Monday, June 23, 2014

Why I don't buy "trajectory of science" arguments

I should say that I am unpersuaded of "trajectory of science" arguments which suggest that as we investigate further we will find greater and greater support for reductionism. Two aspects of the materialistic vision of the world as it has been historically understood are the following: 

1) The universe had no beginning, and has always existed. 

2) The universe is deterministic, and as we do science we will come closer and closer to finding determining causes for everything. 

Now, thanks to the development of the Big Bang theory in the first instance, and quantum mechanics in the second instance, confidence in both of these theses has eroded in comparison to what might have been thought in the early days of the 20th Century. 

Now, of course, naturalists have revised their conception of what is naturalistically acceptable to accommodate a universe with a temporal beginning, and a universe with quantum level indeterminism. But the point is that science frustrated the expectations of what at the time were the expected results of the naturalistic thrust of science. 

With respect to the analysis of mind, I see a lot of bravado about reductive analyses but no real hard evidence that reductions are going to be successful. In fact, given the fact that "the material" or "the natural" has to be defined in terms of the absence of the mental, it looks to me as if reduction of the mental to the physical is logically impossible, and that the more we study things scientifically the more evident this will become.

Bottom line: future science is FUTURE science. Who knows where it will go. 

66 comments:

amorbis said...

This reminds me of a passage in Edward Feser's book Philosophy of Mind that I found rather enlightening:

Second, the debate over materialism has arguably never been
more than tangentially concerned with how best to explain
physical phenomena – the motions of the planets, the nature of
chemical reactions, or even the origins of life. That is to say,
straightforwardly scientific issues seem never to have been the crucial
ones. Rather, the debate has, for two and a half millennia,
focused primarily on three fundamental metaphysical issues: the
nature of the mind and its relation to the body,the ontological and
epistemological status of mathematical and other apparently
Materialism 77
abstract objects, and the question of the existence of God. For
materialism now genuinely to have the upper hand would require
that materialist arguments have been victorious, or have at least
been shown to be considerably more plausible, in each of these
subject domains. Has this happened? No one familiar with the
recent history of philosophy can honestly think so.

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

You could also have mentioned the panic in the materialist ranks over the implications of "fine tuning". Not that any attempt was made to discredit fine tuning. To their credit, they recognized the futility of that! No, the atheist materialists merely punted to their own rather bizarre version of the supernatural - the multiverse. How convenient of them to explain away the otherwise unexplainable by a theory that they themselves will admit is untestable, unverifiable, and that not only do they have no evidence for, but they acknowledge (in fact, insist) that such evidence is forever unobtainable.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

You could also have mentioned the panic in the materialist ranks over the implications of "fine tuning". Not that any attempt was made to discredit fine tuning. To their credit, they recognized the futility of that! No, the atheist materialists merely punted to their own rather bizarre version of the supernatural - the multiverse. How convenient of them to explain away the otherwise unexplainable by a theory that they themselves will admit is untestable, unverifiable, and that not only do they have no evidence for, but they acknowledge (in fact, insist) that such evidence is forever unobtainable.

This is a caricature of the best nontheistic responses to alleged "fine-tuning." For a much more philosophically sophisticated response to "fine-tuning" arguments (really, "coarse-tuning" arguments), see Bradley Monton's article here: http://spot.colorado.edu/~monton/BradleyMonton/Articles_files/FT%20paper%20BJPS.pdf. It's unfortunate that Monton's article has been mostly (or completely?) ignored by proponents of fine-tuning arguments.

Here's the "money quote":

The general point is as follows: when faced with the fine-tuning evidence, it is reasonable to not be surprised. We already knew that there are many possible universes that are not life-permitting, and yet are similar in certain ways to our actual universe. The fine-tuning argument encourages us to focus our attention on those possible universes that have the same laws of physics as ours, but different fundamental constants. But why not focus on those possible universes that have the same types of particles as ours, but different fundamental laws? Or why not focus on those possible universes that have the same density distribution as ours, but different types of particles? Before I was faced with the fine-tuning evidence, I already knew that our universe
was special, in the sense that there are many possible universes similar to ours in certain ways and yet not life-permitting. I already knew that, if God existed, God would have to choose to actualize our life-permitting universe from among a sea of similar non-life-permitting universes. I already knew
that, if God did not exist, there’s a sense in which we are lucky that the universe is life-permitting—there are many possible universes similar to ours which are not. The fine-tuning evidence doesn’t change any of that,
and hence the fine-tuning evidence doesn’t change my probability for the existence of God.
(pp. 420-421)

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor Reppert wrote:

Two aspects of the materialistic vision of the world as it has been historically understood are the following:

1) The universe had no beginning, and has always existed.

2) The universe is deterministic, and as we do science we will come closer and closer to finding determining causes for everything.


I'm not a materialist, but I'm underwhelmed. I know of no good reason to doubt that, as a matter of historical fact, materialists did traditionally hold that the universe had no beginning and always existed. But that historical fact is evidentially worthless unless there materialists were justified, on the basis of materialism, for believing that. Were they? Or was this a case of sloppy thinking?

I'm inclined to say it was the latter. "The universe exists" conjoined with "God does not exist" entails only that the universe was not created by God and is not sustained by God. By itself, materialism tells us nothing about the age of the universe.

Probably materialists assumed that the universe was eternal because that was the easiest way to eliminate the need for an external cause. But it's not the only way. If, as BB cosmology suggests, the universe has existed for all of time, then it's still the case that the universe has existed for *all of time.* What BB cosmology does is this: it defines "all of time." Instead of the universe existing eternally, it means that the universe has a finite age. But this doesn't deny the fact that the universe has always existed. It's far from obvious that something which has existed for all of time needs a cause.

John Mitchell said...

@ B.Prokop

"No, the atheist materialists merely punted to their own rather bizarre version of the supernatural - the multiverse. How convenient of them to explain away the otherwise unexplainable by a theory that they themselves will admit is untestable, unverifiable, and that not only do they have no evidence for, but they acknowledge (in fact, insist) that such evidence is forever unobtainable."

I think thats not entirely fair to the naturalist.

First of all i dont think the multiverse hypothesis is 'bizarre'. We know there is one universe - after all - there could be more of them. Plus there is the fact that many people believe in a theistic multiverse, so why cant the atheist/naturalist believe in a multiverse?

The second point is that, even if the multiverse hypothesis is untestable it can function as a valid explanation for the fact of fine-tuning. Just in the same way that the hypothesis of a supernatural designer isnt testable but serves merely as an explanation.

Another point is that concerning eternal inflation theories, there could, in principle, be some evidence for a multiverse. Some say there is but im not competent enough to weigh in on this.

The problems of the multiverse hypothesis do not revolve around testability but rather around Boltzman-Brains and entropy conditions.

oozzielionel said...

We already knew that our universe existed. OK

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor Reppert wrote:

I should say that I am unpersuaded of "trajectory of science" arguments which suggest that as we investigate further we will find greater and greater support for reductionism.

Let's assume that, as Victor argues, BB cosmology and quantum indeterminacy are evidence against materialism. Even granting those very generous assumptions, it would still be the case that, prior to investigation, we should predict that currently unexplained phenomena have a naturalistic explanation.

Why? Simple induction.In the vast majority of cases, investigation has revealed natural causes for natural events.

jdhuey said...

Simple induction.In the vast majority of cases, investigation has revealed natural causes for natural events.

And, perhaps more importantly, when competent investigation of a natural event is possible there has never been a case where it was revealed that supernatural causes were at work.

B. Prokop said...

"competent investigation"

Do I catch a whiff of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy here?

B. Prokop said...

Now HERE is Science Trajectory for you!!!

Crude said...

jdhuey,

And, perhaps more importantly, when competent investigation of a natural event is possible there has never been a case where it was revealed that supernatural causes were at work.

Considering that both 'natural' and 'supernatural' are perpetually slippery terms, and that 'competent investigation' is ruled as incapable of concluding 'supernatural' to begin with, it's not a surprise.

John Moore said...

You wrote, "Given the fact that 'the material' or 'the natural' has to be defined in terms of the absence of the mental, it looks to me as if reduction of the mental to the physical is logically impossible."

But it seems you are assuming the mental must be non-material. In that case, you're right - but only because you assumed your conclusion from the start.

To me it seems obvious that the mental is a matter of neuro-electrical flows through our brains and bodies. Input, processing and output, just like a computer. We don't need a "reduction" of the mental to the physical, because the mental simply is physical. There's nothing spooky in there to reduce.

Crude said...

But it seems you are assuming the mental must be non-material.

No, he's assuming that the material is fundamentally non-mental. If you believe the mental is intrinsic to matter, you've left materialism behind. If you do not, then you're right on back to needing to derive it.

To me it seems obvious that the mental is a matter of neuro-electrical flows through our brains and bodies. Input, processing and output, just like a computer.

Computers only have inputs, processing and outputs in virtue of minds designating them as having such - which makes explaining minds themselves prohibitively difficult to do in the same way. Unless you want to say 'well no, that information and meaning is intrinsically there, no derivation needed', in which case you're no longer dealing with the material anyway.

And 'it seems obvious' to you? What's your profession? Do you program? Do you know how computers operate?

B. Prokop said...

"There's nothing spooky in there to reduce."

So then you deny that you are aware of your own existence? You yourself used the term "to me it seems obvious" to introduce your own conclusions. I guess I'll have to use the very same language. To me it seems obvious that no conceivable amount or complexity of "neuro-electrical flow[ing] through our brains and bodies" will ever result in self-awareness, without some non-material activity being involved. Heck, our self-awareness all by itself is non-material.

You said to Victor, "In that case, you're right - but only because you assumed your conclusion from the start." But can you not see that you are doing precisely the same thing. You are assuming from the start that "the mental simply is physical".

How is your argument superior to Victor's? It's not - it's just its mirror image. I think this is one issue that will never come to an end, because the difference is not in some logical step along the way, it is not a matter of bringing a different argument to bear, it is not due to faulty reasoning on either party - it is fundamentally a matter of one's going-in propositions.

You have not concluded that the mental is material - you apparently believed that prior to your even beginning any argument.

(Now I'm not (just yet) saying there's anything wrong with that - just that you can't point fingers at Victor without pointing at yourself as well.)

B. Prokop said...

"even if the multiverse hypothesis is untestable it can function as a valid explanation for the fact of fine-tuning"

You are correct (other than the word "valid"). That function is indeed why people believe in it at all (other than it being a super-cool concept).

"but im not competent enough to weigh in on [eternal inflation]"

I'm with you there, bro. I've read up on the hypothesis, and the math is insanely complicated.

jdhuey said...

"Do I catch a whiff of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy here?"

I don't think so. The form of our statements is the same as saying:

'In the vast majority of cases, investigation has revealed terrestrial causes for UFO sightings. And, when competent investigation of a UFO sighting is possible there has never been a case where it was revealed that Extraterrestrials were involved.'

Now, the next UFO sighting just might be Gort and Michael Rennie coming to visit but the smart money isn't betting that way.

jdhuey said...

"Considering that both 'natural' and 'supernatural' are perpetually slippery terms, and that 'competent investigation' is ruled as incapable of concluding 'supernatural' to begin with, it's not a surprise."

I think that if observable events in the real world did indeed have supernatural causes I suspect that a competent investigator would be able to determine it.

For example: if thunder and lighting were caused by some angry god I would think we could investigate that phenomenon and at least determine if the angry god is Zeus or Thor.

Crude said...

I don't think so. The form of our statements is the same as saying:

I think what Bob is saying is that, in a few choice cases, competent investigation has revealed what you say has never been revealed.

If you say 'by science', then you're done, since science can't conclude what you're suggesting it would anyway.

Crude said...

jdhuey,

I think that if observable events in the real world did indeed have supernatural causes I suspect that a competent investigator would be able to determine it.

If we're including past events, then the argument will be that it's been investigated and we've found a few.

For example: if thunder and lighting were caused by some angry god I would think we could investigate that phenomenon and at least determine if the angry god is Zeus or Thor.

Hold on. You're naming agents, but we're not after simply agents. We're after 'natural versus supernatural'.

How do you determine that a given cause is 'supernatural'? Keep in mind that the definition of natural and material and otherwise has been revised more than once (at times, radically), and in principle can just be revised again in the future.

Bonus question: if you think some revisions are illegitimate, is it then possible that we've already discovered and observed supernatural events, but just mislabeled them?

John Moore said...

Crude wrote: "Computers only have inputs, processing and outputs in virtue of minds designating them as having such - which makes explaining minds themselves prohibitively difficult to do in the same way."

People designed computers, but human minds evolved.

Crude wrote: "What's your profession? Do you program?"

Yes, I do neural network programming. You can look at my site if you want.

B. Prokop wrote: "How is your argument superior to Victor's? It's not - it's just its mirror image."

I agree. My point was simply that Victor makes his assumption and I make a different one. Neither Victor nor I provided any backup argument here.

B. Prokop wrote: "I think this is one issue that will never come to an end ..."

The argument will end when we build an actual artificial intelligence machine that is fully conscious and alive. If that turns out to be impossible, then I am defeated, but if it happens some day, then you guys all have to revise your concept of mind.

Crude said...

John,

People designed computers, but human minds evolved.

Great. This distinction matters how? Please, explain it.

Yes, I do neural network programming. You can look at my site if you want.

Great. Then please, tell me whether or not programs have information and meaning intrinsically, or if it's derived by minds.

Better yet, please tell me how you tell as a programmer.

I agree. My point was simply that Victor makes his assumption and I make a different one. Neither Victor nor I provided any backup argument here.

Well, Victor has the Argument from Reason, among other things. And you have..?

The argument will end when we build an actual artificial intelligence machine that is fully conscious and alive. If that turns out to be impossible, then I am defeated, but if it happens some day, then you guys all have to revise your concept of mind.

'Fully conscious and alive'? And you'll be able to tell that how?

Drop a hypothetical computer on the table. Stipulate that it is fully conscious and alive from the outset. You're left with exactly the same problem you have now - explain how you get from matter to mind. If your argument is, 'Well, matter intrinsically has meaning and mind built into it', then as I said - you've given up materialism. And I couldn't blame you for doing so.

But if you say, 'Well no, it doesn't have that. It's merely derived.' then it turns out the question about how you derive this for the mind itself is valid after all by your own measure.

jdhuey said...

"... even if the multiverse hypothesis..."

Sean Carroll and Max Tegmark are quick to point out that the 'multiverse' concept should not be considered a hypothesis but rather it is a conclusion one draws from certain models of how the observable universe came about. If eternal inflation is correct then we can conclude that our universe is part of a multiverse. We may never be able to directly test for a multiverse but if we are able to test and validate models that imply that a multiverse should exist then that is valid science.

Crude said...

Sean Carroll and Max Tegmark are quick to point out that the 'multiverse' concept should not be considered a hypothesis but rather it is a conclusion one draws from certain models of how the observable universe came about.

They're not so quick to point out that if Tegmark's concept of the Ultimate Ensemble is true (and arguably some forms of Carroll's multiverse views), then so is at least one form of theism - namely an odd polytheism. And it still leaves Classical Theism on the table, naturally.

Likewise, there's plenty of detractors - scientists, non-theists even - who argue that the models in question don't imply any such thing, since those same models are compatible with a variety of other conjectures.

Dave Duffy said...

J.J Lowder,

The point, as I understand it, Dr. Roppert is making is not that quantum mechanics and BB cosmology are contrary to materialism. The point he is making, is that progress in science will not necessarily confirm materialism in the future.

Personally, I hear these arguments not on the academic level that Victor does, but in the middle-brow popular science media. The argument goes something like: expanded scientific knowledge has always compressed theological knowledge. There is always this expansion on the one hand against compression on the other until God is reduced to a “god of the gaps.” Science on its current trajectory will eliminate the final gaps and materialism will prevail.

Victor gives two examples where the supposed expansion and compression were contrary to that “trajectory” argument. He also points out that scientific knowledge is temporal and we have no certainty because future data can be found to overturn anything we currently hold as scientific knowledge. In college I asked by some of my professors what knowledge we currently possess will likely not be overturned by further evidence. Thermodynamics was the most common guess.

I’m wondering what you think of the expansion/compression Trajectory argument.

Crude said...

By the way, an open challenge for people who make the 'Once we simulate/create an artificial conscious, living brain, we'll know once and for all that minds are totally material!' claim.

Here is a link to the OpenWorm project. This may not be complete - but it exists, now, partially.

Is it or is it not conscious, does it or does it not have subjective experience, and what is the wholly scientific test for determining this that doesn't start off with 'well if we assume if it moves in way X it's conscious, then...'

If you say it's conscious - it has subjective experience, etc - do tell me how this feat was accomplished.

If you say it's not, explain how you can tell, and what it's lacking.

If you say you have no idea, tell me why you think you'd have an idea if the project were at a vastly more complex milestone.

John Moore said...

Not simulate. That doesn't count. There's a big difference between a digital model and an actual living thing.

Crude, you seem to have many questions and no answers. I again invite you to look at my humble website if you want some ideas. There's a whole section called "How to Build AI."

Heuristics said...

John Moore: Your site as far as I can tell just contains a large amount of statements of the form "x is y!", there is never any answers to why x is y or any grappling with critique for such answers. It comes across as a site by someone who has never seriously studied alternative points of view.

I tried to formulate this as _constructive_ criticism of how I think your site could evolve to be better.

John Moore said...

Work in progress! I'm trying to describe a theory. Everyone is in a big hurry to ask for evidence and supporting arguments, but they need to understand what the theory is first of all.

Did you at least understand what my theory is? Most of the questions Crude asked are answered. It's true there's not a lot of in-depth argumentation yet, but at least the answers are out there ready for discussion.

Heuristics said...

John: Crude is asking questions to you in order to discuss, he is not asking these questions due to never having thought of them or not having answers to them himself. He wants to discuss them with you. Your site doesn't help for that, it does not engage with critical questions of your view (which Crude is providing here) it just states the basics of your view.

So, I don't see how you can think that Crudes questions are answered.

B. Prokop said...

"The argument will end when we build an actual artificial intelligence machine that is fully conscious and alive."

I doubt it seriously - in fact, I flat out don't believe it. We can design programs already today that can mimic human speech patterns so well that people are fooled into thinking they are speaking with another human being. The only thing AI would prove is that we can do it even better. But even a perfect mimicry is still not the real thing. Tina Fey was not Sarah Palin.

And, for the sake of argument only - I'm not conceding that such a thing is possible, even were we to somehow manage to build a conscious, self-aware machine, that would convince no one. After all, how could anyone know it is self-aware? We have solipsists around us right now who do not believe other people are conscious beings!

Karl Grant said...

Any AI built, and that is a big if if it could be built, would inherently be a dualistic system as the AI software could not operate without sufficiently capable hardware and without the software on the hard-drive the only thing the computer can do is consume power and take up space (in other words software equal mind, computer equal physical brain). But again, as Bob and Crude stated, how would you know it is sentient, self-aware?

Dan Gillson said...

How would we know? is an interesting question, but I think that the question Why would we deny it? is a little more revealing. I know that I'm a little leery about the implications of creating a sentient computer; I'd probably be quicker to deny that it happened than to accept it.

B. Prokop said...

Might I recommend listening to this radio play version of Cliiford D. Simak's "How-2"? I guarantee you will not regret the one half hour it takes. In an insanely humorous fashion, Simak deals with many of the serious issues involving AI that most of us never think about, such as legal rights for machines, tax issues, etc.

And all this way back in 1954!

Karl Grant said...

Dan,

I know that I'm a little leery about the implications of creating a sentient computer; I'd probably be quicker to deny that it happened than to accept

Ah, so you are of the Purity affinity... Sorry couldn't resist, been over at Civfantics talking about Civilization Beyond Earth for the last two months.

Dan Gillson said...

No! I'm just afraid of Skynet!

oozzielionel said...

If the AI depends on software, the meaning of intelligence is stretched. As long as it depends on its software, it is merely simulating the intelligence of its designer. If you can erase the program and it still functions, maybe then you have something.

Crude said...

John,

Crude, you seem to have many questions and no answers.

As others have pointed out (thanks Heuristics, etc, by the way), I'm addressing claims you've made - and I'm doing so fairly and politely. You say we should just wait to see if such a thing is made, and thus we will stand refuted. But I'm asking whether (and why or why not) you can't refute us with what programs we already had. They illustrate a problem with your claims, and quite possibly even your understandings.

Keep in mind, nowhere did I bother denying the possibility of an AI that is sentient and has subjective experience. I'm even willing to grant it for the sake of argument. But I had questions beyond that which helped illustrate the problem at hand - and your site doesn't answer them.

You do concede that's possible, yes?

John Moore said...

No, I'm not saying we just have to wait. I'm presenting a fairly simple, practical theory for how we can build an AI that's fully conscious and alive. I'm not sure "Heuristics" bothered to look at that before dismissing my website wholesale.

Heuristics said my web postings were just "statements of the form x is y!" and it's true that we need to pay close attention to word definitions, but on the other hand, there's my theory, or recipe for creating AI, written out plainly in a step-by-step process on the "How to Build AI" page.

In response to the question of "How would we know?" it's true you can never force someone to look beyond solipsism, but I have a clear definition of life and of mind. If you accept these definitions, you'll have to accept that the AI has a mind and is alive. You just need to understand that it's a neural network that evolved by natural selection.

Anyway, I don't want to hijack Victor's web traffic, but if anyone wants to pursue this discussion further, please send me a message through the contact form on my website. I'd love for one of you to convince me I'm wrong. Or failing that, you'll help me develop better ideas better and present them better.

Heuristics said...

John: I read your site and your step by step proposal. The problem is that it is not much more then a dream. These are questions that have been debated for thousands of years and your site shows no real engagement with this discussion. You instead make definitions for words that do not mach how they are commonly used and make wild claims without any explanation for why those statements would actually be true. Calling it a theory is too much as well since your statements do not bind into one another, they are just free standing statements. On top of that there is no indication that you understand what this dream would actually cash out to as far as implementation goes, just mentioning "neural networks" doesn't really say much or give any indication that you even know what capabilities and limitations NN have.

Meaning, there is a mountain of argumentation and discussion that could be had about what you write, but why have it? You show no interest in actually having a discussion. What you show is an interest in this field, that's something, it's fun to think about these things but it's not much food for a serious discussion, at the very least you yourself would personally need to get involved for that to happen. As it is right now you personally just display the same lack of interest in engaging with these ideas seriously as your site does.

Martin said...

Jeffrey Jay Lowder,

Simple induction.In the vast majority of cases, investigation has revealed natural causes for natural events.

What about the thesis that the only reason this has occurred is because there is a mind in which we can dump the stuff that doesn't fit the materialist paradigm?

John Moore said...

It's not a dream; it's a straightforward and practical proposal: If we build a digital environment where neural network agents compete with each other and evolve by natural selection, they will evolve into true AI.

Yes, there's a mountain of discussion we could have, but you seem more interested in my background knowledge or my credentials in the field, or something. Fine. I'll pursue this discussion with people who are interested in the actual ideas.

Dan Gillson said...

John,

Your page is interesting. However, I don't think that your plan for building an AI will lead you to your goal, viz., an artificial consciousness that is alive and morally equivalent to a human being. Consider, for instance, the fact that individual human brains are embedded in a culture. The cognizing capacities of a culture greatly outstrip the capacities of individual human brains. Our intelligence is almost completely dependent on the culture it inhabits. (For more on this, cf. Merlin Donald.) Your proposed method of building an AI fails to take this into account. While you might build a sort of living artificial intelligence, without culture it won't ever be the inttectual or moral equivalent of a person.

Heuristics said...

John: This is the forth time I am trying to get across a simple point: You have not engaged in argumentation and show no sign of wanting to.

There is nothing else. I cannot make this point any simpler, if you do not understand it by now you are actively trying not to. So i wont be trying any further.

Dan Gillson said...

Heuristics,

Your reply to John is one big exercise in begging the question. To recap: you assume that John's proposal won't work because it's a dream, and we know all that dreams aren't real, so John's proposal won't work. John's proposal certainly isn't perfect, but don't mistake your own question begging assessment of John's proposal for John's insouciance. He is clearly willing to have a serious discussion

BenYachov said...

I always loved mocking the Multiverse concept (though I don't rule it out, and as a "solution" to the Fine Tuning I think it just pushes the Problem up a level. Example: What meta-fine tuning of the multiverse causes it to produce Universes?).

My favorite mockery of the Multiverse is in some Universe somewhere Batman is real and you are Batman.

"If God existed, God would have to choose to actualize our life-permitting universe from among a sea of similar non-life-permitting universes......The fine-tuning evidence doesn’t change any of that, and hence the fine-tuning evidence doesn’t change my probability for the existence of God. "

Morton is a cut above most popular Atheists(i.e. Gnus). Indeed he is an order of magnitude if only for the brute fact he is a philosopher. I believe he wrote a book defending ID?

Of course that means when he thinks of God he likely thinks in terms of Theistic Personalism not Classic Theism.

God is shown to exist by philosophical not Probability.

God in the Thomistic sense is omnipotent & as such nothing is hard for him to create. God also doesn't need creation so there is nothing he really is obligated to create. For God creating a single Photon , a single Universe or a Multiverse is all not hard for Him. Indeed the concepts of hard and easy are not coherently applicable to him.

B. Prokop said...

Whenever I hear of the multiverse concept, I cannot but help thinking of the lines from Walt Whitman's Passage to India:

O Thou transcendent,
Nameless, the fibre and the breath,
Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou centre of them


My emphasis, of course. The poem continues:

Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving,
Thou moral, spiritual fountain - affection's source - thou reservoir,
...
Thou pulse - thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space!

Crude said...

John,

When Heuristics says that your project is just a dream, I think there's one way to take it that lodges a legitimate criticism: at heart, your proposal largely comes down not to any technology or proposal, but definition. And definitions that are very, very thin on content, not to mention confused.

You just define living things as, loosely, 'that which evolves by natural selection'. From that you seem to just define your goals into existence, and then seem to suggest that you've discovered how to show that such and such has subjective experiences or intentionality or, etc, etc.

And, to be frank - I see this a lot with your argumentation, to the point where I wonder if you even realize you're doing it. You can only get so far by defining.

Obsidian said...

There are tonnes of other examples of materialists being wrong.
Eg.behaviouralism being displaced by cognitive science , spontaneous generation of animals from dead matter being possible, animal species always existing.

Obsidian said...

@Jeff Lowder
I haven't read the paper you linked yet (I will later) so I'm just going off your quote.

But I recall Robin Collins and Luke Barnes have written about the "Old evidence" problem and the comparison range problems that Montons bring up.
Luke Barnes
http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/probability-myth-weve-observed-x-so-the-probability-of-x-is-one/

And couldn't your objection be applied to any scientific theory confirmation with already observed evidence? Couldn't it be applied to some atheological arguments?
For example your argument from evolution. Everyone already knew that many animals die and suffer and engage in change over time , so I don't see how new insights of Darwin reduce the probability of theism.


Also I think your induction here is faulty. I don't think classical theists have seriously ever maintained we wouldn't find physical causes for example the tides or other mechanistic workings that go on in nature. SO I don't think finding certain physical causes would confirm atheism over theism.
Ed Feser's quote posted by amorbis is right on the money IMO.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

lso I think your induction here is faulty. I don't think classical theists have seriously ever maintained we wouldn't find physical causes for example the tides or other mechanistic workings that go on in nature. SO I don't think finding certain physical causes would confirm atheism over theism.
Ed Feser's quote posted by amorbis is right on the money IMO.


With all due respect, I think you've misunderstood my point about induction. Here is what I wrote:

Let's assume that, as Victor argues, BB cosmology and quantum indeterminacy are evidence against materialism. Even granting those very generous assumptions, it would still be the case that, prior to investigation, we should predict that currently unexplained phenomena have a naturalistic explanation.

That sentence does NOT claim "finding certain physical causes would confirm atheism over theism," as you incorrectly suggest. In other words, I wasn't making an argument for atheism. Rather, I was making an argument for a modest (but defeasible) presumption of naturalism in science.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

What about the thesis that the only reason this has occurred is because there is a mind in which we can dump the stuff that doesn't fit the materialist paradigm?

Yes, what about it? For purposes of this discussion, let's assume that thesis is true and that we know it is true with absolute certainty. Nothing has changed because that thesis is irrelevant to the point I was making.

Why? I wasn't making an argument for atheism. Rather, I was making an argument for a modest (but defeasible) presumption of naturalism in science. It could be the case that your thesis is true AND that a modest presumption of naturalism in science is justified.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

But I recall Robin Collins and Luke Barnes have written about the "Old evidence" problem and the comparison range problems that Montons bring up.
Luke Barnes
http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/probability-myth-weve-observed-x-so-the-probability-of-x-is-one/


I'm familiar with both that specific page and its author. In fact, I've tweeted that I am very impressed with the work of Dr Barnes.

I'm not sure how that page is even relevant to Monton's point that fine-tuning arguments vary the constants while keeping the laws of physics fixed, however. Could you elaborate on how Barnes's post addresses THAT point?

And couldn't your objection be applied to any scientific theory confirmation with already observed evidence? Couldn't it be applied to some atheological arguments?
For example your argument from evolution. Everyone already knew that many animals die and suffer and engage in change over time , so I don't see how new insights of Darwin reduce the probability of theism.


Interesting question. I'd need to go re-read Monton's supporting argument to see if the analogy holds before offering an answer. If it does hold, then I'd say you have a good objection to his argument.

Obsidian said...

@ Jeff Lowder
Thanks for your response.
As an aside , let me say I'm a huge fan of Paul Draper and I really enjoyed your posts summarizing his materials.

1) Induction
I understand what you were saying better. I still thinks its faulty though. To borrow another Feser analogy , let's say a security officer has a good success rate of finding metal weapons with his metal detector. Is he warranted in concluding that all objects can be found using metal detectors?
We have had good success in finding physical causes , but we should be cautious in our extrapolations.
Given the modesty which you attribute your case I guess you realise this to some extent.

2)Fine-tuning
As I said I haven't read Monton's paper yet . I was linking to Barnes because he was discussing the problem of old evidence. I think Collins discusses it as well.

Do you think you can summarize what you think Monton's strongest points are here?

B. Prokop said...

THIS ARTICLE by Abraham Loeb of the Institute for Theory and Computation has major implications for the stranglehold that enforced evolutionary orthodoxy (e.g., toss out ID without a hearing) has on contemporary biological science. Pay especial attention to the concluding paragraph.

Ilíon said...

Are existing computers Turing Machines, or are they not?

And, if they are Turing Machines, then the (silly) claim that some hypothetical yet-to-be-built computer will be a mind (and somehow thereby materialist reductionism to be the truth of the nature of reality) can already be claimed, with as much honesty and justification, of already existing computers.

Ilíon said...

Is the Lego computer a Turing Machine, or is it not?

And if it is a Turing Machine, then any claim that some not-yet-built computer will be a mind is equally as true of the already-built Lego computer.

Ilíon said...

The big difference (as relates to the fundamentally silly assertion of strong-AI) between the Lego computer and an electronic computer is that with the Lego computer you can see the bits of matter moving about, and so it's not so easy to lie to yourself about what is and is not going on.

B. Prokop said...

"with the Lego computer you can see the bits of matter moving about, and so it's not so easy to lie to yourself about what is and is not going on."

Excellent point! Never quite thought about it that way!

Hugo said...

"with the Lego computer you can see the bits of matter moving about, and so it's not so easy to lie to yourself about what is and is not going on."

Excellent point! Never quite thought about it that way!


Oh the irony. Yes, it's easier to lie to yourself when you claim ignorance as evidence for your position.

Ilíon said...

me: "The big difference (as relates to the fundamentally silly assertion of strong-AI) between the Lego computer and an electronic computer is that with the Lego computer you can see the bits of matter moving about, and so it's not so easy to lie to yourself about what is and is not going on."

B.Prokop: "Excellent point! Never quite thought about it that way!"

Someone (*) made the same point a couple of hundred years ago, using, I think, a wind mill as his example of a machine providing the moving parts -- the physical state-changes -- for the (willfully believed) illusion that a machine built to simulate (**) some act that minds can undertake is therefore emulating (**) minds. The gist of it was that you can walk into the mill and you can *see* the physical state-changes which power the simulation; that is, you can *see* how the illusion is accomplished, and so you should be disillusioned.

Now, with the wind mill or the Lego computer, the physical state-changes are happening, both materially and temporally, at scales wherein we can observe the state-changes with our own eyes; whereas, with a modern electronic computer, the scale of the physical state-changes (again, in both aspects) is such that we cannot directly observe them with our own eyes.

That – the fact that we can, if we care to, directly observe how the illusion is accomplished when powered by the Lego computer (or the windmill), but not when powered by an electronic computer -- is the *only* difference in the illusory claim that a “thinking machine” has been built. This is why the strong-AI liars (***) are forever promising that once electronic computers can be built to undergo physical state-changes fast enough, or can be networked together into a large enough array, *then* by golly we we’ll show you that minds *are too* just matter-in-motion.


(*) I don't recall who it was, but I'm sure I read it here, quoted by Mr Reppert.

(**) obviously, he didn't use either word, I expect he said something along the lines of “thinking machine”

(***) They have no excuse of ignorance to use as a fig-leaf to cover their willful self-deception: for they know as well as I do, better even, just want a computer is and is not. They know as well as I do, or even better, the theoretical-and-logical underpinnings of “computer science”

Ilíon said...

But, when one allows oneself to understand what a computer is, one doesn’t need to be able to see the physical state-changes to see that a “thinking machine” will *always* be an illusion. When one allows oneself to understand what a computer is, one understands that *IF* it were indeed true that *someday* the “right” program executing on an electronic computer really will be a mind, *THEN* it is equally true that *right now* the “right” program executing on a Lego computer really is a mind.

But no one – not even the strong-AI proponents, who desperately want-and-need minds to be just matter-in-motion – will ever be taken in by the lie that a program executing on a Lego computer really is a mind. It’s only when the physical state-changes can be hidden that the illusion can be maintained.

The take –home lesson is this: the *lie* that thought, and thus minds, can be reduced to matter-in-motion is one that the God-deniers simply cannot wean themselves from.

And it’s an amusing irony; for, as even Karl Grant has recognized above, even if a “thinking machine” could ever be built – in direct violation of all the theoretical-and-logical (****) underpinnings of “computer science” -- all they would have done is demonstrate that minds are immaterial – that human minds are not *in* the matter of our bodies -- which we already know anyway.

(****) “computer science” *starts* with theory, with logical constructs: the physical computer itself is just a physical instantiation of the prior theoretical work. Unlike, say physics, “computer science” isn’t extended by asking, “I wonder what happens when you poke here” and then observing what happens when you do poke. Rather, “computer science” is extended by further consideration of the logical implications already implicit in the mental construct called “computer science”. That is, “computer science” is *all* theory – the physical computer is just a happy by-product.

Ilíon said...

"No! I'm just afraid of Skynet!"

Ain't never gonna happen.

And, by the way, Commander Data is not a robot or machine: he's as much a human being as Pichard.

Obviously, the actor is a human being, but so is the character a literary representation of a human being.

B. Prokop said...

"Oh the irony. Yes, it's easier to lie to yourself when you claim ignorance as evidence for your position."

Huh? What does that even mean?

Seriously, I neither see any irony, nor do I understand your point. What did I say that was wrong? How am I lying to myself?

grodrigues said...

@Ilíon:

"Someone (*) made the same point a couple of hundred years ago, using, I think, a wind mill as his example of a machine providing the moving parts"

"(*) I don't recall who it was, but I'm sure I read it here, quoted by Mr Reppert."

Leibniz.

Ilíon said...

me: "The big difference (as relates to the fundamentally silly assertion of strong-AI) between the Lego computer and an electronic computer is that with the Lego computer you can see the bits of matter moving about, and so it's not so easy to lie to yourself about what is and is not going on."

B.Prokop: "Excellent point! Never quite thought about it that way!"

Hugely erroneous: "Oh the irony. Yes, it's easier to lie to yourself when you claim ignorance as evidence for your position."

Ironic indeed. By the way, isn't this ankle-biter the same fellow who was just the other day whining like a little girl because I'd already invented a (fitting) nickname for everything he will ever say in (supposed) defense of God-denial?


So, let's take a look at the "irony", shall we? It goes something like this --

materialist: "The 'mind' is just matter-in-motion."

anti-materialist: "That isn't the case, actually."

materialist: "You don't *know* that ... therefore, you have no standing to dispute my (bald) assertion."

anti-materialist: "In fact, I do know that, and here is why/how ...[presents *logical* case against materialistic reductionism and/or materialistic monism]"

materialist: "Tsk! That's just logic; logic doesn't count as 'evidence'."

anti-materialist: "Logic doesn't count as evidence?"

Now, here is where the anti-materialist *ought* to understand that he's dealing with an irrational -- and fundamentally dishonest -- person, who will say *anything* to protect his God-denial from rational evaluation, and who has no interest at all in getting to the truth of this particular question. But, typically, the anti-materialist, especially if he's still in thrall to "civility" (over truth), is not willing to acknowledge just what sort of person he's dealing with, so he tries to continue ...

anti-materialist: "So, you have some 'evidence' that minds really are just matter-in-motion?"

materialist: "Yes; computers."

anti-materialist: "Computers? You mean those machines that humans design and build to do mathematical calculations?"

materialist: "Yes; and the 'Turing Test'."

anti-materialist: "The 'Turing Test'? You mean the assertion that if a computer program could be written such that a human being interacting with it, not knowing before-hand that he was interacting with a program, could be fooled into believing that he was interacting with a human being, that ergo, the computer program would be a mind, functionally and morally equivalent to a human mind?"

materialist: "Yes. See! computers prove that there is no 'little man' in your head, and that minds are just matter-in-motion."

Once again, with that snide smirk about a "little man in you head", the anti-materialist *ought* to understand that he's dealing with a fundamentally dishonest person who has no interest at all in getting to the truth of this particular question.

anti-materialist: "I never said anything about a 'little man in my head'; but no, I do not see that computers, or the assertion of the 'Turin Test', makes your case."

materialist: "Personal incredulity is not an argument ... therefore, you have no standing to dispute my (bald) assertion."

Once again, the anti-materialist *ought* to understand what sort of person he's dealing with. In this case, the materialist is asserting that his own personal credulity in what he wants to believe trumps anyone else's skepticism about his claims ... which, notice, are unsupported.

Ilíon said...

anti-materialist: "But, computer programs are not, and never will be, minds. Here's why the assertion that they are (or will be) is false ..."

materialist: "Eliminative arguments aren't valid 'Science!' ... therefore, you have no standing to dispute my (bald) assertion."

This "argument" could go on forever (call it an 'infinite loop') ... because the anti-materialist is declining to address the intellectual dishonesty of the materialist, which must be addressed and "cured" before any progress toward the truth of the matter can be made. In practice, the anti-materialist gets so disgusted by the intellectual dishonesty (he *sees* it, even if he won't acknowledge that he sees it) that he drops the matter.

And that was the materialist's goal, all along -- he's made his bald and undefended (and indefensible) assertion, and the persons challenging it have given up the matter, without him ever *defending* the assertion.

anti-materialist: "But, I've shown -- logically -- that your argument, such as it is, false. And that, ergo, its denial is true!"

materialist: "You used an eliminative argument for your feable attempt to defeat my 'evidence' with mere 'logic'. Only a 'better' argument can defeat my argument, only 'better' evdence can defeat my 'evidence' ... therefore, you have no standing to dispute my (bald) assertion."

anti-materialist: "Wait! What was your 'evidence' again? What was your 'argument' again?"

materialist: "Computers. And 'Science!'"

anti-materialist: "But, no one has built a couputer nor written a computer program that backs up your assertion that minds are just matter-in-motion. No one has presented any 'science' that backs up the assertion without making any number of questionalbe assumptions."

materialist: "Tsk! There's that 'personal incredulity' again! Sure, no one has done it yet ... but someone *will*"

And we've circled around the the topic of the OP.

====
Hugely erroneous: "Oh the irony. Yes, it's easier to lie to yourself when you claim ignorance as evidence for your position."

So, *here* is Hugo's "irony" -- he is asserting ignorance -- and it's a willful ignorance-- as "evidence" for his position. It doesn't matter what logical arguments nor physical evidence one might present against his indefensible asssertion, he'll simply dismiss it with a hand-wave and an "I don't know that".