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Leibniz: “machines of nature” >> “all artificial automata”

{Frost122585and Gerry Rzeppa started an interesting off topic train of thought on Leibniz and design of “machines of nature” vs “artificial automata” that is worth its own thread. I copied those posts below and will delete the others. DLH}
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Frost122585
In Leibniz’s Monadology he talks about the difference between man made art and the art of God- which for me creates a very interesting problem for ID- one that could if described and understood correctly – lead to an even better understanding of Design in nature-

“Thus the organic body of each living being is a kind of divine machine or natural automaton, which infinitely surpasses all artificial automata. For a machine made by the skill of man is not a machine in each of its parts. For instance, the tooth of a brass wheel has parts or fragments which for us are not artificial products, and which do not have the special characteristics of the machine, for they give no indication of the use for which the wheel was intended. But the machines of nature, namely, living bodies, are still machines in their smallest parts ad infinitum. It is this that constitutes the difference between nature and art, that is to say, between the divine art and ours.”


Here Leibniz is talking about the imperfection of things designed by man in comparison with the perfection of the design by God.

His argument would only grow stronger supported by today’s incredibly deep understanding of the human genome and the miniature machines that are derived from it that often display efficiency beyond anything human beings can design at the present.

The question is if Leibniz’s observation is correct and universally true than what can the imperfect design of man in comparison with the divine works of God tell us about what we can expect when making predictions about not only the evolutionary future of living things but also the limits of human design ability?
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Gerry Rzeppa
“But the machines of nature, namely, living bodies, are still machines in their smallest parts ad infinitum. It is this that constitutes the difference between nature and art, that is to say, between the divine art and ours.”

Then I would say that one of the closest analogies to “the art of God” we have is found in computer programs, where each of the routines calls upon “lesser” routines, “ad infinitum”.
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Gerry Rzeppa
And that nobody has ever seen a working computer program that wasn’t designed.
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Frost122585
Gerry,
Interesting point- I think we have a reflection there but if the original program and machine is human made- and considering NFL theorems which seem also to point right back at Leibniz’s observations- I would say that there should be some other property that cannot be witnessed in the computer world- or the human design world.

The reason is that Leibniz’s point is that nature is NOT like God in that that God is universal and indivisible-

Perhaps the computer analogy can be inferred to fit the Leibniz picture but saying that as man is only like God but not complete- the computer software is thus not like man- that is it more divisible than man or at least not more complete then man is.

It makes sense because the basic axioms that form the complexity of the programs come from a mind (ours) which is as Gödel proved beyond formalization. I might add that incidentally Turing actually showed this was true for computers especially -> but Turing believed that man and the computer both were alike in their incompleteness.

My point is that if man’s incompleteness is like the computer’s then it is just a matter of degree- but I think that the difference between the computer and man is not just mathematically quantitative but mechanistically or substantively qualitative (that is as quality can be substance). I am just trying to find out how to define that quality.

This is closely related tot he specificity part in Dembski’s SC. That is how do we conceptually recognize the qualitative properties which form the sense or shape of specificity.

Work in this division of ID is seriously needed and could philosophically prove to be the final nail in the coffin for DE.

I might add that Leibniz believed that language itself should be both quantitative and qualitative as to match not just the sequence of logical steps that thought requires but also the shape or quality of the thought itself. Leibniz believed in a language that was like super hieroglyphics that he called Characteristica Universalis.

In his mind this is crudely and experimentally what it might look like

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:CU.jpg

Leibniz was a genius IMOP afterall he did discover the calculas (though at the same time as Newton from what a gather)- i can see why Godel thought that there was a conspiracy to hide Leibniz’s knowledge from the world-
would make a good movie anyways.
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Gerry Rzeppa
“I would say that there should be some other property that cannot be witnessed in the computer world- or the human design world.” – Frost

I agree. I only meant to say that we can gain insights into our Creator as we exercise His creative image of in us, with each of our activities providing different but complementary intuitions. Whenever we program, write, compose, draw, build, bake – in fact, whenever we “plan our work and work our plan” – we get a fresh perspective on the Mind of the Maker.

Regarding matters of degree, I’m personally persuaded that there are indeed radical qualitative differences in kind between species (and, of course, between contingent men and their self-existent and eternal Creator). I picture each of the “shared” properties of beings as a staircase – rather than an inclined plane – with insurmountable vertical barriers between the steps. The kind of consiousness possessed by a dog, for example, may appear on the same set of stairs as a human’s consciousness, but it does not, and never shall, appear on the same step.
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Frost122585
I think I know what it could be- read Leibniz here…

84. It is this that enables spirits [or minds- esprits] to enter into a kind of fellowship with God, and brings it about that in relation to them He is not only what an inventor is to his machine (which is the relation of God to other created things), but also what a prince is to his subjects, and, indeed, what a father is to his children.

Here we see that we are the mirror image of God and that allows us to common with him. Perhaps the relationship between the soul and computers is what is lacking in the analogy. Computer according to the intuition, do not have souls- and therefore are not free to understand the intimate or spiritual element of man. This again leads us back to the question of “quality” and how we can formally perceive it. I think that the soul is not something that man can create. For the physical and logically or intellectual knowledge that goes into the design of a computer and its programs is merely altered matter and a second pressing of information originally conceived of by man- that is the computer cant design itself. But the matter that both computer and man share is not the same as the soul because the soul is not merely physical- it cannot be altered and therefore cannot be designed except for by the creator- that is it must be created and man cannot create he can only design.

Perhaps evidence of the souls infinity and indivisibleness is seen in the quantum vacuum that begins before the big bang- something is needed that is greater than matter to create and design it- but man does not posses this quality but posses the ability to perceive it as the soul is the mirror image of God’s infinity- the computer therefore cannot.
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Frost122585
The difference between men and animals is that they cannot precieve God or the creator. They have no contact with the divine and that is why man and only man is created in Gods image- because knows of the highest planes of thought such as the infinite- he knows of himself- “I think therefore I am.”
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Gerry Rzeppa
“[God] is not only what an inventor is to his machine (which is the relation of God to other created things), but also what a prince is to his subjects, and, indeed, what a father is to his children.”

I agree again. It is not only when we make things that we gain insights into our God, but also when we befriend, marry, beget, parent, rule, etc.

It is sad that materialists, with their bottom-up view of everything, exclude themselves from every possible insight of this kind.

“Gödel proved anything that is formalized by man will be incomplete…”

And, by inference, that any system can only be fully understood from “one level up”. Men may one day fully understand animals, but animals will never fully understand even themselves.

Curiously, the Apostle suggests that one day we will fully understand not just that which is beneath us, but ourselves as well. As mere men I think my inference from Godel says “impossible”; but “in Christ”, it seems, we gain insights into ourselves that are otherwise unavailable to us. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”, 1 Cor 13:12. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God”, Luke 18:27.

I think the Christian doctrine of the Trinity also sheds some light here – even the Almighty, to understand Himself, requires something as close to “other” as unity can get. Mysterious stuff.

“…intuition is the ultimate source of knowing…

So much for the “scientific method”! But I agree.

“…and that it is not something that we can pass on to something beneath us.”

Again, I agree. The only thing in the natural world big enough to hold an iota of intuition is the mind of man.

Thanks for the Leibniz quotes. I’m going to study him further.
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Frost122585
Yeah, Leibniz is amazing- I went to the local library and checked out all the books on his personal writings- 6 books- about 15,000 pages- i will read all of them- in fact i am currently borrowing a copy of the tractatus and am probably gonna skip reading it for now.

I think Leibniz and Kant are the two greatest geniuses that I have seen- Newton is very interesting as well though.

I began reading him because I just finished 2 books on Kurt Gödel and a book containing his actual incompleteness theorem. In two of the books it talked about a conspiracy regarding Gödel and his belief that Leibniz was being edited by an intelligentsia to keep the world dumb-

So me being a lover of well thought out conspiracy theories thought _ “Gödel was nuts- no doubt about that- but still why would one of the greatest minds attribute such a conspiracy to Leibniz? The answer is clear ot me now- Leibniz had an absolutely amazing mind.” Once again, this would make a great movie!

In fact Leibniz wrote so many letters and papers that a lot of his work is yet to be published. Gödel was particularly suspect of Leibniz’s Characteristica Universalis – his pictorial language – because Gödel thought hat he would have developed the idea much more then the documents had read-

Everything is intriguing—

I don’t think the library is getting these books back! Which is maybe why his works seemed missing to Godel- that is everyone that reads them – keeps them!
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52 Responses to Leibniz: “machines of nature” >> “all artificial automata”

  1. Thanks for giving my train of thought a little spot light DHL! I really hope that others will participate and enjoy. Leibniz is really underated in the mainstream-he is to me more interesting than Leonardo De Vinci- and given De Vinci’s genius and cult status, that is saying a lot.

  2. Thanks for the “promotion”, DLH.

    Allow me to focus the discussion by describing a simple but revealing experiment regarding free will, memory, consciousness, and emotions.

    A while back I wrote a program that would draw simple landscapes. The first version was entirely deterministic: I knew exactly what shape the horizon would take, where the sun would appear, how many birds would adorn the sky, etc. It produced acceptable drawings, but was too predictable to be interesting. Just a machine.

    The next version was entirely random in its workings: I let the program decide what to draw and where to draw it, and really had no idea what it would produce. Almost every drawing it rendered was tasteless nonsense. A broken machine.

    The third version was a combination of the two – deterministic enough to stay within reasonable bounds (horizon somewhere near the middle of the page, no more than five birds at time) yet “free” enough to produce original works that I could not predict, even though I wrote every line of the code. Most of the time this version performed reasonably well, and now and then it drew something so striking that I would print it off and hang it on the wall.

    To this third version I added additional routines so the program could make a record of its activities for later recall (“I’ve drawn seven pictures today”); to describe, in real time, what it was doing (“I think I’ll put the sun over here”); and to get tired after so many renditions and refuse to draw (“Ask me later; I’m sick of drawing pictures”).

    I enjoyed creating this program, and to this day I enjoy running it.

    Questions:

    1. The program makes decisions on its own: Does it have a will?

    2. The program can tell us what it has done: Does it remember?

    3. The program is aware of what it is doing: Is it conscious?

    4. The program gets weary: Does it have emotions?

  3. No, no, no, and no. The computer is just a mechanistic device that is not conscious of its surroundings or its origins- and the computer cannot conceptualize the infinite- you can program an infinite like algorithm but the concept of anything qualitative like infinity or benevolence is not a communicable- it has nothing to do with mathematics and counting-

    The computer is a slave of the human who is its designer- The human has unpredictable or free will- but the computer is already programmed-

    Moreover the computer could never be as intelligent as the human because as soon as we come up with a concept or program to put into the computer we have already cognized a new set of reasoning and sets that are not included in the latest and therefore the computer is merely waiting for the next set of instructions that the human experiences first. It is this experience that keeps man inevitably greater and ahead of the computer quantitatly- yet it amounts to a qualititave observation about the computers derivation and dependency on man and the differnce in experience between the two-

    Moreover since consciences is indivisible- meaning that it is greater than can be broken down into physical reality- man cannot pass it on to lifeless objects. For that would constitute a division of the spirit.

    Leibniz uses the incredible illustration of the mill…

    17. “Moreover, it must be confessed that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable on mechanical grounds, that is to say, by means of figures and motions. And supposing there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived as increased in size, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill. That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception. Thus it is in a simple substance, and not in a compound or in a machine, that perception must be sought for. Further, nothing but this (namely, perceptions and their changes) can be found in a simple substance. It is also in this alone that all the internal activities of simple substances can consist.”

    Consciences is something that we experience not deduce. Therefore there would be no reason to suppose that the computers consciousness is anything like that of man- though it is by nature not as complete. Call it “irreducible complexity of the soul.” There’s the working title for your next book O’Leary! – i.e. The Spiritual Brain.

  4. Frost -

    You know we agree in principle, but I feel compelled to play the devil’s advocate and ask you to be more specific. (For various reasons, I’m going to call my little program “Vincent” from now on.)

    First question. How does Vincent’s decision-making process differ, practically, from my own? Once I’ve taught him (as my art instructor taught me) that a horizon higher on the page tends to increase the intimacy of a drawing; and once I’ve added a precipitation sensor to his body, giving him a rudimentary awareness of his environment; and once I’ve breathed into him my own disposition to draw intimate drawings on rainy days; how — when I ask the little guy to draw and he produces a work very much like I would produce under those same circumstances, and for the very same reasons — how does Vincent’s decision-making process differ, practically, from my own?

  5. Computers totally lack common sense. One can program them to follow rules, and even to pull up pseudorandom numbers and if you have just the right generator even random numbers, but they have no ability to intuit or understand meaning. The difference is most clearly seen in language translation programs. They are useful, but a human has to take the output with a grain of salt. It is also seen in EKG interpretation programs, where a skilled clinician can often pick up mistakes that a computer makes, even though the computer can do a lot of routine analysis well. And if the computer sees something it has not seen before, it is lost, whereas a human can often figure out what is really happening by a reasoning process that is beyond the unaided computer.

    WHen Vincent can figure out art on its own, then I’ll be more tempted to consider it to have a conscious will.

  6. Paul -

    I agree with you, but again I must play the devil’s advocate and ask for a more specific response.

    Vincent “knows”, as I do, what makes a simple landscape intimate rather than spacious; he “senses”, as I do, what the weather is like; and he is “inclined”, as I am, to draw intimate works on rainy days. So how does Vincent’s decision-making process differ, practically, from my own in this particular instance?

  7. Gerry,

    Vincent did not conceive of the original idea or drawling- he merely physically facilitated the novel information that came from the mind of the human being.

    We are not connected to a higher physical intelligence- God or the immaterial designer communicates to us through the spirit- it is this spirit that in unison with them physical body produces the mind- and it is through the mind that the information is manifested in the form of physical stuff.

    Computers require a prior physical force to bring them information while people has this creativity uniquely.

    Vincent is merely moving around physical things about like a human would- but the significance of the information Vincent is unaware of. In fact even if Vincent was able to compute at a high level he still would not be able to commune with the designer of al things- God- because which concepts which comprise God like “infinity” or “universal goodness” cannot be expressed quantitatively- they are religious experiences that are inextricably linked with consciousness.

    Leibniz was saying that consciousness is something which we experience- it cannot be seen-

    The question then is how do we know that others are conscious?- and this is the mystery of the mind. How do we know things? Gödel said once that the more he thought about language – the more amazed he was that people are capable of understanding what other people are saying. Perhaps this the Holly Ghost part- something permeating which unites all children of God.

    But the point is that you cant see consciousness- yet its physical exponent is detgectible in that it is capable of producing physical novelty- somthing a computer cannot.

  8. Human beings decide for themselves what information is good- that is we have no physical master telling us what to do- we apparently have a divine spark because what else could explain our genius in comparison to the rest of the known physical world.

    Computers are just the physical manifestations of our directed thought patterns. Computers don’t know or consciously experience anything they just carry out commands. We have no known commands which we can attribute to anything higher in the physical world so we thus reason that out intellect comes from another source.

    As for the physical difference between man and computer- the computer cant come up with anything new but if you look at human evolution you will see that we are constantly evolving in different directions- new ideas that are all useful come to us mysteriously- the computer can only do what we program it to do- but man can spontaneously increase his powers-

    And with out that divine spark the computer will never be able to evolve- so I reason that the spark is nonphysical and hence the true root of our intellect comes from another non materialistic source.

  9. Well, I should probably wait for a few more responses, but I just can’t help myself. Here are the correct answers to the questions (as I understand them) and some additional facts we might surmise. Bear with me.

    1. Does Vincent have a will?

    Yes. He makes decisions on his own and therefore has a rudimentary will of some sort.

    2. Does Vincent remember?

    Yes. When he correctly says that he “drew seven pictures last Tuesday”, he’s recalling an actual fact from his own past.

    3. Is Vincent conscious?

    Yes. He is aware of what he is about to do and he knows when he’s done it.

    4. Does Vincent have emotions?

    Yes. He is sometimes tired, sometimes not, and his condition affects his actions.

    Note, nevertheless, that Vincent’s capabilities are merely congruent and not the equivalent of the corresponding capabilities in human beings. They are implemented differently, for one thing. And his will is less free but also less fickle than that of the typical human. His memory is less capacious but more exacting. His consciousness is more narrowly focused, but less easily distracted. And his moods are not as deep or rich as ours, but they are significantly more predictable.

    I do not think, as I’ve said elsewhere, that his attributes and ours are on the same inclined plane where differences are mere matters of degree. But I do think that Vincent’s capabilities and ours are on different steps of the same staircase, and that it is therefore appropriate to use words like will, memory, consciousness, and emotion to describe them.

    But let’s agree on all that — if only for a moment — so we can get to the important part: specifically, the insights this experiment might provide into our own situation in the universe.

    Clearly:

    1. Vincent’s body and soul, like ours, was intelligently designed and implemented by someone greater than himself; they did not “emerge” or “arise” from any combination of natural causes.

    2. Vincent’s talents, like ours, are gracious gifts from his maker that he neither earned nor deserved; he has no cause for pride.

    3. Vincent’s abilities, like ours, can vary over time and be influenced by his environment — but only within strict limits determined by his maker.

    4. Vincent’s image, like ours, can be passed on to others who might develop along slightly different lines — but only within the strict limits mentioned above.

    5. Vincent’s physical body, like ours, might be partially damaged or destroyed altogether, resulting in impaired functioning or death.

    6. And yet, even in the case of utter destruction, the “soul” of Vincent, like ours, would live on in the mind of his maker.

    7. Finally, a damaged or destroyed Vincent, like a damaged or destroyed one of us, could be “healed” or even “resurrected” at any time according the good pleasure of his maker.

  10. 10

    No I don’t think that Vincent has a soul- which in my model is needed for consciousness- I don’t think that man can design anything with a soul- I believe that would constitute a spirit who’s nature is divisible from the form that went into the original creation. To design matter that then can be conscious would be like creating a soul- yet man can not create, he can only design.

    Vincent is then not conscious by my hypothesis. What would be interesting is if man could design life from scratch– such as a human being- then the hypothesis would be found incomplete. The guidance of the computer system does not amount to cognizance. Cognizance is guided by spiritual sense – that which incorporates faith, hope, love and a sense of right and wrong that transcends matter. There is no way to program this kind of experience into a box of metal and wire.

    Wittgenstein felt that philosophy was merely the critique of language (like computer language)- but he said that he felt some things could not be spoken and that those things we were forced to remain silent on- yet that the things we could not speak of were the things of true importance.

    “There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. The are what is mystical.”

    - Wittenstein

  11. Is ID headed toward some form of Neo-Scholasticism?

    The only way to understand the comments by Leibniz is through his resistance to Descartes and his self-declared war on Scholasticism. The Scholastics began with the statement that “God’s eternal qualities are seen in everything that has been made” and attempted to blend this statement with Aristotle and his conception of the good as a ratio of intellect and matter.

    What’s really at stake here is the conflict between the Platonic view of reality, in which all matter is negated and annihilated as non-being—in other words, the material realm is of no real value and has nothing to tell us about the good—and Aristotle’s view that the goodness of Supreme Being can be perceived in the way it has invested its qualities in nature, as a middle term.

    The Scholastics were followers of Aristotle, only they tried to give him a Christian spin. They agreed with his notion that creation is a ratio of the goodness of divine intellect and matter, but they also tried to marry this notion with the statement that “God is love” and “all things work together for good to those who love God.”
    The universe, according to the Scholastics, is a vast interconnected manifestation of the goodness of God and especially divine love. The attempt to demonstrate this notion through Aristotle’s method of ratiocination led to some fearsomely complicated descriptions of physical reality and eventually to disgust with Scholasticism and its baroque metaphysics.

    Descartes drew down the lightening of this weariness with the cogito, which brings back Plato in a new way. Descartes was a dualist in the sense that he tended to discount the value of physical things and dwell on the goodness of intellect and its capacity for qualitative resistance. He thought it was possible to reform science by focusing almost solely on intellect and its power to produce clear value judgments about the sensuous universe, especially as it pertains to the happiness of man.

    An unintended consequence of Cartesian Rationalism, however, was the destruction of the love-infused universe described by the Scholastics. By annihilating their ratio of intellect and sense through pure intellect, he also destroyed the notion of a gracious interconnected universe that is an expression of the sovereignty of God. He equated God with intellect, thus turning him into a force of resistance to sensuous existence, much like Plato.

    It is this annihilation of an ancient and gracious worldview that Leibniz was attempting to resist through his notions of the monad and theodicy. Materialism is false because nothing has being except in the mind of the creator—is otherwise nothing more than an aggregate of matter that cannot come into being, or obtain unity (monad). Therefore all things are expressions of divine will and divine love and the universe we inhabit is the best possible universes.

    A caution to those who might feel tempted to follow this route—we know what Voltaire did to it in “Candide,” with devastating effects. There is a reason why Leibniz has gone into something of an eclipse.

  12. Gary Rzeppa, (9)

    I will grant you that Vincent has something which functions as, and is probably rightly called, memory. It is much more limited than ours, but is faster. If consciousness is defined as memory, as you defined it, then Vincent is conscious. If emotions are defined as emotional output, then Vincent has emotions.

    But this ignores inner experience. We (at least I, and most others claim it spontaneously) have the experience of being a coherent whole that can look at the outside and make decisions, for rational or emotional reasons. We even feel the need to justify our decisions, to cogitate on which explanation will fool ourselves into thinking we are right when we do something we know is not. A computer, AFAIK, does not feel the need to justify its decisions to itself.

    These considerations make me reluctant to attribute emotions or consciousness to Vincent. Perhaps another illustration will help. If one defines emotions strictly as output, one is not only forced to attribute emotion to Vincent, one is forced to attribute emotions to a practiced liar. A used car salesman can give all the output of an old buddy of yours, exhibiting what looks on the surface like love, all the while talking you into signing for a lemon. The games that sexual predators play are legendary. Do we define the emotions of such people by their output, or by their inner purpose? That is one reason why I am wary of certain tests of intelligence that involve input and output only.

    Your model seems to reduce will to nothing but chance or determinism. I am not sure that this is an adequate model. The model reminds me vaguely of another one I seem to recall, one that attributes the origin of all biological structures to chance and necessity.

    Finally, if one concedes that Vincent has the properties you attribute to it, one must attribute those same properties to a non-computer machine. For I could design a machine that would put pieces of paper in place, then bring woodcuts of the outline of hills, birds (perhaps 5 times), trees, the sun, etc. onto them, perhaps varying the scene slightly depending on the humidity. The machine can have a counting wheel, complete with clock and date stamp. And now we produce the same scene, not just without a person, but without a computer as well. Now where does the consciousness reside?

    One may protest that Vincent produces better (more pleasing) art than I can, at least at present. Yes, and there are a lot of things that I do that do not require consciousness. A slave could do them (and did in times past), or a robot. People come to detest such jobs, and at least in some cases to gladly hand them over to a robot. My wife doesn’t mind having a dishwasher. But surely, washing dishes well isn’t a sign of consciousness, let alone free will. Neither should be preprogrammed painting.

  13. Guys, guys!

    The man across the street has a dog, and that dog has a will. How do I know? Because the dog sometimes does as he is told, and sometimes he doesn’t. My neighbor says the dog is “stubborn”.

    My argument here is not only that such anthropomorphizing is legitimate, but that:

    1. Anthropomorphizing provides us with important insights that we would otherwise, like pitiful materialists limiting themselves to the so-called “scientific method”, completely miss; and

    2. God intended for us to anthropomorphize, in both directions, so we can better understand both (a) God, and (b) His works. There is no other way. All speech is metaphorical, and all understanding is by way of analogy.

    That’s why He made us in His image and gave us minds that deal quite readily with ambiguities. And why the universe is filled with things that have very ill-defined limits: we all know the difference between a hand and an arm, but who can say exactly where the one ends and the other begins? or where red turns to orange? etc, etc, etc.

    So I propose that instead of trying to draw finer and finer lines to separate congruent but different things — like the will of a dog and the will of a man — we should simply “accept” the intuitive distinctions that God has so graciously given us and suck the twin teats of metaphor and analogy for all they’re worth. We’ll be happier, more productive, and — in the end — more in awe of our Great Designer than ever.

    But let us beware lest we find ourselves busied with the futile attempt to establish, by proof, that which God intended us to accept as axiomatic. (Which, incidently, I equate with “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”, Matthew 12:31 and John 5:16, and which, by definition, has no remedy.)

  14. “Which, incidentally, I equate with “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”, Matthew 12:31 and John 5:16, and which, by definition, has no remedy.”

    So you are condemning to hell those who do not agree with you on this. And we wonder why a large percentage of the country/world rejects this type of thinking. It describes a God that very few people want to associate with. And when they associate it with ID they will have a tendency to reject ID as well.

  15. “So you are condemning to hell those who do not agree with you on this.”

    Not quite. I was simply pointing out that attempting to prove an axiom is futile, and that this logical fact was known — and expressed in the most colorful of language — ‘way back in the first century.

  16. Jerry,

    God doesn’t need any help being unpopular in this world, He does just fine on his own:

    Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

    It isn’t necessarily what people say about God that is repulsive to many, it’s what God says [of] Himself. Take it or leave it — or futilely try to bend it into something less offensive.

    I know that you are uncomfortable with Christian fundamentalists, especially YECs, being welcomed into the ID camp. Unfortunately this isn’t going to change (most likely) and it’s entirely appropriate.

    For ID to speak on matters of faith, or to endorse by consensus scientific matters outside its purview, would make the movement guilty of that which it criticizes in philosophical materialism: endorsing for reasons of faith and politics one scientific or religious view over another.

    UCD or no, ID is appropriate. Young earth or old, ID is applicable. Nothing changes about design inferences, SC, IC, or PPH if the earth is 10,000 years old, except that they would generally be considered axiomatic, and most likely not subject to much of a debate. If the earth however is billions of years old, the possibility of unguided, natural processes is (debatably) possible to account for the diversity (if not the origin) of life.

    Likewise, the nature of heaven or hell: who goes where and why, has nothing to do with ID specifically. While it could be debated that ID’s tolerance of diverse religious and areligious perspectives is damaging for its acceptance to one group or another, I find it highly unlikely that the vitriolic hatred directed toward ID would subside if ID made a faith statement rejecting specific religious or scientific viewpoints. ID isn’t just challenging a philosophy, but a veritable oligarchy.

    If you happen to disagree with Gerry’s interpretation of blasphemy as I do, it would be best to debate him on scriptural/theological grounds and not cast about accusations of his damaging ID (IMHO). Religious beliefs are a non-sequitur for the Intelligent Design movement, and it’s advantageous if they stay that way. ID will stand or fall by making compelling logical and scientific observations and arguments, and working to promote them in ways that are accessible to the general public.

    For the record, I respect your views on a number of issues and generally read all or most of your posts here at UD. I’ve found that your approach to analyzing scientific arguments on this blog educational and informative, and I’ve learned a lot from you and others here. It’s been a great benefit for this “average Joe” to read this blog, and occasionally participate. He happens to be an ardent supporter of ID, and a Christian “fundie.”

    The views expressed by this ID supporter do not necessarily reflect the views of UD and ID in general, and should not be considered an endorsement by this blog, nor the ID movement in any way.

  17. Apollos,

    you said

    “God doesn’t need any help being unpopular in this world,”

    It is with people that believe in God that I am talking about and are religious. The common theme here is defeating the materialists but this is a waste of time. The large percentage of the population believes in God but does not share the religious views associated with ID. It is alienated by it and because of it will not listen to the message.

    Someone like myself can disassociate the science from the surrounding religious views but most are not as intensely interested in it to care or find out. But they are then subconsciously affected by the materialist message and more susceptible to their arguments. It is very hard to sort this message out and find its flaws. Because the associated religious messages that accompanies ID undermine the ID message to these people, the ID message is of little help.

    My points here are just a repeat of what was made last week on another thread so I do not expect it will go anywhere here but generate a few negative and positive amens.

    you said

    “Unfortunately this isn’t going to change (most likely) and it’s entirely appropriate.”

    I disagree that it is appropriate because the association is preventing ideas from being considered here. We like to use the argument that Darwinism limits discussion. Just as ideology straps the Darwinists so does ideology strap ID when it tries to consider evolution. Evolution only makes sense in an old earth scenario otherwise there is no evolution, only creation. So why are YEC’s here since they do not believe in evolution and evolution is an essential part of ID. While you can discuss these ideas here, the responses are noticeably quiet when certain issues get discussed. Thus, the age issue eliminate some hypotheses about design from much discussion. There are some exceptions.

    For example, I happen to believe the evidence points to nearly all species arriving on the planet via natural selection. Could we have an intelligent discussion of this here? Probably not because it involves an old earth and processes that take millions of years or more. Most would not like the implications because it is objectionable because of religious reasons not because it undermines ID or is bad science. People are negatively reflexive about natural selection because if this process has operated then it obviates a young earth. But natural selection is a process that the average person understands and will not be talked out of. Nor should they because it is so obvious.

    What if ID embraced natural selection as essential to ID as specified complexity, irreducible complexity and the edge of evolution, there would be a lot of uneasiness here. And I believe that ID should embrace natural selection as good design. But it won’t because of the age of earth issue. It dances around it.

    you said

    “If you happen to disagree with Gerry’s interpretation of blasphemy as I do, it would be best to debate him on scriptural/theological grounds and not cast about accusations of his damaging ID (IMHO).”

    My opinion is that such comments should be taboo on this site since it is supposedly about science and occasionally about moral issues and not about religion. I happen to be a big supporter of natural law and things seem to be built in to humans and this is a legitimate issue of discussion. The Romans when considering the basis of a legal system would take what their conquests considered in their legal systems. They found a lot of things in common from all these disparate cultures that they believed many things were thus built into humans.

    But I take offense when somebody uses a biblical quote to say that someone with my beliefs is going to hell. That is essentially what was said if anyone disagrees with the particular interpretation of the biblical quote. I happen to believe in a loving and forgiving God, not One who would automatically condemn to hell someone for blasphemy of the Holy Spirit without the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness.

    The interesting thing is that no one but myself objected to the comment. Where are the compassionate Christians? I try not to comment too often on these things and sometimes throw in some alternatives that people may not have thought of. I actually prefer these issues never get brought up.

    Thank you for you comment about my comments. I too learn a lot from others and want to encourage as much discussion on the science as possible. But I don’t see it happening here. I learn very little from the social, moral and religious discussions since these have been going on for thousands of years and it is unlikely anything of consequence will be said here that has not been said before many, many times. It is just people venting.

  18. Why do men persist in the unavailing attempt to define some corner of the universe where God is not welcome?

  19. Gerry, I have been pondering your cute little program. Obviously it is a linear program with the addition of a random number generator being called to create the nonlinearity. Ultimately not very exciting, obviously very different than the stubborn dog.

    Does vincent have a will? “Yes. He makes decisions on his own and therefore has a rudimentary will of some sort.” Well, is a call to a random number generator in any way reasonably correlant with a will? When I invoke my will, I do so with my conscious mind. Does vincent have a conscious mind? No. I therefore contend that though vincent may have variability, it doesn’t have what I would consider to be even a rudimentary will.

    2. Does Vincent remember?

    “Yes. When he correctly says that he “drew seven pictures last Tuesday”, he’s recalling an actual fact from his own past.”

    Yup, vincent remembers. Computers are extremely good at remembering.

    3. Is Vincent conscious?

    Yes. He is aware of what he is about to do and he knows when he’s done it.

    No Way! Its just a program.

    4. Does Vincent have emotions?

    Is it possible to have emotions if you are not conscious? Probably. Our unconscious often exhibits as emotions. Sometomes we emote, then we consciously reason or analyze why the emotions are welling up in us. Does a computer rendering a “pretend to emote — call the random number generator” constitute real emotions. I think not. Though I do think that the dog has emotions.

    Is there something fundimentally different between vincent and a person, other than the fact that vincent only renders scenic programs? Well, one thing for sure, vincent doesn’t make the decision that “this is a good one” or “this one didn’t turn out so great”. I guess even this could be simulated with a random number generator, or with a formal image balance algorithm, or both. However that human sense of satisfaction at a cool product just wouldn’t be there.

    BTW, notice that I am unwilling to honor the anthropomorphising of this computer program with an uppercase V.

  20. Jerry

    So why are YEC’s here since they do not believe in evolution and evolution is an essential part of ID.

    One could challenge both sides of this statement – because the conventional meaning of “evolution” can span the range from some mutations or loss of some alleles on to macroevolution of simple cell to man.

    I expect many in YEC would accept that mutations exist in pathogens causing drug resistant diseases.

    I expect that most people recognize the existence of blue eyed blond Skandanavians, and brown eyed black haired Chinese – which could be attributed to loss of respective alleles in the migratory populations.

    Both of these could be described as “evolution” and probably better as “microevolution”, which I expect would be “accepted” or supported by YEC, OEC and ID.

    Phil Johnson emphasized the importance of providing a “Big Tent” where all can work together on a scientific theory of ID with supporting evidence. I expect it is important to welcome all who wish to participate in recognizing and modeling intelligent causes whatever the particular religious or denominational beliefs.

  21. DLH writes,

    I expect it is important to welcome all who wish to participate in recognizing and modeling intelligent causes whatever the particular religious or denominational beliefs.

    Interesting comment about the role of religion here.

    But leaving that aside, how can you welcome two models which are so absolutely in disagreement about the fundamental facts concerning the age and history of the earth. If ID is to advance, as I wrote a few days ago (and to which no on responded), ID must develop some specificity about when and where design happened, and there is no way that can happen without taking a position on the age of the earth.

  22. Jack

    I asked the Darwinists to tell me when, where, and how bacteria gained a nucleus. I didn’t get an answer. It’s been over two years now. According to your logic NDE can’t advance until it answers that question unless you’re suggesting a double standard. Surely you’re not, right?

  23. “When I invoke my will, I do so with my conscious mind…” – bFast

    And so does Vincent. As described, his decisions are based, like ours, on his moment-by-moment conscious awareness of the weather, on his understanding of different aspects of artistic technique (which he can consciously elucidate when asked), and on his conscious recall of earlier activities which he typically reviews as part of his decision making process.

    “Does a computer rendering a ‘pretend to emote — call the random number generator’ constitute real emotions? I think not.” – bFast

    But that’s not how Vincent’s emotions work. His current mood is the result of various internal and external variables, as our moods are — like the state of the weather and what he’s been “up to” all day.

    “Well, one thing for sure, vincent doesn’t make the decision that ‘this is a good one’ or ‘this one didn’t turn out so great’. I guess this could be simulated… with a formal image balance algorithm…” – bFast

    Now you’re getting the idea!

    “However that human sense of satisfaction at a cool product just wouldn’t be there. – bFast

    Unless his maker constructed him such that his moods, like ours, were also dependent on the number of recent “successes” he acheived. His elation would be reflected, I imagine, in a spurt of additional energy and increased productivity.

    I must say that the objections raised to my little experiment so far remind me of the man who said to the Wright Brothers, “You’ll never learn anything about flying with that kind of thing — the wings don’t even flap.”

  24. Jack,

    I will take a stab at a time. The origin of birds, about 140 million years ago was a design event. That is about when they first appeared.

    I know the conventional wisdom amongst the evolutionary biology crowd is that birds evolved from a little dinosaur. But birds required so many specialized features that it boggles the mind how they all came together so they could fly. They are all geared to flying but since Darwinian processes do not anticipate, there is no reason for them to be selected. It is a puzzlement.

  25. Gerry Rzeppa,

    You still haven’t answered my last objections (in 12). Is my clockwork toy, which I will call Mac Hine, also conscious, since it can duplicate the output of your computer and program? If we define consciousness by its results, can we say that used car salesmen or sexual predators have no consciousness of their plans, since until the moment they spring the trap they give no signs of having any intention to do so? Are you arguing that a computer without even programming for inner experience has one?

    Finally, would you have any qualms about throwing Vincent at an advancing mountain lion? Would you do the same with your child, or your dog? Would you do so with Mac Hine?

    C’mon,just give it up. This is just silly; about as silly as that exegesis of the unpardonable sin text.

  26. In regards to the YECs and the IDs- I see no reason why the two should be at odds- Half of ID is showing the limits of evolution- that is at what point the theory becomes inadequate. Even if YECs reject the mainstream scientific approach to origins they can still use the scientific arguments advanced by ID proponents to help their case. Remember even YEC claims to be scientific and the objective physical truth- therefore there is no reason why they wouldn’t benefit from ID science.

    Take Michael Behe’s latest book Edge of Evolution- even if they reject his dates for the age of the earth and his belief in common descent- they can then take his criticism of DE and use it against DE but only add the clause that they think that Behe’s belief in common descent and the age of the earth will also be disproved one day as well.- but until then Behe needs to fallow the science where it leads if he wants to be taken seriously.

    I think right now to be a real ID theorist you have to be in the mainstream of science and shouldn’t be in the YEC camp- at least as far as doing scientific work is concerned- but to be a young earth creationist you can be in both camps.

    Of course I have read several books by Gerald Schroeder who claims that since dates of the earth are done with radioactive carbon dating- and that the flow of the creation f the universe and the earth happened very quickly after the big bang- that the dating shows millions of years but in fact it all could have happened in 6 modern days.

    I always found the argument compelling to a certain extent- how scientific it is I cannot evaluate because i am not a scientist- nonetheless perhaps it represents where YEC and ID meet.

    For the record both of Schroeder’s books are good “The Science of God” and “The Hidden Face of God.”

    Here is a video description of his theory-

    http://video.google.com/videop.....;plindex=0

    Go to 19 mins.

  27. Jerry,

    For my part, I’ve never noticed a reluctance to criticize YEC on this blog, nor certain other Christian fundamentalist viewpoints.

    I’ve been a guest here for at least a year now. I was pleased to find a site with the minerals to promote its viewpoint and welcome differing religious and philosophical views (materialism included) and not be quick to jump on the ostracization bandwagon in order to score points with religious bigots — despite the fact that they hold the reigns of power in the scientific establishment.

    I accept that I’m in the minority on this blog. YEC is a minority view among ID advocates, as far as I can tell. I also accept that my belief does not square with the current interpretation of the scientific evidence. I’m fine with that, as distasteful as it is to some.

    As for religious opinions, we all pick our battles. I was actually considering offering Gerry my understanding of Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (it’s generally misunderstood I think) but your comments in response to him were more interesting to me. It has nothing to do with compassion, it’s about understanding what is written in scripture. Christian compassion can be defined by not wanting to see anyone in hell, but for all to come to salvation (2Pe 3:9).

    I’m interested in your view regarding ID and evolution. Regarding it’s paradigms (SC/CSI, IC, Privileged Planet) what would change, or become invalid, if macroevolution and Old Earth were to be disproven? I understand that the debate would end — each of the above accepted as axioms practically instantly — but would ID be invalidated in any way, beyond the fact that the need for the “struggle” would be done away with? Just because IC would be accepted without all the mental anguish associated with it by materialists (TEs and atheists alike) doesn’t mean it would prove illogical or invalid. The same could be said for design inferences in general, and CSI. The specified complexity is still there, regardless of whether there appears a pressing need to define it.

    If you’ve commented on this already and I missed it, a pointer will suffice. Peace.

  28. “You still haven’t answered my last objections… C’mon, just give it up. This is just silly…” – Paul Giem

    So should I take the time to answer your objections, or not? Your call.

  29. 29

    In regards to the video that i posted- if your short on time he doesn’t get to the math until about *50 mins.

  30. 30

    Apollos, I find it hard to uderstand how one could be a young earth creationist this day and age. Is there a particular scientific source that you base your beliefs upon?

  31. “I find it hard to understand how one could be a young earth creationist in this day and age. – Frost

    Well, I find it hard to believe how easily most folks swallow ridiculously extreme extrapolations based on a real paucity of data and a ludicrous plethora of unsubstantiated assumptions. Tell me with certainty about next week’s weather, or what was happening 100 years ago on the spot where my house now stands, or even what you were doing just 10 years ago this very day — then try to keep a straight face when you ask me to believe that someone knows what happened 0.00000001 seconds after the purported “big bang”.

  32. When I was a kid, the universe was 5 billion years old; by the time I graduated from college, it had aged an additional 8.7 billion years. I think somebody’s speculating here – and wildly so.

  33. 33

    I agree that extrapolated mathematics essentially takes us where ever we wish to go- I think the same kind of thing goes into categorizing fossils- say of ape or man-

    The questions that I have regarding YEC have to do with the very evidence that man did have an ape like ancestor- and that coupled with the obvious density of the earth and its strata and the time it would intuitively take for mountains and oceans to form.

    It is fine, and a good answer, to say that it did happen in the equivalent of millions of years- as Schroeder says- but that it happened with in the modern 6 days due to the initial rate of time expansion- if you can prove that with the ever suspicious math and physics that is.

    But a literal interpretation of the bible is difficult for me not simply because of the miracles- but because in some excerpts it seems to be speaking analogously about the spirit “if you had an ounce of faith you could move a mountain” vs other times it is being literal “the six days of creation”

    its all fascinating enough- and I DO NOT RULE OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF THE BIBLE BEING ACCURATE- So don’t criticize my skepticism or indifference because it is not the truth of the text that I am critiquing – but merely the sources from which one derives their beliefs. If its just the bible – fair enough, thaat fine for you – but that’s not good enough to be considered the lone source for the scientifically rigorous theory of ID.

    My question to Apollo was “is there a specific scientificly based reference that you have encountered that leads you to the acceptance of YEC”

    It was not a critique of his belief, with the exception of pointing out that it is a minority- it was from a perspective of curiosity.

    I asked it because I was curious why a contributor to an ID web blog would also fallow YEC- being that ID is very much science based- I wondered if Apollo had any good scientific sources supporting his belief in YEC.

    Apollo is a believer and I am more or less uncommitted given my skepticism of modern science and its methods and my inability to reconcile all the texts of the bible with all of the evidence that I have been exposed to.

  34. Frost -

    It seems to me that all we have regarding origins is contradictory theories based on scanty data, revelation, and a few clues from design.

    Regarding the theories, they all seem rather speculative to me. Hubble says the red-shift of starlight is due to movement of the stars, while Hoyle says it’s due to the light aging. Radiometric daters frequently get contrary results and typically exclude “anomalous” data from their findings. And so forth. Who should we believe? The very same concensus that has all but forced the monotonous drone of random mutation and natural selection upon us?

    Regarding revelation, we are faced with the troublesome matter of interpretation. All language is metaphorical, but some metaphors are more figurative than others. This subject is really too big for the little box I’m typing in.

    But from design we can, I think, garner some very important insights. We know how we go about designing and building things, and — if you accept that we are made in our Creator’s image for the express purpose of understanding Him better — we can make some straightforward extrapolations of our own.

    1. When we create, we typically do so in stages. Building a house, for example, we begin with the foundation, then assemble the frame, etc. Note that the stages are typically not continuous, but have well-defined beginnings and endings.

    2. When we create, we expect that the construction process will be relatively short compared with the period during which the creation is used. We don’t, for example, spend 100 years constructing a tent for a weekend camping trip.

    3. When we create, we frequently produce things out-of-sequence. A basement floor, for example, may be poured after the roof of the house has been completed; an artist might paint the flowers before he puts the sun in the sky (working with an alternate light source the whole time).

    4. When we create, we typically produce things with the appearance of age. Characters in our novels, houses, trees, and individuals in our paintings, and virtual players in our computer games are just a few examples. The tires on my car may actually be several years older than the doors.

    And so forth. I think if we approach both revelation and the rest of the universe from any and all of the creative perspectives that we have experience with — as artists, bakers, carpenters, musicians, poets, writers, etc, as well as narrow-minded scientists of a linear leaning — we’ll begin to see things not only in a different light, but more clearly as well.

  35. 35

    Nice points Gerry. All of them.

  36. Gerry

    re; estimated age of the universe

    5B to 14B years isn’t a big change within the range of possible answers. Consider that the true age of the universe could be anywhere from 6000 years to an infinite number of years. On that scale the difference between 5B and 14B is quite small. They’re both still in the same ballpark.

    Redshift of light due to relative motion is experimentally confirmed to the proverbial 9th decimal point and is used in all kinds of practical applications from Doppler radar to the global positioning system. Redshift due to aging of photons has no experimental confirmation at all that I’m aware of.

    The difference between an artist painting flowers before the sun and God creating the earth before the sun is that the former doesn’t violate any basic laws of physics while the latter does. If we want to compare the biblical creation story to actual human creation let’s look at how a custom home is created. It might take an architect 6 days to create the blueprints and he can do it any order he wants while actually building the house described by the blueprints might take a year and in that case things have to be done in a more constrained order – for instance you can’t hang windows and doors before the house has been framed but in the blueprint stage it’s quite common to position doors and windows before drawing the framing. Maybe the 6 days of Genesis is how long it took God to conceptualize the universe while actually building it took much longer and the building process was more constrained than the design process – just like in the creation of a custom home. There’s also the possibility that the universe is like a software construct. Software itself has no physical existence – it requires something physical to store and execute it but the software construct itself is an abstract with no mass or energy. It’s just information. In the creation of software the design and even the instantiation can be top-down, bottom-up, or any combination thereof. This is unlike a custom home where the design process can be any combination of top-down or bottom-up but the instantiation process must be largely bottom-up.

  37. Re #30: “I find it hard to understand how one could be a young earth creationist this day and age. Is there a particular scientific source that you base your beliefs upon?”

    Perhaps the primary basis for a “young” earth is the historical documentation.

    From a scientific perspective, it may not be possible to demonstrate conclusively the age of the earth: after all, we can’t go back in time and verify whatever assumptions are brought to bear. So, in effect, the question of age may be appropriately addressed to any recorded history before being handed over to science.

    However, there are scientific observations that support the historical data.

    One example: the presence of Carbon-14 in fossils believed to be old enough that the radioactive carbon ought to have completely decayed.

    Another example: Based on the observed decay rate of the earth’s magnetic field, it has been posited that the field would be strong enough to melt the earth if its decay were extrapolated backward more than about 20,000 years.

    These examples are taken from articles on well-known YEC Web sites, written by such scientists as John Baumgardner and Russell Humphreys.

    This forum is about Intelligent Design, and it’s been seen how incredulous of ID some are in the scientific community. Perhaps, then, ID proponents are in a position to appreciate the nature of the reception a position contrary to scientific orthodoxy is likely to receive. YEC may or may not be scientifically valid; however, if it were, where would one expect to learn the evidence of this?

  38. “The difference between an artist painting flowers before the sun and God creating the earth before the sun is that the former doesn’t violate any basic laws of physics while the latter does.” – DaveScot

    So? Where is it written that the “laws of physics” were established first, and the rest of creation laboriously assembled within that limited framework? Today’s designers of virtual worlds typically create their characters, the environment, and the formulae that express the “rules” for behavior in concert, not sequence. Should the Designer of Actual Worlds be restricted in His techniques more than they?

  39. The builder of a house doesn’t have to live in it during the construction process.

  40. Gerry, (28)

    No actually your call. If you still believe that you are right, and that it is important to this discussion, then keep going. My reading was that you were being somewhat playful, in which case it probably should end for now.

    Your response to Frost (34) was very good. It can be augmented by data in this book, some of which of which is on the internet here and here.

    DaveScot,

    The age of the universe is not necessarily an objection to YEC. One can postulate a young earth, and even a young solar system, without postulating a young universe. An old universe requires the explaining, or explaining away or ignoring, of only two Hebrew words. Old life on earth requires the reinterpretation or denial of two or three chapters, and more if one does not take the Flood seriously. I know of several YEC’s that are not YUC’s. The objection that the universe is old is only valid against YUC’s.

    I am currently a YEC but not a YUC. I can feel the weight of your objections. Two things give me pause before saying that YUC’s are stupid. First, we may be looking at relativistic effects. Schroeder goes in one direction, but Russell Humphreys in another on this. Second, I’ve already seen the scientific establishment blow it on the eternity of the universe, the origin of life, on the evolvability of complexity (Behe, in spite of our differences in models, puts the edge of evolution almost precisely where I had previously placed it), and, if the data on carbon-14 holds up, the age of life on earth. YEC’s have even made strides in explaining a young earth given radiometric dating. Saying that YUC’s can’t possibly be right about the universe is a little too dogmatic for me at present.

  41. Paul (39) -

    Rather than belabor the thing, let me just make one remark regarding Vincent’s “consciousness”. Introspection reveals that there is something I call “me” that appears to be monitoring, for lack of a better term, “the rest of me”. For example, “I” know that “the rest of me” is working on this post: thinking, typing, anticipating what you’re response will be, etc.

    It seems to me that the closest simulation that we can produce of this state of affairs is to have one “thread” of a program monitor all of the program’s other threads — and if we allow this special thread to communicate with the outside world regarding what “the rest of program” is doing, we get the appearance of consciousness: an awareness of what is going on, both inside and outside of Vincent’s “person”.

    As far as being “playful” here, I assure you that I’m as serious about this particular activity as a child learning to jump rope. I nearly bite my tongue off almost every day…

    Incidently, I’m the inventor of the Plain English programming language and my company has been working on a unique approach to a “HAL 9000″-like machine for several years now. Write me directly ([email protected]) if you’re at all interested in that sort of serious play.

  42. Gerry: Let me narrow the focus a little bit and offer another way of understanding the subject matter. In a way, I am changing definitions a bit, but I think the reason for it will become apparent.

    I submit that “intellect” and “will,” in their proper moral context, are faculties that cannot be transferred to inanimate objects, however sophisticated the technology. In humans, each faculty has a distinct function that is, nevertheless, related to the other. The function of the mind is to discover and know what is true; the object of the will is to love and move toward what is good. In humans, character forms to the extent that these two faculties facilitate moral development. It is only in the moral arena that free will has any significance or even any reality. Neither computers nor animals can enter into that world, therefore, any apparent resemblance they have with humans is just that, apparent.

    Each faculty has a job to do. The intellect grasps a moral principle or proposition and the will decides whether or not it likes the idea and will go along with it. A human is moral if [A] his intellect apprehends a moral truth and [B] he conforms his will to that moral truth. Or, to put it another way, the mind provides the “target” and the “will” shoots the arrow. The intellect can present a “target” proposition to the will, and the will can decide on its own behalf whether or not it would prefer not to “shoot the arrow.” On the one hand, for example, an individual may know that it is a good thing to protect the good name of others and refrain from gossip and slander. On the other hand, he can choose to hate that moral truth because he perceives it as an unnecessary imposition on his right to free expression. He can learn to love the act of destroying someone else’s reputation and it and even look forward to it as a fun thing to do. In other words, he can misuse and pervert his will.

    Unlike humans, computers cannot be programmed to love or hate truth. Their “character,” if we can make such a stretch, forms randomly, not in accordance with the choices they have made. Unlike humans, they can’t grow in virtue, learn courage, or acquire anything similar to wisdom. Unlike humans, they can’t darken their intellect or degrade their will by making bad choices, nor can they illuminate their intellect or strengthen their will by making good choices. Computers don’t have noble or base motives; they don’t dream, hope, or despair. They cannot pursue an individual destiny in the context of a moral universe. There is no opportunity to display a heroic virtue or fall into a base vice, because there is no moral test to pass. If there is no moral test to pass, then there is nothing on which to exercise the will. Indeed, God created [A] a subjective moral will, [B] an objective moral universe to test it, and [C] an ontological connection between the two. A computer cannot be equipped with [A] in the absence of [B] and [C].

  43. Paul Giem:

    Old life on earth requires the reinterpretation or denial of two or three chapters, and more if one does not take the Flood seriously.

    I generally agree with you. At first I did not read you correctly when you said, “more if one does not take the Flood seriously.” The OEC community, a-la reasons.org, does take the flood seriously — claiming that there was a flood that reduced the population of humanity to 7.

    I am at a personal quandary because I cannot find scientific evidence for a literal Adam less than 10,000 years ago, I cannot find evidence for a flood that reduced humanity to 7 (though there is evidence of a significant flood that affected all of the world’s coastal areas.)

    How does one blend two conflicting sources of information that both present as “truth”? I am not personally prepared to place science in subserviance to Biblical interpretation. Rather, I am currently moving to the direction of Catholic theology, taking at least the first 11 chapters of Geneis with a large dose of mythology and exaggeration.

    The only other option that I can see is to live in the ambiguity — to live in a world where the two “truths” are fundimentally incompatible.

  44. Frost,

    My choice to be YEC is a personal decision based on faith and my belief in the reliability of the Biblical account. It’s also based on a belief that Genesis 1 is best interpreted in a manner similar to its presentation.

    In another 100 years we’ll have an altogether different idea as to the age of the earth, and the universe. Our current projections about the direction of science and civilization will be at odds with reality, like they were in the first decade of the 20th century.

    In 200 years we’ll be proclaiming how much we know, how far we’ve come, how much we’ve developed intellectually, and how clueless we were in 2008 about the nature of the universe and it’s origin. We’ll be certain of how close we really are to unlocking all existential mysteries through science.

    I’ve never been able to get my head around some of the dogmatism that revolves around time estimates in the universe. After General Relativity, we were made aware of the fluidity of time, and how subjective it is to different frames of reference. There’s a good chance we each have a slightly different “now” than the other. The passage of time on the surface of a neutron star is dramatically different than it is in empty space. Thought experiments like the Twins Paradox illustrate how bizarre time really is in relation to velocity (and gravitation).

    Allowing that the earth and universe were supernaturally created, I think it’s highly pretentious to claim we can understand what took place, and how, and even when, by poking things with a stick. I don’t think we currently have the capacity to make sense of the nature of reality — as time and space were being forged by God. We don’t even know what we don’t know, if you follow. The more I hear how close we are to figuring out the mysteries of existence, the less confidence I have in our current ability to explain anything about the nature of reality, the universe, or it’s origin. The Biblical account happens to philosophically and scientifically be the best explanation we have: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

    Quantum mechanics isn’t really understood, we just know the math works. Entangled particles can communicate faster than the speed of light. The Quantum Eraser and Delayed Choice experiments are inexplicable. The presence of an observer bends and warps reality. Elementary particles exist in quantum superpositions until they are measured or observed. Reality is weird. Our best physical experiment for understanding sub-sub atomic particles is to smash atoms into one another, like a child might smash a watch to see what’s inside.

    We have no scientific explanations for the origin or existence of the universe. Nobody can claim the slightest clue about how life came to be from a scientific point of view.

    I’m not anti-science; I love science, as much as a fellow of average intelligence can understand it. I just don’t hold to the view that science can explain reality better than spirituality. I’m holding out for my own religious beliefs, and I expect (or hope) to be fully vindicated. I believe the Bible is a message from outside of time and space; and although often inexplicable itself, has the audacity to predict the future and record the fulfillment. When science can predict the future, I might give it a little more credit for explaining core realities.

    In 500 years we’ll have made more remarkable discoveries about the universe. These discoveries may well be as universe shattering as General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics were. We’ll have an entirely new perspective on reality that turns our current knowledge on it’s head. We’ll be amazed how we could have believed what we believe now about physical reality; or maybe we’ll be more baffled and amazed than ever.

    Yet left to our own we will not see an end to disease, to famine, and to human kind’s capacity for cruelty and apathy. We’ll all still die. I’m certain that science will not solve these problems. I’m holding out for something better. ;-)

  45. StephenB -

    I understand and agree with much of what you’ve said. But I think I’m being misunderstood a bit.

    I’m certainly not saying that Vincent’s will or memory or consiousness or emotions are the equivalent of our own; only that they are congruent enough that we might gain some insights into ourselves from the study of these “different steps on a shared staircase”. As one can good learn things about the discipline and nurture of children by training horses.

    I think, for example, that the very attempt to make Vincent “love truth” or “grow in virtue”, though ultimately unattainable, will nevertheless provide us with new and valuable insights into ourselves — as the study of fixed-wing aircraft gives us a better understanding of birds.

    Think of it this way: once we’ve simulated all the human attributes that we can, whatever remains is what really makes our step on the staircase truly and radically different from the others.

  46. Gerry,

    I can live with that last post (44). If it is understood like I think it should be, I can agree with it.

    bFast,

    Actually the Flood reduced the population to 8 (Noah, wife, 3 sons, 3 wives), as the early Chinese characters also indicate. I understand the reluctance to subjugate what appear to be the obvious conclusions of science to one’s interpretation of the Bible. Perhaps one’s interpretation is wrong. I also understand those that live in tension. I understand those who believe, but only by discounting their understanding of science, as apparently Apollo has done. I count myself fortunate that I have not (yet) had to make that choice. My investigations, especially into carbon-14 dating, have made belief in what I regard as the straightforward reading of Genesis 1-11 the easiest way to understand science. Others must follow their own conscience, and I would not change that, even if they are wrong (and I may be wrong instead or in addition). My only desire is that if they receive new information, or if they find clearer ways to think, that they continue to follow their conscience. I would hope to do the same.

  47. Just as a quick aside – I think having a ‘hands off’ attitude towards Leibniz’s (the man was brilliant, and this brilliance was not appreciated until well after his own time) views of life and the universe because Voltaire made fun of him is shortsighted to say the least.

  48. I understand those who believe, but only by discounting their understanding of science, as apparently Apollo has done.

    Let me just say that I have very little confidence in the scientific establishment’s ability to explain the sum of evidence macroscopically [read multiverses]. I have even less confidence in their willingness to explain evidence objectively [read macroevolution and chemical evolution].

    The intense need to prove macroevolution and the naturalistic origins of life have soured me on accepting many of the conclusions of scientific observations, not necessarily the validity of the observations themselves.

    In other words, there’s a lack of objectivity in science at large, and it allows for my skepticism of the need to submit Scripture to the authority of our current, biased, and limited understanding of contemporary evidence.

    I don’t happen to be one who believes that our ability to explain existence, reality, and the origin and nature of the universe and life, is within our grasp.

  49. Since bFast is leaning toward Catholic theology, which presumably goes back to St. Peter (Cephas), will it not be too long before we hear people in this thread saying “I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos”, “I am of Cephas”, and “I am of Christ”? ;)

  50. Apollos wrote:

    “I don’t happen to be one who believes that our ability to explain existence, reality, and the origin and nature of the universe and life, is within our grasp.

    Precisely the same belief (or disbelief) that I more or less hold to. Call me a Naturalism Skeptic. That is why ID is so appealing to me because of its recognition and emphasis of the great hurdles of naturalism that many scientists today seem to be in denial of.

  51. JPCollado:

    Apollos wrote:

    “I don’t happen to be one who believes that our ability to explain existence, reality, and the origin and nature of the universe and life, is within our grasp.

    Precisely the same belief (or disbelief) that I more or less hold to. Call me a Naturalism Skeptic.

    Ditto.

    Paul Giem:

    I understand those who believe, but only by discounting their understanding of science.

    I remember reading Ken Miller’s book when he suggested a parallel between studying evolution and taking on the Faustian challenge. I have no trouble with those who would rather protect their soul than risk it to an incomplete science. Not all must fight this fight. I feel, however, that I must — its been in my bones since before my tenth birthday.

    Paul Giem:

    My investigations, especially into carbon-14 dating, have made belief in what I regard as the straightforward reading of Genesis 1-11 the easiest way to understand science.

    My investigation into the claim of an old earth and old biology, a claim that seems to relegate carbon-14 to a very minor role, has convinced me that science’s case for an old earth and old biology is very strong.

  52. bFast,

    Sometime it would be interesting to look at the case for an old earth and old biology. Perhaps at the same time we could discuss carbon-14. In the mean time, we can continue to agree about the evidence for ID and against a naturalistic explanation of that evidence.

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