranted, credibly true belief — becomes impossible. For, warrant becomes impossible. For, real reasoning, not just Liebniz’s mill wheels mindlessly grinding away, becomes impossible.

    That error is he reason why evolutionary materialism reduces itself to self-referential incoherence, as we can see explained here.

    (Not that sufficiently committed evolutionary materialists will be inclined to listen to that unwelcome news. But, the rest of us looking on, can trace out the reduction to absurdity and draw our own conclusions.)

    GEM of TKI

  82. Clive,

    AIGUY: You assume the burden of proof is to show humans are deterministic. But whether or not humans are deterministic is unknown, and there is no default assumption that ought to be accepted as true just because we can’t demonstrate the case one way or the other.

    CLIVE: Humans never could be deterministic and act as if that conclusion were known. Knowing something means that the entity that knows it is separate from the thing known. It requires a position outside, looking in.

    I disagree. I just turned to my wife and asked her if her phone knew what time it was, and she reported that yes, indeed it does. This knowledge comes from inside the phone, not apart from it.

    If we were fully determined, we could never know it, for all things we thought we knew would also be determined, there could be no escape, no objective vantage point, no way to “determine” anything at all, you would be the one “determined” instead, every bit of you, from top to bottom, including all thoughts.

    I disagree. I don’t know if we are determined or not, and I’m certain that nobody else does either.

    AIGUY: By “counterflow” I assume you mean contra-causal effects, and so by “agency” it appears you mean libertarian free will. That’s fine and dandy, but it is not an assertion that can be empirically tested, at least at the present time.

    CLIVE: The philosophical position that all things valid should be empirically verifiable is not itself empirically verifiable.

    I’m not talking about philosophy, Clive. If this board, and ID in general, was presented as a philosophical endeavor, I would argue quite differently. It is the fact that ID is presented as scentific that I take issue with.

  83. aiguy,

    I disagree. I just turned to my wife and asked her if her phone knew what time it was, and she reported that yes, indeed it does. This knowledge comes from inside the phone, not apart from it.

    The phone doesn’t know anything about time, anymore than the radio knows the notes and lyrical meanings to the songs it plays. You may as well listen to static and think that the radio is confused. Xerxes had his troops whip a river that destroyed a bridge he needed to cross. They honestly gave the river a whipping with whips. If your phone ever freezes up, maybe you should consider chastising it and see if it will start to behave better. This seems reasonable to you? The odd things is, people who don’t believe in a soul or an ability to reason separate from deterministic necessity, end up believing in animism, as if the knowledge and ability to reason comes from the parts and particles themselves, just as Xerxes thought the river intentionally destroyed his bridge. The trade off is this, the ability to really reason that you lose in man, gets transferred to everything else, all of material, thus animism.

    If we were fully determined, we could never know it, for all things we thought we knew would also be determined, there could be no escape, no objective vantage point, no way to “determine” anything at all, you would be the one “determined” instead, every bit of you, from top to bottom, including all thoughts.

    I disagree. I don’t know if we are determined or not, and I’m certain that nobody else does either.

    You could never know anything if all your thoughts couldn’t have been otherwise and are locked-in by a physical necessity. Ask your phone whether you’re determined or not, and wait for its answer.

    I’m not talking about philosophy, Clive. If this board, and ID in general, was presented as a philosophical endeavor, I would argue quite differently. It is the fact that ID is presented as scentific that I take issue with.

    It’s inescapable. The idea that all things valid should be empirically verifiable is an idea, and therefore a philosophy, and therefore not itself empirically verifiable. If you take issue with what science is and is not, you’re taking issue with the philosophy of science, i.e. what constitutes science, which is not something physical itself, not empirically verifiable itself. You don’t see a physical object in your yard and say that you have finally found science. Science is a consensual reality of convention, like driving on the right side of the road or being a notary public.

  84. Clive,

    The phone doesn’t know anything about time…

    Well that’s the thing. You say it doesn’t, and I say it does, but you can’t tell us how we might ever decide the question by appeal to our shared experience. How can we decide who is right?

    You seem to equate the ability to know with intelligence in general. That’s fine, so we’re basically debating machine intelligence. You ridicule the idea by suggesting I should chastise my phone and see if will start to behave better… but of course there could be a phone that did exactly that (and the popular electronic AI toys in Japan all respond to displays of affection or punishment appropriately).

    We could keep this up forever, you coming up with things that a machine “could never do” and me either explaining that yes they could of course do such things or finding examples of other “intelligent agents” (people or animals) who also couldn’t do these things.

    If the question of machine intelligence was that easy to answer it would have been answered long ago. It is not that easy.

    The odd things is, people who don’t believe in a soul or an ability to reason separate from deterministic necessity, end up believing in animism, as if the knowledge and ability to reason comes from the parts and particles themselves, just as Xerxes thought the river intentionally destroyed his bridge. The trade off is this, the ability to really reason that you lose in man, gets transferred to everything else, all of material, thus animism.

    HUH??? I don’t know what a “soul” is, I do not believe in “deterministic necessity”, and I do not believe in animism or that the ability to reason comes from parts and particles. I don’t think you’ve mapped out the conceptual space of the mind-body problem very carefully here, Clive.

    AIGUY: I’m not talking about philosophy, Clive. If this board, and ID in general, was presented as a philosophical endeavor, I would argue quite differently. It is the fact that ID is presented as scentific that I take issue with.
    CLIVE: It’s inescapable. The idea that all things valid should be empirically verifiable is an idea, and therefore a philosophy, and therefore not itself empirically verifiable.

    Yes, that is correct. Not only is verificationism itself unverifiable, but it has many other serious problems, and I’m not aware of any contemporary epistemologist who subscribes to that position.

    If you take issue with what science is and is not, you’re taking issue with the philosophy of science, i.e. what constitutes science, which is not something physical itself, not empirically verifiable itself.

    HUH? Some things are empirically (inter-subjectively) verifiable, and some things are not. Those things that are can be used to make scientific inferences. This is not a controversial point; if you object to that then I’m afraid we’ve nothing else to discuss.

    You don’t see a physical object in your yard and say that you have finally found science. Science is a consensual reality of convention, like driving on the right side of the road or being a notary public.

    I disagree that science is merely an arbitrary convention like deciding to drive on the right side of the road, and I actually don’t believe that you think that either (or wouldn’t if you thought about for a while). But in any event I will not debate the philosophy of science. My position is that some questions (like whether the flu is caused by viruses, or whether the sun is powered by nuclear fusion) can be resolved by appeal to our shared experience, and so they are considered to be scientific. Other questions (like if our minds transcend physical cause) currently cannot, and so they remain in the realm of philosophy.

    Thanks for the chat; I’ll let you have the last word :-)

  85. aiguy,

    I disagree that science is merely an arbitrary convention like deciding to drive on the right side of the road, and I actually don’t believe that you think that either (or wouldn’t if you thought about for a while).

    This is what science is: You don’t see a physical object in your yard and say that you have finally found science. Science is a consensual reality of convention, like driving on the right side of the road or being a notary public.

  86. aiguy:

    By “counterflow” I assume you mean contra-causal effects, and so by “agency” it appears you mean libertarian free will. That’s fine and dandy, but it is not an assertion that can be empirically tested, at least at the present time.

    If you meant something else by these terms please tell me, along with some suggestion as to how we might decide if such a thing exists or not.

    I linked to the definition of “counterflow”, did you not click on it and read it? It is from “Nature, Design and science” by Del Ratszch. I have no idea what “contra-causal effects” means.

    As for agency = libertarian free will, not necessarily.

    Perhaps the following will help:

    intelligent design is not optimal design

    IOW it is all about cause and effect relationships.

    aiguy:

    I have no idea what you mean by this.

    Things that happen or happened have a cause- ie something or someone did something to cause the effect we are observing or have observed. Also called causality- and one of the basic questions science asks is “how did it ome to be this way?”

    So we are investigating X, and we ask “what is X? what does X do? and how did X come to be this way?”

    For example does X require agency involvement or is nature, operating freely enough to account for X?

    Forensics, archaeology and SETI are three venues that require an answer to that question.

  87. aiguy:

    It is the fact that ID is presented as scentific that I take issue with.

    Two quetions:

    1- How do you define science?

    2- Do you also take issue with the theory of evolution being presented as science?

  88. aiguy

    Just a quick comment for now, as I’m a little busy. You believe that the intentional stance is indispensable for explaining what some computers do, and you are agnostic as to whether intelligent agency is compatible with determinism. So according to you, there are no knock-down arguments against computers being intelligent agents.

    OK. Let’s suppose you’re right, for argument’s sake. If you are, then the hypothesis that this universe was designed by an embodied, intelligent computer in another, higher-level “mother universe” would constitute a form of ID, would it not? In which case you have no problems with the massive inductive evidence against a disembodied Designer. That makes you an ID-ist of sorts – just not one who believes the Designer is a spirit. Right?

  89. aiguy (#65):

    Hi, back again. I’d like to begin with your comment in bold text:

    I would suggest everyone ponder this: ID has had a very long time to come up with a canonical statement of its central theoretical claim. Between Meyer and Dembski and Wells and everyone else who writes and blogs and does “research” in ID, one would think that somebody, somewhere, would have said what “Intelligent Design” actually meant. Here you have chosen the definition that Bill Dembski, a famous and prominent ID theorist if there ever was one, committed to in his book. Yet you have had to immediately correct and amend his definition to account for the simple and obvious objections I’ve raised in a single post. These are not trivial changes; these are not just clarifications. The fact that you now insist that intelligence is incompatible with determinism, and that it can’t be the product of another creator – these are substantive claims. And we have just started!

    You make a fair point. I’m all in favor of rigorous definitions myself. However, you might not be aware that Professor William Dembski has already stated online that he regards intelligence as incompatible with being a deterministic machine. When did he do that? Twenty years ago! Would you like a reference? I’ll give you two. Here you are:

    Converting Matter into Mind: Alchemy and the Philosopher’s Stone in Cognitive Science by Professor William Dembski. In PSCF 12, December 1990.

    Conflating Matter and Mind by Professor Willim Dembski. From PSCF 43 (June 1991), p. 107.

    Here’s an excerpt from the first article (which is well worth reading, by the way):

    Matter by itself, notwithstanding how well it is dressed up with talk of holism, emergence, or supervenience, notwithstanding with what complexity it is organized, is still matter and cannot be transmuted into spirit.

    Earlier I described three approaches to the mind-body problem: the substance dualism of Descartes, the monism of Spinoza, and the historic Judeo-Christian position. I want now to focus on a fourth option which has of late been gaining currency in theistic circles. I shall refer to this view as semi-materialism. By semi-materialism I mean a philosophical position which on the one hand acknowledges the God of Scripture, but on the other denies that man’s soul and spirit have an ontology distinct from (i.e., not derivative from) the body. Semi-materialism is a melding of traditional theology and supervenience. God is still creator, sovereign, and transcendent, but man is now fully realized in his human body….

    The problems of trying to reconcile a supervenient anthropology with a traditional theology invade the whole of theology. Thus much of what MacKay calls the “traditional imagery” associated with death has to be discarded or reinterpreted. What are we to make of the incarnation of Christ? Do Jesus’ soul and spirit fit into the semi-materialist’s hierarchy of levels? What about miracles? If we accept that God can interact causally with the material universe, why should it be inconceivable that a human spirit can interact causally with a human body? I am, however, committed to viewing computers and the programs they run as tools for my intellect, much as hammers are tools for my hands, and not as my peers. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Here’s an excerpt from the second article:

    When a materialist or physicalist claims that mind supervenes on brain he is saying that the brain fully determines the mind. If you will, the mind can do nothing without the brain’s approval.

    Now my point in Converting Matter Into Mind was that the claim that mind supervenes on brain (which is the position of such diverse figures as Jerry Fodor, Willard Quine, and Donald MacKay) is not a substantive or empirical claim, but rather a bald assertion which rests solely on materialist presuppositions….

    The key theological question for me is not a matter of dogmatic or systematic theology. The key question is a personal one and might even appear impudent. It is this: What must be true about myself and about God for me to want to worship him? To put it more crassly, What’s so great about God that I should want to serve him? Why should I want to be with him in eternity? …

    Frankly, when I consider the way God is frequently portrayed, even in Christian circles widely regarded as non-heretical, I have no desire to spend eternity with him. One God in particular I have no desire to spend eternity with is the God of the semi-materialists (cf. Converting Matter Into Mind, pp. 215-219). Let us recall Donald MacKay’s recommendation to all good semi-materialists that they “not hunt for gaps in the scientific picture into which entities like ‘the soul’ might fit.” For the purposes of this discussion, semi-materialists are those Christians who hold that mind supervenes on brain. Why is this bad? If God decides to create us as physical systems whose consciousness and intelligence flow strictly from the constitution and dynamics of those physical systems, what’s wrong with that? Is our value diminished because semi-materialism deprives us of a spirit or soul (spirit and soul being conceived as aspects of our person whose ontology transcends the physical organism)?

    To this last question I answer, Yes. Nevertheless, by diminished value I’m referring primarily to my own, personal valuations, not necessarily to God’s. I know my mind and I know what I value. I frankly know very little of God’s mind, and I’m loath to attribute valuations to God except in cases where the valuations I attribute to God are crucial to my valuation of God himself. If humans are no more than carbon-based machines (and here by machines I include any physical system of arbitrary complexity), if God loves and values such machines, if Christ died for such machines, so much the worse for God – I’ll look for another religion. I cannot worship any old God and I cannot worship God while maintaining a warped view of myself. A great God can properly be worshipped only by a great creature. Machines are wholly inadequate for the task. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Pretty strong wording, would you not agree? At any rate, I agree with your assertion that the definition of intelligence could have been sharpened in The Design of Life to reflect Professor Dembski’s views.

    You also remark my view that “in order to be an intelligent agent an entity must exhibit ‘dedicated functionality’ and be ‘built from the bottom up’” should have been built into the definition from the start. Well, if I were defining “intelligent agent” then I should certainly have done that; however, I was quoting Dembski’s definition. My added stipulations about dedicated functionality pre-date my involvement in the ID movement. I wrote about them back in 2005, in an online e-book. In this section, I address the problem of defining “life”: http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....inalb.html . I discuss dedicated functionality here: http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....#empirical .

    However, there is no unanimity within the ID community as to what exactly “life” is – and for that matter, there’s no unanimity within any other community that I know of, as the term is notoriously difficult to define. What unites ID-ers is a conviction that life contains a vast amount of FCSI – in particular, prescriptive information – and that unintelligent processes are incapable of generating such a vast quantity of information. Incidentally, your remark to bornagain77 that computers do it all the time is beside the point here, as they have intelligent programmers.

    Anyway, let me just say that I applaud your call for greater definitional rigor, regarding “intelligent agency.”

    More in a moment…

  90. aiguy (#65):

    Back again. You write:

    You are implying that if something can be explained in terms of deterministic physics, then it cannot be “truly intentional”, and if we use intentional idioms they are metaphorical. Three issues there: First, it’s certainly not clear that determinism is incompatible with intentionality; second, not all computers are deterministic; and third, we do not know if humans transcend deterministic cause (or deterministic + random cause).

    OK. I should have added that a computer which is deterministic + random is no freer than a purely deterministic one. What’s critical here is that the operations whereby it arrives at its “answers” are physical processes, rather than formal ones. To be sure, we can say that computers “add,” for instance, but to the extent that we ascribe formal processes to computers, they piggyback on the physical processes that underlie them. There is no top-down causation. When people describe how they arrive at the answer to a problem, they appeal to these formal processes. I’m sure you could program a computer to do the same thing, but it would be “mouthing words” on the basis of instructions implemented at the physical level.

    AS for how top-down causation is compatible with physics, here’s how I picture it.

    Reasoning is an immaterial activity. This means that reasoning doesn’t happen anywhere – certainly not in some spooky soul hovering 10 centimeters above my head. It has no location. Ditto for choice. However, choices have to be somehow realized on a physical level, otherwise they would have no impact on the world. The soul doesn’t push neurons, as Eccles appears to think; instead, it selects from one of a large number of quantum possibilities thrown up at some micro level of the brain (Doyle’s micro mind). This doesn’t violate quantum randomness, because a selection can be non-random at the macro level but random at the micro level.

    1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1
    0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1

    The above two rows were created by a random number generator. Now suppose I impose the macro requirement: keep the columns whose sum equals 1, and discard the rest. I now have:

    1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
    0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

    Each row is still random, but I have imposed a non-random macro-level constraint. That’s how my will works when I make a choice.

    You also write:

    e have theoretical justifications (including implications of Landauer’s princple) for claiming that anything which processes information requires physical mechanism (and that all means-ends analysis requires exactly this sort of information processing, even if it is ultimately non-algorithmic!).

    You also write:

    It is impossible (even in principle) to explain what certain computer systems are doing at the level of electronics, for the same reason we cannot explain weather systems at the level of atomic interactions. So we use intentional idioms (and other abstractions) to talk about computer systems, and they are utterly indispensible. (Italics mine – VJT.)

    This is interesting. Do you have some evidence to back up that claim? I’d like to see a link. Re the weather: the sheer number of interactions at the molecular level certainly renders it necessary to use high-level approximations, but computers (unlike the atmosphere) are machines designed to perform certain specific tasks. It would surprise me to discover that for some computers, we cannot predict their operations from an understanding of their components, but we can predict them by taking a higher-level stance.

    Regarding Landauer’s principle, which you cite:

    I don’t know much about Landauer’s principle. I just googled the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._principle . It seems that it applies to information processing. Information processing (when logically irreversible) generates entropy. OK. But there’s an assumption being made on your part, that a disembodied spirit would have to process information if it was thinking. Now I’m quite sure we do that, as embodied beings, but the activity of thinking, or rule-following, is a formal activity which is distinct from the information processing in our brains.

    Well, the battle of wits in the past few days has been an interesting one. Let me conclude by saying that I have appreciated the exchange of views, and re-examined some of my own.

  91. joseph,

    I linked to the definition of “counterflow”, did you not click on it and read it? It is from “Nature, Design and science” by Del Ratszch. I have no idea what “contra-causal effects” means.

    All right, I see it means this:
    Counterflow refers to things running contrary to what, in the relevant sense, would (or might) have resulted or occurred had nature operated freely.

    Philosophers refer to this as contra-causal or libertarian free will, meaning that somehow mind is supposed to have the power to transcend physical causation. In other words, while physical cause (nature, in Del Ratszch’s terminology) would result in one state of affairs, some agent exerts its free will and changes what happens (what he calls “counterflow”).

    People have debated whether or not this sort of power exists for thousands of years. There are a number of different solutions to the so-called problem of free will, and if you ask five contemporary philosophers what the solution is you will likely get ten different answers.

    In other words, nobody can demonstrate whether or not counterflow ever happens. In the past fifty years or so scientists (like Benjamin Libet) have begun to do experiments intended to shed some empirical light on the matter. The results have been intriguing, but nothing has emerged that is anywhere near definitive.

    Things that happen or happened have a cause- ie something or someone did something to cause the effect we are observing or have observed. Also called causality- and one of the basic questions science asks is “how did it ome to be this way?”

    Forensics, archaeology and SETI are three venues that require an answer to that question.

    Forensics and archaeology study the results of human behavior. SETI looks for signs of the existence of alien life forms (“life as we know it” as the SETI folks say). These have anything to do with the philosophical questions of free will, or the nature of mind or intelligence in the abstract.

    1- How do you define science?

    My position is that some questions (like whether the flu is caused by viruses, or whether the sun is powered by nuclear fusion) can be resolved by appeal to our shared experience, and so they are considered to be scientific. Other questions (like if human minds can transcend physical cause) currently cannot, and so they remain in the realm of philosophy. But I won’t debate philosophy of science here, or epistemology either. If you see no difference between scientific arguments and philosophical arguments, then we have nothing to debate.

    2- Do you also take issue with the theory of evolution being presented as science?

    There are certainly things that evolutionary biologists (like Dawkins) say that are unscientific: For example, when they say that evolution is purposeless, I write them letters and ask them how are we to test this claim? (I have not yet received a response).

    I also think that the central claim of evolutionary biology (viz that the complex form and function (CSI) we observe can be explained by random variation and selection) is false. I do not believe that evolutionary processes could possibly have created the CSI we observe in the time that has passed since the Earth formed.

    However, evolutionary theory is scientific in the sense that the explanatory constructs it offers – genetic heritability and mutations, differential reproduction based on survival or sexual selection, etc – these are all well-defined and observable things within our shared experience. That is why I can judge that the theory is wrong – because we can judge what evolutionary mechanisms are incapable of doing, and I think they are incapable of producing the CSI we see.

    In contrast, the explanatory construct that ID offers (“intelligent cause”) has two huge problems. First, there is nothing that “intelligent cause” can be assumed to be incapable of, and so no particular phenomenon is inherently inconsistent with the hypothesis of intelligent cause. The second problem is that ID uses a specious argument when it says that intelligence is something we are all aquainted with because of our familiarity with human beings and other animals.

    The reason I say this is specious is because it reifies intelligence: In other words, it assumes that intelligence is something real and causal apart from the humans and other animals we observe exhibiting intelligent behavior. Now, it might be true that intelligence is something like that – if for example the metaphysical claims of dualism were true. But we don’t know if dualism is true or not, and so it is not justified for anyone to imagine that the intelligent behavior we observe is anything but a property of human beings and similar life forms. This is the portion of ID that I say is unscientific, because it implicitly assumes that intelligence is a thing that can exist independently of the complex physical organisms that we observe.

    ID of course admits that perhaps it was an alien life form responsible for the design of life on Earth; ID simply won’t say if it is talking about such a thing or something like a god instead. But obviously ID must be positing either a complex physical life form or not, and so we need to look at these hypotheses independently. If ID is positing an alien life form as the designer of life on Earth, then I think ID is a pretty bad theory, because while we do obviously know that intelligent life forms exist, we have no evidence that they exist anywhere but Earth. Moreover, such a theory would not explain how first life arose, but only how life on Earth arose. And finally, once we posit that alien life forms exist, it becomes far more likely that life on Earth is descended from those life forms rather than being the product of their bio-engineering efforts.

    Alternatively, if ID posits an intelligent being that was not a complex physical life form, then I think ID is even a worse theory, since not only do we have no evidence that any such thing existed before life on Earth came to exist, but we don’t even have any evidence that such a thing could exist at all (since in our experience all intelligent agents are complex physical organisms).

  92. vjtorley,

    You believe that the intentional stance is indispensable for explaining what some computers do, and you are agnostic as to whether intelligent agency is compatible with determinism. So according to you, there are no knock-down arguments against computers being intelligent agents.

    I think the part about the intentional stance is not germane, but yes I think there are no knock-down arguments against strong AI.

    OK. Let’s suppose you’re right, for argument’s sake. If you are, then the hypothesis that this universe was designed by an embodied, intelligent computer in another, higher-level “mother universe” would constitute a form of ID, would it not? In which case you have no problems with the massive inductive evidence against a disembodied Designer. That makes you an ID-ist of sorts – just not one who believes the Designer is a spirit. Right?

    You are here not actually supposing for argument’s sake that I am right – you are supposing for argument’s sake that computers can be intelligent (I am in fact not proposing this but am agnostic about it). So let’s say computers can be intelligent… but of course now you must tell me what that is supposed to mean! Let’s assume you mean that it can generate plans to solve novel problems.

    OK, now we assume that this problem-solving computer exists and creates universes. Yes, this would be a form of ID, and would not suffer the problem of being unlikely because intelligence requires mechanism. However, it still wouldn’t be a very good hypothesis. First, we don’t know of the existence of any such thing (a “computer” that isn’t actually based on integrated circuits, etc). Second, a simpler hypothesis would be that rather than a general problem-solving computer, the cause would have been a simpler special-purpose computer that produces universes but couldn’t do anything else (like play Jeopardy).

    You make a fair point. I’m all in favor of rigorous definitions myself. However, you might not be aware that Professor William Dembski has already stated online that he regards intelligence as incompatible with being a deterministic machine.

    I’ve read the “Conflating Matter and Mind” paper, but not the other one. I’ve used Dembski’s line from the former paper quite a bit: “I fully grant that my theology would crumble with the advent of intelligent machines.” So he’s betting his entire worldview on the hope that computers cannot become intelligent. This is a perfect statement of why ID (which really is a statement of his theology when you get past the specious equivocation, as I pointed out to joseph above) critically depends on the truth of dualism (or some expanded ontology). So yes, Dembski has written about his metaphysical commitments, but fails to make clear that ID rests squarely upon the truth of them!

    You also remark my view that “in order to be an intelligent agent an entity must exhibit ‘dedicated functionality’ and be ‘built from the bottom up’” should have been built into the definition from the start. Well, if I were defining “intelligent agent” then I should certainly have done that; however, I was quoting Dembski’s definition. My added stipulations about dedicated functionality pre-date my involvement in the ID movement. I wrote about them back in 2005, in an online e-book. In this section, I address the problem of defining “life”: http://www.angelfire.com/linux…..inalb.html . I discuss dedicated functionality here: http://www.angelfire.com/linux…..#empirical .

    I agree you’ve likely done a better job at considering the nature of intelligence that Dembski has done (forgive my faint praise).

    However, there is no unanimity within the ID community as to what exactly “life” is – and for that matter, there’s no unanimity within any other community that I know of, as the term is notoriously difficult to define. What unites ID-ers is a conviction that life contains a vast amount of FCSI – in particular, prescriptive information – and that unintelligent processes are incapable of generating such a vast quantity of information.

    Yes, “life” is as difficult to define as “intelligence” (but of course no theory invokes ‘life’ as an explanatory concept!). When I argue that all known intelligent agents are life forms, I am using ID’s own conception that what distinguishes living things is that they contain lots of FSCI.

    Incidentally, your remark to bornagain77 that computers do it all the time is beside the point here, as they have intelligent programmers.

    Don’t you believe that you also have an intelligent designer? Does that mean you aren’t intelligent yourself?

    Anyway, let me just say that I applaud your call for greater definitional rigor, regarding “intelligent agency.”

    So refreshing, thank you!!

    OK. I should have added that a computer which is deterministic + random is no freer than a purely deterministic one. What’s critical here is that the operations whereby it arrives at its “answers” are physical processes, rather than formal ones. To be sure, we can say that computers “add,” for instance, but to the extent that we ascribe formal processes to computers, they piggyback on the physical processes that underlie them. There is no top-down causation. When people describe how they arrive at the answer to a problem, they appeal to these formal processes. I’m sure you could program a computer to do the same thing, but it would be “mouthing words” on the basis of instructions implemented at the physical level.

    Sometimes people are able to describe how they arrive at answers to problems by formal processes, and sometimes they solve problems and are incapableof describing how. For example, when a robot is programmed to catch a baseball, it requires a great deal of complex mathematical analysis to be accomplished in real time. The robot could describe its reasoning, and you have no justification for claiming that its explanations would be just “mouthing words”; it would actually be generating grammatical sentences corresponding to what particular computations were being performed and reporting them. OK? But when a human catches a baseball, we are unable to explain it in terms of formal processes; all we can say is “I saw the ball and went for it” or something similar. Does that mean that the robot caught the ball using intelligence, but the human didn’t?

    …The soul doesn’t push neurons, as Eccles appears to think; instead, it selects from one of a large number of quantum possibilities…

    Yes, I’m familiar with ideas along these lines.

    Each row is still random, but I have imposed a non-random macro-level constraint. That’s how my will works when I make a choice.

    I think probably the Penrose/Hammeroff ideas are the most well-developed along these lines. We presently have no way of testing for the sort of will-driven constraints that you posit or those P/H are suggesting, but perhaps someday we’ll be able to.

    We have theoretical justifications (including implications of Landauer’s princple) for claiming that anything which processes information requires physical mechanism (and that all means-ends analysis requires exactly this sort of information processing, even if it is ultimately non-algorithmic!).

    Start here: http://www.cpi.caltech.edu/index.html. There is a lot of research on the physics of information nowadays, for example at http://www.research.ibm.com/physicsofinfo/ Just do a search.

    Don’t forget I’m not offering this work as proof of anything; all I’m saying is that as far as we know intelligent behavior requires the processing of information, and the processing of information requires complex systems of discrete physical states.

    It is impossible (even in principle) to explain what certain computer systems are doing at the level of electronics, for the same reason we cannot explain weather systems at the level of atomic interactions. So we use intentional idioms (and other abstractions) to talk about computer systems, and they are utterly indispensible. (Italics mine – VJT.)

    This is interesting. Do you have some evidence to back up that claim? I’d like to see a link. Re the weather: the sheer number of interactions at the molecular level certainly renders it necessary to use high-level approximations, but computers (unlike the atmosphere) are machines designed to perform certain specific tasks. It would surprise me to discover that for some computers, we cannot predict their operations from an understanding of their components, but we can predict them by taking a higher-level stance.

    Weather systems are unpredictable in principle because they are chaotic, where infinitesimal variations in initial conditions or perturbations result in vast changes to the system; likewise some computer systems initialized with various data, or that use random or pseudo-random input. In practice, I cannot predict what any of my programs will do, nor can I describe them at the level of electronics, because of the astronomical amount of data involved (billions of bits and changes happening at billions of times every second during operations lasting for hours). So at no level of abstraction can we predict what many AI programs will do – we just have to run them and find out, but they can (and do) always surprise us, because we can never exercise even a tiny fraction of the possible execution space.

    Regarding Landauer’s principle, which you cite:

    I don’t know much about Landauer’s principle. I just googled the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._principle . It seems that it applies to information processing. Information processing (when logically irreversible) generates entropy. OK. But there’s an assumption being made on your part, that a disembodied spirit would have to process information if it was thinking. Now I’m quite sure we do that, as embodied beings, but the activity of thinking, or rule-following, is a formal activity which is distinct from the information processing in our brains.

    Nobody knows if the activity of thinking proceeds by rule-following or not. I think it probably does not. I think that portions of our brain are good at coming up with and reporting formal descriptions of our behavior, but our behavior itself arises from activity that does not actually map to the formal process we describe. Think of the difference between the way a calculator computes multiplication (by encoded mathematical rules) as opposed to how a slide rule does it (merely by virtue of the physical geometry of the device).

    Well, the battle of wits in the past few days has been an interesting one. Let me conclude by saying that I have appreciated the exchange of views, and re-examined some of my own.

    VJT, I do sincerely thank you as well. You’ve clearly given these issues a great deal of thought and are uncommonly open to debate. I hope to discuss these ideas with you in the future, although I am nowadays a pretty sporadic contributor to these boards. Cheers!

  93. aiguy:

    Philosophers refer to this as contra-causal or libertarian free will, meaning that somehow mind is supposed to have the power to transcend physical causation.

    That is just nuts. When I build something it is via physical causation and I do not transcend it.

    Things that happen or happened have a cause- ie something or someone did something to cause the effect we are observing or have observed. Also called causality- and one of the basic questions science asks is “how did it ome to be this way?”

    Forensics, archaeology and SETI are three venues that require an answer to that question.

    aiguy:

    Forensics and archaeology study the results of human behavior.

    Actually they don’t know if it is human or not until they do their full investigation.

    What they have to first determine is that was some agency involved or not.

    Have you ever done any investigating?

    SETI looks for signs of the existence of alien life forms (“life as we know it” as the SETI folks say).

    SETI looks for a signal that nature, operating freely could not have produced.

    1- How do you define science?

    aiguy:

    My position is that some questions (like whether the flu is caused by viruses, or whether the sun is powered by nuclear fusion) can be resolved by appeal to our shared experience, and so they are considered to be scientific.

    ID is based on observations and shared experiences. It can be resolved via parsimony.

    aiguy:

    First, there is nothing that “intelligent cause” can be assumed to be incapable of, and so no particular phenomenon is inherently inconsistent with the hypothesis of intelligent cause.

    Again it all comes down to parsimony- as in what is required. If nature, operating freely can account for it we don’t infer design.

    That is why not all rocks are considered to be artfacts nor all deaths considered to be homicides.

    Shared experiences.

    The second problem is that ID uses a specious argument when it says that intelligence is something we are all aquainted with because of our familiarity with human beings and other animals.

    And more shared experiences!

    Ya see aiguy we have shared experiences with agencies doing things with nature that nature, operating freely could never do.

    If every time we observe X and know the cause is always via agency involvement, when we observe X but not the agency our shared experience tells us some agency was involved.

    This is the portion of ID that I say is unscientific, because it implicitly assumes that intelligence is a thing that can exist independently of the complex physical organisms that we observe.

    But ID doesn’t say anything about the designer- we don’t know if the designer(s) are independent of complex physical organisms.

    If ID is positing an alien life form as the designer of life on Earth, then I think ID is a pretty bad theory, because while we do obviously know that intelligent life forms exist, we have no evidence that they exist anywhere but Earth.

    Actually that would make it a good theory because it doesn’t deal with ultimate cause, just proximate.

    IOW we have to go with what we can observe. That said we know that living organisms exist on Earth. And again one of the basic questions science asks is “How did it come to be this way?”- are you reading that part?

    So we have an obligation to answer that question because is does matter.

    Moreover, such a theory would not explain how first life arose, but only how life on Earth arose.

    We go with what we have and it is best to stick with proximate rather than ultimte causes.

    Living organisms on Earth exist and therefor had a cause.

    Exactly what do you think the options are?

  94. @aiguy

    Since most of your response was just to ignore the arguments I raised I will respond to whatever I could salvage from your response that warrants a comment.

    -“First, if dualism defeated my argument then we would be in the same situation, because we do not know if dualism is true or not. But dualism does not defeat my argument, because dualism per se does not hold that res extensa is superfluous to mental function – it only holds that res cogitans is necessary.”

    The correct response would be that dualism per se does not hold that res extensa is NECESSARILY superfluous to mental function. In other words, it could or it could not. If it’s superfluous your argument is refuted. Plain and simple.

    -“ What I have said is that every intelligent agent in our experience requires complex mechanism in order to exhibit intelligent behaviors. Since you have no response to this simple, undeniable, perfectly true observation, you sweep it under the rug”

    Nonsense. The dualism example as explained above refutes it and idealism annihilates it completely. In fact, given idealism it is a non-issue. I think you overestimate yourself and then pat yourself in the back regardless of the fact that your argument fails.

    In addition I’ve also explained in the past that the inability to directly observe a non-physical intelligence might simply be (and most probably is) as result of human epistemological limits. So your argument in effect hinges on that epistemic limitation. Once it’s abandoned your argument fails again.

    The reason I refuted all those underlying assumptions I thought (and still think you make) is to point to the certain presuppositions you seems unwilling to confess. But if that’s not the case then fine.

    -“ I have said that scientific explanatory constructs need to be operationalized and verified against experience, but that is obviously not the same as verificationism. If you disagree, can you tell us what (if anything) you believe might distinguish scientific results from any other type of belief?”

    The point made here by ID supporters is that design itself can be verified and operationalized and that’s all ID needs. You simply refuse to acknowledge that. Also, verifying something might not be identical to verificationism but it’s close enough. After all, it’s the same underlying principle just not dogmatized.

    Also, where did you get the idea that my response was in regards to scientific statements? I think you got lost somewhere. Scientific demarcation is a huge issue that I don’t think even you want to get into given how much trouble philosophers of science have face in the last century.

    -“ If theism were “blatantly obvious” then everybody would agree about it.”

    So your criterion of truthfulness of a proposition is how many people agree with it? LOL!

    -“My position (as I’ve made clear many times in this thread and many others) is probably best described as “mysterianism”, but specifically the point I make here is that there is no good reason to think that whatever created these features of the universe and life had the sort of mental characteristics that we know subjectively as embodied human beings.”

    There are plenty of good reasons for suggesting that actually as myself and other posters have explained. The problem is that you’re simply that you are unwilling to acknowledge them. But if skepticism is your game, I can simply rephrase your entire argument and say “that there is no good reason to think that whatever created these features of the universe and life DID NOT have at minimum the sort of mental characteristics that we know subjectively as intelligent agents.

    Two can play this game. :)

    PS. I was just about to post this and run into the following statement of yours:

    -“ By “counterflow” I assume you mean contra-causal effects, and so by “agency” it appears you mean libertarian free will. That’s fine and dandy, but it is not an assertion that can be empirically tested, at least at the present time.”

    If that’s not verificationism then I don’t know what is. I think I was right in deconstructing all those presuppositions after all!

    PPS. I also should inform you that the whole computers have intentionality nonsense was refuted by Searle and several others. Not that it made any sense whatsoever in the first place.

  95. aiguy,

    Well that’s the thing. You say it doesn’t, and I say it does, but you can’t tell us how we might ever decide the question by appeal to our shared experience. How can we decide who is right?

    Common sense would be a good place to start.

    You seem to equate the ability to know with intelligence in general. That’s fine, so we’re basically debating machine intelligence. You ridicule the idea by suggesting I should chastise my phone and see if will start to behave better… but of course there could be a phone that did exactly that (and the popular electronic AI toys in Japan all respond to displays of affection or punishment appropriately).

    We could keep this up forever, you coming up with things that a machine “could never do” and me either explaining that yes they could of course do such things or finding examples of other “intelligent agents” (people or animals) who also couldn’t do these things.

    Whatever abilities machines may have, they owe to us, us who are not machines; and machines are not organic material as we are, there is no comparison to a first thing from a derivative of that first thing. You may as well say that the pan knows to get hot and not credit the stove maker, or that the actual radio knows the news and then broadcasts it out of some duty to it’s organic machine friends.

    HUH??? I don’t know what a “soul” is, I do not believe in “deterministic necessity”, and I do not believe in animism or that the ability to reason comes from parts and particles. I don’t think you’ve mapped out the conceptual space of the mind-body problem very carefully here, Clive.

    You have three options, either the ability to know is separate from the collection and arrangements of particles, or it comes from the particles and their arrangements, or you remove the ability to know altogether.

    I disagree that science is merely an arbitrary convention like deciding to drive on the right side of the road, and I actually don’t believe that you think that either (or wouldn’t if you thought about for a while).

    What am I supposed to think it is then? Is it a physical object? Is it golden plates that Joseph Smith saw in the hat, decreed from Heaven and given to scientists? What is it, if not a consensual agreement of convention like driving on the right side of the road or being a notary public?

  96. clive,

    AIGUY: Well that’s the thing. You say it doesn’t, and I say it does, but you can’t tell us how we might ever decide the question by appeal to our shared experience. How can we decide who is right?
    CLIVE: Common sense would be a good place to start.

    Actually that’s a very bad suggestion for two different reasons.

    The first is most obvious, which is that “common sense” is so often proven wrong by scientific research. Common sense tells us that heavy things fall faster than light things even in a vacuum… wrong. Common sense tells us that time itself can’t be affected by gravity… wrong. Common sense tells us that particles can’t pop into existence in empty space, and that matter and energy are fundamentally different things, and that space can’t be curved… wrong, wrong, wrong.

    The second problem with applying common sense to the question of “Does a phone know what time it is?” is that this question isn’t a question about facts. We all know what phones do and don’t do, and we know how phones work (at least the engineers who build them know this quite well). So when we ask if a phone can know something, we aren’t really asking anything about the phone; instead, we are simply asking what it is we mean by the word “know”. In other words we aren’t arguing about propositions, but rather about definitions.

    According to my definition, it is clear that phones and computers and various other devices are capable of knowing things, by virtue of their ability to store information in their memories are recall it when the situation demands (e.g. when I say to my phone “What time is it?”). According to other definitions of the word “know”, we would agree that phones cannot know things; for example, if we decided that the definition of to know entailed a conscious awareness of knowledge.

    Whatever abilities machines may have, they owe to us, us who are not machines; …

    You say that we “are not machines”. But whether or not we are “machines” depends on two things. First, it depends on exactly how we decide to define the word “machine”. Second, it depends on how human beings fundamentally operate; in particular whether or not our mental abilities demonstrate powers that go beyond physical cause. Nobody knows if human minds operate according to the principles of classical physics, or require certain quantum phenomena, or some unknown physical effects, or require something else (a mental substance or property) which is entirely distinct from the rest of nature.

    …and machines are not organic material as we are,…

    There are lots of characteristics that may distinguish humans from all other complex things, but the fact that we are built of partcular carbon-based (i.e. organic) materials seems like a poor candidate for drawing critical distinctions.

    … there is no comparison to a first thing from a derivative of that first thing. You may as well say that the pan knows to get hot and not credit the stove maker, or that the actual radio knows the news and then broadcasts it out of some duty to it’s organic machine friends.

    I’ve heard this argument many times of course, but nobody has ever responded to my counter-argument. See if you can:

    You object to saying that a computer is intelligent on the grounds that the computer has been designed by an intelligent agent. So you argue that we shouldn’t credit the abilities of the computer to the computer itself, but rather to the computer designer. However, I believe you are convinced that you, Clive, have also been designed by an intelligent agent! If ID is true, then not only are computers designed by human beings, but human beings are designed by the Intelligent Designer of Life. But I presume you would still consider yourself to be a bona-fide intelligent agent, even though you were in turn designed by another intelligent agent, right? So your argument that computers can’t be bond-fide intelligent agents just because they were designed doesn’t hold up.

    I believe the only response you’ll be able to offer to my argument is simply to reiterate that while a computer is a deterministic tool of its human designer, humans have been endowed by their Designer with True Minds and Free Will. But beyond the fact that computers are not deterministic (they can learn from unpredictable environments and even incorporate truly random input into their reasoning), ultimately your argument gains nothing at all by pointing out that computers (or humans) are designed.

    You have three options, either the ability to know is separate from the collection and arrangements of particles, or it comes from the particles and their arrangements, or you remove the ability to know altogether.

    There are many options you don’t seem familiar with. Again we need a specific definition of “to know” in order to debate the point; let’s say that “knowing” implies that the knower is conscious of its knowledge, OK?

    In that case, we are talking about the various solutions to the mind/body problem. One might believe that consciousness emerges from sufficiently complex physical information processing, or that consciousness results from certain interactions in the realm of quantum gravity, or that only consciousness exists and matter is illusory, or that irreducible res cogitans interacts with matter to produce consciousness, or that res cogitans itself exhibits conscious awareness even absent interaction with matter, or that all consciousness is a facet of a single universal consciousness, or that all matter has a consciousness property, or that consciousness is a semantic confusion, or that consciousness results from particular biochemical reactions, and so on and so on.

    What is my position you may wonder? My position is that we do not know what the necessary and sufficient conditions for conscious experience are. I think there is a “hard problem” of consciousness, which means that I consider consciousness to be mysterious and currently unexplained. I tend to think (with Colin McGinn) that our minds are not capable of understanding what consciousness is.

    AIGUY: I disagree that science is merely an arbitrary convention like deciding to drive on the right side of the road, and I actually don’t believe that you think that either (or wouldn’t if you thought about for a while).
    CLIVE: What am I supposed to think it is then?

    Science is a social process for generating knowledge (justified true beliefs). It is fraught with error, can provide only provisional results, is incapable of evaluating many types of questions entirely, and is even beset with fraud and prejudice. The only reason we use science at all is because it is so much better than any other system to try and find out what is true about the world.

    Is it a physical object? Is it golden plates that Joseph Smith saw in the hat, decreed from Heaven and given to scientists?

    No, and no.

    What is it, if not a consensual agreement of convention like driving on the right side of the road or being a notary public?

    These sorts of agreements cannot be tested against our shared experience, but the results of science must be. If we decide “People ought to drive on the right side of the road”, nobody can suggest any way to decide if that statement is true or false, because it is not a statement of fact (or as philosophers would say, it is not a proposition).

    So no, consensual agreements are vastly different from science. When Einstein said that E=mc2 and that a nuclear fission chain reaction can release tremendous amounts of energy, that was science. The fact that Japan did not consent to agree with him did not change the fact that atom bombs exploded over their cities.

  97. aiguy,

    Actually that’s a very bad suggestion for two different reasons.

    The first is most obvious, which is that “common sense” is so often proven wrong by scientific research. Common sense tells us that heavy things fall faster than light things even in a vacuum… wrong. Common sense tells us that time itself can’t be affected by gravity… wrong. Common sense tells us that particles can’t pop into existence in empty space, and that matter and energy are fundamentally different things, and that space can’t be curved… wrong, wrong, wrong.

    It is only with our ability of common sense that we can determine when our assumptions were mistaken. The whole endeavor of anything in science relies on human logic because anything whatsoever described about the external world, even that there is an external world, is an inference. There is no dichotomy between scientific thinking and any other kind of thinking, if you remove logic and inference, science itself disappears. So yes, we can use inference, reason, logic, etc., to determine when something is wrong logically, and determinism without the one determining being determined itself is not logical. It doesn’t matter about uses of the word “know”. You may as well say a broken clock knows what time it is twice a day, or anytime of day, maybe it just decides to appear broken and not cooperate out of stubbornness.

    There are lots of characteristics that may distinguish humans from all other complex things, but the fact that we are built of partcular carbon-based (i.e. organic) materials seems like a poor candidate for drawing critical distinctions.

    There you are appealing to your common sense again. It seems like a good candidate to me.

    You object to saying that a computer is intelligent on the grounds that the computer has been designed by an intelligent agent. So you argue that we shouldn’t credit the abilities of the computer to the computer itself, but rather to the computer designer. However, I believe you are convinced that you, Clive, have also been designed by an intelligent agent! If ID is true, then not only are computers designed by human beings, but human beings are designed by the Intelligent Designer of Life. But I presume you would still consider yourself to be a bona-fide intelligent agent, even though you were in turn designed by another intelligent agent, right? So your argument that computers can’t be bond-fide intelligent agents just because they were designed doesn’t hold up.

    I believe the only response you’ll be able to offer to my argument is simply to reiterate that while a computer is a deterministic tool of its human designer, humans have been endowed by their Designer with True Minds and Free Will. But beyond the fact that computers are not deterministic (they can learn from unpredictable environments and even incorporate truly random input into their reasoning), ultimately your argument gains nothing at all by pointing out that computers (or humans) are designed.

    No, I was designed by two intelligent agents, my parents, and they were designed by four, etc., until you get back to an intelligent agent that can imbue life like itself, not machines like itself. Top down, not bottom-up. The evolutionary scheme is bottom-up, producing things that have never existed prior. This is what causes the problem of materialistic determinations, when things are determined by their material only, and determinations of free will and a mind that comes from being begotten by something like an intelligent designer. It depends on what is designed, qualitatively, not mere designation. I don’t see how your argument has any force. I never argued that mere design invalidates knowledge by virtue of being designed. But within the designed universe, we can use our ability of knowledge to determine what knowledge is and what else is capable of knowing as we are, top-down. Being produced by the universe, where all events (even thoughts) are necessitated and determined by the universe getting itself into certain states of complexity, means that we are just that, a part of the universe, and have no privileged position to determine anything, but rather we are determined.

    These sorts of agreements cannot be tested against our shared experience, but the results of science must be.

    The results of driving on the right side of the road most certainly can be determined by our shared experience, and so can being a notary public.

    If we decide “People ought to drive on the right side of the road”, nobody can suggest any way to decide if that statement is true or false, because it is not a statement of fact (or as philosophers would say, it is not a proposition).

    The material world is only a fact of description, not a fact of explanation. Science can only describe it, and we can agree that driving on the right side of the road or being a notary public is also a description, but with this added benefit; we can understand why it should be that way, why it should be that we do not hurt each other in car accidents, and why we should have human validation for signatures, we can see why the proposition that people ought not to be hurt can lead to a physical event of driving on the right side of the road, and why other people’s validation of a document ought to be trusted from the physical act of seeing the notary stamp. One thing leads to another and makes explanatory sense. Why a bird would fly and also must only lay eggs, does not have the same sort of explanation in the world of connecting the ideas. Why any two things we can describe that are connected physically doesn’t mean that we understand and can explain why they are connected philosophically. It is not a mental contradiction that a bird would give live birth, it is a mental contradiction that people ought not to get into car accidents–therefore we should drive in one direction on both sides of the road. When it comes to real knowledge, not mere description of connected physical events, driving on the right side of the road and being a notary public make much more sense to our shared common experience than science, because we can see the “why” in the question, not just the “how is this described” question as in science.

  98. clive,

    It is only with our ability of common sense that we can determine when our assumptions were mistaken.

    I gave you a long list of assumptions that appeal to everybody’s common sense but science has shown to be false; you have ignored this. All right then, we disagree :-)

    No, I was designed by two intelligent agents, my parents, and they were designed by four, etc., until you get back to an intelligent agent that can imbue life like itself

    Really? Your parents designed you? They must be brilliant biogengineers! My parents didn’t know a thing about designing biological organisms, yet here I am. Hmmm.

    Anyway, Clive, you seem to have a very unconventional notion about what it means to “design”. Most people would say you are the product of your parents’ reproductive abilities rather than their designing abilities. So I guess we disagree about this too.

    And finally we disagree about science being merely a convention rather than a system for uncovering knowledge about the world. In your view, the prediction that nuclear fission would yield an explosion was nothing but a social convention which one could choose to believe or not (perhaps on the basis of common sense). In my view, a nuclear bomb will kill you whether or not you believe that Einstein was right.

    Nice chatting with you, Clive! Please take the last word.

  99. aiguy,

    I gave you a long list of assumptions that appeal to everybody’s common sense but science has shown to be false; you have ignored this. All right then, we disagree

    Do you think science is conducted outside of humans doing it, and using the power of inference, thus common sense, when doing it? Science is a tool for descriptions of nature, not real explanations behind the curtain of why nature is the way it is. We can’t get behind the curtain, we can only use our powers of inference and describe nature, we cannot explain our descriptions as we can explain the logic behind driving on the right side of the road or the necessary usage of a notary public. The only knowledge we uncover about the world through is inductive descriptions, not real explanations of the ideas behind nature. What science is in itself, which is nothing but a consensual agreement of a methodology, is not the same as the thing studied. You seem to equate natural occurrences with the methodology used to describe the occurrences. The methodology is a convention, what it hits up against, what everyone encounters everyday, that is, the natural world, is not science, it is the natural world. The methodology to describe the natural world is absolutely a convention, and we call that conventional methodology science. The thing studied is not the thing you use to study it. Science is a consensual methodology of the best way to describe nature, which is itself a value judgment, and value judgments, like methodologies, don’t physically exist. You shouldn’t equate the thing worked on with the methodology with which you work. If science discovers a tree, the tree is not science, and science is not the tree.

  100. I read this thread over a couple of days and I’m still confused about what positions aiguy is taking. To above, VJT, BA77, CH, joseph and others, you have been trying to grab smoke. I thought markf and others were evasive. Good grief, I have seen the master now… If I were so inclined, I would ask aiguy what exists and how does he know?

  101. tgpeeler,

    Let me make my position clear, then:

    1) The “intelligent cause” that ID posits as the Designer of complex life forms is either itself a complex life form or it is not.

    2) If the Designer is supposed to be a complex life form, then ID’s hypothesis isn’t a very good one. First, we have no evidence that any other life forms existed anywhere in the universe before life appeared on Earth, and second this hypothesis would not explain how life forms appeared in the first place.

    3) Alternatively, if the Designer is supposed not to be a complex life form, then ID’s hypothesis is even worse, because it is positing something that is unknown to our uniform and repeated experience, viz an intelligent agent that is not a complex life form. Of course it is possible that something could have designing abilities like a human (or superior to a human) without the benefit of a complex brain and body, but we have no good reason to think such a thing exists, and some reason to think it cannot (e.g. results in the physics of information that I’ve discussed above).

    Note that I am not assuming or arguing that materialism is true; I am not arguing for any particular position on the mind/body problem. Even if I granted for the sake of argument that dualism was true, my argument would not be affected.

    So I argue that whatever was responsible for the origin of life, we have no evidential reason to think it had a mind like human beings do; rather, it is likely that it was something very different.

  102. Thanks for the clarification. My two questions still stand. By the way, Whatever was responsible for the origin of life is VERY different from human beings. On that we can agree.

  103. tgpeeler,
    I assume your two questions are “what exists?” and “how do we know?”. Sorry but I haven’t solved the problems of epistemology any more successfully than anyone else. Fortunately scientists manage to agree on a huge number of observations even without a definitive epistemological solution.

    I’m happy to use whatever particular epistemological approach you’d like to settle on for argument’s sake.

    Whatever was responsible for the origin of life is VERY different from human beings. On that we can agree.

    Good! In particular, we have no evidential warrant to conclude that the cause of complex life experienced what we call “consciousness”, nor other mental characteristics like beliefs, desires, emotions, sensations, perceptions and so on.

  104. “In particular, we have no evidential warrant to conclude that the cause of complex life experienced what we call “consciousness”, nor other mental characteristics like beliefs, desires, emotions, sensations, perceptions and so on.”

    Hmmmm. Not so fast. We immediately get to the epistemological issues. What does “evidential warrant” mean?

  105. aiguy:

    1) The “intelligent cause” that ID posits as the Designer of complex life forms is either itself a complex life form or it is not.

    So what? ID is not about the desgner(s). The best we can say is “we don’t know”.

    2) If the Designer is supposed to be a complex life form, then ID’s hypothesis isn’t a very good one.

    Again ID is not about the designer(s). We just don’t know.

    First, we have no evidence that any other life forms existed anywhere in the universe before life appeared on Earth, and second this hypothesis would not explain how life forms appeared in the first place.

    Living organisms do appear here on earth and as such had a cause. First we have to figure that out before we can move on.

    3) Alternatively, if the Designer is supposed not to be a complex life form, then ID’s hypothesis is even worse,..

    Blah, blah, blah- ID does not say anything about the designer(s).

    So I argue that whatever was responsible for the origin of life, we have no evidential reason to think it had a mind like human beings do; rather, it is likely that it was something very different.

    OK fine- so what?

  106. F/N: Re AIG, 76, Jan 14:

    By “counterflow” I assume you mean contra-causal effects, and so by “agency” it appears you mean libertarian free will. That’s fine and dandy, but it is not an assertion that can be empirically tested, at least at the present time.

    If you meant something else by these terms please tell me, along with some suggestion as to how we might decide if such a thing exists or not.

    Quite inadvertently revealing, and painfully self-referential. In steps:

    1 –> “Counterflow” generally speaks of going opposite to “time’s arrow” [a classic metaphor for the degradation impact of the 2nd law of thermodynamics], by performing constructive work.

    2 –> That is, by in effect harnessing an energy-conversion device, a local increase in order — indeed, in organisation — can be created, according to a pattern, blueprint, plan, or at least an intention.

    3 –> Open systems can indeed readily — but, alas, temporarily — increase local organisation by importing energy from a “source,” but generally only in a context of guiding information based on an intent or program, and at the expense of exhausting compensating disorder to some “sink” or other.

    4 –> Physically, work is done when applied forces impart motion along their lines of action to their points of application, e.g. when we lift a heavy box to put it on a shelf, we do work.

    5 –> But, that does not say anything about whether or not the work is constructive — a tornado ripping off a roof and flying its parts for a mile to land elsewhere has done physical work, but not constructive work.

    (Side-bar, constructive work is closely connected to the sort we get paid for: if your work is constructive, desirable and affordable, you get paid for it.)

    6 –> Similarly, it says nothing about the origin of the energy conversion device. When that device itself manifests functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information — FSCO/I (e.g. a gas engine- generator set or a solar PV panel, battery and wind turbine set, as opposed to, e.g. the order exhibited by tornadoes or hurricanes as vortexes), we have good reason to infer that the conversion device was designed.

    7 –> ID researcher William Dembski connects the counter-flow, constructive work idea to the concept of the designer as an intentional, active agent who sets a purpose and creates guiding information for constructive work:

    . . . (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan [I add: which of course includes, a program and/or a reference library of relevant information]. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) Finally, the designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. (No Free Lunch, p. xi. HT: ENV.)

    8 –> Clipping an example from the recent design inference post, point 6:

    ___________________________

    >> . . . under some circumstances [e.g. a suspicious die], the highly contingent outcomes are credibly intentionally, intelligently and purposefully directed. Indeed:

    a: When I type the text of this post by moving fingers and pressing successive keys on my PC’s keyboard,

    b: I [a self, and arguably: a self-moved designing, intentional, initiating agent and initial cause] successively

    c: choose alphanumeric characters (according to the symbols and rules of a linguistic code) towards the goal [a purpose, telos or "final" cause] of writing this post, giving effect to that choice by

    d: using a keyboard etc, as organised mechanisms, ways and means to give a desired and particular functional form to the text string, through

    e: a process that uses certain materials, energy sources, resources, facilities and forces of nature and technology to achieve my goal.

    . . . The result is complex, functional towards a goal, specific, information-rich, and beyond the credible reach of chance [the other source of high contingency] on the gamut of our observed cosmos across its credible lifespan. In such cases, when we observe the result, on common sense, or on statistical hypothesis-testing, or other means, we habitually and reliably assign outcomes to design. >>
    ____________________________

    9 –> In short, AIG’s very act of composing, typing and posting a contextually responsive post in English is not only an example of how counterflow comes from self-moved, initiating agent cause — it is NOT “contra-causal” — but it also shows how such agents must be free enough and self-moved enough to choose towards a goal, plan and execute messages or instructions using symbols according to rules of meaningful composition [as opposed to blindly and mechanically execute programs], or else their cognitive acts become self-referentially absurd.

    10 –> Indeed, unless we can sufficiently freely decide as self-moved, intentional, initiating and reasoning creatures, we cannot reason or “decide” based on rational grounds, as opposed to triggering a branch of some underlying program or subtle controlling cause tracing to our genetics, our nurture as children and our conditioning ever since.

    11 –> And so, the very demand for an operational procedure by which ” we may decide” if free will exists, itself implicitly assumes the credibility of the self-moved mind.

    12 –Namely, one that can follow ground and consequent reasons, weigh up warrant, and DECIDE to accept that which is well-warranted, not just that which it is pre-programmed and pre-determined to do by genes, nurture and indoctrinating conditioning aka “education” — ultimately tracing to chains of cause-effect driven by blind chance and mechanical necessity.

    __________________

    Reductio ad absurdum having been inadvertently provided by AIG, we may confidently accept that it is credible on experience, reflection on, and observation of human rationality, morality [e.g. acknowledging and carrying out the duties of due diligence to warrant conclusions] and purposefulness are real and are in fact the background presumptions of work in science.

    Including that branch of Computer Science known by that quaint term: Artificial Intelligence.

    GEM of TKI

  107. F/N: I have taken up the themes raised by AIG at 76 here.

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