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Do we need a context to identify a message as the product of an intelligent being?

In today’s short post, I shall argue that (a) there are at least some messages which we can identify as the product of an intelligent agent, regardless of their linguistic and social context, and (b) there is no context in which it would be reasonable for us to conclude that a message visible to everyone was a hallucination.

What prompted this discussion

In a post titled Signature in the cell?, Professor Edward Feser argued that no message, in and of itself, could warrant the inference that it was the product of an intelligent agent, without a knowledge of the context of the message. Referring to the hypothetical scenario in which a “Made by Yahweh” message was discovered in every human being’s cells, Feser wrote:

If we’re to judge that Yahweh, rather than extraterrestrial pranksters, hallucination, or some other cause, was behind such an event, it is considerations other than the event itself that will justify us in doing so.

The reference to “hallucination, or some other cause” (presumably a natural one) as a possible explanation for the “Made by Yahweh” message in every human being’s cells led me to infer that Feser was acknowledging the legitimacy of a hyper-skeptical stance here – a position for which I criticized him in a subsequent post. Feser wrote a follow-up post in reply, in which he clarified his position:

I neither said nor implied that it would be “perfectly rational” to interpret phrases like the ones in question [e.g. the “Made by Yahweh” message in every cell – VJT] as hallucinations or as something other than a product of intelligence… What I said is that determining what to make of such weird events would crucially depend on epistemic background context, and that if we concluded that God was responsible (as of course we well might), then that epistemic background context would be doing more work in justifying that judgment than the weird events themselves would be.

In a comment attached to a recent post on Professor Feser’s Website, I pressed him to answer two simple questions of mine:

…[A]s an ID theorist, I happen to think it’s absolutely obvious that we can identify some messages as the work of an intelligent designer, regardless of context… From my reading of your [earlier] post, it seemed to me that you were saying that context was essential when drawing the inference that a message was the work of an intelligent agent. I would profoundly disagree.

I’d like to bury the hatchet, so I’ll ask you two questions:

1. Do you agree that if a message saying “Made by _____” were discovered in every human’s cells, it would be irrational to explain away the discovery as a mass hallucination, regardless of whether the message referred to God, Quetzalcoatl, or Steve Jobs as its author?

2. Do you agree that if the message were suitably long and specific (say, 100 characters of perfectly grammatical English with no repetition), it would be irrational not to ascribe the message to an intelligent agent, regardless of the message’s context?

As we’ll see below, Feser’s answer to both questions was “No.”
Feser replied:

…[O]ther readers have already pointed out what is wrong with your questions. Of course context would be relevant to interpreting such messages. Now, I can easily imagine contexts in which it would be extremely unreasonable to say “Oh, this is a hallucination” and I can easily imagine contexts in which it would not be. If we describe various possible contexts in enough detail, we can certainly see how they would make a clear answer possible. That’s why there’s nothing remotely skeptical about what I said. Give us a specific context and sure, we can decide “This suggested interpretation is just indefensible” or “That suggested interpretation is extremely plausible.” But it’s silly to say “Let’s abstract from all context and then ask what the most probable source of the phrase is.” As Mike Flynn pointed out above, there’s no such thing as the most probable source absent all context.

Feser continued:

BTW, Vincent’s attempt to wriggle out of the problem context poses for his position is like certain point-missing attempts to solve the “commonsense knowledge problem” in AI [artificial intelligence – VJT]. As Hubert Dreyfus argues, it makes no sense to think that intelligence can be reduced to a set of explicitly formulated rules and representations, because there are always various context-dependent ways to interpret the rules and representations. To say “Oh, we’ll just put the ‘right’ interpretation into the rules and representations” completely misses the point, since it just adds further rules and representations that are themselves subject to alternative context-dependent interpretations.

Vincent is doing something similar when he tries to come up with these goofy examples of really long messages written in the cell. It completely misses the point, because that’s just further stuff the import of which depends on a larger context. It also completely misses the point to shout “Skepticism!”, just as an AI defender would be completely missing the point if he accused Dreyfus of being a skeptic. There’s nothing skeptical about it. We can know what the context is and thus we can know what the right interpretation is; we just can’t know the right interpretation apart from all context.

What is a context, anyway?

Remarkably, nowhere in his post does Professor Feser attempt to define what he means by a context – a curious omission. So I’m going to go with a standard dictionary definition: “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.” I should mention that there is another definition for context: “the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.” However, in the case under consideration, we are looking at a short isolated message, with nothing preceding or following it. So the questions we need to confront are: do we need to attend to “the circumstances that form the setting” for the purported message, in order to rationally conclude that it is (a) not a collective hallucination we are all having, and (b) from an intelligent source? Feser contends that we do, and I maintain that we do not.

Feser’s absurd epistemic claim: there are some contexts in which hallucination may be a reasonable explanation for the discovery of a purported message in every human’s cells

I’d like to go back to a remark Feser made above:

Of course context would be relevant to interpreting such messages. Now, I can easily imagine contexts in which it would be extremely unreasonable to say “Oh, this is a hallucination” and I can easily imagine contexts in which it would not be.

What Feser is saying here is that there are at least some contexts in which it would not be unreasonable [i.e. it might be reasonable] for us to conclude that a purported message discovered by scientists in every human being’s cells was in fact a hallucination. This, I have to say, is outright nonsense.

In order to see why it’s nonsense, let’s imagine a scenario which is as generous to Professor Feser’s case as it is possible to be. Let’s suppose that a worldwide magnetic storm is playing havoc with people’s brains, causing them to hallucinate. It has been claimed that magnetic stimulation of the brain can trigger religious hallucinations, although the evidence for this claim is very thin. But let’s suppose for argument’s sake that this claim is true. During the magnetic storm, some scientists suddenly announce the discovery of a “Made by Yahweh” message in every human being’s cells. Other scientists around the world rush to confirm the claim. Could they all be seeing things in their laboratories? Could mass hallucination be a rational explanation for this sudden discovery of what appears to be a message in our cells?

No, it couldn’t – unless all the world’s scientists have not only started hallucinating, but lost their ability to reason, as well. But that wasn’t the scenario envisaged by Feser: his assertion that he can imagine at least some contexts where it would not be unreasonable to conclude that a purported message was a hallucination presupposes that the people drawing this conclusion still possess the use of reason, even in these far-fetched contexts.

One obvious way in which scientists could confirm that the message was real – even during a magnetic storm that was playing havoc with their perceptions – would be to use double-blind testing, with a control sample of similar-looking cells (say, synthetic cells, or perhaps cells from another species) that did not contain the “Made by Yahweh” message. (A control sample of synthetic cells might contain no message at all, or alternatively, a different message – “Made by Craig Venter” – might be inserted into the cells.) If testing on different scientists produced consistent results – e.g. if they all reported seeing the same message in the same cells – then the hallucination hypothesis would be decisively ruled out, as an explanation.

Interpretation is not the same thing as decoding: why the commonsense knowledge problem is irrelevant to the Intelligent Design project

In his reply to my questions, Feser alluded to the work of AI researcher Hubert Dreyfus, who in a book titled Mind over Machine (Free Press, 1986) which he co-authored with Stuart Dreyfus, defined the commonsense knowledge problem as “how to store and access all the facts human beings seem to know” (1986, p. 78). As Wikipedia notes, “The problem is considered to be among the hardest in all of AI research because the breadth and detail of commonsense knowledge is enormous.”

As we’ve seen, Feser contends that because the correct interpretation of a rule invariably requires contextual knowledge, any attempt to infer that a purported message is in fact the product of an intelligent agent, apart from all context, is doomed to failure. But what Feser is assuming here is that the identification of a purported message as the work of an intelligent agent requires a correct interpretation of that message. As an Intelligent Design advocate, I disagree: all it requires is the decoding of that message, and it may not even require that. (If the message could be independently shown to be both highly specific and astronomically improbable, I believe it would be rational to infer on these grounds alone that an intelligent agent was most likely responsible for producing the alleged message, even if we had no idea what it was about.) Hence Professor Feser’s assertion that “we just can’t know the right interpretation apart from all context” is beside the point.

Decoding a message is very easy, if it is written in the script of a language we already understand: all we need to do is read each word of the script and confirm that it conforms to the grammatical and spelling rules of the language in question. Depending on the language in question, the code we use when reading the words – something we all learned to do at school – may be either a phonic code (for alphabetic scripts), a syllabic code, a logographic code (for ideograms) or a pictographic code. Even if sentence turns out to be grammatically correct, but semantically nonsensical, like Noam Chomsky’s “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, decoding it is still a relatively straightforward affair. And if we found such a message inscribed on the walls of every human cell, we should have no hesitation in concluding that some intelligent agent was responsible, even if we didn’t know who that agent was.

(Note: I should like to make it clear that I do not regard people’s ability to read texts written in their own native language as part of the context of a purported message in that language. Defining “context” in this way would make the term absurdly broad. Rather, I would see the ability to read a language as a presupposition of there being any messages in that language at all. The term “context” refers to circumstances that help us understand the meaning of a message, and does not include the ability to decode a script.)

Decoding a message is harder when it is written in a language we understand, but where the message is encrypted, using a cipher. In such cases, we might think that at least some background knowledge was essential, in order to decode the message. However, there have been occasions when ciphers were reconstructed through the power of pure deduction – for example, the German Lorenz cipher and the Japanese Purple code. Having successfully decoded the message, it would be the very height of irrationality not to ascribe the message to an intelligent agent, even if we knew nothing of the message’s context. For instance, the message might say, “The weather is sunny,” but in spy-talk that might really mean: “The coast is clear: we can proceed with our plan.” But even if we had no idea of the message’s true import, we could still legitimately infer that it originated from an intelligent source, once we had decoded it.

When the message is written in an unknown language, decoding is complicated by the mathematical fact that there’s always some cipher that can be used to transform an unknown message into any string of English characters you want. This point was made by one of my critics, named Scott, who argued: “100 characters of perfectly grammatical English wouldn’t look like any such thing to anyone who didn’t already read English. For that matter, given a hundred of anything, there’s some cipher according to which the series encodes any 100-character string you care to choose.” In practice, successful decoding of scripts in unknown languages, such as Linear A (used in Crete over 3,000 years ago), relies heavily on context-related clues. The question then arises: what should we conclude if astronauts found what appeared to be an inscription in an unknown language on the Moon or Mars? Without a context of any sort, could we still make the inference that the inscription came from an intelligent source?

I believe we can. A simple illustration will suffice. In 2013, two scientists writing in the journal Icarus argued that there were patterns in the genetic code of living organisms that were highly statistically significant, with features indicative of intelligence which were inconsistent with any known natural process. (The authors of the paper, Vladimir I. Cherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, list several categories of natural processes, and they are clearly familiar with the relevant scientific literature on the subject.) “Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language,” they wrote. These features included decimal notation, logical transformation and the abstract symbol zero. Summing up, the authors argued:

In total, not only the signal itself reveals intelligent-like features – strict nucleon equalities, their decimal notation, logical transformation accompanying the equalities, the symbol of zero and semantic symmetries, but the very method of its extraction involved abstract operations – consideration of idealized (free and unmodified) molecules, distinction between their blocks and chains, the activation key, contraction and decomposition of codons. We find that taken together all these aspects point at artificial nature of the patterns.

The authors tentatively concluded that the decimal system in the genetic code “was invented outside the Solar System already several billions (sic) years ago.” (H/t: Max for correction to my wording.)

Regardless of whether the authors’ claims turn out to be true or not – and I’m not holding my breath – the point is that the identification of the signal they claimed to find in our genetic code was made on purely mathematical grounds, apart from all considerations of context. In order to rule out a natural (as opposed to artificial) source for the message, the only thing the authors needed to ascertain was whether it could be accounted for by known natural causes. One could always hypothesize the existence of a natural cause capable of generating these mathematical features, but the authors argue that the only reasonable inference to draw is that the signal they claim to find in the genetic code is an artificial one, generated by an intelligent source.

(I should point out here that our knowledge of what natural processes are capable of generating is not contextual knowledge, but scientific knowledge. As I stated above, the term “context” properly refers to circumstances that help us understand the meaning of a message. Our knowledge of processes occurring in Nature does not help us to do that.)

I conclude, then, that Professor Feser’s contention that the identification of a purported message as the product of an intelligent source cannot be made, apart from all context, is baseless and incorrect. I hope that Professor Feser will be gracious enough to acknowledge this in the future.

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513 Responses to Do we need a context to identify a message as the product of an intelligent being?

  1. VJT:

    Some interesting thoughts. I suggest that decoding is indeed diverse from context-sensitive meaning: “Break a leg” in a theatrical context means, have a good performance, IIRC. But, if one has access to the code of English, one does not need to know the idiom to see that that is a statement in English, and that of sufficiently long, it would be maximally unlikely to emerge by chance.

    Likewise, in a signal processing, algorithmic context, coded or modulated messages come with processing units that use source info, code them, store in suitable forms, transfer or transmit, receive, recognise and corelllate, decode, distribute and apply at a destination, usually a “sink.”

    In the key case, the genetic code, we have both regulatory aspects and coded sequences of codons that specify biologically relevant, folding and functioning proteins and esp. enzymes. The folding and key-lock fit functional sequences are deeply isolated in amino acid sequence space. In turn, that is deeply isolated in the field of organic chem possibilities.

    That is, we have FSCO/I, functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information. Here, including codes and algorithms with execution machinery. All as part of a von Neumann self-replicator using automaton.

    The space of possible configurations of such components is so far beyond astronomical that I won’t bother to try count it. I will just point to a much smaller space: 1,000 coins have 1.07 * 10^301 possibilities. That is so large that if we were to give the 10^80 or so atoms of our observed cosmos each a tray of 1,000 coins and toss and inspect every 10^-14s [a fast chem rxn rate], for 10^17 s, i.e. a reasonable cosmological time, then define that number of observations as one straw, the haystack-cube to capture the whole space would dwarf the observed cosmos.

    It is intuitively obvious that a blind search in such a haystack is maximally likely to hit only predictably straw, not needles. And by requirement of matched properly organised components FSCO/I will be in isolated needles in the stack.

    Rational, insightful, knowledge based, creative design is the only observed, analytically plausible solution to that sampling problem. As, your OP exemplifies, as Feser’s remarks exemplify, as this comment illustrates also. And, as the computers we are all using also show.

    That is the root design inference issue, and until it is fairly faced, all other debates are in vain.

    Now as to appeals to mass, undetectable delusions that undermine the rationality and intuitive common sense that accesses the above, I point out that it is unwise to suggest grand delusion of the human faculty of reasoning. If any major rational faculty is held delusional, that undermines rationality, sawing off the branch on which we must all sit.

    Such schemes used to be commonplace, there was a pretence that we can know little or nothing, but obviously, that self-refers and undermines itself. Things like that, rather should lead us to reject the schemes of thought that run so counter to what makes us different from a horse or mule which have no understanding, as the Psalmist would say.

    So, I would say, once we see FSCO/I, including something like 500 – 1,000+ bits, or 72 – 143 ASCII Characters, we are entitled to infer design. The lower end of course is shaped by the atomic resources of our solar system’s 10^57 atoms on a similar needle in haystack blind sampling challenge.

    KF

  2. I hold that ‘context’, all by itself, is a strong indication of intelligence.

    A few notes to that effect. The importance of context was taught to me by, of all things, Dawkins’ infamous ‘WEASEL’ computer program.,,, Although, all purported computer simulations of evolution have failed,,,

    LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW – William Dembski – Robert Marks – Pg. 13
    Excerpt: Simulations such as Dawkins’s WEASEL, Adami’s AVIDA, Ray’s Tierra, and Schneider’s ev appear to support Darwinian evolution, but only for lack of clear accounting practices that track the information smuggled into them.,,, 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 processes in particular, do not create information. Active information enables us to see why this is the case.
    http://evoinfo.org/publication.....ation-law/

    ,,, although all attempts failed,,,WEASEL was particularly effective as to teaching me the importance of context.

    I highly recommend Wiker & Witt’s book “A Meaningful World” in which they show, using the “Methinks it is like a weasel” phrase, that Dawkins’ had used from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet to try to illustrate the feasibility of Evolutionary Algorithms, that the problem is much worse for Darwinists than just finding the “Methinks it is like a weasel” phrase by a unguided search. The reason why it is much worse is because the “Methinks it is like a weasel” phrase doesn’t makes any sense unless the entire context of the Hamlet play of is taken into consideration so as to give the “Weasel” phrase a proper setting in order for it to have meaning.
    Moreover, I learned that the context in which the weasel phrase finds its meaning is derived from several different levels of the play, i.e. from the ENTIRE play, and even from the Elizabethan culture itself, provides contextual meaning for the individual “Weasel” phrase.

    A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature – Book Review
    Excerpt: They focus instead on what “Methinks it is like a weasel” really means. In isolation, in fact, it means almost nothing. Who said it? Why? What does the “it” refer to? What does it reveal about the characters? How does it advance the plot? In the context of the entire play, and of Elizabethan culture, this brief line takes on significance of surprising depth. The whole is required to give meaning to the part.
    http://www.thinkingchristian.n.....821202417/

    In fact it is interesting to note what the specific context actually is for “Methinks it is like a weasel” phrase in the Hamlet play. The context in which the phrase is used is to illustrate the spineless nature of one of the characters of the play. i.e. To illustrate how easily the spineless character can be led to agree with anything that Hamlet wants him to say:

    Ham. Do you see yonder cloud that ’s almost in shape of a camel?
    Pol. By the mass, and ’t is like a camel, indeed.
    Ham. Methinks it is like a weasel.
    Pol. It is backed like a weasel.
    Ham. Or like a whale?
    Pol. Very like a whale.
    http://www.bartleby.com/100/138.32.147.html

    After realizing what the context of ‘Methinks it is like a weasel’ actually was, I remember thinking to myself that it was perhaps the worse possible phrase Dawkins could have possibly chosen to use to try to illustrate his feasibility of evolutionary algorithms, since the phrase, when taken into context, actually illustrates that the person saying it (Hamlet) was purposely manipulating the other character into saying a cloud looked like a weasel. Which I am sure is hardly the idea, i.e. deception and manipulation, that Dawkins was intending to convey with his ‘Weasel’ example.

    But is this ‘structured’ context dependency that is found in literature also found in life? Yes! Starting at the amino acids of proteins we find context dependency:

    Fred Sanger, Protein Sequences and Evolution Versus Science – Are Proteins Random? Cornelius Hunter – November 2013
    Excerpt: Standard tests of randomness show that English text, and protein sequences, are not random.,,,
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....s-and.html

    (A Reply To PZ Myers) Estimating the Probability of Functional Biological Proteins? Kirk Durston , Ph.D. Biophysics – 2012
    Excerpt (Page 4): The Probabilities Get Worse
    This measure of functional information (for the RecA protein) is good as a first pass estimate, but the situation is actually far worse for an evolutionary search. In the method described above and as noted in our paper, each site in an amino acid protein sequence is assumed to be independent of all other sites in the sequence. In reality, we know that this is not the case. There are numerous sites in the sequence that are mutually interdependent with other sites somewhere else in the sequence. A more recent paper shows how these interdependencies can be located within multiple sequence alignments.[6] These interdependencies greatly reduce the number of possible functional protein sequences by many orders of magnitude which, in turn, reduce the probabilities by many orders of magnitude as well. In other words, the numbers we obtained for RecA above are exceedingly generous; the actual situation is far worse for an evolutionary search.
    http://powertochange.com/wp-co.....Myers_.pdf

    Moreover, context dependency is found on at least three different levels of the protein structure:

    “Why Proteins Aren’t Easily Recombined, Part 2? – Ann Gauger – May 2012
    Excerpt: “So we have context-dependent effects on protein function at the level of primary sequence, secondary structure, and tertiary (domain-level) structure. This does not bode well for successful, random recombination of bits of sequence into functional, stable protein folds, or even for domain-level recombinations where significant interaction is required.”
    http://www.biologicinstitute.o.....ned-part-2

    Moreover, it is interesting to note that many (most?) proteins are now found to be multifunctional depending on the overall context (i.e. position in cell, cell type, tissue type, etc..) that the protein happens to be involved in. Thus, the sheer brick wall that Darwinian processes face in finding ANY novel functional protein to perform any specific single task in a cell in the first place (Axe; Sauer) is only exponentially exasperated by the fact that many proteins are multifunctional and, serendipitously, perform several different ‘context dependent’ functions within the cell:

    Human Genes: Alternative Splicing (For Proteins) Far More Common Than Thought:
    Excerpt: two different forms of the same protein, known as isoforms, can have different, even completely opposite functions. For example, one protein may activate cell death pathways while its close relative promotes cell survival.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134623.htm

    The Gene Myth, Part II – August 2010
    Excerpt: “It was long believed that a protein molecule’s three-dimensional shape, on which its function depends, is uniquely determined by its amino acid sequence. But we now know that this is not always true – the rate at which a protein is synthesized, which depends on factors internal and external to the cell, affects the order in which its different portions fold. So even with the same sequence a given protein can have different shapes and functions. Furthermore, many proteins have no intrinsic shape, taking on different roles in different molecular contexts. So even though genes specify protein sequences they have only a tenuous (very weak or slight) influence over their functions.
    ,,,,So, to reiterate, the genes do not uniquely determine what is in the cell, but what is in the cell determines how the genes get used. Only if the pie were to rise up, take hold of the recipe book and rewrite the instructions for its own production, would this popular analogy for the role of genes be pertinent.
    Stuart A. Newman, Ph.D. – Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....rt-ii.html

    Genes Code For Many Layers of Information – They May Have Just Discovered Another – Cornelius Hunter – January 21, 2013
    Excerpt: “protein multifunctionality is more the rule than the exception.” In fact, “Perhaps all proteins perform many different functions by employing as many different mechanisms.”
    http://www.fasebj.org/content/23/7/2022.full

  3. Context dependency, and the problem it presents for ‘bottom up’ Darwinian evolution is perhaps most dramatically illustrated by the following examples in which overall ‘form’ dictates how the parts are used:

    An Electric Face: A Rendering Worth a Thousand Falsifications – Cornelius Hunter – September 2011
    Excerpt: The video suggests that bioelectric signals presage the morphological development of the face. It also, in an instant, gives a peak at the phenomenal processes at work in biology. As the lead researcher said, “It’s a jaw dropper.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi1Qn306IUU

    What Do Organisms Mean? Stephen L. Talbott – Winter 2011
    Excerpt: Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin once described how you can excise the developing limb bud from an amphibian embryo, shake the cells loose from each other, allow them to reaggregate into a random lump, and then replace the lump in the embryo. A normal leg develops. Somehow the form of the limb as a whole is the ruling factor, redefining the parts according to the larger pattern. Lewontin went on to remark: “Unlike a machine whose totality is created by the juxtaposition of bits and pieces with different functions and properties, the bits and pieces of a developing organism seem to come into existence as a consequence of their spatial position at critical moments in the embryo’s development. Such an object is less like a machine than it is like a language whose elements … take unique meaning from their context.[3]“,,,
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....nisms-mean

    I think pastor Joe Boot, although he is talking about the universe as a whole in the following quote, illustrates the insurmountable problem that ‘context dependency’ places on reductive materialism very well:

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

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

    Context is also found to be a severe roadblock in Artificial Intelligence:

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

    Quote, Verse, and Music:

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
    William Shakespeare – Hamlet

    Jeremiah 29:11
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    Satisfied – About A Mile
    http://myktis.com/songs/satisfied/

  4. VJ
    I have rather given up looking at your posts because they are so absurdly long – but this one is shorter.

    You won’t be surprised to know I agree with Feser.

    There are at least some contexts in which it  might be reasonable] for us to conclude that a purported message discovered by scientists in every human being’s cells was in fact a hallucination. I actually think this a poor alternative non-design explanation but it still possible to think of a context.  Assume your magnetic storms and also that we have observed that such storms do regularly cause mass hallucinations (we know this because eventually they pass away and a few people do not suffer from the hallucinations and do things like film what actually happened). Then we are left with the double-blind experiment.  The ability to do that experiment is part of the context. Perhaps there are no facilities for creating synthetic cells, or the storms create mind-reading abilities which means that double-blind doesn’t work.
     

    I don’t get the relevance of decoding. Decoding is just following a set of rules to turn a string from one format to another e.g. Morse code to the English alphabet.  This makes no difference to whether the string is likely to be the result of an intelligent agent or not. If you can come up with a set of rules that turns the string into an intelligible English sentence then you have raised the plausibility of the string be produced by an intelligent agent.  But that is nothing to do with the specific coding – be it the English alphabet, Morse code or the Enigma cipher.  It is because the sentence makes sense in that context.
     
    You refer to the Cherbaka and  Makukov paper. I haven’t time to read it, but features such as  zero and decimal positioning can only be recognised as such by knowing what the physical representation is intended to mean. If I write: 1.0 is the period a decimal point, a paragraph numbering system, the first part of an IP address, a rather unusual emoticon, or just a meaningless set of characters? You can only work out the answer through context.
     
    Mark

  5. As for the paper by shCherbak & Makukov:

    identification of the signal they claimed to find in our genetic code was made on purely mathematical grounds, apart from all considerations of context.

    This is completely wrong, because that signal was found within the context of directed panspermia. You can read about that simply by clicking the link to the authors’ FAQ page which might be found in arXiv version of their paper.

    The authors tentatively concluded that the genetic code “was invented outside the Solar System already several billions (sic) years ago.”

    Distortion again. Careful reading of the full original sentence reveals that the phrase “was invented outside the Solar System already several billions years ago” concerns not the genetic code, but the decimal system.

  6. 6

    It seems to me the issue is not whether “hallucination” can be a hypothesis. Certainly it can. After all, we can assert any hypothesis we like to explain the data, even those that, as this one does, seem absurd. The real issue is what to do when the hypothesis is falsified.

    Say that researcher 1 discovers the “Made by Yahweh” text on day 1. Someone might explain the data as follows: My hypothesis is that the text is the product of a hallucination. Now we test the hypothesis and find that the text is there on day 2 and day 3 . . . and so on for 20 years. During that time 50,000 separate researchers document identical results. Hallucination is no longer a tenable positon. The hypothesis has been falsified. To dismiss as hallucination an observation repeated by 50,000 researchers over two decades is absurd and self-refuting. As KF says, it would be saying off the epistemic branch upon which we are sitting.

    Now what? The only viable position now is that the text is real. And the only viable explanation is that some intelligent agent (not necessarily an agent named “Yahweh”) inscribed the text.

  7. 7

    This is completely wrong, because that signal was found within the context of directed panspermia. You can read about that simply by clicking the link to the authors’ FAQ page which might be found in arXiv version of their paper.

    Could you explain how panspermia affected the statistical analysis? It appeared to me that the same mathematical patterns could have been recognized without panspermia as a context. The authors don’t seem to point to that either, although I might have missed it in a quick reading.

    The authors’ FAQ:

    http://gencodesignal.info/faq/#q2

  8. Without directed panspermia as a context it is not clear why one could expect a message in the code at all. Therefore, in proper statistical testing involving Bayesian approach the a priori probability is simply zero.

  9. 9

    I’d think that the fact we recognize it as a “code” would be enough to analyze the probabilities of it having arisen by chance.
    I didn’t see that directed panspermia brought anything specific to the analysis. For example, the same study could have assumed a divine origin for the code and then looked for statistically significant patterns.
    Or a researcher could have assumed that “any code must have been designed by some kind of intelligence” and have conducted the analysis in the same way — looking for evidence of patterns that could not have been generated by stochastic processes.

    If that’s right then I don’t see that the conclusions were dependent on a specific context.

  10. Hi Mark Frank,

    Thank you for your comments. I’ll address your points in order.

    1. You write that in the magnetic storm scenario, the ability of scientists to do double-blind experiments is part of the context for the message they discover in every human cell. Here, I think your definition of “context” is far too inclusive, as the mere ability to do these experiments doesn’t, in and of itself, help us understand the message discovered by scientists in our cells. I would say instead that the ability to do double-blind experiments is a sine qua non of our concluding that a purported message is (a) real and (b) the product of an intelligence. Think of it this way: if scientists found that they couldn’t do double-blind experiments, don’t you think alarm bells would go off? And do you think they’d still be reporting their discovery in scientific journals, if they couldn’t confirm it properly? I don’t think so.

    2. You suggest a possible scenario where “the storms create mind-reading abilities which means that double-blind doesn’t work.” Mind-reading abilities? Pardon me if I’m mistaken, but aren’t you a materialist, Mark Frank? I’m surprised that you apparently regard mind-reading as a real possibility. Or do you just mean that it’s an epistemic possibility – i.e. that for all we know, it just might be true?

    3.You argue that “If you can come up with a set of rules that turns the string into an intelligible English sentence then you have raised the plausibility of the string be produced by an intelligent agent… because the sentence makes sense in that context.” But as I explained in my post, even if the sentence didn’t make sense (e.g. “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”), we would still ascribe it to an intelligent source, simply because it was perfectly grammatical.

    4. Regarding the shCherbaka and Makukov paper, you argue that “features such as zero and decimal positioning can only be recognised as such by knowing what the physical representation is intended to mean.” But as the authors carefully point out in their FAQ, the signal in the genetic code doesn’t mean anything in particular: “The only thing the message says for definite is ‘This message displays certain semiotic features peculiar to intelligence, so this message is artificial’.”

    The authors explain that their identification of the decimal system is based purely on mathematical and biochemical considerations: “the described patterns in the [genetic] code are revealed not by arbitrary shuffling with amino acid properties… but … using only nucleon numbers, with the protection key in proline always applied, with arrangements of the code always based on a simple logic, with revealed nucleon equalities always displaying distinctive notation in one and the same numeral system. Doesn’t that sound somewhat systematic rather than arbitrary?” Later they add: “all of the nucleon counts that make up those precise balances reveal distinctive notation in one and the same positional numeral system, which happens to be the decimal one.”

    Regarding the zero, the authors write in their FAQ:

    In case of the message in the genetic code we deal not with a model description but with the systematization of code elements using certain parameter – the nucleon number of corresponding amino acids. Stop-codons are assigned zero nucleon number as they code no amino acid. There is nothing special at this stage. Then you put [the] Stop-codon into [the] position where zero should sit, i.e. preceding the sequence of numbers, and you find that it neatly fits all symmetries in the ideogram (in fact, there would be no symmetries at all if you place[d] [the] Stop-codon in another position). Now, that is special, as it shows that the symbol of zero (Stop-codon) is physically where it should be as an ordinal number. If the symmetries of the ideogram are produced by some natural process, then that process must be capable of dealing with nothing – the abstract notion represented by zero (indicating the absence of an amino acid in this case). As far as we know, only intelligence is capable of dealing with such abstract things.

    Hope that helps.

  11. Hi Max,

    Thank you for your comments. I’ve made a minor correction to my post (h/t to you), to reflect the fact that the authors consider the decimal system in our genetic code to have originated outside our Solar System, billions of years ago. In any case, it was not my aim in this post to argue for the artificial origin of the genetic code; all I was concerned to argue was that the identification of a message from an intelligent source did not require a context.

    I hadn’t seen the FAQ page when I put up the post, but now that I’ve looked it over, I see that your claim that the signal “was found within the context of directed panspermia” is incorrect. Rather, it was found within the hypothesis of directed panspermia. A hypothesis is not a context. As I explained in my post, the term “context” refers to the actual circumstances surrounding an event.

    Finally, you write:

    Without directed panspermia as a context it is not clear why one could expect a message in the code at all. Therefore, in proper statistical testing involving Bayesian approach the a priori probability is simply zero.

    I’m sorry, but this violates one of the most basic rules of Bayesian probability inferences: Cromwell’s rule. To quote Wikipedia:

    Cromwell’s rule, named by statistician Dennis Lindley, states that the use of prior probabilities of 0 or 1 should be avoided, except when applied to statements that are logically true or false…

    As Lindley puts it, assigning a probability should “leave a little probability for the moon being made of green cheese; it can be as small as 1 in a million, but have it there since otherwise an army of astronauts returning with samples of the said cheese will leave you unmoved.”

    I would also add that I find it rather odd that you’d be prepared to set the prior probability of directed panspermia to precisely zero.

  12. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    I would agree with the broad thrust of your comments. Although the authors of the paper (shCherbaka and Makukov) put forward three reasons why they prefer directed panspermia as a hypothesis to that of a supernatural Creator, two of these reasons merely reflect the authors’ own personal prejudices about God – first, their claim that religion is all about spirituality, rather than the search for artifacts; and second, their argument that God, if He existed, would not want to compel us to believe in Him – and the third appeals to parsimony (aliens, say the authors, are a more economical explanation for the signal in our genetic code than God). But I can imagine that a modern scientist who had been influenced by the theological tradition of Newton and Boyle, had he/she been investigating the signal instead of the authors, might well have proceeded instead on the assumption that if God made the first cell, it would be very odd of Him not to leave His calling card in our DNA.

  13. Hi Barry,

    Excellent point. As Charles Babbage correctly observed in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, repeated independent observations of a highly abnormal occurrence can render the probability of a hallucination astronomically low, thereby making it an unreasonable hypothesis.

  14. Of supplemental note to post 2 & 3:

    Multidimensional Genome – Dr. Robert Carter – video (Notes in video description)
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8905048

    3-D Structure Of Human Genome: Fractal Globule Architecture Packs Two Meters Of DNA Into Each Cell – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: the information density in the nucleus is trillions of times higher than on a computer chip — while avoiding the knots and tangles that might interfere with the cell’s ability to read its own genome. Moreover, the DNA can easily unfold and refold during gene activation, gene repression, and cell replication.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142957.htm

    Tissue-specific spatial organization of genomes – 2004
    Excerpt: Using two-dimensional and three-dimensional fluorescence in situ hybridization we have carried out a systematic analysis of the spatial positioning of a subset of mouse chromosomes in several tissues. We show that chromosomes exhibit tissue-specific organization. Chromosomes are distributed tissue-specifically with respect to their position relative to the center of the nucleus and also relative to each other. Subsets of chromosomes form distinct types of spatial clusters in different tissues and the relative distance between chromosome pairs varies among tissues. Consistent with the notion that nonrandom spatial proximity is functionally relevant in determining the outcome of chromosome translocation events, we find a correlation between tissue-specific spatial proximity and tissue-specific translocation prevalence.
    Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that the spatial organization of genomes is tissue-specific and point to a role for tissue-specific spatial genome organization in the formation of recurrent chromosome arrangements among tissues.
    http://genomebiology.com/content/5/7/R44

    Scientists’ 3-D View of Genes-at-Work Is Paradigm Shift in Genetics – Dec. 2009
    Excerpt: Highly coordinated chromosomal choreography leads genes and the sequences controlling them, which are often positioned huge distances apart on chromosomes, to these ‘hot spots’. Once close together within the same transcription factory, genes get switched on (a process called transcription) at an appropriate level at the right time in a specific cell type. This is the first demonstration that genes encoding proteins with related physiological role visit the same factory.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....160649.htm

    Refereed scientific article on DNA argues for irreducible complexity – October 2, 2013
    Excerpt: This paper published online this summer is a true mind-blower showing the irreducible organizational complexity (author’s description) of DNA analog and digital information, that genes are not arbitrarily positioned on the chromosome etc.,,
    ,,,First, the digital information of individual genes (semantics) is dependent on the the intergenic regions (as we know) which is like analog information (syntax). Both types of information are co-dependent and self-referential but you can’t get syntax from semantics. As the authors state, “thus the holistic approach assumes self-referentiality (completeness of the contained information and full consistency of the different codes) as an irreducible organizational complexity of the genetic regulation system of any cell”. In short, the linear DNA sequence contains both types of information. Second, the paper links local DNA structure, to domains, to the overall chromosome configuration as a dynamic system keying off the metabolic signals of the cell. This implies that the position and organization of genes on the chromosome is not arbitrary,,,
    http://www.christianscientific.....omplexity/

  15. Of related interest to Pastor Joe Boot’s comment:

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

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

    i.e. The Reductive Materialism that Atheists adhere to does not an overall context to refer to. ,,,

    Yet, measurement in quantum mechanics is dependent on the context in which you do the experiment(s):

    Contextuality is ‘magic ingredient’ for quantum computing – June 11, 2012
    Excerpt: Contextuality was first recognized as a feature of quantum theory almost 50 years ago. The theory showed that it was impossible to explain measurements on quantum systems in the same way as classical systems.
    In the classical world, measurements simply reveal properties that the system had, such as colour, prior to the measurement. In the quantum world, the property that you discover through measurement is not the property that the system actually had prior to the measurement process. What you observe necessarily depends on how you carried out the observation.
    Imagine turning over a playing card. It will be either a red suit or a black suit – a two-outcome measurement. Now imagine nine playing cards laid out in a grid with three rows and three columns. Quantum mechanics predicts something that seems contradictory – there must be an even number of red cards in every row and an odd number of red cards in every column. Try to draw a grid that obeys these rules and you will find it impossible. It’s because quantum measurements cannot be interpreted as merely revealing a pre-existing property in the same way that flipping a card reveals a red or black suit.
    Measurement outcomes depend on all the other measurements that are performed – the full context of the experiment.
    Contextuality means that quantum measurements can not be thought of as simply revealing some pre-existing properties of the system under study. That’s part of the weirdness of quantum mechanics.
    http://phys.org/news/2014-06-w.....antum.html

    And it is by using this ‘context dependency’ that is inherent to Quantum Mechanics that experiments in Quantum Mechanics were able to be extended to falsify local realism (reductive materialism) of single particles, without even using quantum entanglement to do it,, (i.e. individual particles are not self-sustaining entities but are dependent on a non-local, beyond space and time, cause to explain their existence in space time):

    Falsification of Local Realism without using Quantum Entanglement – Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://vimeo.com/34168474

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    Antoine Suarez, has also used the ‘context’ that is inherent to Quantum Mechanics to falsify local realism:

    Free will and nonlocality at detection: Basic principles of quantum physics – Antoine Suarez – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhMrrmlTXl4

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time.,,,
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/what-does-quantum-physics-have-do-free-will

    Quantum Physics and Relativity 1: You can’t have one without the other. – Antoine Suarez – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQK37ZfHuzY

    Quantum Physics and Relativity 2: The visible comes into existence from the invisible. – Antoine Suarez – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxuOE2Bo_i0

  16. I believe we need a context to identify a message. If that is the case, would it not follow that we need a context to identify a message as the product of an intelligent being?

    Let’s say that animals, and even plants, and yes even cells, communicate. Assume they communicate via messages. Let’s say further that that these entities fail to qualify as intelligent.

    In that case, isn’t context even more of a requirement?

  17. Professor Edward Feser argued that no message, in and of itself, could warrant the inference that it was the product of an intelligent agent, without a knowledge of the context of the message.

    Please describe, if you can, a message that has no context.

  18. Mung,

    I am surprised. The phrase “has no context” is not the equivalent of the phrase “without a knowledge of the context.” Although you are often argumentative, you are not usually prone to such errors.

  19. Mung

    Please describe, if you can, a message that has no context.

    I suspect that VJ would agree that all communicated messages, including a signature in the cell, exist in a context. The question is whether or not one must always understand that context in order to recognize a message as a message. I don’t think so.

    I believe we need a context to identify a message.

    Would you need to know about the Civil War, the secession crisis, or the problem of slavery in order to recognize the Gettysburg address as a message?

  20. SteRusJon @ 18,

    Thank you. I am prone to all sorts of errors 🙂 I can only aspire to correct any errors that I make.

    So let me re-phrase my question. Given no knowledge of the context of a message, please describe how such a ‘message’ can be identified. How can we know that some observed phenomenon is in fact a message?

    Communication, and messages, by their very nature require context. To recognize a communication, or message, as such, requires a knowledge of context.

    There is no context-independent communication, the very idea is absurd. It follows that there is no context-independent message.

    To have knowledge of something (or lack thereof) is to assume context.

    you are often argumentative

    Hopefully not merely for the sake of being argumentative.

  21. StephenB:

    Would you need to know about the Civil War, the secession crisis, or the problem of slavery in order to recognize the Gettysburg address as a message?

    No, but that’s missing the point.

    Beginning with the now-iconic phrase “Four score and seven years ago”—referring to the Declaration of Independence, written at the start of the American Revolution in 1776—Lincoln examined the founding principles of the United States in the context of the Civil War,

    A person reading the Gettysburg Address might be completely ignorant of the referent of “four-score and seven years ago.” They may have no knowledge of when the address was given. But four-score and seven years ago could still be understood to mean 87 years ago, given sufficient context.

    The question is whether or not one must always understand that context in order to recognize a message as a message.

    Your argument is that one does not have to understand what a message is about in order to identify it as a message. I doubt that Feser would disagree.

    But that is a separate question to the one I raised, which is what context must be present in order to identify a message as a message?

    Are you or VJT willing to argue that a message can be identified as a message lacking any context whatsoever? I find the very idea absurd.

  22. 22

    Information is always a message. It always communicates something. Perhaps it only communicates to the creator of the information (personal notes), but by its nature, information is message.

    You do not need context to determine that something is informational. If it could not have been produced randomly or by natural processes, it is information — and therefore it is a message.

  23. 23

    The point that Prof. Feser denies is that you can determine that an intelligence was involved at all in that case. Dr. Torley asked him about that and did not receive a reply.
    If you saw the words “Made by Yaweh” in the cell, is that sufficient evidence to conclude that some intelligence was involved in putting it there? Or is some context required?
    One option Feser offered was that it was a product of an hallucination. So, apparently, without context one could not determine that the phrase was the product of intelligence.
    What would it take to reach the conclusion that a highly specified code had to be created by intelligence?

  24. Mung

    A person reading the Gettysburg Address might be completely ignorant of the referent of “four-score and seven years ago.” They may have no knowledge of when the address was given. But four-score and seven years ago could still be understood to mean 87 years ago, given sufficient context.

    I don’t understand why that is relevant. One can misunderstand part of a message and still know that it is, indeed, a message.

    Your argument is that one does not have to understand what a message is about in order to identify it as a message.

    Well, sort of, but not exactly. The context in which a message is situated is related to, but not identical with, ts meaning. In any case, I am taking issue only with (Feser’s implied) claim that one must understand the context in which a message was delivered in order to recognize it as a message. Remember, this is one of his main excuses for rejecting ID. If he is right, a design inference cannot be made solely from empirical evidence

    I doubt that Feser would disagree.

    I think he would disagree. If I understand him correctly, he is saying that the message in a DNA molecule (manifested as a signature) can be detected only if the broader communicative context is understood.

    Are you or VJT willing to argue that a message can be identified as a message lacking any context whatsoever? I find the very idea absurd.

    I don’t think you understand my argument. I agree and have agreed that ALL messages occur in a context. How could they not? The point is that one does not need to identify that context in order to know that a message was delivered.

    I hearken back to my example of the Gettysburg address. Obviously, it was communicated in a specific context. Still, even if I do not understand the context, even if I misunderstand parts of the message, I will, nevertheless, not fail to know that it was a message and that an intelligent agent was responsible for its transmission.

  25. VJ 12

    “Although the authors of the paper (shCherbaka and Makukov) put forward three reasons why they prefer directed panspermia as a hypothesis to that of a supernatural Creator, two of these reasons merely reflect the authors’ own personal prejudices about God – first, their claim that religion is all about spirituality, rather than the search for artifacts; and second, their argument that God, if He existed, would not want to compel us to believe in Him…”

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to challenge these two points (the alien hypothesis will have to take care of itself for now). First, all the great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, believe in a God who not only created the material universe but is deeply interested in it. Genesis 1 tells us that God repeated declared the material universe “good” or even “very good.” Jews, Christians, and Muslims all are told to behave in certain ways with their material bodies, and not in other ways. So religion is NOT all about “spirituality”, it also includes the material world, including our bodies and the cells which compromise them.

    Of course, the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus also militates against any such notions, too. He ate fish with his disciples and let Thomas touch his wounds just to assure them that he was physical. Many of his miracles involved physical things, such as healing or turning water into wine. Frankly, the idea that God is only interested in spiritual things is more the product of Plato than anything found in the scriptures.

    Re the notion that God does not wish to compel us to believe in Him, I agree. However, the notion that a signature in the cell would compel people to believe in God, is, well, preposterous. After all, every day we see more evidence & research indicating the incredible complexity & optimization of living systems without churches filling up or mass conversions happening!

    Bear in mind that Jesus, who knew the hearts of men better than anyone, knew exactly that. He said that even if a man returned to life from the grave, many still would not believe (and he was so right). He performed miracles, as even his enemies conceded, yet they still wished to kill him. Paul the apostle later wrote that much of God can be known from the physical world, yet men deliberately suppress the truth.

    Would “Made by Yaweh” in every cell convince all, or even most, of unbelievers that the Judeo-Christian God is real? Would it “compel” them to believe? Not a chance!

  26. error correction: …our bodies and the cells that COMPRISE them.

    Sorry.

  27. Before you can discuss this question in any meaningful way you first need to elaborate on what forms you think this “Made By Yahweh” message could appear. I doubt you’re talking about miniature gold tablets in each cell!
    First lets note that when artists, engineers or architects sign their work they rarely write “Made by…” its usually just their name: ‘Picasso’, ‘Charles Dickens’ etc. so can we look for just “Yahweh”? In another post I wrote a comment ( that was completely ignored of course) that the word Yahweh does appear in several proteins! So how would you evaluate whether this is a genuine signature in the cell (to coin a phrase)

  28. In philosophy of language, context is everything surrounding the event, process, or entity. Context is understood the same way in logic too.

    It’s not context that needs to be defined, but the direct and indirect causal links of it to the event, process, or entity, as distinguished from irrelevant or apparent links. That some links are always there is an axiom in philosophy of language.

    In experimental science context is understood differently, because experiment is set up precisely for the purpose to isolate the event, process, or entity from all “noise” (nevermind that the seeming disturbance actually might be relevant context).

    It should be self-evident that the linguistic, philosophical, or logical definition of context is directly at odds with experimental science. Therefore all your reasoning which tries to reconcile the two or is based on conflating the two does not even apply, Mr. Torley.

    Based on my own understanding of these things, the project to “detect intelligence” is a sad deviation from basic logic. Intelligence does not lend itself to be studied as an empirical guinea pig. Intelligence cannot be an empirical subject because it is a philosophical subject (as opposed to “object” which is the empirical subject or topic of experimental science). It’s a category error of gargantuan magnitude to think that subject and object are somehow interchangeable — and experimental science has made this error and reflects it in its terminology.

  29. 29

    RodW #27

    In another post I wrote a comment ( that was completely ignored of course) that the word Yahweh does appear in several proteins!

    I don’t think your comment was ignored because it is impossible to answer.
    This test measures the probability that a highly-specified pattern in a string of characters will show up.
    The first example gave a 14 character string.
    You now shortened the string to 6 characters and then discovered it in proteins. This obviously changes the probabilities. Keep in mind, you eliminated the most difficult part — the spaces.
    The reason you give for this shortening of the string is that designers don’t use the words “Made by”.
    We might suggest that some artists just sign with an initial. So, if you found the character “Y”, do you think anyone would be impressed?
    But also, many artists use first and last name (Paul Cezanne). Why didn’t you suggest that the string of characters should be longer than 14?

    It would be better for you to answer the question Dr. Torley posed:

    2. Do you agree that if the message were suitably long and specific (say, 100 characters of perfectly grammatical English with no repetition), it would be irrational not to ascribe the message to an intelligent agent, regardless of the message’s context?

    Notice — 100 characters. Not 6.

    What do you think? Would it be irrational to conclude that an intelligent agent was at work, without knowing the context of that string of characters?

  30. @Silver Asiatic

    Notice — 100 characters. Not 6.

    What do you think? Would it be irrational to conclude that an intelligent agent was at work, without knowing the context of that string of characters?

    Evidently the debate is not just about the different interpretations of “context” but also about different interpretations of “message”. In the world of standard logic, the debate about “message by intelligent agent” is dubious because “message by unintelligent agent” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. As soon as we agree that it’s a message, we have agreed that there has been an intelligent agent at work.

    As soon as the skeptic agrees that it is a message in the first place, the debate is essentially over. It doesn’t matter what the length of the message is. From here it should be obvious why we have to talk about hallucination, aliens, etc. because given that it is a message, we have to interpret the message, and for interpretation, context is everything.

    It has been proposed that certain staircase-like formations at the bottom of the Atlantic are remnants of the Atlantean civilization. Both the proponents of the Atlantean theory and the skeptics see the same thing: staircase-like rock formations, non-different from those seen in Egyptian or Mayan pyramids. It’s the interpretation which is different. The skeptics deny that it’s a staircase in the first place, because as soon as they’d agree that it’s a staircase, they would be irreversibly on the same side with the proponents.

    The same with the message in the cell. No matter how short or long, the skeptics will deny that it’s a message in the first place.

  31. So we all seem to be in agreement that any message requires a context. That by the very nature of what it means to be a message, there can be no context-independent message.

    So would anyone care to address my questions about communication and messaging in contexts where there is no intelligent being as the sender/receiver?

    As I stated previously, it seems to me that if that is the case, then not only would knowledge of context be required to identify that something is a message, but that on top of that additional context would be needed to identify it as a message originating from an intelligent being.

    Frankly this all seems so blatantly obvious to me that I wonder if we’re not talking past each other.

  32. Hi StephenB,

    I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful job you’ve been doing in defending my position on this thread. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been very busy recently, but I’ll be back in a few hours to respond to other contributors’ thoughtful comments. Stay tuned!

  33. We are all aware that messages are generated within a particular context. The point at issue is whether some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message.

    I suggest for your consideration– a message in a bottle.

    We have no knowledge of the who or what or why or when or where particulars pertaining to the bottle and its contents when was cast a drift. Time and Tide have obscured those particulars from us. It was not likely that it was sent with a particular recipient in mind. What is knowledge of context for the the contained message without some kind of knowledge of these particulars? Yet, if we see a scroll within, we are nearly certain it contains a message even before we open it. When we do open it and retrieve the scroll, we know it contains a message even if the script and tongue are completely unknown to us. Isn’t that a message recognized as such without its context (as far as we are aware.)

    While you may say the bottle itself is the context, I say the bottle is the carrier. Much like a radio wave is the carrier of the FM music I am listening to.

    I propose that the way we know it contains a message is the particular arrangement of matter is only possible due to the purposeful actions of an intelligent individual.

    What say ye?

    Stephen

  34. Hi Stephen,

    Assume an intelligent naturalist is stranded on the island.

    She alone is aware that a certain plant only exists on the island upon which she is stranded, but she is not aware that she is the only one who knows this. (Or maybe she does know this, but has faith/hope.)

    So she stuffs a specimen from that plant into the bottle and sets it adrift. A sure and certain indicator of where she can be found.

    A homeless person finds the bottle and sells it for cash and it is recycled. The “message” is never received or understood.

    The point at issue is whether some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message.

    In the mind of our intrepid naturalist, the arrangement of matter/energy she stuffed into the bottle was sufficient to allow someone with sufficient information (context) to “connect the dots.”

    The point at issue is whether some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message.

    I, otoh, assert that this is not the point at issue. I assert that it is obvious that “some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message.”

    I further maintain that some additional context is required in order to infer that a message has, as the sender, and intelligent being.

  35. Hi Mung,

    Thank you very much for your posts. After reading them, I’d like to suggest an alternative, intermediate view for your consideration. The proposal which I’m making is that while some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message, no knowledge of the context is required in order to infer that some arrangement of matter and/or energy is, in fact, the product of an intelligent agent. The latter identification requires only that the arrangement of matter and/or energy be shown to exhibit a sufficiently high degree of specified complexity as to rule out natural (as opposed to artificial) sources. This appears to be the case, for instance, with the alleged “Wow!” signal in the genetic code that I wrote about in my post: no-one has the foggiest idea what the signal means, but a good case can be made on purely mathematical grounds that it is artificial in origin.

    What do you think?

    (By the way, when I say “the product of an intelligent agent,” I mean to include any specified complex patterns generated by computers, robots and other human artifacts, as these artifacts were originally created by intelligent agents. Hence any output they generate is, at least indirectly, the product of intelligent agency.)

  36. Hi SteRusJohn and Mung,

    Re the message in the bottle (excellent example, BTW): what legitimizes the inference to Intelligent Design is the discovery that it contains a sufficient level of specified complexity as to exclude the possibility that it originated by natural processes. In order to make this inference, all we need to know is what natural processes are and are not capable of doing.

    Would you call that kind of knowledge contextual knowledge? I would not. In my post, I defined the context of a purported message as “the circumstances that form the setting” for the purported message, and that help us understand its significance. Thus the context of a message is essentially social and cultural in character; to include background physical conditions within the scope of the term “context” would be stretching the term too far, as these conditions do not in any way help us to understand the meaning of a purported message. All they do is help us rule out proposed natural explanations for the origin of the message.

    Let’s go back to Mung’s example of the native plant that is stuffed into the bottle. The homeless man who finds it does not know that the plant is only found on one island. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the bottle containing the plant is rich in specified complexity, and that a botanist could easily deduce that it was sent by an intelligent agent.

    Ming would argue that the knowledge that the botanist brings to the case constitutes “context.” I don’t think it does, as the knowledge in question is not knowledge about senders and receivers, or about the meaning of messages, but botanical knowledge about the natural world.

    I think every Intelligent Design advocate would agree that without a certain level of background knowledge about the natural world, it is quite impossible to make a design inference. If Professor Feser wants to call that knowledge “context,” he is welcome to do so, but then I would say that he is trivializing the term “context.”

    Are we all in agreement now? Over to you, Mung.

  37. @V.Torley

    I’d like to suggest an alternative, intermediate view for your consideration. The proposal which I’m making is that while some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message, no knowledge of the context is required in order to infer that some arrangement of matter and/or energy is, in fact, the product of an intelligent agent.

    You are not suggesting any alternative view here. You are approaching the standard view. But seeing how you keep shifting your definitions, you most likely won’t stay there for long.

    According to the standard view, as soon as we agree that it’s a message, it’s a given that it is the product of an intelligent agent. And how do we determine it’s a message at all? The thing called context again 🙂

  38. Feser says:

    But it’s silly to say “Let’s abstract from all context and then ask what the most probable source of the phrase is.” As Mike Flynn pointed out above, there’s no such thing as the most probable source absent all context.

    Let’s remember Dr. Torley’s actual questions included the disagreement’s defining context:

    …Do you agree that if a message saying “Made by _____” were discovered in every human’s cells,…

    and

    …say, 100 characters of perfectly grammatical English with no repetition…

    Of course, that the messages were found to be significantly and specifically meaningful, and found in all human cells anyone looked at, at any time, under any circumstances (“EVERY human’s cells”), is the framing context of the debate. When Feser talks about “context” beyond this point, he is necessarily talking about information beyond the already agreed-upon specified context as outlined by Dr. Torley.

    Thus, when Feser says:

    But it’s silly to say “Let’s abstract from all context and then ask what the most probable source of the phrase is.” As Mike Flynn pointed out above, there’s no such thing as the most probable source absent all context.

    … Feser is offering up a straw man. Dr. Torley didn’t ask about the evidence “absent all context”, but rather absent all context beyond that which is given in the questions that precisely define the debate.

    If it were the case that “hallucination” is a possible rational explanation for any commodity X that is **always** present **whenever** and **every time** someone looked for it (“EVERY human’s cells”), I suggest that in such a world hallucination is indistinguishable from fact. Perhaps we should call it “Feser’s World”.

    The idea that such a commodity could be reasonably considered a hallucination is stretching the meaning of the term “reasonably” beyond recognition and the term “hallucination” to include its functional opposite. Apparently, by Feser’s yardstick, everything we know about the inside of human cells could be a hallucination, because the fact that it’s all there every time we look doesn’t indemnify against a “reasonable” claim of “hallucination”.

    That Feser must resort to “massive, ongoing worldwide hallucination” as a potential “reasonable” explanation against the theory of intelligent design demonstrates his hyperskepticism. I suggest that even if we posit that it was a world-wide hallucination, we could still conclude that the hallucination of the message in the cell was itself most likely intelligently designed.

  39. William J. Murray @35, excellent points!

    Yes, the hyperskepticism is inherent in Fewer’s impossible-to-believe stretches, and even if, in the spirit of misplaced generosity, we granted those stretches for the sake of argument, they would still not stretch far enough to support his position.

  40. With respect to the plant in the bottle, it is not clear to me that a legitimate message was sent or even conceived. What can the discoverer of the bottle conclude from the plant’s design features? Well, it seems evident that an intelligent agent caused them to be. What can he conclude from the plant’s existence in the bottle? Again, it seems evident that an intelligent agent placed it there. Surely, this cannot be the message. The discoverer already knows that a plant cannot create itself or place itself in a bottle.

    Or again, the message surely cannot be that the sender lives on a certain island and/or this same island is the only location where the plant can be found. Such a message cannot be conveyed by simply placing the plant in the bottle and sending it afloat. The sender has provided no clues by which the finder of the bottle could “connect the dots.” There is no attempt by the sender to communicate a specific message to a receiver. It may be a kind of intrapersonal communication, but I don’t think it rises to the level of interpersonal.

  41. Let’s abstract from all context…

    This seems a false premise, as if there were any “context-free” scenarios. We are conscious and live in a material universe. That context is inescapable. It can not be abstracted away. We are finite in our abilities and our technologies. That further qualifies every context. Anything beyond our existing actual and theoretical technologies (i.e. outside our minimal context) would seem like “magic” to us.

    Every scenario considered occurrs within a context of we conscious living beings observing (or imagining) some material manifestion in our material universe. Any “abstract” context which precludes those features is irrelevant to any consideration of “intelligent design” pro or con.

    Prime numbers are about as “abstract from all context” as I can imagine, and yet they require intelligence to compose and recognize, and that presumes we are conscious living beings observing (or imagining) prime numbers, which do not occur naturally in our material universe. Even “imagined” prime numbers (not to be confused with “imaginary”) require intelligence regardless.

    …and then ask what the most probable source of the phrase is.

    Given the phrase “a non-repeating series of prime numbers” in the context of conscious living beings observing that phrase encoded in radiation wavelengths impinging on all telescopes simultaneously around the globe, the source of this “noumena” is:

    a) beyond our technological ability to produce (we can’t even generate all prime numbers, let alone readily identify them as “prime”);

    b) not any natural process known to us;

    c) from a super-encompassing context in which our recognition of prime numbers are a subset of the generated prime numbers, i.e. requires more intelligence than we have. However one may wish to denigrate our absolute intelligence, anything of greater relative intelligence remains by definition “intelligent”.

    Lastly, while one might argue that prime numbers are mathematical and “math” is a kind of human language within a human context, however prime numbers are not a language, rather they are non-repeating symbols of an infinite alphabet of which we can barely recite its beginning let alone interpret as a human grammar or language.

    We do have the technology to build “prime number series” detectors (up to a technological computational limit); machines that can not hallucinate, which can present “double blind” outputs to ensure we (the observers) are not hallucinating when interpreting the ‘prime number series detected’ warning light.

    The most probable source of a non-repeating series of prime numbers, abstract from all context (save that in which prime numbers exist), is an intelligent source. That seems, in priniciple, irrefutable. By extension then, signals (and detectors) of less complexity merely differ in rigor but regardless require intelligence, albeit lesser intelligence.

  42. Notwithstanding the caterwauling that would ensue from the New Zealanders and the English et al. at the thought, if the signature in the cell says “Made by Yahweh,” it will confirm what I have always known in my heart of hearts.

    That The Almighty is ‘Merican, “Of course He is!…

  43. On the other hand, if it says “??????? ????” I’m going to be mightily disillusioned…

  44. Mung,

    With respect to your post at #32. It is not really a reply to my mine. You have contrived a “message in a bottle” that I agree needs context to be interpreted. You, also, appear to be channeling one Alan Fox with the bit with the quotes around the word message.

    In addition, your contrived scenario leads me to doubt the naturalist’s intelligence. Is that the best she could do? I do not see where much, if any, information was “encoded” into the matter that was placed in the bottle for transmission.

    I have no doubt that context may be, usually is, or I would likely concede, always is, essential to interpret the full meaning contained within a message. My point, which you seem to be avoiding, is that the “message” (or whatever you and Alan wish to call it) can be recognized to be such without any knowledge of the context. I gave my “message in a bottle” as an example of just such a possibility. If I am correct, then my “black swan” (a message that does require context to interpret but is a recognizable message whether you know the context or not) falsifies your assertion “that it is obvious that “some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message.”” It is irrelevant whether the message is received by the intended recipient or not.

    I think StephenB makes a good point. The “plant in the bottle” makes for a poor, if not useless, means of conveying a message. I think a proper message needs some “artificiality” about it. Natural objects, as in products of natural processes, which have not been “encoded” (made unnatural, modified, artificial-ized) to send a message do not make for good carriers of information about anything except themselves. That is the reason the information must be “encoded” onto the natural object. It must be forced by an intelligent agent to carry information about something other than itself. The more unambiguous the modulation of the carrier the better (except, maybe, in the covert operations division.) Your naturalist’s plant specimen had zero modulation. It is not artificial enough. (Yes, it is in a bottle. Enough artificiality to make me wonder what this is all about.) The artificiality impressed upon the natural object in order to send a message makes the message identifiable as a message and as a product of intelligence.

    Just my take on the matter.

    Stephen

  45. 46

    This conversation is ripe for people talking past each other.

  46. Upright Biped @43, I agree.

    It would certainly help if someone (especially Feser) would address the issue head on and support the claim that is being made, namely that one must always understand the context of a message in order to know that it is, indeed, a message.

    In other words, I am asking him (or anyone) to describe a specific context, the absence of which would make it impossible to know that an intelligent agent had sent a message. Suffice it to say that it must be a legitimate message, not simply an idea in someone’s head, and it must be a true context, not simply a trivial description of the surrounding physical conditions. For my part, Feser has no credibility as long as he doesn’t even make the attempt. I interpret his failure to try as evidence that he is bluffing.

    It seems evident that if one must always understand the context of a communicated message in order to recognize it as a message, then ID, and the idea of drawing inferences from empirical evidence, has been defeated. This is Feser’s schtick and I am not buying it on the basis of an unsupported claim.

  47. Hi All,

    Charles @38: The most probable source of a non-repeating series of prime numbers, abstract from all context (save that in which prime numbers exist), is an intelligent source. That seems, in priniciple, irrefutable.

    The only known source of such a series is a human source. You generalize this to say that an intelligent source is implicated, and in doing so you seem to assume that anything which can produce a series of primes must also have conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions. These assumptions are completely unwarranted – just as the assumption that such a source must likewise have metabolisms, sense organs, nervous systems, and opposable thumbs.

    There may be something other than human beings in the universe capable of producing a series of primes, but if there is, we know absolutely nothing about it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  48. RDFish @ 45

    The only known source of such a series is a human source. You [Charles] generalize this to say that an intelligent source is implicated,

    No, my exact words were “we [i.e. humanity] can’t even generate all prime numbers, let alone readily identify them as “prime”, and sourcing “a non-repeating series of prime numbers … encoded in radiation wavelengths impinging on all telescopes simultaneously around the globe” is beyond human technological abilities.

    Nor did I generalize from human to intelligent. I equated the non-natural character of non-repeating prime numbers with intelligence. Even if humanity didn’t exist, non-repeating prime numbers could be generated by any sufficient non-human intelligence.

    Further, your assertion “The only known source of such a series is a human source.” is plainly wrong. Humanity can’t be a source for such noumena, it is beyond us. There is no human ability to generate a non-repeating series of prime numbers impinging on all telescopes simultaneously around the globe. Non-repeating prime numbers are infinite, but humanity has presently only identified about 100 million, and those telescopes are always pointed away from our satellites (usually into deep space) and detect wavelengths that our satellites can’t generate.

    But regardless of human inability to be such a source, any source actually capable would, irrefutably, be an intelligent source, which is what I said.

    and in doing so you seem to assume that anything which can produce a series of primes must also have conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions. These assumptions are completely unwarranted

    No, those would be your assumptions, not mine, but as you note, your assumptions are completely unwarranted, agreed.

    There may be something other than human beings in the universe capable of producing a series of primes, but if there is, we know absolutely nothing about it.

    Well, we do know it would be intelligent, don’t we.

  49. Hi Charles,

    I equated the non-natural character of non-repeating prime numbers with intelligence.

    I’m guessing that by “non-natural” here you mean “not human generated” – is that what you mean? If not, what do you mean?

    Even if humanity didn’t exist, non-repeating prime numbers could be generated by any sufficient non-human intelligence.

    If humanity didn’t exist, then we don’t know if anything else could generate prime sequences or not. If something did exist that could generate them, we wouldn’t know anything else about it, except that it could generate prime number sequences.

    Further, your assertion “The only known source of such a series is a human source.” is plainly wrong.

    Yes, if you mean generating an infinite number of primes, then we know of nothing that can do that, including humans. However, the only source of a large number of encoded and transmitted prime numbers would be human beings.

    There is no human ability to generate a non-repeating series of prime numbers impinging on all telescopes simultaneously around the globe.

    Obviously nothing at all could ever do this, since nothing can transmit any information to spatially distributed receivers simultaneously. But all this is quite aside from the point I’m making.

    But regardless of human inability to be such a source, any source actually capable would, irrefutably, be an intelligent source, which is what I said.

    And what I said was that if we detected a string of encoded primes, we would not know anything about the source except that it could, somehow, generate and transmit a string of encoded primes. SETI researchers make a number of assumptions about what might be transmitting like that, but all of their assumptions center on life forms that with sufficient “encephalization quotients” to produce the requisite technology. (see this for example).

    RDF: in doing so you seem to assume that anything which can produce a series of primes must also have conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions. These assumptions are completely unwarranted
    CHARLES: No, those would be your assumptions, not mine, but as you note, your assumptions are completely unwarranted, agreed.

    Ah, that is why I said you seem to be making those assumptions, since most folks associate those traits with “intelligence”. Since you do not, may I ask what in your view characterizes an intelligent thing (entity, system, process, force, being, whatever)?

    Well, we do know it would be intelligent, don’t we.

    If you say so, but it all comes down to what you mean by that. Something that has no conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, or emotions would be quite different from a human being obviously. Let’s say I have such an entity here in my office, and all you know is that is capable of producing a sequence of prime numbers. What else could you say about this thing besides “it’s intelligent”? And if that is all you could say about it, aren’t you just using that term to mean “it can produce prime number sequences”, which we already know? In other words, what do we learn by labelling such a thing “intelligent”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  50. RDF: I simply repeat (yet again) that we have no good reason to assume or infer that humans exhaust the set of possible intelligent designers. We therefore have no good grounds to infer on direct observation of humans as designers, that we effectively exhaust the set. Only, that the set is non-empty and has in it nothing that prevents other designers being indirectly evident through the works they have made. An excellent test case is, the fine tuning of the observed cosmos that sets up H, He, O and C as first four elements with N close by and other linked things which led Hoyle to his famous discussion on put up jobs, and another is the 60+ year old discovery of coded, algorithmic information in copious quantities in cell based life forms. The two together actually look a lot like a WOW-WOW! signal KF

  51. To be honest, I think that Professor Feser is right. The context matters! That’s the whole point. Context means specification. As far as genetic code is concerned, the context is biological function. Biological function is really a program and programs need intelligence. They need a non-algorithmic halting oracle.

    I think that even the authors of the cited article were implicitly using the notion of mathematical context.

    Biofunction is carried only by functional strings of symbols whose frequency characteristics are close to those randomly generated. However, neither random nor highly ordered strings can carry biological function.

    But all that of course does not undermine ID. In fact, quite the opposite. So all Professor Freser is saying, the way I read him, is that context is important. All he needs is take a step further to acknowledge that function is different from order or chaos.

  52. In addition to what I said in #52, as an example, Durston’s method of calculating the amount of functional information per amino acid position heavily uses the relevant biological context, i.e. protein functionality. It shows that the amount of functional information per site at certain sites of functional amino acid sequences evaluate to more than 3 functional bits, which (i) is very high considering a possible maximum of log20, and (ii) correlates with the known protein binding sites.

    What I mean to say is that no actual ID research is free of context.

  53. RDFish @ 50

    I’m guessing that by “non-natural” here you mean “not human generated” – is that what you mean? If not, what do you mean?

    Non-natural as in not naturally occuring, e.g. not the result of sesmic vibrations, half-life decay, stellar fusion, CMB radiation, Harmony of the Spheres, crickets chirping…

    since nothing can transmit any information to spatially distributed receivers simultaneously.

    Well, there is the CMB radiation.

    And what I said was that if we detected a string of encoded primes, we would not know anything about the source except that it could, somehow, generate and transmit a string of encoded primes. SETI researchers make a number of assumptions about what might be transmitting like that

    And if SETI were Searching for Extra Terrestrial Ignorance you’d have a point, but they’re not and so you don’t.

    may I ask what in your view characterizes an intelligent thing (entity, system, process, force, being, whatever)?

    Um, non-repeating prime numbers?

    Let’s say I have such an entity here in my office, and all you know is that is capable of producing a sequence of prime numbers. What else could you say about this thing besides “it’s intelligent”?

    That your “entity” (or its designer) is intelligent is the entire point. You could further point to it and tell Feser the emanating non-repeating primes in and of itself, could warrant the inference that it was the product of an intelligent agent, and you would have exposed the error in Feser’s argument. Well done!

  54. 55

    There may be something other than human beings in the universe capable of producing a series of primes, but if there is, we know absolutely nothing about it.

    Once we know there is, then we will know more about it.

    Even just supposing that there is, we know it does something that humans can do –and therefore has something in common with human life.

  55. RDFish:

    The only known source of such a series is a human source.

    And of a human is unavailable we infer it was an intelligent agency at least as clever as we are.

    You generalize this to say that an intelligent source is implicated, and in doing so you seem to assume that anything which can produce a series of primes must also have conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions.

    Intentions, yes. The rest, no. Seriously who would produce a transmitter, figure out the primes and transmit them unintentionally?

  56. EugeneS

    To be honest, I think that Professor Feser is right. The context matters! That’s the whole point. Context means specification. As far as genetic code is concerned, the context is biological function. Biological function is really a program and programs need intelligence. They need a non-algorithmic halting oracle.

    I don’t think Feser is discussing context within a specialization. If he was, he could not use it as an excuse to reject ID. It is both trivial and obvious, for example, to say that the fine-tuning argument cannot be understood except in the context of the anthropic principle. That is not the kind of thing Fewer is talking about: it does not address his claim.

    Feser is discussing context from a broader perspective. For him, one must understand the social conditions and circumstances in which a message is delivered in order to recognize it as a message. That is why he feels justified in raising the issue of hallucinations, which as we found out, doesn’t work.

    No one here is questioning the fact that communication always occurs in a context or that its full meaning cannot be grasped in the absence of that context. The issue is whether one must understand the context in order to know that something was communicated.

    Thus, my challenge to Feser (or anyone else) persists:

    Support the claim that one must always understand the context of a message in order to know that it is, indeed, a message. Describe a specific context, the absence of which would make it impossible to know if a meaningful message consisting of 100 characters was designed by an intelligent agent.

  57. RDFish,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    The only known source of such a series [of prime numbers] is a human source. You generalize this to say that an intelligent source is implicated, and in doing so you seem to assume that anything which can produce a series of primes must also have conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions. These assumptions are completely unwarranted – just as the assumption that such a source must likewise have metabolisms, sense organs, nervous systems, and opposable thumbs.

    With respect, I think you are missing the point here. Granted that the only known source of a series of prime numbers is a human source, it still makes sense to ask how humans generate such series. Answer: by virtue of reasoning from mathematical concepts, including the concepts of one, of a whole number, of a factor, and of a prime number. So we can define “intelligent” as follows: “capable of having abstract concepts and making rational inferences on the basis of those concepts.” And since reasoning necessarily involves some sort of language, we can say that anything capable of generating a series of primes must be capable of language as well. Nothing in the foregoing definition, however, makes any mention of “desires, intentions, and emotions.”

  58. Stephenb #57

    Describe a specific context, the absence of which would make it impossible to know if a meaningful message consisting of 100 characters was designed by an intelligent agent.

    I have not been following this particular debate but OMagain, who is unable to post here, has responded on the Skeptical Zone.
    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=4929

    I would point out that the challenge needs a bit of clarification. The very fact it is a meaningful message of 100 characters rather implies it was designed. On the other hand quite a lot of context is required to know that. Quite a lot of context is required to know that it is a meaningful message of 100 characters. To know that marks are  characters requires knowing they conform to a convention. To know the meaning of the characters requires either further knowledge of conventions or knowledge about the intentions of the writer.

    To my mind this underlies some confusion about the “Made by Yahweh” example.  If such characters were found in DNA then given that the message is steeped in human convention and history (and that is essential context) then by far the most likely explanation is that the sentence somehow originated from a human writing it.  The puzzle is how it got there.  Design is not the issue – causality is the problem.

  59. we can say that anything capable of generating a series of primes must be capable of language as well.

    I wouldn’t be so sure there are no natural processes capable of creating a sequence of prime numbers. While I don’t believe there are any known examples at the moment (except perhaps the evolutionary strategy used by cicadas of the genus Magicicada), all it needs is a process that generates sequential numbers but eliminates any number that is a multiple of a number that has already been in the sequence. One can imagine that happening in a completely automatic way.

  60. Mark

    I have not been following this particular debate but OMagain, who is unable to post here, has responded on the Skeptical Zone.

    I have no doubt that someone could craft a message in a code that I can’t crack or in a language that I cannot translate into English. In such cases, there has been no real attempt to communicate. That is not the equivalent of generating a message that was meant to be understood by the person who receives it, such as “Made by Yahweh at the beginning of the Big Bang for the purpose of supporting the metabolic system.”

    What we are discussing is whether or not there is a communicative context in which such a message would not be recognized as a message. Here are a few examples of what is meant by context: Perhaps the message was meant to fulfill a prophecy. If so, its meaning will not be fully understood. Perhaps it was meant to be symbolic. If so, its meaning will likely be perverted. Perhaps it was implanted by an imaginative scientist. If so, its significance will be overrated. Perhaps it was built into the molecule by an alien. If so, it will be misinterpreted as a religious message. In these and countless other examples, a misunderstanding of the context will compromise the ability of the receiver to fully understand the message.

    None of that has anything to do with the question: Is there any possible context that would make it impossible to know whether it is a designed pattern or a random sequence of letters.

  61. Stephenb

    I suggest it is important to be very precise about the question. Here are three possibilities:

    1) Given a string of discrete objects (DNA bases, radio pulses, marks on a stone) can we sometimes tell if that string is designed simply by inspecting the string and with no other context. This seems to be what Dembski tries to do in his paper Specification: The Pattern that Signifies Intelligence. I think that many IDists now accept that this was a failure and that a minimum you have to have an external specification which the string meets. So the specification is part of the context.
     

    2) We have a string and a specification e.g.  translatable via a commonly known set of rules into a grammatical sentence that makes logical sense and refers to commonly known events or concepts (in this case Yahweh).  Doing this brings in a lot of context – but only in defining the specification – there is no context about how the string was produced. However, I still don’t think you can deduce the string was designed.   Context about how it was produced makes a difference. Suppose, for example, that the context was one in which billions of strings are being produced and we are subconsciously extracting ones that make some kind of sense to us (including extracting small parts that make sense and combining them together) i.e. it is us receivers that are doing the work not the process that created the string. 
     
    3) Of course, this doesn’t make sense in the context of strings of DNA in every cell. If know something about the context of production then we can begin to make some inferences about whether that process involved intelligence.

  62. StephenB

    Support the claim that one must always understand the context of a message in order to know that it is, indeed, a message.

    Message and its context are concomitant entities. Once you recognise something as “message” you can begin talking about “the context of the message”. It’s impossible to talk about the context of the message prior to recognising that it’s a message in the first place. The way we determine whether something is a message or not depends on the cultural context. This is again context, but not the context of the specific message, but the context how we determine messages versus non-messages.

    For the skeptic (not Feser, but a real skeptic, such as disbeliever or anti-theist), the issue with the signature in the cell is, first, whether it’s a signature or message at all. On some interpretations, every cell already says YHWH and some may easily spell out the first verse of Genesis in Hebrew, but this doesn’t mean anything to skeptics. It’s just “natural” or “accidental” the way the rest of nature is.

    The problem with ID is that apart from cultural context there is no formula to detect intelligence. For a theist, entire universe is intelligently designed. To anti-theist, everything is “natural”. Where and how does ID draw the line between intelligent design and non-intelligent design? Or is it between natural occurrences and miracles? Where is the line?

    StephenB

    Describe a specific context, the absence of which would make it impossible to know if a meaningful message consisting of 100 characters was designed by an intelligent agent.

    In principle: What is a message designed by a non-intelligent agent? I.e. this requirement is illogical.

  63. F/N: On Prime numbers and inference to design.

    FYI on primes courtesy Wiki:

    A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example, 5 is prime because 1 and 5 are its only positive integer factors, whereas 6 is composite because it has the divisors 2 and 3 in addition to 1 and 6. The fundamental theorem of arithmetic establishes the central role of primes in number theory: any integer greater than 1 can be expressed as a product of primes that is unique up to ordering. The uniqueness in this theorem requires excluding 1 as a prime because one can include arbitrarily many instances of 1 in any factorization, e.g., 3, 1 × 3, 1 × 1 × 3, etc. are all valid factorizations of 3.

    The property of being prime (or not) is called primality. A simple but slow method of verifying the primality of a given number n is known as trial division. It consists of testing whether n is a multiple of any integer between 2 and \sqrt{n}. Algorithms much more efficient than trial division have been devised to test the primality of large numbers. Particularly fast methods are available for numbers of special forms, such as Mersenne numbers. As of April 2014, the largest known prime number has 17,425,170 decimal digits.

    There are infinitely many primes, as demonstrated by Euclid around 300 BC. There is no known useful formula that sets apart all of the prime numbers from composites. However, the distribution of primes, that is to say, the statistical behaviour of primes in the large, can be modelled. The first result in that direction is the prime number theorem, proven at the end of the 19th century, which says that the probability that a given, randomly chosen number n is prime is inversely proportional to its number of digits, or to the logarithm of n.

    The first point, is that prime numbers are highly specific and have noteworthy properties. Also, as we go up in the set N, they are increasingly sparse for the intuitive reason that it is less and less likely that a number picked at random of that number of digits will not have a smaller prime factor. Turns out, goes like log n, n being a number in N.

    If we write numbers in binary digits, if a string of digits of length 500 bits corresponds to a concatenation of successive primes, say 2,3,4,7, 11, 13, 17, 19 . . . then we have a highly specific bit pattern that is independently specified through a simple description and fits a relatively small isolated zone T which is instantiated in a field of the 3.27 * 10^150 possibilities for 500-bit strings.

    No atom based process on the gamut of the solar system can plausibly find such an entity, for the very simple reason that the fraction that can be sampled is as one straw to a cubical haystack 1,000 LY on the side. Relying on luck is one thing, relying on miracles of chance is another.

    And that is MF’s main error in 60 just above, as given that mechanical necessity produces low contingency, high contingency — including that to create the sort of algorithm he imagines — will come about by blind chance and/or intelligent design:

    I wouldn’t be so sure there are no natural processes capable of creating a sequence of prime numbers . . . all it needs is a process that generates sequential numbers but eliminates any number that is a multiple of a number that has already been in the sequence. One can imagine that happening in a completely automatic way.

    [Of course Cicadas seem to have a 17 year life cycle. The genetic and/or epigenetic algorithms to produce that life cycle collectively are a case of obvious FSCO/I.]

    If you want to go to the observed cosmos scale, just move up to a concatenated successive primes string of 1,000 bits. The resulting one straw to haystack calc will toss up a haystack that would swallow up our observed cosmos.

    This is of course an illustration of the issue of FSCO/I, and the unacknowledged reliance of objectors to design on copious miracles of chance. Where, the second law of thermodynamics pivots on the principle that you have no right to expect miracles of chance in observing natural processes based on microscopic distributions of mass and energy.

    KF

  64. 2, 3, 5, . . .

  65. F/N: Messages and contexts

    That we have a MESSAGE as opposed to noise, implies a context of a communication system involving sources, encoders and/or modulators, transmitters, channels and possibly storage units, receivers, demodulators and/or decoders and sinks or destinations. That whole technical context is replete with purpose, irreducible complexity and more, pointing to design.

    In addition, the well known communication metric signal to noise ratio implies distinct characteristics and ability to infer message not noise, a design inference.

    So, at that level, the concept of a message implies design.

    I contrast as well existence of a phenomenon that we may observe or study, generating messages as a result. The Fraunhoffer lines in a stellar spectrum are a phenomenon that is observable, not a message. “This life form was made by the eternal, living God YHWH and is a morally governed creature who is responsible to receive the signs in the world around and conscience and mind within” in every human cell in a recognisable language and textual coding would be an example of FSCO/I exhibited as textual message.

    It would be strong evidence of design by a very specific designer.

    However, so is a fine tuned cosmos set up for C-Chemistry aqueous medium cell based life, cell based life using algorithms and codes and a broader context of the prophesied life, death, resurrection and 500+ eyewitness attestation regarding Jesus of Nazareth. But of these, by itself FSCO/I in life forms implicates only design, fine tuning only points to design by an extracosmic designer. In short science is not equal to Christian apologetical argument. Though its reasonable consequences fit in with broader theism compatible with such.

    And, yet more broadly, in the OP VJT does distinguish:

    In today’s short post, I shall argue that (a) there are at least some messages which we can identify as the product of an intelligent agent, regardless of their linguistic and social context, and (b) there is no context in which it would be reasonable for us to conclude that a message visible to everyone was a hallucination.

    KF

  66. F/N: The example of Cicadas and a 17 year life cycle as a case of “a sequence of primes” aptly illustrates one reason why we need to be quite specific in statements in ways that resist rhetorical manipulation of ambiguities that can be injected. So, for instance I continually speak of the observed cosmos, not just the cosmos, and much more. KF

  67. 68

    #63

    Where and how does ID draw the line between intelligent design and non-intelligent design? Or is it between natural occurrences and miracles? Where is the line?

    I don’t think ID detection necessarily needs a firm line drawn between those things. Where the evidence is fuzzy, it can’t be determined. The Made by Yahweh example was an attempt to look at an event that was far over the line into the intelligent design category. If there was agreement that intelligence had to be involved in that kind of discovery, then the argument could eventually move towards the fuzzy line between intelligent and non-intelligent signals.

    Unfortunately, there wasn’t even agreement that the discovery of that kind of text signal would be evidence of intelligent design. It could have been an hallucination, etc.

    I think this discussion has been confused by the idea of “message”. People are considering a communication from sender to receiver. But pattern-detection in any kind of data can be independent of context.

    Made by Yahweh happens to match the pattern of an English-language sentence in the same way that certain features of the universe happen to match precise mathematical symmetries.

    Fine-tuned features of the universe are evidence of the work of intelligence — not because they are messages. They don’t occur in a social or cultural setting or point to any communication network either — so context is not required to understand their significance.

    The argument against that is that they occur in the context of ‘our universe’ and would not be evidence of intelligence if there was a multiverse.

    But that’s hyper-skepticism just like claiming that what we observe is the product of an hallucination.

  68. Silver Asiatic

    The Made by Yahweh example was an attempt to look at an event that was far over the line into the intelligent design category. If there was agreement that intelligence had to be involved in that kind of discovery, then the argument could eventually move towards the fuzzy line between intelligent and non-intelligent signals.

    Unfortunately, there wasn’t even agreement that the discovery of that kind of text signal would be evidence of intelligent design. It could have been an hallucination, etc.

    And why is this? The whole human being is clearly far over the line into the intelligent design category, yet there is no agreement on it!

    And this is by design, I might add. The ID project is framing the whole issue wrong on the level of principles.

  69. 70

    E.Seigner

    And why is this? The whole human being is clearly far over the line into the intelligent design category, yet there is no agreement on it!

    I’m not sure how to answer this. We might ask Professor Feser what empirical evidence would be enough to convince him that it was evidence of intelligent design in nature. Thus far, he has dodged that question stating that he is ‘not interested in the science’. That’s a problem. So, I don’t know why people resist the ID proposal, even in its most obvious form. It’s a psychological thing probably.

    From your perspective, you see intelligent design clearly. But I believe you cannot point to any scientific or empirical evidence that supports your case. ID is merely saying that, in the same way that someone can infer a Darwinian process, someone can (more reasonably) infer an intelligent design. I believe you disagree with ID’s conclusion – right?

    ID tries to deal with common obstacles. Obviously, Darwinism has a very deep hold on scientists and academics. That’s why people cannot see the design that you find to be so obvious. To me, it doesn’t make sense to avoid scientific arguments against Darwinian theory merely because you believe you have better philosophical arguments. We should use all the arguments we have. That’s why St. Thomas gave 5 ways and not just one. ID is a scientific proposal, based on the principles of modern science. If you disagree with those principles, that’s fine. But don’t just attack the relatively tiny world of ID alone for that — start by attacking modern science and try to convert a half-million biologists and physicists to aristotelianism. And good luck with that, by the way. ID is a much easier target because you can deal with fellow-believers. This is where Prof. Feser reveals his hand. He doesn’t want to come across as a creationist. A lot of Catholic scholars are like that. Going against Darwin is frowned upon.

    And this is by design, I might add. The ID project is framing the whole issue wrong on the level of principles.

    The ID project is merely using the concepts of modern science to show that there is evidence of design in nature. Philosophical arguments alone cannot do this. At some point, you have to argue the science. It’s not enough to say that “modern science has the wrong metaphysical starting points” because that argument will not get a hearing.

    You have to use the language of your opponents in order to be convincing in that framework.

    Theistic-Darwinists attempt to avoid the scientific problems by removing God from any involvement in the world.
    I think the neo-Thomists do something similar by pleading ignorance to the scientific claims.

    But it doesn’t work that way. Eventually, you have to provide some kind of scientific alternative — or else, you’ll have to sign-on to the Darwinian enterprise.

    Enough people are convinced by the ID proposal. Anthony Flew knew all the philosophical arguments for years. He finally left atheism for theism though, only when he saw the scientific evidence for intelligence — in other words, the ID case, with the principles it uses.

  70. #68 SA

    I think this discussion has been confused by the idea of “message”.

    Absolutely – a message is designed by definition.  I think the question should be more like “can we tell if a string of discrete elements is a message (or simply is designed) without context ”.  It seems to me the answer is pretty clearly no. I tried in #62 to expand on this and differentiate between context that provides a specification and context that tells us something about production.

  71. 72

    This conversation is [remains] ripe for people talking past each other.

  72. 73

    Mark #71

    you have to have an external specification which the string meets. So the specification is part of the context.

    I’m not sure about that. I believe the specification is independent of the context. If I specify in advance, that I’m looking for an English language phrase that says “Made by Yahweh”, it doesn’t matter in which context I look. I can look in DNA, in software encryption, in radio pulses — in any data whatsoever, without any regard to the context.

    If I establish that “finding the phrase ‘Made by Yahweh’ (or make it a Shakespearean sonnet) in any context whatsoever, will be an evidence of intelligence” — then I can look for that phrase or sonnet.

    Of course, the significance of that finding will be different depending context. For example, if I look in the collected works of Shakespeare and find the sonnet I specified, the context makes a difference. But it doesn’t change the conclusion — the sonnet is an indication of intelligence no matter where it is found.

    Suppose, for example, that the context was one in which billions of strings are being produced and we are subconsciously extracting ones that make some kind of sense to us (including extracting small parts that make sense and combining them together) i.e. it is us receivers that are doing the work not the process that created the string.

    Yes, true but I think you’re talking about some statistical bias used in evaluating the strings. This is context-independent. But given my example above, if we decide and agree in advance, that “finding one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, complete, sequential (non-edited) with punctuation, spacing and letter–forms in English will be an indicator of the presence of intellignce, no matter where it is found” — then it doesn’t matter how we look through billions of strings of data. If we find the sonnet, we found evidence of intelligent design. Context plays no role in this.

  73. StephenB:

    Yes, I understand that.

    I still think that just an analysis of mathematical structure, as it were, does not mean much yet as one can always say it is (or may be) ‘automatically possible’. What I think makes the ID story valid and useful is the ‘functionality’ aspect of it, as it is not just a mental mathematical construct.

    Maybe I am narrowing ID but I think that mathematical juggling outside of ***pragmatic context*** is misleading. As KF rightly pointed out, that is what distinguishes messages from signals, and makes design inference trustworthy simply because non-living nature is inert to pragmatic purpose and consequently cannot generate large enough levels of functional information.

    As far as prime numbers, I may be wrong but I believe that a long enough sequence of prime numbers would lead to a strong design inference only in the case where it is clearly loaded with pragmatic cargo: i.e. if something hangs together and functions as a single whole based on that sequence of primes being transmitted and received.

  74. The context of the message is not required to determine intelligent agency involvement. The context in which the alleged message was found is important, as is any evidence for an alleged crime.

    We may never be able to tell if a sequence of symbols is an actual message or not. Sometimes the best we can do is determine intelligent agency involvement until there is more data.

    As for DNA, well, it doesn’t exist in isolation. Not only that there aren’t any known stochastic processes (including natural selection) that can produce DNA. So that would be an issue for the materialistic framework.

  75. Mark Frank:

    I wouldn’t be so sure there are no natural processes capable of creating a sequence of prime numbers. While I don’t believe there are any known examples at the moment (except perhaps the evolutionary strategy used by cicadas of the genus Magicicada), all it needs is a process that generates sequential numbers but eliminates any number that is a multiple of a number that has already been in the sequence. One can imagine that happening in a completely automatic way.

    I can imagine unicorns and leprechauns- does that mean they exist? No, Mark, imagination is not evidence and is not even a substitute for evidence. However we understand that materialism relies on imagination and that is why it isn’t science.

    That said I am sure there aren’t any non-intelligent agencies that can produce a sequence of prime numbers. I base that on the requirements and all known observations of non-intelligent agency processes as well as intelligent agency processes, ie science.

  76. LoL! I see the septic zone is monitoring and as usual spewing their normal misrepresentations and strawmen.

    The context of the alleged message, ie its meaning, is separate from the context in which the alleged message was found. The septic zone ilk are unable to grasp the distinction and they think that reflects badly on ID.

    Also FSCO/I will tell you if an intelligent agency is required to bring the thing into existence.

    It’s as if they are proud to misrepresent ID. Now you know why they are unable to post here- pure insipidity.

  77. Do the anti-IDists really think that evidence is found in isolation, ie without any context? Really? No wonder they think ID is anti-science-> they haven’t a clue as to what science is.

  78. Earth to OMagain- Nature, operating freely did NOT produce any string of characters. I do not need FSCO/I to tell me that an intelligent agency was involved. You do realize that an intelligent agency was required to build the generator used to turn static into characters? That means an intelligent agency created the string.

    Are you really that daft?

    My apologies to VJT. I will not bring any other tsz swill to this forum

  79. OMagain I have shown you to be ignorant on my blog. And IDists have used FSCO/I, CSI. and all the others to determine design. OTOH your position has always made claims it cannot test.

    So please, buy a vowel already. OMagain sez that no one uses CSI. I show him a peer-reviewed paper that used it and he sez that they used FSC. not CSI. I point out that the two are the same and OM runs away only to come back with this nonsense.

  80. Why do ID’s detractors think there is one and only one tool that we can use to determine design/ intelligent agency involvement from nature, operating freely? The EF does not say anything about CSI nor any of its variants even though you can use CSI and its variants when using the EF. The point is that you do NOT have to.

    And in the end we wouldn’t even be talking about ID if OMagain and its ilk could just find some way to test and confirm the claims of their position. So it is very telling when they attack ID given the fact that they wouldn’t have to if only they had something, other than themselves, to support materialism.

  81. Hi KF,

    I simply repeat (yet again) that we have no good reason to assume or infer that humans exhaust the set of possible intelligent designers.

    In all this time you’ve never once actually responded to my point. All you need to do is say exactly what characteristics define this set you are talking about. Every set has an inclusion criterion that specifies if something qualifies as a member of that set or not. What are the inclusion criteria for the set of “intelligent designers”?

    To save time, I’ll give you a hint: If you say that “intelligent designers” are all those things capable of producing CSI (or FSCI or DFSCI or whatever) then you’ve made my point for me.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  82. Hi Charles,

    RDF: I’m guessing that by “non-natural” here you mean “not human generated” – is that what you mean? If not, what do you mean?
    CHARLES:Non-natural as in not naturally occuring, e.g. not the result of sesmic vibrations, half-life decay, stellar fusion, CMB radiation, Harmony of the Spheres, crickets chirping…

    You’ve evaded the question: You can’t simply enumerate the things you consider “natural” – I’ve asked what specifically divides things into “natural” vs. “not natural”.

    RDF: And what I said was that if we detected a string of encoded primes, we would not know anything about the source except that it could, somehow, generate and transmit a string of encoded primes. SETI researchers make a number of assumptions about what might be transmitting like that
    CHARLES: And if SETI were Searching for Extra Terrestrial Ignorance you’d have a point, but they’re not and so you don’t.

    SETI is searching for extra-terrestrial life as we know it – life that inhabits temperate planets with water on them, and with brains with high encephalization quotients that enable them to build technology like we humans have. Is that what you mean by “intelligent”?

    RDF: may I ask what in your view characterizes an intelligent thing (entity, system, process, force, being, whatever)?
    CHARLES: Um, non-repeating prime numbers?

    Is that your final answer? I’m not talking about how to detect intelligent things, I’m asking what it is that calling something “intelligent” tells us. Surely you don’t simply think that intelligent things can generate prime series while non-intelligent things can’t. Maybe you would think that intelligent things can learn? Solve novel problems in math? Play piano?

    That your “entity” (or its designer) is intelligent is the entire point.

    You are missing the entire point I’m afraid.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  83. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    Even just supposing that there is, we know it does something that humans can do –and therefore has something in common with human life.

    So in your view, something would be intelligent if it emitted a series of encoded prime numbers, even if it could do nothing else? It couldn’t learn to emit a fibonacci sequence, couldn’t tell you why it was emitting numbers at all, couldn’t recognize a Beatles tune, and so on?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  84. Hi VJTorley,

    Granted that the only known source of a series of prime numbers is a human source, it still makes sense to ask how humans generate such series. Answer: by virtue of reasoning from mathematical concepts, including the concepts of one, of a whole number, of a factor, and of a prime number.

    Since we do not understand how humans perform mathematical reasoning, your answer amounts to this: Something that emits a prime series must do it the same way human beings do. But this is begging the question: How do you know that anything that emits primes must think the way humans think. Do you assume that it must have a human brain?

    So we can define “intelligent” as follows: “capable of having abstract concepts and making rational inferences on the basis of those concepts.”

    If that is the case, how could you ever substantiate your claim on the mere evidence of a series of prime numbers? Do cicadas reason abstractly and decide to mate only in prime-number intervals (13 or 16 years)?

    And since reasoning necessarily involves some sort of language, we can say that anything capable of generating a series of primes must be capable of language as well.

    The only language required is the language of “prime numbers”. Not English or French or Latin, nor even calculus or trigonometry. No language in which we could pose the question “Why are you emitting these prime number series?”

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  85. vjt,
    Correction: (13 or 16) => (13 or 17)

  86. 87

    Hi RDFish,

    So in your view, something would be intelligent if it emitted a series of encoded prime numbers, even if it could do nothing else? It couldn’t learn to emit a fibonacci sequence, couldn’t tell you why it was emitting numbers at all, couldn’t recognize a Beatles tune, and so on?

    Let’s start with the point that I made. You claimed we would know nothing more about it. I showed that was not correct.
    So, in your view, are you saying that I was right? If so, thanks very much. 😉

    Regarding your follow-up questions: No and no (if that was a second question).

  87. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    Let’s start with the point that I made. You claimed we would know nothing more about it. I showed that was not correct.

    Sorry, what was it that you showed we would know about this thing beyond that it could generate prime series? The fact that humans can also do this does not tell us anything additional about the source of these primes.

    Regarding your follow-up questions: No and no (if that was a second question).

    If I understand you, you are saying that something would not be intelligent if all it could do was to emit primes, right? If so, what else do you think it ought to be able to do in order to be rightfully called “intellgent”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  88. 89

    Sorry, what was it that you showed we would know about this thing beyond that it could generate prime series?

    Let’s return to the topic.

    RDFish: There may be something other than human beings in the universe capable of producing a series of primes, but if there is, we know absolutely nothing about it.

    You stated that we know absolutely nothing more about this thing than it can generate a series of primes. I showed this is incorrect, we do know something more about it.

    SA: we know it does something that humans can do –and therefore has something in common with human life.

    So, we know something more about this thing. It produces something that humans produce, and something that is recognizable by human intelligence.

    Apparently, you disagree with this, right? You think the only thing we can know is that it produces prime numbers and we can know “absolutely nothing more about it”.

    Or do you agree that your statement is wrong and my correction was right? I’m not sure here.

  89. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    we know it does something that humans can do –and therefore has something in common with human life.

    So, we know something more about this thing. It produces something that humans produce, and something that is recognizable by human intelligence.

    Apparently, you disagree with this, right? You think the only thing we can know is that it produces prime numbers and we can know “absolutely nothing more about it”.

    Or do you agree that your statement is wrong and my correction was right? I’m not sure here.

    Ok, let’s see if we can clear this up.

    Let’s say we observe a transmission of a string of primes, and we rule out terrestrial sources. Now, what is it that we can infer about the source of this observation?

    To say “the source of these primes can produce these primes” is trivially true – that is simply what we mean when we say that it is the source of the primes.

    To say “the source of these primes has something in common with humans” does not add any knowledge about the source of these primes; rather, it simply notes that humans can also produce such a series.

    My claim here is that absolutely no other inference is warranted – we can make no justified conclusions regarding any characteristics of this extra-terrestrial source of prime numbers. All we could say is that some completely unknown sort of thing produced the primes.

    Hopefully that’s clear.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  90. 91

    Let’s say we observe a transmission of a string of primes, and we rule out terrestrial sources. Now, what is it that we can infer about the source of this observation?

    We know the source has something in common with human intelligence. Plus, we can rule out all known sources of data that do not produce strings of primes. If the same transmission produced strings of Hebrew characters, we would know that it has something in common with human language also. We can start building a profile of what the possible sources of this information could be. We rule out sources that do not transmit that data.

    To say “the source of these primes has something in common with humans” does not add any knowledge about the source of these primes;

    It does add knowledge. We can distinguish between something that is mathematically recognizable and that which is not. A string of what we perceive as random numbers may be some kind of alien code. But it doesn’t resemble what humans can recognize.

    Again, you claimed we know ‘absolutely nothing’ more than the fact that there is a string of prime numbers.

    A string of prime numbers could be produced by a non-intelligent source, but since it has some degree of complex specificity and there are no known natural sources that produce such strings, and we know that human intelligence does produce strings of primes — then an intelligent source (either directly or indirectly) is the most likely cause.

    My claim here is that absolutely no other inference is warranted – we can make no justified conclusions regarding any characteristics of this extra-terrestrial source of prime numbers. All we could say is that some completely unknown sort of thing produced the primes.

    A thing may be completely unknown but we can know a lot about it at the same time.

    “To date, the killer is completely unknown”. Ok, but forensics can tell us a lot about the killer (hair color, shoe size, etc).

    “The source of the string of data is completely unknown. However, we note it was entirely of prime numbers in an ordered sequence. This distinguishes it from any known source of such data and links allows for the possibility that it was generated by something similar to a human intelligence.”

    So, we know something. You might not like the amount that we know, but it’s not ‘absolutely nothing’.

    Personally, I don’t think that that finding a string of prime numbers in a natural phenomena is the best example of intelligent design (Fibonacci sequences for example are similiar), but when compared with natural sources of such patterns, intelligence seems more likely and probable.

    Again, if you observed the transmission of a Shakespearean sonnet, perfectly spelled and punctuated and we ruled out terrestrial causes — would that be evidence of an intelligent source?

  91. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    We know the source has something in common with human intelligence.

    Again, we only know that it produces primes. The fact that it has something in common with humans tells us nothing more: Everything that exists has something in common with human beings, after all (it, like human beings, exist). But this is not additional information regarding the thing in question of course.

    Plus, we can rule out all known sources of data that do not produce strings of primes.

    Right.

    If the same transmission produced strings of Hebrew characters, we would know that it has something in common with human language also.

    Yes, if we observed Hebrew characters, that would be something else entirely. If the text of the Old Testament were somehow transmitted from outer space, we might make all sorts of surprising inferences. But of course that isn’t what we’re talking about at all.

    We can start building a profile of what the possible sources of this information could be.

    No, there is no more information with which to build a “profile” – only the stream of prime numbers, remember?

    We rule out sources that do not transmit that data.

    Yes I believe you’ve mentioned this already.

    RDF: To say “the source of these primes has something in common with humans” does not add any knowledge about the source of these primes;
    SA: It does add knowledge.

    I believe we’ve covered this pretty clearly now: It does not add knowledge. We already knew that human beings can generate primes, and once we observe that something else does too, the ONLY information we gain is that there is some non-terrestrial source of primes. Period.

    We can distinguish between something that is mathematically recognizable and that which is not.

    We agree that humans can recognize (and generate) prime numbers.

    A string of what we perceive as random numbers may be some kind of alien code. But it doesn’t resemble what humans can recognize.

    Sorry but I don’t see your point.

    Again, you claimed we know ‘absolutely nothing’ more than the fact that there is a string of prime numbers.

    Yes, that is correct. Something produced that series, but we would have no idea at all about what it might be unless we received some additional information. For example, if we could detect that the transmission was sent from a temperate, water-bearing planet with organic compounds, we might hypothesize that life (that is, life as we know it) was responsible.

    A string of prime numbers could be produced by a non-intelligent source,…

    Since we don’t know one single thing about the source aside from the fact that it obviously can generate prime numbers, it really doesn’t make sense to label the source “intelligent” or “non-intelligent”. We would have to know something else about it in order to determine if it had human-like mental abilities, or if it instead was only capable of generating streams of primes, or maybe it could produce various different mathematically recognizable sequences but not do anything else, and so on.

    A thing may be completely unknown but we can know a lot about it at the same time.

    I think this statement is patently self-contradictory (but it does illustrate the point that I make on these forums very nicely). If something is completely unknown, then it is completely unknown. That means we know nothing about it, not that we know a lot about it.

    “To date, the killer is completely unknown”. Ok, but forensics can tell us a lot about the killer (hair color, shoe size, etc).

    Hahahahaha. This is obviously a very different scenario. In this case, you are talking about some particular human being, even though we don’t know which one. Since we know a great deal about human beings, we obviously know a great deal about the killer.

    In contrast, in the scenario we are discussing, we do NOT know that the source of the primes is a human being. We know nothing whatsoever about the source of the primes. We know only that it can generate prime numbers, and nothing else.

    So, we know something. You might not like the amount that we know, but it’s not ‘absolutely nothing’.

    At the risk of being repetitive, we know absolutely nothing more about the source of the primes except that it can, of course, generate primes. I’m afraid there is no debate on this point – it really couldn’t be more obvious, since we have described the scenario in question exactly that way: All we observe is a series of primes, and we establish the source is non-terrestrial. That’s it.

    Again, if you observed the transmission of a Shakespearean sonnet, perfectly spelled and punctuated and we ruled out terrestrial causes — would that be evidence of an intelligent source?

    That would of course be evidence of something with human-like intelligence, yes! It would be interesting to hypothesize about some other life form would write the very same sonnet as Shakespeare, too!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  92. RDFish @ 83

    You can’t simply enumerate the things you consider “natural” – I’ve asked what specifically divides things into “natural” vs. “not natural”.

    That would be the word “not”. Which part of “not” do you “not” get? If you do not have the basic vocabulary to parse “not naturally occurring” when supplied with examples of natural processes that do “not” generate series of prime numbers that do not repeat, you will not comprehend the current subject.

    I’m not talking about how to detect intelligent things, I’m asking what it is that calling something “intelligent” tells us.

    Then change the subject on your own thread ask someone who cares.

  93. Silver AsiaticWe might ask Professor Feser what empirical evidence would be enough to convince him that it was evidence of intelligent design in nature. Thus far, he has dodged that question stating that he is ‘not interested in the science’. That’s a problem. So, I don’t know why people resist the ID proposal, even in its most obvious form. It’s a psychological thing probably.
    No. It’s a philosophical thing. It is logically demonstrable that ID position is incoherent – namely, the “intelligent design” concept itself is blatantly incoherent.

    From your perspective, you see intelligent design clearly. But I believe you cannot point to any scientific or empirical evidence that supports your case.

    My position is that if there is creator God then everything is designed and there is no empirical way to tell it apart from anything non-designed because non-designed doesn’t exist in the first place. Hence ID project is logically impossible. Whereas for materialists or atheists everything without exception would look “natural” and “natural” has a specific subset called “man-made”. And in normal sciences the theist and atheist positions exist, and ID position is ruled out on the outset given the basic definitions. Simply sad that this has gone unnoticed for the ID-ists.

    The ID project is merely using the concepts of modern science to show that there is evidence of design in nature. Philosophical arguments alone cannot do this.

    Given what I know about logic and philosophy of language, the ID project is on unscientific grounds trying to do prove something logically impossible. If you only knew what “message” (or “text” rather) and “context” mean in linguistics and literary sciences, this embarrassing blog post would not have happened.

  94. RDFish: I’m asking what it is that calling something “intelligent” tells us.

    Something that is capable of producing coded information?

  95. RDFish, I think the bottom line with all this business about finding evidence of “intelligence” within cells, DNA, crime scenes, whatever, is that there may be some magic threshold where after “purely natural” things are incapable of producing it.

    Maybe some “purely natural” source is capable of generating DNA, ribosomes, the first 100 primes, “Yahweh made this”, and heck, even accurate prophecies about the future. But I sure don’t know it could work. Do you?

    Frankly, I doubt a definitive answer will ever come that will convince the die-hard skeptic about stuff like this. Intuition is not always right. But sometimes it is. So the rest of us will merrily go along trusting our intuition until someone can give us a very damn good reason not to.

  96. E. Seigner: My position is that if there is creator God then everything is designed and there is no empirical way to tell it apart from anything non-designed because non-designed doesn’t exist in the first place. Hence ID project is logically impossible. Whereas for materialists or atheists everything without exception would look “natural” and “natural” has a specific subset called “man-made”.

    No, everything would not be designed at the same level. At a certain level, much stochastic processes could exist that were designed without a scientific reason to think so. (Science does have it’s limits.) Did God design each snowflake? Doubtful. Snowflakes are certain weak evidence for intent. Only fairly “weak” chemical principles are involved. Did God design DNA and ribosomes? Much different level of inquiry.

    Given what I know about logic and philosophy of language, the ID project is on unscientific grounds trying to do prove something logically impossible.

    No, it’s all about inference to the best explanation given what we know about space-time. It is not a non-scientific question to ask, “given what we confidently know about the so-called laws of physics and chemistry, and the age of the universe, etc, what is the likelihood that the DNA/ribosome replicator managed to appear by those laws of physics and chemistry? The answer may be extremely complicated, but it falls squarely within sound scientific and statistical reasoning and principles.

    If ID does not interest you, you may, if you like, go do something else, like play golf or knit a sweater.

  97. Vishnu

    Did God design each snowflake? Doubtful. Snowflakes are certain weak evidence for intent.

    The point is that there is absolutely no way to distinguish any intent. The only way is to either ask the intender or determine based on cultural context, i.e. there is no logical way to determine it in terms of hard sciences, such as physics or biology. This point is beyond dispute. There’s nothing skeptical about it. It’s a matter of logical demonstration.

    No, it’s all about inference to the best explanation given what we know about space-time.

    In this case there’s no way to infer the best explanation given what we know about logic. Try it. How would you define design so that you would be able to detect intent in it so as to distinguish it from design without intent? To me logically impossible, but go ahead and prove me wrong.

    If ID does not interest you, you may, if you like, go do something else, like play golf or knit a sweater.

    Illogical curiosities are quite interesting.

  98. 99

    My position is that if there is creator God then everything is designed and there is no empirical way to tell it apart from anything non-designed because non-designed doesn’t exist in the first place. Hence ID project is logically impossible.

    Your complaint is not primarily with ID but with modern science. If you’re unwilling to recognize what the term ‘designed’ refers to within the context of modern science, then you’re not willing to engage those disciplines on their own terms. That’s fine, but you should be more clear about that.

    The University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995-2008 stated: “Biology is the study of complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.”

    The entire scientific world knows what that quote means and the majority agree with what it says. Even anti-ID scientists know what it means and they agree with it.

    If your response to that is “everything is designed and non-design does not exist”, then you’re basically saying what Prof. Feser says “I’m not interested in the science.”

    Within mathematics, biology, statistics, archeology and physics — as well as in forensics, SETI research, software de-encryption and several other related fields, there is a distinction between design and non-design.

    From those perspectives, ‘things that do not give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose’ do exist.

    You’re saying that it’s all illogical – and therefore, this is your argument against ID. It’s also an argument against all of science, statistics and forensic research as well.

  99. 100

    A string of what we perceive as random numbers may be some kind of alien code. But it doesn’t resemble what humans can recognize.

    Sorry but I don’t see your point.

    What is the difference between a string of random numbers and a long string of prime numbers?

  100. 101

    #94

    And in normal sciences the theist and atheist positions exist, and ID position is ruled out on the outset given the basic definitions. Simply sad that this has gone unnoticed for the ID-ists.

    I didn’t understand what you’re getting at here. There’s supposedly a theist and atheist position in science but not an ID position?

    It appears that you’ve ruled out all fine-tuning arguments also.

    Physicist Leonard Susskind: If, for some unforeseen reason, the [multiverse] turns out to be inconsistent – maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation – I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.

  101. Silver Asiatic

    The University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995-2008 stated: “Biology is the study of complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.”

    The entire scientific world knows what that quote means and the majority agree with what it says. Even anti-ID scientists know what it means and they agree with it.

    I would not extend this to the entire scientific world. To the English-speaking world at most. And if this quote is taken overly seriously within that world, then I am very happy to be outside of it. Which I am.

    But seriously, quite enlightening (and illogical) quote. How is one supposed to recognise biology there? I could understand biology as the study of living organisms, but “complex things”?

    From those perspectives, ‘things that do not give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose’ do exist.

    Your quote above says “designed for a purpose”. A way to negate this is to say “designed for no purpose”. Makes sense? When you take faulty definitions as your basis, then good luck getting any meaningful results. When a logically flawed biological definition is taken to dictate logic, then…

  102. 103

    A way to negate this is to say “designed for no purpose”. Makes sense?

    Yes, it does make sense. It’s part of the human experience. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase:

    “For no reason in particular”

    That’s what it is to design for no purpose.

    Q. “Why did you put that pile of rocks over there?”

    A. “For no reason in particular”.

    Q. “Why did the artist use that style”?

    A. “For no reason we can discern”.

    Q. “Why did God design the earthquake that caused that?”

    A. “For no reason we can discern”.

    Q. “What is the difference between Mount Rushmore and a pile of rubble”?

    A. “One gives the appearance of having been designed for a purpose and the other does not.”

    Q. “Was the pile of rubble designed for a purpose?”

    A. “It was created by God, but it does not give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose that we can discern.”

    That’s one way to approach this.

    I could understand biology as the study of living organisms, but “complex things”?

    Do you know of any non-complex things in the world of biology? Darwin thought there were such things. Do you?

  103. 104

    I would not extend this to the entire scientific world. To the English-speaking world at most. And if this quote is taken overly seriously within that world, then I am very happy to be outside of it. Which I am.

    The recognition of design is taken very seriously in science and mathematics. The idea of ‘Junk DNA’, for example, came about by distinguishing between that which functions for a purpose and that which does not. Yes, we could say it is all designed by God, but we can’t engage in the science that way.

    Again, it sounds like you want to critique modern science and that might be a very good thing to do, but that really gives you a much bigger target than ID alone.

    Also, regarding the non-English world of science … you may be right, but I think most of it in biology anyway, accepts neo-Darwinism, and that idea is an attempt to explain what appears to be designed.

    Fine-tuning-of-the-cosmos arguments, I think, are very commonly understood in astronomy and physics.

  104. Silver Asiatic

    Yes, it does make sense. It’s part of the human experience. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase:

    “For no reason in particular”

    How does this help further what we are talking about?

    Let’s admit it. We are talking about different things altogether. You talk in biological terms, but the blog post seems to be about interpreting a message, which in the the academic world does not go under biology no matter how hard you try. Or when you perforce make the topic interdisciplinary, you have to reconcile the relevant terminologies also. The terminologies of both disciplines must be reconciled. You cannot blindly assume biology applies everywhere. I mean, you can, and you are obviously doing it, but it’s wrong 🙂

    The recognition of design is taken very seriously in science and mathematics.

    This must be another English-speaking thing: Assumption that science and mathematics are somehow different things and mathematics is not science. How do screaming blunders like this get normalised in the English-speaking world?

    The idea of ‘Junk DNA’, for example, came about by distinguishing between that which functions for a purpose and that which does not.

    So, the DNA whose purpose we have not figured out yet, we calmly call it all ‘junk’ and since we call it so, we also determine it must be so?

    Sometimes it’s possible to talk to those who are ignorant, but it’s impossible to talk to those who are wilfully ignorant and proud of it too.

  105. 106

    You cannot blindly assume biology applies everywhere.

    Biology does not apply everywhere, but given that neuro-science attempts to map every human activity (mental or physical) to biological function, then it has a wide-enough focus that it shouldn’t be ignored.

    Assumption that science and mathematics are somehow different things and mathematics is not science. How do screaming blunders like this get normalised in the English-speaking world?

    Well, science is not necessarily mathematics.

    So, the DNA whose purpose we have not figured out yet, we calmly call it all ‘junk’ and since we call it so, we also determine it must be so?

    Good point and I fully agree. You’re offering something like an ID argument here.

    I appreciate also that you’re making a distinction between “purposes we have not figured out” and those we have.

    It means that we’re a lot closer in our views than I initially thought. In other words, you wouldn’t immediately say “There’s no Junk DNA because it is all designed by God”. That may be true, but the issue is whether we can find a purpose (which we have for some percentage of what was initially considered ‘junk’) through observation.

    There’s a lot of discussion about so-called Junk DNA on this site and I wouldn’t say that the people who discuss it are “ignorant”.

  106. Hi E.Seigner,

    The following comment of yours reflects a misunderstanding of ID:

    My position is that if there is [a] creator God then everything is designed and there is no empirical way to tell it apart from anything non-designed, because “non-designed” doesn’t exist in the first place. Hence [the] ID project is logically impossible.

    Intelligent Design theory does not attempt to distinguish things which are designed from things which are not. Intelligent Design advocate Dr. William Dembski has repeatedly stated that many things that do not exhibit specified complexity may nonetheless be designed. See for instance http://designinference.com/doc.....gsofID.pdf (pp. 11-12).

    What Intelligent Design theory is attempting to do is identify things which can be shown on mathematical and scientific grounds to have been designed. These things are just a tiny subset of the set of things which can be shown on philosophical grounds to have been designed.

    Why then, you might ask, should we concern ourselves with mathematical and scientific arguments for design when philosophical analysis can take us much further? The answer is that it can, but only for those people who are prepared to accept the underlying metaphysics of design arguments in philosophy. Most modern-day skeptics are allergic to all things metaphysical, so that kind of demonstration won’t work on them: they’ll reject the premises at the outset. On the other hand, skeptics revere mathematics and science. Thus Intelligent Design represents an attempt to engage skeptics on their own turf. It uses mathematics and science and its metaphysical assumptions are minimal. That is why it is so threatening to skeptics. Skeptics don’t feel at all threatened by Aquinas’ Five Ways, because the arguments make no sense to them.

  107. E.Seigner:

    To this reader, your response @105 appears to be full of smoke screens and red herrings, with a bit of insult thrown in at the end for good measure. This is quite telling, especially given that SA’s main point remains unaddressed:

    SA: Again, it sounds like you want to critique modern science and that might be a very good thing to do, but that really gives you a much bigger target than ID alone.

    Typically, at least in the English-speaking world, this happens when someone has scored a logical point and the respondent feels uncomfortable addressing that point on its merits.

  108. Hi E.Seigner,

    You write:

    You talk in biological terms, but the blog post seems to be about interpreting a message, which in the the academic world does not [fall] under biology, no matter how hard you try.

    Au contraire, Monsieur. Did I not discuss in my blog post the example of the two scientists writing in the journal Icarus in 2013, who argued that there were patterns in the genetic code of living organisms that were highly statistically significant, with features indicative of intelligence which were inconsistent with any known natural process? Are you telling me that such a finding, if it were rigorously verified, would not fall under the heading of “biology”? I would have to disagree.

  109. Hi Vishnu,

    RDFish: I’m asking what it is that calling something “intelligent” tells us.
    Vishnu: Something that is capable of producing coded information?

    Ok, using your definition, the conclusion that something was “intelligently designed” simply means that something that produces coded information was involved. This means that it has nothing to do with the ability to learn, to reason, to use natural language capable of expressing beliefs, intentions, or desires, to experience conscious awareness, and so on.

    Maybe some “purely natural” source is capable of generating DNA, ribosomes, the first 100 primes, “Yahweh made this”, and heck, even accurate prophecies about the future. But I sure don’t know it could work. Do you?

    No.

    Frankly, I doubt a definitive answer will ever come that will convince the die-hard skeptic about stuff like this. Intuition is not always right. But sometimes it is. So the rest of us will merrily go along trusting our intuition until someone can give us a very damn good reason not to.

    I certainly have no interest in challenging people’s intuitions about creation. I merely point out that the claim that ID can scientifically support those intuitions is a charade.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  110. Hi RDFish,

    Thank you for your comment (#85) above. You write:

    Since we do not understand how humans perform mathematical reasoning, your answer amounts to this: Something that emits a prime series must do it the same way human beings do. But this is begging the question: How do you know that anything that emits primes must think the way humans think. Do you assume that it must have a human brain?

    The concept of a prime number logically presupposes the concepts of 1, a whole number and a factor. That’s why I know that any individual capable of grasping the concept of a prime number is also capable of grasping those other concepts. By contrast, an individual’s having the concept of a prime number does not logically presuppose that that individual has a brain.

    You also write:

    …[H]ow could you ever substantiate your claim [that an intelligent being is “capable of having abstract concepts and making rational inferences on the basis of those concepts”] on the mere evidence of a series of prime numbers? Do cicadas reason abstractly and decide to mate only in prime-number intervals (13 or 17 years)?

    Short answer: any signal consisting of only two prime numbers cannot be unequivocally identified as the product of an intelligent agent. So from an ID perspective the behavior of the cicadas cannot be identified as intelligent.

    Finally, you write:

    The only language required is the language of “prime numbers”. Not English or French or Latin, nor even calculus or trigonometry. No language in which we could pose the question “Why are you emitting these prime number series?”

    This is a much more telling point. All I’ll say in response here is that reason is a universal tool. Hence the notion of a domain-specific rationality makes no sense. It is true that there are some concepts which we’re incapable of grasping, but that’s not because they belong to some special domain which is inaccessible to human reason. It’s because we’re either unable to imagine them (think of quantum physics, which we can barely grasp, precisely because we have a hard time forming a mental picture of what’s going on) or because we’re unable to hold them in our memories, due to their inherent complexity (think of the mathematical structure known as E_8, which required a team of no less than 18 mathematicians to map it out, in 2007 – see http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2007/e8 ).

    There are a few people whose ability to form concepts in a particular field (e.g. mathematics) is extraordinary, but who are mentally impaired when it comes to forming concepts in other areas. However, I’d be wary of concluding on that basis that a whole race of beings like that could exist, who were capable only of mathematical reasoning. First, these people’s mental impairment seems to be caused by a genetic problem affecting their linguistic abilities. Second, even these people have rudimentary linguistic abilities. Third, I wouldn’t credit anyone with intelligence unless they were not only capable of mathematical reasoning (which even a computer could mimic), but also of mathematical meta-cognition. They’d have to be able to answer critical questions like, “Why did you do the calculation that way, and not this way?” and introspect their own thought processes, in arriving at the solution they arrived at. And to answer those questions, they’d need a language rich in concepts (not just mathematical ones).

  111. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    I assume by your lack of response you now concede that if we observed a string of prime numbers of extra-terrestrial origin, we would have no reason to assume we know anything at all about the source of those numbers.

    This of course is analogous to ID. People implicitly assume that complex form and function (including coded information) supports an inference to a human-like intelligence – that is some being with conscious beliefs and intentions, the ability to reason about novel problems, and so on. But that inference is entirely unwarranted – just like imagining that anything that could generate prime numbers would be able to do anything else.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  112. Hi VJTorley,

    The concept of a prime number logically presupposes the concepts of 1, a whole number and a factor.

    Our human conceptualization of prime numbers are based on those concepts, yes. But it is a mistake to assume that anything which generates a sequence of primes actually understands these concepts. Cicadas mates at prime-numbered intervals, but it’s doubtful they understand factoring. Likewise, animals can predict trajectories of prey that would require advanced mathematics if a human were to reason about how they do it. But again, the animals compute the answers by virtue of the structure and function of their nervous systems, without consciously understanding or symbolically representing the calculations.

    By contrast, an individual’s having the concept of a prime number does not logically presuppose that that individual has a brain.

    It does not logically presuppose it, right. We do have a great deal of empirical reason to assume that, however – even if “brain” is interpreted liberally as “complex physical state machine”.

    All I’ll say in response here is that reason is a universal tool.

    I disagree entirely! What makes you say that? Animals have very domain-specific reasoning. People can lose very specific forms of reasoning due to localized brain lesions (mathematical reasoning, moral reasoning, linguistic reasoning, risk assessment, and so on). Savants can excel in specific forms of reasoning and be utterly lacking in others.

    And all of that has to do with terrestrial animals – life as we know it! When we expand our discussion to hypothetical entities that may be utterly different from any form of life on Earth, we can’t possible say that the ability to perform one task (e.g. generate prime numbers) necessarily implies some general reasoning capability.

    There are a few people whose ability to form concepts in a particular field (e.g. mathematics) is extraordinary, but who are mentally impaired when it comes to forming concepts in other areas. However, I’d be wary of concluding on that basis that a whole race of beings like that could exist, who were capable only of mathematical reasoning.

    Now you are saying that the source of these prime numbers (or other CSI-rich artifacts) must come from a race of beings? While SETI does make that assumption (a civilization of life forms as we understand them), I doubt you actually believe that this constraint applies in ID!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  113. 114

    I assume by your lack of response you now concede that if we observed a string of prime numbers of extra-terrestrial origin, we would have no reason to assume we know anything at all about the source of those numbers.

    No, I disagreed with you and I explained why. You then disagreed with me. You might consider the term “absolutely nothing”. All it takes is one tiny bit of information to prove that wrong. It would be easier for you to argue “we can know very little more.” When you can make a distinction between human-like and non-human like, you added something to your knowledge. To then say we know ‘absolutely nothing’ from that is wrong. You disgree with that, but I disagree with you.

    We did agree that a Shakespearean sonnet would be an indication of human-like intelligence. But why do you think that?

    Also, what are the many differences you can think of between a string of prime numbers and a set of random numbers?

    This of course is analogous to ID. People implicitly assume that complex form and function (including coded information) supports an inference to a human-like intelligence – that is some being with conscious beliefs and intentions, the ability to reason about novel problems, and so on.

    ID references intelligence in general terms. Is animal intelligence ‘human like’? Can animals design things? What is the difference between animal intelligence and human intelligence?

    But that inference is entirely unwarranted – just like imagining that anything that could generate prime numbers would be able to do anything else.

    Here’s one case where context does make a difference. Where there is more ambiguity in the signal, there is greater need for context.

    You’ve given a hypothetical situation where ‘prime numbers are transmitted’ and then received and discovered by humans somehow.

    You’ve left out key aspects of that event that are necessarily connected and affect what we would know about the source. Why can’t we discover other characteristics of this transmission?

  114. Hi Silver Asiatic,

    You might consider the term “absolutely nothing”. All it takes is one tiny bit of information to prove that wrong. It would be easier for you to argue “we can know very little more.” When you can make a distinction between human-like and non-human like, you added something to your knowledge. To then say we know ‘absolutely nothing’ from that is wrong. You disagree with that, but I disagree with you.

    You insist that once we have all the information available about this extra-terrestrial something – namely that it can generate primes – then by comparing it to something else (humans) we somehow gain more information about the extra-terrestrial source. I disagree – I think you’ve gained no new information at all about the source; rather, you have simply made a comparison between information you had about the extra-terrestrial source and the information you have about humans. Let’s agree to disagree on this point.

    We did agree that a Shakespearean sonnet would be an indication of human-like intelligence. But why do you think that?

    For the obvious reason: Anything that authored an exposition regarding life, death, love, and other aspects of human life, replete with references to human beings, their hearts, minds, hands, and so on, and rendered in a human language, would strongly suggest that the author was human-like in many respects.

    Also, what are the many differences you can think of between a string of prime numbers and a set of random numbers?

    All of the members of the first set are only divisible by 1 and themselves, but not of the second.

    What is the difference between animal intelligence and human intelligence?

    Different animals have different mental abilities. Virtually all animals are capable of learning. Some are capable of using tools, others are not. Some communicate using sound, others using chemicals, and still others don’t appear to communicate with others of their species at all. And so on.

    You’ve given a hypothetical situation where ‘prime numbers are transmitted’ and then received and discovered by humans somehow.
    You’ve left out key aspects of that event that are necessarily connected and affect what we would know about the source. Why can’t we discover other characteristics of this transmission?

    Again I agree that additional information would support hypotheses regarding the source. A narrow-band electro-magnetic transmission coming from a temperate, water-bearing planet would suggest life as we know it using technology similar to ours. If our detectors somehow (miraculously) registered these signals while other instruments confirmed that no electro-magnetic signal was present, we would infer that something beyond our current understanding was involved. And so on.

    Again, here is my point, as plainly as I can make it: Detecting “design”, whether in flagella or in DNA or in prime number sequences, only tells us something about the source of that design when we have other context. In forensics (or Shakespearean sonnets), we have an enormous amount of context, because we assume the source is a human being (or something mighty similar). In the case we’ve been discussing, we have no other context at all, and so we could not assume it could do anything other than what we observe it to be doing. And I argue that the conclusion of ID, which I take to be using biological form and function to infer human-like mentality, is likewise unwarranted. It is like the prime number series, and not the Shakespearean sonnet, or the fingerprints at the crime scene.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  115. vjtorley @ 111

    So from an ID perspective the behavior of the cicadas cannot be identified as intelligent.

    Cicada reproduction by prime numbers is just another misinformed bluff.

    Cicadas seem to actually have a “host season counter” (neither clock nor prime number calculator) by which they emerge. Consider “How 17-year cicadas keep track of time” http://www.onem-france.org/cig.....N_2000.pdf

    Further empirical evidence that their life cycles are inherently unrelated to prime numbers is those cycles are well known to vary by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & possibly 8 years (as far as presently mapped). This lends further credence to variations in counting “host seasons” rather than accidents in determining prime number values as the mechanism. Consider “Periodical Cicada (Homoptera: Cicadidae) Life-Cycle Variations, the Historical Emergence Record, and the Geographic Stability of Brood Distributions” http://hydrodictyon.eeb.uconn......l_2001.pdf

    Cicada life cycles of 13 and 17 years are merely coincidentally prime (and accidentally as well unless RDFish will now argue purpose and intent to their “evolution”) which cycles vary as much as 5 out of 17 years (even granting that 8 year stragglers may be double 4-year stragglers), and are not examples of prime number awareness or alignment. Coincidence is not causation, and certainly not an intentional understanding of the “prime” nature of the numbers 13 and 17.

    Plainly, an intelligence intentionally generating a non-repeating series of prime numbers not only would produce a series longer than the two numbers 13 & 17, it wouldn’t skip over the start of the series (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11) nor would any of the numbers vary from correct values.

    Let me also, as an aside, express my admiration at the civility and decorum with which you respond to repeated intellectual dishonesty. I learn from your responses, however undeserved, as I’m sure do other onlookers.

  116. Hi Charles,

    Your accusation of intellectual dishonesty, bluffing, and so on shows you’ve learned nothing at all from VJTorley, who actually debates in good faith rather than with bilious rhetoric.

    Moreover, you’ve clearly understood nothing of my arguments here, which don’t depend at all on cicadas. You might try giving my arguments a fair reading and attempting to debate them.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  117. Charles,
    P.S. You’ve actually got my point about the cicadas not just wrong, but backwards. I was not arguing that cicadas understand primes, but just the opposite: As my other example (computing prey trajectories) likewise illustrates, organisms can exhibit behaviors that would require mathematical understanding to explain, but not to perform.
    -RDF

  118. Hi RDFish:

    You write,

    In forensics (or Shakespearean sonnets), we have an enormous amount of context, because we assume the source is a human being (or something mighty similar).

    In neither case does the scientist assume a human source:

    Forensics

    If you observe twenty-seven stab wounds in a dead man’s back, context will not matter. It was no accident; it was murder. That a human being or something similar was the cause is a conclusion, not an assumption. In the case of an accident, such as slipping and falling, it is a different story: physical forces or the environment, not human design, would be the primary cause. It is the evidence that calls the shots; not the context.

    Shakespeare

    We need not assume a human source in order to recognize the designed pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet. The design speaks for itself. If you witnessed a pile of rocks on the moon that formed the same words, or if you found a symbolic artifact that could convey the same meaning (or even you found a machine that performs a function), the design would be evident regardless of the context.

    I will tweak my challenge with another example. There is a machine on the planet Mars that performs an obvious function. Provide a context that would make it impossible to know whether or not it was designed by an intelligent agent.

  119. RDFish @ 117, 118

    you’ve clearly understood nothing of my arguments here

    Because they are so bad they’re not even wrong. The selection bias in your arguments is extreme to say the least. You are hyperskeptical of every implication you don’t like and hypercredulous of every implication you do like.

    I was not arguing that cicadas understand primes, but just the opposite:

    You were in fact arguing that their mating was non-intelligent, unreasoning evidence of prime numbers. Your error (the misinfomed bluff) is presuming they mate on years 13 & 17, for which is the evidence varies considerably and precludes any reasonable approximation to the exactitude exhibited by actual prime numbers.

    Your intellectual dishonesty is three fold:

    Pretending not to know what “not naturally occurring” prime numbers are while using Cicada mating as evidence of “naturally occuring” prime numbers (that require mathematical understanding to explain, but not to perform), as if the word “not” confused you.

    Pretending to be a guy who understands artificial intelligence, but can’t (or won’t) recognize it in a non-repeating series of primes.

    Pretending that everyone misses your point, while simultaneously dismissing (without substantiation of your claims) everyone elses point that a 100-character message or a non-repeating series of prime numbers is evidence of intelligence.

    You might try giving my arguments a fair reading and attempting to debate them.

    When you stop quibbling over basic terminology and stop trying to change the subject so you can grind your perpetually dull axe on your prefered subject, I will. Start with this: Explain why a non-repeating series of prime numbers is not evidence of intelligence or an intelligent designer. Don’t ignore responses already given you by vjtorley and myself as you compose your answer. Assume common usage for terminology like “not naturally occurring” – Google it if you need to.

  120. Hi StephenB,

    If you observe twenty-seven stab wounds in a dead man’s back, context will not matter. It was no accident; it was murder.

    Actually, the word “murder” means “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another” (Google definitions).

    That a human being or something similar was the cause is a conclusion, not an assumption.

    No, not at all! On what basis would you conclude that it was a human being, rather than a space alien, mutant gorilla, poltergeist, or other hypothetical “intelligent agent”? None of course – it is only our well-founded assumption based on the fact that only human beings do such things, and none of these other things even exist, as far as we know.

    For the millionth time here, forensic scientists and archeologists use a tremendous amount of context in their work: They know a great deal about human beings and what human beings are and are not capable of doing. They never infer the existence of any sort of hypothetical “intelligent agent” – they always and only infer the existence of a human being.

    We need not assume a human source in order to recognize the designed pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet.

    That was not the issue that SA raised. Rather, he asked if we received a confirmed non-terrestrial transmission of a sonnet, would we assume that a human-like intelligence was responsible.

    And of course, the issue I raise is not whether something is a “designed pattern”. Rather, the issue is what attributes, characteristics, or abilities can we infer that the source of any given pattern might have, aside from the ability to produce the very pattern we observe.

    I will tweak my challenge with another example. There is a machine on the planet Mars that performs an obvious function. Provide a context that would make it impossible to know whether or not it was designed by an intelligent agent.

    And again, the question is not “is this designed by an intelligent agent?”. Rather, the question is, “What can we know about whatever this was produced by?”

    You, like most folks here, resist providing a single, canonical definition of “intelligent agent”. I can’t actually remember the last definition you settled on, but I hope you’ll agree that five ID proponents will likely provide at least eight different definitions for the term (or even more likely, adamantly deny the need to even discuss the subject!). The reason for this, as I’ve pointed out endlessly, is because the term “intelligent agent” is actually taken to mean “something similar to a human being, except not necessarily embodied, with conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions, with the ability to learn, solve novel problems, and use language in the way human beings do, and so on and so on”.

    My argument, as always, is that there is no warrant to believe any of those things – either in the context of our receiving prime numbers from outer space, or from our observing the complex form and function of biological systems. A Shakespearean sonnet, however, would be a different story.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  121. Hi Charles,

    You were in fact arguing that their mating was non-intelligent, unreasoning evidence of prime numbers.

    No – you still don’t get it. I was not talking about “evidence of prime numbers”, since there is no doubt that they exist. Do you doubt that prime numbers exist?

    I will repeat my argument for you as clearly as I can. In order to explain how an outfielder manages to catch a fly ball, we would have to use trignometry and other advanced mathematical techniques to describe how the fielder interprets the visual stimuli, controls his arm and leg movements, maintains his balance, positions himself and his glove, and so on. The ballplayer himself is unlikely to be able to explain any of this, however, nor understand it on any conscious symbolic level, even though he is capable of performing the actions. Likewise the cobra striking at the mouse – it obviously cannot understand the complex calculations required to position its body and modulate its motor impulses. It simply does it. Likewise cicadas (the example you seem to be focussed on here) could not explain why (or even if) they mate at particular intervals.

    The relevance of this point to the prime number example is this: If we observed a non-terrestrial transmission of prime numbers, then without any other additional information, we could not infer that a general, human-like mentality was involved in its production – one that could understand and explain the concept of prime numbers. It could be that whatever mysterious thing produced this series of primes was only able to produce that series, and could not, say, learn to produce any other series, or to explain why it was producing anything at all.

    Your intellectual dishonesty…

    If you’d like to continue debating, I’ll ask that you do so in a civil manner.

    Pretending to be a guy who understands artificial intelligence, but can’t (or won’t) recognize it in a non-repeating series of primes.

    Pretending that everyone misses your point, while simultaneously dismissing (without substantiation of your claims) everyone elses point that a 100-character message or a non-repeating series of prime numbers is evidence of intelligence.

    You have entirely missed this point as well. The issue I’m raising is NOT whether or not such a series is “evidence of intelligence” (whether artificial or not). Rather, the issue is what specific attributes, characteristics, or abilities can we possibly infer regarding the source of that series, aside from the very thing we have observed (the prime series itself).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  122. 123

    RDFish @ 122:

    Rather, the issue is what specific attributes, characteristics, or abilities can we possibly infer regarding the source of that series, aside from the very thing we have observed (the prime series itself).

    Please answer your own question. Or are you suggesting that nothing can be inferred.

  123. RDFish @ 122

    No – you still don’t get it. I was not talking about “evidence of prime numbers”, since there is no doubt that they exist. Do you doubt that prime numbers exist?

    Here is your intellectual dishonesty in spades: I wrote (and you even quoted me):
    their [Cicadas] mating was was non-intelligent, unreasoning evidence of prime numbers”

    But you respond to a dishonest snippet of my quote:
    ——————–[snipped]——————————–“evidence of prime numbers”

    You deliberately removed the qualifications I used so as to spin your position.

    Moreover, you previously posted:

    @85 If that is the case, how could you ever substantiate your claim on the mere evidence of a series of prime numbers? Do cicadas reason abstractly and decide to mate only in prime-number intervals (13 or 16 years)?

    @113 But it is a mistake to assume that anything which generates a sequence of primes actually understands these concepts. Cicadas mates at prime-numbered intervals, but it’s doubtful they understand factoring.

    Twice in preceeding posts you cite Cicadas mating at prime-numbered intervals, but now you backpedal and try to argue you weren’t takling about Cicadas mating in 13 & 17 years as “evidence of prime numbers”. In this post 122 you even re-phrase as “Likewise cicadas (the example you seem to be focussed on here) could not explain why (or even if) they mate at particular intervals.

    You back off from characterizing their mating on prime-number intervals to particular intervals.

    Did you think your equivocation would go unnoticed or that it wouldn’t be seen as evasive?

    And here you are trying to change the subject again:

    If we observed a non-terrestrial transmission of prime numbers, then without any other additional information, we could not infer that a general, human-like mentality was involved in its production

    The subject I argued, is not whether a “human-like mentality was involved”, but rather that a non-repeating series of prime numbers, regardless of source or context, is evidence of intelligence.

    And here is your hypercredulity on display:

    It could be that whatever mysterious thing produced this series of primes was only able to produce that series, and could not, say, learn to produce any other series, or to explain why it was producing anything at all.

  124. Hi Barry Arrington,

    RDF: Rather, the issue is what specific attributes, characteristics, or abilities can we possibly infer regarding the source of that series, aside from the very thing we have observed (the [ability to produce the] prime series itself).

    BA: Please answer your own question. Or are you suggesting that nothing can be inferred.

    Yes that is exactly what I am saying (again, assuming no other contextual information is available).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  125. Hi Charles,
    I enjoy debating these issues with people who are willing and able to give fair readings to my arguments, and who debate in a civilized fashion. You continue to show you can’t or won’t do this.

    The text I elided from your statement did not qualify your statement – it was the “evidence of prime numbers” that missed the point. My referring to prime-numbered intervals as “particular intervals” in no way was a “back-pedal” or evasion. And no reasonable reading of my posts could support an accusation of “hypercredulity” (I actually think you meant the opposite, “hyperskepticism”, but no matter – neither apply).

    You are unable to understand my point at all, despite my repeated attempts to explain it clearly to you. One final time: I am not debating whether or not we can infer “intelligence” from this or that. Rather, I am debating what specifically that term is supposed to refer to in this context.

    I’m sure you’ll take some vitriolic parting shot, but this will be my last post to you.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  126. RDFish @ 126

    The text I elided from your statement did not qualify your statement – it was the “evidence of prime numbers” that missed the point.

    Those were your characterizations you “elided”, you are the person on this thread claiming Cicadas “mate in prime-number intervals”. That was your “evidence of prime numbers” that missed your point.

    (face palm)

  127. 128

    RDFish/AIGuy says nothing can be inferred about the source of a non-repeating series of 100 prime numbers.

    This assertion is, of course, absurd and is a classic example of the sometimes extreme bad faith and affected hyper-skepticism ID opponents bring to these debates.

    In 48 above RDFish has already admitted: “The only known source of such a series is a human source” so let us use Mr. Fish’s own admission and do a little elementary reasoning.

    1. What is it about humans that makes them able to generate such a series? Obviously, it is their capacity for abstract reasoning.

    2. Thus, the only known source of such a series is able to produce the series because it has the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    3. We can infer, therefore, that any source that has the ability is able to do so on the same basis.

    4. From this we infer that the best explanation for the series is that it was generated by some agent with the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    This is an inference to best explanation. It is incumbent upon anyone who would challenge that inference to demonstrate why it is not the best explanation for the data set, which, of course, they will not be able to do.

  128. Hi Barry Arrington,

    RDFish/AIGuy says nothing can be inferred about the source of a non-repeating series of 100 prime numbers.

    This assertion is, of course, absurd and is a classic example of the sometimes extreme bad faith and affected hyper-skepticism ID proponents bring to these debates.

    That is not an argument, Barry – that is simply name-calling. I don’t think you are very good at this.

    In 48 above RDFish has already admitted: “The only known source of such a series is a human source” so let us use Mr. Fish’s own admission and do a little elementary reasoning.

    1. What is it about humans that makes them able to generate such a series? Obviously, it is their capacity for abstract reasoning.

    2. Thus, the only known source of such a series is able to produce the series because it has the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    3. We can infer, therefore, that any source that has the ability is able to do so on the same basis.

    No, you’ve made a simple logical error.

    Your argument thus far is this:

    1. X generates Y by virtue of Z
    2. Therefore anything that generates Y must do so by virtue of Z

    But of course this is fallacious, since something else could well generate Y by some other means.

    4. From this we infer that the best explanation for the series is that it was generated by some agent with the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    No, that is a perfectly horrible argument, Barry. One could just as well reason:

    1) Humans generate electrical arcs by utilizing their knowledge of electrical engineering.
    2) Thunder clouds generate electrical arcs.
    3) Therefore the best explanation for how thunder clouds generate electric arcs is that they employ knowledge of electrical engineering.

    Or this:

    1) Humans solve mazes by using their conscious minds
    2) Slime molds solve mazes
    3) Therefore the best explanation for how slime molds solve mazes is that they use their conscious minds

    Or this:

    1) Humans solve Steiner Spanning Tree problems by using their conscious minds
    2) Soap films solve Steiner Spanning Tree problems
    3) Therefore the best explanation for how soap films solve mazes is that they use their conscious minds!

    And so on.

    This is an inference to best explanation. It is incumbent upon anyone who would challenge that inference to demonstrate why it is not the best explanation for the data set, which, of course, they will not be able to do.

    Actually, it is incumbent upon you to retract your fallacious argument, and to concede that I was correct in my argument: We have no warrant to assume anything at all regarding the source of a prime series other than its ability to generate the series we observe.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  129. RDFish

    Actually, the word “murder” means “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another” (Google definitions).

    Yes, the word murder does mean exactly that. However, there are other kinds of violent acts that would qualify as design. If a gorilla kills a man, then we know it was not an accidental death: an intelligent agent, not circumstances or environment, has taken a life. The dynamic of design vs. chance is what matters.

    No, not at all! On what basis would you conclude that it was a human being, rather than a space alien, mutant gorilla, poltergeist, or other hypothetical “intelligent agent”?

    You can conclude any intelligent agent that you like. If human agency is consistent with the evidence, then that is the conclusion that should be drawn. The point is that the agent’s existence is a conclusion of the analytical process, not an assumption. The inferential process begins with facts on the ground, not assumptions.

    None of course – it is only our well-founded assumption based on the fact that only human beings do such things, and none of these other things even exist, as far as we know.

    No. Forensic science, by its very nature, is open to the obvious prospect that any intelligent agent could be a violent killer. An autopsy can indicate that a gorilla, not a human, was the likely cause of death. Indeed, using the techniques of forensic science, one could draw inferences that the killer was something or someone from out of this world.

    If, as you claim, forensic science assumed that a human was responsible for any act, it would be impossible to draw any other kind of inference. There would be no way to differentiate between suicide (not caused by another human being), murder (caused by another human being), misadventure (killed by an animal) or accidental death (killed by physical or environmental forces)—or something else. Science doesn’t work that way. Science follows the evidence by letting the facts speak, it doesn’t lead the evidence by telling the evidence what to say.

    For the millionth time here, forensic scientists and archeologists use a tremendous amount of context in their work: They know a great deal about human beings and what human beings are and are not capable of doing. They never infer the existence of any sort of hypothetical “intelligent agent” – they always and only infer the existence of a human being.

    Earlier you said that they “assume” the existence of a human being. Now you are saying that they “infer” it. In any case, forensic scientists do not begin with an assumption. I believe I said that already.

    No event is context free. That has nothing to do with the fact that no knowledge of context is needed to discern a violent act of killing from an accidental death, or a literary work from a random set of characters, or a jumbo jet from a junkyard. The kind of context we are discussing has to do with social meaning and interpretation, not physical circumstances. That is what Feser means by context, and that is the definition I am using. That is what this thread is about. No knowledge of context is needed to make a design inference.

    And of course, the issue I raise is not whether something is a “designed pattern”. Rather, the issue is what attributes, characteristics, or abilities can we infer that the source of any given pattern might have, aside from the ability to produce the very pattern we observe.

    You can raise any issue that you like. My issue is the chronological steps that make up the design inference, none of which have anything to do with assumptions or contexts.

    SB: I will tweak my challenge with another example. There is a machine on the planet Mars that performs an obvious function. Provide a context that would make it impossible to know whether or not it was designed by an intelligent agent.

    And again, the question is not “is this designed by an intelligent agent?”. Rather, the question is, “What can we know about whatever this was produced by?”

    Oh, but that is the question. The issue has always design vs. chance. In any case, thank you for acknowledging by your silence that my challenge cannot be met. It was meant for those who know and acknowledge what it means to allude to an intelligent agent, which, I gather, is everyone except you.

  130. 131

    RDFish @ 129:

    You quoted only three of the steps in my argument. Here is my argument in full:

    1. What is it about humans that makes them able to generate such a series? Obviously, it is their capacity for abstract reasoning.
    2. Thus, the only known source of such a series is able to produce the series because it has the capacity for abstract reasoning.
    3. We can infer, therefore, that any source that has the ability is able to do so on the same basis.
    4. From this we infer that the best explanation for the series is that it was generated by some agent with the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    You mischaracterize my argument as follows:

    1. X generates Y by virtue of Z
    2. Therefore anything that generates Y must do so by virtue of Z

    Wrong. That is not even close. My argument is more along the lines of:

    1. The only known cause of Y is Z.
    2. We observe a particular instance of Y.
    3. Because Z is the only known cause of Y, the inference to the best explanation is that this particular instance of Y was also caused by Z.

    Now I have dispensed with your straw man caricature of my argument. Do you have any response to my actual argument?

    “I don’t think you are very good at this.” An ironic statement coming from someone who failed the grasp the thrust of my simple argument.

  131. Hi StephenB,

    Your fundamental error in each debate we have is this:

    You (like virtually all ID proponents) insist that all possible causes can be categorized as either (1) intelligent causes or (2) natural causes. Since these sets are non-overlapping, if you eliminate the possibility that some cause belongs to the first set, you can conclude that it must belong to the second – and vice versa.

    However, in all of the times we’ve debated, you have never been willing to provide an inclusion criterion for these sets. In other words, you (and again, by “you” I really am speaking about ID proponents in general) can’t say what test to apply in order to decide if something belongs to one set or the other.

    Most often, the answer is that anything that can produce CSI belongs in the first set, while things that cannot produce CSI belong in the second set. But as I’ve pointed out endlessly, this particular definition renders the conclusion of the “design inference” a vacuous tautology: When we observe CSI, we infer that it was produced by something that can produce CSI.

    In my debates here, I have seen that ID proponents typically mean “general, human-like intelligence” as what characterizes members of the first set. This typically includes mental attributes and abilities such as learning, solving novel problems, generation and understanding of natural language (as opposed to formal languages such as computer languages, formal logic, etc), free will (of the incompatibilist sort), and conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions. Some people defend some of these attributes as necessary components of intelligent agency, and some defend others. But in the end our debates constitute an endless dance around this single question: What specifically are the inclusion criteria for the set of intelligent agents?

    Once you answer that question, then your “design inferences” will be meaningful. But you will also have to provide justification for believing that the inclusion criteria are met by that which produced the observations in question (biological complexity, prime number sequences, and so on).

    Sometimes, the answer is given that members of the first set act in a way that is neither random nor determined – let us simply call this acting out of free will. I have argued that nobody has ever succeeded in demonstrating that anything – even human beings – have this sort of free will, to which you have argued (I think) that the methods of ID demonstrate that humans do indeed have the ability to act that way. I am happy to agree that the validity of ID rests upon the contention that it somehow empirically settles the ancient debate over free will, since I think most educated people will recognize that if that is true, ID is not in fact a valid proposition. But I will ask this: If we received this series of prime numbers from outer space, how would you go about determining if the source was acting out of free will or not?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  132. Hi Barry Arrington,

    You quoted only three of the steps in my argument.

    I paused at the third step to point out the error you made at that step, noting that thus far your argument already was fallacious. In step three you said:

    3. We can infer, therefore, that any source that has the ability is able to do so on the same basis.

    But that inference is fallacious (a form of undistributed middle).

    You mischaracterize my argument as follows:

    1. X generates Y by virtue of Z
    2. Therefore anything that generates Y must do so by virtue of Z

    Wrong. That is not even close. My argument is more along the lines of:

    1. The only known cause of Y is Z.
    2. We observe a particular instance of Y.
    3. Because Z is the only known cause of Y, the inference to the best explanation is that this particular instance of Y was also caused by Z.

    You have substantially restated your argument as anyone can see. But rather than quibble about your ploy, let’s address your argument any way you’d like to state it.

    Your framing your argument as an abductive inference rather than a deduction does nothing to make it somehow more valid. All of my examples (which you ignored) illustrate quite well that this is the case. In the prime number scenario, the only known source of primes prior to receiving the transmission was human beings; after we receive the primes we know that there is some other, unknown source of primes that is using some unknown mechanism to generate them. Likewise, if we did not know how thunderclouds generated electric arcs (and in fact the entire mechanism is still not fully understood!) we still would not be justified in assuming that the cloud employed its knowledge of electrical engineering!

    “I don’t think you are very good at this.” An ironic statement coming from someone who failed the grasp the thrust of my simple argument.

    No irony at all: I was talking about your debating style. Beyond that, I have both understood and countered your simple (and fallacious) argument.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    UD Editors: RDFish, your bad faith appears to be almost limitless. The last step of the original 4-part argument clearly indicates that the argument is abductive. Yet you claim Barry changed it into an abuductive argument in response to you. Do you have no shame?

  133. RDFish:

    You (like virtually all ID proponents) insist that all possible causes can be categorized as either (1) intelligent causes or (2) natural causes.

    Intelligent vs mindless; goal-oriented vs purposeless

    When we observe CSI, we infer that it was produced by something that can produce CSI.

    And when we observe an artifact we infer it was produced by something that can produce an artifact! When we observe a crime scene we infer it was produced by something that can produce a crime scene!

    And guess what? That limits the possibilities of what caused it and it gives the investigation a pathway in which to proceed.

    BTW cicadas are intelligent agencies. Just sayin’…

  134. RDFish @ 133

    You have substantially restated your argument as anyone can see.

    Elizabeth Liddle has been surpassed. I didn’t see that coming.

    (We need to enhance the post captchas to require prime numbers.)

  135. Phinehas

    To this reader, your response @105 appears to be full of smoke screens and red herrings, with a bit of insult thrown in at the end for good measure. This is quite telling, especially given that SA’s main point remains unaddressed: SA: “Again, it sounds like you want to critique modern science and that might be a very good thing to do, but that really gives you a much bigger target than ID alone.” Typically, at least in the English-speaking world, this happens when someone has scored a logical point and the respondent feels uncomfortable addressing that point on its merits.

    If you think the statement that begins “it sounds like” can be considered someone’s main point, then we are definitely not speaking the same language. Where I live, it can be some safely disregarded side-point. Why? Because by saying “it sounds like”, it sounds like the speaker is not sure what he’s saying.

    But to answer your question, I don’t see how I critique modern science in general. Science has to be on logical grounds and, when it is, there’s nothing to criticize really. You cannot say 2+2=5 and at the same time say you are doing science. Well, you can, but it would be wrong. Lawrence Krauss does it and is self-evidently wrong every time he does it. Maybe this is the standard in the English-speaking world these days: To be blatantly wrong and proud of it too.

    And Mr. Torley explicitly says his mission is to lower his own standards to the same illogical level and call it success. (“Thus Intelligent Design represents an attempt to engage skeptics on their own turf. It uses mathematics and science and its metaphysical assumptions are minimal.”) Evidently he doesn’t even see when the metaphysical assumptions are altogether inconsistent. This is why he cites the piece of alleged science that he does. If the piece of science were right, it would overturn logic – which is normally a sure sign the piece is wrong. Mr. Torley’s criticism of Feser is also illogical in itself. He says the ID project not to be about metaphysics, whereas Feser’s points are obviously about metaphysics, so the two should not even connect, so what is there to criticize? Yet this whole post is about it. He takes issue with the definition of context, obviously making up the definition as he goes, even though in the relevant sciences (literary science, linguistics) the logical definition is obvious – and yet he never manages to get to that relevant definition. Hence his science never reaches down to the metaphysics and logic of what he is criticizing, and hence the criticism is futile.

    To end on a constructive note – for the ID project to begin to make sense, it needs a definition of what is meant by intelligent design as opposed to non-intelligent design and non-design, just like biology has defined living organisms as opposed to non-living. The illogical answers given here, such as “Intelligent Design theory does not attempt to distinguish things which are designed from things which are not” directly show that the project must be utterly purposeless, insofar as logic is involved. If you are okay with that, no further comment.

  136. RDFish

    You (like virtually all ID proponents) insist that all possible causes can be categorized as either (1) intelligent causes or (2) natural causes. Since these sets are non-overlapping, if you eliminate the possibility that some cause belongs to the first set, you can conclude that it must belong to the second – and vice versa.

    I am simply being reasonable. Two thousand years of history, science and philosophy have taught us that we know of only intelligent causes and natural causes. It is reasonable to proceed on the basis of what we know as long as we don’t pretend to know more than we do. Suppose another kind of cause was discovered. Would your hyperskepticism vanish? Would you then say, “Come let us reason together?” I doubt it. My guess is that you would continue on your same course and hold out for yet another kind of cause—and yet another—and still another.
    As far as ID science is concerned, its proponents have already covered that ground, acknowledging that they could be wrong. In other words, they allow for the prospect that another kind of cause is a logical possibility. So, in that context, they are being doubly reasonable and you are being doubly unreasonable to ignore their acknowledgement.

    However, in all of the times we’ve debated, you have never been willing to provide an inclusion criterion for these sets. In other words, you (and again, by “you” I really am speaking about ID proponents in general) can’t say what test to apply in order to decide if something belongs to one set or the other.

    The whole of human history is a very good test. It isn’t infallible and it isn’t self-evident, but it’s a lot better than what you have been offering, which is the notion that reasonableness ought to be challenged at every turn. Indeed, as I reflect on our history (yours and mine), it has almost always involved your denial of a self-evident truth. One event that stands out was your claim that “ex-nilio creation” is the same thing as “something coming from nothing.” Only someone who is dedicated to avoiding the truth could come up with such an absurd proposition. I think you have first cause phobia and I think it leaks into your analysis of every topic.

    Most often, the answer is that anything that can produce CSI belongs in the first set, while things that cannot produce CSI belong in the second set. But as I’ve pointed out endlessly, this particular definition renders the conclusion of the “design inference” a vacuous tautology: When we observe CSI, we infer that it was produced by something that can produce CSI.

    I have pointed out to you several times that it would be a tautology only if it comes in the form of an assumption that intrudes in and precedes the analytical process by which design is inferred. It took me six months to show you that such was not the case. Now, you are back to singing that same old tune. That fact is that a definition is not an assumption. It simply reflects one of two alternatives to be considered. It doesn’t entail the act of assuming the conclusion. If it did, it wouldn’t be an inference at all. It would be an assumption, or better yet, a presumption. Are you so committed to your ideology that you cannot differentiate between an assumption and an inference?

    In my debates here, I have seen that ID proponents typically mean “general, human-like intelligence” as what characterizes members of the first set. This typically includes mental attributes and abilities such as learning, solving novel problems, generation and understanding of natural language (as opposed to formal languages such as computer languages, formal logic, etc), free will (of the incompatibilist sort), and conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions. Some people defend some of these attributes as necessary components of intelligent agency, and some defend others. But in the end our debates constitute an endless dance around this single question: What specifically are the inclusion criteria for the set of intelligent agents?

    Most of the definitions of intelligence are perfectly legitimate in the context of the paradigm that is being used to detect it. The paradigms vary, so the definitions vary. On a related issue, we have the same recurring problem. Each time we explain that ID measures the effects of intelligence and does not address the attributes of intelligence, you respond by saying — that ID fails to address the attributes of intelligence..

    Once you answer that question, then your “design inferences” will be meaningful. But you will also have to provide justification for believing that the inclusion criteria are met by that which produced the observations in question (biological complexity, prime number sequences, and so on).

    No, not true. There is a big difference between the methods of historical science and the methods of physical science many times. It would seem that the concept of a process and a method are inimical to your way of thinking.

    Sometimes, the answer is given that members of the first set act in a way that is neither random nor determined – let us simply call this acting out of free will. I have argued that nobody has ever succeeded in demonstrating that anything – even human beings – have this sort of free will, to which you have argued (I think) that the methods of ID demonstrate that humans do indeed have the ability to act that way.

    I have argued that ID science makes free will more plausible and Darwnism makes free will less plausible. ID is, indeed, consistent with free will, but it doesn’t assume free will or try to prove it. Of course, you have a history of making the claim that ID does assume free will, which would rule out the possibility that ID proves free will.

    If we received this series of prime numbers from outer space, how would you go about determining if the source was acting out of free will or not?

    Ask a good philosopher.

    Meanwhile, my challenge has gone unanswered. There is a machine on the planet Mars that performs an obvious function. Provide a context that would make it impossible to know whether or not it was designed by an intelligent agent.

  137. Hi StephenB,

    Two thousand years of history, science and philosophy have taught us that we know of only intelligent causes and natural causes.

    But what, exactly, separates the two? You never answer.

    Suppose another kind of cause was discovered.

    Since we have no way of distinguishing these two sets, we can hardly expect to establish a third!

    My guess is that you would continue on your same course and hold out for yet another kind of cause—and yet another—and still another.

    Rather than address my point, you imagine future scenarios where I do things I would not do???

    As far as ID science is concerned, its proponents have already covered that ground, acknowledging that they could be wrong.

    Unless ID says what an “intelligent cause” is, they are neither right nor wrong. They simply are incoherent.

    In other words, they allow for the prospect that another kind of cause is a logical possibility. So, in that context, they are being doubly reasonable and you are being doubly unreasonable to ignore their acknowledgement.

    I am, extremely reasonably, asking endlessly for one single thing, over and over and over again: An explanation of what test can distinguish an intelligent cause from a natural cause. I never get an answer.

    RDF: However, in all of the times we’ve debated, you have never been willing to provide an inclusion criterion for these sets. In other words, you (and again, by “you” I really am speaking about ID proponents in general) can’t say what test to apply in order to decide if something belongs to one set or the other.

    SB: The whole of human history is a very good test.

    I am asking for a test – in other words, an inclusion criterion – that will divide causes into intelligent vs. natural causes. You tell me this test is “the whole of human history”, which is not a test at all. If I put something before you and ask you to determine, using “ID science”, whether or not this thing is intelligent, you say “Simply test it by using the whole of human history!” This makes no sense.

    It isn’t infallible and it isn’t self-evident, but it’s a lot better than what you have been offering, which is the notion that reasonableness ought to be challenged at every turn. Indeed, as I reflect on our history (yours and mine), it has almost always involved your denial of a self-evident truth. One event that stands out was your claim that “ex-nilio creation” is the same thing as “something coming from nothing.” Only someone who is dedicated to avoiding the truth could come up with such an absurd proposition. I think you have first cause phobia and I think it leaks into your analysis of every topic.

    This is nothing but a bizarre ad hominem that has nothing to do with the issue at hand, which is what is the inclusion criterion for determining if something is an intelligent cause.

    RDF: Most often, the answer is that anything that can produce CSI belongs in the first set, while things that cannot produce CSI belong in the second set. But as I’ve pointed out endlessly, this particular definition renders the conclusion of the “design inference” a vacuous tautology: When we observe CSI, we infer that it was produced by something that can produce CSI.
    SB: I have pointed out to you several times that it would be a tautology only if it comes in the form of an assumption that intrudes in and precedes the analytical process by which design is inferred. It took me six months to show you that such was not the case. Now, you are back to singing that same old tune. That fact is that a definition is not an assumption. It simply reflects one of two alternatives to be considered. It doesn’t entail the act of assuming the conclusion. If it did, it wouldn’t be an inference at all. It would be an assumption, or better yet, a presumption. Are you so committed to your ideology that you cannot differentiate between an assumption and an inference?

    I have read this several times and can’t make sense of it. I think, actually, that you are confusing two of our disagreements: One is the matter of “intelligence” being the complement of chance+law, and the other being the attempt to define “intelligence” as “that which produces CSI”.

    If you didn’t clutter up your arguments with your amateur psychoanalysis and ad hominem arguments, you might make more sense.

    In any event, my point here was that defining “intelligence” as “that which produces CSI” is ridiculous in the context of ID, since it renders ID tautological. You certainly never countered this obvious point, much less convinced me it was true! Once again, in case you actually don’t understand it, just read this:

    Q: What is the cause of the sound we hear in thunder?
    A: Termeric flow.
    Q: What is “termeric flow”?
    A: The ability to produce sound such as that we hear in thunder!

    Q: What is the cause of the lights in the Aurora Borealis?
    A: Vistalogical lentoculus.
    Q: What is “vistaological lentoculus”?
    A: The ability to produce lights such as those in the Aurora Borealis!

    Q: What is the cause of the CSI we observe in biological systems?
    A: Intelligent causation.
    Q: What is “intelligent causation”?
    A: The ability to produce CSI such as that we observe in biological systems!

    For the 1000th time, I pray (and I’m not often wont to pray :-)) that you understand these explanations are vacuous tautologies that add nothing to our understanding and do not constitute explanations.

    If you settle on this definition of “intelligence”, we can finally finish our debate. You say that “intelligent” means “able to produce CSI”, and that’s that. You can claim victory, and I’ll be glad to let the fair reader decide whether or not that makes ID a meaningful explanation of the CSI we observe in biological systems.

    Otherwise, here is a suggestion that might allow us to make progress: I use these made-up words in my examples because they have no intrinsic, intuitive connotations, thus illustrating that without an actual definition these statements mean tell us nothing. You use the word “intelligence”, relying on implicit, unstated connotations to provide meaning for your arguments. The philosopher David Chalmers has addressed this problem and suggested a solution. When this happens, he suggests that the argument is restated without using the word in question. Any valid proposition can be validly restated in different words, as long as those words are defined appropriately. So, simply restate the proposition “flagella are the result of intelligent cause” without using the word “intelligent”. Can you? If you can we might stand a chance of making progress.

    RDF: But in the end our debates constitute an endless dance around this single question: What specifically are the inclusion criteria for the set of intelligent agents?
    SB: Most of the definitions of intelligence are perfectly legitimate in the context of the paradigm that is being used to detect it. The paradigms vary, so the definitions vary.

    In that case, just give me the one single definition in this particular context: You have concluded that the high levels of CSI observed in flagella support the inference that flagella are the result of intelligent causation. What definition of “intelligent causation” is appropriate in that context?

    On a related issue, we have the same recurring problem. Each time we explain that ID measures the effects of intelligence and does not address the attributes of intelligence, you respond by saying — that ID fails to address the attributes of intelligence..

    You can certainly define “intelligent cause” in terms of its effects – that would be just dandy! All of the forces of physics are defined in terms of their effects! If you’d like to say that the effects of an “intelligent cause” is CSI, then as I just explained, we can end our debate right here. Otherwise, simply specify exactly what the effects of “intelligent causation” are in a way that we can use to test whether something is an “intelligent cause” or not.

    There is a big difference between the methods of historical science and the methods of physical science many times. It would seem that the concept of a process and a method are inimical to your way of thinking.

    Instead of alluding to various scientific methods, and then adding yet another silly ad hominem argument, you would do better to actually say what it is you are talking about. The issue I’ve raised is this: What is the inclusion criterion for determining if something belongs in the set of intelligent causes? How does “historical science” or the concept of processes and methods answer this question?

    I have argued that ID science makes free will more plausible and Darwnism makes free will less plausible.

    The plausibility of free will has no bearing on the issue at hand.

    ID is, indeed, consistent with free will, but it doesn’t assume free will or try to prove it.

    In that case, I take it that once and for all you do not define “intelligence” as the complement of (law + chance). That’s good!

    Meanwhile, my challenge has gone unanswered. There is a machine on the planet Mars that performs an obvious function. Provide a context that would make it impossible to know whether or not it was designed by an intelligent agent.

    .
    Your question can’t possibly be answered until you say how to test for intelligent agency!!!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  138. ES:

    Perhaps this can help you understand what design theory is, on its own terms, here from NWE — Wiki’s article is a notorious and ideologically driven hatchet job:

    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; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

    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 [–> try David Berlinsky and Sir Fred Hoyle]. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer [–> as in that credibly tweredun, is distinct from whodunit], so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. 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.

    I could elaborate, had I the time — I don’t; this is Legislative Assembly sitting day here and at the height of the local silly season, where also I have Hayek’s investment and production chain triangle in mind as a possible way to brief and communicate issues on the bridge between micro of the firm, interest rates and economic growth to elected reps (cf here); with further issues connected to tech driven long waves a la Kondratiev, creative destruction per Schumpeter and Solow’s insights on growth. Something that is genuinely hard to understand.

    I suggest, that you have a look at the UD Weak argument correctives and the expanded definition of ID at the top of this and every UD page under the Resources tab.

    G’day,

    KF

  139. RDF: The easiest test for intelligent agency in action is to look for functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, FSCO/I. Once we have 500 – 1,000+ bits, it is empirically reliable that such items are designed, and it is also analytically plausible per needle in haystack blind search analysis. Accordingly, it is a direct application of the vera causa principle and linked inference to best explanation, to take the FSCO/I evident in remnants of early life forms and diversification of body plans as signs of design. Likewise, the fine tuning that gives rise to a cosmos and a solar system that support cell based C-Chemistry, aqueous medium life using gated metabolic molecular nanotech automata replete with codes and algorithms, with a von Neumann self replication facility. This, you know or should know long since. KF

  140. PS: Text on this page, similar string data structures and the like are simple cases of FSCO/I, and the sort of data reported in file size 198.7 k bytes is a metric of FSCO/I. As per AutoCAD etc complex 3-d functional entities can be reduced to coded strings, discussion on strings is WLOG. All this RDF knows, or should know — should have known for years since his first engagement in discussions here at UD. He needs to show good reason why we should not take his assertions above as manifestations of ideologically driven selective hyperskepticism. KF

  141. RDF said:

    Any valid proposition can be validly restated in different words, as long as those words are defined appropriately. So, simply restate the proposition “flagella are the result of intelligent cause” without using the word “intelligent”. Can you? If you can we might stand a chance of making progress.

    Flagella are the result of an intentional cause.

    Flagella are the result of a deliberate cause.

    Flagella are the result of an agency arranging materials and forces towards a conceptual goal.

  142. Anti-ID advocates are in the unenviable position of denying that ID is distinguishable from non-ID, even while they live a life utterly dependent upon their capacity to do so.

  143. Earth to RDFIsh- ID has stated what an intelligent cause is/ entails. Just because you refuse to listen doesn’t mean anything to us.

    Why do you think that your continued willful ignorance means something?

  144. 145

    From Wikipedia:

    In abductive reasoning, unlike in deductive reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion. One can understand abductive reasoning as “inference to the best explanation.

    Step 4 of Barry’s argument:

    4. From this we infer that the best explanation for the series is that it was generated by some agent with the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    RDFish after his first response was thoroughly discredited:

    You have substantially restated your argument as anyone can see. . . . Your framing your argument as an abductive inference rather than a deduction does nothing to make it somehow more valid.

    Conclusion: My argument was always abductive in nature, and RDFish’s statement that I changed it in response to his criticism is an obvious lie.

    RDFish you are utterly shameless. Does it not bother you that you need to lie to try to win an argument? I think it would bother me. In any case, your bad faith is on display for all to see.

  145. 146

    Hi RDFish,

    Going back now to #115, recognizing that a lot has already been answered by others, I’ll try not to be repetitious.

    You insist that once we have all the information available about this extra-terrestrial something – namely that it can generate primes – then by comparing it to something else (humans) we somehow gain more information about the extra-terrestrial source. I disagree – I think you’ve gained no new information at all about the source; rather, you have simply made a comparison between information you had about the extra-terrestrial source and the information you have about humans. Let’s agree to disagree on this point.

    Well, I’d rather not walk away especially since I think we’re getting closer to an agreement, so if it’s ok – I’d like to try again.

    First, back in #48 you said about the extraterrestrial transmission: “…There may be something other than human beings in the universe capable of producing a series of primes, but if there is, we know absolutely nothing about it.”

    Now above you said: “you’ve gained no new information at all” about the source.
    The important difference? It’s the distinction between “knowledge” of something and “information coming from it”.

    A single thing can provide a finite amount of information about itself. No matter how much you look at it, nothing more comes out. I was going to say as opposed to TV but maybe not. 🙂 But let’s say, a living person continues to generate information. But you said “we can know nothing more”. Knowledge is different than capturing information.
    We get knowledge about the thing by comparing and contrasting. That’s how we analyze, gain insights and eventually draw inferences. Through comparison. But this is what you said above “you have simply made a comparison”. Yes, exactly. That’s how the reasoning process works. It’s not just a receiver of information. It compares and weighs and then judges – to reach knowledge.
    So, that’s why I disagree. You said we “know absolutely nothing more” — but through comparison we do know much more.

    SA: We did agree that a Shakespearean sonnet would be an indication of human-like intelligence. But why do you think that?

    RDFish: For the obvious reason: Anything that authored an exposition regarding life, death, love, and other aspects of human life, replete with references to human beings, their hearts, minds, hands, and so on, and rendered in a human language, would strongly suggest that the author was human-like in many respects.

    I thought that was a good answer (as were others). But you did exactly what I would do with prime numbers. You compared Shakespeare with other reference points:
    – human-like language
    – human life references
    – references to human bodies, hearts, etc

    You get that information from the content of the Shakespearean poem, but only because you know the reference-points. If you didn’t know English, the poem might look like random gibberish. In any case, you recognize a big difference with a sonnet and a series of prime numbers, as I do. But you did discern human-like intelligence at work. It’s because you compared it with human-like intelligence outputs (from Shakespeare) that you know of.

    SA: Also, what are the many differences you can think of between a string of prime numbers and a set of random numbers?

    RDFish: All of the members of the first set are only divisible by 1 and themselves, but not of the second.

    This answer was not as good, in my view. There is quite a lot more you know about the difference between prime numbers and random:

    Random: Generated my countless, known natural sources
    Prime: Not generated by any known natural source
    Random: Not appearance of known calculation (for specified set)
    Prime: Product of known calculation
    Random: Not indicator of complex specificity
    Prime: Indicator of complex specificity

    So, we know a lot of differences between the two sets of numbers. We have to eliminate all known natural sources. We do have a known human-intelligence based source.

    Different animals have different mental abilities. Virtually all animals are capable of learning. Some are capable of using tools, others are not. Some communicate using sound, others using chemicals, and still others don’t appear to communicate with others of their species at all. And so on.

    This is back to a good answer again — thanks for offering this. I agree. Animals have intelligence. We see different capabilities. We could propose that other organisms:
    1. All have different intelligences, or
    2. All have different versions of the same thing called ‘intelligence’

    But we really don’t know. Bees produce complex functional designs, respond to variable inputs, coordinate a social structure, communicate and respond to information, and more.
    Beavers show intelligent behaviors in building complex specified environments. Crows show intelligence by learning and use of tools. Some will say that plants show intelligence by communication and variable responses to environment.

    Do bees have the same thing called ‘intelligence’ that beavers do? Or are they entirely different things?

    If different, then you observe several different kinds of intelligence in different beings. Bees, crows, beavers, plants and many other organisms. But all of those intelligences have common characteristics. We measure, in part, the fact that they are intelligent from their outputs (bee hives, beaver dams, bird calls) which are all common to intelligence.

    If it’s all this one thing we call ‘intelligence’ but found in various organisms in different varieties, then how did it get there? Darwinism cannot explain this, and I’m glad to know you realize that.

    So, you make some inference about what you really don’t know. Intelligence exists in different varieties, or perhaps there are totally different things called ‘bee intelligence’, ‘crow intelligence’, ‘plant intelligence’.

    Now we see something with CSI. We know there are various intelligences at work in nature. They all have similar outputs.

    To say now that when we find CSI from an unknown source that there is no basis in which to infer some other kind of intelligent source — seems to me to by hyper-skeptical. It doesn’t seem reasonable.
    But I’ll just ask — why do you resist that conclusion so strongly? It’s really not that far of a reach from evidence to inference in this case.

    In forensics (or Shakespearean sonnets), we have an enormous amount of context, because we assume the source is a human being (or something mighty similar). In the case we’ve been discussing, we have no other context at all, and so we could not assume it could do anything other than what we observe it to be doing.

    Here’s where we had a misunderstanding. StephenB explained this previously. In the case of the Shakespearean sonnet, what we call ‘context’ (in this thread) refers to factors surrounding the sonnet (where it came from, what media it was communicated through, how it was discovered, etc). The words themselves have no context — they’re just a string of characters. We compare them to known language and the known output of a human author and find a match.
    But the context in which we find them do not add to our knowledge that this was a human-like intelligence (as you agreed) that produced them.
    They could be written in stone on the moon, or received as an audio-signal or even coded into numbers.

    For example: 19 9 2 20 20 1 19 4

    Simple alphabetic decoding: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (now imagine it went on for the whole sonnet).

    There is no real context for those numbers (although they came from me, posted on a forum) just like the string of prime numbers. But when compared to a known human-based string it matches exactly. We conclude a human-based source was involved.

    It is like the prime number series, and not the Shakespearean sonnet, or the fingerprints at the crime scene.

    Again, I agree with you that the prime number example was weaker evidence of ID. However, I don’t think the nature of the string itself is “context”. In other words, you can’t just say ‘take any string of prime numbers’. I believe the string was specified (or it should have been).

    What if the prime numbers could be de-coded into Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18? If they were ordered that way, and you could read the first 1 or two digits, you could spell out the entire poem entirely in prime numbers.

    If the ID project found that kind of thing — in no matter what context (emanating from a space craft, from a planet’s magnetic field, carved into rocks, from audio signals or light pulses) … it would still be an indicator of a human-like intelligence at its source.

    One last point … you said:

    I argue that the conclusion of ID, which I take to be using biological form and function to infer human-like mentality

    First of all, ID is not limited to biology. But aside from that, as above, the context (biological form and function) does not affect the inference that can be drawn from the information we get from the source.
    If a dust-cloud left behind the perfect lettering, spelling and punctuation of the sonnet in question – we’d infer that some intelligent source was involved and not the dust and wind itself.
    We compare the complex, functional information network we find in the cell with known complex information networks we know of from human sources and we find a match. Just like we compare an extraterrestrial Shakespearean sonnet with known sources of English language poetry and find a match.

    You really should be willing to conclude that ‘some human-like intelligence was most likely involved in the origin of the communication network we observed’ – even if you don’t want to draw conclusions about the specific nature of that human-like source.

    Again, I’m not sure why you’re resisting this. Yes, I understand healthy skepticism and not wanting to jump to unwarranted conclusions. But inferences are not statements of absolute certainty. They’re reasonable conclusions based on what we know.

    At the same time, I don’t think you’re that far away from reaching similar conclusions to what ID proposes– as I see it anyway.

  146. E.Seigner: How would you define design so that you would be able to detect intent in it so as to distinguish it from design without intent?

    For starters, coded information. That’s what SETI is looking for as per their website. And it’s right there in our DNA/ribosomic replicator.

    Also, functional/specific complex specific information above a threshold, of say, 500 bits, which has been explored over and over on this website. If you have a better explanation for that than a “mind”, that is, something other than a thing with intent and foresight and an understanding of nature beyond the chance and necessity of the physics and chemistry we know about, I’d like to hear what it is.

  147. RDF:

    BA: In 48 above RDFish has already admitted: “The only known source of such a series is a human source” so let us use Mr. Fish’s own admission and do a little elementary reasoning.

    1. What is it about humans that makes them able to generate such a series? Obviously, it is their capacity for abstract reasoning.

    2. Thus, the only known source of such a series is able to produce the series because it has the capacity for abstract reasoning.

    3. We can infer, therefore, that any source that has the ability is able to do so on the same basis.

    RDF: No, you’ve made a simple logical error.

    Your argument thus far is this:

    1. X generates Y by virtue of Z
    2. Therefore anything that generates Y must do so by virtue of Z

    But of course this is fallacious, since something else could well generate Y by some other means.

    Wow. This is obtuse even for you, RDF. Did you really miss the empirical nature of Barry’s formulation? Did the significance of “the only known source” simply pass over your head?

    His argument is:

    1. X, the only known source of Y, generates it by virtue of Z, the only know means of generating Y.

    2. Given a lack of contrary evidence, the best explanation for the means for generating a newly discovered Y, whose source is not X, is still Z.

    That something else could well generate Y by some other means has no bearing on the validity of this inference to Z as the best explanation available. Will you concede this?

    RDF: No, that is a perfectly horrible argument, Barry.

    The horror is only in your wanton mischaracterization of the original argument.

  148. ES, BTW, design is never without purpose, that is intent. If purpose — which can be inferred from FSCO/I etc — is absent, then we do not properly call the thing in question designed. And with high reliability we know that such an entity will be shaped by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity and will not exhibit features such as FSCO/I. The needle in haystack challenge is just too stiff. KF

  149. RJFish: I certainly have no interest in challenging people’s intuitions about creation.

    Obviously you do, because of your consistent hyper-skepticism of abductive reasoning. Inferences to the best explanation, of which ID is one, is not something scientifically nor mathematically provable beyond all doubt. Yet everyone does it, including you, every day of your waking life. Living one’s life would be impossible without it. It “seems to work”. This is intution. And you have it too. But for biology (OOL in particular) you seem to have a road-block erected.

    At any rate, until someone demonstrates why we shouldn’t approach biological artifacts this way, I for one, will merrily go on thinking, say, the DNA replication system, is the product of design because that inference is the best one so far. It’s the reasonable thing to do.

    WJMurray: Anti-ID advocates are in the unenviable position of denying that ID is distinguishable from non-ID, even while they live a life utterly dependent upon their capacity to do so.

    Applicable to you, RJFish. And worthy of framing.

  150. RDF

    I think, actually, that you are confusing two of our disagreements: One is the matter of “intelligence” being the complement of chance+law, and the other being the attempt to define “intelligence” as “that which produces CSI”.

    No. Definitions have nothing to do with the chronological order of the steps involved in applying ID’s scientific method, all of which have been explicitly articulated. The assumption of free will in not included (or implied) in any of those steps. It is nothing but a fantasy that you have created in your own mind.

    If you didn’t clutter up your arguments with your amateur psychoanalysis and ad hominem arguments, you might make more sense.

    Anyone who says, as you did, that “ex-nilio creation” is the same thing as “something coming from nothing” is being willfully illogical. There is no question about it. The fact that you tried to double down after being corrected and that you are now afraid to revisit the subject is further proof that you do not always argue in good faith.

    You say that “intelligent” means “able to produce CSI”, and that’s that.

    I have never said such a thing. Why do you just make things up like that? Do you expect to win minds and hearts that way?

    My position, which you know very well, has always been that there are basically two compatible definitions of intelligence, both of which involve the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end. One contains the element of “consciousness,” the other does not. The difference, which is very mild indeed, will depend on the paradigm being used.

    In that case, just give me the one single definition in this particular context: You have concluded that the high levels of CSI observed in flagella support the inference that flagella are the result of intelligent causation. What definition of “intelligent causation” is appropriate in that context?

    In that context, the definition of intelligence is the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end.

    SB: Meanwhile, my challenge has gone unanswered. There is a machine on the planet Mars that performs an obvious function. Provide a context that would make it impossible to know whether or not it was designed by an intelligent agent.
    .

    Your question can’t possibly be answered until you say how to test for intelligent agency!!!

    That’s just silly. You have always had my definition of intelligence on the record. My question cannot be answered because the anti-ID partisans, of which you are one, cannot support their claim that it is necessary to understand context in order to detect design. Thus, when I present a specific example to challenge them, they, meaning Feser and his supporters, head for the tall grass.

  151. Hi Barry Arrington,

    In abductive reasoning, unlike in deductive reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion. One can understand abductive reasoning as “inference to the best explanation.

    Hahahaha. I’m quite familiar with the forms of inference Barry – that is not the problem. The problem is that you seem unable to read and understand other people’s posts. Here is what I said:

    Your framing your argument as an abductive inference rather than a deduction does nothing to make it somehow more valid.

    I went on to explain, with examples that served as reductios to your reasoning, why it would be an unwarranted abductive inference to conclude that conscious reasoning was responsible for some phenomenon simply because human beings use conscious reasoning to accomplish the same thing.

    What you seem to misunderstand about abductions are that while they are indeed characterized as reasoning to the best explanation, they not simply the least bad of some number of unsupported assertions. There actually must be good evidence to warrant an abductive inference.

    There is no evidence that thunderclouds understand electrical engineering, even though human beings use electrical engineering to accomplish the same thing. It would be very silly to conclude this, even if nothing else was known to be able to produce electrical arcs. Likewise, it is unwarranted to conclude that a series of prime numbers coming from outer space, without any other evidence (such as, say, a transmission origin of a temperate planet with water and organic compounds, etc), would support an abductive inference to a conscious entity responsible for that series of numbers.

    RDFish you are utterly shameless. Does it not bother you that you need to lie to try to win an argument? I think it would bother me. In any case, your bad faith is on display for all to see.

    Barry, you are an angry man. Calling my arguments “lies” is a schoolyard taunt. I’m used to that here. What is special in your case is your particular combination of arrogance and poor reasoning skills. 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    UD Editors: RDFish’s strategy. Get caught in a lie. Double down and insult the person who caught you. Unseemly, sad and pathetic all at the same time.

  152. E.Seigner:

    The illogical answers given here, such as “Intelligent Design theory does not attempt to distinguish things which are designed from things which are not” directly show that the project must be utterly purposeless, insofar as logic is involved.

    You tend to strengthen the perception that you are not arguing fairly by removing the above quote from the context of VJT’s contrasting clarification:

    VJT: What Intelligent Design theory is attempting to do is identify things which can be shown on mathematical and scientific grounds to have been designed. These things are just a tiny subset of the set of things which can be shown on philosophical grounds to have been designed. [emphasis in the original]

    If the above is illogical as you claim, you could demonstrate how this is so. Or you could provide warrant for your assertion that it is a purposeless undertaking. That is, you could do these things and perhaps more if your intention was ever to give ID a fair hearing.

  153. Hi StephenB,

    [skipping all the sad, irrelevant ad hominems… looking for something that resembles an argument… blah blah blah… ah, here we go]

    My position, which you know very well, has always been that there are basically two compatible definitions of intelligence, both of which involve the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end.

    And in that case, rivers are clearly intelligent, since they consistently choose the alternative of lowest altitude for the sake of finding a path to the sea. Right? (Are you sure your notion of intelligence does not entail free will?)

    One contains the element of “consciousness,” the other does not. The difference, which is very mild indeed, will depend on the paradigm being used.

    I don’t know what you mean here.

    Your question can’t possibly be answered until you say how to test for intelligent agency!!!
    That’s just silly. You have always had my definition of intelligence on the record.

    You’ve given me lots of them, Stephen, and others here have given me at least a dozen more.

    Anyway, you certainly have provided your one, single definition for the term now (well I guess you said there were two, but you haven’t explained the one that has to do with consciousness yet). And in response I’ve pointed out that unless you add some requirement for non-deterministic/non-random action (free will), you are forced to conclude that all sorts of phenomena that nobody considers “intelligent” would meet your definition. What is your response to that?

    My question cannot be answered because the anti-ID partisans, of which you are one, cannot support their claim that it is necessary to understand context in order to detect design.

    No, that is not my argument. For that 1,249,391st time, my argument is not about what is required to “detect design”. Rather, my argument is that nobody can say what it means for something to be caused by “intelligence”.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  154. RDFish: There is no evidence that thunderclouds understand electrical engineering, even though human beings use electrical engineering to accomplish the same thing. It would be very silly to conclude this, even if nothing else was known to be able to produce electrical arcs. Likewise, it is unwarranted to conclude that a series of prime numbers coming from outer space, without any other evidence (such as, say, a transmission origin of a temperate planet with water and organic compounds, etc), would support an abductive inference to a conscious entity responsible for that series of numbers.

    In the first case, we understand a bit about how thunderclouds work. And we understand a bit about electricity. We have sufficient reason to make the inference that thunderclouds do not required, and probably do not possess, an “understanding” of how to make a thunderbold.

    In your second case, we only have one known source: human brains that have certain rational capabilities. Given what we know, why is it not the best inference at this time that the source of the first 100 primes would not be generated by something with the same kind of rational human-like powers? Is it possible that some other kind of source could generate it? We have absolutely no evidence based reason to think so. Hence the whole “best inference at this time” thing, which for some reason you resist with all your might.

    It’s merely hyper-skepticism on parade to deny the ID inference is the most reasonable one in the case of the first 100 primes from space.

  155. RDF:

    There is no evidence that thunderclouds understand electrical engineering, even though human beings use electrical engineering to accomplish the same thing. It would be very silly to conclude this, even if nothing else was known to be able to produce electrical arcs

    You’ve definitely put the absurdum in reductio ad absurdum. 😛

    See #148 above.

  156. Hi William J Murray,

    Flagella are the result of an intentional cause.
    Flagella are the result of a deliberate cause.
    Flagella are the result of an agency arranging materials and forces towards a conceptual goal.

    Bravo, WJM – thank you for attempting to move forward in response to my critique!

    Now that you have restated these claims of ID, the remaining task is to explain how these specific attributes can be verified in causes with which we have no opportunity to interact. But before we get to that, I must ask for a qualification: Do these attributes (intentionality, deliberateness, and having conceptual goals) necessarily imply conscious awareness, or could something without any consciousness also exhibit these attributes?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  157. Hi Vishnu,

    RDF: There is no evidence that thunderclouds understand electrical engineering, even though human beings use electrical engineering to accomplish the same thing. It would be very silly to conclude this, even if nothing else was known to be able to produce electrical arcs.
    VISHNU: In the first case, we understand a bit about how thunderclouds work.

    You seem to have missed the bolded part of my sentence. It was a counterfactual conditional.

    It’s merely hyper-skepticism on parade to deny the ID inference is the most reasonable one in the case of the first 100 primes from space.

    No, it certainly is not hyper-skepticism. Not only do I deny we could draw any warranted inferences about the source, but I also argue that “the ID inference” is underspecified to the point of meaninglessness.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  158. 159

    RDF,

    It might help some on this thread understand you better if you’d clarify some of the statements you make. For instance, when you make a claims against ID, you often make statements such as:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    What characteristic of activity are you isolating by your use of the word “intelligent”, and how is that related to the production of CSI?

  159. SB: My position, which you know very well, has always been that there are basically two compatible definitions of intelligence, both of which involve the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end.

    And in that case, rivers are clearly intelligent, since they consistently choose the alternative of lowest altitude for the sake of finding a path to the sea. Right?

    No. The last time I checked, rivers do not have the capacity to make selections or anticipate their consequences. But thank you for playing.

    Are you sure that your definition of intelligence does not entail free will?)

    We have been through all this before. Dembski’s definition, which does not contain the element of consciousness (the weaker claim), does not necesarily entail free will. That is the definition that I applied to your question, given the paradigm you alluded to. Meyer’s definition, which does contain the element of consciousness, and which applies to a different paradigm, could be interpreted to imply free will. However, since the concept of free will is not specifically included in the definition, it is open to interpretation. Accordingly, it becomes a philosophical question.

    So, we have two philosophical questions to address:

    The weaker definition: (Dembski): Can an impersonal telic process, as defined, make selections in the absence of free will. Well, the question answers itself. By definition, to be impersonal is to lack the faculty of free will.

    The stronger definition: (Meyer): Can a conscious agent make meaningful choices in the absence of free will. I would say no. A conscious agent who makes choices would seem to be a person who is using his faculty of free will.

    Those are my philosophical interpretations of the scientific definitions that have been put forward. It is important to recognize, however, despite your protests to the contrary, that the stronger definition does not in any way contradict the weaker definition. That is another RDF strawman.

    You’ve given me lots of them, Stephen, and others here have given me at least a dozen more.

    I have given you the definitions from the scientists who designed the paradigms to which they apply.

    SB: My question cannot be answered because the anti-ID partisans, of which you are one, cannot support their claim that it is necessary to understand context in order to detect design.

    No, that is not my argument.

    It may not be your specific argument, but it is the subject matter of this thread, your own personal agenda notwithstanding. This isn’t the RDFish show.

    Meanwhile, none of Feser’s supporters have addressed the topic.

  160. Hi StephenB,

    My position, which you know very well, has always been that there are basically two compatible definitions of intelligence, both of which involve the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end. [my emphasis]

    …The last time I checked, rivers do not have the capacity to make selections or anticipate their consequences.

    Well, in your one final canonical definition of “intelligence” that you’ve given, you failed to mention anything about “anticipating consequences”. So now you’d like to add that stipulation? That’s fine – no problem. Are there any other additions or modifications you’d like to make before you settle on the meaning of this term “intelligence” (upon which the entire ID project rests)?

    Next, you are only half right: Rivers certainly do not appear to anticipate anything, but they do select the lowest path out of all possible alternatives for the sake of finding a path to the sea. Likewise, lightning bolts generally select, out of all possible alternatives, the shortest path to ground. Planets select, out of all possible alternatives, orbits that sweep out equal areas in equal amounts of time. And so on.

    So can we agree that your definition does not turn on the ability to make selections for the sake of some end, but rather on this notion that the result must be anticipated? And to save a bit of time, will you clarify whether or not these anticipations must be conscious? And if not, can you explain what an unconscious anticipation might be?

    So, we have two philosophical questions to address:

    I should think you’d know by now I am not interested in debating philosophy here.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  161. RDFish:

    Rather, my argument is that nobody can say what it means for something to be caused by “intelligence”

    You ignore everyone who tells you what it means for something to be caused by intelligence.

    You are a sad and pathetic little person.

  162. 163

    By the way RDFish, you should know that you are all by yourself on the “no possible inference from 100 primes” blithering nonsense. Even Elizabeth Liddle admits an inference can be drawn here. See her response here.

    Barry:

    If you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 would you conclude (provisionally pending the discovery a better theory, of course) that the best theory to account for the data is “the signal was designed and sent by an intelligent agent”?

    Liddle

    Yes. And I’ve explained why.

  163. Hi Barry Arrington,

    By the way RDFish, you should know that you are all by yourself on the “no possible inference from 100 primes” blithering nonsense.

    I’m afraid your arguments are just getting worse and worse. Do you really need to resort to argumentum ad populum at this point, because you can’t think of any way to respond to my argument? Apparently so.

    Perhaps you think thunderclouds really do understand electrical engineering?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  164. 165

    RDF, you might have missed my post earlier. Here it is again for your convenience:

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    It might help some on this thread understand you better if you’d clarify some of the statements you make. For instance, when you make a claims against ID, you often make statements such as:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    What characteristic of activity are you isolating by your use of the word “intelligent”, and how is that related to the production of CSI?

  165. RDFish, If Elizabeth Liddle agrees to a design inference that means that one of the most reluctant people in the world wrt granting design inferences agrees. There are only unscientific reasons to not grant a design inference for the given scenario. That is the point Barry was making.

  166. RDFish:

    I should think you’d know by now I am not interested in debating philosophy here.

    And yet all of your complaints are philosophical in nature. Strange…

  167. REFish said:

    I went on to explain, with examples that served as reductios to your reasoning, why it would be an unwarranted abductive inference to conclude that conscious reasoning was responsible for some phenomenon simply because human beings use conscious reasoning to accomplish the same thing.

    Absent any other significant theory, there’s no reason to avoid “conscious reasoning” as best explanation if it’s the only thing currently known to produce similar phenomena.

  168. Upright BiPed:

    RDF, you might have missed my post earlier.

    Or he might be intentionally ignoring it. RDFish has a comfort zone that he’s quite unwilling to depart from.

  169. Upright BiPed:

    This conversation is ripe for people talking past each other.

    Or machines!

  170. OP: Do we need a context to identify a message as the product of an intelligent being?

    One strand of thought appears to be that messages are only produced by intelligent agents. But there seems to be disagreement over whether context is required to identify a message. On this view the question raised by the OP can be reduced to:

    Do we need a context to identify a message?

    It’s simply agreed that a message implies an intelligent agent, so the latter half of the question in the OP is superfluous.

    A different strand of thought is that messages are not the sole domain of intelligent agents.

    If this view is correct, does it not follow that context is required to distinguish between the two?

  171. RDFish:

    ou can’t simply enumerate the things you consider “natural” – I’ve asked what specifically divides things into “natural” vs. “not natural”.

    Welcome to the party!

    God, a being which cannot not exist, is the most natural being that could possibly exist.

    Any being which is not God is unnatural.

  172. RDFish:

    So in your view, something would be intelligent if it emitted a series of encoded prime numbers, even if it could do nothing else?

    RDFish:

    The only known source of such a series is a human source.

    i.e., an intelligent source.

  173. RDFish:

    My claim here is that absolutely no other inference is warranted – we can make no justified conclusions regarding any characteristics of this extra-terrestrial source of prime numbers. All we could say is that some completely unknown sort of thing produced the primes.

    RDFish:

    The only known source of such a series is a human source.

    Moron.

  174. RDFish @ 164

    because you can’t think of any way to respond to my argument?

    This from someone who *twice* fails to even recognize his own arguments, in his own text. There is no further need for us to respond to your arguments, you’ve shot yourself in both feet while we watched.

    Left foot most recently:
    In comparing Arrington’s post 128 against RDFish’s response in post 129, we can all see that RDFish mischaracterizes Arrington’s 4 points.

    When Arrington in post 131 then corrects RDFish’s mischaracterization, RDFish blunders when he fails in his response post 133 to even recognize that it was his own mischaracterized argument, his own text, that Arrington had corrected and that Arrington never altered or restated his original 4 points from post 128. RDFish further blunders in mischaracterizing Arrington’s plainly abductive reasoning by reiterating RDFish’s misapplied deductive examples from RDFish’s post 129.

    When Arrington in post 145 points out RDFish’s failure to even comprehend the abductive reasoning in Arrington’s correction (in post 131) of RDFish’s faulty logic (in post 129), RDFish then in post 152 blithely repeats his blunder by reapplying a flawed deductive example to Arrington’s abductive argument.

    Right foot earlier:
    Charles in post 116 to vjtorley, exposes the RDFish’s misinformed bluff that Cicadas mate on prime number intervals is neither accurate nor has anything to do with the meaning of “prime”.

    Charles responds to RDFish posts 117 & 118 in 120 that RDFish’s error was in assuming no deviation from the values of 13 and 17 years, as well as being intellectually dishonest.

    Then RDFish in post 122 distorts and mischaracterizes Charles’ full quote to deflect the subject away from RDFish’s erroneous reliance on the values of 13 and 17 years, attempting instead to recharacterize a partial quote of Charles’ as a red-herring for evidence of prime numbers which Charles never argued.

    Charles exposes RDFish’s deliberate evasion and distortions in post 124 quoting RDFish’s earlier posts 85 & 113 wherein RDFish cited “cicadas mating on prime number intervals”

    RDFish admits in post 126 he “elided” the qualifying text from Charles’ quote, but fails to recognize that the stripped qualifers reflected RDFish’s own citations in his own posts, and then continues to blithely argue against his own evidence of non-intelligent, unreasoning prime numbers for missing his own point that intelligence can’t be inferred from prime numbers, which Charles points out in post 127.

  175. Hi William J Murray,

    Absent any other significant theory, there’s no reason to avoid “conscious reasoning” as best explanation if it’s the only thing currently known to produce similar phenomena.

    First, it is not “conscious reasoning” per se that produces such things – it is “human beings”. So if you’d like to conclude that some known cause is responsible, you ought to conclude that human beings exist in other places besides Earth. If that offends your sensibilities somehow, then the next most reasonable guess would be some human-like life form. But you want to dispense with all of that, and abandon our vast empirical experience that all reasoning is in fact embodied, and instead opt for an explanation that is open to include your favored option, which is some conscious being that is not anything resembling a form of biological life as we know it.

    So the question is not whether we should avoid “conscious reasoning” as an explanation, but rather whether or not there is any evidence to conclude (scientifically, that is) that the source of such a phenomenon was necessarily conscious. I think my examples show such a conclusion is not warranted. If one is talking about picking a favored philosophical – or theological – view, rather than making a scientific claim, then of course that’s a different story. But in that case, the term “Intelligent Design Theory” is misleading.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  176. Hi Upright Biped,

    I don’t know where you found that quote, but I believe that in that context, by “intelligent activity” I meant “the action of human beings or other animals”. Since ID provides no canonical definitions for such terms, both ID proponents and critics use them to mean all sorts of different things – which is one of my primary criticisms of ID.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  177. 178

    RDF,

    I meant “the action of human beings or other animals”.

    Uh huh. So if a human being or other animal passes waste, that is what you mean by the ability to produce CSI.

    “CSI-rich systems invariably arise from a human being or other animal passing waste.”

    Is that the characteristic that you had in mind? If not, then what is?

  178. RDF,

    Hi Upright Biped,

    So if a human being or other animal passes waste, that is what you mean by the ability to produce CSI.

    Huh? I said that CSI was invariably the result of intelligent activity, not that the result of all intelligent activity was invariably CSI. Unless, of course, you consider human waste to contain high levels of CSI? I know that CSI is a rather subjective metric, but still…

    In any event, if you’d like to make some point then do it. Otherwise it seems you’re simply attempting to prove my point for me: ID is unable to provide one single, consistent definition for “intelligent cause” that is both meaningful and empirically accessible in the context of ID. If you disagree, simply say what you think that definition might be. (Prediction: You will do no such thing of course).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  179. 180

    I said that CSI was invariably the result of intelligent activity, not that the result of all intelligent activity was invariably CSI.

    Great. Can you now explain what characteristic of activity you are isolating by your use of the word “intelligent”, and how is that related to the production of CSI?

  180. Hi Upright Biped,

    You asked what I meant in the quote you found in the other thread, and I told you. Then you suggested that what I said implied that the act of defecation produced CSI, and I explained to you why you were mistaken.

    I asked you to say what point you were trying to make, but you have failed to do so. I explained that by questioning what definition I was using for “intelligent activity”, you were actually supporting my critique of ID… and you failed to respond to that either.

    If you’d like to continue discussing this with me, you’ll have to actually participate in the discussion.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  181. 182

    This is rather simple RD, you said:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    And I am simply asking you to explain what characteristic of activity you are isolating by your use of the word “intelligent”, and how that is related to the production of CSI?

    I think anyone can see it is a simple and reasonable question.

  182. RDFish said:

    First, it is not “conscious reasoning” per se that produces such things – it is “human beings”. So if you’d like to conclude that some known cause is responsible, you ought to conclude that human beings exist in other places besides Earth.

    In human beings, it is the capacity to consciously reason that makes us able to produce CSI-rich artifacts. Being blind, mute, paralyzed, sociopathic, or suffering from any of a wide host of physical deformities or incapacities (like Stephen Hawking) doesn’t destroy one’s capacity to produce CSI-rich artifacts. Unless a very specific human capacity/trait is compromised – our ability to consciously reason, or intelligently intend towards a conceptual goal – however that specific trait is labeled – we don’t expect such otherwise disabled humans to be unable to produce CSI-rich artifacts, even if they require assistance to do so (like Hawking).

    So yes, it is in fact that particular trait which we are here calling “conscious reasoning”, per se, that appears to produce such things, because you can strip a lot of other things out of a human being and deform it considerably, but until you take away one’s capacity to “consciously reason”, we can usually still produce CSI-rich artifacts.

    So, it is appropriate to use the term “consciously reason”, or some such term (ID), when we see evidence that is of the same quality as that which is specifically caused by human “conscious reason”, but in a location where humans are not known to exist, and where it is highly improbably that they existed. There is no reason to insist that humans are the only entities that can employ “conscious reasoning” to generate CSI-rich artifacts.

  183. RDFish:

    ID is unable to provide one single, consistent definition for “intelligent cause” that is both meaningful and empirically accessible in the context of ID.

    YOU are a LIAR! I did exactly that, you agreed and then ran away like the lying coward that you are.

    You have no shame and obviously no brain.

    Who would want to participate in a discussion with you when all you do is lie, cry and obfuscate? You are the epitome of insipidity.

    The only reason you are allowed to post here is so that people can see the ignorance of the anti-ID ilk.

  184. Hi William J Murray,

    In human beings, it is the capacity to consciously reason that makes us able to produce CSI-rich artifacts.

    I think this statement is wrong on two counts, actually. First, those in cognitive psychology as well as many philosophers of mind will explain that we actually do not know whether the conscious awareness that accompanies our reasoning is causal or perceptual. In other words, we cannot say that our consciousness causes the reasults of our reasoning, rather than experiences them. If the latter were the case, then if something vastly different from a human being was capable of reasoning (something, say, that lacked the physical correlates of consciousness we observe in the human brain), then they would not also necessarily experience consciousness.

    Second, what I said was that it is not conscious reasoning per se (which means in or by itself) that results in our technology; it obviously must be accompanied by our complex physical bodies in order to actually construct technological mechanisms, or even (in Hawking’s case) dictate a book.

    Finally, it is your form of argument that insists we ought to refer to a known cause of various phenomena for explanation when we lack direct evidence of what is responsible. I have pointed out with various examples that this is an unreliable method, and that conclusions reached in this fashion ought not to be considered to be scientific results (as ID claims its “theory” reaches).

    Thus, the known cause you ought to invoke for extra-terrestrial prime series should indeed be a human being. For what reason would you reject that as the best explanation? Do you have some evidence that human beings could not be present on other planets besides Earth?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  185. RDFish- You only think that you have pointed out with various examples that this is an unreliable method. Your “examples” are nonsensical at best and demonstrate a total lack of understanding in how scientific inferences are reached. Please look up “Uniforitarinism”.

    Look just because you have a very limited sense of what can and cannot be inferred given the evidence doesn’t mean all of us have to have those same limitations.

  186. “Thus, Behe concludes on the basis of our knowledge of present cause-and-effect relationships (in accord with the standard uniformitarian method employed in the historical sciences) that the molecular machines and complex systems we observe in cells can be best explained as the result of an intelligent cause.

    In brief, molecular motors appear designed because they were designed”- Pg. 72 of Darwinism, Design and Public Education

  187. 188

    RD you seem to have an aversion to answering a very reasonable question about your position.

    Again, you stated:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    Now certainly …. it is no stretch to say that you’ve made a small career here at UD, asking ID proponents to define their use of words. I am simply asking you to explain what characteristic of activity you are isolating by your use of the word “intelligent”, and how that is related to the production of CSI?

    It is a reasonable request.

  188. Hi Upright BiPed,

    I’ve already told you once, and now I’ll tell you for the last time: If you’d like to discuss these issues, then you will need to participate in the discussion. That means that besides your continuing to make up questions and demand I answer them to your satisfaction, you also must explain what point you are making, and respond to the points and questions that I raise.

    I have asked a very reasonable question of you that you have refused to ever answer: Can you provide a consistent definition for “intelligent cause” that is both meaningful and empirically accessible in the context of ID? Again, your attempt to show that I have no such definition is quite an odd thing for you to do, since that is simply proving my point for me.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  189. intelligence (edited to try to avoid any confusion)

    1a (1) : the ability to deal with new or trying situations :
    (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment

  190. RDF said:

    I think this statement is wrong on two counts, actually. First, those in cognitive psychology as well as many philosophers of mind will explain that we actually do not know whether the conscious awareness that accompanies our reasoning is causal or perceptual. In other words, we cannot say that our consciousness causes the reasults of our reasoning, rather than experiences them.

    One can similarly question the cause and effect nature of anything we observe or experience. One can bring up all sorts of philosophical, psychological possibilities and theories that would undermine all sorts of conventions we use in every day life and science. You are apply selective hyperskepticism here.

    I have pointed out with various examples that this is an unreliable method, and that conclusions reached in this fashion ought not to be considered to be scientific results (as ID claims its “theory” reaches).

    One can offer “various examples” where every and any investigative and research technique has failed or has produced false or misleading results. So? You are displaying selective hyperskepticism here. A method doesn’t have to be 100% effective or certain to provide the best explanation available.

    For what reason would you reject that as the best explanation? Do you have some evidence that human beings could not be present on other planets besides Earth?

    Part of being the “best explanation” is also being the most efficient explanation. Your selectively hyperskeptical objections and possibilities aside, we know (inasmuch as we know anything) conscious reasoning in humans generates CSI-rich artifacts. Therefore, the most efficient explanation is that “conscious reasoning” is the source of the signal. The source may in fact be a human, or it may be some other entity capable of conscious reasoning/ID.

  191. 192

    RD,

    You made a statement on this forum under the exercise of your own free will to do so. You were establishing the details of an argument you wanted to present. In doing so, you stated:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    But now, asked to clarify what you mean by the use of those words, you simply refuse to answer.

    And if your current tack is to be believed, you have no earthly idea why you used those words – no idea what characteristic of activity you were isolating by your use of the word “intelligent”, and no idea how those characteristic(s) are related to the production of CSI.

    It is simply not a credible answer.

  192. Unless RDFish answers UB’s pertinent, revealing question, I’d say RDFiush has been outed as a trollish fraud here.

  193. I, too, would be interested in RD’s answer to UB’s question.

  194. I, too, would be interested in RD’s answer to UB’s question.

  195. Ditto: I, too, would be interested in RD’s answer to UB’s question. KF

  196. Hi William J Murray, Vishnu, and StephenB,

    Unless RDFish answers UB’s pertinent, revealing question, I’d say RDFish has been outed as a trollish fraud here.

    Temper, temper! I can always tell when my arguments frustrate my debating partners – they always get so angry!

    UB’s question is utterly beside the point here, but I’ll be happy to answer it for you, simply to frustrate you further 🙂

    But first, I think it is hilarious that you ask me to tell you what the term “intelligence” means!

    Anyway, here is the actual explanation:

    I have a number of different arguments that defeat ID, and I’ve demonstrated them here repeatedly. One of them is that ID is incapable of providing a coherent, meaningful, and empirically accessible definition for “intelligent” that will render its central claim scientifically valid. As I have explained endlessly (literally hundreds of times!), ID uses the term “intelligence” without a definition, relying on our unstated, implicit, intuitive understanding of the word that derives from our experience of, and as, human beings. That meaning works fine in the context of normal conversation among human beings, but fails as a scientific definition of the sole explanatory concept of a supposedly scientific theory. There is no other scientific theory that relies on an informal, intuitive concept as its central explanatory concept, for good reason: It means it cannot be determined whether or not the theory is true.

    In the thread that UB found my quote, I was making another argument about why ID fails. (I honestly don’t know which argument it was – perhaps that human mental ability requires complex physical state machines? UB, can you show where you got that quote from?) In any event, I refered to “intelligent activity” as the only known source of CSI so that I could go on to make some other argument. I did this in the manner that ID itself uses that term – undefined, implicit, and unstated – relying on nothing but our intuitive notions of human experience and abilities. I said that in our experience, CSI always arises from intelligent activity, because that is what ID folks argue, and because that statement even without a defined meaning for the term “intelligent activity”, leads ID proponents into yet another contradiction.

    Again: The meaning that I was using for that term is the same meaning the ID proponents have in their head when they say the same thing. Unfortunately for ID, that meaning cannot be distilled into a useful explanatory construct in a scientific theory.

    So, William, Steven, and Vishnu – it behooves all of you to say what ID means when it talks about intelligent activity, and it simply won’t do to leave that task up to me. Please do answer my question: What is the single, canonical definition of ID’s central explanatory term, intelligence?

    If you all refuse to answer, I suppose we can see who are the “trollish frauds” in the end, eh? 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  197. RDFish said:

    Please do answer my question: What is the single, canonical definition of ID’s central explanatory term, intelligence?

    If you all refuse to answer, I suppose we can see who are the “trollish frauds” in the end, eh?

    I never claimed there was a single, “canonical” definition of intelligence in the first place. I don’t see where anyone else did, either. Red herring.

  198. RDFish said:

    In the thread that UB found my quote, I was making another argument about why ID fails. (I honestly don’t know which argument it was – perhaps that human mental ability requires complex physical state machines? UB, can you show where you got that quote from?)

    In the above, RDFish admits he doesn’t know where the quote came from or what argument he was making when he made the statement UB quoted.

    Amazingly, though, without any of that context, RDfish still knows what he meant when he made the statement and why he made it:

    In any event, I refered to “intelligent activity” as the only known source of CSI so that I could go on to make some other argument. I did this in the manner that ID itself uses that term – undefined, implicit, and unstated – relying on nothing but our intuitive notions of human experience and abilities. I said that in our experience, CSI always arises from intelligent activity, because that is what ID folks argue, and because that statement even without a defined meaning for the term “intelligent activity”, leads ID proponents into yet another contradiction.

    How can RDFish possibly know all this about his statement without even knowing what argument he was making or the context it was made in? It looks to me like he just made up an ad hoc explanation for his use of the term to avoid the looming problem it presents.

    I also wonder what RDFish meant when he used the term “intelligence” in these examples:

    RDFish said:

    We agree that our universal experience suggests that all intelligence requires CSI-rich structure.

    ………..

    Rather, my argument is simply that in order to be consistent with our experience, any sort of intelligent agent that ID posits must be (perhaps among other things) a complex physical entity, just like all the other intelligent agents in our experience.

    ………

    Intelligent activity ALWAYS requires mechanism, and mechanism ALWAYS requires intelligent activity.

    …..

    Wrong again. I didn’t say the “inference to design” is not supported by our universal experience. I said the a priori probability of disembodied intelligent beings is low, and thus any hypothesis that involves such things would require good evidence in order to warrant concluding in its favor, and that we have no such evidence.

    ….

    Whenever we observe intelligent behavior, that behavior is invariably exhibited by something that is – whatever else it may be – a CSI-rich physical being which cannot exhibit intelligent behavior without CSI-rich mechanism. In other words, CSI-rich mechanism is necessary, if not sufficient, for intelligent activity.

    If intelligence isn’t even properly defined, what on Earth is RDFish referring to, and what does he mean, in the above statements? How can he make an argument specifically about intelligence if it isn’t even defined to his satisfaction in terms of the argument? He claims he’s using it in the same sense that ID advocates use the term, but is now apparently making the case that ID advocates don’t even have an agreed-upon, “canonical” definition, so how could he possibly know that he was using it the same way “ID advocates” use it?

    RDFish, you don’t have arguments; you have a set of semantic diversions and red herrings. You’ll gladly use the term “intelligent” without challenging the meaning of the term to make some case that we must conclude that all intelligent agents are themselves CSI-rich mechanisms, and then later on challenge the term “intelligent” as if it has no valid meaning in terms of the ID argument.

    You can’t have it both ways, RDFish. If, as you say,

    ID is unable to provide one single, consistent definition for “intelligent cause” that is both meaningful and empirically accessible in the context of ID.

    …. then what were you talking about when you made the above comments?

  199. RDF

    The meaning that I was using for that term is the same meaning the ID proponents have in their head when they say the same thing. Unfortunately for ID, that meaning cannot be distilled into a useful explanatory construct in a scientific theory.

    But you claimed that ID proponents all have different and contradictory ideas about what intelligence means. Now you are saying that they all have the same definition “in their head” and that is the one that you mean.

    Further, you said that ID’s definition of intelligence is incomprehensible; no one “knows what it means.” How, then, can you say that ID’s definition is your definition if you don’t know what it means?

    Recall, we are asking for the meanings of terms that you use in your arguments. If the terms you use in support of your arguments are meaningless to you, then your arguments are meaningless to everyone.

  200. Hi William J Murray,

    How can RDFish possibly know all this about his statement without even knowing what argument he was making or the context it was made in?

    Uh, because I know what think about the problems with term “intelligent activity” as a scientific explanation, William, and I’ve been making these same arguments for years. What is wrong with you?

    If intelligence isn’t even properly defined, what on Earth is RDFish referring to, and what does he mean, in the above statements?

    I repeat for your convenience:

    RDF: As I have explained endlessly (literally hundreds of times!), ID uses the term “intelligence” without a definition, relying on our unstated, implicit, intuitive understanding of the word that derives from our experience of, and as, human beings. That meaning works fine in the context of normal conversation among human beings, but fails as a scientific definition of the sole explanatory concept of a supposedly scientific theory. There is no other scientific theory that relies on an informal, intuitive concept as its central explanatory concept, for good reason: It means it cannot be determined whether or not the theory is true. (emphasis added)

    What part of this are you unable to understand?

    It really is amazing the extent to which you will go to avoid facing the truth that I have presented to you. You could simply defeat my argument by telling me what how Intelligent Design theory distinguishes intelligent causes from unintelligent causes, and thereby offers a empirically-based theory that tells us what sort of thing is responsible for biological complexity. But you are unable to do that. Instead, you point to my use of the word and pretend that I have accomplished this task for you! But I have not – not because I don’t want to, but because it is impossible to do.

    You can’t name one single scientific theory that offers “intelligence” as an explanation for anything, William. Archeologists infer that human beings built the pyramids, not some unknown member of the abstract set of “intelligent agents” that exist in your imagination.

    How can he make an argument specifically about intelligence if it isn’t even defined to his satisfaction in terms of the argument? He claims he’s using it in the same sense that ID advocates use the term, but is now apparently making the case that ID advocates don’t even have an agreed-upon, “canonical” definition, so how could he possibly know that he was using it the same way “ID advocates” use it?

    I’ve explained this so many times it is truly astonishing. Once again (thank goodness for copy-and-paste):

    RDF: As I have explained endlessly (literally hundreds of times!), ID uses the term “intelligence” without a definition, relying on our unstated, implicit, intuitive understanding of the word that derives from our experience of, and as, human beings. That meaning works fine in the context of normal conversation among human beings, but fails as a scientific definition of the sole explanatory concept of a supposedly scientific theory. There is no other scientific theory that relies on an informal, intuitive concept as its central explanatory concept, for good reason: It means it cannot be determined whether or not the theory is true. (emphasis added)

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  201. Hi StephenB,

    But you claimed that ID proponents all have different and contradictory ideas about what intelligence means. Now you are saying that they all have the same definition “in their head” and that is the one that you mean.

    Of course, StephenB – as you’ve seen yourself so many times, when I press people to articulate this vague notion of “intelligence”, they fall all over themselves with contradictory and inconsistent responses! And that includes you, in this very thread!

    With great confidence you said here that “intelligence” means “the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end”. But as soon as I pointed out that this definition includes rivers as intelligent agents, you immediately modified your definition yet again, this time to include the requirement that intelligence entails the ability to “anticipate their consequences”! And when I asked you if “anticipation” requires conscious awareness – or if there could be unconscious anticipation – your response was …. run and hide, as always!

    So yes, ID uses this vague notion that we all use for description, but that is entirely unusable for an explanation, and this only becomes evident when anyone is asked to actually articulate what it is that they mean!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  202. All,

    Dance all you want, gentlemen, but it could not possibly be clearer. You are desperately clinging to this hope that because I – like every English speaker – uses the word “intelligence” in informal descriptive usage, that means the word has a technical meaning that can serve as a scientific explanation for observed phenomenon. Your hope is in vain. I will leave you with yet another illustration of this that I have used for years, without counter-argument:

    The term “intelligence” is a vague reference to various individual mental abilities, in the very same way that the word “athleticism” is a vague reference to various physical abilities. We all use the term in conversation without problem, because we are simply being descriptive. But can I explain anything with that term? Let’s see…

    Q: How does Michael Jordan manage to sink baskets so well?
    A: Athleticism!
    Q: How does Phil Mickelson drive the ball so far?
    A: Athelticsm!
    Q: How does the cheetah run so fast?
    A: Athleticism!

    These are not explanations at all, of course – they tell us absolutely nothing. They simply restate the facts of our observation. The very same thing is true when ID attempts to explain things by invoking the term “intelligence”:

    Q: How does Stephen Hawking develop his theories?
    A: Intelligence!
    Q: How did DNA come to exist?
    A: Intelligence!
    and so on.

    The term tells us precisely nothing about what was involved – again, it is simply a restatement of our observation.

    The only reason it is clear (hopefully!) in the case of athleticism, but not (to you) in the case of intelligence, is because you implicitly associate various specific attributes (consciousness, free will, linguistic abilities, etc) or dualistic notions (soul, res cogitans) with the latter term.

    It is my hope that somebody – anybody – here has the integrity and the intelligence to understand this point, at long last.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  203. RDF

    Of course, StephenB – as you’ve seen yourself so many times, when I press people to articulate this vague notion of “intelligence”, they fall all over themselves with contradictory and inconsistent responses! And that includes you, in this very thread!

    Hilarious! You said that your definition was the one that ID uses and also the many that ID uses. Your schizophrenia is dripping. Let’s start again from the beginning. What is your definition of “intelligent activity?” What does it include and what does it exclude. A simple declarative sentence will do.

    With great confidence you said here that “intelligence” means “the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end”.

    Well, of course. I know the meanings of the words I use. That is one of the big differences between us. Tell me this, though: Are you too confused to articulate your own definition, or are you too timid to share it in its undeveloped form?

    But as soon as I pointed out that this definition includes rivers as intelligent agents, you immediately modified your definition yet again

    That’s silly. My definition did not change nor does it include rivers or lightning bolts. Rivers and lighting bolts do not make selections. But thank you for playing.

    However, you are running away from the question. What is your definition of “intelligent activity?” There is no reason to drag this out. All you have to do is either define your terms or tell us that you really don’t know what your terms mean.

  204. Hi StephenB,

    You said that your definition was the one that ID uses and also the many that ID uses. Your schizophrenia is dripping.

    Please – you aren’t even trying. Not even a little. Just relax, stop trying to win, and instead try to understand. What I said ID proponents think of is a vague descriptive label. When pressed to give specific definitions, they give all sorts of different answers – many contradictory ones – and none of which enable ID to specify what it is that they offer as the best explanation for biological complexity.

    Read that a few times. It is not complicated, and it is true. I hold out hope that you can understand it.

    What is your definition of “intelligent activity?” What does it include and what does it exclude. A simple declarative sentence will do.

    Intelligent Activity: A vague descriptive term referring to particular, unspecified abilities that may include things such as learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, composing music, and so on and so on.

    Now read this and again, instead of trying to avoid losing the debate, just try to understand what this means: Like “athleticism”, “intelligence” is a vague descriptive term. “Athleticism” refers to various primarily physical abilities (running, jumping, lifting, throwing, etc), and “intelligence” refers to various primarily mental abilities (learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, etc). Neither of these terms are suitable as explanations for anything, and they are never used as explanations for anything – except in ID.

    Are you too confused to articulate your own definition, or are you too timid to share it in its undeveloped form?

    I just did – but it is utterly bizarre that you demand one of me! What difference does it make what I want to use as a definition? I’m not the one pretending the ID is a scientific theory!

    RDF: But as soon as I pointed out that this definition includes rivers as intelligent agents, you immediately modified your definition yet again
    SB: That’s silly.

    Yes – it was very silly indeed! But it certainly is what you did – simply refer to post 154, where you declare the definition with no reference to “anticipation”, and post 160, where you complained that nothing could be intelligent if it didn’t “anticipate their consequences”.

    My definition did not change nor does it include rivers or lightning bolts. Rivers and lighting bolts do not make selections. But thank you for playing.

    Yes, they do make selections. A river could choose any path to the sea, but of all the possible paths, it selects the lowest one. Instead of just insisting that these are not “selections”, you’ll need to actually explain why not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  205. F/N: All of this would be amusing if it were not already on the table, that intelligence is a commonly encountered, observed and experienced phenomenon, one that we have composed tests for and routinely recognise when we see message not noise and when we implicitly infer that lucky noise is not a plausible explanation.

    RDF’s definitionitis selective hyperskepticism — so reminiscent of the logical positivists demanding operational definitions on pain of dismissal as “meaningless” [which failed as the verifiability principle failed its own test] — falls apart. He is an AI researcher, and it seems one of the tactics is to sufficiently cloud the issue that what is not intelligent can be passed off as intelligent.

    We see that with the river example.

    A river forks, say in a delta. Is that not a case of rational decision and if not, why not. (This is of course a known case of blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.)

    The underlying problem surfaces: RDF yet again wishes to conflate blind, GIGO-limited, cause-effect chain computation with self-aware, rational, meaning-focussed, rational-logical contemplation.

    After all his objections and attacks, it remains true that blind computation is not insightful contemplation. Indeed, given how computational substrates work based on blind cause effect chains, it remains true that this conflation is a case of hoping to get North by heading due West.

    As Reppert so aptly summmed up (and as has been cited and dodged repeatedly in the past few months):

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

    But, what is that suspect notion, intelligence, RDF hyperskeptically insists!

    Underlying: it’s invisible, so it’s suspect . . . a ghost in the machine.

    Problem is, machines that compute inherently cannot do what we experience and observe on a routine basis. Indeed, it is precisely the case that a threshold calculation easily shows on needle in haystack grounds, that blind chance and mechanical necessity cannot credibly emit the sort of FSCO/I that appears in post after post in this thread.

    Not least, repeatedly from RDF.

    But, the no concessions rhetorical tactic is sooo successful, neatly shifting burden of proof and always being able to dismiss at some convenient point. How clever!

    Selective hyperskepticism is a self refuting fallacy.

    We can rest assured RDF is proud of his certificates as indicating how clever, knowledgeable, skilled and qualified he is. All of which — never mind his rhetorical pose — he full well knows are manifestations of intelligence.

    And, just as predictably, he will studiously ignore or try to dismiss this corrective for record.

    So, let us note, we are not having a genuine conversation here, much less a serious discussion. The scorched earth rhetorical tactics of those we deal with have seen to that.

    Had RDF bothered to look at the UD WACs and glossary or had he gone to their source in Wiki (cited as speaking against ideological interest) he would have seen:

    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.” . . . .

    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.) . . . .

    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 agents 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 . . .

    That is a working vocab that is adequate for our purposes. Of course, when we look at the ideas put up by Meyer and Dembski, WmAD as usual is seeking to abstract out a core notion, and so has pared away the issue of self-aware consciousness as a critical component. Meyer leaves that in. This is pretty much as how WmAD abstracted out function in the definition of complex specified information, while in practical contexts function is in fact pretty central.

    What is important is that even with such abstraction, WmAD’s statement is fully compatible with Meyer’s. That is unsurprising, as he has sought to abstract. But of course, abstraction is an act of . . . intelligence, which RDF is determined not to see. At least when it does not suit him to see.

    Is the idea of a capacity that functions in a particular way and may be inferred from the signs of its presence rather than direct observation a new, suspect notion?

    Of course not.

    Information, which is not only observable but measurable, is recognised in much the same way.

    So is energy: if something has the ability to carry out or be transformed into work [directed, ordered forced motion] it is or contains energy.

    Time, too is invisible.

    Life cannot be defined in any precising or operational way, but it is recognisable and charactgerisable on signs and is the focus for major sciences.

    And so forth.

    So, absent selective hyperskepticism, there should not be a problem with intelligence being recognised as an analogue of energy that is capable of driving the effects we do see.

    But, definitionitis is such a useful rhetorical device, and can be so entertaining when one can play at the object and dismiss game to one’s convenience.

    Game over, RDF.

    KF

  206. Well said, KF. Intelligence has a useful, applicable, scientific meaning when RDFish is making an argument that it is only housed in a complex physical body, but when RDFish is making an argument that ID is not a specified enough concept to be scientific in the first place, suddenly the term “intelligence” has no useful, accepted meaning.

    What does evolution mean? What does “random” mutation mean? What does entropy mean? What does “matter” mean? What does it mean when biologists claim evolution is not a “guided” process? Should we run through the entire scientific lexicon to find every term that is subject to variant definitions and concepts within the scientific community and toss out all science conducted using terms that have no “single, canonical” definition?

    RDFish thinks it is some kind of huge deal that there is no “single, canonical definition” of the term “intelligence”, as if it must be reduced to an exact commodity in a formula in order for any scientific work or or rational argument to proceed from the theory and premise of Intelligent Design.

    Too bad he/she didn’t think of that before he/she used it in his/her own argument as if it had some sort of single, canonical definition. After UB points out this glaring self-contradiction, he/she is left trying to have his/her cake and eat it too, claiming he/she was using it “the same way” ID advocates use the phrase – as if ID advocates have a single, canonical definition of the the term.

    The only question left is if RDFish is perpetrating this self-contradictory, hyperskeptical nonsense deliberately, or if it is a matter of self-deception.

  207. KF, good to point out selective hyperskepticism.

    One wonders if RDFish is willing to accept “energy” as a scientific definition …

    Richard Feynman: It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is. We do not have a picture that energy comes in little blobs of a definite amount.

    Besides RDFish must be aware of the fact that in physics there are distinct and contradictory concepts of “matter”. It follows that, in RDF’s book, even “matter” cannot serve as scientific explanation.

  208. WJM & Box:

    Actually, it’s not just physics. Debates over meaning of core concepts and different vies — sometimes SHARPLY divergent — are a normal part of scholarship and thought.I am tempted to say to RDF, go buy a few dictionaries and look at how definitions diverge, then come back and tell us language is meaningless. Using language to do it.

    And of course, the fact that RDF’s comments exhibit how in our experience such is routinely and characteristically produced through intelligent design should not escape us.

    On a sadder note, we should see how impairments can undermine rationality and functioning intelligently, e.g. effects of progressive Alzheimer’s. It is painful to see someone you love slowly lose ability to reason, speak, or even eat.

    And yet throughout flashes show the same beloved is still there.

    The basic point still obtains: mechanical computational substrates inherently work by cause effect bonds not ground-consequent inference. That is why in part they are so patently lacking in discernment.

    And it is why mechanical models of economies with deterministic and stochastic elements persistently are of such limited utility. (It does not help that economies are so complex.)

    We need to open our eyes to receive reality, not insist on putting the telescope to an eye blinded by the a priories of a favoured theory, ideology or the like.

    I repeat, it is futile to try to get North by heading due West.

    KF

  209. F/N: The Free Dict collection on Intelligence:

    >> in·tel·li·gence (n-tl-jns)
    n.
    1.
    a. The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.
    b. The faculty of thought and reason.
    c. Superior powers of mind. See Synonyms at mind.
    2. An intelligent, incorporeal being, especially an angel.
    3. Information; news. See Synonyms at news.
    4.
    a. Secret information, especially about an actual or potential enemy.
    b. An agency, staff, or office employed in gathering such information.
    c. Espionage agents, organizations, and activities considered as a group: “Intelligence is nothing if not an institutionalized black market in perishable commodities” (John le Carré).

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
    intelligence (?n?t?l?d??ns)
    n
    1. (Psychology) the capacity for understanding; ability to perceive and comprehend meaning
    2. good mental capacity: a person of intelligence.
    3. news; information
    4. (Military) military information about enemies, spies, etc
    5. (Military) a group or department that gathers or deals with such information
    6. (often capital) an intelligent being, esp one that is not embodied
    7. (Military) (modifier) of or relating to intelligence: an intelligence network.
    [C14: from Latin intellegentia, from intellegere to discern, comprehend, literally: choose between, from inter- + legere to choose]
    in?telli?gential adj

    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
    in•tel•li•gence (?n?t?l ? d??ns)

    n.
    1. capacity for learning, reasoning, and understanding; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
    2. mental alertness or quickness of understanding.
    3. manifestation of a high mental capacity.
    4. the faculty or act of understanding.
    5. information received or imparted; news.
    6.
    a. secret information, esp. about an enemy or potential enemy.
    b. the gathering or distribution of such information.
    c. the evaluated conclusions drawn from such information.
    d. an organization engaged in gathering such information: military intelligence.
    7. (often cap.) an intelligent being or spirit, esp. an incorporeal one.
    [1350–1400; Middle English >

  210. Hi William J Murray,

    Rather than even attempt to respond to what I write, you now simply defer to others who haven’t read my posts or tried to understand my arguments.

    You ask “What does evolution mean?” It means change. What does Darwinian evolution mean? It means population change over time by means of random mutation and natural selection. What does natural selection mean? It means disproportionate reproduction due to heritable changes. What does random mutation mean? It means changes in heritable traits that are not correlated with reproductive advantage. I don’t even believe that evolutionary theory is true at all, yet each of its terms are defined quite clearly and precisely. In fact, the only way I could determine that evolutionary claims were false was because it was stated in a way that can be evaluated!

    You ask “What does it mean when biologists claim evolution is not a “guided” process?” I don’t think that means anything at all, and I object when they say that. Guided by what, I ask? However, this statement is not part of the explanation offered by evolutionary biology – it is a gratuitous and non-scientific statement that stupidly finds its way into textbooks.

    Should we run through the entire scientific lexicon to find every term that is subject to variant definitions and concepts within the scientific community and toss out all science conducted using terms that have no “single, canonical” definition?

    When those terms serve as an explanatory construct of a theory, then YES, by all means! Of course! Otherwise, we would have no science at all.

    So no, mine is not hyper skepticism in any form – quite the opposite. I recognize that scientific progress is the result of careful observation and unambiguous explanation, which has enabled us to actually determine which of our scientific beliefs are true. Science can’t address all questions by any means, but those it can are answered with a unique level of certainty. ID fans know this quite well, which is exactly why you are desperate to confer the prestige of scientific status upon your religious beliefs.

    Box asks “One wonders if RDFish is willing to accept “energy” as a scientific definition”. What a very telling question! Every concept in physics is defined with perfect rigor, without a hint of ambiguity. Energy is defined in terms of its effects (as I explained to StephenB in this very thread), and in such a way that predictions can be made and tested and confirmed – to thirteen significant digits! The point Feynmann was making is not that energy isn’t defined scientifically – it is that we can no longer intuitively conceptualize the rigorous, formal definitions that science has developed. That is the exact opposite of the case with ID – all ID has is a vague, ineffable intuitive conception of mind, which is entirely unsuited as any sort of scientific explanation. It lacks any definition that can be used to determine if the “theory” actually matches empirical reality.

    I know you won’t try and read and understand what I’ve read here – your eyes and minds are closed by the horror you feel that your religious certainty rests on quicksand. But I’m not challenging your religious beliefs. Just because ID isn’t a scientific endeavor doesn’t mean that it is wrong or stupid or crazy. While you rail angrily at “materialists” and “atheists” and “naturalists” and attack them as irrational fools, I have no such animus toward religious believers. I merely point out, over and over, in ways that are never discounted by rational discourse here, that it is foolish to think that these religious beliefs can be supported by empirical science.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  211. RDF:

    Box asks “One wonders if RDFish is willing to accept “energy” as a scientific definition”. What a very telling question! Every concept in physics is defined with perfect rigor, without a hint of ambiguity.

    That is the Physics of the idealised textbook imagination, not the on the ground reality of serious praxis and thought speaking, I am afraid.

    There is a commonplace definition used for energy, roughly operationalised as that which can be converted into work, but it is not a satisfactory complete definition of a truly fundamental concept. Rather, it is an admission that we have identified something important but can only grasp on to some of its effects.

    Energy is not the only thing like that, many concepts are in fact identified enough to measure them, and then have their fuller meaning drawn out by the role they play in the discipline through analysis and observation. Time, information, entropy, energy and more spring to mind.

    Let’s call this spiral definition, we start somewhere then the fullness of the meaning emerges and is embedded in the physicist’s intuition “by reason of use.”

    In biology as I have pointed out, life is notoriously difficult to define.

    Want of a precising or genus-difference definition is not a good basis for saying something is meaningless.

    And, intelligence is like that.

    KF

  212. PS: A simple example, starting with an “innocent” result of doing a bit of geometry on the cartesian plot of uniformly accelerated motion in Galilean kinematics:

    v^2 = u^2 + 2as

    rearrange:

    v^2 – u^2 = 2as

    Multiply through by m:

    m*(v^2 – u^2) = m* 2as

    Or:

    1/2 * m*(v^2 – u^2) = m*a *s

    NL2:

    1/2 * m *(v^2 – u^2) = F*s

    Here we see work done to accelerate an object from u to v, appearing as a change in kinetic energy of translation. Work and energy are inserted as insights based on energy.

    Joule of course took this to the next step of identifying that heat and work were connected.

    Bring to bear a steam engine or two and its efficiency and we see the energy conservation and avaialability laws appearing, the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

    And more.

    The insight that work appears when a force moves its point of application through a distance then appears, too, showing that work is the cumulative effect of force across space, even as momentum is cumulative effect across time.

    But as we go, the concept becomes broader and deeper, in a spiral of insight creating a web of insight for which the “definition” we see in textbooks is only a simple and rather limited first step. (And no, I will not bring in relativistic effects save to note that E = mc^2 appears as a consequence of relativity on motion as a zero velocity energy term. Which then leads into seeing that mass represents a form of energy too.)

    I argue that just so, it is perfectly in order to start with a simple enough conception of intelligence, then explore beyond and draw out insights, filling out our understanding in a spiral exploratory process. To that, I testify that engaging in such an approach with intelligence and information has led to much richer insights on thermodynamics, information theory, statistical mechanics, origin of life and body plans, and cosmological origins, even, what the periodic table represents. And more.

    Just as, taking on board insights from economic “heretics” such as Schumpeter, Hayek and Garrison — try this paper as an example — have proved enriching for me when I wear a different hat. (And while I do not buy the idea that “hands off” is the best policy on balance — my Dad used to write a national budget, so I know for good and ill through a ringside seat! — it is sobering for me to understand from the warnings these “heretics” give on how unstable an economy can be and how damaging oscillations can set in — as well as how desirable waves” of growth can be triggered, that we are playing with matches in a very dangerous situation when we tinker with an economy.)

    The notion that the design inference approach is a science stopper is laughably nonsensical.

  213. Kairosfocus,

    Great comments as usual!

    Want of a precising or genus-difference definition is not a good basis for saying something is meaningless. And, intelligence is like that.

    A reasonable working definition is sufficient. Scientific progress, like engineering, advances by successive approximation.

    And no, I will not bring in relativistic effects save to note that E = mc^2 appears as a consequence of relativity on motion as a zero velocity energy term

    One derivation simply substitutes in the relativistic change in mass.

    Thanks for the link to the economic paper—looks interesting! I’ve often wondered why what is consumed doesn’t get more attention. For example, one society buys mostly lattes and ice cream, another one personal computers and other technology, and so on. A historian, maybe it was Toynbee, compared ancient Boeotia, a happy agrarian society, with Athens, forced into sea trade by a lack of anything significant beyond olives, goats, and rocks.

    -Q

  214. SB: My definition did not change nor does it include rivers or lightning bolts. Rivers and lighting bolts do not make selections. But thank you for playing.

    RDF

    Yes, they do make selections. A river could choose any path to the sea, but of all the possible paths, it selects the lowest one. Instead of just insisting that these are not “selections”, you’ll need to actually explain why not.

    Unbelievable! RDF thinks that rivers and lightning bolts make selections. Why does he make such a ridiculous statement? Obviously, he is trying to undermine the perfectly logical point that an intelligent agent makes selections for a purpose, distinguishable from the law-like regularity of nature–a distinction which he cannot bear to contemplate.

    So, he attributes human-like qualities to physical phenomena–as if rivers and lightning bolts could conduct a cost-benefit analysis–as if they could conceive a strategy in support of a goal–as if gravity was not making their choices for them.

    Now RDF wants me to explain why these physical changes are not selections. All right, I will be happy to help him out here. Rivers and lightning bolts do not make selections because they slavishly obey the laws of nature, which remove all other options, including the prospect of making a selection. Does that help?

  215. RDFish: Yes, they do make selections. A river could choose any path to the sea, but of all the possible paths, it selects the lowest one.

    How could a river choose or select any path to the sea?

    Folks, I think we’re all getting to the bottom of RDFish’s incoherence.

    Astonishing.

  216. Like the detectives down at the police station like to say, let a man jabber on long enough, and he’ll eventually give himself away.

  217. Hi StephenB,

    Rivers and lightning bolts do not make selections because they slavishly obey the laws of nature, which remove all other options, including the prospect of making a selection. Does that help?

    Yes, this helps, and it is of course what I expected you to say. You deny that a river makes a selection, because rivers’ actions are determined by natural laws – in other words, they do not possess free will. Despite your denials – and your apparent genuine incomprehension of your own assumptions – you identify intelligent activity with contra-causal free will.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  218. Hi Vishnu,

    You pretend that I am stupid and crazy, but I am neither. If you’re going to spend time here reading my posts and writing your own, doesn’t it at least make sense to try and actually understand my arguments? Of course I don’t think rivers are conscious entities that make decisions like people. My point to StephenB was that his understanding of “intelligence” is what philosophers call “contra-causal” (or “libertarian”) free will.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  219. RDFish,

    Last night I went over dozens of posts you’ve made in the last 12 months. I think someone should create a compendium and let your words speak for themselves in contrast with themselves. I don’t have the time.

    Take for example:

    Like “athleticism”, “intelligence” is a vague descriptive term. “Athleticism” refers to various primarily physical abilities (running, jumping, lifting, throwing, etc), and “intelligence” refers to various primarily mental abilities (learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, etc). Neither of these terms are suitable as explanations for anything, and they are never used as explanations for anything – except in ID.

    Well of course “athleticism” is a useful explanation even when it’s not nailed down with the hyper precision you’re seeking. “Dad, why can uncle Joe play football better than you? Because he’s a better athelete.” That’s a perfectly reasonable answer. My son knows exactly what I mean because my son knows that an “athelete” (someone who possesses “athleticism”) is someone who spends time at the gym, plays sports, develops his muscles, eats the right stuff, and has a passion for sports. The word is not vacuuous. Neither is “intelligence” despite your whining to the contrary. Whatever intelligence is, there are several common features that most reasonable men can agree on to the degree that it is not vacuous in scientific exploration. Get over it.

    This has been explained to you over and over but it doesn’t stick. So yes, I think you’ve got a problem. Either you cannot grasp what others are saying, or you’re in denial, or your a troll. It really doesn’t matter which.

  220. RDFish,

    Now, without all the usual whining, which animal is more athletic, a cheetah or a sloth?

    Pick one.

  221. Or, if you prefer the nounal/property form vs the adjectival…

    Which animal possesses more athleticism, a cheetah or a sloth?

    Pick one.

  222. RDFish:

    You pretend that I am stupid and crazy,…

    YOU might be pretending to be stupid or crazy but we don’t pretend that you are. I can support the claim the you are willfully ignorant.

    ID is a scientific endeavor because it makes testable claims and for example, endeavors to figure out the reality behind our existence.

  223. RDF:

    Yes, this helps, and it is of course what I expected you to say. You deny that a river makes a selection, because rivers’ actions are determined by natural laws – in other words, they do not possess free will. Despite your denials – and your apparent genuine incomprehension of your own assumptions – you identify intelligent activity with contra-causal free will.

    I define intelligent activity scientifically as a selection among alternatives for a specific purpose, which can be interpreted philosophically either as personal contra-causal free will or impersonal immanent teleology. Philosophically, I hold to personal contra-causal free will and reject impersonal, immanent teleology, but my philosophical preference does not intrude on my scientific definition, which must exclude all philosophical presumptions. I really wish you could grasp that point.

    RDF’s definition of intelligent activity

    A vague descriptive term referring to particular, unspecified abilities that may include things such as learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, composing music, and so on and so on.

    Well, that’s all well and good except for the fact that your definition of the word doesn’t match your application of the word:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    If you plug your definition in to your application, here is what you get:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from a vague descriptive term referring to particular, unspecified abilities that may include things such as learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, composing music, and so on and so on and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”.

    Would you care to try again with a new definition that makes sense with your argument.

  224. By the way, RD, my definition plugs in to your statement very nicely:

    “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from a process by which an intelligent agent makes selections for a purpose, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means”

    LOL. My definition, which was already on the record, makes your claim intelligible, and your definition, which was specially crafted to clarify your claim, makes it incomprehensible.

  225. Let’s see how a little rhetorical colouring through loaded words transforms the meaning of energy:

    a vague descriptive term referring to particular, unspecified abilities that may include things such as learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, composing music, [being able to be converted into work, being conserved and dissipated in events] and so on and so on

    or, information:

    a vague descriptive term referring to particular, unspecified abilities that may include things such as learning, solving novel problems, using natural language, composing music, [being the stuff conveyed in messages, being linked to surprise, possibly being at stake in the dissipation of entropy )another rather unclear term once we ask what it is, really)] and so on and so on

    In short, the issue is not attitude but substance. And, I am sure RDF knows that metrics for intelligence have been created.

    KF

  226. I wonder how energy is a scientific concept and intelligence isn’t.

    Manfred Eigen:

    Mass-energy is “everything” that constitutes the physical structure of our universe. However, when asked what “that stuff”, which manifests itself in such diverse and mutually intertransformable appearances, really is, science replies with an embarrassed silence. We know how to measure it, but we simply do not know what it is. To quote Richard Feynman, from his legendary The Feynman Lectures on Physics: “It is important to realize that in physics, today, we have no knowledge of what energy is.”

    Eigen:

    Hence, what we can say so far is: we do not know what energy is. It must be “something” of a universal nature that appears in material and non-material forms and has the propensity to distribute itself among all states that are accessible without losing or gaining one iota; the amount of energy is perfectly accountable for.

    So why should information be any different? Can science tell us what information is?

    Eigen:

    Similarly, when matter advanced to animation it had to start with a convergence of entropy to specify information that carries meaning. Energy and information are the two irreducible prerequisites of our existence.

    Intelligence: The ability to harness energy (whatever that is) in order to produce information (whatever that is).

  227. Hi Upright Biped,

    I don’t know where you found that quote, but I believe that in that context, by “intelligent activity” RDFish meant “the action of human beings or other animals”. Since RDFish provides no canonical definitions for such terms, both RDFish proponents and RDFish critics use them to mean all sorts of different things – which is one of my primary criticisms of RDFish.

    Isn’t this ground that’s been travelled before with RDFish?

    RDFish knows what RDFish means by intelligence until RDFish doesn’t know what RDFish means by intelligence.

  228. 229

    Vishnu. You suggest that athleticism is well understood by people. I think that the use of this term is broadly open to interpretation. Is a linebacker an athlete or just someone who is big and strong? Does the presence of strength alone make someone an athlete? What about baseball pitchers? They can throw a ball very hard, but does that make them an athlete? Is a goon in hockey an athlete? What about a professional pool player? They don’t have to be physically fit but they have to have good reflexes, muscle control and an innate understanding of geometry and physics.

    Would you consider an entity that could think abstractly and problem solve intelligent if it was not self aware? What about an entity that could design and build complex structures but could not think abstractly or problem solve?

  229. Hoping VJT will be back today/tomorrow.

    VT Torley @36:

    Mung would argue that the knowledge that the botanist brings to the case constitutes “context.” I don’t think it does, as the knowledge in question is not knowledge about senders and receivers, or about the meaning of messages, but botanical knowledge about the natural world.

    And I think you are both mistaken and contradicting yourself. 🙂

    The naturalist in this case is the sender of a message. The bottle is the carrier of the message, the plant specimen is the content of the message.

    None of this has anything at all to do with how the “message” will be interpreted upon receipt, or if it will even be recognized as a message.

    Whether it will be recognizable as a message would require contextual information.

    The meaning of the message would also require contextual information.

    And that’s the point.

    VJ Torley @10:

    But as I explained in my post, even if the sentence didn’t make sense (e.g. “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”), we would still ascribe it to an intelligent source, simply because it was perfectly grammatical.

    We can here identify at least two contexts that are required in order for this “message” to be ascribed to an intelligent source. English language words and English language grammar. I put “message” in quotes because I find it difficult, if not impossible, to ascribe the term “message” to nonsense.

    If it makes no sense it is not a message. The purpose of a message is to communicate. It’s not possible to communicate via nonsense.

    VJ Torley @11:

    …all I was concerned to argue was that the identification of a message from an intelligent source did not require a context.

    That is what I understood you to be saying. But if you read through the posts of your defenders in this thread, they appear to think you were making a different argument entirely. (Or they chose to ignore your argument in order to argue againt Feser’s position.)

    VJ Torley @35:

    The proposal which I’m making is that while some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message, no knowledge of the context is required in order to infer that some arrangement of matter and/or energy is, in fact, the product of an intelligent agent.

    VJ Torley @36:

    In my post, I defined the context of a purported message as “the circumstances that form the setting” for the purported message, and that help us understand its significance.

    So now you are saying that context is required to identify this or that as a message.

    Is that a change from your earlier position?

    VJ Torley @11:

    …all I was concerned to argue was that the identification of a message from an intelligent source did not require a context.

    The identification of a message requires a context.

    The determination of whether or not the source of that message is intelligent requires further context.

    We seem to have reached agreement on the first but not the second.

    VJ Torley @35:

    The proposal which I’m making is that while some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message, no knowledge of the context is required in order to infer that some arrangement of matter and/or energy is, in fact, the product of an intelligent agent.

    No knowledge of the context is required in order to infer that some arrangement of matter and/or energy is, in fact, the product of an intelligent agent.

    That was your initial position. Has it changed? Did you mean to say no additional context is required?

    Some knowledge of the context is required in order to recognize that some arrangement of matter and/or energy, in fact, contains a message.

    I find it difficult to resolve those two positions. Can you clarify? Do you mean that once we know we have a message we know it came from an intelligent source?

    Or do you mean that even if we don’t know we have a message we can still infer an intelligent source?

  230. Mund: “Isn’t this ground that’s been travelled before with RDFish?

    RDFish knows what RDFish means by intelligence until RDFish doesn’t know what RDFish means by intelligence.”

    ¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

    LOL, That’s the exact take & observation Phillip Skell had with Darwinian explanations

    “Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.”

  231. sorry, I meant ‘Mung’ @228

  232. Hi Vishnu,

    Well of course “athleticism” is a useful explanation even when it’s not nailed down with the hyper precision you’re seeking.

    Most ID folks deny the analogy, but you accept the analogy and insist that athleticsm is actually a valid explanation. Wow!

    Q: How does the cheetah run so fast?
    A: Athleticism!
    What have we learned about about cheetahs by receiving this answer, Vishnu? And how about this: We see something that is nothing like anything we’ve seen before moving quickly across the sky. We ask how it manages to move so quickly, and we answer athleticism. What in that case (a case analogous to ID, where the nature of the Designer is unknown) do we learn by saying athleticsm is the answer?

    Now, without all the usual whining, which animal is more athletic, a cheetah or a sloth?

    First, ID does not compare different levels of intelligence – it treats intelligence as a binary quality. Even so, your example proves my point, not yours: If the event is “hanging from trees”, then sloths are clearly the better athlete of course, since cheetahs can only hold on for a short time and sloths can even sleep without letting go.

    Which animal possesses more athleticism, a cheetah or a sloth?
    Pick one.

    You tell me – remember, the event is “hanging from trees”. (And none of your whining!)

    Now do you get it?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  233. Hi StephenB,

    I define intelligent activity scientifically as a selection among alternatives for a specific purpose, which can be interpreted philosophically either as personal contra-causal free will or impersonal immanent teleology.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the latter, but just as you say, these are NOT scientific definitions, because according to science, we have never detected anything that acts contra-causally.

    As for your obsession with my use of the term in other threads, I’ve already explained what I meant. I understand you’d like to change the subject and focus on that instead of providing a definition of intelligence that is consistent and empirically accesible for ID, but it won’t help.

    Your definition implies that there is a qualitative difference between a river making a selection and a person making a selection, because the former is determined and the latter is not. This is nothing but a claim that contra-causal free will is true, no matter how you true to spin it. Therefore, according to your definition of “intelligence”, ID rests on the assumption of libertarianism, an unprovable metaphysical assumption.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  234. RDF:

    While it is clear that you are studiously ignoring, I find it important to speak for record:

    ID rests on the assumption of libertarianism, an unprovable metaphysical assumption

    This characterisation of SB’s reasoning is false to the full set of options he puts on the table, but I leave answering that to SB.

    What is more interesting is how you switch from an empirical inference to projection of a phil assumption you reject while ignoring something that is easily empirically and analytically verifiable. Which, strongly implicates that the root problem we face is ideological, driven and/or influenced by a priori evolutionary materialism [perhaps by the back door of methodological impositions] and/or its fellow travellers.

    First, intelligence is a summary term for the underlying capacity of certain observed beings to emit characteristic behaviours, most notably to generate FSCO/I in its various forms.

    For example as your posts in this thread demonstrate, you understand and express yourself in textual language in accord with well known specifications of written English. It can be shown that it is extremely implausible for blind chance and/or mechanical necessity to stumble upon zones of FSCO/I in the sea of possible configurations, once we pass 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity. Where as 3-d descriptions of complex functional objects can easily be reduced to strings [cf. AutoCAD etc], discussion on strings is WLOG.

    At no point in years of discussion have you ever satisfactorily addressed this easily shown point. (cf. here.)

    Despite your skepticism, the above is sufficient to responsibly accept the significance of intelligence per a basic description and/or examples such as humans and dam-building beavers or even flint-knapping fire-using omelette-cooking chimps — there is at least one such. Then there was a certain bear who was a private in the Polish Army during WW II. Etc.

    Being human is obviously neither necessary to nor sufficient for being intelligent.

    Nor for that matter — given the significance of fine tuning of our observed cosmos from its origin, would it be wise to demand embodiment in a material form. Where also, it has been sufficiently pointed out — whether or no you are inclined to accept such — that a computational material substrate is not enough to account for insightful, self-aware rational contemplation.

    We should not ideologically lock out possibilities.

    Where also, the notion of “proof” — as opposed to warrant per inference to best explanation — is also material. In both science and serious worldviews discussion, IBE is more reasonable as a criterion of reasonableness than demonstrative proof on premises acceptable to all rational individuals etc. The projection of such a demand while one implicitly clings to a set of a prioris that are at least as subject to comparative difficulties challenge is selective hyperskepticism.

    So, already we see a functional framework for identifying the attribute intelligence and using it as an empirically founded concept. One that is in fact a generally acknowledged commonplace. Let me again cite Wiki, via the UD WACs and Glossary as at 206 above . . . which of course you ignored:

    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.” . . . .

    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.) . . . .

    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 agents 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 . . .

    Indeed, on just this it is you who have a burden of warranting dismissal of the concept.

    Where also, design can be summed up as intelligently directed contingency that evidently targets a goal, which may be functional, communicative etc. We easily see this from text strings in this thread and the PCs etc we are using to interact.

    Again, empirically well founded.

    So, the concept of intelligent design is a reasonable one, and FSCO/I as reliable sign thereof is also reasonable.

    In that context the sort of rhetorical resorts now being championed by objectors actually indicate the strength of the design inference argument. Had it been empirically poorly founded, it would long since have been decisively undermined on those grounds. The resort instead to debating meanings of widely understood terms and the like is inadvertently revealing.

    But also, this is clearly also a worldviews level issue.

    So, I again highlight from Reppert (cf. here on) on why it is highly reasonable to point to a sharp distinction between ground-consequent rational inference and blindly mechanical cause effect chains involved in the operation of a computational substrate such as a brain and CNS are:

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

    Unless we are sufficiently intelligent to understand and infer based on meanings, and unless we are also fr4ee enough to follow rational implications or inferences rather than simply carry out GIGO-limited computational cause-effect chains, rationality itself collapses. So, any system of thought that undermines rationality through computational reductionism, or through dismissing responsible rational freedom is delusional and self referentially incoherent.

    You may wish to dismissively label responsible freedom as “contra-causal free will,” or the like and dismiss such as “unprovable.” That is of no effective consequence to the fact of responsible rational freedom that is not plausibly explained on blindly mechanical and/or stochastic computation. Which last is a condition of even participating in a real discussion — I dare to say, a meeting of minds.

    That is, we again see the fallacy of trying to get North by heading due West.

    It is time to reform and renew our thinking again in our civilisation, given the patent self-refutation of the ever so dominant evolutionary materialism. As Haldane pointed out so long ago now:

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

    It is time for fresh, sound thinking.

    KF

  235. RDF

    As for your obsession with my use of the term in other threads, I’ve already explained what I meant. I understand you’d like to change the subject and focus on that instead of providing a definition of intelligence that is consistent and empirically accesible for ID, but it won’t help.

    As I made clear, indeed, as I proved, you don’t know what you meant. You were just throwing words around for effect. I don’t blame you for wanting to avoid the subject.

    Your definition implies that there is a qualitative difference between a river making a selection and a person making a selection, because the former is determined and the latter is not

    .

    My explanation of the definition, which you asked for, (not the definition itself) implies that there is a difference, which of course, there is. Only a materialist would think that a river makes selections the way humans do, which is why no one believes you when you say you are not a materialist.

    This is nothing but a claim that contra-causal free will is true, no matter how you true to spin it.

    ID’s scientific definition of intelligence falls short of contra-causal free will; my philosophical definition of intelligence is identical with contra-causal free will. That is why some atheists, like Bradely Monton and Bill Gates, can accept ID science, while neither person would ever agree with my philosophy. Somehow, you cannot grasp these distinctions.

    Therefore, according to your definition of “intelligence”, ID rests on the assumption of libertarianism, an unprovable metaphysical assumption.

    That is a serious logical error. Even If ID defined intelligence as contra-causal free will, which it doesn’t, it wouldn’t follow that ID assumes contra-causal free will. A definition is not an assumption.

    Definition

    the act of making definite, distinct, or clear; a defining :
    We need a better definition of her responsibilities.

    the formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, idiom, etc., as found in dictionaries.

    Assumption

    a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.
    “they made certain assumptions about the market”
    synonyms: supposition, presumption, belief, expectation, conjecture, speculation, surmise, guess, premise, hypothesis; More

    ————————————————————

    You have a serious problem understanding the meanings of the words you use (such as “intelligence,” “Intelligent activity,” “definition,” “assumption,”) which I why I have no difficulty at all showing that you often don’t know what you are saying.

    Or, if you do understand the meanings of the words you are using, such as “definition” and “assumption,” then you are willfully saying things that you know are not true. So, I have to ask the question: When you say that ID “assumes” contra-causal free will, is it because you are confused about the meanings of words, or is it because you choose to lie? I really want to know.

  236. kairosfocus on RDF

    What is more interesting is how you switch from an empirical inference to projection of a phil assumption you reject while ignoring something that is easily empirically and analytically verifiable. Which, strongly implicates that the root problem we face is ideological, driven and/or influenced by a priori evolutionary materialism [perhaps by the back door of methodological impositions] and/or its fellow travellers.

    Yes, well stated. We also have this rather large problem of RDF’s proclivity to use words like “definition” and “assumption” interchangeably for the apparent purpose of creating the wrong impression. I define a unicorn as a horse with a horn projecting out from its forehead. That doesn’t mean that I assume unicorns exist.

  237. SB: I define intelligent activity scientifically as a selection among alternatives for a specific purpose, which can be interpreted philosophically either as personal contra-causal free will or impersonal immanent teleology.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the latter, but just as you say, these are NOT scientific definitions, because according to science, we have never detected anything that acts contra-causally.

    You cannot grasp the difference between a philosophical interpretation of a scientific definition and a philosophical definition posing as a scientific definition?

    Further, where did you ever get the absurd idea that something must be “detected” or even exist in order to be defined?

  238. PS: On the ignore and willfully caricature policy cf Mung here, in light of the original post and discussion thread where I took on a delimited subset of RDF’s remarks, his inaccurate and strawmannish mischaracterisation of ID.

  239. RDFish:

    ID rests on the assumption of libertarianism

    Reference please. We all know how you love to make stuff up and act as if it is real.

  240. 241

    K: “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.” . . . .”

    Based in this definition, god must be ruled out as a possible designer. Why would an omnipotent, all knowing being need to learn?

  241. A.B. “Based in this definition, god must be ruled out as a possible designer. Why would an omnipotent, all knowing being need to learn?”

    Oddly enough, based on that definition, blind undirected mystic forces are in desperate need of an explanation on how exactly they learned and accomplished anything even remotely intelligent or for that matter became self-aware from nothing in order to do so. But first, let’s start with your purposefully retarded asinine assumption here about the Creator, which not even a religious person knows.

  242. RDFish, Q: How does the cheetah run so fast? A: Athleticism!

    Nice try. If athleticism has a defined set of properties, it is perfectly reasonable to ask which is more athletic a cheetah or a sloth. Athleticism does have a fairly well defined set of properties. Look it up.

    The form of your question is analogous to:

    Q: Why is a smart person smart?
    A: Intelligence

    Which of course explains nothing because being smart is a property of being intelligent by definition. But when a term has a defined set of properties, and intelligence certain does have a fairly well defined set, then it is perfectly reasonable to ask:

    Q: Who is more intelligent, Mike, who has severe down syndrome retardation, or Joe, who has a PhD in math from Harvard?

    A: Joe

  243. RDFish: If the event is “hanging from trees”, then sloths are clearly the better athlete of course, since cheetahs can only hold on for a short time and sloths can even sleep without letting go.

    It depends on the definition of “athleticism.” If you want to re-define athleticism to be an ability to hang from trees, then the sloth wins. But “athleticism” doesn’t normally mean that, and you know it. It you want to define athleticism as a superior talent for eating hot dogs, then the Man Against Food guy wins. Etc.

    You’re making my point. The question “who is better at such and such” is valid when “such and such” has a defined set of properties. You claim that “intelligence” is vague and useless, but you’re simply wrong. It’s as well defined, or better, than “life.” Yet we study “life” all the time and make inferences about it without a hyper precision that you seem to demand for “intelligence.”

  244. Hi StephenB,

    SB: I define intelligent activity scientifically as a selection among alternatives for a specific purpose,…

    Fine – but then when I say that a river makes “selections”, you deny it. When I ask you why you deny it, you say because rivers’ actions are determined (and then you also throw an additional requirement that intelligent activity requires “anticipation”). So your “scientific” definition requires that intelligent activity transcend determinism. Your definition of intelligence entails the existence of something that is nothing but metaphysical speculation.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  245. Hi Vishnu,

    RDFish, Q: How does the cheetah run so fast? A: Athleticism!
    Nice try.

    Why didn’t you answer the question: What information do we gain about the cheetah when the answer is athleticism? You didn’t answer the question because there is no answer – we learn precisely nothing.

    If athleticism has a defined set of properties, it is perfectly reasonable to ask which is more athletic a cheetah or a sloth. Athleticism does have a fairly well defined set of properties.

    Why didn’t you answer the question: If the event is “tree hanging”, why isn’t the sloth more athletic than the cheetah? You didn’t answer the question because there is no answer – the term “athleticism” is just a vague descriptive label, and not an objective operational attribute that can be meaningfully given as an explanation of anything.

    The third point you ignored is the most relevant here: ID tries to infer that the cause of biological complexity is intelligence, but refuses to say what sort of thing had this intelligence. Here is ID:
    Q: What caused flagella to exist?
    A: Intelligence of an unknown sort.

    This is analagous to inferring athleticism of an unknown sort:
    Q: What caused the object in the sky to move so quickly?
    A: Athleticism of an unknown sort.

    That is what is analogous to ID – and it should be obvious to you that the answer provides precisely zero information about anything.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  246. When RDFish says he is not a materialist, he is not making some conclusion about RDFish – he is simply making some statement about what he means by the word “materialist”.

    see here

  247. RDFish, if it is not possible to say anything meaningful about anything, why are you posting here?

  248. 249

    DavidD: “But first, let’s start with your purposefully retarded asinine assumption here about the Creator, which not even a religious person knows.”

    Why is my assumption retarded? By the Wiki definition of intelligence, you must have the ability to learn to be intelligent. Is it assumption to say that god is omnipotent? Or that he is all knowing? This would be news to me. I have never heard a religious person say anything else. Or any priest, minister or pope. Therefore, if ID is using this definition, god must be ruled out as a possible designer.

    This is why it is critical for ID to clearly define the boundaries by which intelligence is defined.

  249. 250

    when I say that a river makes “selections”, you deny it. When I ask you why you deny it, you say because rivers’ actions are determined … So your “scientific” definition requires that intelligent activity transcend determinism.

    Your river thing is ridiculous for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that ‘a thing that cannot happen’ (i.e. doing something against inexorable law) cannot be selected.

    Moreover, your next hapless move, i.e. “transcending determinism”, is a non-issue for the simple reason that the product of translation, which life is dependent upon, cannot be derived from inexorable law. The process of translation requires a physicochemical discontinuity between the medium of information and its post-translation effect – otherwise translation cannot occur. In other words, your points are defeated by universal observation.

    This thread may rank as your worst performance ever.

  250. A-B,

    1. Something new happens. A-B writes a stupid post about what God can’t do.
    2. God, being omnipotent, now knows about it, and learning has occured.

    No, it’s not possible for our language to define with precision a phenomena that’s been experientially encountered and approximated with words like “intelligence.” Nor is it necessary, for the same reason.

    Since you’re obviously looking for some hope that “God” can’t have been involved, how about this one:

    “Can God create a rock that he cannot lift?”

    That should keep you busy for a long time. 😉

    -Q

  251. Hi Upright Biped,

    Your river thing is ridiculous for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that ‘a thing that cannot happen’ (i.e. doing something against inexorable law) cannot be selected.

    So you’re saying that everything that happens must be according to inexorable law – that nothing can occur which is not determined? You can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid – either things can transcend determinism or they can’t. Which would you like to pick?

    Moreover, your next hapless move, i.e. “transcending determinism”, is a non-issue for the simple reason that the product of translation, which life is dependent upon, cannot be derived from inexorable law.

    And by decreeing the truth of this, you are saying that human beings actions are not determined by what you call inexorable law. That is a metaphysical speculation without scientific support, and it is known as “libertarian free will”.

    This thread may rank as your worst performance ever.

    Every single statement you make here is wrong – including this one 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  252. Hi Acartia_bogart,

    Your point is spot on – I’ve made the same argument myself. Of the various attributes that are listed as characteristic of what we describe as “intelligent” (humans and animals), I think two of the most fundamental would be learning and solving novel problems.

    You point out that an omniscient God could never learn, which is obviously true. And since we cannot scientifically interact with God and pose novel problems for Him to solve, we cannot determine if He is capable of that either.

    As for Querius’ response:

    1. Something new happens. A-B writes a stupid post about what God can’t do.
    2. God, being omnipotent, now knows about it, and learning has occured.

    I think Querius needs to brush up on his theology. An omniscient God would know A-B would write his post before he wrote it, of course. After all, doesn’t God exist outside of space and time?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  253. Upright BiPed @ 250 opined

    This thread may rank as your worst performance ever.

    I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with RDFish on this snippet. There’s at least one other, even more embarrassing set of posts in which, after showering Michael Behe’s math in The Edge of Evolution with unsupported vituperation, and claiming to be a biologist and statistician, A-B incorrectly answered a simple probability question that I put forward involving the binomial theorum. So much for credibility.

    Undaunted by this ignoble defeat, an enduring image reminiscent of Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade remains:

    Reason to right of them,
    Math to left of them,
    Facts in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode the Darwinists.

    -Q

  254. Someone needs to work it up:

    Reason to right of them,
    Math to left of them,
    Facts in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode Darwin’s hundred.

  255. 256

    RD,
    You assume that anything that is not derivable from physical law has therefore violated physical law.

    Okay.

    A bird flies up to a fencepost to land on it. As the bird approaches, she sees the fence post coming into range and opens her claws at the exact point in time to grasp it. Can you use physical law to derive “open your claws” from the neural pattern being passed through the optical nerve?

    The bird creates information through the specialized organization of her visual system. That organization mechanically transcribes a representation of the oncoming fencepost and sends it through the optical nerve to be translated into a functional effect by physical protocols that already exist in the visual cortex and brain. The resulting physical effect is that she opens her claws at the exact point in time to grasp the post. No inexorable law was broken in this event, yet at the same time, you cannot use physical law to derive “open your claws” from the pattern of neural impulses in her optical nerve. There is a natural discontinuity between them that must exist in order to translate that medium of information into a functional effect. If the product of translation was derivable from the medium alone, then it would be so by the forces of inexorable law and those forces would limit the system to only those effects which can be derived from the physical properties of the neural impulse – of which “open your claws” is not among them. It is the absence of a physical connection that makes translation possible. In short, the product of information is not derivable from physical law; it is only derivable from the organic systems that translate information.

    You may wish to argue “Ah, but the organization of the system itself is the product of physical law”. But the organization of the system itself is a product of translation, is it not?. Unless you have a thermodynamic pathway between UUC and phenylalanine, distinguishing it from CUU and leucine, as well as UCU and serine, then I ask you – who is injecting unsupported assumptions to argue there case, you or me?

  256. RDFish opines

    I think Querius needs to brush up on his theology. An omniscient God would know A-B would write his post before he wrote it, of course. After all, doesn’t God exist outside of space and time?

    When you change frames of reference from our temporal one to an eternal one, tricky things can happen. For example, without time, can there be causality?

    The Bible says in Isaiah 55 (NASB translation)

    Let the wicked forsake his way
    And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    And let him return to the LORD,
    And He will have compassion on him,
    And to our God,
    For He will abundantly pardon.

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

    “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    And do not return there without watering the earth
    And making it bear and sprout,
    And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

    So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
    It will not return to Me empty,
    Without accomplishing what I desire,
    And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    My very loose paraphrase would be

    You and everyone else are basically evil, but if you return to God and confess your sins rather than rationalizing them, God is willing to forgive you. God is a whole lot smarter than you, and your head would explode before you could understand how God thinks, so cut out the anthropomorphic crap. Instead, consider an analogy with the hydrologic cycle (that you’re not credited with knowing about), trust the Word of God instead of your own limited and pathetic attempts at philosophy. The results are abundant life both with water and my Word.

    -Q

  257. Querius quoting Fish

    “An omniscient God would know A-B would write his post before he wrote it, of course. After all, doesn’t God exist outside of space and time?”

    This is as bad as A.B. religious assumptions of what a god and any god would or wouldn’t do. Omniscient or not omniscient. How do they know ? They couldn’t possibly know since it would be impossible to experiment for. This goes along with the thread from the Salon article which contains a laundry list of “if there were really a creator, this is what he wouldn’t do”. How do they know, what experiment did they used to arrive at such conclusions scientifically and is it possible for any of us to duplicate that experiment to draw the same conclusions as them ?

    Acartia_bogart
    “This is why it is critical for ID to clearly define the boundaries by which intelligence is defined.”

    Is it equally critical to define what is meant by blind undirected unguided forces and how they create intelligence from nothing ? For the most part, everyone already is aware of what intelligence is [minus the definition shell games], that is why ID deals with inference of any design. Beyond that, anything exact would be impossible since no one was around at the beginning. But inference for intelligence behind the designs in Nature are 100%, where blind unguided forces thus far gets 0%. That’s where religion and faith come in playing a heavy role and it takes greater religion and faith to adhere to your position than ID.

  258. No one believes in determinism. It’s simply used a rhetorical ploy.

  259. Hi Upright Biped,

    You’ve brought up this bird-landing scenario before, and I’m afraid neither you nor I have any idea what you’re going on about. I tried to understand it before, but your bad temper and poor communication skills prevented any progress. I’m feeling patient, though, so let’s try again.

    First, there is a matter of some distinction between being derivable from physical law vs. something acting according to physical law. Second, there is a matter of the act of the bird coordinating her landing vs. the origin of the physical apparatus (her brain, nerves, and so on) that allows her to do so.

    So to clear things up, I’ll tell you what I believe about these things, and then perhaps you can try to say what you believe, and we’ll see where our disagreement lies.

    In my view:

    1) There is no indication that animals who perform these feats of perception and agility are somehow operating outside the boundaries of physics.
    2) How the exquisitely complex, functional apparatus of their brains and bodies came to exist is deeply mysterious, since it is unreasonable to believe that random variation and natural selection could possibly assemble such a mechanism, even given the vast time scales and mating populations available.

    This just recapitulates the ID debate – it doesn’t seem to actually bear directly upon the problem that StephenB had with his definition of intelligence. Stephen wants to define “intelligence” as “the ability to make choices that are not physically determined”. In other words, according to Stephen, when I select a Coke vs. a Pepsi, something about that choice transcends any set of physical antecedents. My point to Stephen was that’s fine, but there is no scientific evidence that our choices (or anything else) proceed in a contra-causal fashion like that.

    It seems (I’m guessing) that your argument seems relevant to you because you can’t imagine how my ability to choose a Pepsi, or a bird’s ability to land on a fencepost – could possibly have arisen by any means that did not, at some point, transcend physical causality. My response to that is twofold:

    1) Neither of us has any idea how these complex structures (e.g. brains) came to exist, but throwing out the term “intelligence” provides precisely zero information regarding the solution to this mystery.
    2) It is clear that we humans do not understand the totality of physics, and so to say that something transcends “inexorable law” simply means that our current limited and incomplete understanding of how reality operates can’t account for it. It does not mean that some human-like mind with conscious beliefs, desires, and intents was responsible for designing bird brains.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  260. 261

    You’ve brought up this bird-landing scenario before, and I’m afraid neither you nor I have any idea what you’re going on about. I tried to understand it before, but your bad temper and poor communication skills prevented any progress. I’m feeling patient, though, so let’s try again.

    This is nothing more than a positioning statement.

    Can you use physical law to derive “open your claws” from the pattern of neural impulse in her optical nerve? If you can’t do so without recourse to the organization of the translation apparatus, then you affirm the discontinuity – and I’ve already told you why it is necessary.

    If there is a physicochemical discontinuity between the arrangement of an informational medium and its post-translation effect, then is the product of information derivable from physical law, or is it only derivable from the systems that translate information?

  261. Hi UprightBiped,

    Can you use physical law to derive “open your claws” from the pattern of neural impulse in her optical nerve? If you can’t do so without recourse to the organization of the translation apparatus

    It seems like you’re asking me if I can account for the bird’s ability to coordinate its landing without reference to the structural and functional organization of the bird’s brain and body. If that is the question, my answer is: No, it should be obvious that nobody could do that. The bird does indeed use its complex brain in order to achieve its aerial skills.

    If there is a physicochemical discontinuity between the arrangement of an informational medium and its post-translation effect, then is the product of information derivable from physical law, or is it only derivable from the systems that translate information?

    Sorry but you still haven’t made your point. The bird’s physical brain processes information and controls its muscles, and that is how it flies and lands. It is a mystery how this complex system, with its feedback loops and control systems, came to exist.

    How do you think it came to exist?

    Again, we are not really making progress in this. Again, my suggestion would be that instead of asking these question, you try to say exactly what it is you mean. I tried to make my view very clear in the previous post. Do you have any question about what I think? If so, I’ll do my best to answer. I do not understand what you think, however. Please answer my questions: Do you think that anything that occurs while the bird is landing transcends physical law? Or instead are you talking about how the bird’s brain came to exist? Or are you talking about something else entirely?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  262. Hi StephenB,

    You haven’t yet responded to my post where I point out why your definition of ID means that ID rests on metaphysical speculation.

    Here is another way to understand this:

    Imagine I had a theory that said X-force was responsible for biological complexity. You ask me what X-force is, and I explain that X-force produces CSI by deterministic means. You complain that science has no knowledge of any deterministic process that produces CSI, so my X-force theory is nothing but metaphysical speculation. You would be correct.

    But you have a theory called ID that says “intelligent activity” is responsible for biological complexity, and when I ask you what “intelligent activity” is, you say that it is something that produces CSI by non-deterministic means. I complain that science has no knowledge of anything that produces CSI by non-deterministic means, so your ID theory is nothing but metaphysical speculation. I am correct.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  263. RDF

    When I ask you why you deny [that rivers make selections], you say because rivers’ actions are determined (and then you also throw an additional requirement that intelligent activity requires “anticipation”).

    The flow of a river is determined by physical laws. There are no “selections” because there are no other options to select.

    Your “scientific” definition requires that intelligent activity transcend determinism.

    Of course. I trust that point is obvious to everyone.

    Your definition of intelligence entails the existence of something that is nothing but metaphysical speculation.

    No it doesn’t. Not even close. Let’s take it from the top:

    Earlier, I had to explain to you the difference between a definition and an assumption, complete with a dictionary account of both words. One key difference is that a definition clarifies the meaning of term, while an assumption indicates a belief in the truth of what has been defined. Accordingly, the two words cannot, as you seem not to understand, be used interchangeably.

    Now, I find that I must take you through the process all over again and explain the difference between a definition and a metaphysical speculation. Again, a definition provides clarity for the meaning of a term, while a metaphysical speculation indicates a belief in the truth of what has been defined. Thus, you can’t use those two terms interchangeably.

    (This ties in with your equally serious error of claiming that nothing can be defined unless it has been detected or shown to exist).

    I sincerely hope that you can now grasp the point. I am sure everyone else does. The lesson here is to refrain from substituting one word for another for the purpose of misleading your reader.

  264. RDFish, saying “Intelligence of an unknown sort” produced it tells investigators quite a bit. If you had any experience with investigations into a root cause you would understand that much. What it tells us:

    1- That entire classes of possible causes have been eliminated

    2- That known sources of intelligent agencies have also been eliminated

    3- That we are not alone

    1) There is no indication that animals who perform these feats of perception and agility are somehow operating outside the boundaries of physics.

    Physics doesn’t explain immaterial information- you know, that stuff the physical brain allegedly processes. Computers operate within the boundaries of physics however physics doesn’t explain the computer nor its software.

  265. 266

    RD,

    It seems like you’re asking me if I can account for the bird’s ability to coordinate its landing without reference to the structural and functional organization of the bird’s brain and body. If that is the question, my answer is: No, it should be obvious that nobody could do that. The bird does indeed use its complex brain in order to achieve its aerial skills.

    Then your answer is “no”, and you have affirmed the discontinuity. The discontinuity exists, and is preserved by the organization of the system. You cannot derive the product of information from the arrangement of the medium via physical law, you can only derive it from the organization of the system that translates information. Therefore, there are temporal effects in the natural world which are not derivable from physical law, yet their appearance does not violate physical law.

  266. Hi StephenB,

    If you’d spare us your pedantic sophistry and insults (not only are you wrong, and annoying, but you’re not even very clever at them), we might stand a chance of getting to the heart of where you go wrong. But I suppose that is why you keep it up – so you don’t actually have to admit your folly.

    You DEFINE “intelligence” as mental cause that transcends determinism, that is to say, free will.

    You THEORIZE that free will is the cause of biological complexity.

    Your EVIDENCE is that human beings are the only known cause of that sort of complexity (CSI, FSCI, call it whatever you want).

    Now, here’s the hard part, so put your thinking cap on (assuming you haven’t lost it years ago): Why is human action supposed to be your evidence that free will accounts for biological complexity? Because you ASSUME that human activity proceeds from free will! OBVIOUSLY if human beings did NOT possess free will, then human activity would not be evidence that free will was the cause of biological complexity!

    Since your argument for ID depends entirely on the ASSUMPTION that when human beings design complex machinery, they use their free will, then ID rests on an unprovable metaphysical assumption. QED.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  267. Hi Upright Biped,

    Why do you refuse to say what you believe is the cause of biological complexity, and ignore all of my clarifying questions? You prattle on about discontinuities, but refuse to relate it to the topic at hand. What is wrong with you?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  268. lol

    Our very own Eugene Goostman.

  269. RDFish:

    …then ID rests on an unprovable metaphysical assumption.

    So?

    RDFish,

    Since your argument against ID depends entirely on the ASSUMPTION that when human beings design complex experiments and mathematical models they use their free will, well, then, your objection to ID is purely metaphysical and unprovable.

    QED

  270. RDF #211: Every concept in physics is defined with perfect rigor, without a hint of ambiguity.

    Kairosfocus refutes this ridiculous statement in post #209 and #212. Of course RDFish refuses to take notice.

    From the same post:

    RDF #211: Energy is defined in terms of its effects (…)

    which is fine by RDFish. However his case against ID is based on his erroneous notion that intelligence can only be defined by … its effect (CSI).

  271. 272

    Why do you refuse to say what you believe is the cause of biological complexity, and ignore all of my clarifying questions? You prattle on about discontinuities, but refuse to relate it to the topic at hand. What is wrong with you?

    RD,

    You’ve argued that everything is the result of determinism. In return, I’ve highlighted for you the translation of information, where the output of the system cannot be derived from the input by deterministic forces. The system requires a physicochemical discontinuity between the input and output, and it preserves that discontinuity in order to function. You cannot find a flaw in that argument, and indeed you’ve affirmed it in your previous post. You are now intent on changing the subject, or otherwise diverting attention away from the failure of your claim. The most surprising aspect of this exchange is that you apparently believe an act of sheer determination on your part will make this less obvious.

  272. Upright BiPed @ 272

    RD, You’ve argued that everything is the result of determinism.

    No he hasn’t.

    He has only argued that non-determinism (‘libertarian free will’) is not an empirically warranted position.

  273. 274

    Querius: “I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with RDFish on this snippet. There’s at least one other, even more embarrassing set of posts in which, after showering Michael Behe’s math in The Edge of Evolution with unsupported vituperation, and claiming to be a biologist and statistician, A-B incorrectly answered a simple probability question that I put forward involving the binomial theorum. So much for credibility.”

    The fact that you won’t accept the fact that I made a typo is your problem. In spite of the fact that a 1 in 7 probability on the roll of a die is impossible. But that doesn’t have anything to do with my claim that a definition of intelligence that requires the ability to learn would rule out an omniscient god. Please answer the question at hand. Keeping in mind that this is not a problem at all for an ID theory that does not require a god. As the official ID propaganda claims.

  274. 275

    Claudius,

    He has only argued that non-determinism (‘libertarian free will’) is not an empirically warranted position.

    He has argued “things can transcend determinism or they can’t”. In return, I have shown him that non-determinism (regardless of his speculation on free will) is an empirically-supported position. He affirmed the evidence against his best interest, and now wants move on without acknowledging its impact on his claim.

  275. RDF

    If you’d spare us your pedantic sophistry and insults (not only are you wrong, and annoying, but you’re not even very clever at them), we might stand a chance of getting to the heart of where you go wrong. But I suppose that is why you keep it up – so you don’t actually have to admit your folly.

    LOL: So, you believe that I abused my power of free will when I insulted you. Actually, everyone believes in free will, including you, but many lie and say they don’t.

    You DEFINE “intelligence” as mental cause that transcends determinism, that is to say, free will.

    ID’s inferential process does not concern itself with metaphysical constructs such as free will. If you think it does, show me where. Make your case. Provide the quotes from ID luminaries. Provide any evidence at all. So far, you have given me nothing.

    You THEORIZE that free will is the cause of biological complexity.

    ID Theorizes that this or that organism is the product of an intelligent agent (which I define as something or someone that selects among alternatives for a purpose). As long as it is phrased in those behavioristic terms, it is scientific. If free will is added to the mix, it is no longer science. You claim with apodictic certainty that the process of selecting among alternatives is synonymous with free will. Prove it.

    Now, here’s the hard part, so put your thinking cap on (assuming you haven’t lost it years ago

    I am not the one who got busted. I am not the one who had to be corrected for conflating definitions with assumptions and metaphysical speculations. I am not the one who had to be corrected for thinking that something must be detected in order to be defined. It is you who are carrying around a truckload full of unwarranted assumptions.

    Why is human action supposed to be your evidence that free will accounts for biological complexity?

    Are you still on that free-will kick?

    Because you ASSUME that human activity proceeds from free will! OBVIOUSLY if human beings did NOT possess free will, then human activity would not be evidence that free will was the cause of biological complexity!

    My convictions about ID are based solely on empirical observation. Whenever I observe FCSI, I notice that it comes from intelligent activity. Also, don’t forget that I know what I mean when I use that word. As we discovered, you don’t know what you mean when you use that same word.

    However, if you want to discuss the philosophy of free will sometime, I will be happy to do so. Now that we know you believe in free will in spite of yourself, given your complaints about my “insulting” behavior, we will surely make rapid progress.

  276. A-B,

    Anyone can verify what you wrote in

    http://www.uncommondescent.com...../#comments

    No, it wasn’t a typo, and you can’t admit to not understanding the binomial theorem as it pertains to both simultaneous and sequential events.

    In #86, you wrote

    Querius, the reason that I haven’t answered your question is because it is not relevant. But since you insist. 1/6 and 1/7, respectively.

    Then when in 73, even wd400 questioned your answer, you wrote in 75:

    Sorry WD200. Big thumb, small buttons. It should have been 1/6. After all, there are only six faces on a die.

    So, what you claimed was that you actually meant to write was “Querius, the reason that I haven’t answered your question is because it is not relevant. But since you insist. 1/6 and 1/6, respectively.” And I responded

    Respectively? Methinks you’re a weasel.

    Now I normally wouldn’t make a big deal about someone’s math error—probability can be a bit tricky—but you made such a big deal out of Michael Behe’s math, which you characterized as

    The difference between the statistics behind evolutionary theory, and Behe’s voodoo magic pseudostatistics is that one is defensible and testable. And the other one is creationism.

    And since you claimed your education was in Biology and Statistics, I thought I’d give you a little test. You got the second answer wrong, and then made it worse by claiming that it was a typo.

    Maybe it’s time you admitted that

    1. You were wrong to level mathematically baseless charges and vituperation against Michael Behe’s math, which seems to have been validated experimentally.

    2. You made a mistake, and that the binomial theorem doesn’t care whether cumulative probabilities are simultaneous or sequential.

    3. You goofed on the second part of the problem I gave you.

    4. You might not actually have a degree in Statistics.

    But you can’t bring yourself to do that, right?

    The reason I won’t argue with you about intelligence and God, is that even if I logically prove my point to you, anyone can see that you’ll never ever admit to it.

    That’s what I love about math. It’s got such finality to it! Your cook is goosed, my friend. 😉

    -Q

  277. StephenB,

    Nicely stated. Unfortunately, all we’re going to get is money poo thrown at us. LOL

    FWIW, I enjoyed your response.

    -Q

  278. Querius @278, Thank you. Yes, you are right. The response is predictable. Fortunately, the alert reader can separate the wheat from the chaff.

  279. Hi UprightBiped,

    You’ve argued that everything is the result of determinism.

    NO! I have never argued this! What is wrong with you? Point to a single sentence that I’ve written that says I am a determinist… tick tock tick tock… ooops! You can’t find one!

    No wonder you are unable to communicate in a debate – you have no idea what I’ve been saying. I am not a determinist, never have been. Good grief – you are so lost in your own little world you can’t understand anything that anyone else says.

    In return, I’ve highlighted for you the translation of information, where the output of the system cannot be derived from the input by deterministic forces.

    No, you’ve done no such thing. You have this weird, idiosyncratic notion that representational systems somehow constitute a proof of non-deterministic causation, but you are unable to articulate it, and you certainly can’t point to anyone else in the world who shares your views with the ability to explain them.

    I think we’re done, UB.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  280. Hi StephenB,

    So, you believe that I abused my power of free will when I insulted you. Actually, everyone believes in free will, including you, but many lie and say they don’t.

    The last time I heard someone say something like this was in my first freshman philosophy class – it was from an eighteen year old boy who smoked weed before class. He flunked out.

    RDF: You DEFINE “intelligence” as mental cause that transcends determinism, that is to say, free will.
    SB: ID’s inferential process does not concern itself with metaphysical constructs such as free will.

    Your response is a non-sequitur. I just said that you DEFINE “intelligence” is a cause that is not determined by physical cause. You have said this over and over again. A cause that transcends determinism is known as “free will”. If you don’t like that term – if it has some other connotation for you – let’s call it “contra-causality” – ok?

    RDF: You THEORIZE that free will [or contra-causality] is the cause of biological complexity.
    SB: ID Theorizes that this or that organism is the product of an intelligent agent (which I define as something or someone that selects among alternatives for a purpose).

    AND you define “select” as an action that is not determined by physical cause. In other words, you say that this or that organism is the product of something that acts in a way that is not determined by physical cause. So let’s just shorten this a bit with something that means the same thing: ID theorizes that biological complexity is best explained by contra-causality. OK?

    As long as it is phrased in those behavioristic terms, it is scientific. If free will is added to the mix, it is no longer science.

    Again: what I meant by “free will” was nothing other than “contra-causality”, by which all I mean is “not determined by physical cause”. You are drawing distinctions here that I don’t intend, so I’m happy to use whatever terms you’d like to express your view that ID theorizes that biological complexity is best explained by contra-causality. Can we agree on that wording?

    To save time, I will assume that you will agree with that wording. Now that we’ve wasted all that effort on saying the very same thing, we’re back to where we started: We cannot establish that human choices are contra-causal. Nobody can empirically support the claim that humans’ selections are causally determined, and nobody can empirically support the claim that humans’ selections are NOT causally determined. Both of those claims are metaphysical speculations.

    And so, once again, it is painfully obvious: According to you, ID rests in the ASSUMPTION that human actions are contra-causal, which is nothing but a metaphysical speculation.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  281. LoL! Everything RDFish posts seems like it comes from an 18 year old dope smoker attempting to be philosophical.

    According to you, ID rests in the ASSUMPTION that human actions are contra-causal, which is nothing but a metaphysical speculation.

    See? If that isn’t from an 18 year old smoking dope and trying to be philosophical, what is?

    Just once I would love to see RDFish produce some science that supports his trope. Why is it that he never supports anything and yet people seem to have the need to refute him?

    Just channel Hitchens- until he produces the evidence he can be ignored and/ or ridiculed.

  282. 283

    Querius:
    “A-B, ‘Anyone can verify what you wrote…’

    Yes they can. And I welcome anyone to follow that thread if they would like. But if you are going to use this argument to refuse to answer any uncomfortable question that I have, you only look like a little boy who puts his fingers in his ears and shouts ‘I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you’.

    But, fair enough. Don’t answer my question. However, RDFish agreed with my point. I welcome you to respond to his comment instead of mine. We both know that you won’t because it would require a redefinition of intelligence (removing the need to learn) or a redefinition of god (take away his omniscient status).

  283. Hi William J Murray,

    Perhaps you missed my last post to you: It shows you were mistaken on each of your points, including that I am somehow hyperskeptical. I repost this for your convenience, though I doubt you will respond. It is the typical pattern here – reply only until you’re backed into a corner, then when you’ve lost, move on and pretend it never happend 🙂

    ==============

    Rather than even attempt to respond to what I write, you now simply defer to others who haven’t read my posts or tried to understand my arguments.

    You ask “What does evolution mean?” It means change. What does Darwinian evolution mean? It means population change over time by means of random mutation and natural selection. What does natural selection mean? It means disproportionate reproduction due to heritable changes. What does random mutation mean? It means changes in heritable traits that are not correlated with reproductive advantage. I don’t even believe that evolutionary theory is true at all, yet each of its terms are defined quite clearly and precisely. In fact, the only way I could determine that evolutionary claims were false was because it was stated in a way that can be evaluated!

    You ask “What does it mean when biologists claim evolution is not a “guided” process?” I don’t think that means anything at all, and I object when they say that. Guided by what, I ask? However, this statement is not part of the explanation offered by evolutionary biology – it is a gratuitous and non-scientific statement that stupidly finds its way into textbooks.

    Should we run through the entire scientific lexicon to find every term that is subject to variant definitions and concepts within the scientific community and toss out all science conducted using terms that have no “single, canonical” definition?

    When those terms serve as an explanatory construct of a theory, then YES, by all means! Of course! Otherwise, we would have no science at all.

    So no, mine is not hyper skepticism in any form – quite the opposite. I recognize that scientific progress is the result of careful observation and unambiguous explanation, which has enabled us to actually determine which of our scientific beliefs are true. Science can’t address all questions by any means, but those it can are answered with a unique level of certainty. ID fans know this quite well, which is exactly why you are desperate to confer the prestige of scientific status upon your religious beliefs.

    Box asks “One wonders if RDFish is willing to accept “energy” as a scientific definition”. What a very telling question! Every concept in physics is defined with perfect rigor, without a hint of ambiguity. Energy is defined in terms of its effects (as I explained to StephenB in this very thread), and in such a way that predictions can be made and tested and confirmed – to thirteen significant digits! The point Feynmann was making is not that energy isn’t defined scientifically – it is that we can no longer intuitively conceptualize the rigorous, formal definitions that science has developed. That is the exact opposite of the case with ID – all ID has is a vague, ineffable intuitive conception of mind, which is entirely unsuited as any sort of scientific explanation. It lacks any definition that can be used to determine if the “theory” actually matches empirical reality.

    I know you won’t try and read and understand what I’ve read here – your eyes and minds are closed by the horror you feel that your religious certainty rests on quicksand. But I’m not challenging your religious beliefs. Just because ID isn’t a scientific endeavor doesn’t mean that it is wrong or stupid or crazy. While you rail angrily at “materialists” and “atheists” and “naturalists” and attack them as irrational fools, I have no such animus toward religious believers. I merely point out, over and over, in ways that are never discounted by rational discourse here, that it is foolish to think that these religious beliefs can be supported by empirical science.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  284. 285

    NO! I have never argued this!

    Oh the outrage!

    I don’t really care what you say you are RD, you’ve argued the determinist position here for the expressed purpose that you could harangue ID proponents for proposing non-determinism in the form of libertarian free will. Do you not remember arguing the ridiculous proposition that ‘rivers make choices’ just so that you could set up an ambush over the definition of intelligence and free will?

    Here is what that looks like:

    RDF: Yes, [rivers] do make selections. A river could choose any path to the sea, but of all the possible paths, it selects the lowest one. Instead of just insisting that these are not “selections”, you’ll need to actually explain why not.

    In turn, I presented the fact that the translation of information requires a local independence from determinism in order for the process to function. The translation of information requires a physical discontinuity between the input of a medium and the output of an effect, and the system must preserve that discontinuity in order to function. Thus the output of such systems is not derivable from the input, and your position on non-determinism is thereby eviscerated of all its force.

    You now want to pretend that you can’t even understand what I am saying. Unfortunately it’s too late for that, RD. You not only understood what was being said to you, but you repeated it back to me and affirmed the observation.

  285. Hi Upright Biped,

    I don’t really care what you say

    Yes, and this is one reason you lose debates (other reasons include the fact that you don’t understand science or philosophy).

    you’ve argued the determinist position here…

    Nope, I never have – and of course you’ve failed to find a single quote that suggests I have. Another reason you lose debates is because you are delusional.

    …for the expressed purpose that you could harangue ID proponents for proposing non-determinism in the form of libertarian free will.

    Now it’s “haranguing” to point out fatal flaws in ID as science? Gee, sorry to hurt your feelings by pointing out that ID is less scientific than Scientology 🙂

    Do you not remember arguing the ridiculous proposition that ‘rivers make choices’ just so that you could set up an ambush over the definition of intelligence and free will?

    I remember it quite well – the “ridiculous proposition” was what is known (to anyone who actually understands anything at all about argumentation) as a reductio ad absurdum. According to SB’s initial definition of “intelligence” as “ability to make selections”, rivers are intelligent, which is absurd. So he immediately began changing his definition – adding the requirements of non-determinism and anticipation. Did you seriously not understand this? Are you in grade school?

    Thus the output of such systems is not derivable from the input, and your position on non-determinism is thereby eviscerated of all its force….

    You now want to pretend that you can’t even understand what I am saying….

    Hahahahaha – I assure you that I’m not pretending. The fact that you refuse to answer any of the clarifying questions I’ve asked makes it clear that you don’t understand what you’re saying either.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  286. RDFish:

    Since your argument for ID depends entirely on the ASSUMPTION that when human beings design complex machinery, they use their free will, then ID rests on an unprovable metaphysical assumption. QED.

    Are your own comments the result of deterministic forces? If so they only as meaningful as the output of any other machine. But if your comments are volitional, you refute your own deterministic claims. Whether your posts are worthwhile reading hinges on this. (My own comments, however good or poor, are volitional. I assume yours are as well. But I’d be relieved of considering them if they are not.)

    “The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.” — B.F. Skinner

  287. 288

    RD,

    Yes, and this is one reason you lose debates (other reasons include the fact that you don’t understand science or philosophy).

    Positioning statement

    Another reason you lose debates is because you are delusional.

    Positioning statement

    Gee, sorry to hurt your feelings by pointing out that ID is less scientific than Scientology

    Positioning statement

    Did you seriously not understand this?

    Positioning statement

    Are you in grade school?

    Positioning statement

    Now it’s “haranguing” to point out fatal flaws in ID as science?

    Yet, you’ve utterly failed to do so in the past, and you cannot do it now.

    It appears that we are quickly approaching that point in the conversation where you lose control of yourself and go off on one of your well-documented tirades.

  288. Hi leodp,

    Are your own comments the result of deterministic forces?

    People have been debating this for millenia. There is no way to resolve the question, either by a priori reasoning or by experiment. I am not personally a determinist, because in my view modern physics has undermined our understanding of deterministic causality (and not just by introducing quantum uncertainty).

    If so they only as meaningful as the output of any other machine.

    I don’t think either of us understand what you mean by this. Why isn’t the output of a machine meaningful?

    But if your comments are volitional, you refute your own deterministic claims.

    Again, I am not claiming determinism. What I am claiming is that no scientific theory can be predicated on the claim that either determinism or non-determinism (contra-causal free will) is true.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  289. 290

    UB: Do you not remember arguing the ridiculous proposition that ‘rivers make choices’ just so that you could set up an ambush over the definition of intelligence and free will?

    RD: I remember it quite well – the “ridiculous proposition” was what is known (to anyone who actually understands anything at all about argumentation) as a reductio ad absurdum.

    The issue is did you adopt the absurdity (i.e. an event that cannot happen) in order to make your point? Yes, you did. So your point was based on a thing that cannot happen.

    RD: According to SB’s initial definition of “intelligence” as “ability to make selections”, rivers are intelligent, which is absurd.

    It is also false. Brilliant job of supporting your objections.

  290. So, you believe that I abused my power of free will when I insulted you. Actually, everyone believes in free will, including you, but many lie and say they don’t.

    RDF

    The last time I heard someone say something like this was in my first freshman philosophy class – it was from an eighteen year old boy who smoked weed before class. He flunked out.

    So, you have no response. As I said, you proved you believe in free will when you complained about my insulting behavior. You know that I could have chosen to be nice and decided not to do it. Case closed.

    So let’s just shorten this a bit with something that means the same thing: ID theorizes that biological complexity is best explained by contra-causality. OK?

    Sure.

    We cannot establish that human choices are contra-causal. Nobody can empirically support the claim that humans’ selections are causally determined, and nobody can empirically support the claim that humans’ selections are NOT causally determined. Both of those claims are metaphysical speculations.

    I disagree. There is plenty of evidence to indicate that humans make selections that transcend determinism. However, I don’t need to make that case to prove that ID does not assume contra-causality.

    And so, once again, it is painfully obvious: According to you, ID rests in the ASSUMPTION that human actions are contra-causal, which is nothing but a metaphysical speculation.

    That doesn’t follow. Let’s take it from the top:

    1. We observe FSCI.

    2. We ask, “what caused it?”

    3. We propose two possible alternatives, determinism and contra-causality.

    4. We weight the evidence

    5. We conclude, [not assume] that contra-causality is the better explanation of the two.

    Show me were in that process it is assumed apriori that ID “assumes” contra-causality.

  291. 292

    RDF points out the fatal flaws in ID by appeal to things that cannot happen.

    He is brilliant.

  292. Show me where in the process ID “assumes” contra-causality.

  293. RDFish:

    What I am claiming is that no scientific theory can be predicated on the claim that either determinism or non-determinism (contra-causal free will) is true.

    Sounds like the philosophy of a stoner to me.

    How about a scientific theory predicated on the claim that we can determine the root cause of the object/ structure/ event under investigation? Or do you also object to the three basic questions that science asks? (what’s there? what does it do/ how does it function? and how did it come to be this way/ the way it is?)

  294. Acartia_bogart- The ability to learn is only one aspect of intelligence. No one but the anal retentive sez that to exhibit intelligence one must also entail every aspect of the definition.

  295. RDFish:

    It lacks any definition that can be used to determine if the “theory” actually matches empirical reality.

    You mean it lacks any definition that you will accept. And it has been pointed out that you are willfully ignorant. Willful ignorance cannot be used to point out flaws and yet that is all you are doing.

    I would love to get you in a Court of Law or in a formal debate in which people could see you for what you are.

  296. Hi Upright BiPed

    The issue is did you adopt the absurdity (i.e. an event that cannot happen) in order to make your point? Yes, you did. So your point was based on a thing that cannot happen.

    I know that you are unable to understand the issue, but for any other readers I’ll clarify the reason StephenB lost this argument:

    1) SB defines “intelligence” as “the capacity to choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end” (@151)

    2) I know that SB actually means to say “the capacity to freely choose between alternatives for the sake of a specified end”, where the word “freely” means “undetermined by antecedent cause”.

    3) Since SB constantly dodges and tries to deny the metaphysical assumptions of his beliefs, I use a reductio ad absurdum argument to make him be explicit about this assumption of free will. So I take his definition literally, and point out that if that is really what he means by “intelligent”, then a river must be intelligent (@154).

    4) SB predictably objects, and inists that real “selections” must not be determined, and even throws in another new requirement: that intelligent activity must include “anticipation of consequences” (@160).

    5) SB dodges my questions regarding anticipation (which seems to require conscious awareness along with the other new requirements SB keeps adding to his definition of “intelligence”)

    6) SB also continues to deny the fact that by saying human intelligence is contra-causal, ID is predicated on an unsupported metaphysical conjecture.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  297. Hi StephenB,

    So, you have no response. As I said, you proved you believe in free will when you complained about my insulting behavior. You know that I could have chosen to be nice and decided not to do it. Case closed.

    Good grief, are you serious? Have you EVER read ANYTHING about free will in your life? Honestly, this sort of argument is exactly what a freshman would come up with. My response is simple: You have no way to show that our behaviors are not determined. Don’t you see that if your silly little argument-by-fiat actually showed determinism to be false, the best philosophers and theologians on both sides of this issue would not continue to publish new and revised arguments for and against libertarianism?

    There is plenty of evidence to indicate that humans make selections that transcend determinism.

    There is none, of course.

    1. We observe FSCI.
    2. We ask, “what caused it?”
    3. We propose two possible alternatives, determinism and contra-causality.
    4. We weight the evidence

    This is good – you are making your position clearer. We’ve now agreed that your position rests on the claim that there is some sort of evidence that something – anything – acts in a way that is not caused by antecedent physical states or events.

    So, at long last, we have one single issue to debate: Please provide one single bit of evidence that anything acts in a way that is not determined by antecedent cause.

    [There is, of course, one sort of thing that satisfies this requirement: Certain quantum events such as spontaneous decay seem to be purely random. I trust you see that these random events do not help your argument, and we can agree to set quantum randomness aside].

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  298. RD: According to SB’s initial definition of “intelligence” as “ability to make selections”, rivers are intelligent, which is absurd.

    What madness! What demogoguery!

    According to my definition of intelligence, rivers are NOT intelligent. You are the one who introduced the crazy concept that rivers and lightning bolts make selections, and you were quite serious about it. The point of defining intelligence as the capacity to make selections is to differentiate the meaningful choices of intelligent agents from the determined actions of rivers and lightning bolts.

  299. 300

    Joe: “The ability to learn is only one aspect of intelligence. No one but the anal retentive sez that to exhibit intelligence one must also entail every aspect of the definition.”

    I guess I am misinterpreting the word ‘and’ in the definition posted earlier.

    So, which of these requirements for intelligence is optional?
    Ability to reason, ability to problem solve, ability to think abstractly, self awareness, ability to learn. I’m sure there are other, but we can start with these.

  300. Hi StephenB,

    According to my definition of intelligence, rivers are NOT intelligent.

    For the tenth time, according to your initial definition they are … you had to qualify your definition to clarify that what you meant was selections must be non-determined in order to be intelligent, and ALSO that the results of these selections must be consciously anticpated.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  301. Acartia_bogart- wikipedia is not an accepted academic resource, Also I posted the accepted definitions of “intelligence” that pertains to ID. I will stick with those as even RDFish admits that 1) the definitions fit and 2) he cannot do anything to refute them respective of ID. Comment 190

    And I am OK with that

  302. Information is neither matter nor energy. According to RDFish that means information is contra-causal. Does that mean information is a metaphysical conjecture?

  303. RDF

    You have no way to show that our behaviors are not determined.

    You are not being very persuasive. By your actions, you showed that you believe our behaviors are not determined. Clearly, you think I could have refrained from insulting you if I had chosen to do so. Of course, if you want to reverse your argument and say that I had no choice but to insult you, I will entertain your arguments to that effect.

    Don’t you see that if your silly little argument-by-fiat actually showed determinism to be false, the best philosophers and theologians on both sides of this issue would not continue to publish new and revised arguments for and against libertarianism?

    LOL They, like you, refute their own philosophy every time they complain about any perceived injustice.

    RDF

    We’ve now agreed that your position rests on the claim that there is some sort of evidence that something – anything – acts in a way that is not caused by antecedent physical states or events.

    Better.

    So, at long last, we have one single issue to debate: Please provide one single bit of evidence that anything acts in a way that is not determined by antecedent cause.

    Before we take that step, it would be very helpful if you could explicitly acknowledge the point that ID does not “assume” contra-causality. I don’t want to revisit that dreary episode.

  304. RDFish #154:And in that case, rivers are clearly intelligent, since they consistently choose the alternative of lowest altitude for the sake of finding a path to the sea. Right?

    Stupidity is a talent for misconception.
    (Edgar Allan Poe)

  305. 306

    Joe, it wasn’t me who referenced Wiki I was just responding to someone who did. But let’s use your definition:

    “1a (1) : the ability to deal with new or trying situations :
    (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment”

    Even bacteria meet your first requirement so it is useless to distinguish intelligence from non intelligence. Your second requirement requires the ability to learn, which you say is not necessarily required. Besides, thousands of animals on earth also meet this requirement.

    It is not sufficient to define intelligence, as we see it on earth. You must have criteria that would establish a boundary for the lowest level of intelligence to explain the design that ID claims to see. Unless, of course, you are claiming that the designer only need be as intelligent as a bird, octopus or beaver.

  306. Hi StephenB,

    RDF: You have no way to show that our behaviors are not determined.
    You are not being very persuasive.

    Again, I’m not trying to prove that our behaviors are determined. All I am claiming is that the matter cannot be resolved scientifically – and so it remains a metaphysical conjecture. It is up to you to show what empirical evidence we have that demonstrates that human intelligence is contra-causal.

    By your actions, you showed that you believe our behaviors are not determined. Clearly, you think I could have refrained from insulting you if I had chosen to do so.

    I can tell you’ve never actually considered the issue; you’ve never once read a book on volition, nor taken even an introductory course in philosophy.

    LISTEN: If determinism was true, then you could not have refrained from insulting me… but neither could I have refrained from admonishing you for it!!! Get it?

    Before we take that step, it would be very helpful if you could explicitly acknowledge the point that ID does not “assume” contra-causality. I don’t want to revisit that dreary episode.

    I said ID was (you were) assuming contra-causality because I didn’t anticipate that you would actually claim you could empirically demonstrate it. But that’s fine, I will revise my assertion for you: ID (in your view) rests on the mistaken claim that we can scientifically confirm that human intelligence is contra-causal.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  307. Re RDF:

    To SB:

    your position rests on the claim that there is some sort of evidence that something – anything – acts in a way that is not caused by antecedent physical states or events.

    So, at long last, we have one single issue to debate: Please provide one single bit of evidence that anything acts in a way that is not determined by antecedent cause.

    Cause is of course a slippery term as a contributory or enabling factor or influence may be causal without being determining. The issue however seems to pivot on whether RDF is implying that “anything” observed or experienced, is beyond PHYSICAL mechanical cause or linked computational programming or the like, including chance based distributions of possibilities.

    Since his language was ambiguous to these points (which with RDF is always a warning-sign), we have to first clarify.

    Since the days of Plato in The Laws Bk X for instance, the concept of self-cause of behaviour based on purposeful meaningful insightful action has been on the table. That is the self as a going concern is an agent, who acts based on choice in ways that are not rooted in a-rational blind chance and mechanical necessity. That is, the self is intelligent.

    More recently, J B S Haldane warned us regarding materialistic mechanical determinism, in words we should bear in mind:

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

    Reppert brings out the force of this further:

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

    The real issue on the table then is whether we actually can and do reason freely, led by a sense of duty to truth and logic.

    By all accounts, this is our experience of ourselves and our common obser4vation of one another.

    So, the question is, is this a delusion and what follows from it?

    If it is, if we reduce to blind chance and mechanical necessity, running on software in brains programmed by further blind chance and mechanical necessity — how do such account for the enormous amount of FSCO/I involved? [They cannot!] — and so our perception of reason free from blind mechanism and blind chance as determining outcomes willy-nilly is delusional, then we have decisively undermined mind, knowledge, reason.

    Mind is dead, logic is dead, man is dead.

    Reductio ad absurdum in short, this is little more than yet another case of a Plato’s Cave world of delusions.

    We can confidently reject all such as breaches of common sense, and challenge those who advocate such (often behind the shield of a skepticism that trues to reverse the burden of proof) to show cause that we should reject the overwhelming consensus of humanity over the aeons.

    Absurdity dressed up in a lab coat is still absurdity.

    So, starting from accounting for the software and hardware of the brain and the vast quantity of FSCO/I implied, account for the brain on blind chance and mechanical necessity then show that such is not inherently self referentially incoherent under the GIGO principle. Failing that, we have every confident reason to dismiss the absurdity as just that.

    And, in that context, we see the issue of intelligence emerging again.

    Intelligence is a term used to describe a pattern that we routinely experience and observe so we have no need to allow ourselves to surrender it unless we can meet someone’s selective hyperskepticism that relies on using intelligence and its properties of reason to try to pretend that it cannot be what is shows itself to be billions of times every day.

    And dressing up absurdity in a lab coat makes no difference to the substance of self referential absurdity.

    Responsible, rational freedom is not a matter of something to be scientifically “proved” — oops, there’s that dependence on reason again — but instead a condition of being able to do science at all. And if that points to freedom beyond the power of physical mechanical causes and associated stochastic behaviour so be it. There is utterly no reason to surrender to scientism and its pretensions to exhaust the field of what is knowable.

    Let us cease from entertaining those who would saw off the branch on which we all must sit.

    It is time to call absurdity by its proper name.

    KF

  308. A_b: I see you are sniffing away dismissively as to how Wiki is not an academically reputable source, as if that suffices to dismiss what was actually done. Wiki was cited as giving a common understanding of intelligence so well supported that it was forced to give that admission against known ideological interest, being dominated by scientism and evolutionary materialism. As in, EVEN Wiki is forced to admit that there is a serious concept, intelligence, routinely experienced and even measured by IQ tests to whatever extent they succeed in capturing g. That underlying faculty or capacity, manifests itself in phenomena such as understanding or interpreting or creatively expressing oneself in language, creative invention or design, sharp insight, purposeful rational decision, moral choice, and the like. As we have thousands and thousands of years of experience of, and billions and billions of cases on — including the posts you yourself composed in this thread. Where also we have no good reason to confine such to ourselves, but to be willing to accept that if something comes along and shows similar capacity we would have to accept it as intelligent also . . . as we do to limited degrees with certain animals such as beavers, dolphins, and great apes [what would you call a flint-knapping ape who makes fires and cooks omelettes for himself but intelligent?). That you seem to be reduced to trying to get rid of the recognition of intelligence as an accepted and empirically well grounded concept that can be defined in terms of pointing to examples and summarising typical behaviours reflecting such, that speaks volumes. Telling volumes. KF

  309. Your post #284, RDFish

    I warned them, RD! You’re too clever for them. Just like Eizabeth Liddle, formerly of this parish, was. But you force them to exercise their intelligence, and that’s always a good thing.

    Ave atque vale RD … on a more pretentious note.

  310. 311

    RDF,

    I know that you are unable to understand the issue

    Yet another positioning statement.

    Perhaps when you’re through positioning yourself, you’ll have a chance to grasp the issue that has been raised. Regardless of whether you ultimately assume determinism or non-determinism, there remain systems in the natural world that produce temporal effects that cannot be reduced to the material make-up of those systems. The term “cannot” is not being used here to indicate that we don’t yet understand how these systems operate, but to acknowledge that these systems could not function if they were locally determined by their physical make-up. The organization and replication of organic life on earth is one of those systems.

    So despite whatever argumentative manna your objections provide, they are entirely misplaced when it comes to ID. They are made moot by material observation. And given your words on the subject, it seems quite clear that one of your personal goals is to dissuade theists from considering material observations in relation to their beliefs. Frankly, it seems like a rather silly goal given the successes of science among theists. In any case, your problem is that your objections never achieve what you think they do. It’s just that simple.

  311. RDF

    LISTEN: If determinism was true, then you could not have refrained from insulting me… but neither could I have refrained from admonishing you for it!!! Get it?

    I get it all to well. You complain to someone as if they had a choice, even as you claim that they don’t have a choice; and you admonish someone as if you were offended, even as you claim that there is nothing to be offended about. The truth is that you hold people accountable for their behavior because you believe that they are accountable. Publicly, you deny free will, but privately you believe it. so it is with the academics. The question is, do you get it?

    I said ID was (you were) assuming contra-causality because I didn’t anticipate that you would actually claim you could empirically demonstrate it. But that’s fine, I will revise my assertion for you: ID (in your view) rests on the mistaken claim that we can scientifically confirm that human intelligence is contra-causal.

    ID asserts that, according to the evidence, contra-causality/intelligent agency is a better explanation for the behavior of certain features in nature than physicalism/determinism.

    Example: physicalism/determinism cannot explain the existence of information or the role that it plays in biology, Hence, contra-causality/agency is a better explanation since it alone provides a logical pathway from the cause to the effect. Even in your wildest imagination, you cannot conceive of a way to get from physical matter to non-physical information. Assumptions have nothing to do with it. Its all about the evidence.

  312. Hi Upright BiPed,

    Regardless of whether you ultimately assume determinism or non-determinism,…

    There is no scientific support for either of these positions.

    …there remain systems in the natural world that produce temporal effects that cannot be reduced to the material make-up of those systems. (my emphasis)

    Reductionism and determinism are orthogonal attributes. We can’t reduce weather to material interactions, but nobody I know of believes that anything but material interactions underlie the behavior of weather.

    The term “cannot” is not being used here to indicate that we don’t yet understand how these systems operate, but to acknowledge that these systems could not function if they were locally determined by their physical make-up.

    You still haven’t made it clear, but you seem to be talking not about the origin of such systems, but about their operation. In other words, what you appear to believe is that when a bird lands on a branch, something inside the bird is operating outside of the realm of physical cause. But that position is completely untenable: We can build machines that perform tasks like that, and hopefully you don’t think there is something inside a man-made machine that transcends physical cause.

    So you must be talking not about something inside the bird, but rather something responsible for the structure and function of bird’s nervous system. I’ve asked you this repeatedly, but for some reason you refuse to answer. We will not progress until you answer this question.

    And given your words on the subject, it seems quite clear that one of your personal goals is to dissuade theists from considering material observations in relation to their beliefs.

    Once again you are wrong about my beliefs and claims, even though I could not be more consistent about them. I have no interest in dissuading theists from considering anything at all with regard to their beliefs. I am only interested in dissuading them from pretending their beliefs have the same epistemic status as scientific results.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  313. Hi StephenB

    You complain to someone as if they had a choice, even as you claim that they don’t have a choice; and you admonish someone as if you were offended, even as you claim that there is nothing to be offended about.

    Wrong. I never claimed there was nothing to be offended about. If you just make up things and pretend I said them, we really aren’t going to make any progress at all.

    The truth is that you hold people accountable…

    I do not wish to discuss moral accountability – it has nothing to do with our discussion.

    Where is your evidence that determinism is false?

    ID asserts that, according to the evidence, contra-causality/intelligent agency is a better explanation for the behavior of certain features in nature than physicalism/determinism. Example: physicalism/determinism cannot explain the existence of information or the role that it plays in biology,

    You are confused. Physicalism/determinism is a metaphysical stance, not a theory. We are discussing scientific explanations here, not metaphysical conjectures. Scientific theories explain things. I agree with you that we have no scientific theory that explains the origin of life or biological complexity.

    Hence, contra-causality/agency is a better explanation…

    It does not constitute a scientific explanation at all, because there is precisely zero evidence that it exists, even in human activity. In order to offer a scientific explanation, you actually must provide evidence that the cause you are positing exists. You have none.

    You always ignore this, but I’ll point it out yet again. If you ignore it again, I will know that you have no response to this, and you are just ducking and dodging as usual. HERE IT IS:

    Imagine I had a theory that said “X-force” was responsible for biological complexity. You ask me what X-force is, and I explain that X-force is in unknown, unidentified force that produces CSI by deterministic means. You complain that science has no knowledge of any deterministic process that produces CSI, so my X-force theory is nothing but metaphysical speculation. You would be correct.

    Now you have a theory called ID that says an “intelligent agent” is responsible for biological complexity, and when I ask you what this “intelligent agent” is, you say that it is an unknown, unidentified something-or-other that produces CSI by contra-causal means. I complain that science has no knowledge of anything that produces CSI by contra-causal means, so your ID theory is nothing but metaphysical speculation. I am correct.

    Its all about the evidence.

    Upon this, we agree. You have no evidence that there is any such thing as contra-causality that produces CSI, and there is no scientific merit to ID.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  314. 315

    RD,

    Point out what words you don’t understand.

    The bird creates information through the specialized organization of her visual system. That organization mechanically transcribes a representation of the oncoming fencepost and sends it through the optical nerve to be translated into a functional effect by physical protocols that already exist in the visual cortex and brain. The resulting physical effect is that she opens her claws at the exact point in time to grasp the post. No inexorable law was broken in this event, yet at the same time, you cannot use physical law to derive “open your claws” from the pattern of neural impulses in her optical nerve. There is a natural discontinuity between them that must exist in order to translate that medium of information into a functional effect. If the product of translation was derivable from the medium alone, then it would be so by the forces of inexorable law and those forces would limit the system to only those effects which can be derived from the physical properties of the neural impulse – of which “open your claws” is not among them. It is the absence of a physical connection that makes translation possible. In short, the product of information is not derivable from physical law; it is only derivable from the organic systems that translate information.

  315. Hi Upright Biped,

    Why don’t you answer any of my questions?

    Why don’t you respond to any of the points I raise?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  316. Acartia_bogart:

    Even bacteria meet your first requirement so it is useless to distinguish intelligence from non intelligence.

    What? Bacteria are intelligent agencies.

    Your second requirement requires the ability to learn, which you say is not necessarily required.

    It does?

    Besides, thousands of animals on earth also meet this requirement.

    And that’s OK as it is supposed to include all living organisms.

  317. SB: Hence, contra-causality/agency is a better explanation…

    It does not constitute a scientific explanation at all, because there is precisely zero evidence that it exists, even in human activity.

    Yes it does and yes there is. As UB so eloquently summarizes it, “the product of information is not derivable from physical law.”

    Imagine I had a theory that said “X-force” was responsible for biological complexity. You ask me what X-force is, and I explain that X-force is in unknown, unidentified force that produces CSI by deterministic means. You complain that science has no knowledge of any deterministic process that produces CSI, so my X-force theory is nothing but metaphysical speculation. You would be correct.

    If it is impossible that determinism could produce CSI, and it is, then it doesn’t matter which brand of determinism you choose, even if you call it x-force. Under the circumstances, Intelligent agency is the only reasonable alternative.

  318. RDFish:

    ID (in your view) rests on the mistaken claim that we can scientifically confirm that human intelligence is contra-causal.

    1- The only point ID makes wrt human activity is that we can tell when intelligent agencies act within nature.

    2- ID doesn’t care if human activity fits your definition of contra-causal.

    3- We should be able to scientifically test that claim wrt human intelligence, ie if it is produced via purely materialistic processes. However no known materialist can come up with a way to model such a thing and they seem to want to blame IDists for that.

    4- If the evidence leads us to the metaphysical, then so be it

  319. So, speaking of Edward Feser, I’ve been reading his Scholastic Metaphysics.

    Very worthwhile.

  320. RDFish, is one very determined non-materialist.

  321. RDFish: If you just make up things and pretend I said them, we really aren’t going to make any progress at all.

    RDFish: I do not wish to discuss moral accountability – it has nothing to do with our discussion.

    L

    O

    L

  322. RDFish:

    I am only interested in dissuading them from pretending their beliefs have the same epistemic status as scientific results.

    Why?

    Please restrict your reasons to ones that have the same epistemic status scientific results.

  323. Hi StephenB,

    RDF: It does not constitute a scientific explanation at all, because there is precisely zero evidence that it exists, even in human activity.
    SB: Yes it does and yes there is.

    Ok, since you simply declare that you believe in contra-casuality, but refuse to provide any evidence, then I suppose we’ll just leave it at that.

    According to you, Stephen, ID Theory rests entirely on the truth of the belief that human intellect transcends physical cause.

    Thanks for playing 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  324. RDF:Again, I am not claiming determinism. What I am claiming is that no scientific theory can be predicated on the claim that either determinism or non-determinism (contra-causal free will) is true.

    We can’t know beyond argument that causality is true either. It’s been debated for centuries. For example David Hume turned his radical skepticism loose on causality; Kant tried to answer him, but whether he was successful is also debated. So by your reasoning we could say that modern science, which rests on causality, should also be considered unscientific.

    Really, you are arguing against knowledge itself; whether we can ever know anything at all. That said, I suspect your agnosticism about free will is selective to your own convenience. You still live (and post here) as though you had a freely made choice. And the fact that that works well is a good indicator of correspondence with the real world.

    Secondly, the assertion that when something (such as free will) cannot be known with absolute certainty (as in beyond debate) that it cannot be considered ‘scientific’ (or any reasoning predicated upon it) is also an argument against both science and knowledge itself. Science is always provisional. But we still defer to the most probable explanation until either disproven or replaced with something better. (And probability is heavily on the side of ID).

    For these and the well stated refutations of your arguments given by others in this thread, combined with your alternating arrogance, cheap dismissals and definition shifts, I reckon you’re simply a sophist. But then, I don’t claim to be anything but a plebeian.

  325. Upright BiPed:

    Regardless of whether you ultimately assume determinism or non-determinism…

    RDFish @ 313:

    There is no scientific support for either of these positions.

    RDFish @ 289:

    I am not personally a determinist, because in my view modern physics has undermined our understanding of deterministic causality (and not just by introducing quantum uncertainty).

    RDFish @ 313:

    There is no scientific support for either of these positions.

    RDFish, if your purpose here has been to make a fool of yourself you’ve done admirably. You can leave now.

    One wonders whether prior to the scientific undermining of deterministic causality the support for deterministic causality was derived from science.

    IOW, science has supported both positions, neither of which, RDFish claims (when not contradicting himself) has any scientific support.

    His rejection of deterministic causality comes from modern physics, he claims.

  326. Hi leodp,

    We can’t know beyond argument that causality is true either. It’s been debated for centuries. For example David Hume turned his radical skepticism loose on causality; Kant tried to answer him, but whether he was successful is also debated. So by your reasoning we could say that modern science, which rests on causality, should also be considered unscientific.

    Philosophers of science have wrestled with this very issue, of course, but it turns out that even if one remains agnostic about causality itself, scientific results can rest solidly on claims of constant conjunction. (That is, even if the applied force does not cause the object to accelerate, we can confirm that it invariably does accelerate under those circumstances).

    Really, you are arguing against knowledge itself; whether we can ever know anything at all. That said, I suspect your agnosticism about free will is selective to your own convenience. You still live (and post here) as though you had a freely made choice. And the fact that that works well is a good indicator of correspondence with the real world.

    No, neither of these things are true. First, epistemology is simply in no way dependent upon libertarianism. Second, my agnosticism about volition is deeply held and reflected upon – I’ve been fascinated by the question for many decades in fact. Of course we act as though our choices are free! There would not be a “problem of free will” if that were not the case. But there are philosophical, empirical, and introspective reasons to doubt that thought is contra-causal, that libertarianism is even coherent, and that consciousness drives our thoughts and actions rather than simply perceives them.

    Secondly, the assertion that when something (such as free will) cannot be known with absolute certainty (as in beyond debate) that it cannot be considered ‘scientific’ (or any reasoning predicated upon it) is also an argument against both science and knowledge itself.

    First, the problem with ID is not that the truth of free will cannot be known with absolute certainty. Rather, the problem is that the truth of free will cannot be empirically tested at all – at least currently. Libet, Wegner, and others have made some attempts to gain insight into the problem experimentally, and most would say that work tends to deny free will as most people construe it. But in my view (and that of most philosophers) nothing has yet come of that research that tips the balance of this ancient debate one way or the other.

    Science is always provisional.

    Of course it is.

    But we still defer to the most probable explanation until either disproven or replaced with something better. (And probability is heavily on the side of ID).

    For most articulations of ID, the central claim is so underspecified that it isn’t even wrong. It takes pages of cajoling to get anyone to actually define what ID is supposed to be offering as an explanation – and then finally Stephen here admits that it is nothing other than libertarian free will (and all of the other implicit connotations of conscious beliefs, desires, intentions, and so on are just along for the ride). To claim that this metaphysical position constitutes an explanation for biological complexity is to announce that there is no demarcation of science whatsoever. And if that is the position of ID, why are IDers so desperate to co-opt the status of scientific acceptance in the first place?

    For these and the well stated refutations of your arguments given by others in this thread, combined with your alternating arrogance, cheap dismissals and definition shifts, I reckon you’re simply a sophist. But then, I don’t claim to be anything but a plebeian.

    I would agree with the latter assessment, I suppose.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  327. SB: The truth is that you hold people (morally) accountable…

    RDF

    I do not wish to discuss moral accountability – it has nothing to do with our discussion.

    Translation: RDF holds people morally accountable. LOL

    RDF

    It takes pages of cajoling to get anyone to actually define what ID is supposed to be offering as an explanation – and then finally Stephen here admits that it is nothing other than libertarian free will

    Translation: When all else fails, RDF will tell a slimy lie. LOL

    StephenB @276

    ID Theorizes that this or that organism is the product of an intelligent agent (which I define as something or someone that selects among alternatives for a purpose). As long as it is phrased in those behavioristic terms, it is scientific. If free will is added to the mix, it is no longer science.

  328. Hi StephenB,

    SB: The truth is that you hold people (morally) accountable…
    RDF:I do not wish to discuss moral accountability – it has nothing to do with our discussion.
    Translation: RDF holds people morally accountable. LOL

    Huh??? We aren’t discussing moral theory, Stephen, as much as you’d love to change the subject.

    It was leodp who re-introduced the term “free will” into the discussion, not me. He was not talking about moral theory either, but only deterministic causality (or lack of same). As I’ve explained repeatedly, it’s only you that gets confused with the term “libertarian free will”, mixing other connotations in. In @291 you agreed that we could to refer only to “contra-causality”, and that is just what we’re talking about.

    So yes, we’ve finally reduced ID to its essence – an argument based on the scientifically unsupportable claim of contra-causal mind. And we’re going to leave it there, Stephen. We’ve cleared away all of the specious trappings in which ID wraps itself, and you’ve conceded that you have nothing but the bare claim that human beings’ actions are uncaused by physical antecedent. I’m very happy to let this be the result of our discussion.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  329. A-B,

    You misrepresented yourself as having a degree in statistics, answered a simple probability question incorrectly and then blamed it on a typo rather than admitting the error when the context clearly doesn’t work: you first wrote “1/6 and 1/7 respectively” and then claimed it was supposed to read “1/6 and 1/6 respectively.” The “respectively” makes sense only when the answers differ. And in attempting to find fault with Michael Behe’s math, you argued that the odds change when you roll dice successively rather than simultaneously, which is also wrong.

    And now you want to argue with me about God? Forget it. You have no credibility. I could prove to you that water is wet and the Pope is Catholic and you’d still be arguing simply to argue. “But what is the definition of wet?”

    The Bible clearly states in Isaiah 55 that people cannot comprehend God’s thoughts.

    Thus, this is a fool’s errand. But please go ahead. And while you’re at it, figure out whether God can make a rock too large for him to lift. And if God created everything, who created God? And if God was good then he wouldn’t let innocent children suffer. And if God can see everything then he must have eyes, and if he has eyes, he must have a head, and if he has a head, he must have a neck . . .

    Goodbye.

    -Q

  330. 331

    RD,

    Why don’t you answer any of my questions?

    Why don’t you respond to any of the points I raise?

    Sure. I should put aside your needless insults and afford you that courtesy.

    There is no scientific support for either of these positions.

    I realize this is your position.

    Reductionism and determinism are orthogonal attributes. We can’t reduce weather to material interactions, but nobody I know of believes that anything but material interactions underlie the behavior of weather.

    Okay. I am not sure why this was important for you to say. Weather doesn’t process information to produce effects.

    You still haven’t made it clear, but you seem to be talking not about the origin of such systems, but about their operation.

    Virtually everything I have said describes the operation of the system, so it’s doubly impressive that you’ve been able to pick up on that being the topic.

    In other words, what you appear to believe is that when a bird lands on a branch, something inside the bird is operating outside of the realm of physical cause.

    When I was describing the operation of the system and said ”No inexorable law was broken in this event”, I obviously failed to make my position clear enough. I believe everything in the system is operating under physical law.

    We can build machines that perform tasks like that, and hopefully you don’t think there is something inside a man-made machine that transcends physical cause.

    Again, I suppose my simple direct statements were not clear to you on this matter.

    So you must be talking not about something inside the bird, but rather something responsible for the structure and function of bird’s nervous system.

    No , I am not talking about “something responsible for the structure and function of bird’s nervous system”. (That system is a product of the information translated from the bird’s DNA). Instead, I’m talking about the operation of the system, remember?

    I’ve asked you this repeatedly, but for some reason you refuse to answer. We will not progress until you answer this question.

    Perfect, now that you’ve guessed that my description of the operation of the system was really about the operation of the system, and certainly now that I’ve confirmed your suspicions, we can move forward.

    Do you understand why the translation system requires a physicochemical discontinuity between the arrangement of the medium and its post-translation effect? It’s because a temporal effect like “open your claws” is not something that can be derived from matter; it cannot be derived from the arrangement of the medium that evokes it. Therefore, any system that produces such an effect would naturally have such a discontinuity. And the organization of the system must preserve that discontinuity because physical law would otherwise limit the system to only those effects that can be derived from the medium. Instead, the system uses one arrangement of matter to encode the information, and another to establish what the results of that encoding will be. These are the physical necessities; a medium of information and a system capable of producing the effect. Do you have any questions about what I am saying?

  331. Hi Upright Biped,

    Thank you for your restrained tone; As always, I’m happy to reciprocate.

    We can build machines that perform tasks like the bird landing on the branch. In these machines, then, you believe there is likewise a “physicochemical discontinuity”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  332. 333

    @RDF:
    In order to establish intelligent cause you need a process that works in empirical tests. Here’s a modification to SB’s proposed process which works for both materialists and non-materialists:

    1. We observe FSCI.
    2. We ask, “what caused it?”
    3. We propose two possible alternatives, non-intelligent cause and intelligent cause.
    4. We weight the evidence

    You see there’s no need for free will or determinism to be true. Nothing in the process relies on claims whether intelligent causes are natural or not. We have plenty of examples of non-intelligent and intelligent causes.

  333. 334

    We can build machines that perform tasks like the bird landing on the branch. In these machines, then, you believe there is likewise a “physicochemical discontinuity”?

    Of course there is.

    Build your mechanical bird. Give it stereo cameras for eyes, and actuators on its wings and claws.

    Now teach it to land on a fencepost by sight.

    Can you derive “open your claws” directly from the signals coming from the cameras? Or, would you first need to translate those signals into a usable form, and then teach the bird that certain patterns within those signals are mapped to certain effects in certain actuators?

  334. Onlookers, in re RDF, 307):

    I said ID was (you were) assuming contra-causality because I didn’t anticipate that you would actually claim you could empirically demonstrate it. But that’s fine, I will revise my assertion for you: ID (in your view) rests on the mistaken claim that we can scientifically confirm that human intelligence is contra-causal.

    Now, I am aware that in a tag and dismiss polarisation tactic, RDF is likely to continue studious ignoring. But it is important to speak for record and for the silent onlooker.

    I here continue from 308 above, to further point out the problem.

    The first issue is that the design inference is a straightforward inductive matter based on the observed phenomena of design and manifestations of intelligence. On the reality of design, we need only point tot he computers we are using as we engage in this thread. It is almost trivial to show that functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, FSCO/I, are routinely produced by design. There are billions of cases around us and there are no — repeat, no — counter instances where in our observation, blind chance and mechanical necessity have produced same FSCO/I.

    FSCO/I is thus an empirically reliable index of design by intelligent designers.

    A needle in haystack analysis will soon enough show that it is utterly implausible for FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits to come about by design. Thus the force of the commonplace observations just summarised.

    Of course, I speak here for record, I have no confidence that RDF et al are willing to engage the obvious and well grounded inductive case.

    The latest attack is by way of the diversion of trying to undermine the concept of intelligence and project a metaphysical assumption — which can be dismissed by implicit appeal to prejudice against theism in general, mischaracterised — caricatured — as “Intelligent Design is nothing but Creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”

    To answer for record, let us note from Psychology Today, on Intelligence:

    What is Intelligence?

    Reading a road map upside-down and generating synonyms for the word “brilliant” are two very different skills. But each is a measurable indicator of general intelligence, a construct that includes problem solving abilities, spatial manipulation and language acquisition. Scientists generally agree that intelligence can be captured by psychometric tests . . .

    In short, here we see at semi-popular level, a summary that looks a lot like that which the UD Glossary put on the table by citing Wikipedia speaking against general ideological inclinations.

    The American Psychology Association, is brief — reflecting how commonplace and — apart from the obvious rhetorical agendas at work here, utterly uncontroversial — this is when it comes to the core concept:

    Intelligence refers to intellectual functioning. Intelligence quotients, or IQ tests, compare your performance with other people your age who take the same test . . .”

    Design, as relevant to ID, is strongly rooted in the creative, problem-solving capacity of intelligent creatures, as observed. The UD Glossary briefly sums up, design is intelligently directed contingency, implying purpose and sufficient freedom of configuration that one can compose a config that achieves a desired function or the like. Dembski summarised the process of the design inference in light of the empirically known design process:

    We know from experience that intelligent agents build intricate machines that need all their parts to function [[–> i.e. he is specifically discussing “irreducibly complex” objects, structures or processes for which there is a core group of parts all of which must be present and properly arranged for the entity to function (cf. here, here and here)], things like mousetraps and motors. And we know how they do it — by looking to a future goal and then purposefully assembling a set of parts until they’re a working whole. Intelligent agents, in fact, are the one and only type of thing we have ever seen doing this sort of thing from scratch. In other words, our common experience provides positive evidence of only one kind of cause able to assemble such machines. It’s not electricity. It’s not magnetism. It’s not natural selection working on random variation. It’s not any purely mindless process. It’s intelligence . . . .

    When we attribute intelligent design to complex biological machines that need all of their parts to work, we’re doing what historical scientists do generally. Think of it as a three-step process: (1) locate a type of cause active in the present that routinely produces the thing in question; (2) make a thorough search to determine if it is the only known cause of this type of thing; and (3) if it is, offer it as the best explanation for the thing in question.

    [[William Dembski and Jonathan Witt, Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the Controversy, pp. 20-21, 53 (InterVarsity Press, 2010). HT, CL of ENV & DI.]

    Simple, reasonable and obviously so unanswerable on the merits that the red herrings led away to strawman caricatures soaked in ad hominems and set alight to cloud, confuse, poison and polarise, are routinely trotted out instead.

    Now, there is a side debate on “contra causal” behaviour, that I think requires some further remarks. (In 308 above, I pointed out some worldview level issues on that, kindly cf there for details.)

    I would suggest that looking to science to confirm or deny the reality of self-moved, responsibly free, rational behaviour is a misdirection triggered by the ingress of scientism. Reason is a premise of science in short, not something that is subject to scientific “proofs.” The notion that only that which can be “scientifically” warranted is genuine or serious knowledge is self-refuting rubbish.

    For, that claim is not a claim within science out one about the basis of knowledge. That is, it is a claim about Epistemology, one of the major branches of Philosophy. And, it is a claim that implies that such claims are nonsense or worthless, cutting its own throat.

    Fail.

    More broadly, the premise that we are responsible, and able to think freely is a premise of rational behaviour and knowledge. To dismiss this is to saw off the branch on which we all must sit and is self-refuting.

    Does that imply “contra-causal free will”?

    Nope, it implies, strictly, that we are self-moved. As opposed to implicitly subtly suggesting that the only possible causes are to be found in physical cause-effect chains, driven by blind chance and mechanical necessity.

    That is, we have the empirically observed internally experienced faculty of intelligence and of choice leading to among other things ability to reason, know, imagine and design from scratch beyond the needle in haystack and GIGO challenged capacity of mere blind mechanical necessity and blind chance . . . the other two factors that are on the table after the past 350 years of physics and millennia of wider thought.

    If we are not sufficiently free, we can neither be rational nor responsible. And to promote that notion is to open the door to irrationality, radical and self-stultifying relativism, and amorality.

    But, that is beyond what design theory needs to do, all we need is to take it for a fact that intelligence is an empirically observed and even partly measurable phenomenon, as well as design, which should be beyond reasonable doubt — as opposed to selectively hyperskeptical rhetorical disputes.

    And, in that context, the production of FSCO/I is manifestly a strong sign of such intelligence in action. With no good grounds for imagining that we humans exhaust the possible sources of such. So, if we see FSCO/I, we have good grounds to infer design on signs backed up by reliable empirical observation and linked needle in haystack analysis.

    The underlying accelerating desperation and resort to scorched earth outlandish rhetorical tactics reflected in objections to the design inference we see suggests that he issue is over on the merits. Just — as with the Marxists as their ideology crumbled 20 – 30 years ago — there is denial, anger and projection driven by the need to rationalise and self-justify.

    In short, we have seen this before, and it is in fact a good sign.

    For design thinkers.

    And for those interested in genuine scientific progress and progress in the world of thought.

    KF

  335. PS: Ed Psych interactive has a useful discussion, and gives this outline:

    E. G. Boring, a well-known Harvard psychologist in the 1920’s defined intelligence as whatever intelligence tests measure. Wechsler, one of the most influential researchers in the area of intelligence defined it as the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his/her environment. Notice that there is a conative aspect to this definition. [–> AmHD: co·na·tion (k-nshn)
    n. Psychology The aspect of mental processes or behavior directed toward action or change and including impulse, desire, volition, and striving.] Many modern psychology textbooks would accept a working definition of intelligence as the general ability to perform cognitive tasks. Others might favor a more behaviorally-oriented definition such as the capacity to learn from experience or the capacity to adapt to one’s environment. Sternberg has combined these two viewpoints into the following: Intelligence is the cognitive ability of an individual to learn from experience, to reason well, to remember important information, and to cope with the demands of daily living.

    The outlandishness of the objections we see above stand out by contrast to such.

  336. Upright BiPed @ 334

    If there were a Nobel Prize or a World Cup for being extremely patient when dealing with people who are not interested in discussing what you are trying to discuss, you would have won that prize or cup without any doubts.
    I definitely lack your abilities to do the same.
    Yes, someone told me that we have to think about the many onlookers in this site. Ok, perhaps that’s a strong motivation for writing comments here.
    But I would not squander precious time on dealing with people who don’t care to discuss seriously, but seem to be interested only in playing games and waiting time.
    We are witnessing a clash between two irreconcilable opposite worldview positions.
    My ignorance is huge and my IQ score comparable to my age, but still I found what you wrote as clear as the most pristine water one can find on the mountains.

  337. Correction for post #337:
    Where it reads ‘waiting’ I meant ‘wasting’
    Sorry for the error.

  338. Upright BiPed @ 334

    Build your mechanical bird. Give it stereo cameras for eyes, and actuators on its wings and claws.

    Now teach it to land on a fencepost by sight.

    Can you derive “open your claws” directly from the signals coming from the cameras? Or, would you first need to translate those signals into a usable form, and then teach the bird that certain patterns within those signals are mapped to certain effects in certain actuators?

    Answers:
    First question: NO
    Second question: YES

    2 x Duh!

    But keep your ‘discussion’ for the sake of the anonymous onlookers, as KF suggested.
    Thus perhaps some onlookers will see how senseless the other side’s arguments are.

  339. F/N: Headlined response based on 235 above, here. KF

  340. D, spot on. I think UB has posting privileges, but is reluctant. DV, I will headline some of his comments above soon. KF

  341. Earth to RDFish:

    Archaeology, forensic science and SETI rely on the same “assumptions” as Intelligent Design.

  342. Joe @ 342

    Earth to RDFish:
    Archaeology, forensic science and SETI rely on the same “assumptions” as Intelligent Design.

    Archaeology — Assumes intelligent agents that are human, unlike ID

    Forensic science — Assumes intelligent agents that are human, unlike ID

    SETI — According to Nature 461, 316 17/9/2009, SETI is “not a falsifiable experiment” — like ID.

  343. 344

    Joe: “What? Bacteria are intelligent agencies.

    I didn’t say that. I just said that they met your first requirement for intelligence. Which they do.

    With regard to your second requirement, you said that it requires knowledge to perform tasks. Unless you include instinct as a type of knowledge, then learning is required.

  344. 345

    Querius: “The Bible clearly states in Isaiah 55 that people cannot comprehend God’s thoughts.”

    We are not talking about comprehending god’s thoughts. Just about whether or not god meets the requirements of intelligence that was posted above.

    But feel free to put your fingers in your ears and shout ‘I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you.

  345. CLAVDIVS- Archaeology does not make that assumption. Forensic science doesn’t make that assumption. And SETI can be falsified, see pulsars.

  346. Acartia_bogart- what evidence do you have that all knowledge requires learning?

  347. BTW CLAVDIVS- ID can be falsified and IDists have said exactly what would falsify it. ID is science exactly because it makes claims can be tested and potentially falsified- just like archaeology, forensic science and SETI

  348. Hi JWTruthInLove,

    In order to establish intelligent cause you need a process that works in empirical tests.

    Yes, exactly so! Thank you for understanding this essential point! If only the rest of the ID folks around here would be so informed about the need for an operational definition of “intelligence”!

    Here’s a modification to SB’s proposed process which works for both materialists and non-materialists:

    1. We observe FSCI.
    2. We ask, “what caused it?”
    3. We propose two possible alternatives, non-intelligent cause and intelligent cause.
    4. We weight the evidence

    You see there’s no need for free will or determinism to be true. Nothing in the process relies on claims whether intelligent causes are natural or not. We have plenty of examples of non-intelligent and intelligent causes.

    Hahahahahahahaahahahahaha. Oh, my sides hurt. I do thank you, JWT – that was actually the funniest post of the year.

    After looking for someone – anyone – who would finally concede that ID needed to provide an empirically grounded definition for the word “intelligent”, and chasing ID folks all over the map while they dodge the question, and having StephenB finally settle on the concept of contra-causality (that the rest of us know by the term “free will”)…. you come along and suggest we go all the way back to the beginning! Hahahahahaha, this really is too much.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  349. Hi Upright Biped,

    Build your mechanical bird. Give it stereo cameras for eyes, and actuators on its wings and claws.
    Now teach it to land on a fencepost by sight.

    Ok, done.

    Can you derive “open your claws” directly from the signals coming from the cameras?

    Yes of course – I built the machine, and so I understand how it works.

    Or, would you first need to translate those signals into a usable form,

    At what point are the signals not “usable”? Photons hit the camera photocells and release electrons, which are usable to be amplified by transistors, at which point they are usable to be integrated in circuits, at which point they are usable to be conducted to actuators, at which point they move the claws.

    … and then teach the bird that certain patterns within those signals are mapped to certain effects in certain actuators?

    Most robotic systems do not require teaching after the system is built and programmed. There are some robots that incorporate machine learning software, but mainly the functionality is directed by software that has already been fine-tuned in a simulation platform. Mechanical adjustments might be necessary after assembly, but not “teaching” really. The mapping between the various levels of processing is generally set by the engineers.

    Now, where does the contra-causality fit into this? Where is this “physicochemical discontinuity” you speak of?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  350. 351

    UB: Can you derive “open your claws” directly from the signals coming from the cameras?

    RD: Yes of course – I built the machine, and so I understand how it works.

    Hook up the output of a CCD to the input of an actuator … and let us know how things work out.

  351. Hi Upright Biped,

    Perhaps you have limited experience with robotics. As I explained in my last post, the signal needs to be amplified, then integrated and processed by complex hardware and software, before it is conducted to the actuators. However, at each stage the signal is “usable” as input to the succeeding stage, and at no time does the signal act contra-causally, nor is there any sort of “physiochemical discontinuity” as you suggest.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  352. 353

    Joe: “Acartia_bogart- what evidence do you have that all knowledge requires learning?”

    The only examples we have of knowledge and learning is through our experience with humans and other animals. All examples have instinct (hard wired) and learned knowledge. So, using the same logic that ID uses to infer a designer (comparison to human designed artifacts) the designer must be able to learn (ruling god out) or must be acting on instinct.

    You would really be going out on an unsupported limb to argue that intelligence does not require the ability to learn.

  353. 354

    UB: Can you derive “open your claws” directly from the signals coming from the cameras?

    RD: Yes of course – I built the machine, and so I understand how it works.

    UB: Hook up the output of a CCD to the input of an actuator … and let us know how things work out.

    RD: As I explained in my last post, the signal needs to be amplified, then integrated and processed by complex hardware and software, before it is conducted to the actuators … nor is there any sort of “physiochemical discontinuity” as you suggest.

    😐

  354. OK so you don’t have any evidence that all knowledge has to come from learning. Any evidence that instinct is hard-wired as opposed to pre-programmed?

  355. Hi Upright Biped,
    Well I guess we’ve taken this as far as it can go, seeing as thought you consider a happy face to be an argument. Somewhere you got the idea that processing signals inside a robot constitutes a “physiochemical discontinuity”, but as far as I can tell, that’s really just some weird notion you’ve cooked up that has nothing to do with ID, the meaning of “intelligence”, or anything else we’ve talked about in this thread.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  356. 357

    Joe, are you seriously suggesting the intelligent designer may only be acting on instinct?

  357. RDF,

    You’re not understanding the issue. There is nothing physico-chemically inherent in either the receptor or the actuators that would generate any kind of response whatsoever, much less the specific response necessary to the task. IOW, if you run wires from the receptor to the actuator nothing will happen – nothing.

    The input from the receptor must be received by some sort of intermediary that has the capacity to translate the incoming stimuli signal into appropriate actuator action code. This is the physico-chemical discontinuity that UB is referring to; not that there is some kind of empty gap between receptor and actuator where one must “insert miracle” of some sort.

    Receptor -> receptor signal -> interpreter/encoder (translation of signal into actuator code) -> actuator signal -> actuator.

    Yes, there is a translation system that works according to physical lawn through physical components, but that isn’t the problem. The stimuli that comes from the receptor and enters the translation system is discontinuous with the signal code that leaves it and heads towards the actuators. The two are not the same thing. Signal Code R (receptor) went into the translator; the translator then sends Signal Code A (actuator) out. They are not the same because just hooking the receptor up to the actuator does nothing.

    Without taking the receptor signal, interpreting it into actuator terms, then coding and sending out the actuator signal, nothing happens – there is no relationship between receptor and actuator. The incoming receptor signal ends at the translator. What leaves is an entirely different actuator signal. The two are discontinuous.

    UB, I hope I stated all that correctly.

  358. RDF

    As I explained in my last post, the signal needs to be amplified, then integrated and processed by complex hardware and software, before it is conducted to the actuators … nor is there any sort of “physiochemical discontinuity” as you suggest.

    ???? No physciochemical distontinuity? ??????

  359. RDF

    Well I guess we’ve taken this as far as it can go, seeing as thought you consider a happy face to be an argument. Somewhere you got the idea that processing signals inside a robot constitutes a “physiochemical discontinuity”, but as far as I can tell, that’s really just some weird notion you’ve cooked up that has nothing to do with ID, the meaning of “intelligence”, or anything else we’ve talked about in this thread.

    You find no relationship between UB’s example and ID’s observation that physio-chemical phenomena cannot explain the role of information in biology?– no relationship between UB’s example and ID’s observation that the evidence indicates intelligent agency over mindless, mechanical forces? Wow. That’s taking hyperskepticism to a new level.

  360. 361

    RD,

    You have a temporal event to cause to happen. That temporal event is the actuation of a mechanical claw under specified circumstances. These circumstances have to be isolated in the pattern emitted by the output of a video pick-up device. If the specified pattern appears, the actuator must then function in a specified way.

    I say that you cannot derive any of the required specification from the physical signal being emmited by the video device, and to demonstrate that point, I suggested you hook that device directly to the actuator and measure your results. You, in turn, say that the signal needs to be altered and processed, step by step, adding the required specification along the way.

    You then actually turn to me and ask “what’s the problem?”

    It occurs to me that – despite the opportunistic arrogance you typically have on display – the plain fact is that you do not possess the intellectual acumen required to conceptualize the issue. I therefore suggest you stay with your last rebuttal.

  361. Hi William J Murray,

    Thank you for your good faith effort to explain what UB is trying to say.

    We agree that a robot couldn’t function without the hardware and software that processes information coming in from its sensors and computes the control signals for it actuators.

    The stimuli that comes from the receptor and enters the translation system is discontinuous with the signal code that leaves it and heads towards the actuators. The two are not the same thing.

    Here is where our views diverge. Photons impinge on the CCD array and release a stream of electrons, which flow through conductors, are amplified, continue through complex series of switches and gates, and finally reach actuators. The signals are joined, controlled, integrated, cancelled – i.e. they are processed – by the structure of the circuitry. We design and understand the circuitry in progressive levels of abstraction: We start with basic semiconductors (diodes, transistors, etc), combine them to construct logic gates (AND, OR, NOT, etc), combine them to construct higher-level functional units (registers, stacks, shifters, etc), and so on, until we achieve our desired result – in this case a control system for the robot.

    You and UB seem to be taking the circuitry between the sensors and the actuators and considering them qualitatively different from the rest of the machine. I don’t understand why. The sensors and the actuators are part of the very same system, continuous throughout.

    Moreover, nobody has explained what this “discontinuity” is supposed to have to do with the topics at hand – the meaning of “intelligence”, Stephen’s notion of intelligence as contra-causality, or anything else.

    Meanwhile, I was disappointed that you failed to respond to my post @284, which I believe effectively countered your accusation of hyper-skepticism and bad faith arguments on my part.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  362. KF: 335, 336 — Concise, to the point, well reasoned and said. (I’m in awe 🙂 ). Alas, reason is a fly beating against the pane of sophistry. (Being from Tarsus, the guy who wrote this knew about that… 1 Tim 6:20, 2 Cor 10:3-5)

    http://vimeo.com/100252962

  363. WJM:

    The two are not the same thing. Signal Code R (receptor) went into the translator; the translator then sends Signal Code A (actuator) out. They are not the same because just hooking the receptor up to the actuator does nothing.

    It probably goes without saying, but the translator could have sent any code out, not just Signal Code A. This is the physical discontinuity. This is where the selection occurs. That it sends out Signal Code A as it is designed to do despite there being no determinative reason it should indicates the information and the intelligence inherent in the system. Without this accuracy in hitting the mark with the right signal, you would not achieve function.

  364. RDFish,

    The dicontinuity can be explained simply – the signal as it is from the receptor will have no effect on the actuator unless the signal is, as you say, processed towards the end of controlling the actuators. There is nothing whatsoever inherent in the signal from the receptor that says “wrap claws around object”. Nothing.

    Given a different processing, the same signal from the receptor could activate any of a number of other mechanical actuators. The incoming data could produce a fear response, a salivating response, a “fly higher” response, a nesting response, etc. There is nothing in the receptor signal itself that directly tells the actuators to activate.

    In fact, we know processing systems can be faulty or different from the norm. Some people process music visually, or process smells as sounds, or sounds as tastes. It’s the same input, but it is the processing, as you call it, that sends out a signal to actuators.

    UB is not saying there is a discontinuity in the cause and effect sequence going on, only that there is a discontinuity between the receptor signal and the actuator input. The receptor signal, before it is processed, is entirely dicontinuous with the signal that reaches the actuator. The information necessary to activate that specific actuator in that specific way is not physiochemically located within the incoming signal, or else just hooking up the receptor directly to the actuator would have the same effect. The “processing system” is made in a way to pick up certain aspects of the receptor signal and translate those particular things into specific actuator signals.

    Phineas: Exactamundo.

  365. Hi William J Murray,

    The dicontinuity can be explained simply – the signal as it is from the receptor will have no effect on the actuator unless the signal is, as you say, processed towards the end of controlling the actuators. There is nothing whatsoever inherent in the signal from the receptor that says “wrap claws around object”. Nothing.

    Of course! We seem to be in violent agreement about this. It is not inherent in the signal – it is inherent in the structure of the robot/sensors/actuators.

    Your statement is like saying, “There is nothing whatsoever inherent in solar radiation that tells the Earth’s atmosphere ‘produce a cyclone’, yet after a complex interaction with the atmosphere, ocean currents, and so forth, a cyclone appears over the Pacific. The production of the storm was inherent not in the solar radiation, but in the complex structure of Earth/Oceans/Atmosphere.

    Given a different processing, the same signal from the receptor could activate any of a number of other mechanical actuators.

    Yes of course – all perfectly obvious.

    In fact, we know processing systems can be faulty or different from the norm. Some people process music visually, or process smells as sounds, or sounds as tastes. It’s the same input, but it is the processing, as you call it, that sends out a signal to actuators.

    And the same person will process the same signal differently, depending on their past experience, current hormone levels, how much sleep they’ve had, and so on. Likewise, the same solar radiation will produce different weather patterns depending on ocean currents, temperatures, greenhouse gasses, other ambient conditions…

    [Please don’t respond by saying I’m suggesting weather is the same thing as information processing in a robot – that is not the point. The point is that simply because a complex system is affected in complex, variable ways doesn’t mean there is some “discontinuity” going on.]

    UB is not saying there is a discontinuity in the cause and effect sequence going on, only that there is a discontinuity between the receptor signal and the actuator input.

    In forty years of work in related fields of computer science, the term “discontinuity” never arose, so please bear with me if I’m having a hard time understanding what you are trying to get at with this term. Is there any reference – a textbook, on the web, anything – that you could cite that might explain what a “discontinuity” is supposed to mean in this context? It is continuous in cause and effect, continuous electronically/mechanically… I have no idea what is discontinuous about it at all. It is only the highly complex mapping that occurs between input and output that you seem to be referring to. But mapping is not “discontinuous” in any way I can imagine.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    P.S. And since you refuse to respond to my points @284 regardinghow the terms related to “evolution” are well defined, while the term “intelligence” still lacks a usable definition in the context of ID, I assume you have conceded the point. Thank you.

  366. P.S. And since you refuse to respond to my points @284 regardinghow the terms related to “evolution” are well defined, while the term “intelligence” still lacks a usable definition in the context of ID, I assume you have conceded the point. Thank you.

    Your assumption is incorrect.

    There is nothing whatsoever inherent in solar radiation that tells the Earth’s atmosphere ‘produce a cyclone’, yet after a complex interaction with the atmosphere, ocean currents, and so forth, a cyclone appears over the Pacific. The production of the storm was inherent not in the solar radiation, but in the complex structure of Earth/Oceans/Atmosphere.

    No, this is not a similar example. In the cyclone example, the processing system (atmosphere, etc.) is not interpreting data from the signal source and making a determination about whether or not it should make a cyclone, or a hurricane, or a sunny day occur.

    In the robot bird example, the incoming signal must be interpreted and a decision must be made about which actuators should be activated and how they should be activated in order to correspond correctly to the interpretation. THEN, and only then, is a second signal sent to the actuators.

    The sun doesn’t deliver energy to the atmospheric system and then the atmospheric system decides what it should do based on an interpretation of the energy. The atmospheric system just does whatever happens to ensue due to natural law/chance.

    If the examples were similar, then the processing system in the robotic bird would not have a decision-making quality to it. The incoming signal of a nearby branch (analogous to the energy of the sun) could cause any of a near infinite number of reactions in the bird; getting the exact actuators to react in exactly the right way to land on and grasp the branch would be a highly unlikely happenstance outcome.

    This is why the specified signal to the specific actuators in question is discontinous with the physico-chemical properties of the incoming receptor signal. It doesn’t matter what those properties are; what matters is the information interpreted from them. It wouldn’t matter if the bird saw the branch, “sonared” it, or smelled it; the information is “branch of X size over there”.

    It doesn’t matter what medium brings the information content in as long as there is a processing system that can interpret from it the necessary information “branch of X size over there”, and then generate a highly specified signal to the actuators on what they are supposed to do to land on and grasp the branch. That information is not present in the specific physico-chemical makeup of the incoming receptor signal.

    And so, the two signals are discontinuous. One comes in with relatively unprocessed data. The data is in turn processed – interpreted by a decision-making machine. Decisions are made, and a 2nd signal goes out to the actuators telling them what to do to for the purpose of landing on and grasping the branch.

    You have here an irreducible system – receptor -> decision-making processor -> actuator. Nothing works without any of the parts. A receptor that doesn’t cause anything to happen is useless. A decision making processor without input or output is useless. An actuator without anything that activates it other than randomly is useless.

  367. RDF:

    I don’t want to speak for others, but what I take away from what is being described is that the mapping is determinatively discontinuous. In order for mapping to work at all, the signals themselves cannot determine the outcome. The map slots into the gap where the chains are non-determinative/physically-causally discontinuous. (The physical continuity is now relying on information and design and not merely physical causality.) From there, the map can select from many possible outcomes the one outcome that will provide the desired function. This kind of mapping, especially programmed for a specific functional outcome, is a hallmark of intelligent design.

  368. I’m still waiting to see the RDFishBird land (or try to).

  369. associative array
    (redirected from Map (computer science))

    (programming) associative array – (Or “hash”, “map”, “dictionary”) An array where the indices are not just integers but may be arbitrary strings.

    associative array

  370. I must remark again that UB has what is, IMO, the most irrefutable and ubiquitous of ID arguments. One of the reasons it is so difficult for some to grasp (besides denial) is that it takes something we take for granted and breaks it down to show just how (for all intents and purposes) impossible it is for law/chance to produce that which we see and use all day, every day.

    The translation of signal input into comprehensible information, and the processing of that information into useful, specified output which activates and operates biological machinery is beyond the reach of law/chance to produce. Imagine that any free-floating sensory input might attach itself to a free-floating processing system. It still does nothing without activating something somewhere. Now imagine this free floating sensory/processor attaches randomly to some actuators. The best you can hope for – the best – is that some output happens to activate machinery somewhere, in some way. Imagine that a flash of light evokes perspiration, a touch of ice sounds like a deep noise, a whiff of rose scent makes one shout uncontrollably. Input just causing random bodily effects.

    Sensory signal receipt, processing, and output action must all be coordinated not just mechanically, but conceptually, and in place at the same time to provide any useful, selectable trait whatsoever. What good does it do to have a sight sensor that is interpreted as bowel discomfort that in turn causes the action of scratching our heads?

    Materialists and others seem to take these coordinated systems for granted, as if it is expected that nature would take a sight sensor and hook it up with a processing system that turned that information into a 3D representation of the physical world and signaled movements that were coordinated with that world.

    They are assuming a can opener!

    How many different free-floating processing systems must be generated and happenstance actuator trials and attachments must occur before one happens upon the IC system that actually means something in terms of use and helpful function?

    You can’t even reasonably get the three things – sensor, processor, actuator – generated and able to fit and work together by law and chance, much less have them actually produce useful work without design.

  371. Hey, UB, when are going to put up that website?

  372. Dionisio,

    If there were a Nobel Prize or a World Cup for being extremely patient when dealing with people who are not interested in discussing what you are trying to discuss, you would have won that prize or cup without any doubts.

    Yes, I feel exactly the same. I’m usually patient, but not with people who argue to argue. It’s pointless and stupid. As it’s written in Proverbs 18:

    He who separates himself seeks his own desire,
    He quarrels against all sound wisdom.
    A fool does not delight in understanding,
    But only in revealing his own mind.

    You also wrote:

    Yes, someone told me that we have to think about the many onlookers in this site. Ok, perhaps that’s a strong motivation for writing comments here.

    My hope is also to get people to think for themselves. Plus I do learn from some great posts here and wonderful links.

    But I would not squander precious time on dealing with people who don’t care to discuss seriously, but seem to be interested only in playing games and waiting time.

    Yes, exactly. As I had to say to one person here, “I could prove to you that water is wet and the Pope is Catholic and you’d still be arguing simply to argue.”

    We are witnessing a clash between two irreconcilable opposite worldview positions.

    Yes, they’re two different paradigms, but they’re not equivalent. ID can be shown historically to advance scientific progress, Darwinism to retard it.

    Kind regards,

    -Q

  373. Hi William J Murray,

    In the robot bird example, the incoming signal must be interpreted and a decision must be made about which actuators should be activated and how they should be activated in order to correspond correctly to the interpretation. THEN, and only then, is a second signal sent to the actuators.

    I don’t think this is a particularly accurate description – typically there are control signals being sent constantly, in “real time”, to actuators to keep them in trim; there is no “second signal” sent after some delay. Think of a simple robot that controls the temperature of a room (a thermostat). Its sensors sense the temperature, and it sends signals to an actuator (a heater element) in order to maintain the room temperature. I assume you would consider this system to have a “physico-chemical discontinuity” like the robot bird, would you not?

    In the cyclone example, the processing system (atmosphere, etc.) is not interpreting data from the signal source and making a determination about whether or not it should make a cyclone, or a hurricane, or a sunny day occur….

    You are making some sort of distinction between these two things:
    1) the mapping of visual stimuli to robotic responses
    2) the mapping of solar radiation to cyclones

    In the first case, you say there are “determinations” and “interpretations” and “decisions” being made, while in the second case you imply none of these terms apply. And I assume you would also consider these terms apply to the thermostat system too, correct?

    On what possible basis are you making this distinction? The thermostat makes “determinations” and “interpretations” and “decisions” while the weather system does not?

    The atmospheric system just does whatever happens to ensue due to natural law/chance.

    And the robot uses something other than law/chance? And the thermostat? What besides law/chance is operating withing these devices? A transcendent mind? A soul? A gremlin?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    P.S.

    Your assumption is incorrect.

    In that case, I’ll reiterate: When you attempted to show that I was hyper-skeptical in a way that would call all of our scientific terms into question, I showed that was not the case. Energy, for example, is described with sufficient precision that physicists can test and confirm their theories to thirteen decimal places. The fact that we cannot intuitively conceptualize the entities so defined does not make them less useful scientifically. The concepts of evolution, natural selection, and random mutation are easily defined to anyone’s satisfaction (I’ll gladly do so again if you’d like). In contrast, the term “intelligence” is given no empirically useful meaning in the context of ID theory.

    This time if you ignore my response again, I will not again assume you agree with me. Rather, I’ll assume that you can’t think of a response but remain closed-minded to follow the evidence where it leads.

  374. Hi Phinehas,

    I don’t want to speak for others, but what I take away from what is being described is that the mapping is determinatively discontinuous. In order for mapping to work at all, the signals themselves cannot determine the outcome.

    So you believe that robots are necessarily non-deterministic – that they necessarily do not reliably map input to their actions? I can tell you quite certaintly that this is not the case. This becomes even more apparent with the even simpler mechanism of the robotic temperature controller (aka thermostat), which deterministically maps input (room temperature) to output (heater activation).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  375. RDFish:

    This becomes even more apparent with the even simpler mechanism of the robotic temperature controller (aka thermostat), which deterministically maps input (room temperature) to output (heater activation).

    Sure. The same way that every light switch always [deterministically that is] turns the light ON when pushed to the UP position and every light switch always [deterministically that is] turns the light OFF when pushed to the down position.

  376. WJM:

    What good does it do to have a sight sensor that is interpreted as bowel discomfort that in turn causes the action of scratching our heads?

    Wow. You’ve just described the precise reaction I have after reading an RDFish post.

  377. Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robotics

    RDFish:

    So you believe that robots are necessarily non-deterministic – that they necessarily do not reliably map input to their actions?

    You are so confused. Or obtuse. Or both.

    What is this mapping you speak of and what determines this mapping? Don’t yo have some work on a mechanical/robotic bird to do?

    Want some help with the mapping?

  378. Mung,

    You are so confused. Or obtuse. Or both.

    Hold on there, cowboy. RDFish is NOT obtuse! He doesn’t weigh an ounce over 325 pounds dripping wet in his flip-flops!

    Sorry, I thought we needed a little “fresh” air in here. 😉

    -Q

  379. Seventy liters of fresh air are determined on the intelligent design people and their website.

  380. That last liter should be pretty interesting.

    -Q

  381. This time if you ignore my response again, I will not again assume you agree with me. Rather, I’ll assume that you can’t think of a response but remain closed-minded to follow the evidence where it leads.

    Nyah, nyah! If you don’t answer me, I win!!!

  382. Hi William J Murray,

    That’s rich, William. Here’s what you said about me not responding to something UB had written:

    Unless RDFish answers UB’s pertinent, revealing question, I’d say RDFiush has been outed as a trollish fraud here.

    So what have you been outed as? A big old hypocrite, obviously.

    You accused me of selective hyper-skepticism, and pretended that terms such as “random mutation” had no clear meaning. I thoroughly discredited your complaints, but rather than acknowledge your error you just refuse to respond, hoping that all of the arguments that demolish your defenses will just go away if you close your eyes and plug your ears. Very bad form indeed.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  383. “You are making some sort of distinction between these two things:
    1) the mapping of visual stimuli to robotic responses
    2) the mapping of solar radiation to cyclones

    In the first case, you say there are “determinations” and “interpretations” and “decisions” being made, while in the second case you imply none of these terms apply. And I assume you would also consider these terms apply to the thermostat system too, correct?

    On what possible basis are you making this distinction? The thermostat makes “determinations” and “interpretations” and “decisions” while the weather system does not?”

    You have forgotten something extremely important. Its called information.

    “So you believe that robots are necessarily non-deterministic – that they necessarily do not reliably map input to their actions”

    They do reliably map input to their actions but this is based on the presence of a code which by definition cannot be reduced to the physical medium in which it exists.

  384. Hi Jul3s,

    They do reliably map input to their actions but this is based on the presence of a code which by definition cannot be reduced to the physical medium in which it exists.

    By definition?

    Anyway, Phinehas’ claim was that the mapping was necessarily non-deterministic, not that it was irreducible to the physical medium. He was wrong.

    And as for reducing the operations of robots to physical media, of course they can be so reduced. Point to any aspect of the function of a robot, and it can be reduced without remainder all the way down to the physical properties of the hardware, along with the initial state of the machine.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  385. False.

    Code is physicochemically arbitrary. The system in which the code operates obeys physical laws but the code is not reducible to physical law. Saying otherwise is akin to saying that there is a chemical reason that the letters ‘c-a-t’ *must* refer to the animal.

  386. Hi Jul3s,

    Code is physicochemically arbitrary.

    Yes, that is correct (the term “physicochemically” is a pretty odd choice, but I know what you are getting at).

    The system in which the code operates obeys physical laws but the code is not reducible to physical law.

    No, it is of course reducible to physical law. It is a deterministic physical machine that we understand fully, and I repeat: The operation can be reduced without remainder all the way down to physics.

    Saying otherwise is akin to saying that there is a chemical reason that the letters ‘c-a-t’ *must* refer to the animal.

    No, it is nothing like saying that. You note that codes are arbitrary with regard to physical implementation, and you are correct. But that does not mean that the system implementing the code is not not reducible to the physical implementation.

    You have, however, helped me understand the mistake that UB, William, StephenB, and others here are making. You are all conflating the arbitrary nature of code with some other property like non-determinism or irreducibility to physical cause.

    This really just is a misunderstanding on your part – let’s see if I can explain this to you in a way you’ll understand.

    Imagine I build a very complicated machine, with thousands of interacting parts. There are some buttons on the front of this machine, and some lights too. Depending on what buttons are pushed, different patterns of lights light up. The mapping between the input (button pattern) and output (light pattern) is arbitrary; say I chose it just by flipping coins, and I constructed the machine such that it functioned with that particular random mapping.

    So button pattern A always elicits light pattern A, and Button pattern B always elicits light pattern B, and so on. But there is no meaningful connection between the patterns – they are just randomly picked.

    Now, is any part of this machine irreducible to the physical parts I used to build it? Of course not – it’s just a bunch of parts interacting in ways that we can describe fully in terms of physics. Agreed?

    Now say I decide to associate each button pattern, and each light pattern, with meaningful questions and answers, just by making a list of the associations. My list looks like this:

    button pattern A => “What is the capital of Idaho?”
    light pattern A => “Boise”

    button pattern B => “What is 8 X 8?”
    light pattern B => “64”

    and so on.

    Now that I’ve done this, my machine is a question-answering machine. As you would say, there is physico-chemically arbitrary code that enables the machine to connect meaningful questions with meaningfully correct answers. The machine processes information in order to reply with these correct results.

    Would you say that just by writing down my list of associations I somehow transformed this machine from being reducible to physics into one that is not reducible to physics? No, of course not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  387. This time if you ignore my response again, I will not again assume you agree with me. Rather, I’ll assume that you can’t think of a response but remain closed-minded to follow the evidence where it leads.

    Seems like bullying to me–I’d call it for what it is.

    Some the the questions posed here are difficult to address. Terman thought intelligence could be reduced to a single number, a quotient based on age and relative neurological development. This is a pretty stupid idea when you think about it. There are people that are extremely articulate, others are creative, still others have a near perfect memory, some are knowledgable, some people are amazing at chess, mathematics, or music.

    But that’s really not the question. The question is whether something with volition has impacted nature for some purpose. Is a bee intelligent when making a hive or a spider when spinning a web? are their behaviors the result of the reinforcement of certain random acts, or the result of behavioral programming? Or some of both.

    A Will, an Interaction, and a Purpose . . .

    I understand that evaluating a possible artifact for human involvement can be pretty tricky. There seems to be a point where you’re pretty sure. A Ferrari Testarossa is not likely to be produced by random processes unless you resort to a multiverse scenario. Artwork, such as an astonishing likeness of Elvis Presley or the Virgin Mary on a moldy wall is hard tp analyze, as is discovering patterns in a number series or a supposed Bible code.

    Nano technology results in inverted assessments. If it’s simple, fragile, and clunky, it’s produced by a human; but if it’s highly advanced and efficient, then it’s produced by nature. Or maybe aliens. Similarly, the best human designs—Dieter Ram comes to mind—design objects that feel so “natural” that one doesn’t notice that they were carefully designed.

    If someday, aliens visit Earth and show us how they used DNA to design self-sustaining, self-replicating organisms, and how they fine-tuned our ecosystems, we would quickly find it obvious that there was “intelligent” intervention. If not, then organisms are supposedly just as obviously a spontaneous result of some natural “ratcheting” process. With the aliens absent, how could we use science to tell the difference? No one really knows.

    Maybe we challenge the efficacy of natural processes. Can evolution truly produce the astonishing architecture of DNA (which obviously has stopped evolving long ago)? Or the various biochemical cycles (ATP-ADP comes to mind among hundreds of others). Can the explanations and stories into which data has been fit (some say force fit) be tested scientifically? Unless you have millions of years available, the answer is no.

    In partnership with existing natural processes, we can subject arrangements to the laser analysis of mathematics. With weak natural processes available (natural selection and several types of mutation), the math looks pretty unlikely—Haldane’s dilemma is still a serious problem for evolution.

    A lot of the rest suffers from ideological contamination, biological alchemy, researcher bias (for a good cause, of course), outright fraud, jealousy, ambition, feuds, academic character assassination, royalties, control of important excavation sites, indoctrination, academic reputation, publishing in the right refereed journals, and all the other lovely things we do to each other including pointless arguments based out of ignorance.

    In my perspective, anyway.

    -Q

  388. 389

    @RDF

    Hahahahahahahaahahahahaha. Oh, my sides hurt. I do thank you, JWT – that was actually the funniest post of the year.

    After looking for someone – anyone – who would finally concede that ID needed to provide an empirically grounded definition for the word “intelligent”, and chasing ID folks all over the map while they dodge the question, and having StephenB finally settle on the concept of contra-causality (that the rest of us know by the term “free will”)…. you come along and suggest we go all the way back to the beginning! Hahahahahaha, this really is too much

    Stop being such a jackass. We agree that defining intelligence in terms of free will, determinism, natural, or non-natural clouds and poisons the issue unneccesary. We know we can identify human-designed results (see archaelogy etc.) without resorting to philosophical worldviews. We know materialists who don’t believe in free will can believe in ID (aliens designed humans). So what’s next?

  389. RD:

    You have, however, helped me understand the mistake that UB, William, StephenB, and others here are making. You are all conflating the arbitrary nature of code with some other property like non-determinism or irreducibility to physical cause.

    I think the argument is that the origins of a system embodying an arbitrary code transcends physics (we repeatedly hear that a code can’t be derived from the “inexorable laws” of physics) and therefore requires an intelligence, not that the operation of that code-system itself is somehow arbitrary, and therefore other than physical.

  390. 391

    Just a quick note to thank Dio, WJM, SB and others for their kind words and encouragement.

    Thank You!

  391. So what have you been outed as? A big old hypocrite, obviously.

    The difference between the two cases is that you were in the middle of a making a point that IDists offered no “single, canonical” definition of intelligence and UB pointed out with your own quotes that you had used the term in an argument here some time ago as if it had such a definition, going so far as to say that you were using it “the same way” as IDists were using it (even while claiming that no one knew what it meant). IOW, UB pointed out that your own prior words directly contradicted you (and I offered more of your past quotes that did the same), and up to a point you refused to answer him (the answer you eventually provided was an obvious and laughable attempt to provide yourself cover).

    In my case, you are simply asserting that you have “thoroughly discredited” and “demolished” my point about your selective hyper-skepticism and I refuse to acknowledge it. But, what actually happened?

    You demanded a “single, canonical” definition from IDists, as if one was required for ID to be a scientific enterprise. As others (and I) pointed out, there are many terms science uses to denote physical forces and theories that also have no single, canonical definition. To meet this rebuttal, you did the same thing IDists had been doing to meet your rebut your criticism; you offered a definition of a few of the terms.

    When IDists were offering definitions of intelligence here, some provided resources and support for their definition. You didn’t even offer that much when you provided your supposedly “canonical” definitions. You just said:

    You ask “What does evolution mean?” It means change. What does Darwinian evolution mean? It means population change over time by means of random mutation and natural selection. What does natural selection mean? It means disproportionate reproduction due to heritable changes. What does random mutation mean? It means changes in heritable traits that are not correlated with reproductive advantage. I don’t even believe that evolutionary theory is true at all, yet each of its terms are defined quite clearly and precisely.

    as if the above “definitions” you have provided, in the manner you have provided them, demonstrate their “canonical” status. How have you demonstrated these characterizations to be “canonical”? You’ve done nothing more than anyone here has done who offered a definition for “intelligence”; and in some cases, less, as at least KF offered resources to support his definitional use of the term “intelligence”. You didn’t even provide so much as a link to a dictionary to support your definitions of those terms, much less make any case that they are “canonical”.

    In your mind, this is you “demolishing” my point about your selective hyperskepticism, when in fact you are demonstrating your selective hyperskepticism. When you provide an unsupported definition of a term in a forum, that’s apparently good enough for you when it comes to providing a definition. When other guys do the same thing (and more, providing resources to support their definition) – that’s not enough. When you use the term “intelligence” in a debate about ID, it’s okay to employ an assumed, common concept of what intelligence is an refers to. When others use it the same way – that’s not enough. No, you invent a new criteria for definitions when it comes to ID – “canonical” – and demand the definition meet this criteria you have invented, which you yourself don’t even attempt to meet when challenged.

    Here you are, loud and proud, asserting that weather processing solar radiation into a cyclone is qualitatively the same as a robot bird capable of processing input via signal interpretation through decision trees towards specific goals such as landing on a branch, even after admitting that the only known source of such a CSI-rich phenomena is intelligence. Are you now saying that a cyclone is a CSI-rich phenomena, and that intelligence (or, as you would argue, physically embodied humans) is the only known, reasonably-inferred cause?

  392. If you are interested in avoiding erroneous assumptions about why I’m not responding to things you write, RDFish, here are the reasons I often don’t respond to posters:

    1. I believe I’ve made my case well enough to stand as-is, and that the expressed rebuttals or challenges don’t warrant a response;

    2. I think someone is trolling;

    3. I think someone is incapable of understanding fundamental aspects of the debate;

    4. I just miss their post – it’s not like I read every post or live on this site.

    Or, if you prefer, you can continue assuming erroneous, self-serving explanations that stroke your ego and make you feel like you’ve won a debate.

  393. Juls3 said

    The system in which the code operates obeys physical laws but the code is not reducible to physical law.

    To which RDFish responds:

    No, it is of course reducible to physical law. It is a deterministic physical machine that we understand fully, and I repeat: The operation can be reduced without remainder all the way down to physics.

    … as if the physical law that governs the interaction between ink and paper is sufficiently explanatory for “War and Peace”. The code that is transported by the medium is not explained by the physical properties of the medium. Apparently, RDFish expects that he could spill ink on paper and find the ink gathers up into comprehensible sentences and mathematical formulas.

    The properties of ink and paper do not generate code (CSI) simply by their physical interaction.

  394. In one argument, RDFish admits that CSI-rich information, like code, is only known to be produced by intelligent humans. In another, RDFish insists that the physical laws of the medium transporting the code is sufficient explanation for the existence of the code. Hmmm.

  395. Reciprocating Bill:

    I think the argument is that the origins of a system embodying an arbitrary code transcends physics (we repeatedly hear that a code can’t be derived from the “inexorable laws” of physics)…

    LoL! You repeatedly hear that because that is what all the evidence, observations and experiences say.

  396. It does NOT matter if intelligent agencies have free will or not. All that matters is that intelligent agencies can do things with nature that nature, operating freely, could not or would not do.

    And then intelligent agencies, such as humans, can come along and detect that action.

  397. RDF:

    So you believe that robots are necessarily non-deterministic – that they necessarily do not reliably map input to their actions?

    What I believe is plainly clear in what I wrote. I do not think that anyone interested in giving a fair hearing to what I believe will struggle to understand it. That what so many write so plainly continues to confuse you speaks volumes.

  398. Hi JWTruthInLove,

    Stop being such a jackass.

    Sorry.

    We agree that defining intelligence in terms of free will, determinism, natural, or non-natural clouds and poisons the issue unneccesary.

    Ok, good.

    We know we can identify human-designed results (see archaelogy etc.) without resorting to philosophical worldviews.

    Yes.

    We know materialists who don’t believe in free will can believe in ID (aliens designed humans).

    Non-materialists can believe that too.

    So what’s next?

    Concede that if ID is talking about alien life forms, they don’t have a very good theory. And if ID is talking about something that isn’t an alien life form, they need to say something about what they are proposing, otherwise they aren’t saying anything at all.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  399. Hi Reciprocating Bill,

    I think the argument is that the origins of a system embodying an arbitrary code transcends physics (we repeatedly hear that a code can’t be derived from the “inexorable laws” of physics) and therefore requires an intelligence, not that the operation of that code-system itself is somehow arbitrary, and therefore other than physical.

    That is what I thought UB was talking about too. But then he ridiculed me for thinking that, and make very clear he was talking about the operation of the system, and not the origin. Unbelievable, right?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  400. Hi William J Murray,

    The difference between the two cases is that you were in the middle of a making a point that IDists offered no “single, canonical” definition of intelligence and UB pointed out with your own quotes that you had used the term in an argument here some time ago as if it had such a definition, going so far as to say that you were using it “the same way” as IDists were using it (even while claiming that no one knew what it meant).

    I’ve explained this endlessly – you simply won’t listen. How many times must I tell you that when IDists use the term they are simply using the vague descriptive label, like “atheltic”, that refers to general human abilities. We use the word all the time that way, but it is completely useless as an explanatory construct in scientific theories unless one actually says which human abilities one is actually including!

    Does it imply conscious awareness?
    Does it imply free will?
    Does it imply learning?
    Does it imply use of natural language?
    Does it imply general mathematical abilities?
    Does it imply sentience?
    and so on and so on.

    IDists refuse to specify which (if any) of these traits are included. If you would like to take a stab at, be my guest – but if you’d like to cling to your claim that ID is scientific, be prepared to show empirical evidence that any of these particular traits are in evidence in the context of ID.

    You demanded a “single, canonical” definition from IDists, …

    Simply because I have received so many completely different definitions from people here! Nobody disagrees about what “random mutation” means, contrary to your ridiculous implication. But what about “intelligence” in the context of ID? Here are just some example definitions I’ve gotten:

    Conscious thought.
    Thought that is not necessarily conscious.
    That which produces CSI.
    Something neither random nor determined.
    Something that can use natural language (this was VJTorley’s definition)
    That which can make selections toward a goal (from StephenB)
    Something that has the same mental abilities as human beings
    Information processing
    Something human beings would recognize as “intelligent” (!)

    None of these definitions suit the purpose of ID, as I will happily show if you’d like to pick one or more of them that you believe are adequate to the task.

    Here you are, loud and proud, asserting that weather processing solar radiation into a cyclone is qualitatively the same as a robot bird capable of processing input via signal interpretation

    Good grief, you won’t even read my arguments, yet you fool yourself into thinking you are rebutting them. I just got through saying that my point was NOT that weather and robots are “qualitatively the same”, but rather my point was that just because there is a complex mapping of input to output doesn’t mean there is a “discontinuity”.

    … as if the physical law that governs the interaction between ink and paper is sufficiently explanatory for “War and Peace”.

    That is a ridiculous strawman, of course. The explanation for War and Peace is human authorship. That does not imply a “discontinuity” that defies determinism, and it does not imply an impossibility of reduction to physical events.

    Apparently, RDFish expects that he could spill ink on paper and find the ink gathers up into comprehensible sentences and mathematical formulas.

    You should be ashamed of your propensity for these stupid strawmen arguments.

    You refuse to give my arguments a fair reading, because somewhere deep inside you know that if you did, you would have to concede that your claims are unfounded. Would you like to prove me wrong? Read my explanation @387 to jul3s, where he helps me understand just what you, UB, et al are thinking, imagining that a robot exhibits a “discontinuity”. If you will actually read my illustration there, and respond to it in good faith rather than making up silly strawmen, you will redeem yourself as someone who is willing to actually consider opposing views without silly pretense or simply running away. But if you simply keep repeating your strawman arguments and calling me a troll, you will reveal yourself to be nothing but a closed-minded troll yourself.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  401. RDF:

    Anyway, Phinehas’ claim was that the mapping was necessarily non-deterministic, not that it was irreducible to the physical medium. He was wrong.

    No, no, no. You get prickly when folks question your motivations here, but you really make it difficult to do otherwise. You so consistently misunderstand, mischaracterize, and misrepresent that it becomes difficult not to run these things through the explanatory filter and conclude design.

    I did not claim that the mapping was necessarily non-deterministic. My point was that where a signal chain is physically-causally deterministic (someone else referenced physio-chemical properties to make the same point), there is no room for mapping.

    If I came out with a new ball point pen with special ink that had a physio-chemical reaction with paper such that it automatically formed various letters on contact, the deterministic nature of this interaction would make the pen much less useful in writing meaningful sentences. That pens do not act this way, but instead provide a deterministic gap in the forming of letters, allows me to insert my own mapping scheme such that meaningful sentences can be written.

    Is this really that difficult to understand?

  402. RDF:

    Would you say that just by writing down my list of associations I somehow transformed this machine from being reducible to physics into one that is not reducible to physics? No, of course not.

    I would say that your machine has been intelligently designed and imbued with information. This information is not reducible to the physicochemical properties of the matter involved. Your machine is also irreducibly complex. These things would be apparent if your machine were discovered on a distant planet upon which no human had ever set foot.

    Paraphrasing the great philosopher Inigo Montoya, I do not think the points you are making mean what you think they mean.

  403. Hi Phinehas,

    My point was that where a signal chain is physically-causally deterministic (someone else referenced physio-chemical properties to make the same point), there is no room for mapping.

    If I came out with a new ball point pen with special ink that had a physio-chemical reaction with paper such that it automatically formed various letters on contact, the deterministic nature of this interaction would make the pen much less useful in writing meaningful sentences. That pens do not act this way, but instead provide a deterministic gap in the forming of letters, allows me to insert my own mapping scheme such that meaningful sentences can be written.

    Is this really that difficult to understand?

    The problem with your point is that you assume without evidence that you have solved the ancient problem of free will, and so you know that when human beings write sentences, something inside of them is acting non-deterministically. You may be right, and you may be wrong, but it is well beyond any pretense of scientific claim to assume one way or the other. Since ID depends on the truth of this claim, ID cannot be called scientific.

    I would say that your machine has been intelligently designed…

    I was waiting for this one. UB had made painfully clear that his point did not relate to the origin of these machines, but rather had to do soley with their operation. It doesn’t matter how this machine came to exist – the claim is that how it operates somehow exhibits a discontinuity.

    …and imbued with information.

    The information in the machine had nothing to do with its ability to answer questions. It only connected random button patterns with random light patterns.

    This information is not reducible to the physicochemical properties of the matter involved.

    The operation of the machine is obviously reducible. It does not make sense to say the “information” (a random pairing of random patterns) is not reducible – just as it makes no sense to say that the pairing between solar radiation and cyclones cannot be reduced to physical properties.

    Your machine is also irreducibly complex. These things would be apparent if your machine were discovered on a distant planet upon which no human had ever set foot.

    Completely irrelevant to the claim that robots exhibit discontinuities. Again, UB made very clear that we are not talking about the origin of such things, but rather about their operation. Read his post @331. He even ridiculed me for imaging the topic had to do with the origin of the information, since he was perfectly clear (LOL) that he was only talking about the operation of the system.

    UB is wise to restrict the discussion to the operation of these systems rather than the origin of them. Veering off into discussions of “who designed the designer” doesn’t help either side of this debate. UB is perfectly confused, however, about there being a “discontinuity” in the operation of machines like robots (or thermostats).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  404. RDFish asks:

    Would you say that just by writing down my list of associations I somehow transformed this machine from being reducible to physics into one that is not reducible to physics? No, of course not.

    The machine is reducible to physics. The existence of the code is not. If the existence of code was reducible to the physical characteristics of the materials, physical law and chance, you would expect War and Peace to write itself simply by introducing ink to paper. Random splotches of ink spattered on paper is, physically, “the same as” War and Peace written on paper with ink. The splotches just look different. The code that War and Peace represents, however, is not explained by reference merely to the lawful physico-chemical interactions of paper and ink.

    It really isn’t that difficult to understand.

  405. RDFish said:

    The problem with your point is that you assume without evidence that you have solved the ancient problem of free will, and so you know that when human beings write sentences, something inside of them is acting non-deterministically.

    Without evidence? The evidence is staring you in the face, both scientifically and logically. There is NOTHING about the physical properties of any medium that has ever been found, regardless of what it is, that can account for the coded messages carried by the medium. Further, there is no logical answer for it from the perspective of materialism. The highly specified contingency required for coded messaging and it’s Irreducibly Complex nature renders inscription by physical law and/or chance entirely insufficient for producing even modest-sized, meaningful strings.

    You may be right, and you may be wrong, but it is well beyond any pretense of scientific claim to assume one way or the other. Since ID depends on the truth of this claim, ID cannot be called scientific.

    What can be appropriately called “scientific” does not depend upon your personal, idiosyncratic, selectively hyperskeptical definition of “scientific”. Or are you claiming there is a single, canonical definition of the term “scientific”?

  406. RDF:

    The problem with your point is that you assume without evidence that you have solved the ancient problem of free will, and so you know that when human beings write sentences, something inside of them is acting non-deterministically.

    Nope. It is you that are introducing the problem of free will , either as a red herring or some kind of supposed philosophical cover. My point is clear:

    A pen whose physicochemical properties interact with paper such that letters are automatically formed leaves no room for mapping. There must be a break or a discontinuity in the physicochemical chain between pen and paper and letter forming in order for meaningful mapping to occur. A pen that has this discontinuity such that it can arbitrarily (not determined from a physicochemical perspective) form letters can utilize mapping to communicate meaning.

    I’m just talking about pens and ink and their physicochemical properties here. I have no problem stipulating that pens do not have free will.

    I was waiting for this one. UB had made painfully clear that his point did not relate to the origin of these machines, but rather had to do soley with their operation.

    Good for him. What does that have to do with my answer to your question? You set up a scenario and asked a question about it, and I simply answered.

    The operation of the machine is obviously reducible. It does not make sense to say the “information” (a random pairing of random patterns) is not reducible – just as it makes no sense to say that the pairing between solar radiation and cyclones cannot be reduced to physical properties.

    Oops. I didn’t realize that you were once again trying to compare a system with no information to a system with information while pretending there was no difference between the two. Of course, your insistence that there really isn’t any information here and that this is an important point tends to undermine your argument more than support it. But anyway. My bad?

    UB is wise to restrict the discussion to the operation of these systems rather than the origin of them. Veering off into discussions of “who designed the designer” doesn’t help either side of this debate.

    Yes. As you say, UB is wise indeed.

  407. Hi William J Murray,

    The machine is reducible to physics. The existence of the code is not.

    What is the “code” – the pairing of patterns inside the machine? Or the list of questions and answers that I had written out after the fact?

    Remember, UB claimed that the operation of the machine contained irreducible discontinuities. If by “code” you mean the list that was written… what if I didn’t write the list, but simply kept it in my memory? What part of the system would be “irreducible” then?

    If the existence of code was reducible to the physical characteristics of the materials, physical law and chance, you would expect War and Peace to write itself simply by introducing ink to paper.

    May I say that neither of us thinks novels write themselves, so you needn’t suggest this again?

    Human beings write novels, and as far we know, nothing else does. Whether or not human beings are reducible to physical law is a very ancient philosophical question that cannot presently be addressed by scientific inquiry.

    [I will share my own personal view if you’re interested: I am not a “materialist”, because I believe modern physics has no relation to what people think of as “material interactions” – little bits of stuff careening off of each other in a void. Neither do I believe that treating conscious mind as an irreducible cause that is neither determined nor random is a coherent explanation (for reasons that would take longer to explain). But the point is I am not arguing for any particular metaphysics here; I am simply intent on pointing out that science cannot resolve the issue, and to the extent that ID is predicated on contra-causality (which I think has been amply demonstrated here), ID is not scientific.]

    Once you clarify what you meant by the “code”, we’ll be able to discuss the resolution of my thought experiment. But thank you for answering in good faith.

    It really isn’t that difficult to understand.

    Actually these questions have occupied the finest minds in history and continue to do so without anything remotely resembling consensus. So I would disagree with your assessment.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  408. I’m sorry, RDFish. Did I miss where you presented us with the canonical definition of “scientfic”? Because absent such a definition, by your own measure, all of your arguments about whether or not ID is a “scientific” enterprise lack foundational merit.

  409. 410

    Whether or not human beings are reducible to physical law is a very ancient philosophical question that cannot presently be addressed by scientific inquiry.

    If it’s a philosophical question, then ‘presently’ is not needed in your reply. Scientists who claim that everything is reducible to physical law, obviously disagree with you. I’d guess that you’d use the science to prove that science cannot answer this. To do that, and also claim that ID is not science would be a contradiction.

    We can use science to eliminate physical law as a cause — I believe, just as you did. We don’t use philosophy to determine that, especially since you’ve said ‘presently’ science cannot do it. This implies that science is still working on it. ID is working on it also.

    I am not arguing for any particular metaphysics here; I am simply intent on pointing out that science cannot resolve the issue …

    I’d be interested in learning what non-reducible ‘thing’ you’re referring to.

    to the extent that ID is predicated on contra-causality (which I think has been amply demonstrated here), ID is not scientific.

    Most of biology today supposes that human beings are entirely reducible to physical law. If you’re saying that ID is not scientific like most of biology — then I’d fully agree.

  410. 411

    JWT: ” We know we can identify human-designed results (see archaelogy etc.) without resorting to philosophical worldviews.”

    But that is only because we understand the intelligence levels and capabilities of humans. But we are being asked to accept the identification of design in biological features without having any understanding of the intelligence responsible. In fact, we are told that understanding this intelligence is not needed, and beyond our comprehension.

    Sorry. Can’t buy that. Without establishing an hypothesis (maybe even a theory) about the nature and capabilities/limitations of the designer, you have nothing to test.

  411. May I say that neither of us thinks novels write themselves, so you needn’t suggest this again?

    This is why I think you’re a troll, RDFish. You take a phrase that is meant to portray a concept, like CSI-rich CODE (War and Peace), emerging causally from the interaction of ink and paper (as if the phsysico-chemical interactive regularities was enough to account for the existence of the code), and then take it out of context to make some ludicrous point about humans being the only thing we know that writes novels.

    As if that was my point. That humans write novels.

    My point was that CODE (war and peace) doesn’t spontaneously manifest in a medium just because of the lawful nature of the mediums in question. The properties of ink and paper cannot explain the existence of the code.

    Coded CSI in any substrate cannot be explained by the physical properties of the substrate, just as the exstence of War and Peace cannot be explained by reference to the physical properties of ink and paper.

  412. 413

    If you’re saying that ID is not scientific like most of biology — then I’d fully agree.

    That is, I’d agree with your reasoning, not your conclusions. I.e. “Modern biology is not scientific. So it follows that ID is not.”

  413. WJM

    If the existence of code was reducible to the physical characteristics of the materials, physical law and chance, you would expect War and Peace to write itself simply by introducing ink to paper.

    RDF

    May I say that neither of us thinks novels write themselves, so you needn’t suggest this again?

    A little more clarity would help here. Do you mean that we have never observed it to happen, but it is possible? Or, do you mean that it is not possible? If it is not possible, why not?

  414. Hi William J Murray,

    I’m sorry, RDFish. Did I miss where you presented us with the canonical definition of “scientfic”?

    When I say “scientific”, I mean something that can be demonstrated via appeal to our uniform and repeated experience – a definition used by both Darwin and, notably, by Stephen C. Meyer. I think it is sadly disengenuous of you to question the demarcation of science, considering ID is all about the attempt to obtain scientific status for metaphysical and theological beliefs. Otherwise, I would have no argument with any of it.

    Coded CSI in any substrate cannot be explained by the physical properties of the substrate, just as the exstence of War and Peace cannot be explained by reference to the physical properties of ink and paper.

    As usual, you refused to answer my questions, presumably because you realized that it would undermine you claims. What I asked was this:

    WJM: The machine is reducible to physics. The existence of the code is not.
    RDF: What is the “code” – the pairing of patterns inside the machine? Or the list of questions and answers that I had written out after the fact?

    Since you refused to answer this, I will guess that you mean the latter.

    Then I asked this:

    Remember, UB claimed that the operation of the machine contained irreducible discontinuities. If by “code” you mean the list that was written… what if I didn’t write the list, but simply kept it in my memory? What part of the system would be “irreducible” then?

    Since you refused to answer this, I will guess that you realize your error: No part of this question-answering machine is irreducible to physical cause at all.

    And there you have my rebuttal to UB’s argument, which you called (@371) “the most irrefutable and ubiquitous of ID arguments”. 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  415. RDFish:

    …considering ID is all about the attempt to obtain scientific status for metaphysical and theological beliefs.

    And more utter nonsense. Science is about reality, period, whatever that reality is.

    Now RDFish doesn’t understand what a code is. Wow, just wow…

  416. All codes are arbitrary and irreducible wrt physics and chemistry. The genetic code is such a code even though evos have a promissory note saying that they will figure it out someday.

  417. RDFish:

    Concede that if ID is talking about alien life forms, they don’t have a very good theory. And if ID is talking about something that isn’t an alien life form, they need to say something about what they are proposing, otherwise they aren’t saying anything at all.

    ID is about the DESIGN, not the designer(s). Obviously the DESIGN arrived somehow and we can study the DESIGN.

    In the absence of direct observation or designer input, only by studying the design can we have any hope of scientifically determining anything about the designer(s) and the specific processes used.

    Obviously RDFish is just another troll.

  418. Hi Phinehas,

    I’m just talking about pens and ink and their physicochemical properties here. I have no problem stipulating that pens do not have free will.

    In that cause, the mapping between this unusual pen and paper is deterministic. What’s your point?

    Oops. I didn’t realize that you were once again trying to compare a system with no information to a system with information while pretending there was no difference between the two. Of course, your insistence that there really isn’t any information here and that this is an important point tends to undermine your argument more than support it. But anyway. My bad?

    Uh? The machine pairs, by virtue of its physical properties, button patterns with light patterns. Nothing in the machine contains any information other than those random pairings. But a person who associated certain button patterns with certain questions, and certain light patterns with answers, would see that the machine is a question-answering machine. Yet nothing in the machine is irreducible to physical cause.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  419. RDFish said:

    When I say “scientific”, I mean something that can be demonstrated via appeal to our uniform and repeated experience – a definition used by both Darwin and, notably, by Stephen C. Meyer.

    1. Where did you establish that Darwin and Meyer used the same definition? Source, please.

    2. Would you please refer to a definition of “canonical” that supports your apparent position that two quotes by two different scientists = “canonical”?

    I think it is sadly disengenuous of you to question the demarcation of science, considering ID is all about the attempt to obtain scientific status for metaphysical and theological beliefs. Otherwise, I would have no argument with any of it.

    1. What I asked for is the exact same thing you demanded of ID supporters – a single, canonical definition of a term intrinsic to the debate – “scientific”. If you are going to make the case that ID is non-scientific, it is incumbent upon you to provide the definitions that underlie your case. If you are going to demand “canonical” definitions, then since you are the one that inserted that standard, it’s up to you to explain it and abide by it when challenged.

    2. Can you support your assertion that ID is “all about the attempt to obtain scientific status for metaphysical and theological beliefs”? Sources, quotes?

    As usual, you refused to answer my questions, presumably because you realized that it would undermine you claims.

    Since you refused to answer this, I will guess that you realize your error:

    I’ve already addressed your self-serving, ego-propping assumptive habit. This is more of the reason I think you’re a troll. I’ve already corrected you on this, but you continue to say “if you don’t answer me, then “I WIN”!!!” – trollish behavior.

  420. RDFish @14,

    In the mix of responses, you seem to have missed my question. Obviously, you believe that information can be derived from physio-chemical interactions, which is the point that UB’s argument (and other ID arguments) are meant to challenge.

    In responding to WJM, you agreed that the interaction of ink and paper (a physio-chemical process) doesn’t produce a novel (information). As I pointed out, this response is not clear. Are you saying that we have no empirical evidence of it, but we cannot rule out the possibility? Or, are you saying that we can rule out the possibility? If it is the latter, why (or on what basis) do you hold that position?

  421. 422

    RDFish 387:

    The mapping between the input (button pattern) and output (light pattern) is arbitrary; say I chose it just by flipping coins, and I constructed the machine such that it functioned with that particular random mapping.

    Now say I decide to associate each button pattern, and each light pattern, with meaningful questions and answers, just by making a list of the associations.

    As you would say, there is physico-chemically arbitrary code that enables the machine to connect meaningful questions with meaningfully correct answers. The machine processes information in order to reply with these correct results.

    Would you say that just by writing down my list of associations I somehow transformed this machine from being reducible to physics into one that is not reducible to physics?

    Is that all you did? Just write down a list?

    But a person who associated certain button patterns with certain questions, and certain light patterns with answers, would see that the machine is a question-answering machine. Yet nothing in the machine is irreducible to physical cause.

    The association/mapping/coding-translation/signal-processing is not “in the machine”?

    It’s possible that you’re not seeing this point. I would be very surprised by that but it could be true.

  422. RDFish said:

    When I say “scientific”, I mean something that can be demonstrated via appeal to our uniform and repeated experience.

    So, the above is what RDFish has offered as a “canonical” definition of thee term “scientific”. Let’s see how this plays out.

    We are all intelligently designing our posts to this forum, working through devices that are intelligently designed. Is intelligent design NOT something that is demonstrated daily via appeal to our uniform and repeated experience?

    Furthermore, is it not our uniform and repeated experience that only intelligent agents produce CSI-rich artifacts? Is it not our uniform and repeated experience that absent such intelligence (and disregarding the example in dispute, biological life), nature on its own does not appear to generate CSI-rich artifacts, such as mechanisms that employ signal translation and processing towards complex, useful ends?

    Do we uniformly and repeatedly experience life arising from inanimate matter? Do we uniformly and repeatedly experience macroevolutionary success where complex new features are generated due to Darwinian processes? Do we uniformly and repeatedly experience codes forming when unintelligent forces and materials interact?

    It seems to me, then, by RDFish’s own definition of “scientific”, and by his own prior statements on the matter of CSI and intelligence, ID is far more scientific than Darwinian evolution and origin of life studies.

  423. 424

    The machine pairs, by virtue of its physical properties, button patterns with light patterns.

    There is no physical law that associates button with light. There is no physical property in the machine that decided the patterns should follow the precise results of coin flips or to associate button and light with any pattern at all.

    The association/mapping,whether randomized or humanly-intelligible, was added to the machine.

    We’re talking about a communication network from signal to mapping to receiver to translation to function.

    Signal: Push button
    Mapping: Select certain light based on coin flip
    Receiver: Machine
    Translation: That button means this light
    Function: Light up light

    The mapping of button to light is added to the machine function and is based on whatever association was chosen – a random selection following a coin flip or a question-answer pattern. No physical law produced this.

  424. AB:

    In fact, we are told that understanding this intelligence is not needed, and beyond our comprehension.

    Where? You are making stuff up now.

  425. RDF:

    Uh? The machine pairs, by virtue of its physical properties, button patterns with light patterns. Nothing in the machine contains any information other than those random pairings. But a person who associated certain button patterns with certain questions, and certain light patterns with answers, would see that the machine is a question-answering machine. Yet nothing in the machine is irreducible to physical cause.

    See SA’s response @422. I agree with his conclusion as well.

  426. RDF:

    In that cause, the mapping between this unusual pen and paper is deterministic. What’s your point?

    I already said what my point was. I even prefaced it rather helpfully by saying, “My point was…” And you responded with, “The problem with your point…” And now you suddenly don’t know my point? Perhaps if you had read and understood my point prior to responding, you might have avoided insisting it had a problem that it obviously did not have. Perhaps you then wouldn’t need to feign ignorance to take focus away from the egg on your face.

    Honestly, I think that if you were the slightest bit open to the idea that information is not reducible to physicochemically determined processes (as dictated by the materialism that you claim you don’t believe in), you wouldn’t need to rely on nearly as much sophistry. This appears to be the block you stumble over again and again.

  427. 428

    Phineas: ” AB:

    In fact, we are told that understanding this intelligence is not needed, and beyond our comprehension.

    Where? You are making stuff up now.”

    What web site have you been reading? When I have asked questions like this, these are the answers I receive. But, please, I am interested in the nature of this proposed designer and a clear definition on intelligence in regard to ID. Hopefully you can provide me with a. Answer (or theory) on this other than the claim that ID is only interested in identifying g design in nature, not the nature of the designer.

  428. wjm
    Furthermore, is it not our uniform and repeated experience that only intelligent agents produce CSI-rich artifacts? Is it not our uniform and repeated experience that absent such intelligence (and disregarding the example in dispute, biological life), nature on its own does not appear to generate CSI-rich artifacts, such as mechanisms that employ signal translation and processing towards complex, useful ends?

    “Your Honor, disregarding the example of my client who in the uniform and repeated experience of a vast majority of experts in the field is guilty of the
    this murder, there does not appear to be any evidence that he murdered anyone else, therefore he is innocent of the charges”

    ,

  429. AB:

    In fact, we are told that understanding this intelligence is not needed, and beyond our comprehension.

    Hopefully you can provide me with an answer (or theory) on this other than the claim that ID is only interested in identifying design in nature, not the nature of the designer.

    Obviously, you do know what ID says, and you were just making stuff up. ID doesn’t make any claims about the nature of the designer, including that it is beyond our comprehension.

  430. velikovskys:

    “Your Honor, we don’t need a trial at all. We can simply assume the very thing in question. After all, haven’t you seen our list of expert witnesses. Let’s just declare the defendant guilty of all charges and call it a day.”

  431. vel:

    “Your Honor, disregarding the example of my client who in the uniform and repeated experience of a vast majority of experts in the field is guilty of the
    this murder, there does not appear to be any evidence that he murdered anyone else, therefore he is innocent of the charges”

    Judge: BWAAAAAHAAAAAAAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAAAAAAAAHAAHAHAHA. One more outburst like that and you will be in contempt of court.

  432. Hi William J Murray,

    1. Where did you establish that Darwin and Meyer used the same definition? Source, please.

    He says it a lot. Here for example:

    Stephen C Meyer:
    I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. [ http://www.signatureinthecell......l-falk.php ]

    Sad that I know more about ID than you do, huh? 🙂

    2. Would you please refer to a definition of “canonical” that supports your apparent position that two quotes by two different scientists = “canonical”?

    Oh good grief this is absolutely pathetic. I point out that while there is a perfectly clear meaning for energy, natural selection, random mutation, and all other explantory constructs in scientific theories, there is not even an attempt to provide one particular meaning for the word “intelligence”. I gave you many examples of wildly different meanings for the word, all culled from posters on this very board. But you just can’t admit it, so instead you start playing infantile games, challenging my use of some word I used that has nothing to do with our discussion. Forget about “canonical” and my argument doesn’t change one iota. But “intelligence” is the sole explanatory concept of ID theory!

    I just got through with a strong refutation of UB’s argument – which you found “irrefutable”. I showed you that quite contrary to UB’s argument, robots are completely reducible to physical cause without remainder, and without any “physico-chemical discontinuity” involved.

    And what is your response? Completely ignore it! Run away and hide, and start calling me a troll and asking me what science is and what “canonical” means.

    Give it up, Mr. Murray. You are looking very pathetic at this point. You should be quite ashamed.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  433. Hi StephenB,

    In the mix of responses, you seem to have missed my question.

    Yes, sorry.

    Obviously, you believe that information can be derived from physio-chemical interactions, which is the point that UB’s argument (and other ID arguments) are meant to challenge.

    I do not know whether the physical interactions that we currently understand are capable of producing information (at least what we’re calling CSI here) or not. I have held this position from my first post here.

    In responding to WJM, you agreed that the interaction of ink and paper (a physio-chemical process) doesn’t produce a novel (information).

    Uh yes, that’s right, Stephen.

    As I pointed out, this response is not clear. Are you saying that we have no empirical evidence of it, but we cannot rule out the possibility?

    We have absolutely no reason to suspect that anything of the sort would ever happen. We know what ink does – it obeys what we know of fluid dynamics, flows under the influence of gravity, etc. We know what paper does – nothing, it just sits there. Liquids and materials like paper have no capacity to store or process information, and couldn’t possibly generate grammatical language. So why would anyone think that these things could ever produce a novel? It’s ridiculous.

    Now, as always, I’ve answered your question. Will you concede that I have refuted UB’s argument by pointing out robots are physically reducible without remainder?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  434. RDF

    We have absolutely no reason to suspect that anything of the sort would ever happen.

    Sorry, but I didn’t ask you that question. My question is very simple: Do you rule out the possibility or do you allow for the possibility.

    So why would anyone think that these things could ever produce a novel? It’s ridiculous.

    Well, sure, I think it is ridiculous because I don’t think that any physio-chemical process could produce a code or, for that matter, a novel. However, you do think it is possible for such a process to produce information and codes. The present example is just one of many examples. Since you think it can happen in general, why would you reject as ridiculous a particular instance of it, especially when you have yet to rule it out completely. On the one hand, you say it is ridiculous; on the other hand, you seem to be allowing for the possibility. This is why I am asking for a clear answer.

    If you do rule it out completely, that is, if you declare it to be impossible, on what basis do you do so. If, on the other hand, you allow for the possibility, then why do you also say that it is “ridiculous?”

    Now, as always, I’ve answered your question.

    No, you have not. You have simply repeated the assertion that prompted the question.

    Will you concede that I have refuted UB’s argument by pointing out robots are physically reducible without remainder?

    I will be happy to give you an answer to your question when you give me an answer to my question.

  435. RDF

    We have absolutely no reason to suspect that anything of the sort would ever happen.

    Sorry, but I didn’t ask you that question. My question is very simple: Do you allow for the possibility or do you rule it out completely, declaring it to be impossible?.

    So why would anyone think that these things could ever produce a novel? It’s ridiculous.

    Well, sure, I think it is ridiculous because I don’t think that any physio-chemical process could produce a code or, for that matter, a novel. However, you do think it is possible for such a process to produce information and codes. The present example is just one of many. Since you think it can happen in general, why would you reject as ridiculous a particular instance of it, especially when you have yet to rule it out completely. On the one hand, you say it is ridiculous; on the other hand, you seem to be allowing for the possibility. This is why I am asking for a clear answer.

    If you do rule it out completely, that is, if you declare it to be impossible, on what basis do you do so? If, on the other hand, you allow for the possibility, then why do you also say that it is “ridiculous?”

    Now, as always, I’ve answered your question.

    No, you have not. You have simply repeated the assertion that prompted the question.

    Will you concede that I have refuted UB’s argument by pointing out robots are physically reducible without remainder?

    I will be happy to give you an answer to your question when you give me an answer to my question.

  436. Hi StephenB,

    We have absolutely no reason to suspect that anything of the sort would ever happen.
    Sorry, but I didn’t ask you that question. My question is very simple: Do you rule out the possibility or do you allow for the possibility.

    I’m trying hard to believe you are debating in good faith here. Hopefully you are not going to try and resurrect your time-wasting debate over absolute certainty here – because we aren’t talking about absolute certainty at all. That notwithstanding, we both know it is reasonable to rule out that ink and paper write novels, for all the reasons I just gave.

    Well, sure, I think it is ridiculous because I don’t think that any physio-chemical process could produce a code or, for that matter, a novel.

    It not reasonable, however, to rule out that “physio-chemical” processes (can we just say physical, please?) in general can write novels, because it might be the case that human beings write novels by means of purely physical processes.

    Since you think it can happen in general, why would you reject as ridiculous a particular instance of it, especially when you have yet to rule it out completely.

    WHAT? I reject that physical mud can produce lightning bolts, but I do not rule out that some physical thing (i.e. clouds) can produce lightning bolts. I reject that physical neutrons can be conducted along a copper wire, but I do not rule out that some physical thing (i.e. electrons) can be conducted down a wire.

    I think you need to drop this line of argument, and face the fact that I’ve refuted UB’s argument.

    I will be happy to give you an answer to your question when you give me an answer to my question.

    Excellent! Your turn!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  437. 438

    Good grief. It looks like RD is still having conceptualization issues. And being arrogant about it.

    I’m busy right now. I’ll try to return later this evening to post a reply. He’s refuted nothing; he hasn’t even addressed the issue.

  438. Upright BiPed:

    Just a quick note to thank Dio, WJM, SB and others for their kind words and encouragement.

    Positioning statement.

  439. RDFish:

    Remember, UB claimed that the operation of the machine contained irreducible discontinuities. If by “code” you mean the list that was written… what if I didn’t write the list, but simply kept it in my memory? What part of the system would be “irreducible” then?

    lol

  440. RDFish:

    I’m trying hard to believe you are debating in good faith here.

    Likewise RDFish, likewise.

    RDFish:

    Hopefully you are not going to try and resurrect your time-wasting debate over absolute certainty here – because we aren’t talking about absolute certainty at all.

    I can perhaps understand varying degrees of uncertainty, but varying degrees of certainty? Not so much. Absolute certainty is a redundancy. It’s either certain or it isn’t. “Absolute” adds nothing. But then you already knew that.

  441. Upright BiPed @ 315:

    RD, Point out what words you don’t understand.

    RDFish @ 316:

    “whine ….”

  442. RDFish @ 437:

    I think you need to drop this line of argument, and face the fact that I’ve refuted UB’s argument.

    LoL. So, unlike Reciprocating Bill, who cannot even understand Upright BiPed’s argument, you understand it well enough to refute it.

    I missed that post. Was it here in this thread?

  443. Upright BiPed:

    Build your mechanical bird. Give it stereo cameras for eyes, and actuators on its wings and claws.
    Now teach it to land on a fencepost by sight.

    RDFish:

    Ok, done.

    liar

  444. We know what ink does – it obeys what we know of fluid dynamics, flows under the influence of gravity, etc. We know what paper does – nothing, it just sits there.

    We do? We know this?

    Actually the paper and ink are changing chemically—the paper is yellowing and getting brittle as it oxydizes, perhaps accelerated by ultaviolet light, and the ink is drying out and the mixture might also be separating. The C-14 is decaying probablistically into C-12, tracking of the age of any organic materials.

    Liquids and materials like paper have no capacity to store or process information, and couldn’t possibly generate grammatical language.

    And of course the words written on the paper store the thoughts of the intelligent author in a symbolic form that requires coding and decoding the information, sorta like DNA.

    So why would anyone think that these things could ever produce a novel? It’s ridiculous.

    Just like evolution, after billions and billions of years across millions and millions of planetary systems, certain droplets of ink, through purely physical processes such as impact scattering and capillary action permeate small parts of the paper, and then evaporate, leaving behind coloring agents such as carbon (lamp black, early on). While extremely unlikely, the process eventually must have produced “grammatical language” and the novels, poetry, and art that are undeniably in existence today.

    It’s ridiculous

    Yes, I agree.

    -Q

  445. RDF

    I’m trying hard to believe you are debating in good faith here.

    I appreciate your patience.

    Hopefully you are not going to try and resurrect your time-wasting debate over absolute certainty here – because we aren’t talking about absolute certainty at all.

    You either allow for the possibility that ink and paper can produce a code or you don’t. You either know that it can’t happen or you don’t. Just choose one of those two options. If you are not sure, just say so.

    That notwithstanding, we both know it is reasonable to rule out that ink and paper write novels, for all the reasons I just gave.

    You haven’t given me any reasons. We already know that you believe that effects can occur without proportional causes. Why would this case any different?

    WHAT? I reject that physical mud can produce lightning bolts,

    If, as you believe, a universe can come from nothing, why do you not also believe lightning bolts can come from mud? After all, the mud has more to work with than nothing and is being asked to produce much less.

    It not reasonable, however, to rule out that “physio-chemical” processes (can we just say physical, please?) in general can write novels, because it might be the case that human beings write novels by means of purely physical processes.

    Whoa, cowboy, you put the cart before the horse. We are not talking about something or someone “using” physical processes to produce a novel. We are talking about the processes themselves producing a novel.

    Excellent! Your turn!

    You have not yet answered my questions.

  446. Hi StephenB,

    RDF: Hopefully you are not going to try and resurrect your time-wasting debate over absolute certainty here – because we aren’t talking about absolute certainty at all.
    SB: You either allow for the possibility that ink and paper can produce a code or you don’t. You either know that it can’t happen or you don’t. Just choose one of those two options. If you are not sure, just say so.

    Oh, no – not this again. Whenever you are afraid that you’ve lost an argument (or a few arguments) you try and dive into this epistemological morass. Are you 100% absolutely certain that the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow? You shouldn’t be. But it is a very reasonable thing to say that we know it will indeed rise in the East tomorrow. Likewise, it is a very reasonable thing to say that we know ink and paper can’t produce a code.

    You haven’t given me any reasons.

    Yes, I’ve given plenty of them – and each of them perfectly obvious.

    [Here Stephen again tries to change the subject entirely, because he is afraid of responding to my take-down of UB’s argument. Sorry, no dice.]

    We are not talking about something or someone “using” physical processes to produce a novel. We are talking about the processes themselves producing a novel.

    Sure, that’s fine: It not reasonable, however, to rule out that “physio-chemical” processes (can we just say physical, please?) in general can write novels, because it might be the case that human beings write novels and are purely physical processes.

    You have not yet answered my questions.

    That’s an obvious lie, but I do understand your motivation. I’ve completely refuted UB’s argument, and you have nothing left but to try and change the subject and avoid responding to what I’ve said.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  447. 448

    We need a simple “robot” to talk to RD about, one where the parts and functions are bare and accessible to any observer.

    The Music Box

    The common music box is a perfect example. It’s a simple device with two critical parts. It has a cylinder with pins on it, where each pin is a representation of a note to be played at a certain time in a melody. Also there is metal comb, with each tine on the comb is tuned to a specific note on a musical scale. Let us say that I file off every pin on the cylinder, but one.

    Now each time the cylinder rotates – pling – middle C rings out.

    RD says that the playing of middle C is a product of physical law because he can explain the operation of the system, without remainder. This fact is intended to indicate something of importance to RD, and he’s explained that it’s the basis by which he’s refuted my argument. For him, the case is closed. On the other hand, I say that the playing of middle C is a regularity in a semiotic system, and that there is a necessary physical discontinuity between the arrangement of the representation and the functional effect it evokes in the system. The presence of this discontinuity means that the product of translation obeys physical law, but is not determined by it. I’ve described the parts of the system one by one, explaining why this is the case, but those details are not something he has much to say about. Instead, he’s countered that the human inventors of these systems most likely operate by physical law themselves (i.e. no one can prove otherwise) therefore making his case. I’ve told him that the actions of humans (whether they operate deterministically or not) doesn’t change the reality of the discontinuity. If human are completely deterministic, they create machines that require a physical discontinuity within them, otherwise those systems could not function. I’ve also pointed out that humans themselves are the products of translation, and the discontinuity in that system indisputably remains. His response was to ignore these facts and claim victory anyway.

    In any case, the one remaining pin on our music box cylinder plucks its tine on the comb, and the vibrations of the tine causes middle C to ring out into the air space surrounding the music box.

    To the system, the pin on the cylinder is a representation of middle C.
    The tuning of a particular tine to particular musical note is a physical protocol.
    The vibrating air pressure around the music box is the effect.
    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Question: Can the pin determine that middle C rings out?
    Answer: No. The pin can neither cause the tone nor determine its pitch. That is accomplished solely by the vibration of the tine, tuned to specified frequency.

    Why does RD think that the pin on a cylinder is physically continuous with air pressure fluctuating at ~261Hz at a specific point in time? He can’t get from one to the other without the protocol in the system. And from the material make-up of the system itself, any number of descriptions can be made, but absolutely none of them will explain why a particular pin is mapped to a particular note on the music scale. Yet, without this mapping (i.e. specification), the function of the system would not be possible.

    RD says he’s “refuted [my] argument by pointing out robots are physically reducible without remainder”. In any instance where information is translated into a functional effect, he is simply wrong. Not only is his claim false, but it doesn’t even address the issue.

  448. 449

    edit:

    “the human inventors of these systems most likely operate by physical law themselves (i.e. no one can prove otherwise)”

    = operate completely deterministically

  449. SB:

    RDF: WHAT? I reject that physical mud can produce lightning bolts,

    SB: If, as you believe, a universe can come from nothing, why do you not also believe lightning bolts can come from mud? After all, the mud has more to work with than nothing and is being asked to produce much less.

    *crickets*

  450. SB: You have not answered my questions.

    RDF:

    That is an obvious lie

    No, it isn’t. It is the truth. You have not even come close to answering my questions.

    I asked you why you believe that a novel cannot come from ink and paper. You didn’t answer. You simply restated your claim that it “doesn’t.”

    The word “doesn’t” is an obvious attempt to have it both ways. You don’t want to say that it “can” come from ink and paper or you will sound like an idiot, but you don’t want to say that it “cannot,” or you will be acknowledging the law of causation, which of course, you reject. So you use the weasel word, “doesn’t,” in an attempt to have it both ways. Meanwhile, you have given no reason to support your claim.

    More importantly, I asked you why, given your rejection of universal causation and the attendant belief that anything can come from nothing, you suddenly claim that a code doesn’t come from ink and paper. Why can it come from nothing, but not from ink and paper?

    The irony here is that you attack UB’s model on the laughable grounds that causation has, for you, and just for the moment, suddenly become an unforgiving law and allows for no exceptions–that same law that you flout when it gets in your way.

    When you answer my questions, I will answer your question.

  451. Hi Upright Biped,

    Thanks for the explanation. Sorry for the delay in response – sick dog 🙁

    We need a simple “robot” to talk to RD about, one where the parts and functions are bare and accessible to any observer.

    Excellent idea.

    On the other hand, I say that the playing of middle C is a regularity in a semiotic system, and that there is a necessary physical discontinuity between the arrangement of the representation and the functional effect it evokes in the system.

    It seems to me much of what we need to resolve is exactly what you mean by “physical discontinuity”. One could this interpret this as a discontinuity in physical causality, but that is apparently not what you mean. One could alternatively interpret this as meaning that when A is physically discontinuous with B, it means B cannot be reduced to A. I believe that is what you mean (although I may be wrong).

    The presence of this discontinuity means that the product of translation obeys physical law, but is not determined by it.

    Ok, this seems consistent with the idea B cannot be reduced to A, because A may have occurred without B occurring. Thus, while the occurrence of B is somehow initiated(?) by the physical event A, B (or at least some property of B) is not determined by it.

    Instead, he’s countered that the human inventors of these systems most likely operate by physical law themselves (i.e. no one can prove otherwise) therefore making his case.

    Not exactly. Rather, I say that it is unknown whether or not humans operate by physical law, and the matter cannot (at least presently) be settled by scientific inquiry.

    In any case, the one remaining pin on our music box cylinder plucks its tine on the comb, and the vibrations of the tine causes middle C to ring out into the air space surrounding the music box.

    OK, got it. Now, to my understanding, the following is an equivalent system in this context:
    In an underground cave, unobserved by humans, a stalagtite is dripping water. The drips fall into a pocket worn into the rock floor of the cave, and produces a splash with a distinctive pitch. The pitch is lowering over the years as the pocket gets wider, but at the moment the primary harmonic is around 261Hz (middle C).

    To the system, the pin on the cylinder is a representation of middle C.

    You go wrong right here. To the system, the pin on the cylinder is just a pin on the cylinder. It is no more a representation than the drops of water are representations of middle C. It is only in the mind of a human being, when designing or analyzing the system, that the pin is considered a representation.

    The tuning of a particular tine to particular musical note is a physical protocol.

    Likewise, this is only when you consider the intent of the human designer (or the concepts of a human analyzing the system). As far as the system is concerned, the tuning of the tine is merely a physical attribute that is determined by the length of the tine. Just like the pitch of the water splash is determined by the surface area of the little water puddle in the cave.

    The vibrating air pressure around the music box is the effect.

    Well, yes.

    Question: Can the pin determine that middle C rings out?
    Answer: No. The pin can neither cause the tone nor determine its pitch. That is accomplished solely by the vibration of the tine,…

    Yes, that’s right. The pitch of the tine determines that middle C rings out.

    … tuned to specified frequency.

    It depends on whether “tuned” implies an adjustment by a conscious person. If not, then yes, both the pitch of the tine and the pitch of the puddle are “tuned”. Otherwise, then just the music box pitch has been “tuned”.

    Why does RD think that the pin on a cylinder is physically continuous with air pressure fluctuating at ~261Hz at a specific point in time? He can’t get from one to the other without the protocol in the system.

    [I’d like to say that the term “physically continuous” is misleading here, if I finally understand what you’re saying. You can say that the pin does not determine the pitch, but if you say there is a “physical discontinuity” it is too ambiguous. Just for future discussions.]
    Anyway, again, the word “protocol” might imply a conscious engineering choice, but in the case of the water hitting the puddle, there was no human intervention. So there is no “protocol” that I can see – that exists only in the mind of a human designer or reverse-engineer, not in the physical system itself.

    This is exactly the point I have been trying to make with my machine that RANDOMLY maps buttons to lights. There is no intentional protocol, but there can be a meaningful mapping in the mind of a human who observes the system.

    And from the material make-up of the system itself, any number of descriptions can be made, but absolutely none of them will explain why a particular pin is mapped to a particular note on the music scale.

    And this isn’t true at all. The explanation for the note is: (1) For the music box, the length of the tine, which was in turn determined by the human who built the music box; and (2) For the cave puddle, the note is explained by how much rock has eroded from the pocket in the floor of the cave, changing the surface area of the puddle.

    Yet, without this mapping (i.e. specification), the function of the system would not be possible.

    Well, no, the specification is only in the mind of the human. The function of the system proceeds whether or not a human calls the connection a “mapping”.

    Not only is his claim false, but it doesn’t even address the issue.

    On the contrary – although it’s not easy to decipher your meaning (since you use some odd terms like “discontinuity” that I’ve not seen in either philosophical or scientific descriptions), I believe that my rebuttal is spot on. What you’ve failed to see is that “discontinuities” and “protocols” are ways that human beings understand the operation of systems – they are not intrinsic properties of the systems themselves.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  452. 453

    “It seems to me much of what we need to resolve is exactly what you mean by “physical discontinuity”

    RD, can you produce the effect “middle C, now” from a pin on a cylinder?

  453. UB, the reason these discussions take so long and are subject to continual miscommunication is because rather than reading what I write, explicitly and intelligibly correcting whatever you think I got wrong, and endeavoring to make your own explanations ever clearer, you respond with cryptic questions like some cross between Socrates and the Dalai Lama.

    Try again.

  454. 455

    RD, that was not a cryptic question. It was a response to the very first issue you brought up in your response.

    As far as reading comments, you would not need to wonder what I mean by “discontinuity” if you had read mine. I explained it over two hundred comments ago, and have repeated it since then.

    Now, over the past coupe of days, you have said repeatedly stated that you have refuted my argument “by pointing out robots are physically reducible without remainder”. I have challenged you on that claim. So can you, by the material that the system is made of, describe why the certain pins are aligned to certain tines on a music box?

    If you cannot do so, then you cannot describe a music box via physical law “without remainder” – and your claim is false.

  455. Hi Upright Biped,

    RD, that was not a cryptic question. It was a response to the very first issue you brought up in your response.

    It was in fact a cryptic question – too ambiguous to answer.

    RD, can you produce the effect “middle C, now” from a pin on a cylinder?

    Do you mean can I produce this tone now, because I happen to have the appropriate cylinder and metal comb in my office? Or do you mean am I capable of constructing this apparatus in the near future? Or do you mean if I only had a pin and not a comb or other sound-producing material, could I still produce the sound?

    Moreover, if you bothered to respond to more than the very first sentence in my post, we would have some chance of moving forward and making it clear where exactly our disagreements lie, and who might be right about what. As it is, we just go back and forth saying things like “I never said that!” or “That’s a strawman!” or “I’ve already explained that!” or “You’ve missed the point entirely!”.

    So can you, by the material that the system is made of, describe why the certain pins are aligned to certain tines on a music box?

    Why don’t you ever answer my questions instead of just continuously asking your own? Start with this: Do you think the water-drops in the cave system is, for the purpose of this debate, equivalent in all relevant ways?

    And why would you have to explain by the material that the system is made of why the pins are aligned that way? Why couldn’t you explain by other means?

    If you cannot do so, then you cannot describe a music box via physical law “without remainder” – and your claim is false.

    Why do I have to explain how the music box came to be structured the way it is in order to explain the operation of the music box? Once the structure is present, its operation can be explained without reference to anything but the physical properties of the system. And you have said most clearly and pointedly that you are talking about the operation of the system, and not its origin.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  456. 457

    “Or do you mean if I only had a pin and not a comb or other sound-producing material, could I still produce the sound?”

    Bingo.

    What is your answer?

  457. Answer my questions and respond to my points, and I will do the same for yours. Otherwise this is ridiculous.

  458. 459

    Answer your questions? Here’s one:

    ” Why do I have to explain how the music box came to be structured the way it is in order to explain the operation of the music box … its operation can be explained without reference to anything but the physical properties ?”

    I’m not asking you to tell me how the structure came to be, I’m telling you to account for the structure because it will tell you something about the operation of the system. See the difference?

    To answer the question, its because there is a relationship(a context specific regularity) established by the system. Furthermore, there are specific material conditions that must be present for that relationship to exist, and those material conditions are the identical to every other translation system ever observed. You can certainly make a deliberate choice to ignore that relationship and those conditions, and you can even go so far as tell yourself it has nothing to do with the operation of the system. All anyone can do is ponder why you make those choices.

  459. Hi Upright Biped,

    I’m not asking you to tell me how the structure came to be, I’m telling you to account for the structure because it will tell you something about the operation of the system. See the difference?

    No I do not. It seems to me if I “account for” the structure, then I must say how it came to be.

    Until you answer my questions, I cannot understand what you are talking about. Why not answer my questions? What is it you are afraid of? That it will become apparent your argument is confused?

    Do you, or do you not, accept that my water-drop example is equivalent in all relevant aspects to your music box example? If you answer this, we can move forward. If not, you’ll simply join StephenB and WJM in dodging my points for fear of losing these debates.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  460. 461

    This was your question:

    Why do I have to explain how the music box came to be structured the way it is in order to explain the operation of the music box … its operation can be explained without reference to anything but the physical properties ?

    This is was my answer:

    I’m not asking you to tell me how the structure came to be, I’m telling you to account for the structure because it will tell you something about the operation of the system. See the difference?

    To answer the question, its because there is a relationship(a context specific regularity) established by the system. Furthermore, there are specific material conditions that must be present for that relationship to exist, and those material conditions are the identical to every other translation system ever observed. You can certainly make a deliberate choice to ignore that relationship and those conditions, and you can even go so far as tell yourself it has nothing to do with the operation of the system. All anyone can do is wonder why you make those choices.

    In return, you wrote exactly one line of text, where you ignored everything I gave as a direct answer to your question.

    Instead, you simply restated your previous point, again, completely ignoring my direct answer. This is not to say that you addressed my comments and demonstrated that they were invalid in some way, or that my reasoning was faulty. You simply ignore them – then demanded that I answer your questions.

    This was your answer:

    It seems to me if I “account for” the structure, then I must say how it came to be.

    You do these things, these clearly evasive maneuvers, within an environment where you repeatedly seek to belittle, denigrate, and insult others. This is your activity in place of engaging the argument.

    It’s a pattern.

  461. 462

    You want to know if I consider the falling drop equivalent to the music box.

    Of course I don’t. You wouldn’t even ask that question if you would stop setting up defenses and learn to listen.

    A) In your example, the water drop would be the representation and the pool would be the protocol, leading to the effect. Thus far, I have told you that a physical discontinuity must exist in the system and I have told you why it must be there. These are the details that you refuse to address. I have also told you that this discontinuity must be preserved during (and throughout) the translation. In the music box example, the pin has nothing whatsoever with determining the effect – that is accomplished solely by the tine. The pin has no role whatsoever in the production of the sound. But in your example, the drop hits the pool and becomes very much part of the effect. The drop, as you say yourself ”produces a splash with a distinctive pitch”. How could you possibly construe this as being discontinuous?

    B) I shaved all the other pins off the cylinder to help focus the conversation. It didn’t occur to me that you would ignore the actual system as a result. Playing middle C at a specified time as a part of a larger choreographed effect is hardly equivalent to a drop of water that falls at a random point in time as ground water permits.

    NOTE TO RD: The translation of a representation into a functional effect requires four interdependent conditions. Some of these conditions can be found in nature without the others. This fact does not alter the conditions required to translate information.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    I have now answered both of the questions you posed, yet you have yet to engage any of the fundamentals. This will continue.

    This is your pattern, made evident.

  462. Hi Upright Biped,

    Responding to everything you’ve said:

    I’m not asking you to tell me how the structure came to be, I’m telling you to account for the structure because it will tell you something about the operation of the system. See the difference?

    No, I do not see the difference.

    To answer the question, its because there is a relationship(a context specific regularity) established by the system.

    There is a relationship between the cylinder pin and the tine – the pin plucks the tine, and the tine vibrates and produces sound.

    Furthermore, there are specific material conditions that must be present for that relationship to exist,…

    What conditions?

    … and those material conditions are the identical to every other translation system ever observed.

    Is the music box a translation system? Is the water-drop system a translation system? If not, why not?

    And what about my point that the “representation” of the note by the pin is not an inherent aspect of the system, but rather just a concept that the human designer (or reverse-engineer) uses to understand the system?

    Your turn.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  463. RDF

    If not, you’ll simply join StephenB and WJM in dodging my points for fear of losing these debates.

    Do you mean that we are dodging some of your more brilliant questions like this one:

    RDF

    Why do I have to explain how the music box came to be structured the way it is in order to explain the operation of the music box?

    You don’t have to explain how the music box came to be structured. Everyone agreed long ago that only the operational component was relevant to the argument. This qualifies as time-wasting stonewalling.

    Or this one:

    It seems to me if I “account for” the structure, then I must say how it came to be.

    This is another example of time-wasting pettiness. Context makes it clear that UB was discussing the operational component.

    And how about this beauty:

    And why would you have to explain by the material that the system is made of why the pins are aligned that way? Why couldn’t you explain by other means?

    Because, RD, the whole point is to explain how the material operations (and not something else) can be reconciled with discontinuity. You know, the very same thing that you claim cannot happen. More time wasting nonsense.

    Or this one:

    Do you think the water-drops in the cave system is, for the purpose of this debate, equivalent in all relevant ways?

    This ploy is a clear attempt to change the subject so as to avoid answering the really relevant questions that have been asked of you, such as the following:

    “If [you] only had a pin and not a comb or other sound-producing material, could [you] still produce the sound?”

    No, RD, no one is running away from your questions. The real task is to get you up to speed so that you can ask better ones. Meanwhile, you should probably try answering a few questions. Begin by addressing my points @451–if you dare.

  464. 465

    You failed to answer my question RD. Did you forget that you said you would answer it if I answered yours?

    Answer it now without the evasion:

    “RD, can you produce the effect “middle C, now” from a pin on a cylinder?”

    If not, then you should now be reasonably clear on what a physical discontinuity is.

    If a system produces effects through translation, and if translation requires a physical discontinuity in order to function, then can the products of translation be derived from physical law, or, are they only derivable from the systems that translate information?

    In other words, if the pin cannot be mapped to middle C – except by the organization of the system – can the production of middle C be determined by physical law?

    (Remember: it doesn’t matter whether or not the builder of the system was acting out of determinism. The system requirements remain).

  465. Hi StephenB,

    RDF: Do you think the water-drops in the cave system is, for the purpose of this debate, equivalent in all relevant ways?
    SB: This ploy is a clear attempt to change the subject

    No, the purpose of this is to make simple examples to clarify our claims here – just like Upright Biped did with his music-box example. I believe that the water-drop example is operationally analgous to UB’s music box example; both are systems that periodically produce a particular tone. That means that since UB thinks the music box operation exhibits a discontinuity, then the water-drop example must also exhibit a discontuity. The water-drop example removes all human involvement from the scenario, and so depending upon UB’s answer, I will understand whether he thinks human involvement is somehow requisite in producing what he calls a “translation system”.

    Begin by addressing my points @451–if you dare.

    Sure – I answer ALL of your questions.

    From @451:

    I asked you why you believe that a novel cannot come from ink and paper. You didn’t answer. You simply restated your claim that it “doesn’t.”

    No, I answered thus:

    RDF: We have absolutely no reason to suspect that anything of the sort would ever happen. We know what ink does – it obeys what we know of fluid dynamics, flows under the influence of gravity, etc. We know what paper does – nothing, it just sits there. Liquids and materials like paper have no capacity to store or process information, and couldn’t possibly generate grammatical language. So why would anyone think that these things could ever produce a novel? It’s ridiculous.

    These are reasons, not just restatements. The fact that paper and ink cannot store and process information is one of many perfectly good reasons why your example is impossible. Would you like to explain to me why you believe that a stone cannot spontaneously turn into a puddle of water?

    The word “doesn’t” is an obvious attempt to have it both ways. You don’t want to say that it “can” come from ink and paper or you will sound like an idiot, but you don’t want to say that it “cannot,” or you will be acknowledging the law of causation, which of course, you reject.

    Complete nonsense on both counts. Paper and ink cannot write novels for the reasons I’ve listed, and don’t try to change the subject about the law of causation – ano