Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Blind Programmer


Patricia Smith Churchland, however, in response to a version of the Argument from Reason presented by Geoffrey Madell, attempts to defend materialism by suggesting that although humans, unlike computers, are not products of intelligent design, the evolutionary process simulates intelligent design in such a way as to provide reason:

There is a fatal tendency to assume that intentionality cannot just be a function of the neurons and their connectivity, but that there must be someone in the head who interprets neuronal signals, who sees the activation patterns of the visual cortex, who takes the data and makes a free decision, and so on. As Dan Dennett has tirelessly pointed out, postulating homunculi does not explain anything - it just defers the question. And on this, even someone as wedded to intrinsic intentionality as Searle, agrees. If AI has taught us anything, it is that effects which seem to require an intelligent homunculus can really be done by stupid elements properly hooked up. Who hooked us up? Evolution.

So, not only do we have a Blind Watchmaker, we have a Blind Programmer.

But stupid elements cannot select in the interests of truth, and can they add up to determinate meanings? Without determinate meanings it is never clear what anyone means by anything, and logic is impossible.

1 comment:

David Brightly said...

But stupid elements cannot select in the interests of truth.

This seems to be an article of faith. Do we know enough about the nature of truth in relation to ourselves and language to be able confidently to say this?

What exactly are the 'stupid elements' here? Are they the evolutionary pressures that select and reject mutations? They clearly do not select for truths themselves in any sense(*). But they might select for truth finding and preserving capacities. Being in possession of a route to truth and being in a position to act upon it an appropriate way seem to be characteristics that evolution can act on.

* Plantinga, I think, conflates truths with truth finding capacities in his EAAN. But that's another discussion.