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Epistemology. It’s What You Know

BarryA’s definition of a philosopher:  A bearded guy in a tweed jacket and Birkenstocks who writes long books explaining how it is impossible to communicate through language without apparently realizing the irony of expressing that idea through, well, language. 

Seriously, I have read a lot of philosophy, and I find some of the philosophers’ ideas valuable (that is, when I can decipher them though the almost impenetrable thicket of jargon in which they are usually expressed).  In particular, epistemology (the theory of what we know and how we know it) is one of the most useful philosophical ideas for the ID – Darwinism debate.  Indeed, many of the discussions on this blog turn on questions of epistemology.  So I thought it would be helpful to give a brief overview of the subject in the ID context.  So here goes – 

Consider the following statement one often hears:  “We can be as certain that the diversity and complexity of living things arose by chance and necessity through blind watchmaker Darwinism (BWD) as we are that the earth orbits the sun.” 

To examine this statement, we must first understand what it means to “know” something, and this is where epistemology comes in.  The standard philosophical definition of knowledge is “justified true belief.”  Why not just “true belief”?  Because if we have no basis for our belief, the fact that our belief might in fact be true would be a mere coincidence.  We cannot, therefore, say we know something unless we have evidence to support our belief; in other words, the belief is justified. 

Keep in mind that our beliefs can never be justified in an absolute sense.  You have a justified belief that you are sitting at your computer reading this scintillating post.  Even though this belief is highly justified and almost certainly true, you cannot rule out that you are dreaming or that you are in the Matrix or that you have been deceived by one of Descartes’ demons.   

A corollary to the proposition that beliefs can never be absolutely justified is that justification is always relative.  Indeed, these are two ways of saying the same thing.  Thus, justification of our beliefs comes in degrees; some beliefs are more justified than others.  About some beliefs we can be all but certain they are true.  While there is some remote possibility you are in the Matrix and not actually reading this post, for all practical purposes we can discount the Matrix possibility and conclude that your belief is true.   

It is interesting to note that the Matrix idea is not new.  In the 1700’s George Berkeley (after whom the California city and university are named) proposed that an individual cannot know that an object “is.”  He can only know that he has a “perception” that there is an object.  In his “Life of Johnson” Boswell records Dr. Johnson’s response to Berkeley: 

“After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal.  I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it – ‘I refute it thus.’” 

At one level Boswell was right and Johnson was wrong.  As a matter of pure logic, Berkeley’s ideas are irrefutable.  Berkeley would have replied that when Johnson kicked the stone, all he could be certain of was that he had a perception in his mind that he kicked a stone.  He could not be absolutely certain that he had in fact kicked a stone.  Nevertheless, Johnson’s main point is valid.  Our sensory experience of the outside world is all we have.  If we doubt that experience, we are left in a hopeless mire of doubt and skepticism.  Therefore, while we can never be certain that Berkeley was wrong, as a practical matter, in order to live our lives and make progress in science, we can safely ignore him.   

It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss philosophical hyper-skepticism in detail.  For my present purposes, I will note that even hyper-skeptics look both ways when they cross the street.  In other words, while hyper-skepticism may be interesting to discuss in the parlor on Sunday afternoon after lunch, it is perhaps the least practically helpful idea in all of philosophy.  For the scientific enterprise (and life generally) hyper-skepticism may be dismissed with a nod.   

In summary, therefore, we can trust our sense impressions to give us generally reliable information about the world upon which to base our scientific conclusions.  For my purposes here, “sense impressions” include both direct impressions on our senses and impressions from various measuring instruments such as telescopes and microscopes.  Moreover, science has a check against conclusions based upon erroneous sense impressions.  All scientific observations must be “inter-subjectively” testable.  In other words – as the scientists who announced they had achieved cold fusion a few years ago found to their dismay – scientific conclusions are not usually accepted until other scientists replicate the results in independent experiments.   

Having slain the dragon of hyper-skepticism (or at least banished him to his cave like the bad boy he is),  we move on to the practical business of scientific discovery.  This method is familiar to most of us.  In truncated summary the model is: 

1.  Think of a question that needs to be answered.  

2.  Formulate a hypothesis to answer the question.

3.  Test the hypothesis by experiment and/or observation. 

Here is where the concept of “fact” comes in.  In philosophy, a “fact” is a state of affairs described by a true proposition.  In science we say that a “fact” is an objective and verifiable observation.  I have a hammer in my office (I don’t know why, but I really do).  Just now I picked up the hammer, held it above the floor, and dropped it.  The following is a statement of fact.  “It is a fact that Barry’s hammer fell to the floor when he dropped it.”  In science we have a epistemic hierarchy:   

1.  Facts:  The raw objective and verifiable observations.  Of the correspondence between truth and proposition, this is where we have the most confidence.  Unless I’m in the Matrix (a possibility we have decided to ignore), it cannot reasonably be disputed that my hammer really did drop to the floor. 

2.  Hypothesis:  An explanation for a phenomenon that can be tested. 

3.  Theory:  A coherent model that gives a general explanation of observed data. 

About facts, we can be certain, but our conclusions based on those facts (our theories) are less certain.  In fact, some of our most cherished beliefs can turn out to be untrue even though they were highly justified and seemed to correspond to the data perfectly.   

Ptolemy’s cosmology is a perfect example.  Ptolemy, who lived from about 83 to 161 AD, was the greatest of the ancient astronomers.  It is a modern conceit that the ancients were quaint simpletons who thought we live in a cozy little universe.  It is true that the ancients did not know as much as we do, but they were not stupid.  For example, Ptolemy knew the universe is enormous.  In the “Almagest,” his famous work on astronomy, he wrote that the earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point.   

Not only did Ptolemy know that we live in an immense universe, he also knew that the celestial bodies behave in certain highly predictable ways.  On a certain night of the year Orion, for example, is always in the same place in the sky.  While the stars seemed to be fixed in place, the planets seemed to wander among them (“planet” means “wanderer”).  Ptolemy combined these observations with his belief that the earth was the center of the universe and developed a system, a theory, that predicted the movements of the celestial bodies with great accuracy.   

Briefly, in Ptolemaic cosmology “deferents” are large circles centered on the Earth.  “Epicycles” are small circles the centers of which move around the circumference of a deferent.  So the sun, the moon and the planets have their own epicycles, and each epicycle in turn moves along a deferent around the earth.  This system sounds very complex, and it was.  But it provided astonishingly accurate predictions of the movements of the celestial bodies.  In Ptolemy’s “Handy Tables,” one could find all the data needed to predict the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars and also eclipses of the sun and moon. 

Ptolemy’s system was so good that it was the basis upon which celestial predictions were made for over a thousand years.  Copernicus first published his theories in 1543.  Forty years earlier, armed only with his knowledge of Ptolemy, Columbus was able to awe the Indians on present day Jamaica by predicting the lunar eclipse of February 29, 1504. 

Importantly, note that Ptolemy’s system has every attribute of a sound scientific theory, and if the scientific method had been around in his day, scientific experiments would have supported his theory.  For example, suppose Ptolemy was interested in accounting for the observed movement of Mars across the sky.  He could have used the steps of the scientific method as follows: 

1.  Question:  What accounts for the observations of Mars’ movements across the sky. 

2.  Hypothesis:  Mars orbits a certain epicycle which in turn moves around the circumference of a certain deferent. 

3.  Observation/test:  When we look at the sky and make numerous detailed observations of Mars’ position, we see that Mars’ motion though the sky is perfectly consistent with the posited epicycle and deferent. 

4.  Conclusion:  The hypothesis is not falsified. 

5.  Theory:  This non-falsified hypothesis is consistent with the general theory that all celestial bodies move along epicycles and deferents.   

Ptolemy’s cosmology was accepted for over 1,400 years.  It began to crumble only when later observations of the celestial bodies required more and more and more adjustments to the theory so that it became staggeringly complex.  Along comes Copernicus with a judgment based upon his religious sensibilities:  Surely God would not have designed such a clunky universe.  There has to be a more elegant answer.  And motivated by his essentially aesthetic judgment, he developed a heliocentric cosmology that gradually displaced Ptolemy.   

Yet another modern conceit is that scholars in Copernicus’ and Galileo’s day rejected heliocentric cosmology for dogmatic religious reasons even though the conclusion that Copernicus’ model was superior was intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer.  This is simply not true.  Yes, religious considerations motivated opposition to Copernicus to a degree.  That cannot be denied.  Nevertheless, the conceit is false.  Sixteenth century scholars were not motivated SOLELY by religious considerations as the conceited modern would have it.  They had good SCIENTIFIC arguments to support their position.  These arguments turned out to be wrong, to be sure, but it is important to remember that they were not utterly unreasonable.   

Ptolemy was wrong, but he was not stupid.  His beliefs were justified in the sense that there was substantial evidence to support them.  He observed the celestial bodies move in certain ways; from his perspective the sun appeared to orbit the earth.  Even today we say the sun rises when we know it does no such thing.  Ptolemy’s fundamental assumption was that the earth is the center of the universe.  His assumption was not based upon dogmatic anthro-centrism.  He argued for his conclusion based on the data he observed.  Ptolemy believed that all bodies fall toward the center of the universe.  All falling objects are seen to drop toward the center of the earth.  Therefore, the earth must be the center of the universe. Ptolemy rejected the notion that earth rotates on the ground that objects thrown into the air fall back to the same place from which they were thrown, which would be impossible if the earth were rotating beneath them while they were in the air. 

But the most fundamental reason that scholars did not immediately roll over and accept Copernicus was the fact that, for all its clunkiness, Ptolemy’s system had for 1,400 years provided exceedingly accurate predictions about the movements of the celestial bodies.  They said, “The system we have accounts for the observed data exceedingly well and has done so for well over a millennium.  The burden is on you, Copernicus and Galileo, to show us why we should abandon it.”  Only in retrospect, with the advantage of 500 years of experience, do we look back on the scholars of Copernicus’ day with contempt.   

For our purposes it is important to note that for the most part, the “facts” Copernicus used to develop his theory were the same “facts” Ptolemy used to develop his.  Copernicus looked at the sky and saw the same movements of the celestial bodies Ptolemy saw.  But by the time of Copernicus there had been many additional observations, and Ptolemy had had to be tweaked again and again to account for these new observations, and Copernicus began to suspect that these tweakings were ad hoc, and perhaps the theory itself needed to be reexamined.  The death blow, of course, was Galileo’s observations – made possible by improvements in telescope technology – of the four largest moons of Jupiter.  If moons orbit around Jupiter, it is obvious that not everything orbits the earth as Ptolemy believed.   

Now what does all of this have to do with the statement under consideration:  “We can be as certain that the diversity and complexity of living things arose by chance and necessity through BWD as we are that the earth orbits the sun.” 

Once we understand basic principles of epistemology, we understand that this statement is obviously false.  Breaking the statement down we see that it combines three propositions:  (1) We know the diversity and complexity of living things arose by chance and necessity through BWD.  (2) We know the earth orbits the sun.  (3) Our knowledge of “facts” (1) and (2) is epistemically equal. 

But it takes no great perspicuity to see that statement (1) is at a wholly different epistemic level than statement (2).  Statement (2) is an objective and verifiable observation.  We have gone into space and actually observed the earth orbiting the sun.  Conversely, statement (1) has not been the subject of a direct, objective and verifiable observation.  No one has ever observed any living thing evolve into a different species.  Inescapable conclusion:  Statement (3) is false. 

Now all of this is not to say that I am certain that the diversity and complexity of living things did not arise by chance and necessity through BWD.  I am in fact not certain at all.  While I personally do not believe it, this proposition may be true.  My point is not to “disprove” Darwinism.  My point is that the debate will be much more robust if we all use proper epistemic categories.  The story of Ptolemy is a cautionary tale for those who would make statements like the one we discussed above.  There are obvious parallels between Ptolemy and Darwin. 

1.  Ptolemy was a brilliant astronomer who made countless highly detailed observations from which he developed a theory of cosmology.  Darwin was a brilliant biologist (despite the fact that he had no formal credentials in the discipline) who made countless highly detailed observations from which he developed a theory of evolution. 

2.  Ptolemy’s theory is based on a fundamental assumption:  the earth is the center of the universe around which all celestial bodies orbit.  Darwin’s theory is based upon a fundamental assumption:  chance and necessity are the only forces available to account for the diversity and complexity of life. 

3.  If Ptolemy’s fundamental assumption were correct, something like his cosmology is NECESSARILY true as a matter of logic.  If Darwin’s fundamental assumption were correct, something like his theory is NECESSARILY true as a matter of logic. 

4.  Given the information available to him, Ptolemy’s theory accounted for the data brilliantly.  Given the data available to Darwin (and indeed to all biologists through about 1950), his theory accounts for the data brilliantly.   

5.  New data was observed, and numerous ad hoc adjustments had to be made to Ptolemy’s theory.  New data arose (for example, it is now generally accepted that the fossil does not support gradualism in the way Darwin envisioned), and ad hoc adjustments to the theory have been made (e.g., punctuated equilibrium).   

6.  A new theory (heliocentrism) was proposed to compete with Ptolemy.  The new theory rejected Ptolemy’s central assumption, but Ptolemy’s defenders clung to the old theory in large part due to their metaphysical/philosophical/religious commitments and refused to give the new theory a fair evaluation.  A new theory has arisen (ID) to compete with Darwin.  The new theory rejects Darwins’s central assumption by positing that a third force (agency) may account for the data.  Darwin’s defenders cling to the old theory in large part due to their metaphysical/philosophical/religious commitments and refuse to give the new theory a fair evaluation  

7.  Ptolemy and Copernicus were attempting to develop a model that accounted for the same “facts,” i.e., the observed motions of the celestial bodies were the same for both camps.  Darwinists and ID theorists also must deal with the same “facts.”  For example, the fossil record is a fact.  Both camps have to deal with the same fossil record.  It is the interpretation of the facts, not the facts themselves that make the difference.   

8.  In the end, new technology made it possible for profound new data to be discovered that simply could not be accounted for in Ptolemy’s theory (Jupiter’s moons orbiting around that planet).  In recent years new data has been discovered (staggeringly and irreducibly complex nano-machines in the cell; extraordinarily complex specified information stored in the DNA molecule) that cannot be accounted for in Darwin’s model.  Consider:  Is the electronic microscope analogous to Galileo’s improved telescope? 

9.  Pope Urban VIII persecuted Galileo for his “heretical” ideas in opposition to Ptolemy.  High priests of an entrenched and hidebound secular orthodoxy persecute ID proponents for their “heretical” ideas in opposition to Darwinism and the philosophical materialism upon which it is based.  Consider:  Is Richard Dawkins analogous to Pope Urban VIII?  Are Dembski and Behe the new Copernicus and Galileo?   

This has been fun to write.  I hope my readers enjoy it and find it useful.

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143 Responses to Epistemology. It’s What You Know

  1. [...] UD takes up epistemology, cites Berkeley, but not Kant. Suspicious. The question of epistemology haunts both ID and Darwinism. Clearly Darwinism presumes that natural selection resolves a host of metaphysical questions, and abuses empiricism (and scientific method) in its projections using natural selection without data. [...]

  2. BarryA,

    I believe it is “wanderer” not “wonderer”…

    Good post.

  3. Barry,

    This is one of your best-ever essays. It should be included in the UD sidebar as a permanent and always-easily-accessible entry.

    The desperation displayed by Darwinists in the form of a proliferation of epicycles and efforts to suppress rational dissent — by ridicule, intimidation, and worse — is really obvious. It won’t work forever.

  4. BarryA, this is an interesting and loaded post with many intricate things and concepts. Let me stab at a few things in an attempt to clarify.

    1) “Keep in mind that our beliefs can never be justified in an absolute sense.” — Not scientifically, or through the normal life experiences of most of us ordinary folk who experience life in normal ways. But some privileged individuals who have convincing (divine) revelations or visions, are convinced in an absolute sense, like St. Paul his conversion experience), St. Bernadette (nobody could convince her that she didn’t see what she saw), and other mystics and visionaries.

    2) Dr. Johnson & Berkeley — You are correct, and the comparison & controversy goes all the way to the systems of Plato and Aristotle.

    3) What is “fact” — there was an interesting debate recently about the “Physics of information”

    http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/07-08/jan05.html

    And an interesting question at the end by a biologist – Is there a difference between fact and data? I guess it depends… And how convincing did these top quantum physicists sound?

    4) Ptolemy, Copernicus and Darwinism — Science is about presenting a workable model that is at least partially true to reality in some testable aspect. This model can be tested based on the criteria given in the hypothesis. In this sense both Ptolemy’s and Compernican system were true scientific models, the only difference was the relative point of reference – Earth or Sun. Cardinal Bellarmine and the Jesuits knew as much when they considered them both as mere calculating devices. Both were useful and accurate for different purposes, it’s not that Ptolemy’s system was wrong, it just grew more complex due to its reference point and it could not deal easily and intuitively with the more complex notions of motion raised in Galileo’s time.

    5) “My point is not to “disprove” Darwinism. My point is that the debate will be much more robust if we all use proper epistemic categories.” True and necessary for mutual understanding.

    6) Galileo’s “percecution” by pope Urban and the Church is much exaggerated. He lived under house arrest in archbishop’s palace, and was allowed freedom to write and publish, receive guests and gifts, even got free “medical” care when he needed it (his eyesight. Bertold Brecht’s play is a false anti-clerical propaganda. Galileo, portrayed as a good Catholic by his daughters the nuns, which he might have been, was Urban’s friend, and Urban felt rightly betrayed when Galileo promised not to proceed without proper caution, and when he regardless decided to published the “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, in which he basically made fun of the Church and the pope, by portraying him as Simplicius. There are many fallacies in the Dialogue, just as they are in the Galileo’s other works and in his “physics”.

  5. Theory: A coherent model that gives a general explanation of observed data.

    As a “general explanation” of the observed natural world, ID Theory is pretty thin. ID explains irreducible complexity and complex specified information by saying an intelligence did it. But nobody can provide a coherent, convincing, generally applicable definition of those things. And there are no data observed indicating how the intelligence did it. Or when. Or where.

  6. Thanks Atom and Gil. Error corrected.

    Congregate. I never saw the Indian who carved the arrowheads on my wall. Am I compelled to conclude that they resulted from natural forces? I don’t think so.

  7. 7
    xcdesignproponentsists

    So who are the Copernicans supposed to be?

  8. XC, you don’t seem to have read the last paragraph.

  9. Berkeley would have replied that when Johnson kicked the stone, all he could be certain of was that he had a perception in his mind that he kicked a stone.

    Unless he thought Johnson might have then kicked him in his ding dongs. :-)

    Which might have been Johnson’s point.

  10. BarryA,

    I never saw the Indian who carved the arrowheads on my wall. Am I compelled to conclude that they resulted from natural forces? I don’t think so.
    This point is a good illustration of a very frequent misunderstanding: mistaking a metaphysical stance for something that experience shows to be true.

    As your question shows, IDists believe that there are two types of cause in the world: One is “intelligent causation” and the other is “natural causes”. They insist that these causes are distinct, i.e. that if a cause is natural then it cannot be intelligent, and if a cause is intelligent then it cannot be natural.

    This position cannot be by reference to data. For all anyone can know at this point, for example, the intelligent behavior that humans exhibit in our day-to-day lives arises from natural processes inside our brains and bodies. (Note: Perhaps these natural processes are very different from our understanding of physics today of course, just as our understanding of natural processes today is vastly different from our understanding at the start of the twentieth century – before Relativity and Quantum theories).

    Of course, philosophical debates regarding metaphysical ontology have gone on for thousands of years, and they go on today, and nobody has yet managed to figure out how we might decide which position (if any) is true by reference to experimental or observational evidence. But the fact that ID thinkers assume dualism is an empirical fact upon which one can build a scientific theory accounts for much of the problems that ID has convincing the scientific community to entertain their ideas.

  11. aiguy writes: IDists believe that there are two types of cause in the world: One is ‘intelligent causation’ and the other is ‘natural causes.’”

    I would put it this way: For a given effect, it was caused by either (a) chance and necessity, or (b)it was caused by an intelligent agent. Cause (a) is mutally exclusive of cause (b). To suggest otherwise is quite literally absurd. It is a simple matter of linguistics. When I say an effect was caused by chance and necessity, I mean it was not caused by an intelligent agent.

  12. Barry,

    There are several things here that I simply cannot see as historically accurate.

    For instance, you write that “the most fundamental reason that scholars did not immediately roll over and accept Copernicus was the fact that, for all its clunkiness, Ptolemy’s system had for 1,400 years provided exceedingly accurate predictions about the movements of the celestial bodies.”

    But this does not strike me as correct for the reason that (1) there were plenty of scholars, Ptolemy included, who simply did not believe his system of epicycles was an accurate representation of reality. (2) Copernicus’ system was more accurate than Ptolemy’s system and required less epicycles and no equant points. (3) Galileo’s Dialogues makes the case that it is the dynamical argument as the main reason that Copernicus is rejected; Oresme, interestingly, spends some time on this point.

    It also is more plausible to think of the empirical death blow to begin with Tycho’s observations, particularly the 1577 comet. This posed a major challenge to the Aristotelian notion that the heavens are unchanging.

    I’m not going to note everything that I think needs to be corrected (e.g., you’ve mistaken Copernicus’s system to be heliocentric when in fact it was not; it was heliostatic since the earth was slightly off center). But let me recommend Stephen Toulmin’s book, The Fabric of the Heavens, and Crowe’s book, Theories of the World. These are excellent resources for the area you’re writing on.

    James Gibson
    Dept. of Philosophy
    Western Michigan University

  13. aiguy,

    Three questions:

    1) Are humans intelligent agents?

    2) Do humans build functionally integrated, complex machinery out of all sorts of materials? (ex. missle guidance robots, space shuttles, encryption machines, computers, LCD TVs, radiospectrometers, etc.)

    3) Have any non-intelligent causes been DEMONSTRATED (not assumed, por believed to have) to have produced such complex, functionally integrated machinery (on the same level as the types of machines listed in 2)?

    If you answer “Yes”, “Yes”, “No”, then the statement “Only intelligent causes have been shown to produce complex, functionally integrated machinery (of the above mentioned type)” is true regardless of the underlying metaphysical reality.

    If intelligent agents turn out to be a subset of material agents, it is still the case that only intelligent material agents can produce the level of machinery I am discussing.

  14. aiguy, your well reasoned rebuttal nicely demonstrates “The desperation displayed by Darwinists in the form of a proliferation of epicycles and efforts to suppress rational dissent — by ridicule, intimidation, and worse — is really obvious.”

  15. [...] we’re on the topic of philosophy, I’ll direct you to a very nice post on epistemology (how we know what we know) by BarryA at Uncommon Descent, where he does a very nice job of [...]

  16. 16
    xcdesignproponentsists

    BarryA:

    Oops, you’re right.

    But the reason I asked is because it’s perhaps not the only alternative.

    Yes, it is possible that evolutionary theory is just fundamentally wrong, and that intelligent design proponents are revolutionary geniuses who in the future will be revered while the likes of Darwin, Gould and Sean B. Carroll are scoffed at.

    But let’s remember that ID is not the only alternative to evolution. There is after all Creationism in its various forms.

  17. BarryA,

    I would put it this way: For a given effect, it was caused by either (a) chance and necessity, or (b)it was caused by an intelligent agent. Cause (a) is mutally exclusive of cause (b).
    To suggest otherwise is quite literally absurd. It is a simple matter of linguistics. When I say an effect was caused by chance and necessity, I mean it was not caused by an intelligent agent.

    Forgive me, but ID proponents switch easily and often between definitions of intelligence, and it’s hard to know which is on offer at the moment. For you, the meaning of “intelligence” seems to be “that which is not caused by chance and necessity”, rather than say “the ability to solve problems with foresight” or “the ability to generate CSI” or something else.

    In that case, you are attempting to smuggle into our discussion a controversial analytic proposition (i.e. there exists a sort of cause that does not arise by chance and necessity) by disguising it as a synthetic proposition (i.e. “intelligence” is defined as being other than chance and necessity). This causes endless confusion (as you will see in my reply to Atom).

    Atom,

    1) Are humans intelligent agents?

    According to BarryA, saying that a human is “intelligent” means that human behavior transcends mechanisms of chance and necessity. That is a very interesting proposition, especially in my line of work (artificial intelligence) and I’d love to know the answer. I do not know the answer, however.

    How do you propose we determine if it is true or not?

    2) Do humans build functionally integrated, complex machinery out of all sorts of materials? (ex. missle guidance robots, space shuttles, encryption machines, computers, LCD TVs, radiospectrometers, etc.)
    Yes of course.

    Have any non-intelligent causes been DEMONSTRATED (not assumed, por believed to have) to have produced such complex, functionally integrated machinery (on the same level as the types of machines listed in 2)?
    No. However: AI systems work according to chance and necessity (please don’t confuse this statement with statement about origins!). Therefore, according to BarryA, AI systems are not intelligent. Still, they can certainly do lots of things that if a human being were to do them we would consider intelligent. Nobody knows what the limits of AI will be – it is a very active area of philosophical debate.

    If you answer “Yes”, “Yes”, “No”, then the statement “Only intelligent causes have been shown to produce complex, functionally integrated machinery (of the above mentioned type)” is true regardless of the underlying metaphysical reality.
    But I answered “We do not know”, “No”, and “No”. The truth of your statement depends on the answer to #1, which is tantamount to proving the ancient speculation of substance dualism.

    If intelligent agents turn out to be a subset of material agents, it is still the case that only intelligent material agents can produce the level of machinery I am discussing.
    While both you and BarryA seem to be advocates of ID (yes?) you seem to disagree fundamentally about what the word “intelligent” means. According to BarryA, a material agent cannot be intelligent by definition. But according to you, it is an empirical question.

    bFast,

    (oh – nothing to respond to here)

  18. 18

    (BarryA:)
    For a given effect, it was caused by either (a) chance and necessity, or (b)it was caused by an intelligent agent. Cause (a) is mutally exclusive of cause (b). To suggest otherwise is quite literally absurd. It is a simple matter of linguistics. When I say an effect was caused by chance and necessity, I mean it was not caused by an intelligent agent.

    So, the behavior of an “intelligent agent” is not determined by laws (necessity). Wouldn’t that make it indistinguishable from randomness? Upon what basis do you predict what an intelligent agent will do. If you observe the intelligent agent to discern some rule or pattern, that part of his behavior determined by rules cannot be intelligent agency. Please tell me what I am missing.

  19. Junkyard asks: “Wouldn’t that make it indistinguishable from randomness?”

    Consider a fair coin flipped 10,000 times. The pattern would be random.

    Now consider a human saying “heads” or “tails” 10,000 times. It is conceivable, but not likely, that the human’s pattern would appear randon. I say “not likely” because it is practically certain the human will fall into a pattern.

    So, to answer your question, it may be that effects caused by an intelligent agent are, in some cases, indistinquishable from the effects caused by randomness. However, it is not likely. Typically, an intelligent agent will leave a pattern.

    Junkyard asks: “Upon what basis do you predict what an intelligent agent will do.” There is none.

    Junkyard asks: “If you observe the intelligent agent to discern some rule or pattern, that part of his behavior determined by rules cannot be intelligent agency.” I have no idea what you are trying to say.

  20. There can be no observations without an immense apparatus of preexisting theory. Before sense experiences become “observations” we need a theoretical question, and what counts as a relevant observation depends upon a theoretical frame into which it is to be placed. Repeatable observations that do not fit into an existing frame have a way of disappearing from view, and the experiments that produced them are not revisited. ~ Richard Lewontin

  21. 21

    Now consider a human saying “heads” or “tails” 10,000 times. It is conceivable, but not likely, that the human’s pattern would appear randon [sic]. I say “not likely” because it is practically certain the human will fall into a pattern.

    So if a human decides to call heads 10000 times in a row its intelligent agency. If a computer decides to call heads 10000 times in a row its not.

  22. Junkyard. You have posited a null set. We are talking about the appearance of randomness. I assume you mean a the computer has been programed to generate a random selection of heads and tails. It is impossible for a random number generate to call heads 10,000 times in a row. So your question is literally meaningless.

  23. bevets, 16, said “There can be no observations without an immense apparatus of preexisting theory”

    I suspect you are abusing the notion of observation. One can observe that which he has no prior experience with. But, to create inferences, extrapolations, or some level of understanding, then pre-existing experience becomes relevent.

    —–

    BarryA, in 15, says “Now consider a human saying “heads” or “tails” 10,000 times. It is conceivable, but not likely, that the human’s pattern would appear randon. I say “not likely” because it is practically certain the human will fall into a pattern.”

    I would hope that you haven’t limited your experience to one data point, i.e. the results of that one person speaking 10,000 times. To recognize a “likely” pattern, better statistics would be needed. Specifically, because “likely” is fundamentally a probablistic, i.e. statistical, claim. If nothing else, once those 10,000 words were spoken, a pattern of 10,000 words would have been formed.

    If you tempered your observations by having many people speak out 10,000 words, do you know if a pattern would still be discernable?

  24. BarryA,

    you said

    “Pope Urban VIII persecuted Galileo for his “heretical” ideas in opposition to Ptolemy. ”

    Pope Urban did not persecute Galileo. He was a good friend of Galileo’s and most likely believed Galileo’s hypothesis was true. But Galileo stepped over the line and betrayed Urban and it was for political reasons that Galileo was silenced and sentenced to a comfortable house arrest.

    It wasn’t science or religion that silenced Galileo but the power politics of major European Catholic rivals, France and the Hapsburgs. Galileo was undermining Urban authority during a very tense time in Europe, namely, the 30′s Year War when how the bible was interpreted was an issue. Galileo was actually proposing how to interpret scripture based on his ideas and had labeled Urban a fool in his book which Urban said he could publish. Galileo got off light. In England his head would have been off in a nano second. Also a lot of Galileo’s predictions turned out to be wrong despite being one of the greatest scientists in history.

  25. 25

    BarryA:

    So you say that human behavior typically falls into a pattern – for example calling 10000 heads in a row?

    The only reason I could think someone would say humans don’t operate according to fixed laws is due to the difficulty in predicting human behavior. So, since we know human behavior is not random, this would seem to put it it in an entirely different category distinct from either law (which can be predicted) or randomness. However, if something is operating according to rules we’re not aware of, its behavior will be impossible to predict as well (though its still operating according to rules.) The more complex the environment, and the more complex the entity, the more difficult it is to predict an entity’s behavior. Given one stimuli a snail (or something) might flee if its light and approach if its dark. Given the same stimuli a chimp might respond in a myriad of different ways based on attributes of this stimuli that are in effect invisible to a lower level organism. So we have to know much, much more to predict what a chimp will do. Its even harder to predict what a human will do, maybe impossible for us in many instances, but not at all unpredictable in principle, just extremely complex, i.e. determined by a myriad of rules(not in a different category distinct from chance or rules).

  26. 26

    Just to clarify my response, Your response to me assumed I thought human behavior was random. Its hard to believe you thought that. My point was that something not operating according to laws (“intelligent agents”) equates to randomness. I do not think human behavior is random. I also do not think it is something distinct from randomness or law (i.e. what you call “intelligent agent”).

  27. Q, interesting question. I did not think this example up off the top of my head. It is based on a game one of my statistics profs played.

    He had half the students in the class each write down a series of 50 heads and tails and try to make them “look” random. He had the other half each actually flip a coin. He assured the student he would be able to tell the difference and almost always he could. Here’s the key: The students who wrote down their own calls almost always tried to avoid any obvious “patterns,” for example five heads in a row. But a truly random series will usually have patterns like that. So the prof would call all the papers with “patterns” random and the ones without pattens non-random and he was almost always right. It is counter-intuitive to recognize a human “pattern” by the absence of any seeming pattern, but there you go.

  28. Jerry writes: “Pope Urban did not persecute Galileo.” Stuff and nonsense. If you don’t consider jail, followed by house arrest, followed by a ban on publishing all your works to be “persecution,” then you and I have a different definition of persecution.

    Now it is true, as you say, that Urban initially like Galileo. But that changed quickly when Galileo made a fool of the Pope in public.

  29. Junkyard writes: “even harder to predict what a human will do, maybe impossible for us in many instances, but not at all unpredictable in principle, just extremely complex, i.e. determined by a myriad of rules(not in a different category distinct from chance or rules).”

    I could not disagree with you more. But rather argue free will vs. determinism in this comment section, I will refer you to O’Leary and let her rough you up. Go read her book “The Spiritual Brain,” and then come back and tell me human behavior is determined. I double dog dare ya.

  30. 30

    BarryA:
    “Junkyard. You have posited a null set. We are talking about the appearance of randomness. I assume you mean a the computer has been programed to generate a random selection of heads and tails. It is impossible for a random number generate to call heads 10,000 times in a row. So your question is literally meaningless.”

    Why would you assume I meant random number generator? Did I say random number generator? A program could be hardwired to call only heads. Or it could call heads if someone yelled “Go Packers”. Whatever its reason you would never call it an intelligent agent, but if human does

    Is this the same BarryA that just rattled of a 15 page essay on epistemology?

  31. Well Junkyard, I guess I just can’t keep up with you, so I won’t try. See ya.

  32. 32

    Junkyard. You have posited a null set. We are talking about the appearance of randomness. I assume you mean a the computer has been programed to generate a random selection of heads and tails. It is impossible for a random number generate to call heads 10,000 times in a row. So your question is literally meaningless.

    Why would you assume I meant random number generator? Did I say random number generator? A program could be hardwired to only call heads. Or it could call heads if someone yelled “Go Packers”. Or it could call heads all night long during a full moon on the first Tuesday of March on Leap Years, or it call heads if someone entered the name of a member of the House of Commons. Or it could could call heads if its facial recognition system identified a person as being Vietnamese.

    I’m starting to wonder if this is the same BarryA that just rattled off a fifteen page essay on Epistomology.

  33. 33

    Guess the double posting sort of muted the impact. Too bad nothing’s ever deleted here.

  34. BarryA,

    Have it your way but what happened to Galileo was relatively mild and for good reason. He was silenced not persecuted. There is a difference. He was 68 at the time and allowed to live his life in house arrest till he died. I believe he continued to write during his house arrest.

    Urban had been an advocate of Galileo and his Copernican thesis and gave his approval to write about the Copernican’s ideas. He just said to do so in a hypothetical manner and include the following argument”

    Since God is omnipotent, the determination of ultimate causes can not be absolutely certain. A given phenomena could be the result of more than one cause and still appear identical to our eyes.

    God could have created the world in a number of different ways, where the causes are different even though the effects are the same.

    Galileo wanted his book published in Rome under the pre-eminent science institute but a couple things intervened after he was asked to make some changes. His patron for the book in Rome died and the academy which was going to publish the book collapsed Also a plague broke out so he could not send the book to Rome for a final check as Florence and Rome were quarantined from each other. He couldn’t even send the manuscript since all materials were stopped at the borders. Galileo decided to have the book published in Florence due to the restrictions between the two cities. Eventually additional changes came from Rome and they asked the title be changed from “On the Tides” to “A Dialogue on the Two Chief World’s Systems.” (Ptolemy vs. Copernicus) This title was apparently suggested by Urban so to say that Urban or the Church was against the discussion was ludicrous or he was persecuted is nonsense.

    Galileo does include Urban’s argument but on the last page of the book and in the mouth of an idiot named Simplicio who everyone took to mean simpleton. Simplicio’s comment of Urban’s caveat was treated with sarcasm in the book.

    Urban had protected and supported Galileo, had written a poem in his honor, had given his permission to write the dialogue and for this Galileo stabbed him in the back with embarrassment and insult.

    Urban was under assault from several places at the time and there was a movement to depose him. It was roughly half way in the 30′s Year War. Urban was trying to broker a peace in this war and refused to take the side of the Hapsburgs in the war by providing money and forces or declare the conflict a holy war. Urban refused. The Hapsburgs which included Spain then tried to undermine Urban and was being attacked. It was in the midst of this that Galileo’s betrayal took place. There were other funny circumstances too. Galileo was the Tuscan’s Duke court philosopher and the Tuscan Duke’s name was in big print on the book as a sponsor and the Tuscan Duke was in league with the Spanish King against Urban in an attempt to depose him. It is thought that this is why Urban insisted that Galileo be tried and not for any religious or science reasons. Therse were far from Urban’s mind at the time.

    Also Urban’s nephew who was on the Inquisition failed to sign the sentence of Galileo and this could not have happened without Urban’s approval. So I think you will have to find another bogey man.

    I love your essay except for the part about Urban and Galileo at the end.

  35. BarryA says:

    I never saw the Indian who carved the arrowheads on my wall. Am I compelled to conclude that they resulted from natural forces? I don’t think so.

    I add:

    And – strangely enough – you’re not required to get a Ph.D. in Archaeology and perform experiments with expensive microscopes to convince unbelievers that those arrowheads were made by men, either!

  36. aiguy,

    You may think that “chance” is moderately well defined, but it’s not. Your being in AI, the concept of chance is always at hand. You just reach for a random generator to simulate something with a whole lot of factors you don’t care about computing.

    Necessity and Chance are really two ends of a scale of imputed predictability. Necessity occurring with 100% consistency and Chance all over the place.

    Where we get chance, is that it’s silly to argue that a dice “could not have but” rolled a 12. If that were true, we wouldn’t ever think of dice as randomizers, they wouldn’t have this common use so that we’d even talk about them here. In fact the difficulty to of establishing– by angle, trajectory, angular momentum, and so forth–makes it an idle speculation. In fact, many of us guess that there is nothing truly random about dice, just that there are so many factors that make two identical throws identical. We assent that given the angle of the wrist, the placement of the dice, the angle of the folds of the skin, the friction of the skin…. But arguing that it could not have but landed as 12 given numerous unspecified factors is no better than saying “random”.

    Now, it can hardly be more controversial to add a third factor, just because we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we’ve understood two others.

    Do you really want me to believe that this argument of yours was motivated by either “random” thoughts or by your inability to think otherwise? Is it controversial or suspect to “smuggle” into the conversation the idea of an argument that is not random or completely determined (although unspecifically determined, at that)?

    What would be an unspecified necessity? Something that if I could show you the relationship would be a 1-1 correspondence. But I can’t show you it, so you can’t observe it, but you must accept that there are near zillions of these little chained states that would show that correspondence–if I could show it to you. But since, necessity is only ever a label we put on observed things, it’s a little pointless to cross phenomenological categories like that.

  37. Jerry, your history is entirely accurate, and I agree with everything you say. I still maintain that trial, imprisonment, charges of heresy, house arrest and a ban on publication amount to persecution.

  38. Hi Barry:

    Excellent post!

    You left off my favourite part on the Columbus in Xamayca — how the Arawaks would have spelled their word for “Land of Wood and Water,” also called by COlumbus “the fairest land that eyes have beheld . . . if only we had not so sadly spoiled it up in so many ways! — story.

    Namely, how he used the prediction to get the Arawaks to feed him and his crew of quarrelsome Hidalgos and seamen for a full year while they tried to get off the island. [The Spanish authorities on Hispaniola were but little inclined to do something to help him out, after he had beached his worm-eaten ship on a north coast beach.]

    Key lesson: Science can be abused . . .

    I make a few little comments if you don’t mind.

    1] Knowledge, justification and belief

    Giventhe issue of Gettier counter-examples, as discussed here, it is probably wiser to speak of knowledge as being WARRANTED, true belief.

    Thence, we can go on to the point that we are indeed dealing with inherent provisionality in knowledge claims.

    Thus, we are open to the idea that this is the Matrix or — going back much further — Plato’s manipulated cave of shadow-shows put on for the benefits of the denizens in stocks who didn’t know better ’til one got away [whom they then set upon . . .] — just, the burden of warrant lies on the one who would so claim. And, since the matrix-type assertion implies that in effect just about all our sense-data and concepts etc are suspect, then it is far more dubious than what it claims to challenge.

    Of course, most times, those who assert we live in a Matrix type world, have no basis for credible warrant,. So we may confidently assert tot hem that we will rely on the credibility of the senses and experiences we have in hand, and which the Matrix argument in the end both assumes and seeks to subvert, thank you.

    But, in those cases where there IS evidence that on a specific matter our experiences have been distorted and our currne texplanations are inferior, why, then we should be very open to revision of our provisionally warranted body of accepted knowledge. [Notice the subtleties in that phrasing.]

    2] For a given effect, it was caused by either (a) chance and necessity, or (b)it was caused by an intelligent agent. Cause (a) is mutally exclusive of cause (b). To suggest otherwise is quite literally absurd. It is a simple matter of linguistics. When I say an effect was caused by chance and necessity, I mean it was not caused by an intelligent agent.

    Counsel, may I beg to adjust and slightly refine the argument in light of a little thought experiment in two phases?

    Namely:

    PHASE I: A Tumbling Die: For instance, heavy objects tend to fall under the natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance. But, if the die is cast as part of a game, the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes! (This concrete, familiar illustration should suffice to show that the three causal factors approach is not at all arbitrary or dubious — as some are tempted to imagine or assert.)

    PHASE II: a hypothetical, dice-based information system: If one were so inclined, s/he could define a six-state code and use a digital string of dice to store or communicate a message by setting each die in turn to the required functional value for communicating the message. In principle, we could then develop information-processing and communication systems that use dice as the data-storage and transmission elements; rather like the underlying two-state [binary] digital code-strings used for this web page. So also, since 6^193 ~ 10^150, if a functional code-string using dice requires significantly more than 193 to 386 six-state elements [we can conveniently round this up to 200 - 400], it would be beyond the edge of chance as can be specified by the Dembski universal probability bound, UPB. [That is, the probabilistic resources of the observed universe would be mostllikely fruitlessly exhausted if a random-walk search starting from an arbitrary initial point in the configuration space were to be tasked to find an "island" of functionality: not all "lotteries" are winnable (and those that are, are designed to be winnable but profitable for their owners). So, if we were to then see a code-bearing, functionally meaningful string of say 500 dice, it would be most reasonable to infer that this string was arranged by an agent, rather than to assume it came about because someone tossed a box of dice and got really lucky! (Actually, this count is rather conservative, because the specification of the code, algorithms and required executing machinery are further -- rather large -- increments of organised, purposeful complexity.)]

    In short, the proper contrast is between:

    [a] undirected chance + necessity ONLY, and

    [b] agency in action that can use the forces and materials of nature creatively and purposefully

    The former, we cna identfy by its characteristics, e.g if heat + oxidiser + fuel then fire, reliably. Nautral regularities traceable to mechanical necessity do not produce highly contingent outcomes.

    Chance, — ie, random conditions or processes such as the tumbling of a die reflects, do produce contingency, but in so doing end up in effect anywhere in a config space, conditioned by whatever further constraints of natural regularities may bias the outcomes from even chance of hitting any given cel of he space.

    But the key point is that the initial cell such a process hits on is essentially arbitrary, not as a rule close to interesting hills of functionality so that hill-climbing functionality increment-rewarding processes tracing to whatever source may then take over. So, once the config space passes the UPB, such processes are dynamically impotent on searching out such islands of functionality amidst the vastness of the sea of non-functional cells.

    By contrast, creative, purposeful agency is demonstrably able to come sufficiently close to such islands that incremental processes of improvement can be used to gain on desirable performance. If you have ever had to design and build a sufficiently complex hard or soft ware system you will know what I am getting at.

    Further, such a process typically leaves behind a clear, characteristic empirical trace, namely FSCI.

    That brings up . . .

    3] Atom, 10: the statement “Only intelligent causes have been shown to produce complex, functionally integrated machinery (of the above mentioned type)” is true regardless of the underlying metaphysical reality. If intelligent agents turn out to be a subset of material agents, it is still the case that only intelligent material agents can produce the level of machinery I am discussing.

    I would add that as App 1 section 6 to my always linked shows, on the gamut of the observed universe we have excellent reason to infer that chance + necessity only are on vast improbabilities dynamically incompetent to achieve FSCI as you describe.

    Second, I would adjust the final sentence to read that it is such agents that are the only entities known to produce machinery of the sort described, even in a world where many may assume or assert that such agents are reducible on origin to chance + necessity only.

    Then, we can inspect the nanotech of the cell, and lo and behold, i tis a clear instantiation of just such machinery and systems that we know only agents do. Thence we look at the origin of our observed universe and lo and behold it too reflects organised complexity of a sort that is suspiciously familiar . . . that is we see a family resemblance at work.

    Thence, we see that it would be sensible to change assertions that agency is reducible to chance + necessity in a material world.

    3] AIG, 13: AI systems work according to chance and necessity (please don’t confuse this statement with statement about origins!)

    As directed by intelligent agents, cf above and the always linked.

    4] XCD, 12: let’s remember that ID is not the only alternative to evolution. There is after all Creationism in its various forms.

    Creationism, of course is predicated on inference to design, but adds the further idea that a certain book or tradition gives us an accurate account of origins by the hand of the Agent responsible.

    This is a further empirical claim, and it is testable and in principle falsifiable.

    5] JT, 14: the behavior of an “intelligent agent” is not determined by laws (necessity). Wouldn’t that make it indistinguishable from randomness? Upon what basis do you predict what an intelligent agent will do. If you observe the intelligent agent to discern some rule or pattern, that part of his behavior determined by rules cannot be intelligent agency.

    Cf just above and as always linked. There is an introductory discussion of intelligence, information, and agency and their characteristics in Section A there.

    After you read, kindly tell us what you agree with and what your onward objections if any are, why.

    5] 17, if a human decides to call heads 10000 times in a row its intelligent agency. If a computer decides to call heads 10000 times in a row its not.

    This brings us to the issue of specification + complexity as a criterion of successful searcheabilty by a chance-driven process.

    A computer as others poined out, is prgrammed and reflects chance, cencessity and agency in action.

    But on the direct point, 10,000 heads is a specific microstate, a functional outcome that is expressible in a very compressed way and one that is instantly recognisable by contrast with an arbitrary string 10001010101110100101010010 . . . . which toi capture essentially has rto simply be repeated, i.e it resists compression.

    So we have a functional, fine tuned unique, compressibly describable microstate, corresponding to the all heads macrostate. It is 1 of 2^10,000 or 1 in ~ 1.995*10^3010. By contrast with the near-50-50 HT macrostate [within say 1% of 50-50] and other far more easy to access macrostates, this state is of overwhelmingly tiny statistical weight. [This is a classic first example on statistical thermodynamics. Cf for instance Nash's description in his nice short intro.]

    So, we can confidently say that a fair-biased H/T flip chance-programmed PC would not reach this macrostate on the gamut of the observed cosmos, it is impossible in the soft sense.

    If a claimed fair random throw program does deliver such a state, it was most liklely rigged or else was most likely grossly defective.

    6] 22: . My point was that something not operating according to laws (”intelligent agents”) equates to randomness. I do not think human behavior is random. I also do not think it is something distinct from randomness or law (i.e. what you call “intelligent agent”).

    This — so far as one may see, evidently boils down to determinism.

    Thus, it evidently reduces to the incoherences of reasoning as we think we experience it is a delusional epiphenomenon of matter in motion. Sorry, but then we have every right to infer that reasoned discourse is impossible, positions and claims having then been predetermined.

    In fact, mind is SELF-determining, i.e we have the power of intelligent choice. [Notice, a cause does not have to pre-exist its effect, it can be simultaneous with it.]

    On that, we can explain and understand much. Mind is not determined by mater or other minds, through it may be influenced and affected by them. That comports with our experience of being agents who make up our own minds.

    And so on . . . enough for now.

    GEM of TKI

  39. I always use humility to argue against the nonsense assertions that there isn’t anything but thoughts and everything is in my mind. While I have a good opinion about myself, I am not that smart that I came up with relativity, all of Plato’s dialogues, the technology to run a cell, a city, fly a space shuttle, Shakespeare’s plays, Michaelangelo’s art, etc. To be that smart someone would be almost like a god. But then being this smart, I am not smart enough to realize that all I am is a thought and no one exists but myself and that aiguy is just my imagination.

  40. GEM, thanks for your comments. Yes, Columbus was an interesting man. He was a courageous visionary scoundral. Fearless explorer; feckless administrator.

  41. Homer: Look everyone, now that I’m a teacher I’ve sewn patches on my elbows.

    Marge: Homer that’s supposed to be leather patches on a tweed jacket, not the other way around. You’ve ruined a perfectly good jacket.

    Homer: Correction, Marge. Two perfectly good jackets.

  42. “Keep in mind that our beliefs can never be justified in an absolute sense.”

    I hope the irony of making an absolute statement like that is not lost.

  43. geoffrobinson, I grant that as a matter of pure logic, the statement is internally contradictory and thus ironic. I hope I made it clear in the post that I was operating at the practical level. At that level it is not. G.K. Chesterton (I paraphrase): “Insanity is not the absense of logic, but too much logic.”

  44. BarryA, I don’t want to split hairs, but sometimes it is necessary, especially if we desire mutual understanding. There is a difference between discipline and systematic ideologically based persecution. Galileo presented himself as a good Catholic, and as such was subject to the Church discipline, even as specified by the Canon Law.

    Re 37: “Jerry, your history is entirely accurate, and I agree with everything you say. I still maintain that trial, imprisonment, charges of heresy, house arrest and a ban on publication amount to persecution.”

    Neither the Church nor pope Urban were dead set against Copernicanism, against Galileo, or against science. Much more was at stake than just some scientific theory or theories. Galileo presented himself as a theologian and scripture scholar, he even used the title of theologian, for which he wasn’t properly educated, and ventured to criticize the Church and its teaching authority in religious matters philosophically and theologically. By criticizing Aristotle, Galileo was in fact subverting the whole system of rationality on which the teaching authority of the Church, and arguably science, rested. Until this day the Magisterially preferred system of rationality is based on Aquinas’ Aristotelianism. Others like Heidegger later tried a similar criticism or revamping of Aristotelianism, but without much success. To put it bluntly, Galileo acted not like a concerned scientists and believer, but like a proud stubborn pig-headed ass.

  45. This war cannot be won. Epistemology, at least at the level of theory, is in thrall to identity. What we think reflects who we are and cannot do otherwise.

    Berkeley’s seeming “idealism” came about through his antipathy to Newton, whose synthetic geometry he found unappealing and unworthy of a transcendent God. Newton’s synthetic constructs of value, in turn, were a reaction to Descartes, whose notion of pure intellect struck him as being unrealistic and ephemeral. It is not necessary to speculate that their philosophies had these personal motivations; they themselves acknowledged it.

    From the beginning, philosophy was divided between those who had a strong longing for the possibility of transcendence and those who were more at home in their own skin and wanted to make transcendent values seem immanent in existence. This divide is a product of personality, and also of intellect itself and its qualitative force of resistance to divided values, which cannot be totalized without describing transcendent value as either pure negation or pure action.

    No one can cross this divide; it has never been possible and is not possible now. The only way to identify transcendent values through intellect is to assign transcendent value to intellect itself—to agree with Plato and Aristotle that intellect is the good. And every time this prideful equation is made, one’s notions of value immediately become divided, like the Tower of Babel, between the attempt to describe the good as pure intellect or as some kind of synthesis, for instance of intellectual and material causes.

    ID serves a useful purpose by casting doubt on the ironclad materialism of the age. It is valuable to the extent that it builds up faith and combats nothingness. But ID will fail if it attempts to supplant materialism by describing itself as a rival “theory.” At that point it immediately succumbs to the divide between immanence and transcendence inherent in intellect itself, as the posts on these pages demonstrate daily, and may ultimately lead to something worse than the thing it is trying to destroy.

  46. rockyr, I agree with everything you say too. I still maintain that trial, imprisonment, charges of heresy, house arrest and a ban on publication amount to persecution. The fact that Urban thought he was accomplishing a greater good does not impress me. He was wrong.

  47. allanius writes: “But ID will fail if it attempts to supplant materialism by describing itself as a rival ‘theory.’

    You have made a category error. ID does not and never has attempted to supplant materialism. Materialism is a metaphyscial proposition that can never be proved or disproved. ID is science and as such makes claims about the physical world subject to investigation and (in principle) falsification.

    Obviously, to the extent one believes as a matter of faith that the designer is supernatural, ID has metaphysical implications. But ID has not and does not posit that the designer is supernatural.

    Nevertheless, just as Darwinism’s success made possible the follow-on success of materialism, ID’s success would give great aid and comfort to theists.

    Strictly speaking, however, giving great aid and comfort to theists is not ID’s purpose. It’s purpose is much more modest — to establish a model for explaining the observed data.

  48. 48

    For me the relevance of the whole discussion of Epistomology, “how we know what we know”, whether or not our senses are reliable, etc. ad nauseum, almost completely eludes me.

    My basic model ever since 10th grade geometry is reasoning from axioms. You start with basic foundational axioms which are presumed to be self evident and try to deduce everything else from that. There is no implication your axioms are definitely true or that they are known for an absolute fact to be true. You presume they are true. You presume the basic rules of inferential logic are true. You have as few axioms and assume as little as conceivably possible. Everything else must be proven through logic. What could be simpler.

    The problem for ID’ists is that they have as a basic foundational axiom that there is this thing which they label “intelligent agency” which they say is distinct from either chance or law. In other words they think it is self-evident and does not even need to be proven:

    More broadly the decision faced once we see an apparent message, is first to decide its source across a trichotomy: (1) chance; (2) natural regularity rooted in mechanical necessity (or as Monod put it in his famous 1970 book, echoing Plato, simply: “necessity”); (3) intelligent agency. These are the three commonly observed causal forces/factors in our world of experience and observation.
    Each of these forces, clearly, stands at the same basic level as an explanation or cause…

    (It is interesting that after the above assertion is made there immediately follows an abstruse utterly irrelevant discourse on epistimology.)

    (It is from this which kairosfocus just requested I read. Incidently kairos, why would this fifty page screed not have any author’s name attached as if it were immutable truth handed down from on high or something. Oops. I guess you wrote it. If I’m not mistaken, there are several passages you’ve taken directly from Dembski unattributed. Also, re: your last post above – as far as a computer choosing 10000 heads in a row, a computer is just a random number generator. Plz. read my last response to BarryA. )

    A specific thing has a specific description. You point this thing out and ask what is it? Say its an entity that operates in some environmment. I hand you a big long description specifying the known properties of this entity and how it operates in its environment. So you thank me because now you have a record of what this thing is. So what this entity does is determined by its environment and its own specific nature. If this entity is actually doing things not determined by its own specific nature (i.e. law) and the environment in which it exists, then this thing is behaving randomly. What is axiomatic to me is the above view of reality. So I cannot even comprehend what ID’ists mean by something that is not operating according to law, So how can they consider it axiomatic.
    Unfortunately that’s the best I can to do this morning.

  49. 49

    Also, re: your last post above – as far as a computer choosing 10000 heads in a row, a computer is just a random number generator. Plz. read my last response to BarryA

    CORRECTION:

    Also, re: your last post above – as far as a computer choosing 10000 heads in a row, a computer is NOT I repeat NOT just a random number generator. Plz. read my last response to BarryA.

  50. jjcasidy,

    You may think that “chance” is moderately well defined, but it’s not.
    I’m aware of these issues which chance, jj, and I think you’ve captured them well. I’m not relying on the concept of “chance” to explain anything, however. In these discussions, Monod’s phrase “chance and necessity” should be taken to mean “the type of causality involved in every other phenomenon” – whatever that might be (causality of course isn’t a very well-defined concept either). The main point being that we have no evidence for an ontologically distinct type of mental causality, much less indication that this res cogitans was responsible for creating life.

    Do you really want me to believe that this argument of yours was motivated by either “random” thoughts or by your inability to think otherwise? Is it controversial or suspect to “smuggle” into the conversation the idea of an argument that is not random or completely determined (although unspecifically determined, at that)?
    I have studied minds my entire adult life (and I’m pretty old). I do not pretend to understand how we think, and my primary issue with ID folks is that they do pretend that we know something about it.

    Kairosfocus,

    AIGUY: AI systems work according to chance and necessity (please don’t confuse this statement with statement about origins!)
    KAIROSFOCUS:
    As directed by intelligent agents, cf above and the always linked.

    And so you have made the error that I implored you not to make: You have confused the process by which people or computers reason with the origin of their reasoning abilities. You think that you were created by an intelligent agent, right? Does this mean that you can only act as “directed” by this intelligent agent, and that you are not intelligent in your own right?

  51. 51

    Some stuff to learn however, in the posts above occasionally, e.g. allanius, et. al. I don’t have contempt, FWIW.

  52. Materialism can be disproved transcendentally. For example: Logic is immaterial. The law of non-contradiction isn’t under a rock or orbiting Jupiter. You can only argue against this position by using logic and other immaterial concepts.

  53. Hi Barry,

    Great post. While I generally agree with your view of philosophers and the stuff they write, I did chuckle audibly when I read a lawyer complaining about another discipline’s “almost impenetrable thicket of jargon…”

    ;-)

    -sb

  54. geoffrobinson,

    What you have proven is that “materialists”, as you conceive of them, do not exist. Nobody is forgetting that ideas aren’t matter. “Energy” is not matter either, nor “quantum probability waves”, yet “materialist” physicists do not eschew the concept out of ideological prejudice.

    What you call “materialists” are simply us folks that would like to know something about what we are talking about before we admit it as a scientific explanation of something – that’s all.

  55. “Materialists” happen to come in quite a variety insofar as philosophy goes – there are reductionists, eliminativists, emergence theorists.. even property dualists could conceivably be considered materialists to a point. The idea that no materialist has been ideaologically driven to reject basic immaterial concepts is a bit misleading. At the very least, it’s very much an open issue.

    Now, I don’t think every materialist explains away ideas, or energy. Probability waves, quite possibly. But I do think that once a materialist takes an anti-reductionist or similar stance, it’s very close to admitting that materialism provides an incomplete view of the world.

  56. nullasalus,
    Very good, yes. As it happens, I am not a materialist (rather, a fully uncommitted neutral monist), nor do I believe that evolutionary theory fully accounts for biological complexity. But I am usually called a “materialist” in these discussions (kairosfocus just called me that) simply because I do not happen to think that ID is a scientifically non-vacuous candidate explanation of biological facts.

    I think ID proponents need to stop using “materialist” as an all-purpose epithet, synonymous with atheist, evolutionist, liberal, moron and other terms that are completely orthogonal to materialism.

  57. SteveB: “I read a lawyer complaining about another discipline’s “almost impenetrable thicket of jargon.”

    Who was it who said: “All professions are conspiracies against the laity?” He was not far off. ;-)

  58. BarryA, You say you agree with everything but we seem to “agree to disagree.” If you don’t want to pursue this, that’s fine, but I am just trying to reply to the main point your whole analogy:

    “Consider: Is Richard Dawkins analogous to Pope Urban VIII? Are Dembski and Behe the new Copernicus and Galileo?”

    You say you had fun writing it, and I am enjoying playing along with it, but we don’t really want to be flippant about the real persecution of ID, do we?

    Now, one can be polite about such a comparison, and say it is not bad etc., but there are real differences. And if we want to come up with a really good analogy, we need to consider what really happened with Galileo and why he was disciplined, and how the current ID situation is similar or different from your analogy. We both know about and pretty much agree about the persecution of ID, but there was a real and not-funny disinformation campaign launched after the Galileo case, culminating with Brecht’s nonsense, which is today still propagated as truth. Just as in the case of Darwin, the real truth about Galileo is slowly coming to the surface, but it will take time until the popular myths are dispelled, and if we want to use such analogies, we better know what they really represent. Yes, Galileo was disciplined, and he obviously went along, whether agreeably or grudgingly, but his “imprisonment” was more like a Club-Med retirement resort with full service and health care than being tortured and thrown into a dark dungeon.

    It is precisely the lack of the of the “greater good”, as you put it, which Urban was trying to preserve, which is biting us today — an almost total anarchy of thought and reason.

  59. aiguy, there are a group of people who believe the universe was not created and did not create itself (an obvious impossibility). They are apparantly believe it “just happened.”

    They acknowledge, as they must, that this “just happened” universe is astonishingly fine tuned for the existence of life. The believe this fine tuning “just happened” too.

    They believe that the staggeringly complex nano-machines in the cell “just arose” through chance and necessity. Finally, they belive that the immense amount of information in the DNA molecule “just arose” too.

    I tend to call these people “materialists.” Perhaps we should coin a new term. Let’s call them the JHJA’s, which stands for “Just Happened and Just Arose” and is pronounced Jah Jah. ;-)

  60. Dear Barry: Modesty is to be commended; but if there is a “category error,” then why do you compare Neo-Darwinism to Ptolemy? Are you so modest that you don’t recognize the larger implications of this comparison? My good friend, that is carrying modesty too far.

  61. 61

    (Kairosfocus:)
    “mind is SELF-determining, i.e we have the power of intelligent choice. [Notice, a cause does not have to pre-exist its effect, it can be simultaneous with it.]
    On that, we can explain and understand much. Mind is not determined by mater or other minds, through it may be influenced and affected by them. That comports with our experience of being agents who make up our own minds.”

    In my haste I missed some closing comments from your previous post you made to me including the above. The following is from an old post I made on another site (under a different handle):

    ——————————
    …Now supposing we were trying to determine why a computer program (i.e. mechanism) made a choice. Of course, Dembski doesn’t believe machines can make choices. But certainly programs take alternate courses of action based on A) external conditions, B) the instructions they contain, and C) possibly some saved internal state. To me anyway, this is collectively a working definition of choice. At any rate, if we wanted to determine why a program decided to write to some file, and we didn’t know why, we might step through it one instruction at a time in a debugger, until we encountered a statement like,
    “if (n==nLastDay) {file = fopen(szDout,”wb”); fwrite(file,Data)} Then, we would know why the program “decided” to write to the file.

    Now suppose I asked you, “Why did you turn around and walk the other way just now.” Your response is, “I decided to.” And I say, “No but why did you do it.” And you reply, “I am an intelligent agent, I made a choice – its what intelligent agents do.” I persist, but you reply, “I have free choice. I chose to walk the other way.” This continues until I give up and never speak to you again, concluding that you are perverse, insane, hold a grudge against me for some unknown reason, or all of the above. At any rate, I don’t deal with people who do things for no reason. OTOH, if you had replied to begin with, “I saw a dog coming and I’m afraid of dogs.”, then I would have my answer.

    Your answer could of course be broken down to a level of physical causation, i.e. you had some memory of dogs in your brain. That memory was stored in a definite physical manner, related to the chemistry and physiology of the brain. Then you saw a dog just now. If you did not have the ability to see you would not have seen the dog and you would have not walked the other way. Sight is a physiological process. It can be explicated, like a program. Everything regarding your decision to walk the other way could be broken down and explicated in terms of a mechanism. Even if at the last moment you decided not to walk away, that decision would have a reason. If there was truly no explanation for your actions, that would apparently indicate to Dembski you were intelligent.

    Essentially any entity that has a coherent description is a mechanism. If you do things for a reason, react to the external world in a potentially explicable way, then you are a mechanism. There is simply no other coherent view on the topic.

  62. Here’s my take on the Galileo vs ID analogy.

    I. BarryA, rockyr, and Jerry all seem to agree on the facts of history. The politically correct account of the Galileo affair is way off. The problem is one of intepretation. What we must do is rephrase the question of blame : In terms of their moral integrity—–

    (1) Was the pope [a]free of fault, [b] slightly wrong [c]moderately wrong, [d] very wrong, or [e] outrageously wrong.

    (2) Was Galileo [a] free of fault, [b] slightly wrong, [c] moderately wrong, [d] very wrong, or [e] outrageously wrong?

    My personal answer would be (1) [b] and (2) [d]
    Bottom Line: mild persecution.

    II. Now apply this formula to the Academy vs. Intelligent Design.
    My personal answer is this: The academy [e] vs. Intelligent Design [a]
    Bottom Line: heavy persecution.

    III. However, although history suggests that the analogy {Church vs Galileo = Academy vs ID} is somewhat unfair, good strategy suggests that we ought to use it anyway. Here’s why:

    [a] Politically correct history has caused everyone to react viscerally and emotionally to Galileo as a victim. Everyone, neo-Darwinists, ID advocates, and the general public understands the significance of the drama— pitting old Ideologies against new ideas.

    [b] The irony of using the academy’s politically-correct anti-Catholic interpretation of history against them is just too sweet to pass up. Since the academy hates the Catholic Church even more than they hate ID, the analogy drives them insane. This is rhetorical judo— we use the weight of academy’s own prejudices against them.

    [c] We can and should recognize that we are doing a trade off here. The Catholic Church establishment was nowhere near as outrageous as the Darwinist establishment. In a sense, we are helping to perpetuate an anti-Catholic myth by implying a moral equivalency between the Catholic Church and the Darwinist establishment. We should be prepared to qualify this matter once the point about persecution has been dramatized. The Catholic church deserves to be the beneficiary of truth as much as ID does.

    HOWEVER, we are the underdogs in this fight and it is important that the general public knows it. The movie “expelled” will help, but it will soon be forgotten. What will never be forgotten is the ancient story of one man who, right or wrong, evokes images of unjust persecution. Whether fair or unfair, apt or inappropriate, STORIES WIN THE DAY even when all other forms of communication fail. Once the analogy has done its job, however, we should hasten to say that the Church has been given a bad rap. Inasmuch as most people already assume the lie going in, they will react to the analogy. We can allow them to react and then explain that there is no moral equivalency between the Catholic Church and the Darwinist establishment. If we are not willing to walk that fine line, we shouldn’t raise the issue at all.

  63. BarryA,

    aiguy, there are a group of people who believe the universe was not created and did not create itself (an obvious impossibility). They are apparantly believe it “just happened.”

    Yes, that is what I think. This is opposed to those who believe that there exists an “Intelligent Designer”, and that the Intelligent Designer was not created and did not create itself (an obvious impossibility), and that this Intelligent Designer “Just happened”, and just happened to have the means to create the universe. I tend to call these people “ID proponents” (but they are hard for me to differentiate from theists).

    I tend to call these people “materialists.”
    This would be a mistake, then; for example, one can be a dualist and and evolutionist without any contradiction.

  64. aiguy writes: “This is opposed to those who believe that there exists an “Intelligent Designer”, and that the Intelligent Designer was not created and did not create itself (an obvious impossibility)”

    With God there is a third possibility besides being created and self-creation that you apparantly fail to see. God is “uncreated.” He is the uncaused first cause.

  65. —–Junkyard Tornado writes,” So I cannot even comprehend what ID’ists mean by something that is not operating according to law, So how can they consider it axiomatic.”

    Do you believe in a free will that can, though limited by congenital, behavioristic, and psyshodynamic forces, nevertheless express itself and change the course of events in some way? In other words, do you believe in a non-material mind and will independent of the same physical laws of cause and effect that the brain is subject to?

  66. BarryA,

    With God there is a third possibility besides being created and self-creation that you apparantly fail to see. God is “uncreated.” He is the uncaused first cause.
    We can both posit uncaused entities. I can posit an uncaused, ordered universe, and you posit an uncaused, intelligent being who then causes the universe. Neither of us can explain how or why, but at least I have one less thing to account for.

    The important difference between you and me is this: I do not pretend to understand how either the universe or life got started, and you do.

  67. aiguy: Yes, that is what I think. This is opposed to those who believe that there exists an “Intelligent Designer”, and that the Intelligent Designer was not created and did not create itself (an obvious impossibility), and that this Intelligent Designer “Just happened”, and just happened to have the means to create the universe.

    aiguy, explain the logical distinction between an Intelligent Designer who was not created and did not create itself, which you refer to as “an obvious impossibility,” and matter and energy which were not created and did not create themselves. Arguing creation by means of a Big Bang merely pushes the causal chain back to a singularity and requires an explanation for the singularity.

    Why is one scenario an obvious impossibility and the other not? Are matter and energy eternal? That sounds like a divine attribute. On what basis did you pick your poison?

  68. StephenB,

    The question of free will is ancient and empirically unresolved, still firmly in the realm of philosophy and theology and not science.

    However, science has begun to attempt to shed some light on the issue; read about experiments by Libet, Kornhuber, Wegner, and others. No answers from science yet, of course, but it doesn’t look good for the sort of free will religious folks usually imagine…

  69. aiguy: We can both posit uncaused entities. I can posit an uncaused, ordered universe, and you posit an uncaused, intelligent being who then causes the universe. Neither of us can explain how or why, but at least I have one less thing to account for.

    Not much of a consolation for an empiricist.

    The important difference between you and me is this: I do not pretend to understand how either the universe or life got started, and you do.

    That would be empirically relevant if the understanding were based on experimental claims. Since they are not, you are left to theological jousting if that is where you wish to go.

  70. pk4_paul,

    aiguy, explain the logical distinction between an Intelligent Designer who was not created and did not create itself, which you refer to as “an obvious impossibility,” and matter and energy which were not created and did not create themselves. Arguing creation by means of a Big Bang merely pushes the causal chain back to a singularity and requires an explanation for the singularity.

    Why is one scenario an obvious impossibility and the other not? Are matter and energy eternal? That sounds like a divine attribute. On what basis did you pick your poison?

    As I tried to make clear, I honestly have not picked any of these “poisons”. I’m confident that nobody has any idea how the universe began, or if it began (Big Bang theory does not entail that matter/energy had a beginning).

    What I believe and argue for is that is that referring to the cause of the universe (or of life) as intelligent is unwarranted to the extent it is meaningful, and meaningless to the extent it is warranted. And I am even more certain this is the case when we restrict our discussion to empirically-grounded knowledge.

  71. aiguy: What I believe and argue for is that is that referring to the cause of the universe (or of life) as intelligent is unwarranted to the extent it is meaningful,

    One can construct a reasoned argument for intelligent causality for either the universe or life. It springs forth from the same data available to all. Sound familiar?

  72. —–aiguy: “one can be a dualist and and evolutionist without any contradiction.”

    —–aiguy: “What I believe and argue for is that is that referring to the cause of the universe (or of life) as intelligent is unwarranted to the extent it is meaningful, and meaningless to the extent it is warranted. And I am even more certain this is the case when we restrict our discussion to empirically-grounded knowledge.”

    Most people describe dualism as a composite of material and non-material. Inasmuch as you don’t believe in a non-material Creator, or any of the non-material derivatives [angels, minds, souls etc], how can you claim to be a dualist?

  73. —–auguy: “However, science has begun to attempt to shed some light on the issue; read about experiments by Libet, Kornhuber, Wegner, and others. No answers from science yet, of course, but it doesn’t look good for the sort of free will religious folks usually imagine…”

    So does that mean that you have no idea on the matter of free will? Or does it mean that you do have an opinion but you will not share it until science speaks on the issue?

  74. pk4_paul,

    One can construct a reasoned argument for intelligent causality for either the universe or life. It springs forth from the same data available to all. Sound familiar?
    Familiar? Yes. The argument from design seems reasonable, right up until one begins to actually think carefully about how little we mean by the term “intelligence”.

  75. StephenB,

    Most people describe dualism as a composite of material and non-material. Inasmuch as you don’t believe in a non-material Creator, or any of the non-material derivatives [angels, minds, souls etc], how can you claim to be a dualist?
    I am not a dualist – I simply pointed out that one can be a dualist and an evolutionist without contradiction, which is quite true.

    When people think about “materialism”, I think most have in mind a Laplacian pinball machine of solid matter atoms bouncing off each other. But we have known for a hundred years that this is not the case, and that the stuff of the universe is more strange than we can imagine. Matter is energy… waves are particles… instantaneous action at unlimited distances… maybe time-reversed causality…

    I call myself a “neutral monist”, and what I essentially mean is while I see no reason to multiply ontological categories, the stuff of the universe must be weird enough to accommodate for both what we have learned about (these bizarre quantum events) and also for what we know virtually nothing about from a scientific standpoint: subjective conscious awareness. Perhaps a better name for my view is what folks like Dan Dennett call folks like Colin McGinn and David Chalmers: a mysterian.

    So does that mean that you have no idea on the matter of free will? Or does it mean that you do have an opinion but you will not share it until science speaks on the issue?
    When I was a little boy, I would hold my finger in front of my face, relaxed into a crooked position. Periodically, over and over again, I would quickly straighten my finger, intensely introspecting all the while, trying to figure out what I did to cause my finger to move. I came to the conclusion that I became consciously aware of the motion only after the finger had already moved. But I wasn’t sure. (Try it yourself!)

    As an undergraduate, I read about Libet’s experiments, which seemed to support this model – “volition” is the actually the feeling of our conscious minds registering (narrating, explaining) our behavior, rather than causing it. After many more studies since then, this is still my best guess, but this is not tantamount to a “materialist” viewpoint! I think that anyone who considers consciousness to be a hard problem (and unsolved), as I do, cannot be accused of blindly adhering to materialist doctrine.

    At this point, I honestly, truly believe that nobody knows the truth about mind and its essence – consciousness – and I am somewhat sympathetic to those like McGinn who argue that our minds are not capable of understanding these questions or providing answers. I hope he’s wrong, though: It could be something like the ideas of Penrose/Hameroff will come to fruition and tell us something substantive about minds, for example.

  76. As this thread confirms once again, it is impossible to have a rational discussion with anyone who is not willing to acknowledge the self-evident principles of right reason. Until we acknowledge the real epistemological crisis visited on us by Immanual Kant, which goes by the name of nominalism, we will continue to have these kinds of discussions. As long as our partners in dialogue cannot bring themselves to realize that the images in their mind correspond to universal realities outside the mind, they will simply go on being agnostic about everything— minds, causation, design inferences— even rationality itself.

    We must address what Adler calls, “the little error in the beginning.” You can’t persuade critics to accept the science of intelligent design if they aready embrace a philosophy that reduces design to a subjective mental construct which, by definition, rules out design inference even before the investigation begins. As long as the investigator intrudes on the investigation, no progress can be made.

  77. StephenB,

    I’m not willing to acknowledge the self-evident principles of right reason? Do you think you could manage a more comically pompous response?

    You actually seem to believe you have solved the problems of epistemology, and everyone on Earth who might see things differently is not only wrong, but unable to even have a “rational discussion”! Perhaps a short course in humility might improve your debating skills.

    In addition, you might want to address my reply to your questions – you did ask, after all. Instead, you caricature my beliefs as “embracing a philosophy that reduces design to a subjective mental construct”, and accuse me of being “agnostic about rationality itself”. None of this is true, and I didn’t say any of it. You need to read what I wrote, and if you don’t understand something, ask me what I meant. It is only that way that these debates can proceed. Your arrogant posturing is what prevent progress, of course.

  78. Onlookers, in re JT (and others):

    I had thought to make a simple point by point response until I met this at no 48:

    (It is from this which kairosfocus just requested I read. Incidently kairos, why would this fifty page screed not have any author’s name attached as if it were immutable truth handed down from on high or something. Oops. I guess you wrote it. If I’m not mistaken, there are several passages you’ve taken directly from Dembski unattributed.

    This is false [in the teeth of easily accessed facts from that very same page, which I will excerpt shortly], misleading, slanderously defamatory, and all too closely echoes the personal attack misbehaviour of Semiotic 007 in another thread, for which I have had to officially complain.

    Where I have cited information, the source is attributed, and in most cases linked (some sources are in texts). In particular, WD may have provided insights that I have used, but my thinking runs on similar not identical lines; driven by my exposure to information systems, communication theory and statistical and classical thermodynamics. (Notice that despite the rhetorical “victory” over the Creationists on 2LOT, I insist that they have had a point because I know the matter for myself, having had to think through the confusing conceptual issues tied to the usual presentations of the subject.)

    Notice too that from appendix 3 my always linked, my use of FSCI not CSI traces to TBO of TMLO and onward to Orgel et al. I even credit opponents, e.g Pixie, formerly a comentator here.

    It is all there in details for those fair minded enough to look before they shoot arrows from the ever so convenient ambushes of anonymity.

    Further to this, I have at the very head of the page in question labelled the briefing note, and the footer linked in the synopsis reads in part as in the second excerpt:

    A Kairosfocus Briefing Note:

    HEAD: GEM 06:03:17; this adj. 06:12:16 – 17 to 07: 12: 13a.3.1 and 30

    FOOT: . . . [NB: Because of abuse of my given name in blog commentary threads, I have deleted my given name from this page, and invite serious and responsible interlocutors to use my email contact below to communicate with me.] This page has been subsequently revised and developed, to date; so far, to clean up the clarity and flow of the argument, which is admittedly a difficult one, and add to the substance especially as key references are discovered one by one such as the recent Shapiro article in Sci Am . . . (DISCLAIMER: While reasonable attempts have been made to provide accurate, fair and informative materials for use in training, no claim is made for absolute truth, and corrections based on factual errors and/or gaps or inconsistencies in reasoning, etc., or typos, are welcome.) . . .

    This, in a context where there are links that immediately allow those who need to look me up or communicate directly, to do so, including giving my name.

    Kindly cease and desist from such improper behaviour. (And, may God grant you grace to see and do better in future.)

    I will therefore — as a mark of your breach of basic civility and fairness — also now respond on points, not to your anonymous alias [note GEM is my initials, and TKI my consultancy and action organisational framework] directly but to those who look on:

    1] Re JT, 48: My basic model ever since 10th grade geometry is reasoning from axioms. You start with basic foundational axioms which are presumed to be self evident and try to deduce everything else from that. There is no implication your axioms are definitely true or that they are known for an absolute fact to be true. You presume they are true. You presume the basic rules of inferential logic are true. You have as few axioms and assume as little as conceivably possible. Everything else must be proven through logic. What could be simpler.

    As if the past 200+ years of philosophy more or less never happened or are to be simply taken on board in parts without critical assessment of the possible little errors at the beginning!

    (Ironically, had JT taken time to look up my basic introductory-level tutorial on reasoning and believing in light of the reality of faith-points in all worldviews, here he would have seen that we may not be so far apart as he thinks. He would also see a few of the implications of what he has just said, as well, and where it leads: to the need for more sophisticated comparative difficulties analyses which take into account inter alia the sort of Kantian questions addressed in the so-called irrelevant discussion on epistemology. That discussion FYI JT, was added recently precisely because of meeting with Kantianism as an objection to ID; e.g cf recent interactions with Q and others here on how inference to design necessarily requires prior assumption of the existence of relevant agents.)

    2] in re: I hand you a big long description specifying the known properties of this entity and how it operates in its environment. So you thank me because now you have a record of what this thing is. So what this entity does is determined by its environment and its own specific nature.

    Far simpler: subject the storage core of the relevant entity to perturbation. If its performance in its environment is sensitive to such, it is functionally specified and to one extent or another, fine-tuned. For instance observe that super-bugs arise though crippling of functionality through mutations, and so do not thrive in the real world. I even heard here at UD of doctors — tongue in cheek? — giving advice to go home and roll in the dirt a bit to get rid of a hospital superbug infection.

    More on the case of 10,000 coins, I showed that the macrostate is so statistically overwhelmed by the near 50-50 macrostate to the point where its occurence inteh real world is by design not chance, reliably.

    And BTW, it is HARD to get actual random numbers on a PC. [In my update to the million monkeys pecking at typewriters example, that is why I specified using a Zener noise source to feed a random bit stream through unspecified AD circuitry. So far as we know, Zener noise is by the laws of quantum mechanics and diffusion etc, reliably random. Getting noise form the radio noise of the ionosphere in the short wave bands might be another source -- I hear this can be used to make one-time message pads guaranteed to be unbreakable by code crunchers. Not working for MI5 or 6 etc [and if i did, I would not have a licensed assassin 007 agent code], I don’t know if such is actually used.]

    3] in re: I cannot even comprehend what ID’ists mean by something that is not operating according to law, So how can they consider it axiomatic.

    First, the trichotomy speaks to: chance [as just described in brief], necessity, agency as the three observed categories of cause at work, which as my example of the tumbling dice shows, may be all quite familiarly at work in a given situation, as was already excerpted at 38 as was the contrast of a hypothetical dice based information system:

    PHASE I: A Tumbling Die: For instance, heavy objects tend to fall under the natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance. But, if the die is cast as part of a game [and just what random search algorithm credibly came up with say Monopoly . . . ?], the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes! (This concrete, familiar illustration should suffice to show that the three causal factors approach is not at all arbitrary or dubious — as some are tempted to imagine or assert.)

    Given this easy, readily accessed familiarity, I am very suspicious of any assertions that this is hard to recognise or to understand at a basic level.

    Prime suspect: as SteveB points out, the deleterious influences of Kantian phenomenalist thinking and its little errors at the beginning.

    Further to these errors, I note too that there are self evident truths — try to falsify the claim, “error exists” and you instantiate it and so “prove” (in the sense of warrant) it for all relevant purposes instead — but they do not nearly come to enough to consittute the core of a worldview in toto. [But of course, if error exists, knowable truth on the real external world exists in the context in which we may be mistaken about it, so must be open minded, critically aware and humble in our worldview claims.]

    So, we are forced to go to first plausible s and asses worldviews across comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance and power. As I noted on previously, at 38 and in onward links.

    4] AIG, 50: You have confused the process by which people or computers reason with the origin of their reasoning abilities. You think that you were created by an intelligent agent, right? Does this mean that you can only act as “directed” by this intelligent agent, and that you are not intelligent in your own right?

    I simply was pointing out that existing computers are known to be step-by-step PROGRAMMED entities in their operations, when in 38 I noted that they use the forces and materials of nature As directed by intelligent agents.

    Computers are not reasoning, they are in principle simple, physically instantiated algorithm executing machines.

    Humans by contrast, are routinely experienced as and observed to be conscious and independent thinkers capable of not just surprising but actually creative decisions that on reflection can be seen to be rational but are utterly unexpected and can come out of “nowhere” to utterly break through a situation. That is what transformational, inspired leadership is about.

    Indeed, going back to the search space analogy, we can come up with solutions that are so way out of the beaten paths int he config spaces that we have excellent reason to see that fundamentally random forces would have long since been stumped to find such creative and effective configurations. The random walk and hill climbing algors beloved of optimisers would simply not be able — on probabilistic resources exhausrtion reasons — to come even close enough to get a little rise out of the hill of functionality.

    Big difference. BIG difference. Huge . . .

    That brings us back to [and note my habit of attribution, kindly, JT] . . .

    5] in re JT 61: Of course, Dembski doesn’t believe machines can make choices. But certainly programs take alternate courses of action based on A) external conditions, B) the instructions they contain, and C) possibly some saved internal state. To me anyway, this is collectively a working definition of choice . . . . Now suppose I asked you, “Why did you turn around and walk the other way just now.” Your response is, “I decided to.” And I say, “No but why did you do it.” And you reply, “I am an intelligent agent, I made a choice – its what intelligent agents do.” I persist, but you reply, “I have free choice. I chose to walk the other way.” This continues until I give up and never speak to you again, concluding that you are perverse, insane, hold a grudge against me for some unknown reason, or all of the above.

    See the problem?

    I repeat: intelligent agents are CREATIVE problem solvers, who can pull a solution that is unanticiapted by and beyond the credible reach of any random or deterministic search process, out of the thin air of the real quasi–infinite cosmos: the world of ideas and configurations, so to speak.

    Indeed, predictability and routineness are the bane of merely technically proficient strategists: if I can predict you, I can counter you five moves ahead of time!

    The breakthroughs come from the REAL strategists, who, when you lock them up to two choices, equally deleterious, invariably pick the third choice — the one that comes out of “nowhere” and transforms the situation. [Source: Napoleon.]

    And WD’s use of CSI is pointing straight to that issue. (Cf. C S Lewis and many others on that point and its implications. And, BTW, storage media have nothing to do with creative use of what is stored.)

    Bottomline: A REASON IS NOT A CAUSE. Agents think, decide and act; they are self-directed, self-determined, not the toys of the forces and marterials of nautre. This is experientially and self-evidently true — and is the foundation of our ability to think and communicate rationally.

    And if you cannot see the self-referential incoherence and absurdities that stem from the rejection of this self-evident truth, you cannot be helped by reason. But we onlookers can note that your irrationality leads you to absurdities, and see its likely roots in naturalistic metaphysics and its deleterious influences in the academy.

    6] BarrA, 64: With God there is a third possibility besides being created and self-creation that you apparantly fail to see. God is “uncreated.” He is the uncaused first cause.

    Yes, as the necessary, thus uncaused, indestructible, etc, being whose necessity is the foundation to the contingency of the observed cosmos.

    But then, as PK4 aplty remarks on . . .

    aiguy, explain the logical distinction between an Intelligent Designer who was not created and did not create itself, which you refer to as “an obvious impossibility,” and matter and energy which were not created and did not create themselves. Arguing creation by means of a Big Bang merely pushes the causal chain back to a singularity and requires an explanation for the singularity.

    Why is one scenario an obvious impossibility and the other not? Are matter and energy eternal? That sounds like a divine attribute. On what basis did you pick your poison?

    . . . we are astonishingly philosophically illiterate in our generation.

    No prizes for guessing why.

    GEM of TKI

  79. —–aiguy: “You actually seem to believe you have solved the problems of epistemology, and everyone on Earth who might see things differently is not only wrong, but unable to even have a “rational discussion”! Perhaps a short course in humility might improve your debating skills.”

    You are getting a little sensitive aren’t you? I was referring to the whole thread in general. You will recall I began by asking someone else a question and you ventured your own answer, which, as it turns out was a non-answer. The fact that my comment followed yours doesn’t mean that it was a direct response to it. My intent was to cast the net wide enough so that no one person would be implicated. That is why I didn’t open it with a quote. So, I apologize for the timing, since I obviously failed to meet that objective.

    Since we are at it, however, let’s deal with your responses. Do you believe in free will? Apparently, you think the question is too abstruse to ponder. As a result, you will wait for the testimony of scientists. In your judgment, however, the prospects don’t look to good. Meanwhile, you provide an example in which the effect drives the cause.

    Are you a materialist? Well, not exactly, you are a “neutral monist.” Apparently, you consider the universe to be so complicated that it would be premature to weigh in on the matter, as if the age- old problem has been rendered irrelevant by modern science. It hasn’t. There are times when we must use categories like that to further discussion, or even to make sense of them in our own mind.

    Are there minds? Well, let’s put in your words. “At this point, I honestly, truly believe that nobody knows the truth about mind and its essence – consciousness – and I am somewhat sympathetic to those like McGinn who argue that our minds are not capable of understanding these questions or providing answers. I hope he’s wrong, though: It could be something like the ideas of Penrose/Hameroff will come to fruition and tell us something substantive about minds, for example.”

    Do I think these tentative answers and many others on this thread stem from a nominalist epistemology? You bet I do, and I am fairly confident that I am right. Am I being presumptuous? Well, maybe. I would like to think that I am providing thought stimulators. There is no doubt that I have strong opinions, but they were not arrived at casually. G. K. Chesterton once said, “the purpose of opening the mind is to close it on something solid (truth). More and more, I encounter folks who seem to believe that a perpetually open mind is synonymous with brilliance. It isn’t.

    My purpose is not to offend. It is foolish to make enemies for no good reason. I want my enemies to hate me for what I believe, not for the way I act. I certainly don’t want to make an enemy of you. Still, you must understand something. The western mind has been seriously compromised by bad philosophy for hundreds of years. One of my test questions is this: Do you believe that a thing can be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances? The last two times I asked that question, the answer that followed was, “MAYBE” and “I’M NOT SURE.” I am attacking that philosophy, not the people who happen to be living at a time when it is running rampant. People are precious and they deserve to be treated with respect and mercy. Bad ideas deserve no mercy at all, and I show them no mercy.

  80. StephenB “Bad ideas deserve no mercy at all, and I show them no mercy.”

    Nicely put. In the law we say, “people who make errors have rights. Error has no rights.”

  81. StevenB, I have pondered your reply 62, and I am sure you mean well. Perhaps BarryA’s analogy will be effective, to a degree. The problem, as I see it, is that it will be obscuring some very crucial things that need to be clarified, because they are essential to the proper understanding about faith and reason, and about science and philosophy, the very things and errors that are causing the current confusion and problems for the ID.

    I understand that when presenting the problem to the public, the analogy has to be simplified, but I am still not sure that I agree with your simplification of the problem – your multiple choice categories. The pope’s conduct was not so much a matter of personal “moral integrity”, (people get confused about this with respect to the personal conduct of the so called “bad popes”), but rather of acting prudently and with respect to truth. Truth and upholding truth at all cost is the essence of Christianity. (“I am the way the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”) Incidentally, and quite significantly, upholding the truth is also the essence of real true science, and this is the right analogy we ought to pursue and convey.

    Multiple choice questions should be constructed so they are not fuzzy, but must present clear and mutually exclusive choices. (My pet peeve with many multiple choice quizes.) I would not be comfortable choosing simply that the “pope was slightly wrong”, or that Galileo was “very wrong”, I would want to know in what and why. Because the analogy has been fuzzified, this kind of choice would be immediately attacked and twisted by the academia, perhaps in some surprising and embarrassing ways.

    Actually, if pressed hard to choose, I would choose 1a (pope and the Magisterium fault free, when pressed hard to make a quick choice with which they were not comfortable, based on insifficient evidence they tried to slow down Galileo), and 2d or 2e (Galileo wrong), but even here I would be very uncomfortable to condemn him in such a wholesale way, because while he was a “fool” in some big ways, he was, after all, a pioneer of the modern notion of motion, and we are all sympathetic with hard-working pioneers, even if they turn out quite wrong and ridiculous. Galileo was wrong scientifically on many things, his error ridden science was not all that convincing and conducive to supporting his “outrageous” claims, and, most importantly, and this is the crucial thing for which he was condemned, his main claim that “the sun is the centre of the world and thus, is immobile”, was correctly judged as “foolish and absurd in philosophy.”

  82. StephenB,

    Let us accept a counterfactual arguendo, and agree you are even half as smart as your self-assessment would apparently indicate, putting you in the company of, say, a Newton or a Leibniz. These folks were exceedingly careful, clever thinkers, and (as you say) did not arrive at their conclusions casually, but instead closed their minds on what they believed to be something solid. It turns out that in various ways that would have shocked them, both of these gentlemen had it quite wrong. Perhaps you have some favorite philosopher you take to be inerrant; I don’t know of any.

    You criticize me (or, rather, my ideas) for being tentative about taking a dogmatic stand on these most ancient problems, and you make clear that you know your chosen answers are the way, the truth, and the light. But when I look at your (and BarryA’s, and KF’s) comments on, for example, machine intelligence, I find them at best poorly argued and more probably quite naive.

    I’m fascinated by philosophy of mind, and curious about biology. I have opinions, and a solid education upon which to base them. But I have no illusions of infallibility, and I have no vital stake in any particular position in these areas. I find that people often can’t believe that is true – they insist that I must be committed to one side or another, and think I’m lying when I say I’m not.

    Maybe our minds do have some secret sauce that allows us to solve problems by pulling the solution out of thin air, and maybe they don’t. Maybe some being with recognizable intelligence exists who created the universe, and maybe it doesn’t exist, or maybe this being is so different from what we can imagine that the word “intelligence” is completely inappropriate. I don’t pretend to know, and you find that honest and humble admission worthy of attack.

    I’m not afraid of any of the possible answers to these deep questions. I am afraid of people who believe that their particular take must be the gospel truth, deriding all other ideas as irrational, and especially how they might wish to extend their conceit to normative issues, extending “no mercy” (and no honest hearing) to ideas that don’t jibe with their own.

  83. —–aiguy: “I’m not afraid of any of the possible answers to these deep questions. I am afraid of people who believe that their particular take must be the gospel truth, deriding all other ideas as irrational, and especially how they might wish to extend their conceit to normative issues, extending “no mercy” (and no honest hearing) to ideas that don’t jibe with their own.”

    You make me sound like a dogmatic, pedantic, ideologue. I am not. I only insist on the basic self evident truths the make rationality possible. There are a few things that we all must agree on or logic goes out the window. The list isn’t very long, and at the top we find this one proposition: [1] We have rational minds, [2] We live in a rational universe, and [3] There is a correspondence between the two. Kant, in spite of his noble motives, created an intellectual and philosophical breach by destroying that link. The breach has now become the standard operating principle for most philosophers and scientist.

    The results have been disastrous. If you don’t believe that the images in the mind reflect the corresponding objects of sense experience outside of the mind, reason loses its value. For one thing, syllogisms become meaningless because they constitute nothing more than intellectual exercises that lack any capacity to put us in contact with the real world. For another, it kills motivation for seeking out truth in the first place. It even causes us to wonder if we have the cognitive search tool to do the seeking. You are not the only one that questions these things. Our entire culture has lost its confidence, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

    In Mortimer Adler’s piece, “Little Errors In the Beginning,” he points out that “The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.” He goes on to say this:
    “When you disagree with a philosopher’s conclusions, regard them as untenable, or find them repugnant to common sense, go back to his starting point and see if he has made a little error in the beginning.” As it turns out, Kant felt the need to correct a problem that wasn’t really there. Hume had made a “little error in the beginning,” that should have been caught. Indeed, this error was caught at the time by Reid, but too few thinkers paid heed to his warnings. That same error and Kant’s response to it is the reason so many doubt the very same self evident truths that we must all assume at the beginning of any investigation in any context.
    It is not natural to doubt one’s own mind or to wonder if there is such a thing as truth. It may be a prevalent or even dominant component of the current cultural zeitgeist, but it is not normal. Daily, I come in contact with folks who try to persuade me that we have no free will, and the irony always escapes them. FREE WILL IS A NECESSARY COMPONENT FOR PERSUADING AND BEING PERSUADED. That the point didn’t occur to them in the first place is evidence of the nature of the problem. That they don’t believe it after hearing it is evidence of the seriousness of the problem. The only way to restore ourselves, philosophically speaking is to return to the epistemological realism of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. We should never have abandoned it in the first place.

  84. —–rockyr writes, “StevenB, I have pondered your reply 62, and I am sure you mean well. Perhaps BarryA’s analogy will be effective, to a degree. The problem, as I see it, is that it will be obscuring some very crucial things that need to be clarified, because they are essential to the proper understanding about faith and reason, and about science and philosophy, the very things and errors that are causing the current confusion and problems for the ID.”

    I totally agree with everything you say here and on the rest of your post. My categories were meant to be thought stimulators for our group only. It was a way of dramatizing the differences rather than the similarities of the two episodes. I also get the point about the possibility that the Galileo/ID analogy will only add to the confusion. This is a close call for me, and I am not that far away from your position. (I assume you are against using the analogy in any context at all.) Indeed, I reacted to a statement by John Paul II in much the same way you seem to be reacting to my comments. When the Pope apologized for the Galileo event a few years back, I kept thinking: “They are going to get the wrong impression.”

    Further, your point about Magisterial truth is vitally important. Most of those outside the Church are clueless about what “Papal infallibility” means. It has nothing to do with the Pope’s personal moral sensibilities or even about his opinions on most matters. It only applies to a limited set of propositions /definitions about faith and morals. So when JPII apologized, some may have taken that as an indication that infallibility is now off the table. In fact, he even used the term, “The Church made a mistake.” I almost went through the floor.

    Also, there is the myth that the Catholic Church is anti-science. Quite the contrary. In fact, as Rodney Stark has pointed out, it was Catholic monks who got the whole science project off the ground. Anyone who doubts this should read Starks book, “How The Catholic Church Build Western Civilization.” I admit that I am torn over this, as I hope my earlier post indicated.

  85. In the Galileo affair, Urban was the good guy and Galileo was the bad guy so BarryA’s final analogy is not appropriate. The conventional wisdom for the last couple centuries would support BarryA’s argument but is not accurate.

    The following seemed to be agreed upon. Urban was under threat from people that included Galileo’s main sponsor, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, the Duke of Tuscany. Urban was trying to stop a war and wouldn’t support the Hapsburgs. Urban was one of Galileo better friends and supporter in his scientific work. Urban suggested that the title of his book be changed to emphasize the Ptolemy/Copernicus controversy and away from Galileo silly argument about the tides demonstrating the earth was moving. Galileo’s title was a “Dialogue on the Tides” and under Urban’s suggestion became “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” Urban personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo’s book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo but in a derogatory way in the mouth of a simpleton

    So Galileo betrays Urban under the seal of the man who is helping to depose him. Do we know for sure that Galileo did not know that Urban was under pressure from his sponsor and that maybe he did this on purpose. What would you think if you were Urban. This is hypothetical but was a person like Galileo that much out of the loop not to sense the politics of the time. Galileo also takes it upon himself on how the Church should interpret scripture during a time when the interpretation of scripture is an issue that leads to wars. Tell me how Galileo is a good guy in this scenario and Urban is a bad guy. This whole episode is about politics and has nothing to do with science or religion.

    For his action, Galileo was sentenced to that harsh Inquisition torture, the comfy chair (house arrest.) He continued to write while under house arrest and produce what is considered one of his finest works, “Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences.” It was not published till much later in Holland as his works were banned because of his sentence. So this last is the only unfair thing that happened to Galileo and it was after his death.

    So let’s not use Galileo as an example of the oppression of science when the so called oppresssors are champions of Galileo and science in general. Yes, it involved both science and religion but it was primarily a very bad political decision by Galileo that led to his sentence. He betrayed one of his best friends and his spiritual leader. Whether he did so out of arrogance or deliberately, he got what was coming to him.

  86. StephenB,

    You make me sound like a dogmatic, pedantic, ideologue. I am not.
    Ok, I’m open to being wrong about that too.

    I only insist on the basic self evident truths the make rationality possible. There are a few things that we all must agree on or logic goes out the window. The list isn’t very long, and at the top we find this one proposition: [1] We have rational minds, [2] We live in a rational universe, and [3] There is a correspondence between the two.
    I never called any of these into doubt, and although I have some trouble with your phrasing of [2], I don’t think it precludes our rational discourse.

    If you don’t believe that the images in the mind reflect the corresponding objects of sense experience outside of the mind, reason loses its value. …You are not the only one that questions these things. Our entire culture has lost its confidence, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
    But I fully and completely believe this, i.e. I am some flavor of realist. Why did you assume otherwise? Because I am the wrong flavor?

    It is not natural to doubt one’s own mind or to wonder if there is such a thing as truth. It may be a prevalent or even dominant component of the current cultural zeitgeist, but it is not normal.
    Doesn’t apply to me, thank goodness. I actually don’t know anybody who thinks this.

    Daily, I come in contact with folks who try to persuade me that we have no free will, and the irony always escapes them. FREE WILL IS A NECESSARY COMPONENT FOR PERSUADING AND BEING PERSUADED.
    Ah, here we have a bit of a disagreement. Again, nothing that ought to halt our rational discourse, though.

    First, to show that the irony is not lost on me, here’s one of my favorite philosophy jokes:

    Waiter: What would you like?
    Diner: I’m a determinist. Why don’t we just wait and see?

    I’m sure you’ve read compatibilist literature, but you seem dismiss it without comment, so let me outline some basics. Of course we all have minds, and of course we all make decisions, and of course we can be affected (persuaded) by things that others say. The question is, what is going behind these events?

    As usual, a computer analogy makes the point most clearly: My computer systems make decisions, and can learn from and be persuaded by input (perhaps from other computer systems). We describe them in intentional, mentalistic terms, and it would be very difficult to describe them in any other way: The system doesn’t remember the answer, so it’s trying to find it but doesn’t want to use the old data, so it might decide to ask… Oh, now it’s thinks the old data is OK… it’s choosing an appropriate algorithm…

    Perhaps you will object that computers don’t make bona-fide decisions, or have bona-fide beliefs or desires or thoughts. To argue that, we need to do some preparatory work on what makes them bona-fide, keeping in mind Drew McDermott’s famous quip: “Saying Deep Blue doesn’t think about chess is like saying an airplane doesn’t fly because it doesn’t flap its wings”.

  87. I only insist on the basic self evident truths the make rationality possible. There are a few things that we all must agree on or logic goes out the window. The list isn’t very long, and at the top we find this one proposition: [1] We have rational minds, [2] We live in a rational universe, and [3] There is a correspondence between the two.

    —–aiguy wrotes, “I never called any of these into doubt, and although I have some trouble with your phrasing of [2], I don’t think it precludes our rational discourse.”

    Fair enough. Let’s take it in small bits. You have stated that you are not a dualist. Dualism, of course, posits a material and a non-material component. So, you reject the non-material component and accept only “neutral monism.” Well, that leaves us with the brain , but it rules out the mind. Yet you say that you agree with [1] we have rational minds. How does that work?

  88. Would you believe that “aiguy wrotes” was an attempt to merge two tenses into one in an attempt to foster a spirit of open-mindedness? I didn’t think so. Change that to “aiguy wrote”

  89. StephenB,

    The “neutral” in neutral monism means that the stuff of the universe is neither mental nor physical. So no, I haven’t accepted the brain and rejected the mind. But let’s back up and proceed by small bits – a good idea.

    First let’s see what we agree on; here is my guess about that. We agree that:

    1) our mental images (normally, usually) correspond to real things in the world
    2) our powers of ratiocination are (normally, usually) reliable with respect to the world
    3) we have physical brains
    4) we exhibit physical behaviors
    5) we have subjective experience of conscious awareness

    Good so far? Assuming yes, then if we’re a little more careful about with our terms, we might be able to steer past this and add

    6) We agree that we have minds

    In short, I believe our difference on this last point is that I define “mind” by what it does, and you define it by what you suppose it to be.

    For the substance dualist, mind is ontologically distinct from what we perceive externally (the physical world) and supports or causes or comprises or is identical with our conscious awareness. This mind-stuff interacts with and directs our physical bodies, learns, solves problems, makes decisions, has ideas, determines (or is) personality, and so on.

    For the physicalist, “mind” refers to (at a higher level of abstraction) the functioning of the physical nervous system, including initiating movement, learning, solving problems, … and so on, plus the generation of conscious awareness.

    And now, what I think: I have doubt that neural mechanisms (or their functional equivalents in silicone) can account for our mental abilities, and I have no idea how they can begin to account for consciousness. So, I don’t know how thinking works, and I don’t know what makes us conscious (why we are not “zombies”). So for me, the word “mind” means whatever can initiate movement, learn, solve problems, … and, in human beings at least, result in consciousness. So I’m quite certain we all have minds; I just don’t know what they are. And my guess is that our understanding of physics will have to change if we hope to gain an understanding, which is why I am not a physicalist (or a “materialist”).

    Now, what does that mean for ID? Let’s look at ID’s core syllogism, simplified:
    1) Only minds can create CSI
    2) Living things contain CSI
    3) So a mind created living things

    Seen from your viewpoint, this makes good sense. Seen from my viewpoint, it does not: It either constitutes a scientific endorsement of an indemonstrable metaphysical postulate, or it reduces to the vacuous statement “Living things were created by something that can do things like create living things, no matter what that is”.

    We cannot ascertain if the cause of life initiates movement, makes decisions, learns, has ideas, has a personality, and experiences conscious awareness. And the only evidence that it “solves problems” is by declaring that the creation of living things was a problem to be solved. Moreover, we have no way to know if the “problem” was “solved” the way humans figure them out or the way spiders do (presumably unconscious fixed action patterns).

    I guess that is already too much to count as a “small bit”, sorry. I’ll stop here.

  90. Stephen, BarryA, Jerry and AIG:

    This thread is actually one of the most illuminating, both directly and indirectly.

    I’d like to remark on a few points, starting with Jerry’s excellent bottom-line on Galileo:

    1] J, 85: et’s not use Galileo as an example of the oppression of science when the so called oppresssors are champions of Galileo and science in general. Yes, it involved both science and religion but it was primarily a very bad political decision by Galileo that led to his sentence. He betrayed one of his best friends and his spiritual leader. Whether he did so out of arrogance or deliberately, he got what was coming to him.

    Bingo! My only question is why is it that this sort of coherent, factually balanced summary is not commonly and publicly taught, but instead inaccurate, agenda-serving spin?

    For instance, here is Wiki’s introductory remark, having cited very laudatory comments [that for instance by silence overlook the significance of the work of Kepler]:

    Galileo’s championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime. The geocentric view had been dominant since the time of Aristotle, and the controversy engendered by Galileo’s opposition to this view resulted in the Catholic Church’s prohibiting the advocacy of heliocentrism as potentially factual, because that theory had no decisive proof and was contrary to the literal meaning of Scripture.[7] Galileo was eventually forced to recant his heliocentrism and spent the last years of his life under house arrest on orders of the Inquisition.

    Now, of course, headlines and introductory remarks tend to dominate in perceptions of information, so we must ask seriously why the following details are but little reflected in the headlines, or even in the lead-up to the section on the church controversy:

    [Galileo] revived his project of writing a book on the subject [of heliocentrism], encouraged by the election of Cardinal Barberini as Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Barberini was a friend and admirer of Galileo, and had opposed the condemnation of Galileo in 1616. The book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632, with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission.

    Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo’s book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberate, Simplicius, the defender of the Aristotelian Geocentric view in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool. This fact made Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems appear as an advocacy book; an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defense of the Copernican theory. To add insult to injury, Galileo put the words of Pope Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicius. Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book. However, the Pope did not take the public ridicule lightly, nor the blatant bias. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to defend his writings . . .

    2] StephenB, 83: It is not natural to doubt one’s own mind or to wonder if there is such a thing as truth. It may be a prevalent or even dominant component of the current cultural zeitgeist, but it is not normal. Daily, I come in contact with folks who try to persuade me that we have no free will, and the irony always escapes them. FREE WILL IS A NECESSARY COMPONENT FOR PERSUADING AND BEING PERSUADED. That the point didn’t occur to them in the first place is evidence of the nature of the problem. That they don’t believe it after hearing it is evidence of the seriousness of the problem.

    Well said. Sadly, too many will not be persuaded that in order to rise above pre-programmed robots, we have to have real, creative minds of our own.

    My own thought on the matter, as has been summarised elsewhere, is that as Josiah Royce [and Trueblood] have emphasised, “Error exists” is an undeniable, knowable truth. Thus, truth exists and is knowbale, and so we must be able to access it outside the circle of ourt inner subjective worlds, however provisionally, humbly and fallibly. And, if we are capable of examining and deciding based on evidence rationally and intelligently — in an intelligible world — then we must be free to decide above and beyond the verious influences on which we act. Mind is self-determined and creative, in short, not just an epiphenomenon of matter in motion and evolution.

    But, as you say, it is ever so hard for people to trust the direct evidence of their conscious daily experience, never mind that all else we ponder rests on its general reliability. Thomas Reid was ever so right!

    As Wiki sums up:

    Reid believed that common sense (in a special philosophical sense) is, or at least should be, at the foundation of all philosophical inquiry. He disagreed with Hume and George Berkeley, who asserted that humans do not experience matter or mind as either sensations or ideas. Reid claimed that common sense tells us that there is matter and mind . . . .

    He set down six axioms which he regarded as an essential basis for reasoning, all derived from “sensus communis”:

    * That the thoughts of which I am conscious are thoughts of a being which I call myself, my mind, my person;
    * That those things did really happen that I distinctly remember;
    * That we have some degree of power over our actions, and the determination of our will;
    * That there is life and intelligence in our fellow men with whom we converse;
    * That there is a certain regard due to human testimony in matters of fact, and even to human authority in matters of opinion;
    * That, in the phenomena of nature, what is to be, will probably be like what has been in similar circumstances.

    The way that it sums up the reactions to this is telling:

    In his day and for some years into the 19th century, he was regarded as more important than David Hume. He advocated direct realism, or common sense realism, and argued strongly against the Theory of Ideas advocated by John Locke, René Descartes, and (in varying forms) nearly all Early Modern philosophers who came after them. He had a great admiration for Hume and asked him to correct the first manuscript of his (Reid’s) Inquiry . . . . These axioms did not so much answer the testing problems set by David Hume and, earlier, René Descartes, as simply deny them. Contemporary philosopher Roy Sorensen writes “Reid’s common sense looks like an impression left by Hume; concave where Hume is convex, convex where Hume is concave. One explanation is that common sense is reactive… Without a provocateur, common sense is faceless.”

    His reputation waned after attacks on the Scottish School of Common Sense by Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, but his was the philosophy taught in the colleges of North America, during the 19th century, and was championed by Victor Cousin, a French philosopher. Justus Buchler showed that Reid was an important influence on the American philosopher C.S. Peirce, who shared Reid’s concern to revalue common sense and whose work links Reid to pragmatism. To Peirce, the closest we can get to truth in this world is a consensus of millions that something is so. Common sense is socially constructed truth, open to verification much like scientific method, and constantly evolving as evidence, perception, and practice warrant. Reid’s reputation has revived in the wake of the advocacy of common sense as a philosophical method or criterion by G. E. Moore early in the 20th century, and more recently due to the attention given to Reid by contemporary philosophers, in particular those seeking to defend Christianity from philosophical attacks, such as William Alston and Alvin Plantinga

    If only we were to look at and fix those little erros at the beginning . . . [BTW, SB, I think that Adler was citing Aquinas on the thousandfold point.]

    3] AIG, 86: My computer systems make decisions, and can learn from and be persuaded by input (perhaps from other computer systems). We describe them in intentional, mentalistic terms, and it would be very difficult to describe them in any other way: The system doesn’t remember the answer, so it’s trying to find it but doesn’t want to use the old data, so it might decide to ask… Oh, now it’s thinks the old data is OK… it’s choosing an appropriate algorithm…

    Okay, AIG, have you ever had to program at machine code level and then looked at the hard-wired vs microcode versions of CPU architecture?

    Did you think through the associated register transfer algebra, the electronics of logic gates and effects and implications of digital state feedback in the RS flipflop, including the reason for the forbidden states?

    I think as you reflect on these, you will agree the following with me:

    a –> In executing a machine code instruction, a typical computer, e.g. a PC, simply pulls in the machine code under clock control, feeds it into an appropriate instruction register, scans it and selects the microcode or hardwired logic to activate, which executes it, doing whatever i/o, storage and transfer or logical operations are stipulated, then sending outputs to appropriate registers.

    b –> This process is entirely deterministic based on input and stored bit patterns, as it has to be — absent a breakdown.

    c –> To get to highler level programs, what happens is that machine code instructions are chained, especially in sequences.

    d –> Decision nodes in programs at this level, are based on “inspecting” flag conditions and instructions with branches on meeting or failing to meet the flag bit conditions. I can still rattle off the old 6800 flag register: HINZVC. Again, a deterministic process.

    e –> When it comes to a higher level yet of functionality, the H-chart plus IPO breakdown shows in cascade to the machine code module level what is again going on: the overall task is summarised, then broken down into first level stages, typically using initialisation, then IPO based on an known initial starting condition. [I forgot to mention that the rule no 1 of starting up a computer is to get it to a clean initial condition then permit controlled i/o operations. Otherwise you get into serious trouble. It is also wise to test it from time to time to see that it is still under control, and to put in error trapping and escape subroutines. While I am at it, I hate interrupt-driven processing, and think that the better way is to use a clean cycle of initialisation and monitoring of key i/o states as the old 68000 Macs did. I shudder to think what is going on inside the new Macs with the abominable segmentation and interrupt scheme that Intel has for some weird reason palmed off on us all. Keep interrupts strictly for emergencies!]

    f –> When therefore a computer “thinks” about something, and “decides” etc, what is realy going on is that the programmers, collectivley have done so.

    g –> That is, the success of the PC is based on active information fed in by its designers and programmers, at great expense. [Contrary to popular rumour, Uncle Bill does not use a million monkeys paid in peanuts and banging away at random on keyboards to do his operating systems etc. It only SEEMS that way when you get frustrated with say Vista, because the fundamental situation is a kludge on a kludge on a kludge, and the real fresh start, sadly failed. AKA OS 2. I also had hopes for the common hardware reference platform, CHIRP; and even for Java. But marketing hype and affordability in the short-term won out over technical sense EVERYTIME. H'mm, that goes back to the Dvorack [sp?] keyboard, doesn’t it. How many of us know that QWERTY was designed to slow down typing to keep keys from getting jammed in an early typewriter? Even the ABCD layout used in some military equipment is faster in principle than Qwerty!]

    By the very sharpest contrast, humans do make intelligent, clever, creative decisions that come out of “nowhere” and transform the world. For, the spiritual world of ideas is at least quasi-infinite but intelligible. So we can visualise, pull together disparate notions into an astonishingly coherent and cogent whole, and then test, debug and get it right, at least enough right to count for now. [I believe in evolutionary spiral forms of software development and a copy of old Pressman sits on a shelf close at hand even now. Why, the spiral is also my preferred curriculum/edu system archi model and web site model too!]

    For instance, on the NFL thread, I started to think about the pi = 22/7 approximation, then went to BCD coding, then saw interesting possibilities for parallels to DNA and biofunctionality, including on the limitations of bootstrap hill-climbing of Mt Improbable. [Baron von Munchhausen would appreciate the point!]

    4] Perhaps you will object that computers don’t make bona-fide decisions, or have bona-fide beliefs or desires or thoughts. To argue that, we need to do some preparatory work on what makes them bona-fide, keeping in mind Drew McDermott’s famous quip: “Saying Deep Blue doesn’t think about chess is like saying an airplane doesn’t fly because it doesn’t flap its wings”.

    I think you will see in summary above why I do not think that computers think in any sense worth talking about.

    Perhaps in future, we will learn how to make real thinking and intelligent machines, but for now that simply ain’t there yet. Show me the creativity that comes out of “nowhere” in a quasi-infinite ideas space and solves serious problems without brute-force programming as the real wizard behind the scenes, and I will agree that they have now begun to think. But until then, colour me “unpersuaded.”

    indeed, here is prof Wiki [h'mm, anyone willing to write adventure stories a la Munchhausen?], that ever useful, materialism-inclining witness, on AI:

    The modern definition of artificial intelligence (or AI) is “the study and design of intelligent agents” where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximizes its chances of success.[1] John McCarthy, who coined the term in 1956,[2] defines it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.”[3] . . . . The term artificial intelligence is also used to describe a property of machines or programs: the intelligence that the system demonstrates. Among the traits that researchers hope machines will exhibit are reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, communication, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects.[6] General intelligence (or “strong AI”) has not yet been achieved and is a long-term goal of AI research.[7] . . . . Samuel Butler first raised the possibility of “mechanical consciousness” in an article signed with the nom de plume Cellarius and headed “Darwin among the Machines”, which appeared in the Christchurch, New Zealand, newspaper The Press on 13 June 1863. [10] Butler envisioned mechanical consciousness emerging by means of Darwinian Evolution, specifically by Natural selection, as a form of natural, not artificial, intelligence.

    Some big questions are begged, plainly in our good old Darwinian context, and the promise — expert systems and the like notwithstanding [BTW, whatever became of the famous 5th generation computer project of 20 years ago now, why . . . -- is not the achievement. At least, to date.

    Prof Wiki is enlightening:

    The Fifth Generation Computer Systems project (FGCS) was an initiative by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, begun in 1982, to create a "fifth generation computer" (see history of computing hardware) which was supposed to perform much calculation utilizing massive parallelism. It was to be the end result of a massive government/industry research project in Japan during the 1980s. It aimed to create an "epoch-making computer" with supercomputer-like performance and usable artificial intelligence capabilities . . . . Opinions about its outcome are divided: Either it was a complete disaster, or it was ahead of its time. . . . .

    the project found that the promises of logic programming were largely illusory, and they ran into the same sorts of limitations that earlier artificial intelligence researchers had, albeit at a different scale. Repeated attempts to make the system work after changing one language feature or another simply moved the point at which the computer suddenly seemed stupid. In fact it can be said that the project "missed the point" as a whole. It was during this time that the computer industry moved from hardware to software as a primary focus.[citation needed] The Fifth Generation project never made a clean separation, feeling that, as it was in the 1970s, hardware and software were inevitably mixed.

    By any measure the project was an abject failure. At the end of the ten year period they had burned through over 50 billion yen and the program was terminated without having met its goals. The workstations had no appeal in a market where single-CPU systems could outrun them, the software systems never worked, and the entire concept was then made obsolete by the internet.

    Ironically, many of the approaches envisioned in the Fifth-Generation project, such as logic programming distributed over massive knowledgebases, are re-interpreted in current technologies. OWL, the Web Ontology Language employs several layers of logic-based knowledge representation systems, while many flavors of parallel computing proliferate, including Multi-core (computing) at the low-end and Massively parallel processing at the high end. The Fifth-Generation project was aimed at solving a problem that is only now realized by the world at large.

    But we do know that it is possible to create intelligent creatures, as we are obviously contingent, thus created — by whatever creator — and intelligent. [And as my always linked states, if and when that happens I am fully prepared to recognise such creatures as intelligent -- I would even consider one of them as a friend. R Daneel Olivaaw [sp?] was my all time favourite sci fi character!]

    Thus, so far: Advantage StephenB, with due adjustment for Jerry’s powerful point on Galileo.

    GEM of TKI

  91. PS: I don’t notice any response from JT on the personal attacks he made and my response in 78.

    Given the force of what he said in the above, cf. 78 on 48 above, he either owes us all a serious documentation on the merits, or else a bigtime apology for what are IMHCO plainly inaccurate and slanderous personalities based on either poor research before spouting off, or else willful slander on the premise that people are unlikely to investigate before repeating a convenient dismissal statement.

    So, now, over to you JT.

    GEM of TKI

  92. KF,

    (various details of computer implementation…KF displays pretty impressive knowledge of architecture!)
    (…and so, computer hardware is deterministic)

    Yes. (Unless one adds random input; let’s ignore that for now).

    When therefore a computer “thinks” about something, and “decides” etc, what is realy going on is that the programmers, collectivley have done so.
    I don’t know (can’t possibly predict) what my systems will do, and this is the case whether or not they are operating as I intend them to. Aside from the fact that they are far too complex for me to predict with my little brain, their behavior is determined not just by my code and the hardware, but by their interactions with their environment, which I also can’t predict. So in what sense can it be said that I determine their behavior, and decide what they shall do?

    By the very sharpest contrast, humans do make intelligent, clever, creative decisions that come out of “nowhere” and transform the world.
    As I’ve said, I don’t know where our decisions come from, but I believe that you don’t either, and that for you to say they come out of “nowhere” is saying the same thing in a less forthcoming manner. So I shall play devil’s advocate, and take the opposing view: I say arguendo that human decisions come from our biologically determined nervous systems interacting with their environment. Ok, there’s a clear disagreement; now, how do you propose we test each of our hypotheses and follow the evidence where it leads? I think we cannot.

    I think you will see in summary above why I do not think that computers think in any sense worth talking about.
    I’m sorry, KF, but if you made an argument against machine intelligence, I missed it. There are obviously a whole slew of these arguments (I assume you know them – Lucas, Fodor, Searle, Penrose, many others), but simply saying that computer behaviors are determined by programmers just doesn’t begin to address the question.

    Perhaps in future, we will learn how to make real thinking and intelligent machines, but for now that simply ain’t there yet. Show me the creativity that comes out of “nowhere” in a quasi-infinite ideas space and solves serious problems without brute-force programming as the real wizard behind the scenes, and I will agree that they have now begun to think. But until then, colour me “unpersuaded.”
    And on this point we are in perfect agreement. Nobody knows how thinking works. But of course the fact that our research in the past fifty years hasn’t resulted in HAL yet is a very bad argument against strong AI. It took far longer for us to create heavier-than-air flying machines (and they said it couldn’t be done!).

    KF, you’ve been so entertaining here I’ll add a bit of personal confession. I wrote my first inference engine in Z80 assembler in 1981. When it deduced that Socrates was indeed mortal, a shiver ran down my spine and I was lost in the same reverie that made Crick write his crappy “The Astonishing Hypothesis”. By the time AI hysteria was peaking in ’85 or so I was already aware that my expert systems that could pick a bottle of wine with dinner was not exactly a major step on the way to machine sentience. Since then my doubts regarding functionalism as implemented by Turing machines have solidified.

    Nevertheless, I believe my argument still stands: The central claim of ID either hinges fully on the truth of dualism (which is indemonstrable) or it is vacuous.

  93. Well, well, AIG:

    Welcome to the classic 8-bitter MPU fraternity!

    May the old Z80 — a killer upgrade on the 8080 by its original design team, having walked out on Intel [following the old Fairchild tradition I suppose; doubtless aided and abetted by one of the venture cap hawks haunting the local watering holes, and making 35% ROI on rejected ideas . . .] — never die!

    [I see Elenco still offers a Z80 SBC as a teaching tool. Having had volcano acids eat much of my old Heathkit 6802, I am tempted to get one.]

    The old 6800 and 6809 [a great upgrade that!] were my bailiwick, though. I also loved several of the 6502 family i/o devices, and in my most significant project used the 6402 UART as a voice transmission device, taking advantage of its asynchonicity.

    And there was the day when a student of mine who was working at a French-built radar in Jamaica showed me a schematic towards one of his projects as a final year student: as I recall, three 6800′s were running the heart of that radar station. That was a heart-stopping moment of respect for the power of a good old Generation 1 8-bitter, a classic cut-down to 8 bits on the old 16 bitter PDP 11 by DEC. Oddly, DEC is now a part of Compaq and thence of HP, whose 21 was my first serious little calculator — lost my 42S a few years back somehow, after over 10 years of great service.

    Looking forward to getting a 50 3-d grapher with colour and all sorts of interesting abilities, driven by a 32 bitter ARM if memory serves. And this is being typed on a HP/Compaq laptop — never mind my discomforts with some of the corporate policies nowadays. [But I always did prefer Tektronix for 'scopes. I fondly remember a 465 -- never trusted the B though -- that served as my right arm for some years!]

    But, enough on nostalgia!

    1] Unless one adds random input

    Of course, all that will then happen is that on a random input, the output will be controlled to be driven by whatever that random input wants: out of control, rather than random. And given the nasty things that can happen if the processor in question is tied to actuators with power behind them, we usually don’t want that at all. We want controlled outputs, thank you.

    It is also very hard to get random inputs, truly random inputs. My best suggestion is a Zener running in full breakdown used as a noise source, guaranteed random by underlying thermodynamics and quantum theory. That’s why I put that in the upgrade to the million monkeys on typewriters game.

    2] Aside from the fact that they are far too complex for me to predict with my little brain, their behavior is determined not just by my code and the hardware, but by their interactions with their environment, which I also can’t predict. So in what sense can it be said that I determine their behavior, and decide what they shall do?

    Of course, to develop these systems to the point where they work reliably, you inject controlled inputs and see if they give the expected outputs and internal states — core or internal state dumps and all. [Logic Analysers simply take that up to the next level.]

    Unpredictability by you or me does not equate to creative conscious, rational thought: “instincts” with situational learning relative to captured expertise from programmers and domain experts is more like what we are setting up here. For, we design systems to respond to their environment in reliable and useful ways, and hope that our error-trapping and recovery subroutines are good enough to catch the dangerous possible states.

    So, it had better be true that you determine what they do and decide their i/o responses to their environment. [BTW what is your view on the use three processor archis and equally different algors to do a vote out of three redundancy on mission-critical equipment? Mine is that those who say that stuff tends to get stiff in more or less the same way for all three at the same point of i/o behaviour or internal processing to support same, have a point.] Otherwise, get a good lawyer and some serious malpractice insurance!

    3] I don’t know where our decisions come from, but I believe that you don’t either, and that for you to say they come out of “nowhere” is saying the same thing in a less forthcoming manner. So I shall play devil’s advocate, and take the opposing view: I say arguendo that human decisions come from our biologically determined nervous systems interacting with their environment.

    I used “nowhere” in the sense of one of my favourite Bible stories – one I often use in ways that your average Sunday School scholar probably never heard of! (That is as an example of breakthrough, transformational leadership and its trials and tribulations and potential.)

    In 1 Sam we can see how David came from a poor family on the back bushes and scrub lands, walked into the Israelite camp and turned its hopeless situation around in five minutes using a technology configuration that was low tech for even then, and risky, but high concept based on the invincibility of a refined technique backed up by surprise power to get a quick unexpected knockout win. Then 20 years later, he brought back the high tech from his sojourn among the same philistines [related to the Greeks, and having the then advanced tech of blacksmithing] and transformed Israel into the dominant power in the Levant for two generations. His successors, unfortunately, didn’t know how to really build on that success, especially once we got beyond Solomon the consolidator.

    Not bad at all for the “wash-belly” and runt of the litter who was dismissed by his own big brother just before he took out Goliath with these words: “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” [1 Sam 17:28.]

    So, as the context of my remark indicates, it is the power of mind to conceive and imagine then figure out novel configurations and integrated clusters that should be able to work in the real world, then organise their implementation that I was speaking of. Configurations in a quasi-infinite space so vast that no mere random walk based search algorithm, regardless of hill climbing elements, is likely to ever get close, on the gamut of probabilistic resources of the observed cosmos. [Cf my discussion of nanobots and microjets as a relevant thought experiment here. BTW, how close to doing this are we now?]

    And, when it comes to experts and rules and crispification of summed and weighted fuzzy set membership based inputs, that’s great for relatively routine though suitably technically difficult situations. But when we talk about transformational leadership that breaks the old rules and changes the game totally — as that 16 year old boy with lions and bears for breakfast who thought giants for lunch was no problem did — that is a totally different order of behaviour.

    Further to all of this, this is where the neural networks model of mind gets you:

    [Sir Francis Crick:] The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules . . .

    [Prof Philip Johnson:] . . . [to be consistent, Crick should be willing to preface each of his writings:] “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” . . . . “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.”

    Non-starter.

    Self-referentially incoherent and unable to credibly get to a point where we have a reasonable account of the minds on whose reliability the edifice of science itself rests. Better by far to accept for now that we ain’t got a clue,and trust the reliability of the mind over that of speculative materialist metaphysics under the false flag of “scientific theories” that imply that it is not reliable enough to use intelligently and reasonably!

    4] simply saying that computer behaviors are determined by programmers just doesn’t begin to address the question.

    I am saying that in the end, what we have is symbol/signal manipulating machines under the control of programs and their authors, in ways that we can show are non-creative, though perhaps surprising in the sense that we finite, fallible creatures with limited minds cannot anticipate before the fact. Especially, when we have debugging and troubleshooting to do in the development time!

    For, computers ain’t got no common sense. They will do exactly what we tell them to do, regardless of consequences. And when people do that, we call then stupid or insane, not intelligent.

    5] the fact that our research in the past fifty years hasn’t resulted in HAL yet is a very bad argument against strong AI. It took far longer for us to create heavier-than-air flying machines (and they said it couldn’t be done!).

    We knew from birds that flight could be done, and indeed we had gliders of one form or another for centuries.

    So soon as a reasonable means of powered heavier than air flight came along, it was done within a few years, by talented tinkerers, with the pro-grade scientists nipping at their heels. Within 12 years the tinkerers were lagging the scientists and engineers, and so “Wright” became just another name in the industry, part of Curtiss-Wright. It is no accident that the Smithsonian scientist’s name comes first even though it is the Wrights who properly flew first. [BTW, the story I've heard is, that the Wrights went to High School in Jamaica, at Munro and got a push towards aviation from a physics teacher there -- the cliffside high winds are an invitation . . .]

    We know from ourselves that intelligent embodied creatures can be dome, but so far we have not come close to getting the breakthrough to creative imagination that then feeds the logical analysis that computers excel at.

    Databases, rule-based expert systems, fuzzy sets, adaptive and learning systems etc are just baby steps towards that future if we ever get the breakthrough.

    I’d sure like to meet R Daneel and make his acquaintance . . .

    GEM of TKI

  94. PS: Oh, I forgot: on The central claim of ID either hinges fully on the truth of dualism (which is indemonstrable) or it is vacuous.

    Actually, remember that the central issue in ID is that AGENTS are an empirically observed fact, e.g. consider ourselves. So, if we are consistent in our thinking, agents must be understood to be potential actors in many situations.

    Now, too, however we try to explain or reduce it, mind is an empirical, personally experienced and relied upon reality [not least by the very reductionists themselves], and one that we cannot confine to matter without running into serious question-begging and on the most popular ways to do so, absurdity that points to violation of self-evident truth.

    Second, we then can analyse based on that empirical datum:

    –> such agents — as I discuss in my always linked that JT so abhors but has not addressed on the merits — are known to leave FSCI etc as reliable traces of their acticity. And FSCI demands both high contingency and functional specificity that is beyond the reach of chance on the gamut of the cosmos, based on statistical thermodynamics principles of reasoning. [A config space is in effect a phase space without the movement issues. We configure many systems and as a rule their performance is sensitively dependent on their specific configuration, often with a little room for error, but not much; cf this post.]

    –> So, when we see FSCI, we may reasonably infer on warrant by empirically anchored inference to best explanation — the fundamental framework of science from the perspective of epistemology — to agency, even amidst the possibilities for chance and/or necessity as well.

    –> Thus, the real issue is not to beg the worldviews question when we were not there to observe the causal process directly.

    –> On life systems on earth, we cannot differentiate whether or no the relevant agents responsible for the FSCI of DNA etc are within or beyond the observed cosmos. And that has been explicit from the work of Thaxton et al, the very first technical level ID work, 1984.

    –> But also the observed cosmos as a whole is contingent [it had a beginning] and exhibits a cosmogenetic physics that manifests organised complextity that is astonishingly and on dozens of parameters, fine-tuned. So much so that the live option alternatives are a quasi-infinite array of sub-cosmi with randomly and nicely varying physics, or agency.

    –> BOTH are metaphysical explanations at the level of candidate necessary beings to explain the observed contingent cosmos we inhabit. So, it is obviously improper to object to the one that as it is metaphysical, it is unproved [as if we may then freely resort to the other, often presented as being "scientific" not "religious"]. There is a descriptive name for that sort of intellectual inconsistency: selective hyperskepticism, following Simon Greenleaf’s telling analysis.

    –> instead, we should face the fact that are now in the province of comparative difficulties across worldviews options, and we should see which is more factually adequate, coherent and explanatorily elegant — across the full spectrum of our experiences. [That includes the experience and reports of the millions who coherently testify that they have met the God who made us, and have had their lives changed for the good by it -- including some of the greatest minds of all time.]

    So, I think we should know enough to distinguish warrant from proof, and recognise that proof runs out of steam real fast when we deal with worldviews level questions. No surprise, proofs are relative to axioms, and worldviews are about the fundamental first plausibles in our thinking and living

    GEM of TKI

  95. kairosfocus,

    Two things about Asimov’s writings.

    In Foundation and Earth, R. Daneel has to make a decision and the book ends with the plight of Daneel on what to do. Asimov never wrote a sequel to this story because he did not know where to go. What was the future for man and intelligence. He then wrote pre-quels instead and died never addressing Daneel’s plight.

    In his great short story, The Last Question, he tells of a super, super computer that has intelligence and tries to answer the question of how to reverse entropy. And the answer could be the basis for many of the discussions on this site.

    Both stories ask questions about the nature of intelligent life. Fun reading but maybe some insights too.

  96. Jerry:

    There is a sequel, albeit in the second empire of man 12,000 years beyond.

    The survivors of the first era of robotic C-Fe society spacers become in effect an agrarian cult living on an isolated planet — I think it is Trantor long since stropped of the remnants of he first empire but I forget details now.

    [Come to think of it, there are other tales in which a post novel R D shows up or is mentioned, including the case of the woman who used a robot's arm to kill her husband, having lived centuries on beyond the lifetime of the human detective partner of RD who suddenly becomes an adulterous lover if memory serves.]

    R Daneel and a few of his friends live on and pass as humans in the post-robotic empire. He is outed privately by the new protagonist, as a high official serving the emperor and discreetly applying he laws of robotics to try to make things come out for the best. A secret robotic order in effect that serves as mankind’s hidden guardian angels.

    hows the human hunger for eternity and for supernatural protection . . . even breaking though Asimov’s atheism. CSL would have spoken of it as a hunger that points beyond our space-time world, just as Joy did.

    You are right that there are more Qs than As. As usual.

    GEM of TKI

  97. StevenB, Jerry, BarryA, I think now we have a pretty good agreement about Galileo/ID analogy, so I will leave it at that. Thanks for a stimulating discussion.

    StevenB, we seem to be thinking alike. JPII was a great pope in many respects, although I too was surprised that he let some of the science & faith related issues slip away without capitalizing on them. Perhaps he was too preoccupied with other pressing issues to properly deal with evolution, Darwinism and Galileo, or as good a philosopher and theologian he was, perhaps he still couldn’t see all the way through all the complexities that are involved. I think the current pope is much more interested in these things, so I expect that sooner or later there may be a significant movement in this area.

  98. KF,

    You’re an interesting fellow, no question. I think your intuitions about computer minds have been skewed by your working so close to the metal, however. Let’s see…

    Regarding random input – I’ve never bothered with a Zener card; for virtually all practical purposes in AI psuedo-rand is just fine. Did you really write a million monkeys progam using one? (WHY?)

    Of course, to develop these systems to the point where they work reliably, you inject controlled inputs and see if they give the expected outputs and internal states — core or internal state dumps and all.

    If I asked one of my younger colleagues to look at my core dump they would wonder if I was making an obscene proposition. (It’s all GUI debuggers now of course). The hardware is a rumor to these kids, the way my wife is aware there’s something called an “engine” that makes her car go but isn’t sure in which end of the station wagon it resides. Anyway, yes, I debug the modules with test input, but once they are working together, there is no definition of “working reliably”.

    Unpredictability by you or me does not equate to creative conscious, rational thought: “instincts” with situational learning relative to captured expertise from programmers and domain experts is more like what we are setting up here. For, we design systems to respond to their environment in reliable and useful ways, and hope that our error-trapping and recovery subroutines are good enough to catch the dangerous possible states. So, it had better be true that you determine what they do and decide their i/o responses to their environment. [BTW what is your view on the use three processor archis and equally different algors to do a vote out of three redundancy on mission-critical equipment? Mine is that those who say that stuff tends to get stiff in more or less the same way for all three at the same point of i/o behaviour or internal processing to support same, have a point.] Otherwise, get a good lawyer and some serious malpractice insurance!

    This is just what I mean – I think that all of your experience with building real systems that actually perform important tasks for human beings hinders your ability to see my point here. In contrast, I have spent a lifetime building demonstrations intended to impress thesis advisors, then commercial sponsors, and now to pry funding from the hands of government bureaucrats. I do not try to make my systems reliable or useful, I try to make them look intelligent, which is a very different goal. (Considering the nefarious uses that people may want AI for, the fact that my systems don’t actually perform any tasks very usefully is a salve for my conscience).

    So no, I’m not shooting for “instinctive” behavior that people can reliably anticipate, but rather behavior that makes sense but in surprising and novel ways.

    Configurations in a quasi-infinite space so vast that no mere random walk based search algorithm, regardless of hill climbing elements, is likely to ever get close, on the gamut of probabilistic resources of the observed cosmos…. And, when it comes to experts and rules and crispification of summed and weighted fuzzy set membership based inputs, that’s great for relatively routine though suitably technically difficult situations. … Further to all of this, this is where the neural networks model of mind gets you…

    Sorry, KF, but these arguments are all for naught, like somebody shouting at the Wright brothers that if God had meant man to fly, he would have given them wings. First, none of them show that no algorithmic machine can attain human-like cognition. But I’ve already told you that I don’t believe human-like thought will be attained by Turing machines, so enumerating various programming techniques and complaining they don’t get us to mind doesn’t help here. I think what you are missing is that nobody has ever shown that brains are Turing machines.

    Philip Johnson: “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.”

    This is nonsense I’m afraid. When I write a theorem prover that creatively derives a proof that no human has ever thought of, we need not assume my system transcended materialistic determinism.

    Better by far to accept for now that we ain’t got a clue,and trust the reliability of the mind over that of speculative materialist metaphysics under the false flag of “scientific theories” that imply that it is not reliable enough to use intelligently and reasonably!

    Again, I find this argument to be nonsense. I do trust the reliabilty of the mind (usually, normally, in general, except when I don’t, like when people hallucinate or they’re confused or just have bad thinking habits). The fact that we decide to trust minds has nothing to do with materialism, or evolution. Either minds are reliable, or they are not. If they are reliable, then they are reliable whether or not evolution or materialism is true. If they are not reliable, then we are wasting our time trying to argue about anything.

    I am saying that in the end, what we have is symbol/signal manipulating machines under the control of programs and their authors, in ways that we can show are non-creative, though perhaps surprising in the sense that we finite, fallible creatures with limited minds cannot anticipate before the fact. For, computers ain’t got no common sense. They will do exactly what we tell them to do, regardless of consequences. And when people do that, we call then stupid or insane, not intelligent.

    I fear we are not making progress here, KF. You make the bare claim that computers do only what programmers tell them to do, which is patently false. You claim we can show them to be non-creative, which is false. And finally you admit that human beings are finite, but fail to see that puts them in the same boat in which you put computers: For all you can show, human beings are non-creative and instinctive, merely following the programming put in our heads by our Designer. (Oh, and for all we know, our Designer is exactly that as well, as was His Designer, who happened to be fully instinctive and unintelligent, but a necessary being all the same).

    So soon as a reasonable means of powered heavier than air flight came along, it was done within a few years, by talented tinkerers

    First, thinking machines are harder to build than flying machines. Second, one could argue that we are still waiting for technologists to deliver “reasonable means” for achieving human-like thought: It’s only been a few years that we’ve had many cycles and much memory to play with, and we’re still riding Moore’s law, so who knows what will happen.

    Databases, rule-based expert systems, fuzzy sets, adaptive and learning systems etc are just baby steps towards that future if we ever get the breakthrough.

    OK – AGAIN we agree. We do not know if we will get the breakthrough, but we do not know that we will not! And that is what undermines ID as a scientific theory.

    Actually, remember that the central issue in ID is that AGENTS are an empirically observed fact, e.g. consider ourselves.

    OK, we are finally to the heart of the matter. Please, please read this carefully: HUMAN BEINGS are an empirically observed fact. “AGENTS” is a philosophical concept with no operationalized definition. No theory based on the idea of “AGENTS” is empirical. ID pretends that human beings are one member of a class of things called intelligent agents, but nobody can say if there are any other members, because nobody has bothered to explain what the criteria are for membership.

    What are the criteria for agency, and how do we test, for any entity or system, whether or not the criteria is met? This is the challenge that ID must meet before we can even begin to evaluate the truth of ID as a scientific theory.

  99. 99

    kairosfocus:

    As to the plagiarism charge – It wasn’t a charge, I didn’t actually use the word “plagiarism”, and my caveat was “If I’m not mistaken…” Furthermore, it was my honest impression, before I realized the piece was written by you, that the writer had merely lifted huge sections from Dembski unattributed with only minor variations. It was an off-handed remark I made, I will admit, but I saw no reason to revise my comments once I recognized it was by you.

    As to my delay on getting back to you regarding this, I looked for a plagiarism detector yesterday on the net, but couldn’t find one fast enough, so I thought I’d whip up one on my own – just something that steps through a document one word at a time, taking the next n-word phrase and submitting it to Google. Each search phrase would be accompanied by Dembski -KairosFocus. (Also you would manually edit the document first to remove all quotes and block quotes.) Then the program just checks for the phrase “did not match any documents” in the returned google page. But I got hung up on the COM interface for the windows WebBrowser control (shdocvw.dll), so am still working the kinks out (in case someone knows of something like this that already exists – it would have to go through the entire document.)

    …the need for more sophisticated comparative difficulties analyses which take into account inter alia the sort of Kantian questions addressed in the so-called irrelevant discussion on epistemology. That discussion FYI JT, was added recently precisely because of meeting with Kantianism as an objection to ID; e.g cf recent interactions with Q and others here on how inference to design necessarily requires prior assumption of the existence of relevant agents

    Well. my impression was that ID’ists felt that any denial regarding the existence of “intelligent agency” as defined by them, had to spring from some perverse denial of rational knowledege, or the validity of our senses, or some such, and therefore the question of epistemology arose. I don’t think it does. And as I noted, your long discussion on epistemology immediately followed an assertion regarding the existence of intelligent agency being self-evident.
    More on the case of 10,000 coins, I showed that the macrostate is so statistically overwhelmed by the near 50-50 macrostate to the point where its occurence inteh real world is by design not chance, reliably.

    OK fine, this is something I never denied, the question is, is the human design process actually a mechanical process.

    And BTW, it is HARD to get actual random numbers on a PC.

    If I am not mistaken, the remark by you above as well as several by BarryA, were elicited by the following remark of mine:
    So if a human decides to call heads 10000 times in a row its intelligent agency. If a computer decides to call heads 10000 times in a row its not.

    IOW, that was my characterization of BarryA’s stance. For some reason, both you and BarryA (both of you, independently,) thought I mean “random number generator” when I said computer:

    you:
    So, we can confidently say that a fair-biased H/T flip chance-programmed PC would not reach this macrostate on the gamut of the observed cosmos, it is impossible in the soft sense.
    If a claimed fair random throw program does deliver such a state, it was most liklely rigged or else was most likely grossly defective

    BarryA:
    I assume you mean a the computer has been programed to generate a random selection of heads and tails. It is impossible for a random number generate to call heads 10,000 times in a row. So your question is literally meaningless

    For the record I agree that is extremely unlikely that a random number generator would generate 10000 heads in a row. But an infinite number of other computerized functions could generate 10000 heads in a row. However programs operate according to law, which according to you isn’t design.

    First, the trichotomy speaks to: chance [as just described in brief], necessity, agency as the three observed categories of cause at work, which as my example of the tumbling dice shows, may be all quite familiarly at work in a given situation, as was already excerpted at 38 as was the contrast of a hypothetical dice based information system:
    PHASE I: A Tumbling Die: For instance, heavy objects tend to fall under the natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance. But, if the die is cast as part of a game [and just what random search algorithm credibly came up with say Monopoly . . . ?], the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. [emphasis added] Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes! (This concrete, familiar illustration should suffice to show that the three causal factors approach is not at all arbitrary or dubious – as some are tempted to imagine or assert.)

    So a cubic shape with some dots painted on each side is so incredibly complex that a mechanism could not come up with.

    O.K.

    Dice have been made like this for thousands of years. (The original dice were the joints from animal bones, BTW, which the ancients tossed to discern the will of God, thus the phrase “throwin dem bones”). Over time they became a cube, but if a human today decides to use dice, he’s just deciding to use something that already exists, instead of reinventing the wheel just to prove he’s an intelligent agent. Furthermore, the thing that is actually making the dice most definitely is a machine. So, you’re calling a purely imitative act – “I’m going to make my dice just like everyone else does”- some indeliable mark of supernatural nonmechanistic “agency”. In another forum I remarked that Mount Rushmore for some reason seems to represent for ID the pinnacle of human design capability. But that as well was a purely imitative enterprise (with one additional objective – “Let’s make something really really big.”) Monkey see, monkey do.

    Computers are not reasoning, they are in principle simple, physically instantiated algorithm executing machines.

    Yes, we all understand that the “computer” i.e. “the Turing Machine”, is an extremely simple device. But to say that that coupled with a complex enough program cannot design is merely assertion.

    Humans by contrast, are routinely experienced as and observed to be conscious and independent thinkers capable of not just surprising but actually creative decisions that on reflection can be seen to be rational but are utterly unexpected and can come out of “nowhere” to utterly break through a situation. That is what transformational, inspired leadership is about.

    …intelligent agents are CREATIVE problem solvers, who can pull a solution that is unanticiapted by and beyond the credible reach of any random or deterministic search process, out of the thin air of the real quasi-infinite cosmos…

    Now we’re just into the realm of poetry and rhetoric.

    I don’t really have the desire to browbeat anyone, to force them to acknowledge the truth of my ideas by the sheer volume and insistence of my arguments.

    As some further background on me, and where my ideas came from – When I first had courses in the theory of Computability many years ago, I was left with the impression that the algorithm is the most systematic form of description in existence. Anything that can be described accurately in English for example can be described with an algorithm. The relevance of all this to the evolution debate became apparent to me. I took it at face value that a human or anything else could be characterized as a mechanism. It was not even controversial to me. This is of course is diametrically opposed to Dembskian thinking.

    However, considering everything an algorithm, you can make observations like the following: if f(x) outputs y then f(x) equates to y. Thus y cannot be more complex or improbable than f(x) is. Obvious enough, and its application to humans is immediately apparent in that the DNA (plus the cell-replication machinery) does equate to a human.

    But certainly some mechanism preceded that, but that must equate to a human as well. So, at some point you must reach a first extremely complex cause that has always existed. (At this point Dembski invokes a nonmaterial intelligent agent.) God is presumably extremely complex but he exists by chance. (I have stated all the above much better elsewhere on this forum in the last few days.) But anyway, I think Christians need to come to grips with the fact that there is nothing controversial about the self-evident observation that we are the output of mechanisms. Trying to demand through the pretense of science that the world accept that our God exists however seems pointless. Most people already believe in God anyway – who do you think you’re going to convince – hard core athiests?

  100. Re Junkyard Tornado:

    Sadly, I see I must now make another formal complaint on trollish behaviour at UD, within a few days!

    I guess it is easier to attack the man than to deal with the issue — here, epistemology — on the merits. And of course a personal attack conveniently distracts attention from the main issue, which is what I addressed in the first case at 38 above. DV, I will address further points on the merits, later.

    However, so serious is the sort of accusation made, that I find it important to note to the relevant onlookers on what it is and why it is false. I will therefore reply on several points, for I see that this commenter insists of perpetrating a damaging falsehood — which he (if he were as innocent, open-minded and naive as he pretends) should know straight out and by direct protest and absence of cases in point, is patently false:

    . . . Furthermore, it was my honest impression, before I realized the piece was written by you, that the writer had merely lifted huge sections from Dembski unattributed with only minor variations. It was an off-handed remark I made, I will admit, but I saw no reason to revise my comments once I recognized it was by you.

    1] As onlookers will see from my previous protest, JT began by making the following false accusations, in 48, to which I replied in 78:

    JT, 48: It is from this which kairosfocus just requested I read. Incidently kairos, why would this fifty page screed not have any author’s name attached as if it were immutable truth handed down from on high or something. Oops. I guess you wrote it. If I’m not mistaken, there are several passages you’ve taken directly from Dembski unattributed.

    2] Now, immediately, to accuse one of using academic work in an intellectual context without attribution is plainly to accuse of plagiarism, so the attempted evasion excerpted above, that appears now that I protested that JT has unwarrantedly accused me of plagiarism, is exposed as – this is the only word for it, sorry to say — a lie. [And BTW, “plagiarism detectors” that do not pick up links ands citations will give suitably misleading conclusions. I do cite WD several times and with attribution, sir. He is a source but not the only one nor is he the basis for my thinking -- which comes straight out of my own pure-applied physics background, and even cites one of my old favourite textbooks in extenso at the critical point of departure on defining information. At least two more old favourites of mine come in for mention too.]

    3] My initial response in 78 also addressed the accusation of arrogance on my part, and explained why I have now begun to use my initials and links onward to my contact and identity – a precaution that JT’s misbehaviour fully warrants. For, the very always linked page is headed and footed in part as follows [as I cited in 78]:

    A Kairosfocus Briefing Note:
    HEAD: GEM 06:03:17; this adj. 06:12:16 – 17 to 07: 12: 13a.3.1 and 30
    FOOT: . . . [NB: Because of abuse of my given name in blog commentary threads, I have deleted my given name from this page, and invite serious and responsible interlocutors to use my email contact below to communicate with me.] This page has been . . . revised and developed, to date; so far, to clean up the clarity and flow of the argument, which is admittedly a difficult one, and add to the substance especially as key references are discovered one by one such as the recent Shapiro article in Sci Am . . . (DISCLAIMER: While reasonable attempts have been made to provide accurate, fair and informative materials for use in training, no claim is made for absolute truth, and corrections based on factual errors and/or gaps or inconsistencies in reasoning, etc., or typos, are welcome.)

    3] Now, a look at the actual note will reveal that the structure of my argument is very different from that of WD, and begins from very different points of departure and references, e.g. F R Connor on information theory and Harry S Robertson and even Brillouin on the informational school of statistical thermodynamics. Not to mention things like the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, Sir Fred Hoyle and Crick and Watson et al.

    4] Namely, I start from the concept of information and communication system functional information as an increasingly recognised key component of the cosmos to go with space-time and matter-energy. I use my own model of the t’comms system that my former students will instantly recognise from their old T’comms Syss lecture notes – a version on the Shannon model that emphasises the code-decode [or mod-demod] aspects. (In the classes I used the idea of analogous physical and mathematical operators –learned from my favourite Russians — to get to the electronics and math of modulation and demodulation and on to digital comms models, and of course the layercake ISO model fits right in. That’s my style: a key introductory case study unfolding along a learning spiral into the structured, integrated riches of the field, as will be instantly recognisable by any of my former students. Who will in many cases remember their chant: “More work, sir; more work sir!”) In that context, I develop the concept of functionally specified complex information [which makes more sense to me than the more general complex specifed information, as say Atom will testify], which in Appendix 3 you will see has roots in Orgel and other 70′s – 80′s OOL researchers, the source on this being through Thaxton et al. I then point out that the very inference to message in the presence of noise is an inference to design or agency. Even my multiclause long sentence – BTW, confession is good for the soul: bad – habit (and note how fond I am of double-dashes, bullet points and brackets – the last as my HS English teachers despaired of) is a further characteristic of my writing when I don’t have time or inclination to edit down into chunked short sentences.

    5] The idea of a default inference to lucky noise – not exactly a WD term so far as I know — as the source of such FSCI, is intuitively and easily discarded in comms theory due to t’comms system functionality as specification; multiplied by the vastness of the associated relevant configuration space [a term rooted in the idea of phase space but leaving off the issues of motion] and the difficulty of a random walk based search process accessing such islands of functionality. I give details through a microjets assembly thought experiment that pulls the late gfreat Sir Fred Hoyle’s tornado in a junkyard – IRONICALLY — down to quasi-molecular scale so that statistical physics principles can be used. was worked out live in debate with Pixie, a former commenter at UD, as is linked from Appendix 1, section 6. In that context, the insistence on lucky noise as default on DNA etc is seen easily as selective hyperskepticism. Thus, I come at the Dembski design filter from a different direction, one rooted in my own intellectual background.

    6] In that general context — and this is where JT came in to make objections I believe and in so doing sought to use red herrings leading out to convenient slander-oil soaked strawmen he is now trying to set afire — I addressed the issue of the three sources of cause; which by the way traced at least to Plato’s The Laws, Book X, which I link and cite in Appendix 2. I showed through the simple thought experiment example of a tumbling die [first developed by me in debates in another blog a couple of years back] – one that if WD uses I have never seen — I have cited twice already in this thread, that they may all be independently at work in the same situation, and so the explanation to the one is not reductive relative to the inference to the other two:

    CASE STUDY ON CAUSAL FORCES/FACTORS — A Tumbling Die: For instance, heavy objects tend to fall under the natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance. But, if the die is cast as part of a game, the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes!
    This concrete, familiar illustration should suffice to show that the three causal factors approach is not at all arbitrary or dubious — as some are tempted to imagine or assert.

    7] Once I showed that FSCI is a reliable sign of agency at work, not chance and/or natural regularities tracing to mechanical necessity, I then addressed three key cases: Origin of life, origin of body-plan level biodiversity and the origin of the fine-tuned organised complexity of the cosmos as a whole. In so doing I cite several sources, including WD of course, to whom I owe the phrase Organised Complexity, though I hardly thought it necessary to give a citation on a phrase that is fairly commonly used in current discussions! Beyond that I paused to deal with certain broader phil issues and in them I cite not only WD but WLC, inter alia.

    8] In appendix 1, I detailed my thermodynamics reasoning, starting from my own look at Clausius’ example no 1 for defining entropy, which traces to Sears and Salinger or any other basic thermodynamics textbook. I draw out that the heat importing subsystemn naturally increases its entropy and point that it takes coupling to energy converters and exhaustion of waste heat to take in energy without doing that. I then pointed out that there are cases of natural energy converters that are spontaneous, e.g hurricanes – which I raised in a discussion by correspondence with the late Henry Morris in the early 1990s. [This gentleman's willingness to take on and address over several months a multipage correspondence with an unknown out in the boonies has deeply impressed me ever since. I was later astonished when on asking about an ICR video, only requesting a quotation, I received the tape in the mail. I rushed down tot he post office to remit payment right away. I still am astonished by this generosity by the much despised YECs..]

    9] I then went on to the issues linked to statistical thermodynamics, which I believe is not an approach Mr Dembski uses and is significantly different from that of Prof Sewell.

    10] Finally, I see some story in the latest from JT on his constructing of a bespoke plagiarism detector to use on my online work. On the track record of what he has already done, I have no confidence in any such claimed software or its results. However, I have no doubt that such a person, hiding behind anonymity, will fell no compunction to produce a fraudulent result that “proves” that I have excerpted in extenso from WD and all sorts of people without attribution. And as the slander oil soaked strawman erupts in flames, filling the air with noxious and blinding smoke, all too many will be taken in and will fail to address the substantial issue on the merits.

    I therefore invite onlookers to inspect the always linked for themselves, and see that – since I write in a highly distinctive style even in informal notes and have used a significantly different approach from the circle of Mr Dembski et al as I have just outlined — such, if it appears, will simply be further proof of his dishonesty.

    GEM of TKI

  101. PS: I see just now in 99 by JT — on one point of substance that I cannot but speak to immediately — the sad twisting of the example of the falling die that illustrates how agents, chance and necessity can all be independently at work in a real-world situation, into the utterly unwarranted inference that I claimed the tossing of a die exhibits FSCI!

    Namely (and note my habit of attribution . . .):

    [JT, 99:] So a cubic shape with some dots painted on each side is so incredibly complex that a mechanism could not come up with.

    O.K.

    Dice have been made like this for thousands of years. (The original dice were the joints from animal bones, BTW, which the ancients tossed to discern the will of God, thus the phrase “throwin dem bones”). Over time they became a cube, but if a human today decides to use dice, he’s just deciding to use something that already exists, instead of reinventing the wheel just to prove he’s an intelligent agent. Furthermore, the thing that is actually making the dice most definitely is a machine. So, you’re calling a purely imitative act – “I’m going to make my dice just like everyone else does”- some indeliable mark of supernatural nonmechanistic “agency”.

    Not so at all: yet another red herring leading out to a slander-oil soaked strawman to be ignited to distract from the real issue.

    Onlookers, I actually do use dice in a case on FSCI.

    Kindly scroll back to 38 above or the always linked and see where I do claim something about FSCI using dice and its likely source — something JT would have seen if he had simply read with attention before superciliously accusing:

    Sub-case study: a hypothetical, dice-based information system: If one were so inclined, s/he could define a six-state code and use a digital string of dice to store or communicate a message by setting each die in turn to the required functional value for communicating the message. In principle, we could then develop information-processing and communication systems that use dice as the data-storage and transmission elements; rather like the underlying two-state [binary] digital code-strings used for this web page. So also, since 6^193 ~ 10^150, if a functional code-string using dice requires significantly more than 193 to 386 six-state elements [we can conveniently round this up to 200 - 400], it would be beyond the edge of chance as can be specified by the Dembski universal probability bound, UPB. [That is, the probabilistic resources of the observed universe would be mostllikely fruitlessly exhausted if a random-walk search starting from an arbitrary initial point in the configuration space were to be tasked to find an "island" of functionality: not all "lotteries" are winnable (and those that are, are designed to be winnable but profitable for their owners). So, if we were to then see a code-bearing, functionally meaningful string of say 500 dice, it would be most reasonable to infer that this string was arranged by an agent, rather than to assume it came about because someone tossed a box of dice and got really lucky! (Actually, this count is rather conservative, because the specification of the code, algorithms and required executing machinery are further -- rather large -- increments of organised, purposeful complexity.)]

    Notice: inference to AN agent, and nary a word about the supernatural. If you want to see my reasoning behind that case study, kindly read here, especially the case study here.

    In short the commentator known as JT is now spinning madly, to distract attention from the material points in the thread, and from his slanders. Sad, and one for prayer as Kairos reminded me so gently but pointedly the other day.

    Thanks again Kairos!

    I will return later, DV, to address points of merit.

    Meanwhile I have real life to go back to.

    GEM of TKI

  102. KF — I guess it is easier to attack the man than to deal with the issue

    It would be easier to whistle Yankee Doodle while standing on your tongue than to make a reasoned case for this issue :-)

    Our side has won the intellectual part of the debate, KF. All that’s left now is the screaming.

  103. Auguy:

    I would like to respond to your comment, but unfortunately, a compelling personal issue has taken me away from the internet.
    It would not be fair for me to offer my remarks at this time without giving you a chance to respond. Best wishes.

  104. Thanks, StephenB.

    To onlookers, I’ll summarize the argument I’ve made to StephenB (and KF) here. (Actually, it is always my argument to everybody; I’m rather a one-trick pony in these debates).

    It is currently a matter of philosophical speculation, rather than a scientific result, that a “mind” is nothing but the functioning of the brain. Just the same, it is nothing but philosophical speculation that a “mind” is anything but the functioning of the brain. In other words, the truth or falisity of metaphysical dualism can not currently be evaluated by appeal to empirical evidence.

    Now, consider two versions of ID theory, called ID-Metaphysical and ID-Scientific.

    ID-Metaphysical states that a) mind is a type of fundamental thing (a substance or force or cause or …), different from physical things, and that b) this type of thing is responsible both for humans’ mental abilities and for the creation of life. This is an ancient and meaningful proposition, but it cannot be evaluated scientifically.

    ID-Scientific, in contrast, is restricted to what we can empirically demonstrate. For example, we can demonstrate that human beings (and some other animals) can design and build artifacts of complex form and function (lets call this “CSI”). And we can demonstrate that biological structures (like flagella) have CSI too. We cannot demonstrate, however, what it is that enables people and other animals to create CSI.

    In science, then, when we refer to “mind”, we are not speaking of res cogitans or any other dualistic or metaphysical conception of mental substance. Rather, we are simply referring to our mental abilities themselves. What mental abilities would these be? As it turns out, there is no agreement at all among scientists on which abilities are definitively required in order to be considered intelligent (learning? grammatical language? self-awareness?), but let’s accept arguendo that these abilities include the ability to create CSI.

    ID-Scientific, then, states that a) mind is the name for abilities such as CSI creation, and that b) there exists some entity with a mind that was responsible for creating the CSI we see in biological structures. In other words, the central claim of ID-Scientific is that The CSI in living things was created by something that had the ability to create CSI.

    Hopefully you can see that when we look closely, ID-Scientific is not a helpful theory, because it doesn’t say anything at all. ID-Scientific is vacuous, and ID-Metaphysical is… metaphysical. So there is no scientifically useful theory of ID – unless somebody comes up with another version of ID theory.

  105. Aiguy, I realize you were discussing the issues of “mind” that have been brought up, and framed them in terms of the methaphysical and the scientific.

    But, it raises the question, at least to me, as to whether the comments about the scientific model suggest that intelligence and mind are synonomous. Or, at least two sides of the same coin.

    I mention this because intelligence is basically a property of something – like of an agent. But, mind, is considered (AFAIK) as an entity unto isself. It seems like they are often bantered about interchangably, as you did with the comment “In science, then, when we refer to “mind”, we are not speaking of res cogitans or any other dualistic or metaphysical conception of mental substance. Rather, we are simply referring to our mental abilities themselves. What mental abilities would these be? As it turns out, there is no agreement at all among scientists on which abilities are definitively required in order to be considered intelligent” (emphasis added)

    Is it more than mere supposition that mind and intelligence are so intertwined? Isn’t it possible, like I think you alluded to earlier, that mind and intelligence are separable, at least to the extent tha a mind may exist without the property of intelligence?

    Additionally, it is necessary for the concept of intelligent design to even depend upon the notion of mind? I mean, so long as it can be demonstrated that “intelligence” occurred, wouldn’t a debate about “what is mind” be off the mark in terms of ID?

  106. All:

    As an interim response on what now seems to be close to the heart of the issue on knowledge and credibility of mind, I will now post here a summary argument — tracing to works by C S Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, etc etc [and originally dating to the turn of the 1990's] on the self-referential self-defeating nature of evolutionary materialism once it tries to account for mind:

    [evolutionary] materialism . . . argues that

    [a] the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, [b] all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But [c] human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, [d] what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

    Therefore, [e] if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, [f] evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. [g] But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, [h] materialism is based on self-defeating logic, and only survives because people often fail (or, sometimes, refuse) to think through just what their beliefs really mean.

    As a further consequence, [i] materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community [that is, might makes "right"], for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, [j] Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead . . .

    This is of course the remark at 48 – 49 in the Charles Darwin thread of Aug 20 2007 that set off a very interesting chain that IMHCO, in the end only underscored the force of the point.

    Later on I will come back, DV and mop up a few points. I note this thread has set off a follow up thread.

    GEM of TKI

  107. PS: FYI JT,

    Notice how at the turn of the 1990′s — long before I ever heard of Dembski or ID — I used language on the point “[b] all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.”

    And, following Lewis, Schaeffer et al, and many others indeed [but these, on long consideration of whether CSL makes sense in the end, are my own thoughts too . . .], I went to the consequences:

    –> a cause is not a ground, and so . . .

    –> if our thoughts are wholly accounted for on a-logical cause-effect chains tracing to chance and necessity, we have an undercutting defeater for the general credibility of mind.

    –> Which is a patent absurdity; for we need to use minds to think even materialistic thoughts.

    Nope, on nearly 20 years experience with the above summary, I don’t think that committed materialists will easily surrender their views to mere evidence of absurdity, which they can always find one excuse or another to brush aside.

    But, I have also read Acts 17, on which I know that the one who was laughed out of court in the Areopagus in AD 50 in the end prevailed, and in so prevailing became the real father of western civilisation as we know it. Indeed, I am told that the speech is now at the foot of the hill as a bronze plaque — the ever so telling altar to the unknown god having long since crumbled into dust; and, that the street by the hill bears the name of a certain Bishop Dionysius.

    That is also in part why my son, the budding LKF [currently he hopes to be a physicist and has the mind for it], bears the name of that Apostle; and it is why I intend to equip him with the power of Acts 17, DV; so soon as he is able to handle it. (Which is looking like real soon now . . .)

    Thanks, Trib: you are right.

    But, equally, we need to dig in for a terrible, grinding multi- generational cultural struggle for hearts, minds and souls of men.

    God, give us strength for it.

    GEM of TKI

  108. Q,

    I mention this because intelligence is basically a property of something – like of an agent. But, mind, is considered (AFAIK) as an entity unto isself.
    If you consider mind to be an “entity” (or substance) unto itself, then you are a dualist by definition.
    Is it more than mere supposition that mind and intelligence are so intertwined? Isn’t it possible, like I think you alluded to earlier, that mind and intelligence are separable, at least to the extent tha a mind may exist without the property of intelligence?
    This is also a matter of interminable philosophical debate. If you ask famous arch materialist Daniel Dennett, he will answer no, without intelligence (specifically linguistic ability) there is no mind (or at least conscious awareness). Others (including me) disagree. Nobody knows.

    Additionally, it is necessary for the concept of intelligent design to even depend upon the notion of mind? I mean, so long as it can be demonstrated that “intelligence” occurred, wouldn’t a debate about “what is mind” be off the mark in terms of ID?
    I think that is a very good question. All you have to do is define what “intelligence” means in a way that we could look at some arbitrary system or process and decide if it was intelligent or not. For example, you might want to say that intelligent agents must be able to learn over time by using information from the environment, and must be goal-directed. In that case, or course, evolutionary processes would be considered intelligent.

  109. All:

    I see the hot stuff has moved on to a follow-up thread. I will follow up such there. But there is still specific stuff here – as well as the matter of at least one overdue major apology, by JT, for slander.

    So I will comment on points here that maybe this thread will be better for:

    1] AIG, 98: I think your intuitions about computer minds have been skewed by your working so close to the metal, however . . . . If I asked one of my younger colleagues to look at my core dump they would wonder if I was making an obscene proposition. (It’s all GUI debuggers now of course). The hardware is a rumor to these kids, the way my wife is aware there’s something called an “engine” that makes her car go but isn’t sure in which end of the station wagon it resides. Anyway, yes, I debug the modules with test input, but once they are working together, there is no definition of “working reliably”.

    And so these kids literally don’t know what they are talking about, once it moves beyond the cosseted world of nicely set up GUIs (how many virtual machine levels is that as abstracted from the real world of NAND gates and capacitors to suck up power supply switch transients – I once had a system that only would accept silvered mica for that, not the usual ceramic disks; I never ever figured out why (but could easily show it) — and digital feedback and hardware response times and clock rise/fall time effects and skew etc etc . . .? A Dozen?) . . . !

    As to working reliably, I come from the school that says: no program of sufficient complextity is ever fully debugged. We just have high confidence that it will run reliably on the sort of inputs it is on our experience and testing, likely to see. BTW, that’s one reason to avoid a fresh release software, much less beta testers. And for too many software companies, what they call releases should really be beta testers! [But beta testing is a freebie . . .]

    (From my PoV, hanging around with these escapees from perambulators is spoiling your clear view on the machines!)

    Actually, working at the “assembly language view” — onlookers who need a bit of 101 handholding, that’s one classic definition of computer architecture [and the one I found most useful in my work and teaching] – level [and JT, compounding my stylistic sins, I haven't a clue now where I first learned that 20+ years ago!], made me very much aware that computers are wonderful discrete state machines optimised to carry out specific instructions with great reliability, and including the ability to carry out [re-programmed branching on conditions.

    As to minds, I have one; I routinely interact with those who have minds. The only ones that come close to a computer in their behaviour, on my long observation, are the ones who are psychologically ill; who notoriously do the same things over and over again expecting a different result, or who notoriously are utterly logical and completely out of connect with the real world, and cannot find a way to revise their thinking and acting. (So, I can see that minds have computers [we call them brains] but can act as more, far, far more . . . except when something goes very wrong in the i/o front-office computer . . .)

    In short, having had to deal with both, up close and personal, I know the BIG difference — especially when it comes to the source of the creativity and (in almost the control system sense of model-reference adaptive control) adaptiveness [far better than that anthropomorphism, “learning,” AIG!] in a computer program.

    2] Did you really write a million monkeys progam using one? . . .

    Naw, just challenged the Darwinistas to pony up on their classic rhetorical ploy against the issue of accessing FSCI, using a gedankenexperiment:

    CASE STUDY — of Monkeys and keyboards (updated): Updating this tired C19 rhetorical counter-example used by Darwinists, take a million PC’s, with floppy drives modified to spew magnetic noise across the inserted initially unformatted disks, perhaps using zener diode noise circuits or the like source of guaranteed random noise. Then once every 30 seconds for a year, run the noise circuit, and then test for a formatted disk with 500 or more bits of data in any standard PC format. We get thereby 10^12 tests per year. Continue for the lifetime of the observed cosmos, i.e. 10^25 seconds or so, giving 10^37 tests. Is it credible that we will ever get a properly formatted disk, or thence a message at this reasonable threshold of complexity by chance?

    [NB: The 500-bit threshold is chosen as 2^500 ~ 10^150, and because it is credible that the molecular nanotechnology of life has in it orders of magnitude more information than that, judging by the 300 - 500,000 4-state elements (equivalent to 600,000 to 1 million 2-state elements) in the DNA code of the simplest existing unicellular life forms. Also, observe that we are here putting a far more realistic threshold of accidentally generated functional complexity than we see in the often met with cases of designed genetic algorithms that carry out targetted searches, step by step promoting increments towards the target. Random walk-type searches, or searched reducible to that, in short, only "work" when the searched space is sufficiently richly -- and implausibly [Cf here Denton's telling discussion in his classic 1985 Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, ch 13] — populated by islands of functional complexity.]

    No prizes for guessing why the Darwinistas have refused to pony up, for years now.

    But then given the signs of serious mental challenge emanating from the hardcore Darwinista camp, maybe I should fire up the old pencil and paper then get me a few components, a roll of rosin-core solder and a hot diagonally sliced-off conical point soldering Iron (the best combi of fine tip, edge and solid hot surface there is – on 100 k++ personal welds experience). The classic iron-point Antex 15 watt being my for preference (I can only see a 25 W at good old Radio Spares, now of course simply “RS”); I can feel its heft, smell it and hear it even as I type.

    3] I have spent a lifetime building demonstrations intended to impress thesis advisors, then commercial sponsors, and now to pry funding from the hands of government bureaucrats. I do not try to make my systems reliable or useful, I try to make them look intelligent, which is a very different goal. (Considering the nefarious uses that people may want AI for, the fact that my systems don’t actually perform any tasks very usefully is a salve for my conscience).
    So no, I’m not shooting for “instinctive” behavior that people can reliably anticipate, but rather behavior that makes sense but in surprising and novel ways.

    And, are you reliably hitting it?

    4] these arguments are all for naught, like somebody shouting at the Wright brothers that if God had meant man to fly, he would have given them wings. First, none of them show that no algorithmic machine can attain human-like cognition . . .

    Funny: these are based on the core principles of statistical thermodynamics. As Yavorsky and Pinsky nicely put it – a couple of my fav Russians – in discussing the underlying reason for the reliability of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

    Here’s my summary, from point 4 App 1 the always linked that JT imagines is a crib from prof Dembski [hint to JT: WD's a German . . . I found this stuff by haunting the friendly local communist party bookshop, once I had discovered that it had good Russky math-sci-tech stuff – that must have given my watchers in the J'can security services (they routinely monitored all youth leaders of consequence) real headaches!]:

    Yavorski and Pinski, in the textbook Physics, Vol I [MIR, USSR, 1974, pp. 279 ff.], summarise [at “introductory level”] the key implication of the macro-state and micro-state view well: as we consider a simple model of diffusion, let us think of ten white and ten black balls in two rows in a container. There is of course but one way in which there are ten whites in the top row; the balls of any one colour being for our purposes identical. But on shuffling, there are 63,504 ways to arrange five each of black and white balls in the two rows, and 6-4 distributions may occur in two ways, each with 44,100 alternatives. So, if we for the moment see the set of balls as circulating among the various different possible arrangements at random, and spending about the same time in each possible state on average, the time the system spends in any given state will be proportionate to the relative number of ways that state may be achieved. Immediately, we see that the system will gravitate towards the cluster of more evenly distributed states. In short, we have just seen that there is a natural trend of change at random, towards the more thermodynamically probable macrostates, i.e the ones with higher statistical weights. So “[b]y comparing the [thermodynamic] probabilities of two states of a thermodynamic system, we can establish at once the direction of the process that is [spontaneously] feasible in the given system. It will correspond to a transition from a less probable to a more probable state.” [p. 284.] This is in effect the statistical form of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Thus, too, the behaviour of the Clausius isolated system above is readily understood: importing d’Q of random molecular energy so far increases the number of ways energy can be distributed at micro-scale in B, that the resulting rise in B’s entropy swamps the fall in A’s entropy. Moreover, given that FSCI-rich micro-arrangements are relatively rare in the set of possible arrangements, we can also see why it is hard to account for the origin of such states by spontaneous processes in the scope of the observable universe. (Of course, since it is as a rule very inconvenient to work in terms of statistical weights of macrostates [i.e W], we instead move to entropy, through s = k ln W. Part of how this is done can be seen by imagining a system in which there are W ways accessible, and imagining a partition into parts 1 and 2. W = W1*W2, as for each arrangement in 1 all accessible arrangements in 2 are possible and vice versa, but it is far more convenient to have an additive measure, i.e we need to go to logs. The constant of proportionality, k, is the famous Boltzmann constant and is in effect the universal gas constant, R, on a per molecule basis, i.e we divide R by the Avogadro Number, NA, to get: k = R/NA. The two approaches to entropy, by Clausius, and Boltzmann, of course, correspond. In real-world systems of any significant scale, the relative statistical weights are usually so disproportionate, that the classical observation that entropy naturally tends to increase, is readily apparent.)

    Nary a Turing machine in sight! And, not a hard logical or physical impossibility but overwhelming improbability via probabilistic resources exhaustion; in praxis tantamount to real-world reliably not going to happen. THAT’s the sort of reason I pay WD attention – he is speaking to things I know from somewhere else, and on very independent grounds.

    And it is why I hold that minds through intelligent reasoning can see workable but practically speaking impossible to randomly search out configs and then pull together enough of a prototype to do debugging and testing to get something to work within a reasonable time. Also, it is how we can come out of “nowhere” with an utterly surprising strategic framework that changes all the rules of the game – indeed takes advantage of the old guard’s being locked into the old rules as a part of its design.

    [ . . . ]

  110. 5] When I write a theorem prover that creatively derives a proof that no human has ever thought of, we need not assume my system transcended materialistic determinism

    Theorems, AIG, are logical implications of axioms. And [another sometimes useful stylistic “bad habit,” JT] the key is the ones that the axioms cannot reach – per Godel — but which minds can conceive and indeed use.

    6] I do trust the reliabilty of the mind (usually, normally, in general, except when I don’t, like when people hallucinate or they’re confused or just have bad thinking habits). The fact that we decide to trust minds has nothing to do with materialism, or evolution. Either minds are reliable, or they are not. If they are reliable, then they are reliable whether or not evolution or materialism is true. If they are not reliable, then we are wasting our time trying to argue about anything.

    You have it precisely backwards, just as the above.

    We know and rely on our minds, to get tot he level we are at. So, the reliability of the minds we have is a datum, what is to be explained.

    But, evo mat, a phil that often hides under the lab coats of science, is dynamically impotent to achieve such, on grounds outlined in 106 supra. Thus, it is self-undermining and logically incoherent.

    7] You make the bare claim that computers do only what programmers tell them to do, which is patently false. You claim we can show them to be non-creative, which is false. And finally you admit that human beings are finite, but fail to see that puts them in the same boat in which you put computers: For all you can show, human beings are non-creative and instinctive, merely following the programming put in our heads by our Designer. (Oh, and for all we know, our Designer is exactly that as well, as was His Designer, who happened to be fully instinctive and unintelligent, but a necessary being all the same) . . . . HUMAN BEINGS are an empirically observed fact. “AGENTS” is a philosophical concept with no operationalized definition. No theory based on the idea of “AGENTS” is empirical

    “Who designed the designer . . .?”

    First, computers do as a matter of bare fact carry out their instructions, which originate with: programmers, collectively, starting with microcode kids (only young grunt engineers can be persuaded to write something so mindless . . .). Even if the instructions make no sense: no creativity, no common sense, no sanity. They are products, not creators – as your failed example just above illustrates.

    By sharpest contrast, OUR FIRST, MOST DIRECT EXPERIENCE AS HUMAN BEINGS IS THAT OF SELF-CONSCIOUS AGENCY. That is how we become aware of ourselves, and of other agents in our environment, and how we intelligibly reflect upon, communicate, decide and physically act into our world. To deny this is to deny the self-evident and thus leads straight to the intellectual and moral absurdities that this thread so often illustrates. And, IMHCO, no global scientific research programme on origins or worldview core to such that cannot make room for that is credible. That means: evolutionary materialism.

    Next, we do know that we are contingent and thus have an origin. We live in an observed cosmos that also evidently had a beginning, one that reflects fine-tuned complex organisarion that facilitates life and entails a lot of FSCI. Thus, the simplest, most factually adequate and coherent, elegant explanation is that we are the product of an intelligent, powerful, necessary being who wanted to create life in a cosmos set up for it. Such a necessary being of course has no origin, thus no cause. You have made a category error.

    Further to this, we illustrate that it is possible to create [small-c sense] intelligent agents; not least by an access to creativity [as already remarked on] that transcends the instinctual. Cf this telling discussion by good old materialism-leaning prof Wiki, which I now excerpt a little of:

    Instinct is the inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior. Instincts are unlearned, inherited fixed action patterns of responses or reactions to certain kinds of stimuli. [NB: See why I compare them to programmed MRAC-type control systems?] Innate emotions, which can be expressed in more flexible ways and learned patterns of responses, not instincts, form a basis for majority of responses to external stimuli in evolutionary higher species, while in case of highest evolved species both of them are overridden by actions based on cognitive processes with more or less intelligence and creativity or even trans-intellectual intuition.
    Examples of instinctual fixed action patterns can be observed in the behavior of animals, which perform various activities (sometimes complex) that are not based upon prior experience and do not depend on emotion or learning, such as reproduction, and feeding among insects. Other examples include animal fighting, animal courtship behavior, internal escape functions, and building of nests.
    Instinctual actions – in contrast to actions based on learning which is served by memory and which provides individually stored successful reactions built upon experience – have no learning curve, they are hard-wired and ready to use without learning, but do depend on maturational processes to appear.

    The contrast is blatant. Also, from the above, the creation of intelligent agents such as ourselves is physically and logically possible. Just we have not come close yet.

    Furthermore, we have good reason as outlined supra, to infer that an intelligent agent who is a necessary being is very logically possible, and the credible root of all physical possibilities in our observed cosmos.

    8] What are the criteria for agency, and how do we test, for any entity or system, whether or not the criteria is met? This is the challenge that ID must meet before we can even begin to evaluate the truth of ID as a scientific theory.

    For starters, kindly read my always linked, section A – a 101-level introductory summary on the points relevant to that project, and which I believe gives enough to do just what you asked and assumed has not been done -0- in fact it has been done, many times, by many people [most of them far more august than I], but this is not generally recognised in the midst of he noxious, atmosphere-poisoning, blinding fumes cast up by the burning of slander-oil soaked strawmen.

    I believe you will find that it begins form what we do observe and routinely use, then moves tot he issue of information as a chief marker of intelligence in action, thence to issues of intelligence, agency etc, setting up the onward biologically and cosmologically relevant cases to follow. There are handy links on the key terms clustered at the in-page table of contents.

    In simplest compressed essence, agents are first recognised from our own experience and their intelligence is seen from their responses to situations that transcends chance, necessity and blends thereof including mere adaptive programming by other agents. A characteristic trace of agency as opposed to chance and necessity is FSCI, which by virtue of the soft impossibility of the relevant very low relative statistical weight of relevant functional states, is beyond the reach of chance [the other major source of contingency; programming is of course known to be a species of agent action and is based on configuring FSCI and embedding it so that the relevant system responds in its context based on the built-in smarts]. We routinely see this in the case of informational signals in the presence of noise – e.g. This thread, and so to refuse to see it when we have say DNA to reckon with is selective hyperskepticism.

    Once that is done, we can see the relevance of Dembski’s classic definition of Intelligent Design as a rather broadly relevant field of science:

    intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? . . . Proponents of intelligent design, known as design theorists, purport to study such signs formally, rigorously, and scientifically. Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence

    I suspect that whatever else is of significance in other posts has already come up. If not kindly highlight to me . . . so I can pick up when I return for follow up.

    GEM of TKI

  111. ID-Metaphysical states t

    I will disagree with premise that there is any such thing as ID metaphysics. Those who discuss/support/research ID may have metaphysical views, by they are just tangential to ID itself.

    It would, however, fall within the purview of science — not restricted to the methodology of ID — to rebut claims by materialists that the mind is merely a series of chemical reactions,

    ID-Scientific, in contrast, is restricted to what we can empirically demonstrate. For example, we can demonstrate that human beings (and some other animals) can design and build artifacts of complex form and function (lets call this “CSI”). And we can demonstrate that biological structures (like flagella) have CSI too. We cannot demonstrate, however, what it is that enables people and other animals to create CSI.

    I think a more accurate way of saying this is: Complex works of known design exhibit CSI. In nature, only biological entities exhibit CSI. Hence, it is fair to conclude biological entities are designed.

  112. aiguy, in 108, said ” For example, you might want to say that intelligent agents must be able to learn over time by using information from the environment, and must be goal-directed. In that case, or course, evolutionary processes would be considered intelligent.”

    A slight disagreement with your claim is that evolutionary processes aren’t claimed to be goal driven. They are claimed to be response driven. That is, evolution doesn’t make mutations to seek a point on a fitness curve, mutations survive by how they respond to the fitness curve.

  113. KF,

    Your post is too long and interesting for me to reply this morning. More later to you, perhaps in the subsequent thread…

    I will take issue with this one point, however, just so we’re sure we can actually keep communicating rationally:

    We know and rely on our minds, to get tot he level we are at. So, the reliability of the minds we have is a datum, what is to be explained.
    It is pointless to entertain the notion that our minds are not reliable, since if it is true, we will not know it.

    tribune7,

    I will disagree with premise that there is any such thing as ID metaphysics. Those who discuss/support/research ID may have metaphysical views, by they are just tangential to ID itself.

    You have simply ignored my point then. ID rests on the assumption that intelligent causation is emprically distinguishable from the rest of causation, but this is not the case. Rather, it is a metaphysical speculation. This is not tangential to ID; the notion of “intelligent causation” and its detection is the very core of ID.

    It would, however, fall within the purview of science — not restricted to the methodology of ID — to rebut claims by materialists that the mind is merely a series of chemical reactions,

    Nobody has any idea how anyone could possibly ever do this, so I believe your point is moot.

    I think a more accurate way of saying this is: Complex works of known design exhibit CSI. In nature, only biological entities exhibit CSI. Hence, it is fair to conclude biological entities are designed.

    Same old attempt at semantic sleight-of-hand on the term “design” here, sorry. Please give me an operationalized definition of the term “known design” in this statement. You will find you cannot.

    Q,

    A slight disagreement with your claim is that evolutionary processes aren’t claimed to be goal driven. They are claimed to be response driven. That is, evolution doesn’t make mutations to seek a point on a fitness curve, mutations survive by how they respond to the fitness curve.

    It depends where you draw the boundaries around “the evolutionary process” I think. In a broader view, the goal of evolution is always to find the genotype that will reproduce most efficiently in a given niche, yes?

  114. aiguy, in 113 asks “It depends where you draw the boundaries around “the evolutionary process” I think. In a broader view, the goal of evolution is always to find the genotype that will reproduce most efficiently in a given niche, yes?”

    I would draw the line differently and say no, so that “goal” and “evolutionary process” are mutually exclusive. Based on what I see that “evolutionary process” is supposed to describe, I would draw the line around “environment”, “response”, and “evolutionary process”, but not anything that implies prediction, such as “goal”.

  115. Q, I don’t consider a goal to entail a prediction; a goal (in cybernetics, anyway) means using negative feedback and correction to steer toward a target. Prediction is a way to use internal modeling to shape the correction, and you are right – evolution does not do that.

  116. “Goal” as in the process of a feedback loop. Then we agree.

    (Maybe a more direct statement, and avoidance of multi-meaning words? “Goal” in my field isn’t the same as in yours, apparently :-))

  117. ID rests on the assumption that intelligent causation is emprically distinguishable from the rest of causation,

    And quite a good one.

    but this is not the case.

    It most certainly is

    Rather, it is a metaphysical speculation.

    Only if you don’t know what metaphysics is.

  118. Tribune7,
    If you’d like to support your view, simply tell us how one can empirically distinguish intelligent causation from other types of causation. Otherwise, I’m afraid my statements stand uncontested here.

  119. If you’d like to support your view, simply tell us how one can empirically distinguish intelligent causation from other types of causation.

    There are things of known design. They share commonalities that can be measured objectively — CSI, as you note back in post 104, would be an example. If an object has CSI, objectively measured, we can presume design.

  120. Tribune7,

    There are things of known design. They share commonalities that can be measured objectively — CSI, as you note back in post 104, would be an example. If an object has CSI, objectively measured, we can presume design.

    I think you are using the word “design” here to mean “caused by intelligence”. Is that right?

    If so, I presume by the word “intelligence” here you are referring to something with the mental attributes of human beings? Such as, perhaps, the ability to make choices freely, and the experience of consciousness?

    If I have your definitions wrong, please correct me.

    Otherwise, perhaps you can see the problem. The notion that anything, including human beings, can make choices “freely” (independent of antecedent physical cause) is a philosophical conjecture, not an empirical fact.
    And since we do not have a scientific understanding of consciousness, there is no scientific way to evaluate the proposition that everything which creates CSI must necessarily be conscious.

  121. I think you are using the word “design” here to mean “caused by intelligence”. Is that right?

    Yes

    If so, I presume by the word “intelligence” here you are referring to something with the mental attributes of human beings? Such as, perhaps, the ability to make choices freely, and the experience of consciousness?

    Capable of creativity would probably be closer to what I meant — i.e bringing into existence, generating things unknown, planning.

    The notion that anything, including human beings, can make choices “freely” (independent of antecedent physical cause) is a philosophical conjecture, not an empirical fact.

    If you claim intelligence requires the ability to choose freely and you say it can’t be established that one (human beings) can choose freely, then you are claiming that it can’t be established that intelligence exists.

    Which would mean science can’t exist. Or even this board.

    Which I’d grant is a metaphysical argument, but a rather silly one.

    Regardless, presuming intelligence exists and design occurs, design can be detected empirically hence ID is science.

  122. tribune,

    Capable of creativity would probably be closer to what I meant — i.e bringing into existence, generating things unknown, planning.
    I think “capable of creativity” and “bringing into existence” and “generating things unknown” are all far too vague, and therefore untestable, to ever use as a scientific definition. The concept of planning using foresight, however, can be given a testable and distinct meaning, so let’s look at that.

    Of course unconscious machines can plan, however – when you mail a package by FedEx there is no human intelligence involved in planning its route; rather, it is a machine intelligence that does it. So are you content to agree that intelligence is something that can apply to a deterministic, physical, mechanical device?

    (Before you reply something along the lines of “But a human programmer created the machines that plan FedEx routes!” please think about what sort of argument you are trying to make – what is the point of mentioning the origin of that intelligence? Need we know the origin of something to determine if it is intelligent? Do you wish to change your definition of “intelligence” to be something like “something that can plan, but also it can’t have been created by a human”?)

    If you claim intelligence requires the ability to choose freely and you say it can’t be established that one (human beings) can choose freely, then you are claiming that it can’t be established that intelligence exists.
    No, not at all. I am saying that the sort of meaning you wish to give to the word “intelligence” in the context of ID cannot be verified in the context of ID. The term “intelligence” is given all sorts of different scientific (operationalized) meanings in human and comparative psychology, of course, and we all use the word in informal, unscientific ways as well.

    Regardless, presuming intelligence exists and design occurs, design can be detected empirically hence ID is science.
    No, you’ll still need to come up with an empirically-grounded definition of “intelligence”.

  123. I think “capable of creativity” and “bringing into existence” and “generating things unknown” are all far too vague, and therefore untestable, to ever use as a scientific definition.

    Is “capable of creativity” a true concept?

    (Before you reply something along the lines of “But a human programmer created the machines that plan FedEx routes!” please think about what sort of argument you are trying to make – what is the point of mentioning the origin of that intelligence?

    That the machine does not have intelligence. It does not plan (nor does it freely choose for that matter).

    Need we know the origin of something to determine if it is intelligent?

    No. But looking at the software behind the FedEx computers you would be able to determine that it is intelligently designed.

    I am saying that the sort of meaning you wish to give to the word “intelligence” in the context of ID cannot be verified in the context of ID.

    Design exist. It’s an indisputable reality. It’s axiomatic. ID — and I guess you can make the case that the phrase is a redundancy — is basically a methodological, objective, testable way of seeking design. It is not metaphysical in the least.

  124. AIG:

    Overnight, I got brushfires and deadlines and major player stakeholders breathing down my neck on a major project that has erupted into possible opening stages of a stakeholders war. (I’m sure that is a very familiar thing for you . . . and it is why I believe in old von Moltke the elder’s premise that Erwin Rommel turned into an art form: no plan survives first contact with the enemy . . .])

    So, I don’t have much time for now.

    I will comment on your remark in 113:

    It is pointless to entertain the notion that our minds are not reliable, since if it is true, we will not know it.

    Notice, please, the full context of what I had actually said in 110, cleaning up that nasty “tot he” that spell checks won’t fix — now there is a real useful possible application for AI! — and which dyslexics like me [differently wired front end i/o processor optimised for visual spatial not linear verbal; why Einstein "saw" before he worked out on paper . . . ] often don’t spot till it’s too late:

    We know and rely on our minds, to get to the level we are at. So, the reliability of the minds we have is a datum [i.e. empirically anchored fact], what is to be explained, and is more reliable than our explanations: solidly credible facts count for far more than explanatory constructs such as theories, models and worldviews!

    But, evo mat, a phil that often hides under the lab coats of science, is dynamically impotent to achieve such, on grounds outlined in 106 supra. Thus, it is self-undermining and logically incoherent.

    In short I am starting from the indisputable fact that we find our minds reliable and useful in an intelligible world — which BTW traces to the significance of a theism based premise on which modern sci was launched — and demanding: what BEST explains that.

    The answer, as 106 supra discusses, does not come up: EVO MAT.

    In short, we have minds, minds that do not fit the materialist view of he world — even though at present we have not got a clue as to how the mind interacts with the front-end i/o processor, though we have a much better idea [often very reverse-engineerable] of how that i/o processor interacts with the sensors and actuators on real-world plants, such as the keyboard I am pounding away at just now.

    Indeed, note how in control system architectures, we have controllers feeding forward to actuators that act on plants, and sampled outputs are looped back from output monitoring to secondary inputs to the controller for comparison and error correction.

    BUT THE TARGET FOR THE SYSTEM IS SET BY THE PRIMARY INPUT, WHICH IS PURPOSIVE AND GOAL-DIRECTED.

    That is where mind often enters the system . . . e.g the very sophisticated, precise multi-dimentional parallel input parallel output servosystems that govern my typing hands, to give rise to the FSCI of this blog post comment!

    Which is message, not lucky noise, nor is it the product of just the voltages and linkages and ion gradients in my neurons: those are just the physical mechanisms for something else, something much bigger and more important than that.

    That is why, IMHCO, Sir Francis Crick is so patently absurd — he is misreading the chemical-electrical signalling activity of an i/o processor [which only expresses and processes in physical analogue form what has a MEANING that is defined elsewhere] for the originator of the primary inputs!

    GEM of TKI

  125. Sorry folks, first try gave a blank:

    The first try gave a blank . . .

    PS: note how Here is an interesting system diagram for a MIAC, which captures some of what I am thinking on. [BTW, do you see where my hopes for meeting R Daneel's early "ancestors" lie . . .? (And I here allude to Berra's blunder on the evolution of the Corvette, and the intelligent design that underlay that evolution.)]

  126. Tribune7,

    Design exist. It’s an indisputable reality. It’s axiomatic. ID — and I guess you can make the case that the phrase is a redundancy — is basically a methodological, objective, testable way of seeking design. It is not metaphysical in the least.
    I’ve made my arguments and I do not see that you’ve responded to them; I fear we must agree to disagree at this point. Cheers.

  127. Kairosfocus,

    In short I am starting from the indisputable fact that we find our minds reliable and useful…
    Ok, yes, I agree we have great reason to accept our minds as reliable and useful…

    … in an intelligible world … what BEST explains that.
    I think evolution does, BUT I WILL NOT ARGUE THAT. In any event, minds are reliable, and let’s say we don’t know why. So what? Just another question to answer, and it doesn’t alter the fact that ID rests upon premises that can’t be ascertained empirically (i.e. dualism and free will).

    In short, we have minds, minds that do not fit the materialist view of he world..
    Sorry but I missed the reason that the unexplained reasonableness of minds is contrary to materialism, even if it is contrary to evolution.

    …Which is message, not lucky noise,…
    I agree – message, and not lucky noise…

    … nor is it the product of just the voltages and linkages and ion gradients in my neurons: those are just the physical mechanisms for something else, something much bigger and more important than that.
    This is metaphysical speculation. Others disagree, and we can’t resolve the issue by appeal to observations.

  128. AIG:

    On my way back to bed, with rain in the background.

    Just a quick pickup:

    GEM: THE TARGET FOR THE SYSTEM IS SET BY THE PRIMARY INPUT, WHICH IS PURPOSIVE AND GOAL-DIRECTED.

    That is where mind often enters the system . . . e.g the very sophisticated, precise multi-dimentional parallel input parallel output servosystems that govern my typing hands, to give rise to the FSCI of this blog post comment!

    Which is message, not lucky noise, nor is it the product of just the voltages and linkages and ion gradients in my neurons: those are just the physical mechanisms for something else, something much bigger and more important than that.

    That is why, IMHCO, Sir Francis Crick is so patently absurd — he is misreading the chemical-electrical signalling activity of an i/o processor [which only expresses and processes in physical analogue form what has a MEANING that is defined elsewhere] for the originator of the primary inputs!

    AIG: This is metaphysical speculation. Others disagree, and we can’t resolve the issue by appeal to observations.

    But AIG, signal voltages and ion gradients and pulse frequencies, are meaningless in themselves.

    It is modulation and/or coding schemes that give them meaning. These are — on 100+ years of observation — mental, semiotic contstructs that are physically expressed. Indeed, 2.0 V = T, 0.7 V = F in a TTL gate in a controller is not inherent to the work done per unit charge moved between specified points in the electrical environment. [Onlookers, that is a definition of potential difference in electricity, aka "voltage."]

    Recall, too, how I used to introduce the generic comms system model as is in Fig 1 my always linked, then use instantiations of the mathematical and physical operations to shoo how they were givgen concrete reality.

    The same holds for signals in control systems, which embed the abstract comms system as subsystems: meaning is applied to physical variables, i.e signals, which are passed between the key elements in the controller. The meaning is not inherent to the signals or to the device physics of he components. it is again a designed construct where the physical variable is an analogue that expresses a meaningful construct relevant to the operation of the system.

    Just think of how you would design an op amp integrator, and what he rail voltages, RC values, pot settings and switches etc do to the process of integration of input signals. Add in the CRO that allows you to visualise the outputs and inputs as signals on a screen: use a classic old fashioned analogue storage scope, preferably one by good old Tektronix or Telequipment [which as I recall Tek bought out years ago].

    Then, think about the discrete state, digital filter version that you could implement in hardware and/or software, and display on a screen, whether one of these fancy LCD displays ort even a modern day digital scope makes no real difference. BTW, I still love and deeply miss my old Test Lab test bench Tek 465 100 MHz analogue CRO!

    Then, think about the onward differential equation capturing system dynamics that the integrators etc are solving. Then think about how you are going to use the result of the simulation in a design situation or even to analyse say an economy or whatever. [Onlookers, Differential Equations rule!]

    The mental is going on beneath and around the physical, and gives it meaning.

    GEM of TKI

  129. AIG–OK, what would it take to make you accept that design and intelligence are realities?

  130. kairosfocus, tribune7 –

    Ah, too much writing! I would ask you to please join “Deep Blue Never Is” at post 93 to see what I think ID needs to do in order to make its claim an empirically grounded proposition.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-162484

    thanks

  131. aiguy (113, 115): “the goal of evolution is always to find the genotype that will reproduce most efficiently in a given niche, yes? …a goal (in cybernetics, anyway) means using negative feedback and correction to steer toward a target.”

    Darwinian evolution does not “steer toward a target.” “Goal,” “steering,” and “target” are all teleological. Use of such language is innacurate and misleading when discussing Darwinian evolution.

    Also, “efficiency of reproduction” doesn’t necessarily mean anything, and so is unhelpful.

    Richard Lewontin, in his essay “Four Complications in Understanding the Evolutionary Process”:

    [I]t is not entirely clear what fitness is. Darwin took the metaphorical sense of fitness literally. The natural properties of different types resulted in their differential “fit” into the environment in which they lived. The better the fit to the environment the more likely they were to survive and the greater their rate of reproduction. This differential rate of reproduction would then result in a change of abundance of the different types.

    In modern evolutionary theory, however, “fitness” is no longer a characterization of the relation of the organism to the environment that leads to reproductive consequences, but is meant to be a quantitative expression of the differential reproductive schedules themselves. Darwin’s sense of fit has been completely bypassed.

    But…what does it mean to say that a type with one set of natural properties is more reproductively fit than another? … [S]ome theorists…equate fitness with outcome. If a type increases in a population then it is, by definition, more fit. But this suffers from two difficulties. First, it does not distinguish random changes in frequencies in finite populations from changes that are a consequence of different biological properties. Finally, it destroys any use of differential fitness as an explanation of change. It simply affirms that types change in frequency. But we already knew that.

    Darwinian theory has been called a tautology for good reason. (“The survirors are those that survive.”) — And a tautology doesn’t explain anything.

  132. j, in 132, mentions “Darwinian evolution does not “steer toward a target.” “Goal,” “steering,” and “target” are all teleological. ”

    When cast in the model of a feedback system, that simple statement fails to represent the theory.

    Let’s start with a mutation that occurs in an environment. That environment represents a fitness landscape.

    The target is survability of the mutation or elimination of the mutation. Target, in the sense that there is a distribution to the process – survivability and reproduction or no survivability and no reproduction. The interesting cases are for the non-nuetral mutations, in which there is a bimodal target. (Target in the feedback process does NOT mean a pre-defined objective. It just means that the results of the mutation will tend towards some resulting survivability.)

    The fitness of the mutation against the landscape will steer the organism towards more or less reproduction.

    In the feedback process, the goal can be understood as the new target once the feedback from the fitness lanscape is input to the reproduction process. (Again, Goal in a feedback process wouldn’t mean a pre-defined objective. If anything, it becomes a post hoc revision towards a refined target. I think the word “revised target” would be better, however.)

    The theory, using the feedback process, does say that the reproductiveness of a mutation will be steered towards the target of more or less reproduction by how well it fits in the environment.

    j, says “Darwinian theory has been called a tautology for good reason. (”The survirors are those that survive.”)”

    That is an unfair characterisation of the theory. The theory includes elements of variation and a feedback process. If anyting, it says survivors will be those that fit their environment.

  133. [...]  So far so good.  This is pretty much the same way I defined “fact” just a few days ago in Epistemology.  It’s What You Know.  [...]

  134. —–Aiguy: I only have time to approach the overall texture of your argument. As was the case a few days ago, I will not be back for quite a while.

    Traditional philosophy builds on the ontological notion of theism or “metaphysical dualism,” which allows for a composite notion of reality consisting of an upper spiritual and a lower material realm. In many of your arguments, you seem to borrow from the upper realm to make the lower realm plausible, while acknowledging only the existence lower realm. This is especially true when you discuss the subject of the “mind” and its role. In fact, dualism posits a rational mind “separate from,” though interdependent with, the brain. We have good reason to believe in a mind separate from matter for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the “placebo effect.” Only if the mind is separate from the brain can it extricate itself from the physical laws of cause and effect that the brain is subject to. In other words, the minds ability to overrule the brain’s impulses depends on its being in a separate realm from the brain.

    Materialism, on the other hand, posits only a brain, or a mind “grounded in the brain.” The latter notion characterizes minds as something that “emerged” from the material realm and entered into some twilight zone between spirit and matter—an impossible middle realm in which the mind is both separate from and grounded in matter. There is no such thing as spirit grounded in matter, nor is there a mid-point between the two realms. Somehow you seem to believe that our ignorance about “energy” or “quantum probability waves,” justifies the notion that they ought to be removed from the materialistic paradigm and placed in some nobler category—but you do not provide the category.

    You also argue that the world came out of nowhere, but your rationale for this claim is a strange one indeed. In keeping with this theme, you insist that the notion of spontaneous generation is the rational equivalent of concept of an omnipotent creator. But they are not rational equivalents. Spontaneous generation (materialism) violates the principle of “infinite regress,” while theism (dualism) model confronts it, albeit without fully explaining it. Thus, materialism leads to contradiction, a logical difficulty which cannot be resolved, while theism leads to a paradox, an apparent contradiction which at least holds the potential for resolution. Equally unlikely, “neutral monism” argues for rational minds which are grounded in matter while performing functions that can only be acomplished separate from matter (another contradiction).

    ——-So, you write, “I think ID proponents need to stop using “materialist” as an all-purpose epithet, synonymous with atheist, evolutionist, liberal, moron and other terms that are completely orthogonal to materialism.”

    I think that materialists should stop using weasel-words like “emergence” and “neutral monism” to camoflage their materialism. Materialism for all its faults, does at least exhibit the virtues of clarity and precision, allowing any reasonable person to discover its self contradictory nature. Materialism’s euphemisms exhibit no such virtue, as their only function is to hide in a semantic fog for the sole purpose of escaping detection for as long as possible. If you want to argue as a materialist, then do it; but do hold yourself accountable to its limitations as well, and avoid the irrational playground of the excluded middle.

  135. Q:

    Re:

    When cast in the model of a feedback system, that simple statement fails to represent the theory . . . . Let’s start with a mutation that occurs in an environment. That environment represents a fitness landscape. The target is survability of the mutation or elimination of the mutation. Target, in the sense that there is a distribution to the process – survivability and reproduction or no survivability and no reproduction . . . . The fitness of the mutation against the landscape will steer the organism towards more or less reproduction.

    FYI, first: Feedback control systems have to be carefully tuned and are as a rule designed by experts, using components that are themselves highly complex and functionally specific. For instance, a servosystem actuator or a PID controller or a position sensor are not likely to be just lying around in the spontaneous natural environment.

    Going on to to your hill-climbing by natural selection example, you are missing the vital issue of the vastness of the relevant config spaces: well beyond the probabilistic resources of the observable universe, much less those of this one small planet.

    To see my point think about a vast ocean that dwarfs the Pacific by far and away. In it there are a relatively few far-scattered, relatively speaking small islands. To climb the hills and pick the fruit on these islands, you first have to find them before your randomly drifting life-raft runs out of resources and you starve to death.

    For instance, DNA in functioning life forms is credibly at least 30 – 500,000, and the body plan innovations of the Cambrian credibly required on the order of 100 million bases, and that dozens of times over.

    4^300,000 >> 10^150 to 10^ 300, which is all we need to swamp out the islands of functionality in an ocean of non-functional configurations; and 4^ 100 millions is even vastly more beyond that.

    But we know that agents break through the UPB bartrier all the trime, as they are able to intelligently think though the purpose involved, the forces, materials and structures that can be used to implement the intent, and then can get us to the shores of the relevant island of functionality. Mind is like an engine and a vastly capable radar on your boat, that can pick up the island and allow you tro head directly to it.

    Then a bit of quick hill-climbing reaches to the juicy life-sustaining fruit: here, standing in for more efficient and effective functionality.

    This is a matter of routine observation of how information rich functional technologies evolve, cf. for instance TRIZ . . . or the classic case of Berra’s blunder, in which he did not see that while indeed one can make out a time-based evolutionary sequence of Corvettes, each of them exhibits a key common factor: they were intelligently designed and adapted to an evolving state of technology and to meet ever-shifting consumer tastes and preferences.

    So, understand the challenge we again put to you — and BTW I endorse Steve B’s similar challenge on your thinking on the mind (save that I think that some paradoxes are about wonder not apparent contradiction . . .i.e they expose our inadequacy of concepts; indeed I think that true mind is a self-evident truth: reject it and you end up in a morass of logical absurdities, accept it and you see the wondrous nature of a world that is more than the merely material and its empirically based, logically deducible or inferrable emergent properties] — i.e.:

    Kindly show us empirical examples — observed by us — where lucky noise and the forces of nature acting on spontaneous or plausibly spontaneous configurations of matter and energy, have given rise de novo to functionally specified, information-bearing complex systems in the beyond 10^150 – 10^300 configurations in the relevant config space.

    Until this is answered cogently, we are looking as so many irrelevant arguments.

    GEM of TKI

  136. Q,

    Use of “goal,” “steer,” and “target” is an inapppropriate co-opting of terms that are inherently teleological for a process that is supposed to be nonteleological.

    There are many better, more suitable words that can be used. For example, instead of “target,” try “outcome.” It makes much more sense when substituted into what you wrote:

    “The outcome will be survability of the mutation or elimination of the mutation. Outcome, in the sense that there is a distribution to the process – survivability and reproduction or no survivability and no reproduction. The interesting cases are for the non-nuetral mutations, in which there is a bimodal outcome. (Outcome in the feedback process … just means that the results of the mutation will be some resulting survivability.)”

    The fitness of the mutation against the landscape will result in either more or less reproduction [of the organism].

    “The survivors are those that survive.”

    Q: That is an unfair characterisation of the theory. The theory includes elements of variation and a feedback process. If anyting, it says survivors will be those that fit their environment.

    Imagine if someone was asked to analyze the sales of automobiles, and replied, “Those vehicles that fit their markets are the ones that are successful.” This alone doesn’t give any insight into what makes a vehicle successful, or how to change it. There are millions of ways in which the vehicle could be changed and be either more or less successful due to the change. — The probability of less success is, of course, vastly greater if the changes are made at random.
    __________

    J.B.S. Haldane (1935):

    “[T]he phrase, ‘survival of the fittest,’ is something of a tautology. So are most mathematical theorems. There is no harm in saying the same truth in two different ways.”

  137. —–j writes, “Use of “goal,” “steer,” and “target” is an inapppropriate co-opting of terms that are inherently teleological for a process that is supposed to be nonteleological.”

    —–”There are many better, more suitable words that can be used. For example, instead of “target,” try “outcome.” It makes much more sense when substituted into what you wrote:”

    This is an excellent point. Is it also not fair to fair to say that, inasmuch as Darwinistic evolution cannot “plan with an END IN MIND,” it is not really planning at all?

    It seems that Darwinists use the term plan to create the illusion that the process is somehow being directed, when in fact, the environment to which the organism “adapts,” is equally clueless about where it is going, and thefore cannot “direct” anything at all.

    In other words, to adapt is not necessarily to plan. The organism does not “read” the environment and make changes based on feedback in the same way a pilot reads signals and makes calculated adjustments. Much less does it have a “destination.”

    It would seem that the mindless adaptation involved in RV+NS is not nearly so noble a thing as that.

  138. j points out in 137, “This alone doesn’t give any insight into what makes a vehicle successful, or how to change it.”

    True, but it does give other insights. Such as, we can see that the will of the automobile engineer isn’t sufficient to assure survival of a model of vehicle. Feedback from the marketplace occurs, and is essential to the process of making the product succeed in the market. In other words, survival of the model doesn’t just happen.

    Oh yeah, I agree with you that words shouldn’t be co-opted as they are. But they are. So, greater explanations are needed when people from disparate backgrounds assemble at a website, and each brings their tools-of-the-trade to bear. However, it isn’t the words that are the real concern, as they are simply a medium of transmitting concepts. I wasn’t keen on aiguy’s terms either, but I’m not in his specific field, so checked on what he meant, back in posts 112, 114 and 116. Your rewrite of what I posted works quite nicely, too.

  139. StephenB: It seems that Darwinists use the term plan to create the illusion that the process is somehow being directed, when in fact, the environment to which the organism “adapts,” is equally clueless about where it is going, and thefore cannot “direct” anything at all.

    When do they use the word “plan”?

    Use of teleological terms for describing (nonteleological) Darwinian evolution tends to make it seem more believable than it otherwise would be. It’s difficult to believe that it wasn’t a sly rhetorical ploy when Darwin did it (“natural selection,” “competition”).

    Q: …the will of the automobile engineer isn’t sufficient to assure survival of a model of vehicle. Feedback from the marketplace occurs, and is essential to the process of making the product succeed in the market. In other words, survival of the model doesn’t just happen.

    Agreed. There are many ways to significantly increase chances of success: use of focus groups, analysis of market trends, analysis of customer complaints, etc. — All teleological.

    Q: …it isn’t the words that are the real concern, as they are simply a medium of transmitting concepts.

    I’m usually pretty flexible in accepting various words for the same idea. But in this case, I think they’re a real concern because of the rhetorical implications, per my reply to StephenB.

  140. j, in 140 said “There are many ways to significantly increase chances of success: use of focus groups, analysis of market trends, analysis of customer complaints, etc. — All teleological.”

    j, I think you are over-extendinng the claim of “All teleological” with regards to feedback processes. Please help me to understand what you mean with that summary statement. My understanding of that concept, in a nutshell, is that teleological implies that something results through direction, purpose, etc. Implicit in this is the assumption, as I undestand it, that some intelligence is behind the process.

    A feedback loop, however, is a different means to provide direction. It doesn’t require intelligence, so I don’t think “teleological” is a safe summary for describing all feedback loops.

    For instance, I mentioned “feedback from the marketplace”. That does not only entail people’s messages, as with focus groups, customer complaints, etc. It also includes non-intelligent feedback, like the environmental influences you would get from marketing snowmobiles into a desert market, selling electric vehicles into the third world, or using raw rubber for tires in any market. The environmentally-induced feedback into the marketing process can cause those products to fail in the marketplace, independently of the direction of the producer or the consumer.

    By analogy the same holds that there will be at least a few environmental situations that provide blind feedback to biological processes, i.e. that are neigher tautological or teleological.

    j, in 140, mentioned “I think they’re a real concern because of the rhetorical implications, per my reply to StephenB.”
    Agreed.

  141. “Teleology” comes from the Greek word for “end” — telos. Thus, teleological processes are those that are done, or implemented, with an end (i.e., a goal) in sight — in other words, for a purpose.

    “All teleological” refers to the various ways of improving the chances of success in the marketplace. All involve a person or persons first deciding that the goal of improving upon an existing product is a worthwhile pursuit, and then utilizing the listed methods.

    You’re right that feedback loops can provide “direction” in a purely mechanical way. But the setpoint of a feedback loop has to come from somewhere. In the case of control systems, e.g., a thermostat, the setpoint is chosen by a person — an intelligent agent — either directly (e.g., by setting a dial by hand) or indirectly (e.g., by programming an HVAC system for a diurnal cycle, etc.).

    As for “non-intelligent feedback”, I really don’t see those you list being very helpful for product design. The information provided is too coarse (and to an intelligent human, obvious). In essence, they’re regions of immediate death. What’s needed is finer-grained information from regions of relative success. Plus, the classification of things according to categories such as climate type and sociopolitical status requires intelligence.

    According to Darwinian theory, the “setpoints” of biological evolution are supposed to be established by the randomly varying environment. These would, indeed, be nonteleological. That this could account for variation of already existing features (microevolutionary changes) is uncontroversial. But is it sufficient to account for macroevolutionary changes — the introduction of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans? There’s no evidence-based reason to believe that this so.

    “Survival of the fittest” is tautological because what constitutes fitness depends on what variations occur. It’s only after the fact that one can say, “That’s it’s it. That’s what the fittest is.” The fittest are the ones that survive, and vice versa. It’s a practical tautology, due to the complexity of the system. But if the system was simple enough to avoid this, then it would be trivial, and certainly incapable of generating “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful.” It’s a Catch-22. For Darwinian evolution to be what it’s supposed to be, it needs to entail this tautology — but, in the words of Karl Popper, “the explanatory power of a tautology is obviously zero.”

  142. Okay . . . :

    It seems that pace my just posted, there is life through exchange on both sides in this thread yet.

    I draw attention of all to the comment I just made at no 142 in the Big Blue thread. For I believe it gives us a conceptual context to address many of the underlying challenges here, too.

    GEM of TKI

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