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Darwinism’s biggest (and least discussed) problem

The biggest problem of all with Darwinism, in my opinion, is one that is almost never discussed by either side. In my Dec 2005 American Spectator article (updated version here) I tried to express the problem as follows: “When you ask [the modern scientist] how a mechanical process such as natural selection could cause human consciousness to arise out of inanimate matter, he says, ‘human consciousness — what’s that?’ And he talks about human evolution as if he were an outside observer, and never seems to wonder how he got inside one of the animals he is studying.”

You may be able to convince a gullible layman that natural selection of random mutations can cause mud to evolve into robots with advanced computers controlling their motions, but you will have a much harder time convincing him that it can cause these robots to become conscious. But scientists almost completely ignore this problem, because we haven’t the slightest idea what “consciousness” is. And rather than take the approach that science should be concerned with explaining the things we experience, the modern scientist takes instead the attitude that “if we can’t measure it or quantify it, it doesn’t exist”–or at least it isn’t science. They define consciousness down, and say that if a computer can pass a “Turing test” the computer must be considered to be conscious. To pass a Turing test, a computer has to convince the human communicating with it that he is talking to another human. Now, maybe computers will someday be able to pass a Turing test (maybe they already can), but I don’t believe that makes them conscious. I cannot be sure that there isn’t “someone” inside my PC who experiences the same consciousness that I experience, or that improving the hardware and software of computers sufficiently will never make them conscious, because I can’t even define consciousness, but I doubt that it will. And if I don’t believe that intelligent computer designers can ever make computers conscious, how could I believe that an unintelligent, mechanical process such as natural selection could do it?

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45 Responses to Darwinism’s biggest (and least discussed) problem

  1. “To pass a Turing test, a computer has to convince the human communicating with it that he is talking to another human.”

    A computer may be programmed to appear to respond like a human. This is not the same as responding as a human. If they design computers that can self learn and self program and then convinvince people that they think like people, then we may have designed a self conscious computer.

    How does that demonstrate that RM and NS can create consciousness?

  2. You say: “The biggest problem of all with Darwinism, in my opinion, is one that is almost never discussed by either side. ”

    It is simply incorrect that scientists never discuss the topic of consciousness.

    Consciousness is the focus of an active and interdisciplinary research effort. It IS discussed by scientists, who are interested in it precisely because it is a compelling aspect of human function that has not been adequately explained.

    In case you missed it, here is an excellent review article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by neuroscientist Gerald Edelman:

    Edelman GM (2003). Naturalizing consciousness: A theoretical freamework. PNAS, vol 100, no. 9, 5520-5524.

  3. The Turing test has nothing to do with consciousness, the prevalent characteristic of which is the presence the “I.” When science attempts to explain the existence of the “I,” a qualitative power, it leaves empiricism behind and crosses over into the more exatled realm of philosophy, which concerns itself with value judgments. No quantitative method can account for a qualitative power. Granville is right: the resistance of the “I” to quantitation reveals the limitations of science.

  4. 4

    MacT

    I didn’t say consciousness is almost never discussed by scientists, rather that the problem of explaining consciousness by natural selection is rarely discussed. Admitedly, that could be an exaggeration also. However, in my opinion to say that consciousness “has not been adequately explained” is quite an understatement. I’ll admit I’m not keeping up with the neuroscience literature, but I suspect most of it involves defining consciousness down, doesn’t it?

  5. Nobody is suggesting that the problem of consciousness has been cracked. But you seem to disregard the evidence that has been put forward so far. The Edelman paper explictly sets out a model of consciousness that relies on an evolutionary framework.

    I find Edelman’s (evolutionary) account of consciousness interesting and compelling.

    I’d be very interested to hear what evidence you would cite that counters his model.

  6. Prof. Sewell,

    First, I have “finally” been reading some of your links and am very impressed with the manner in which you are able communicate and break complex ideas down into flavorful and understandable bits.

    Now To the point of this post:

    There is ample empirical evidence that solidly establishes consciousness is indeed separate from the brain:

    How the consciousness relates to the body has two prevailing schools of thought challenging each other for the right to be called the truth. The first school of thought is Theistic in its philosophy; consciousness is a independent and separable entity from the brain. This school of thought implies it is possible to live beyond the of our brains. The second school of thought is Materialistic in its philosophy; consciousness is an dependent and inseparable product of the brain. This school of thought implies we die when the brain dies. Knowledge has recently come to light, establishing the first school of thought as the truth.
    Neuro-physiological (brain/body) research is now being performed, using a new scientific tool, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This tool allows scientists to study the brain non-invasively. TMS can excite or inhibit normal electrical activity in specific parts of the brain, depending on the amount of energy administered by TMS. This tool allows scientists to pinpoint what is happening in different regions of the brain (functional mapping of the brain). TMS is wide-ranging in its usefulness; allowing the study of brain/muscle connections, the five senses, language, the patho-physiology of brain disorders, as well as mood disorders, such as depression. TMS may even prove to be useful for therapy for such brain disorders. TMS also allows the study of how memories are stored. The ability of TMS for inhibiting (turning off) specific portions of the brain is the very ability which reveals things that are very illuminating to the topic we are investigating. Consciousness and the brain are actually separate entities.
    When the electromagnetic activity of a specific portion of the brain is inhibited by the higher energies of TMS, it impairs the functioning of the particular portion of the body associated with the particular portion of the brain being inhibited. For example; when the visual cortex (a portion of the brain) is inhibited by higher energies of TMS, the person undergoing the procedure will temporarily become blind while it is inhibited. One notable exception to this “becoming impaired rule” is a person’s memory. When the elusive “memory” portion of the brain is inhibited, a person will have a vivid flashback of a past part of their life. This very odd “amplification” of a memory indicates this fact; memories are stored in the “spiritual” consciousness independent of the brain. All of the bodies other physical functions which have physical connections in the brain are impaired when their corresponding portion of the brain loses its ability for normal electromagnetic activity. One would very well expect memories to be irretrievable from the brain if they were physically stored. Yet memories are vividly brought forth into consciousness when their corresponding locations in the brain are temporarily inhibited. This indicates that memories are somehow stored on a non-physical basis, separate from the brain in the “spiritual” consciousness. Memory happens to be a crucially integrated part of any thinking consciousness. This is true, whether or not consciousness is physically or spiritually-based. Where memory is actually located is a sure sign of where the consciousness is actually located. It provides a compelling clue as to whether consciousness is physically or spiritually-based. Vivid memory recall, upon inhibition of a portion of brain where memory is being communicated from consciousness, is exactly what one would expect to find if consciousness is ultimately self-sufficient of brain function and spiritually-based. The opposite result, a ening of memories, is what one would expect to find if consciousness is ultimately physically-based. According to this insight, a large portion, if not all, of the one quadrillion synapses that have developed in the brain as we became s, are primarily developed as pathways for information to be transmitted to, and memories to be transmitted from, our consciousness. The synapses of the brain are not, in and of themselves, our primary source for memories. Indeed, decades of extensive research by brilliant, Nobel prize-winning, minds (Penfield) have failed to reveal where memory is stored in the brain. Though Alzheimer’s and other disorders affect the brain’s overall ability to recover memories, this is only an indication that the overall ability of the brain to recover memory from the consciousness has been affected, and does not in any way conclusively establish, from negative argumentation, that memory is actually stored in the brain.

    In other compelling evidence, many children who have had hemispherectomies (half their brains removed due to life threatening epileptic conditions) at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, are in high school; and one, a college student, is on the dean’s list. The families of these children can barely believe the transformation; and not so long ago, neurologists and neuro-surgeons found it hard to believe as well. What is surprising for these people is that they are having their overriding materialistic view of brain correlation to consciousness overturned. In other words; since, it is presumed by Materialism that the brain is the primary generator of consciousness; then, it is totally expected for a person having half their brain removed to be severely affected when it comes to memory and personality. This is clearly a contradiction between the Materialistic and Theistic philosophies. According to Materialistic dogma, memory and personality should be affected, just as badly, or at least somewhat as badly, as any of the other parts of the body, by removal of half the brain. Yet, as a team of neuro-surgeons that have done extensive research on the after effects of hemispherectomy at John Hopkins Medical Center comment: “We are awed by the apparent retention of the child’s memory after removal of half of the brain, either half; and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor.” Though a patients physical capacities are impaired, just as they were expected to be immediately following surgery; and have to have time to be “rewired” to the consciousness in the brain, the memory and personality of the patient comes out unscathed in the aftermath of such radical surgery. This is exactly the result one would expect, if the consciousness is ultimately independent of brain function and is spiritually-based. This is totally contrary to the results one would expect if the consciousness were actually physically-based, as the materialistic theory had presumed. 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.” This is stunning proof of consciousness being independent of brain function. The only child not to have normal or improved intellect is the child who remained in a coma due to complications during surgery. It is also heartening to find that many of the patients regain full use, or almost full use, of their bodies after a varying period of recuperation in which the brain is “rewired” to the consciousness.

    II Corinthians 5:1
    For we know that if our earthly house, this tent (Our Body), is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

    As well the scientific evidence from NDE (Near De^ath Experience) studies is rigorous and compelling

    … The fact that clear, lucid experiences were reported during a time when the brain was proven to be devoid of activity (Aminoff et al., 1988, Clute and Levy 1990, de Vries et al., 1998), does not sit easily with the current scientific belief system of materialism. In another fascinating study (Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper, 1997) of thirty-one blind people who had a NDE, twenty-four of the blind people reported that they could see while they were out of their physical bodies. Many of them had been blind since birth. Likewise, many deaf people reported they were able to hear while they were having a NDE.
    So, in answer to the question: “Is consciousness a physically or spiritually-based phenomena?”; we can, with the assurance of scientific integrity backing us up, reply that consciousness is indeed a spiritual phenomena capable of living independently of the brain, once the brain ceases to function. Dr. Lommel illustrates in his paper that the real purpose of the brain is as a mediator of the physical world to the spiritual consciousness. He compares the brain to such things as a television, radio and cell phone, to illustrate the point. The point he is trying to make clear is this; the brain is not the end point of information. It is “only” a conveyor of information to and from the true end point, our spiritually-based consciousness which is independent of the physical brain and able to live past the of our brains.

    http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel.....sponse.htm

  7. GS
    “I’ll admit I’m not keeping up with the neuroscience literature, but I suspect most of it involves defining consciousness down, doesn’t it?”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “defining consciousness down.” If by that you mean definitional assumptions like those of the Turing test, then the answer is no.

    The notion of the brain as a computer or an instructional system (as in the Turing example) has largely been abandoned because it is quaintly simplistic against what is now known about brain structure and function.

    There is more than one scientifically sophisticated theory of consciousness, and it may surprise you to learn that they do not disregard the quality that gives rise to the privacy of phenomenal experience. In fact, they revel in the mysterious nature of consciousness, but they do not let that hinder their efforts to unravel that mystery.

  8. MacT.

    I will read the article you cited, if you will read David Chalmer’s “hard problem of consciousness.” You can find his website by doing a google search.

    Granville: If a computer were conscious could we ever truly know it? Do we know that anybody is conscious except for ourselves or do we just assume it?

  9. 9

    MacT

    If the Edelman paper claims to explain consciousness in terms of natural selection, why don’t you put in a link to it so others can take a look. Having seen the hand-waving that Darwinists use to explain such simple things as the elongation of the giraffe’s neck (see Loennig’s article) , it might be fascinating to see how they explain the arrival of consciousness. I received an e-mail once explaining that consciousness can be explained by natural selection because it gave a selective advantage to primitive man to be “conscious” of where prey and preditors were. Since this is published in a neuroscience journal I assume the explanation is a little more sophisticated than this.

  10. I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.

    The reason why our sentient, percipient, and thinking ego is met nowhere within our scientific world picture, can easily be indicated in seven words: because it is itself that world picture. It is identical with the whole and therefore cannot be contained in it as part of it.
    - Erwin Schrödinger

  11. todd, there is even a name for the properties Schrodinger describes in his first paragraph that science (and any other materialist approach) cannot account for: “qualia.”

  12. 12

    Collin:
    “Do we know that anybody is conscious except for ourselves…”

    Excellent question. For all I know, you may just be a computer trying to pass his Turing test.

  13. In The Spiritual Brain, Mario Beauregard and I devote Chapter 5 to the problem of materialist explanations of consciousness, as per Edelman, Koch, et cetera.

    There are various materialist theories of consciousness. None address the “how” question effectively – probably because consciousness isn’t a material phenomenon.

    Materialists keep looking for material causes for the same reason that the guy who lost a dollar on Maple Street is looking for it on Main Street – because there is more light there, not because he is more likely to find it there. Quite the opposite, actually.

    Re natural selection, anyone can invent a just-so story about how a given trait (monogamy, polygamy, adultery, rape, serial spouse murder) can be explained by natural selection. A modest amount of imagination suffices to invent just the cave man scenario where that specific form of behaviour paid off. I don’t know why the theorists don’t just write Clan of the Cave Bear novels.

    Consciousness is especially problematic for natural selection theorizing because – unlike sex – it is rare. Many mammals and birds, and perhaps some reptiles, probably have a limited form of consciousness. We humans are the only creatures we know of in which the trait is highly developed. So clearly it is not a common part of the vast arsenal of creaturely survival.

    That shouldn’t be a surprise. Mere “consciousness” of prey and predators can be achieved – as it in fact is – by vast varieties of life forms that do not have or need brains, let alone consciousness (in the human sense).

    In fact, one can go further and point out that many threats to survival and reproduction (suicide, organized warfare, non-parenting lifestyles, et cetera) only become possible with the advent of consciousness.

    In any event, consciousness probably occurred rather suddenly. What of the very old burials where the body is placed in the fetal position, or with grave goods suggesting that the dead would live again? If things like that occurred comparatively suddenly, the process was not Darwinian.

    But remember, there is more light on Main Street …

  14. 14

    Granville Sewell said:

    …rather than take the approach that science should be concerned with explaining the things we experience, the modern scientist takes instead the attitude that “if we can’t understand it, it doesn’t exist”–or at least it isn’t science.

    And then said,

    I’ll admit I’m not keeping up with the neuroscience literature…

    While I agree with Dr. Sewell that this is indeed a difficult, and perhaps insurmountable, problem for Darwinism, I would think that we would have learned the lesson from Behe at Dover that making broad claims about scientific investigation and then admitting ignorance of the relevant literature is not likely to be a fruitful strategy.

  15. Your ability or inability to believe that a computer could be truly conscious is irrelevant. It is easy to be dismissive when the possibl future developments of this technology are still largely speculative. Once again, I wonder why someone would want to link their faith so closely to the presupposed impossibility or inexplicability of something. That hasn’t been a good strategy in the past…

  16. Granville, good idea; here is the link to the Edelman paper:

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/100/9/5520

    I disagree with D. O’Leary’s argument that materialist accounts of consciousness are just-so stories. They cannot be dismissed so lightly, and in this case at least, the “how” is most certainly there.

    Edelman’s account is based on a detailed examination of evidence, mainly relating to how dynamic brain networks function and interact, and how they may have evolved. If there is counter-evidence, or a superior explanation, show me.

    He even addresses the issue of materialism. I can’t reproduce the full context, but this will give you a flavor:

    “But consciousness accompanies particular brain events and is not a material entity. Instead, it is a process that is entailed by those material events. Those events are part of the physical world, and that world is causally closed; only matter energy can be causal.” (Edelman, PNAS, 2003)

    You may not agree with much of what he says, but it is not, as O’Leary implies, merely a work of imagination. But don’t take my word for it, or hers.
    Read it for yourself.

    I’m glad that Collin mentions Chalmers. Though his work has been from a philosphy perspective, it has been influential in shaping the empirical study of consciousness. His core view is not unlike Edelman’s:

    “A nonreductive theory of consciousness will consist in a number of psychophysical principles, principles connecting the properties of physical processes to the properties of experience.” Chalmers, 1995.

    Edelman’s review addresses Chalmer’s point directly by proposing how (contrary again to O’Leary’s assertion) the so-called hard problem — the supposed explanatory gap between neural processes and phenomenal or subjective experience of qualia — can in fact be closed.

  17. [...] way you spelled “you’re” an attempt to show that variations in spelling can… MacT: Granville, good idea; here is the link to the Edelman paper: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/conten [...]

  18. the modern scientist takes instead the attitude that “if we can’t understand it, it doesn’t exist”

    The above is a very capricious statement and inherently and utterly false at that. A true scientist sees something s/he can’t understand and typically wants to crawl all over it, take it apart, ask it questions, poke, prod, and blow it up!

    MacT has already listed several different examples of research so I’m not inclined to amplify on those any more unless people are interested. What I am much more interested in and impressed with is the above post by ReligionProf:

    “I wonder why someone would want to link their faith so closely to the presupposed impossibility or inexplicability of something. That hasn’t been a good strategy in the past…”

    Absolutely spot on. Just because something hasn’t been explained doesn’t mean that it cannot be explained. So many statements by the ‘religious’ side of the argument deeming the theory of natural selection and the fact of evolution untrue due to problem X and problem Y have seen problem X and problem Y been proven by science in time.

    A perfect example of this point being the gaps in the fossil records between Mesonchyd mammals(land dwelling carnivores) and Archeocetes (the oldest whales). Behe wrote that he wanted to see transitional forms and lo and behold years later they were found, three of them, all perfect intermediates.

    ReligionProf nailed it with his statement here, I didn’t want it to go unnoticed.

  19. 19

    “I wonder why someone would want to link their faith so closely to the presupposed impossibility of something..”

    This sounds like a really intellectual, pro-science statement…until you remember we are talking about whether computers are, or will be someday, conscious! Anyone who entertains this possibility has very little understanding of what computers do, and has been watching too much science fiction. Or else they have a very “defined-down” idea of what consciousness is.

  20. MacT:
    Edelman : “To succeed, such a program must take account of what is special about consciousness while rejecting any extraphysical assumptions.

    Any account of consciousness must reject extraphysical tenets such as dualism, and thus be physically based as well as evolutionarily sound.”

    Well he certainly starts out on solid grounds doesn’t he!! An a priori rejection of anything but the materialist view.

    Then, “Consciousness is not a thing but rather, as William James pointed out (6), a process that emerges from interactions of the brain, the body, and the environment.”

    Here is a materialist assumption again. Stating as fact what needs to proven! It’s generally called begging the question.

    The same error continue:
    “Features of conscious states
    General
    1. Conscious states are unitary, integrated, and constructed by the brain. [begging the question - this is again what must be proven]…”

    Whatever, one only needs scan through the article to get the overwhelming impression of incredible genius of an intelligent agency in the design of the brain.

    How did all this come together into a functional unit within a functional life form through RM + NS? And why would it have occurred at all?

    The whole discussion, if Edelman is right, leads to Edelman’s undoing.

    For if consciousness is a Darwinian evo artifact, then Edelman’s thoughts are no more ‘logical’ or ‘true’ or ‘right’ than a rock.

    Logic is conceptual. Rocks are not logical. If brain is mere atoms in motion then all perceived truth or logic (including Edelman’s paper) is an illusion of that moving matter.

    So are your comments here. So is all human thought in all history. Nihilism is the end result of such ill reasoning. The Abolition of Man. And man’s conquest of nature actually turns out to be nature’s conquest of man – reducing us to mere physical packages of non rational cells.

    Once again we see that naturalism cuts it’s own throat because if all thought is the result of non-rational processes then thought has no rational existence.

    “Unless thought is valid we have no reason to believe in the real universe.” – CS Lewis

    Think about it. :-)

  21. “I wonder why someone would want to link their faith so closely to the presupposed possibility or inevitability of something. That hasn’t been a good strategy in the past…”

    Kind of like saying science will, in fact, answer the great questions eventually, given enough minds willing to tackle a problem until understood.

    The problem with that, of course, is that course seems to usually produce more perplexing questions! (which Science® will of course answer!)

  22. We start with faith no matter the philosophy—thus I too can muse: “I wonder why someone would want to link his faith [in materialism] so closely to the presupposed possibility or inevitability of something.”

    Inevitably the “god of the gaps” nonsequiter is brought up: Design and a nonreductionist explanation of consciousness are off the table because someday materialism will be able to explain everything. Why limit the explanatory tool bag if you really want to know?

    And then there’s this endless science versus faith nonsense. Even if we limit science to some kind of Popperian falsification—we still live by faith in what stands up after all else is falsified.

  23. 23

    To those who say I am anti-science for ruling out the possibility that computers will evolve consciousness: what about TV sets and radios, will they become conscious someday? What about a typewriter, it can be used to write amazing things, will there be conscious typewriters? And what is the real difference, computers are just like typewriters, they also do exactly what you tell them to do.

  24. I think that our inability to conceive of machines being conscious may not be necessarily helpful to ID. In the past some have said that “life” is more than chemicals and that it will not be possible for man to create life. I think that is termed vitalism.

    I believe that in a few years Craig Venter will create life. It will be a copy of an existing life form but it will be life all the same. This confirms ID. It doesn’t defeat ID.

    Intelligent design may create life. That is what we argue in the ID movement is needed to create life. I think ID may well also create a form of conscious machine. Again, if that happens, my faith will not be shattered. I will however be more than a little afraid, considering what conscious beings did with their Creator. I Robot is the film that comes to mind.

  25. Idnet com au raises an interesting point which really boils down to this: We who have minds and can produce design may ourselves be nothing but material mechanism. “I think that our inability to conceive of machines being conscious may not be necessarily helpful to ID.” But this, as I understand, is the claim being made by Denyse O’Leary and others—mind is not reducible to matter. And though the materialists have proclaimed very loudly for a long time now that vitalism is dead—there was never any evidence presented—and for what it’s worth the New Ager Rupert Sheldrake makes a good argument that vitalism should not have been discarded.

  26. At least this return to vitalism confirms Philip Kitcher’s conclusion that ID is old science. Reviving talk of vitalism just makes it clearer to well-informed observers that ID is an attempt to reverse the progress science has made up until now and backtrack to a point in history when we understood less than we do now. Don’t be surprised if not many want to follow you there – and I don’t mean merely not many scientists, but not many religious believers or people in general.

  27. Francis Crick addressed this issue by declaring (loosely stated here) that human consciousness is nothing more than the activity of molecules colliding against each other. Others continue to ambiguously state the same idea.

    These very same people are able to get into their automobiles and navigate their way to destinations by observing a road map that someone else assembled, yet another person placed that knowledge in a position for it to be printed (or hosted, as the case may be), read, comprehend, and follow the instructions on the map, and arrive at their predetermined destination exactly as planned? How did they avoid colliding with those other beings, themselves navigating that same roadway following their own maps (of a sort)?

    It is ironic that Crick, et al, insist that this is nothing more than molecular collision. It is solipsistic and absurd to live that way and precisely why they find themselves in such a pickle. I assume that it’s safe to say that every champion of this idea lives in radical conflict with what he or she says he or she believes. These are metaphysical propositions that need more than a materialistic explanation. It seems to me that these people have a lot of explaining to do.

  28. Ellazimm:

    No, the ball is in the materialists’ court.

    And, they have not played it very well, as Borne points out in 20 above, and as Denyse and her co-author have shown in details in their book.

    Dismissal and attempted burden of proof shifting won’t work!

    To see what we are getting at, why don’t you take on my own humble intro level summary of the issue, here.

    (Or better, go to the CD thread and look at post 193 for a conveniently labelled version, then run through the thread to see how this played out last time around.)

    It is a serious issue, and one that the observed materialist answers to routinely massively beg the question at state, as Borne pointed out. (I also find that they end in self-referential incoherence, as does Plantinga, and as did C S Lewis etc etc.)

    Let’s see if you can do better.

    GEM of TKI

  29. ReligionProf is no longer with us.

  30. ReligionProf said:

    “ID is an attempt to reverse the progress science has made up until now and backtrack to a point in history when we understood less than we do now”.

    Whether or not this statement is true, or whether I agree with him or not, doesn’t banning ReligionProf say far more?

  31. dave557, RP was active in more threads than just this one. His other comments were even more inane than the one here, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I’m a layman, but even I can come up with a decent rebuttal to RP’s inflammatory nonsense, to wit:

    If ID is an “old science” attempt to backtrack to a point in history when we understood less than we do know, then abiogenesis is an “old science” attempt to take us back before we knew spontaneous generation was impossible, and the Big Bang is an “old science” attempt to take us back before the ancient Greeks came up with the eternal universe.

  32. Yes… since the Greek theory of an eternal universe was backed up by physical and mathematical evidence… and the current Big Bang theory is based solely on mythical stories and and legends.

    No, a layman cannot come up with a decent rebuttal

  33. Yes… since the Greek theory of an eternal universe was backed up by physical and mathematical evidence…

    It held up nicely until the 1950s. There are still a couple of hold-outs on the Steady State whose reasoning is much like the ID hypercritics – the implications of the new idea is simply too scary for them.

    and the current Big Bang theory is based solely on mythical stories and and legends.

    No more so than abiogenesis, thanks to Pasteur.

    No, a layman cannot come up with a decent rebuttal

    That may be. At least I’m not a sockpuppet for a banned commenter.

  34. “ReligionProf is no longer with us.”

    Which side leads to fascism…

  35. “the implications of the new idea are simply too scary for them.”

    Apologies, bad grammar from bad editing. That’s what I get for banging out a reply just before quitting time.

    Which side leads to fascism…

    “DON’T TASE ME BRO!”

  36. MacT (5): The Edelman paper explictly sets out a model of consciousness that relies on an evolutionary framework. I find Edelman’s (evolutionary) account of consciousness interesting and compelling. I’d be very interested to hear what evidence you would cite that counters his model.

    Edelman calls his hypothesis “neural Darwinism.” Darwinian evolution, being based entirely on the combination of chance (variations) and necessity (natural selection) can’t generate complex specified information, but intelligent agency (human consciousness) can.
    __________

    Alternatively:

    Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind (1994), p. 354:

    Certain other ideas have been suggested, such as those of Gerald Edelman in his recent book Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (1992) (and his earlier trilogy [including Neural Darwinism (1987)]), in which it is proposed that rather than having rules of a Hebbian type, a form of ‘Darwinian’ principle operates within the brain, enabling it to improve its performance continually by means of a kind of natural selection principle that governs these connections… However, these processes, as they are presently conceived, are still treated in a classical and computational way. Indeed, Edelman and his colleagues have constructed a series of computationally controlled devices (called DARWIN I, II, III, IV, etc.) that are intended to simulate, in increasing orders of complexity, the very kinds of procedure that he is proposing lie at the basis of mental action… It does not matter how different in detail such a scheme might be from other computational procedures. It still comes under the heading of those [concepts refuted by] the arguments [presented earlier in the book]. Those arguments alone render it exceedingly improbable that anything that is solely of this nature can provide an actual model of the conscious mind.

    __________

    toc (26): Francis Crick addressed this issue by declaring (loosely stated here) that human consciousness is nothing more than the activity of molecules colliding against each other.

    For the record:

    Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994):

    your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

  37. I’d rather be a “sockpuppet” for someone who is rational, truthful and correct. The alternative is a little backward

  38. I’d rather be a “sockpuppet” for someone who is rational, truthful and correct.

    You’ll need to pick someone other than a self-confessed layman, then, since you have implied that laymen know nothing.

    Also, you’ll have to prove you’re not a layman yourself.

    Otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if you share an IP address with our dear ReligionProf, considering how sensitive you are over my simplistic rebuttal. Either that or you’re some student of his.

  39. A ban for ReligionProf . . . for what?

    It might be useful if someone in authority here could briefly explain why this individual’s particular contributions on this thread resulted in termination. If this is meant to be a place to discuss ID in terms of science, then what could possibly be objectionable about dissenting views, set out articuately and politely?

  40. Not only do I not share an IP with the dear Prof in question, but I have never spoken to him in my life.

    And I’ll, email you a copy of my degree in Genetics if you like.

  41. Not only do I not share an IP with the dear Prof in question, but I have never spoken to him in my life.

    Good, then you can stop being so defensive of him, since he confessed to be ignorant of genetics and the mechanics of DNA replication.

    If he didn’t share your collegiate rubber-stamped worldview, you’d be busting on him for his lack of biology education and ties to religion instead of trolling me.

    And I’ll, email you a copy of my degree in Genetics if you like.

    A scanned check stub from your current employer will suffice, thanks. Otherwise, you’re just another cookie-cutter wet-behind-the-ears egotistical troll who just as well claim that he’s the King of Spain.

  42. MacT wrote:

    A ban for ReligionProf . . . for what?

    It might be useful if someone in authority here could briefly explain why this individual’s particular contributions on this thread resulted in termination.

    If this is meant to be a place to discuss ID in terms of science, then what could possibly be objectionable about dissenting views, set out articuately and politely?

    I’m far from an authority here, DaveScot has his own reasons for banning RP, but from what I observed in the few posts of his I read, he was not very polite and not willing to discuss anything other than how ID is not science.

    In this thread alone, he insisted on not reading anything on this site that contradicted his disbelief of mind/brain duality and instead kept implying that anyone who didn’t agree with him was ignorant (i.e., not “well-informed”).

    He chose to keep insulting people like Dr. Dembski, Ms. O’Leary, and the other knowledgable people who contribute to this site by implying they were ill-informed – not just in this thread, either. Thus, instead of being a respectful guest, he chose to be boorish and was banned because of it.

  43. ellazimm:

    Duly noted.

    I had no derogatory intent in this post. My comment was to imply (apparently without success), when addressing conscious issues, particularly those concerning values or ethics, Crick’s statement (thank you j):

    “your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”.

    leads me to wonder why his statement can be considered authoritative. It is a bit unnerving to read in such strong language someone whose intent, as his was, to destroy the notion of religious belief. Like the Logical Positivists, asserting that no proposition can be true unless it could be empirically verified, his proposition is either true, or it collapses by virtue of his own argument. Were those just his nerve cells and their associated molecules talking or is this statement empirically verifiable?

    I have not read every ream of text written on the subject; but I do have difficulty believing something to be true objectively if nothing can be found to be objectively true — particularly if the propostion is nothing more than a material consequence of some apparent unknown cause.

  44. TOC:

    Sir Francis is simply stating one of the many forms of the inner — too often unrecognised — incoherence of evolutionary materialism as an account of mind and reasoning.

    For, if in the end, all traces to chance plus mechanical necessity acting on and through space-time and matter-energy, there is no dynamical basis for a credible mind. Thence, self-referential incoherence and self-contradiction or absurdity as you note.

    (My just linked gives several ways this can, does and has happened over the 150 years or so of the modern emergence and dominance of this view.)

    GEM of TKI

  45. […] as he had been banned from Uncommon Descent seven years ago, and was still fuming about it. (See here [as far as I can tell, Dr. McGrath was perfectly civil in his comments, before he was banned], here […]

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