Pharyngula

For Mike Huckabee.

Collins is a good choice for any candidate who thinks sucking up to a religious constituency is more important than getting the best advice about science. For anyone who actually wants advice about science, I recommend RPM.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    Well, you just saved me the trouble of writing a post.

    The Science Adviser’s job is to explain science. Generating platitudes is the duty of the politician.

    (I should confess that two of us have already endorsed Phil Plait for the job, but he doesn’t want it.)

  2. #2 Karen
    January 8, 2008

    Watch out! That’s a perfect opportunity for a quote mine!

    Fortunately, your opinion is worth less than dirt to the people who might want to make use of it.

  3. #3 Sigmund
    January 8, 2008

    Can’t someone please appoint a Science Advisor for Matt Nisbet.

  4. #4 caynazzo
    January 8, 2008

    I strongly agree with RPM that Collins would not make a good science advisor, however, I think he’s wrong to call the man ignorant of evolutionary theory. Collins may not be fully appreciative of its implications for and prematurely discounts it as insufficient in explaining human behavior, but I see the man smitten with his god of the gaps more than plagued by simple ignorance.
    Part of me wants to be wrong on this; I really hate defending Geneticists for Jesus.

  5. #5 Sastra, OM
    January 8, 2008

    Religion itself has to be vague platitudes and untestable, insignificant speculations which are mostly about attitude. The minute you start to get serious and try to pin down what it’s saying about what the supernatural is, how it works, and where science can detect it, it automatically “turns” into the paranormal, and you’re doing pseudoscience.

  6. #6 Steve LaBonne
    January 8, 2008

    Can’t someone please appoint a Science Advisor for Matt Nisbet.

    What he really needs is a “when to shut up” adviser. Might be too big a job for one person, though.

  7. #7 Jan Chan
    January 8, 2008

    If they really must have a Christian for science advisor, I don’t think I would mind if it was Ken Miller, I think he did a good job at Dover. (Unless someone has some dissenting view I don’t know about) That said, if there is an election, my vote goes to Tyson.

  8. #8 saurabh
    January 8, 2008

    Wait, wait – you mean, it’s okay for Collins to head the HGP, to be director of the NHGRI, and to direct the research of hundreds of scientists and millions of research dollars with plenty of skill and vision, but he’s not up to scratch to being a science advisor to the president? He’s relegated to the same pile as Mike Huckabee because he has some religious beliefs? Provide me any evidence that Collins’ beliefs have ever gotten in the way of his (considerable) scientific work. Otherwise you guys are just empty-headed bigots.

  9. #9 Sigmund
    January 8, 2008

    saurabh, I have no problem with Collins as a scientist or administrator. The objection is to Matt Nisbets suggestion that Collins particular religious belief should be a strong factor in him getting the job. I would prefer to appoint someone to a scientific post on the basis of their scientific ability alone rather than their superstitious notions.

  10. #10 Sastra, OM
    January 8, 2008

    Oh, I disagree with PZ and think Collins would make a fine science advisor to the president. Better than most, in fact, especially if it’s Huckabee. As long Collins stays away from expressing his scientific view of “where we got morals” — in other words, unless he’d be willing to admit he’s been speculating outside his field and concede that matter to specialists in the area.

  11. #11 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    At the risk of being an empty-headed bigot, I should emphasize that in my view, the important qualification for a Science Advisor is not their ability to do research or to direct others in doing research, but rather their ability to explain science clearly, represent controversies accurately and learn about fields in which they were not formally trained. You don’t have to be doing research right now to have those skills, nor do you need an impressive backlog of project leadership, although of course you won’t have a deep enough understanding of science if all your knowledge about it comes from the magazines.

    So, when saurabh asks,

    He’s relegated to the same pile as Mike Huckabee because he has some religious beliefs?

    My answer is “No.” As discussed in the comment thread over here, I’d support a fellow like David Brin, even though I know he has “some religious beliefs”, since he’s impressed me enough with the qualities I mentioned above. Lots of other people have done so as well, of course, so the candidate pool would be pretty big.

    I don’t give a damn what a Science Advisor does on whatever day of the week he or she declares to be the Sabbath. However, I reserve the right to worry when, for any reason, a candidate for that position doesn’t live up to the standards which I believe the job requires. Perhaps they’re a closet racist, and therefore prone to distorting the science of human genetics; or, alternatively, maybe they’re in the pocket of a petroleum company. I’d say that a deist, an agnostic or a genuinely liberal theist who respects Jefferson’s Wall would be a better choice than an atheist who’s being paid off by Big Oil.

  12. #12 Phoenix Woman
    January 8, 2008

    By the way, HR 888 (the official endorsement of creationism) is apparently coming up for a vote:

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/1/8/65957/25345/519/432725

  13. #13 saurabh
    January 8, 2008

    I regret my ‘empty-headed bigot’ remark, that was a bit strong.

    That is all.

  14. #14 ERV
    January 8, 2008

    saurabh–

    Francis Collins sucks compared to Craig Venter, for the human genome and in subsequent pursuits.

    Venter did it faster and with less $$, and is currently doing more and more useful research along those same lines (ie the microbiome project, artificial life, etc).

    OH BUT WAIT! Venter is an atheist– guess hes disqualified from Nisbets list.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    I endorse Brian Switek as Presidential Science Blogging Advisor.

  16. #16 poke
    January 8, 2008

    Collins would probably be a huge improvement on whoever Huckabee would actually choose.

  17. #17 Kseniya
    January 8, 2008

    A headless animated scarecrow that supported teaching evolution in the schools would probably be a huge improvement on whoever Huckabee would actually choose.

  18. #18 Richard Harris
    January 8, 2008

    Poke @ # 16, Wouldn’t Huckabilly likely pick that omniscient Jehova god thing as his science advisor?

  19. #19 Science Goddess
    January 8, 2008

    From Wikipedia: My comments in [brackets - SG]

    BioLogos [Collins' name for his philosophy - SG] rests on the following premises: (1) The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago, [no argument from me - SG] (2) Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life, [I disagree, and think that life has adapted to the conditions of the universe - SG] (3) While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time, [OK - SG] (4) Once evolution got under way no special supernatural intervention was required, [OK here, too - SG] (5) Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes, [OK] (6) But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history. [muddy, but not pejorative - SG]

    Sounds OK to me.

    SG

  20. #20 Skwee
    January 8, 2008

    Mike Huckabee would probably pardon Kent Hovind so he could have the post. In that case, Collins would be an improvement.

  21. #21 heddle
    January 8, 2008

    SG,

    (2) Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life, [I disagree, and think that life has adapted to the conditions of the universe - SG]

    What Collins is saying is that the existence of stars and galaxies (and hence heavy elements and rocky planets) depends on various constants having constrained values. If you disagree, and assume life adapted to the universe–by which I take it you mean life would have adapted to any universe (the puddle analogy), then we can test this. Because most of the universe looks like what all of it might have looked like without the fine tuning–namely diffuse hydrogen and helium. (Other parts of it resemble another possible outcome without the fine tuning, neutron stars.) If life simply adapts to the universe–then intergalactic space should be teeming with life (and so should neutron stars). If not, the Collins is right and the universe appears to be fine tuned for life–that is, life requires galaxies and stars–and stars that create heavy elements and blast them into space. So do you in fact believe that intergalactic space and neutron stars are supporting life?

  22. #22 Kseniya
    January 8, 2008

    You use the word “should” in a rather cavalier manner, Mr. H., in your effort to construct a straw version of what SG wrote. Show me where she wrote that life would necessarily adapt to the conditions of ANY universe.

    The cracks between the tiles in my shower enclosure are not fine-tuned for the purpose of allowing mildew to thrive – and yet, there it is.

    Try accepting the possibility that this all just is, and that life, where it can arise, does arise.

  23. #23 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    If not, the[n] Collins is right and the universe appears to be fine tuned for life

    Or for rocks. (Lithic Principle.)

    Or for black holes…

  24. #24 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    If not, the[n] Collins is right and the universe appears to be fine tuned for life

    Or for rocks. (Lithic Principle.)

    Or for black holes…

  25. #25 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    The cracks between the tiles in my shower enclosure are not fine-tuned for the purpose of allowing mildew to thrive

    How do you know? :-)

  26. #26 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    The cracks between the tiles in my shower enclosure are not fine-tuned for the purpose of allowing mildew to thrive

    How do you know? :-)

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    Science Goddess quoted Wikipedia describing Collins thusly:

    Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life

    Um, no. This is at worst completely wrong and at best unsupported by current evidence.

    But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.

    Again, no. Collins treats moral behavior in human beings the same way that Michael Behe treats the bacterial flagellum. Furthermore, it’s a wonderful example of astonishing Christian arrogance: all the thousands of mythic heroes, animal spirits, demigods, goddesses and gods worshiped by human beings for tens of thousands of years are collapsed into a single “God”. What about the millions of people who were satisfied to worship Isis, or who mourned to Enlil when the city of Ur fell? For a religious man, Collins appears stupefyingly unconcerned with the spiritual diversity of humankind.

    The moment he stops talking about genetics and says anything about cosmology, physics or history, Collins sounds like a buffoon.

    (Yes, the quoted passages come from Wikipedia, but from my reading of Collins’ own statements, I’d say that they are accurate representations of his views.)

  28. #28 Brownian, OM
    January 8, 2008

    Oh twaddle, so silly, so stupid.

    You can’t even make that argument for Earth, idiot, since not all forms of life are equally adaptive in different environments.

    For example, insects, one of the most ubiquitous classes of life, are scarcely found in Antarctica or the oceans.

    Would you say that Tahiti is thus fine-tuned for insects and Antarctica is not?

    Given that evidence, is it so hard to suppose that certain regions of the universe never exhibited the conditions to form life, nor are suitable for colonisation by life that formed elsewhere?

    Dipshit. Pull your head out of your ass and smell the evidence around you before you run off to embrace every retarded idea that allows you to cling so tenaciously to your ill-founded faith.

    Fuck me, but you’re dumb.

  29. #29 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    And, in fact, I’m not sure I should give credit to Collins for the getting the genetics part right.

  30. #30 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history. [muddy, but not pejorative - SG]
    Sounds OK to me.

    so, you’re going to base you conclusions on wiki?

    LOL

    try reading the reasoning behind his “Moral Law” theory in his book, and THEN tell me it “sounds OK”.

    or, if you’re too lazy to do that, read Gert’s review of it here:

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Theistic.cfm

    scroll down to:

    The Irreducibly Complex Moral Law

    I’m of the same mind as Blake Stacey on this one. It’s not that Collins doesn’t do a good job explaining how all genetics observations support the ToE, it’s that he is obviously unable to compartmentalize his religious nonsense when speaking about topics he apparently isn’t well versed in (read: entirely ignorant of), like animal behavior, sociobiology,and aspects of humans physiology and psychology.

    IOW, he is the kind of guy that will indeed turn directly to his religious beliefs for answers to things that he is simply ignorant of.

    sorry, but that disqualifies him to be a good advisor in my mind.

    In fact, I have very often used Collins as a great example of how the whole idea of compartmentalization is an inevitable failure, much like the concept of NOMA.

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    And, in fact, I’m not sure I should give credit to Collins for the getting the genetics part right.

    interesting.

  32. #32 Lorax
    January 8, 2008

    I think the main problem most people are having isn’t about Collins specifically, but more about Nisbet denying that others (who don’t have an evangelical xian viewpoint) are less qualified. He put up Collins as a god-friendly science proponent, others have suggested Miller.

    But it seems to me whereas the scientists proposed by RPM (not because they were atheists from my reading) don’t have an issue with faith/science, Miller puts a firm line between his faith and science, Collins seems to use science to confirm his faith. This leads to problems: the earth can’t revolve around the sun because my religion taught me we were special in god’s eye, we can’t have evolve from earlier forms because we are apart from other animals. Collins is ok with most current scientific knowledge, but my fear is that when new insights are gained that defy Collins’ faith, will he adjust his faith or adjust the science. What if he were certain that his god wouldn’t let us wreck the planet via global warming? or that his god told him embryos are as much a human being as he is? Since this person is going to be advising the president on science issues, Ild prefer to have someone who is not in the backpocket of a supernatural entity. Nisbet seems to think this is a plus.

  33. #33 Sastra, OM
    January 8, 2008

    All fine tuning arguments have the same problem — they pick a special target that is important to us, and then go backwards to see what the odds of it happening were, measured against the possibilities it might not have happened. And then — surprise — the conclusion is that the target is very special. It’s almost as if it were … selected.

    It was. At the beginning of the calculating process. By us.

    Claims that God must have skillfully fine-tuned the universe for life should make us wonder where the narrow parameters God had to aim between came from. And why they’re there in the first place. After all, the Fine Tuning Argument carries within it a hidden assumption: life — even conscious life — can exist in every condition, no matter what the nature of the universe is or was. Or is God not alive?

  34. #34 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    btw, can we just ignore Heddle for once?

    it’s not like those responding to him havent’ seen the exact same “arguments” from him a hundred times before.

    suffice it to say, he will project, misquote, and obfuscate.

    is that really interesting?

    this isn’t a thread about cosmological IDiocy, after all.

  35. #35 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    but more about Nisbet denying that others (who don’t have an evangelical xian viewpoint) are less qualified. He put up Collins as a god-friendly science proponent, others have suggested Miller.

    actually, the real problem is Nisbet ignoring the obvious:

    If Huckleberrry is in fact, elected…

    we’re completely hosed; “bukaked with stupid”, as it were.. It hardly matters who he picks as “science adviser”.

  36. #36 Kseniya
    January 8, 2008

    David M.:

    How do you know? :-)

    Well, errr… LOL. Maybe I don’t. What I mean is, no corporeal entity intentionally made the cracks appear and actively ensured that the conditions in the cracks would be conducive to the formation and sustainting of mildew…

  37. #37 heddle
    January 8, 2008

    Kseniya

    Well what universe did she have in mind? The most important of fine tunings is that if the universe expanded more rapidly nothing would have coalesced. If less, we’d have a big crunch. That’s intergalactic-space-like everywhere or neutron-star-like everywhere. The third alternative, with galaxies, is our universe. So what did she mean?
    If she had said that she doesn’t believe our planet is fine tuned for life and that life might/would/probably did arise on another planet quite different from eaerth, then that’s a much weaker and much more defensible statement, and the puddle analogy is valid. But for a different universe–in which that vast majority of cases would not even contain the building blocks for any kind of life (heavy elements) that something else altogether.

    Try accepting the possibility that this all just is, and that life, where it can arise, does arise.

    That’s fine, but that is not what she wrote. She implied that if not this universe, then life would have found a way in another. If not the two possibilities that I described, then what is she talking about? If she meant another universe like this one, it was hardly worth the comment.

    Blake Stacey

    Um, no. This is at worst completely wrong and at best unsupported by current evidence.

    That is not completely wrong, in fact I would venture to guess that the recognition of the appearance of fine tuning is the majority opinion.

    Brownian OM,

    Because I would dare make the same comment for the earth; see the comment above. Your comment completely misses the boat. Again: it is much easier to claim that the earth is not even apparently fine tuned–it is virtually impossible to claim that our universe, or at least our part of it, does not have the appearance of fine tuning. The number of atheistic physicists/cosmologists who acknowledge the fine tuning problem (for the universe, not the earth) is too lengthy to enumerate. Multiverse theories and cosmological evolution are two ways that the problem is being addressed.

  38. #38 Brownian, OM
    January 8, 2008

    bukkaked with stupid

    Just what sort of video rental places do you have where you live, Ichythic?

  39. #39 Tulse
    January 8, 2008

    Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life

    What hubris. The universe is unimaginably vast, trillions of cubic light years of mostly empty space, with a little hydrogen for flavour. In a few extremely tiny spots some of that hydrogen and other stuff has clumped together to create stars, one hundred billion billion of them. Around some of these stars are even tinier clumps of matter. And out of all of the possibly million billion billion infinitesimal clumps of matter circling these stars in the void of trillions of cubic light years, we know of precisely one one on which some carbon and other stuff has been able to replicate itself. Given these facts, it is an act of profound arrogance to claim that the universe is somehow “fine-tuned” for human life. If anything, it is extraordinarily hostile to life, as the portion of it survivable by humans is so tiny as to be negligible.

    If you think the universe is fine-tuned for life, try walking to Venus naked.

  40. #40 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    Ichthyic:

    btw, can we just ignore Heddle for once?

    Done!

    This is where Daniel Martin’s killfile script is a great help.

  41. #41 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    Just what sort of video rental places do you have where you live, Ichythic?

    actually, I got that from the comments on a religio-video that was part of a recent thread here (the comment came from the video thread itself), and just decided it had just the right amount of accuracy and shock value.

    kind of like: “The stupid: it burns!”

    I notice you corrected my spelling, though….
    ;)

  42. #42 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    A Molly and a book contract for Tulse!

  43. #43 Ken Cope
    January 8, 2008

    Just what sort of video rental places do you have where you live

    What’s a video rental place?

  44. #44 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    What I mean is, no corporeal entity intentionally made the cracks appear and actively ensured that the conditions in the cracks would be conducive to the formation and sustainting of mildew…

    I’m going to take the liberty and suggest what you really mean is that there is no evidence than any entity intentionally made cracks appear in order to promote the growth of mildew.

    nor, of course, is there any reason or need to suspect one.

  45. #45 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    What’s a video rental place?

    spoken like someone who truly understands one of the primary economic driving forces of the web.

    :p

  46. #46 heddle
    January 8, 2008

    Tulse,

    >And out of all of the possibly million billion billion infinitesimal clumps of matter circling these stars in the void of trillions of cubic light years, we know of precisely one one on which some carbon and other stuff has been able to replicate itself. Given these facts, it is an act of profound arrogance to claim that the universe is somehow “fine-tuned” for human life.

    No, you too are missing the point, It is not that the earth is fine tuned, but the universe. And the claim is not that it is fine tuned for human life, but it has the appearance of being fine tuned for the possibility of any kind of life–because it exists on a razor’s edge for producing the building blocks of any kind of life. That is, quite easily none of those gazillions of clumps you mention would exist at all. That is the point of the universe having the appearance of fine tuning, and it is rather beyond dispute. You are arguing against a strawman.

  47. #47 Brownian, OM
    January 8, 2008

    Your comment completely misses the boat.

    Says you, stupid.

    She implied that if not this universe, then life would have found a way in another.

    Talk about missing the boat; you’re not even near a coast. She said that she thinks is happened in this universe this time around; that’s all.

    Any other implication you’re drawing is completely your own. Don’t hold us at fault because you’ve got a boner for God.

    Look, if it’ll make you go away, I’ll concede that you’re a supergenius who has us all cowed with your airtight understanding of the physical universe that conclusively proves that the Jews of 6,000 years ago got it completely right while all other Middle Easterners, Europeans, Africans, Asians, North, Central and South Americans, Australian Aborigines, and island dwellers various and sundry got it all wrong, but we’re just to mired in our hatred of morality and authority to realise it.

    That good enough for you, or do we have to give Jesus a rimmer too?

  48. #48 Zeno
    January 8, 2008

    Francis Collins is being cheerfully exploited by hardcore young-earth creationists who cite him as being a fellow traveler. Southwest Radio Ministries has been flogging a book on its broadcasts this week, highlighting Panorama of Creation and author Carl Baugh. Baugh called Collins a creationist, allowing the minor qualification that Collins is “not a recent creationist,” by which I assume he means that Collins is not a YEC.

    Collins appears not to realize the degree to which he is aiding and abetting the anti-scientists.

  49. #49 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    That good enough for you, or do we have to give Jesus a rimmer too?

    oops, now you’ve done it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b35O8O_5ZM

  50. #50 Neil B.
    January 8, 2008

    Speaking of what happens to scientists in the Bush Misadmin, I just heard James Hanson on PBS talk about how science was suppressed by Bush political appointees in various ways. I don’t like that at all and hope for better from Obama or Hillary or Edwards etc. (Believing in a outside First Cause for the laws of the universe does not endear me, anymore than I presume e.g. Paul Davies looking from across the pond, to Bush’s faith/politics-based approach to science. Most of the time I’m with you guys on practical issues, politics, science policy etc.)

    Look at this link:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hotpolitics/interviews/

  51. #51 Stinky Wizzleteats
    January 8, 2008

    saurabh et al.,

    Collins is a biologist. He claims humans have stopped evolving. It doesn’t get much more blatantly counterfactual than that. Explain to me again how someone who’s demonstrated supreme incompetence (or, to be less charitable, ideologically-driven bad faith) in their own field would make a good science advisor.

  52. #52 heddle
    January 8, 2008

    Brownian, OM

    She said that she thinks is happened in this universe this time around; that’s all.

    I don’t think that is what she meant at all. Because what she wrote was:

    (2) Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life, [I disagree, and think that life has adapted to the conditions of the universe - SG]

    If she was not implying a puddle analogy, then she is not really saying anything at all. You see, I think she is much smarter than you; while you might be expected to make a manifestly obvious statement like “life happened in this universe this time around; that’s all” which warrants a massive “gee, do you think so?” I don’t think that is what she was saying. And if she was saying that Collins is wrong about our universe being the way it is gives the appearance of fine tuning, she didn’t say it clearly–and in spite of Blake Stacey’s comment she would be in a minority position. No, the only way I see to interpret what she said, given that surely it wasn’t as stupid as what you claim, was that she believed that even if the universe had been different, life would have developed.

  53. #53 Ken Cope
    January 8, 2008

    spoken like someone who truly understands one of the primary economic driving forces of the web.

    Everybody knows the internet is fine-tuned for porn; from cave paintings and cathedrals to iphones, it isn’t a communications medium unless it can be used to distribute porn (says the guy whose first job as an 18 yr. old projectionist was at 1973′s Pussycat Theater, a porn house down the street from Knott’s Berry Farm).

  54. #54 Kseniya
    January 8, 2008

    Heddle: No.

    Ichthyic: Yes.

    Brownian: Right!

    Stinky: The esteemed Dr. Collins is a JAD sockpuppet?!?

    (sorry to be terse – gotta fly!)

  55. #55 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    the internet is fine-tuned for porn

    perfect.

  56. #56 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    What I mean is, no corporeal entity intentionally made the cracks appear and actively ensured that the conditions in the cracks would be conducive to the formation and sustainting of mildew…

    You still don’t know that. :-)

    (Cue Ockham’s War Axe. Ichthyic is right in comment 42, which probably is why it’s 42, but I digress.)

  57. #57 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    What I mean is, no corporeal entity intentionally made the cracks appear and actively ensured that the conditions in the cracks would be conducive to the formation and sustainting of mildew…

    You still don’t know that. :-)

    (Cue Ockham’s War Axe. Ichthyic is right in comment 42, which probably is why it’s 42, but I digress.)

  58. #58 Blake Stacey
    January 8, 2008

    Ken Cope saith,

    Everybody knows the internet is fine-tuned for porn

    That’s a line I’m gonna steal.

  59. #59 Brownian, OM
    January 8, 2008

    If she was not implying a puddle analogy, then she is not really saying anything at all. You see, I think she is much smarter than you; while you might be expected to make a manifestly obvious statement like “life happened in this universe this time around; that’s all” which warrants a massive “gee, do you think so?” I don’t think that is what she was saying. And if she was saying that Collins is wrong about our universe being the way it is gives the appearance of fine tuning, she didn’t say it clearly–and in spite of Blake Stacey’s comment she would be in a minority position. No, the only way I see to interpret what she said, given that surely it wasn’t as stupid as what you claim, was that she believed that even if the universe had been different, life would have developed.

    Reread her comment again, and you’ll see that her ‘Gee, do you think so?’ comment is a direct refutation of the idea that the universe is fine-tuned for life (which has all sorts of implications, one of which being that a universe ‘fine-tuned’ for life would imply that life necessary would involve in it. Why write a computer program (or fine-tune a universe for life) if you’re not going to type ‘run’ (or make life develop)?

    Thus, she is saying something, and it is the ‘Gee, do you think so?’ interpretation that is not supported by the fine-tuning argument.

    Keep trying though. You’re at the point where you’re so fucking wrong, any change in your thinking can only get you closer to the truth.

    It’s fun watching you try to work things out; like a dog studying its owner operate a doorknob, the puzzlement on your face must be positively darling.

  60. #60 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    btw, I’d just like to say that seeing Nisbet not only make the argument that Collins would be a fine adviser, but already making an assumption that Huckleberry will win, adds to the negative column he has already been building for himself.

    seriously, how long do we have to let this guy age before his ego stops writing checks his ideology can’t handle?

    will he start to make sense in 5 years, you think?

    ten?

    It worries me that Nisbet apparently has the ear of some political movers and shakers, as I’m quite sure they are getting bad advice from him, well intentioned though it might be.

  61. #61 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    … further, I begin to see a need for a direct counterpoint to Nisbet’s position, especially from the standpoint of promoting good science communication.

    Is there anybody acting in that role at this point?

    I didn’t see anybody on the NAS panel, nor, for that matter, was anybody apparently invited to play that role.

    I hate to rehash an old discussion, but this has been gnawing at me ever since it was pointed out by PZ and others a few months back.

    so, the question is:

    WHO is countering Nisbet’s nonsense within the area of scientific communication and politics?

    and, no, a blog is hardly a sufficient counter, so don’t bother going there.

  62. #62 mothra
    January 8, 2008

    Human evolution since Homo sapiens arose from H. ergaster/erectus/antecessor… enzymes to digest milk, epicanthic fold, blue eyes, sickle-cell gene for malaria resistance, but these are the obvious ones occurring to a non-geneticist entomologist. Collins cannot be a science adviser for the simple reason that he must be incompetent. Alternatively, since he is working in the field of human genomics, who is doing the research and does this make Collins a figure-head (or worse), again not science adviser material.

    As we all know, said by both Darwin and J.B.S Haldine- “The Lord must be inordinately fond of beetles.” One of every five species in the world is a beetle (one of every seven is a weevil). Three out of every five species in the world are insects. So, if the (ridiculous) point is accepted that the universe was fine tuned for life, it certainly was NOT human life. Mark Twain covered this point adequately more than a century ago with his essay- Was the World made for man.

  63. #63 heddle
    January 8, 2008

    Brownian, OM,

    You’re at the point where you’re so fucking wrong, any change in your thinking can only get you closer to the truth.

    You are wrong, as usual, although if you are smug enough and pretend you are right then maybe you can satisfy yourself.

    Indeed, I might be wrong on this, but if I am so are many other people. Because all I have stated is (and all Collins is stating is):

    1) The universe appears to be fine tuned for creating the building blocks of life (heavy elements.) (From this you stated: “that a universe ‘fine-tuned’ for life would imply that life necessary would involve in it.” which is an incorrect inference–although I would think that the majority on here would tend to agree that life in our universe was more or less inevitable.

    2) The appearance of fine tuning is this: tweak the constants, and the universe will not be capable of producing the building blocks of life.

    That is all I have stated here, and all that Collins is stating, and it is not even controversial. In fact the only serious physical scientist I know who disputes this is Victor Stenger, who had a plan to demonstrate that our universe doesn’t even have the appearance of fine tuning–that is, it is not sensitive to the values of the constants. He has not published that, as far as I know, but it is a sensible approach, although a minority opinion. However, I have yet to see another scientist, when discussing the fine tuning problem, dismiss it with a reference to Stenger.

    So you can keep saying I’m wrong, but have not demonstrated it.

    By the way, I forgot to mention that David Marjanovi?, OM was spot-on in #23 when he wrote

    Or for rocks. (Lithic Principle.)

    That is exactly right–saying the universe appears to be fine-tune for rocks is the same as saying it appears to be fine tuned for life. A universe that cannot produce rocks cannot produce life, and one that can produce rocks will produce the building blocks for life.

  64. #64 saurabh
    January 8, 2008

    Stinky Wizzleteats (#49): Read the comment thread on the above linked RPM post for more on that subject. There’s no quotes of Collins saying that explicitly, and I’d be surprised if he believes that; there’s a paper every other week about ongoing selection in humans in some major journal or another, so it would be nigh-impossible for someone in his position to hold that point of view.

  65. #65 poke
    January 8, 2008

    How does one “tune” a constant?

  66. #66 Stinky Wizzleteats
    January 8, 2008

    @61:

    Well, I don’t give him that much benefit of the doubt. The “[w]hat you see is pretty much what you get,” part seems to me to support the paraphrase by the interviewer that, I should point out, Collins has not disavowed. I’m sympathetic to the plight of scientists misquoted by lousy reporters, but an interview is a pretty one-on-one thing and I’d hope anyone competent enough to be science advisor would correct such a misconception in the interview (or at least after reading the printed interview). Also, Collins can’t claim that we were created in God’s image as God’s goal and at the same time admit the evidence that we are still evolving, since that destroys the internal logic of theistic evolution (if evolution is God’s way of making us in his image, and we are in His image, why would He use it to change us away from His image?).

    @62:

    “Constants” are probably better called “free parameters.” You have the rules that govern physical interactions, but as currently understood there are a lot (the number depends on how you count them and if you believe “constants” with units attached are physically meaningful) of numbers you have to tack on that are purely empirically determined. These are things like the strengths of the fundamental forces and ratios of particle masses. According to the “fine-tuning argument” life is only possible in a narrow range of these free parameters, therefore… I don’t know. Something. The universe is just as likely to have different free parameters than the ones it has so the universe probably isn’t the way it is? Something like that.

  67. #67 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    I’d be surprised if he believes that; there’s a paper every other week about ongoing selection in humans in some major journal or another, so it would be nigh-impossible for someone in his position to hold that point of view.

    there are even more papers discussing the evolution of altruistic behavior in animals, which Collins is just as apparently ignorant of, so it’s hardly impossible for him to hold such a POV, since he has already shown the capability of doing so.

    this is the point: his religious beliefs are automatically what he falls back on when uninformed on something scientifically.

  68. #68 CalGeorge
    January 8, 2008

    What a doofus:

    TIME: Dr. Collins, you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith.

    COLLINS: Yes. God’s existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God’s existence is outside of science’s ability to really weigh in.

  69. #69 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    from the first line of the article you pulled that from, the author (DAVID VAN BIEMA) writes:

    Collins’ devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins’.

    sorry, but that was a showstopper for me. It simply makes no sense, whatsoever.

    hard to think anything else the author has to say would be of interest after that.

    *shrug*

    still, I would guess the direct quotes at least would be useable material.

    sorry to see yet more bad writing prevalent in such a “time” honored publication (pun intended).

  70. #70 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    make that:

    first line of the third page (where your link goes).

  71. #71 Tulse
    January 8, 2008

    It is not that the earth is fine tuned, but the universe.

    Did you miss the “trillions of cubic light years of mostly empty space” part?

    And the claim is not that it is fine tuned for human life, but it has the appearance of being fine tuned for the possibility of any kind of life

    Right, those trillions of cubic light years of mostly empty space are so carefully “fine tuned” to produce an almost literally infinitesimally small bit of reproducing carbon in an almost literally infinitesimal corner of it. It is like saying that that the New York sewers are “fine tuned” to produce jewelry because occasionally someone drops their wedding ring in the toilet.

    If the only evidence of purposeful “fine tuning” you have is a tiny clump of matter in an almost infinite void, call me unimpressed at the efficiency of the “tuner”.

    Think of it another way — whatever could “fine tune” the actual fabric of the cosmos presumably could have, for example, filled those trillions of cubic light years with warm breathable air. And quintillions of Starbucks. And fountains filled with Lagavulin. And iPod trees. And an unlimited supply of Natalie Portman. That kind of universe would convince me of “fine tuning”, that its very nature was set so that it could be inhabited. The present one is a pretty frickin’ thin by comparison.

  72. #72 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 8, 2008

    Hello all! I’ve posted this over at Matt Nisbet and RPM’s respective blogs as a disclaimer, since I was referenced in Nisbet’s original post and in some of the comments.

    MATT: Whoa!

    I appreciate being mentioned on your blog, but if you check my original post, you will see that I was skeptical about the merits of science popularizers, as when I wrote:

    “Independent, thoughtful men and women who are career scientists or better-known for science popularization are probably not the best choice, because they will have already said or written things which are impolitic or easily misrepresented….what you need is someone who has achieved in science, but who switched to bureaucracy and who has some understanding of the weight lifting and making nice-nice that gets science funded in the first place.”

    I went on to mention Francis Collins, who definitely qualifies under the latter description. However, many of my skeptical friends don’t know Collins from his actual body of work in gummint, but as an evangelical Christian who makes poor arguments about evolutionary biology. Among such, he no doubt fits the description of someone how has ‘written something impolitic or easily misrepresented.’ Obviously, I don’t agree, Collins would make a reasonably good choice.

    But my post didn’t single Collins out as the best choice, necessarily, nor did I view his personal faith as especially qualifying him for service. It would be misleading to characterize my post as such, or to identify my views as the same as yours, Matt, and I want to make sure people know that. Thanks for the mention all the same.

    While I’m on the topic, I’d like to remark that the PSA’s main job should be to advise the President and defend the interests of the scientific community, not explain science to the general public or to advance a particular partisan agenda. I don’t know why so many commenting seem to think otherwise.

  73. #73 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    first, I’d like to say that Nisbet used you, very inappropriately, Scottt, and his musings have become rather more than annoying at this point.

    that said, two things:

    but as an evangelical Christian who makes poor arguments about evolutionary biology. Among such, he no doubt fits the description of someone how has ‘written something impolitic or easily misrepresented.’ Obviously, I don’t agree

    you don’t agree he makes horribly poor arguments regarding evolution at times, or that he fits the description of having written something “impolitic”?

    if the latter, we could debate that, if the former, that simply isn’t debatable; it’s plain fact.

    I’d like to remark that the PSA’s main job should be to advise the President and defend the interests of the scientific community, not explain science to the general public or to advance a particular partisan agenda

    i begin to wonder at this point if the two are actually separable, or if they should be, given the poor performance of the last president in the face of contrary information from his own science adviser.

    Moreover (getting back to Collins), based on Collins’ book, do you really think him capable of avoiding the advancement of an agenda?

  74. #74 Neil B.
    January 8, 2008


    According to the “fine-tuning argument” life is only possible in a narrow range of these free parameters, therefore… I don’t know. Something. The universe is just as likely to have different free parameters than the ones it has so the universe probably isn’t the way it is? Something like that.

    You got off to a good start, stinky, but then your last sentence is a non sequitur (that things could have been different is for abstract comparative analysis, not to challenge it being like this indeed.) The question is, why should the universe have traits “friendly to life” if the “why” of its being that way is not “purposive” in some way directed to that end. That in turn is a subset of the whole question, why are the laws of nature (or maybe just “our universe”) what they are? The silliest and emptiest thing is to just say, “why not”, or “that’s just the way things are”, because we don’t know how to construct that the laws should be a given way out of pure logic in effect. IOW, we can construct logical models using math with completely different constants or principles, and there is just no logical way to relate one or some class of them to “exist-worthy” versus not. (Indeed, modal realists argue cogently that there is no logical way to make a meaningful distinction between “existing” in the non-mathematical sense that supposedly distinguishes material worlds from platonic descriptions. Their argument is formally impeccable, so ironically one must be a sort of mystic to be a “materialist” – I bet you guys didn’t realize that.)

    The basic problem is, you have these alternatives and all of them rightly irritate someone for perhaps good reasons:

    1. The modal realists are right, so every possible description of configuration is equally real, and yes that means cartoons and whatever, but also gods and devils and heavens and hells etc. – but don’t worry too much, the modal realists are too prissily logical. Our universe can’t even be a “mathematical structure” anyway because of the existence of genuine unconditional randomness as e.g. the decay of “structureless” muons. There is no mathematical structure that can produce such outcomes (Lumo agrees with me), you would have to put in a pseudo-random number generator “by hand” which used clunky stuff like digits of roots (and you have to pick a different root for different muons, since they decay at different durations origination. Then there’s conscious experience, flowing time (no math structure models “process” directly, only as frozen coordinate representation.)

    2. OK, scratch that, so maybe “God” which by philosophical definition, not per most religious believers (why should the least capable proponents tone the debate?) just means something/one that is the necessary being that all others are contingent on for existence and presumably their properties as well. If it contains purposive traits, then our universe is like it is so we or etc. can be here, because a bunch of dead stuff is just dumb. I still don’t get why that bothers so many people. (But if you want to just beg off all of this per Popperism etc, fine, that’s the most honorable way out.)

    3. Don’t like that either, eh? Well, then you can think that there “just happens” to be this stuff here, with maybe some similarly unexplained range of variation (versus the complete anarchy of total modal realism) but no logical hook to hang on as for why it’s like that – especially, why life-friendly and just happens to lead to critters than can argue (indeed!) about this very issue, but insisted as being due to unrelated “non-deliberate” reasons of some sort. But since there’s really no logical theory of likely existence, you really then can’t say why there isn’t a 23-dimensional field of moving specks instead, etc.

    This time I’ll try not to press over what I like best. Just enjoy the possibilities.

  75. #75 Neil B.
    January 8, 2008

    Tulse – you should read over The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by Barrow and Tipler. They make a very comprehensive and detailed case about the fine-tuning, and the basic point is: if physical parameters were slightly different, then we couldn’t even be here on this little speck (as if relative sizes and proportions are what should matter anyway) at all. Well, what’s your (or anyone else’s) fabulous explanation for why the universe is the way it is? If you can’t answer that question your way, I have little sympathy for your being very self-assured against other concepts.

    As for “Any deity who could ______” riffs, that is based on a presumption of omnipotence. Yet there is no logical reason why some foundational uncaused being would have to be “omnipotent,” given one at all. (Look – isn’t it silly to disagree with religious folks about whether God exists, but think they have to be right about what It must be like if It does exist? Why couldn’t it be the other way around?)

  76. #76 Ken Cope
    January 8, 2008

    shorter Neil B.

    I prefer not to be bound by observation and evidence, so any premise I feel like pulling out of my ass is not only not forbidden, but compulsory.

  77. #77 Ken Cope
    January 8, 2008

    TIPLER!?

    Idiot. While I accuse Nelly B. of pulling CRAP out of his ass, he goes and peddles what Martin Gardner calls the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle.

  78. #78 Ichthyic
    January 8, 2008

    why is it than whenever Heddley sticks his head in a thread, it always devolves into a non-debate about nonsensical fine tuning?

    *sigh*

    Heddley’s ability to derail is at least remarkable.

  79. #79 Tulse
    January 8, 2008

    what’s your (or anyone else’s) fabulous explanation for why the universe is the way it is? If you can’t answer that question your way, I have little sympathy for your being very self-assured against other concepts.

    In other words, it’s an argument from ignorance — “well, I don’t know how the universe came to have life, so I guess it must have been fine tuned that way!”

    And it is indeed an argument from ignorance, since it may very well be that further research will demonstrate that the constants that allegedly could have been any value are in fact determined by something more fundamental. The god of the gaps approach has never been successful — why think that it will be in this case?

    there is no logical reason why some foundational uncaused being would have to be “omnipotent”

    Right, this being could only determine the physical constants of the frickin’ universe, it’s not like it is omnipotent or anything…

    And, just to move this whole approach back to the real issue, it is not the “Great Abstract Non-omnipotent Universal Constant Tweaker” that the religious go to church to worship on Sunday. This argument is just another example of the “everyday religious beliefs are indefensible, so we’ll argue some airy-fairy abstract property that no actual religious people care about and smuggle Jaysus in the back door” maneuver.

  80. #80 poke
    January 8, 2008

    Indeed, modal realists argue cogently that there is no logical way to make a meaningful distinction between “existing” in the non-mathematical sense that supposedly distinguishes material worlds from platonic descriptions. Their argument is formally impeccable, so ironically one must be a sort of mystic to be a “materialist” – I bet you guys didn’t realize that.

    Nonsense. Almost no philosophers take modal realism seriously. Lewis’ modal realism stemmed from his prior Humean commitments and isn’t even considered “formally impeccable” by those who share them. If you’re (perversely) committed to Humean supervenience and (perversely) want to base everything on counterfactuals then modal realism might make a perverse sort of sense.

  81. #81 Stinky Wizzleteats
    January 9, 2008

    I was being somewhat flippant, Neil, since I don’t think much of fine-tuning arguments — they’re parochial and narcissistic, not to mention completely circular. I actually think even less of Tipler, and my view of his grasp of physics hasn’t declined much since learning of his bad arguments for the Truth of Cristianity, since I had already suffered through his abysmal Modern Physics textbook.

    As for modal realism, poke said it well. I’m guessing I’m somewhat more sympathetic to counterfactual theories of causation than poke is, but it’s certainly not “formally impeccable” and makes a lot of often-unstated assumptions. (And my counterfactual sympathies are themselves materialistic anyway, coming from an Everett interpretation of QM rather than any kind of a priori argumentation.)

    Regarding your claim that no mathematical structure can describe fundamental randomness, try telling that to anyone who works in any field of physics (or chemistry or biology, for that matter) that uses quantum mechanics. I’m certainly nonplussed by the assertion, since I seem to have memories of using math to describe it, but maybe I’m just a Boltzmann brain and that’s all an illusion. And if you’re referring to Lumo’s argument that it can’t be described mathematically because no math can determine the observed outcome, I’ll give you a cookie for spotting the contradiction.

    Re: 2… Why is a bunch of dead stuff dumb? Here you’re not only assuming the existence of a diety with agency, you’re assuming its value judgments.

    Re: 3… I think Richard Feynman had the all-time best response to this silliness:

    You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!

    Between Ken, poke, and Tulse’s comments, there’s really not much more for me to say, other than that Heddle has outdone himself, successfully trolling me despite being in my killfile. Congrats on the assist, Neil.

  82. #82 windy
    January 9, 2008

    OK, scratch that, so maybe “God” which by philosophical definition, not per most religious believers (why should the least capable proponents tone the debate?) just means something/one that is the necessary being that all others are contingent on for existence and presumably their properties as well.

    Primary producers? God is a cyanobacterium!

  83. #83 negentropyeater
    January 9, 2008

    Let’s face it, we just don’t know enough to be able to make a scientific statement about wether the universe is fine tuned or not for life.

    What is so difficult about saying “we don’t know enough, yet” ?

    One day, I hope, we’ll be able to tell, if this universe was created by a superior intelligence that evolved in a past universe, or if this universe came into being by purely natural means.
    One thing is for sure, it’s not theology that will tell us the truth, but science.

  84. #84 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    One day, I hope, we’ll be able to tell, if this universe was created by a superior intelligence

    We could tell now if said hypothetical superior intelligence weren’t so damned shy. How about an arrangement of galaxies that spells out “I made this. Signed, God”? (There are over a 100 billion galaxies, so using a few for this wouldn’t be much of a problem.) How about “God was here” appearing as a discolouration on every creatures skin? How about a huge beared face appearing in the sky over New York and saying in deep sonorous voice that shakes the very foundations of the earth “Yeah, it was me”?

    In addition to all the other stupidity that the apologists are trying to foist, they don’t bother explaining why it is that such an infinitely powerful being, who can tweak the very fabric of the cosmos, would be so frickin’ reluctant to make that obvious. Listening to the collection of “arguments” for a supreme being who created everything but is now hiding is like watching Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch — God is presumably just pining for the fjords.

  85. #85 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Ichthyic

    why is it than whenever Heddley sticks his head in a thread, it always devolves into a non-debate about nonsensical fine tuning?

    As with many of your assertions, this one is demonstrably false. I don’t think I’ve discussed fine tuning on any site for quite some time, and not on Pharyngula for perhaps years. (That is, except for your private meta-discussions where you have gone off topic in a religious thread to assert that I peddle fine tuning everywhere and have frequently had my hat handed to me–but you have failed, when challenged, to provide any link to any of these common fiskings.) Almost all my participation on this blog is in threads dealing with religion.

    My comment in this thread was as on-topic response to SG’s comment #19. If it was derailed, it was because on this blog (that contains the most intelligent commentary of all blogs), several other people could not grasp a simple concept and a simple truth–namely that it is virtually beyond dispute that our universe has a fine tuning problem. That is the essence of what I pointed out. That if science goddess was in effect denying the fine tuning problem of the universe (not of the planet) that she then is, in effect, predicting that life should exist in the numerous places of our universe that resemble what the entire universe could easily have been.

    This can dismiss this as a religious argument, but that displays an ignorance of science. I didn’t bring up religion at all. I didn’t conflate the scientific fact that our universe has an appearance of fine tuning (or a “fine tuning problem”) with the religious conclusion that it was indeed fine tuned, or philosophical meanderings such as the SAP, but several commenters on this blog-with-the-most-intelligent-commentary-of -all-blogs, of which you are presumably a case in point, did.

  86. #86 Science Goddess
    January 9, 2008

    Please, allow me to clarify:

    “Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life, [I disagree, and think that life has adapted to the conditions of the universe - SG]”

    What I actually meant, was that this statement implies that the universe intended to come together so that life could exist. Kind of, “let’s see, if we clump hydrogen and carbon together in just the right conditions, TA-DAH! we have life”.

    Some religious fundies think that evolution “intends” to drive towards humans.

    I see no evidence of such intent in the universe. I think that life created itself under these conditions, and evolution proceeds via mutation and natural selection. No deities need apply.

  87. #87 negentropyeater
    January 9, 2008

    Tulse,
    “such an infinitely powerful being, who can tweak the very fabric of the cosmos”

    who says so ? Christians ? Well, as I said, theology has nothing to say about the properties of a would be creator. But you cannot logically negate its existence by discussing its hypothetical properties. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Imagine that one day we know enough and create a universe in which intelligent life will emerge and where they’ll ask, did we get created ? How will they tell ?

    Again, what is so difficult about saying we don’t know enough ? This universe is 13.7 bill yold, still quite some time to go… We don’t even know it’s topology, so we need to keep an open mind.

  88. #88 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    what is so difficult about saying we don’t know enough ?

    That’s not what the fine tuning argument says — it says we puny humans don’t currently understand how the universe’s properties came to be to allow our existence, therefore a creator must have fiddled with them. If you want to be agnostic, that’s fine, but don’t confuse that with the fine tuning argument.

    As for “keeping an open mind”, I find it far easier to imagine a universe where the constants simply came into being as they are, rather than imagining that some entity came into existence and then created the constants as they are. But I’m willing to be convinced otherwise — just show me some galaxies arranged to spell out a message in English, and I will freely revise my thinking.

  89. #89 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    SG,

    What I actually meant, was that this statement implies that the universe intended to come together so that life could exist. Kind of, “let’s see, if we clump hydrogen and carbon together in just the right conditions, TA-DAH! we have life”.

    Thank you for clarifying.

    But that statement as you just clarified, does not address the blurb you quoted from Collins on at least two levels. One is that in what you attributed to Collins used apparent fine tuning. His religious views might extend to actual fine tuning but the blurb as quoted–that the universe appears to be fine tuned for life, has also flowed from the lips of many atheistic scientists. Secondly–it (Collins’s statement) has nothing to do with “if we clump hydrogen and carbon together in just the right conditions..” it has to do with the fact that without the apparent fine tunings, there would be no carbon anywhere in the universe, period.

  90. #90 negentropyeater
    January 9, 2008

    I’m just saying that we don’t know enough to say if the fine-tuning argument is valid or not. And yes, I’m an agnostic, because I think that’s the default position of science. I’m also a Christian Agnostic, ie I have a received a Christian education, and my family follows some Christian traditions, but I don’t believe, and never have, that what is in the Bible is the truth. I’ve always considered the whole thing as alegorical.
    And I do feel very sadened by Christians when they do not respect Atheism, and when they want to impose their morality. That’s why I full heartedly support the New Atheist movement because people should speak out and show, as PZ examplifies, that morality doesn’t come from religiosity.

  91. #91 Science Goddess
    January 9, 2008

    Allow me to re-clarify: It’s the implied intent in the statement “the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life” Don’t pick apart my (simplistic) examples, its the implied intent on the part of the universe that I oject to.

    SG

  92. #92 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Negentropyeater

    I’m just saying that we don’t know enough to say if the fine-tuning argument is valid or not.

    I am not sure what that means. What fine-tuning argument is not valid? We certainly agree that religious/ID explanations of the fine tuning are not science–they are religion. But the mere existence of a fine tuning problem is beyond dispute. Read any multiverse theory and you will almost certainly find a discussion of how this addresses the apparent fine tuning. Lee Smolin’s cosmic evolution–which is incredibly cool–also addresses the fine tuning problem in that a universe optimized for producing black holes will also produce the ingredients for life.

    And I do feel very sadened by Christians when they do not respect Atheism, and when they want to impose their morality. That’s why I full heartedly support the New Atheist movement because people should speak out and show, as PZ examplifies, that morality doesn’t come from religiosity.

    It is off topic, but I agree with you.

  93. #93 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    SG,

    its the implied intent on the part of the universe that I oject to.

    But again, Collins’s blurb that you quoted does not imply intent. I could present ten or twenty very similar statements, non quote-mined and in context, and without looking them up you could not tell me if they were made by an atheist or a believer–so how can that statement imply intent?

    The statement “the universe appears to be fine tuned for life” is, in and of itself, both scientifically supportable and religiously agnostic. It is where a person takes that statement and leaves the confines of science where the contention arises. If you said: “I disagree with Collins because he uses the fine tuning problem as a de facto proof of God,” that would be one thing. But what you quoted from Collins is, at least at the moment, scientifically unassailable.

  94. #94 negentropyeater
    January 9, 2008

    Heddle,

    “that a universe optimized for producing black holes will also produce the ingredients for life.”

    That’s an assumption which is made by Smolin, not something that is demonstrated.

    “But the mere existence of a fine tuning problem is beyond dispute.”

    Agreed. But the existence of the problem doesn’t imply that there is evidence of “fine-tuning”.

  95. #95 negentropyeater
    January 9, 2008

    Heddle,

    I’ve read “The language of God” by Collins.

    My main problem with it is not in the argument :
    “Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life”

    but the following :
    “But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.”

    I don’t buy it.

  96. #96 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    The statement “the universe appears to be fine tuned for life” is, in and of itself, both scientifically supportable and religiously agnostic.

    Nonsense — it is merely a failure of imagination. How do you know that the only form of “life” is carbon sticking together? That if the universe had come out differently, beings millions of light-years across composed of dark matter wouldn’t be having a conversation about how amazing it is that the universe is fine tuned to produce them?

    And again, it seem ludicrous to me to suggest that there is some purposeful intent in getting infinitesimal bits of carbon to stick together in an infinitesimally small bit of the cosmos. You can say “but it wouldn’t be here at all without the current cosmological constants” all you want, but to claim that such a vanishingly small byproduct of cosmic processes is somehow the reason the universe is as it is demonstrates cosmic levels of hubris.

    Or, to put it another way, why is “life” a special quality that trumps all others for possible “reasons the universe is as it is”? Perhaps, as others have pointed out, the universe is fine tuned to produce black holes, and replicating carbon in one tiny portion of the cosmos is just a side effect. What are the criteria for saying that “life” is the critical feature by which fine tuning is judged?

  97. #97 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    negentropyeater,

    My main problem with it is not in the argument :
    “Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life”

    but the following :

    “But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.”

    That’s fine, and if the latter was the quote that SG used and took issue with, then I would have remained in lurker mode.

    Tulse,

    Nonsense — it is merely a failure of imagination. How do you know that the only form of “life” is carbon sticking together? That if the universe had come out differently, beings millions of light-years across composed of dark matter wouldn’t be having a conversation about how amazing it is that the universe is fine tuned to produce them?

    You should write up your slam-dunk explanation and submit it to Physical Review Letters. There is a lot of grant money and time being wasted on addressing of the fine tuning problem, and the country would sure benefit from your insight that it is all an unnecessary waste of time.

  98. #98 Tully Bascomb
    January 9, 2008

    ….the number of atheistic physicists/cosmologists who acknowledge the fine tuning problem (for the universe, not the earth) is too lengthy to enumerate…

    In an amazing coincidence, this innumerable number is precisely the same number of individuals who belong to “Atheists for Intelligent Design”.

    This is known as “The Finely-Tuned Oxymoron Problem”

  99. #99 Science Goddess
    January 9, 2008

    Heddle, you and I will have to disagree with the “intent” part. I maintain my interpretation.

    Please, do not accuse me of quote mining. My original quote was directly from Wikipedia, and I didn’t feel that I needed to repeat the entire thing here, since only one sentence was under dispute.

    And, no, Ichthyic, I don’t base my opinions on Wiki.
    I have actually heard Francis Collins speak on several occasions and have heard nothing about any deity or morality. *But* he was talking to scientists.

    As many have said here, maybe we won’t convince anyone by calling them nasty names. Maybe we need a Science Advisor who can try to bridge this gap and bring the “unbelievers” into the fold. We need more credibility for science, not more animosity. We need someone who can discuss both sides of the argument without alienating anyone.

    SG

  100. #100 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    SG,

    I never, ever, ever accused you of quote-mining (maybe you didn’t direct that charge at me?). If you think I did, go back and check. I stated that your objection to Collins’s quote that you provided does not in fact address his quote. As you say, we can disagree–but I did not accuse you of quote mining.

    I think you perhaps mistook my comment #90:

    I could present ten or twenty very similar statements, non quote-mined and in context,

    as accusing you. It wasn’t–it was a statement that I could produce legitimate quotes, in context, in which atheistic scientists state something to the effect that the universe appears to be fine tuned. (They would of course go on to say that this by no means implies a supernatural fine tuner, and that it can be explained by the multiverse, etc.)

    Tully,

    In an amazing coincidence, this innumerable number is precisely the same number of individuals who belong to “Atheists for Intelligent Design”.

    If meant as a joke–not particulary funny. If meant that there actually is any significant overlap between the two groups, demonstrably false and incredibly dumb. My own suspicion is that the set of “Atheists for Intelligent Design” is empty or no more than single digit in size.

  101. #101 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    You should write up your slam-dunk explanation and submit it to Physical Review Letters.

    And you should perhaps actually provide counter-arguments rather than relying on appeals to authority. See, those who aren’t religious aren’t convinced by handwaving and statements that some people think otherwise. Instead, we rely on reasoning and evidence — that’s just how we roll.

    So do you have specific responses to the arguments against fine tuning that have been presented here? Or are you just going to retreat behind the coattails of Collins, Tipler, et al.?

  102. #102 Tully Bascomb
    January 9, 2008

    …my own suspicion is that the set of “Atheists for Intelligent Design” is empty or no more than single digit in size..

    I am glad we are in agreement. The number of atheists (those who do not believe that a supernatural entity designed the universe) who believe that the universe is “finely-tuned” (designed by a supernatural entity) is precisely zero.

    And since zero cannot be enumerated, your original post was right on.

  103. #103 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Tully,

    No, my post #35 stated:

    The number of atheistic physicists/cosmologists who acknowledge the fine tuning problem (for the universe, not the earth) is too lengthy..

    And here is your representation of my post in #99:

    I am glad we are in agreement. The number of atheists (those who do not believe that a supernatural entity designed the universe) who believe that the universe is “finely-tuned” (designed by a supernatural entity) is precisely zero.

    And since zero cannot be enumerated, your original post was right on.

    It is clear that I never, ever stated anything even remotely close to “some atheists believe the universe is finely tuned (designed by a supernatural entity)” which would be absurd–but it is fun to argue against an absurd statement, even if the person didn’t actually make it, isn’t it?

    So you are worse that a quote-miner, you are just a garden variety jack-ass of a misquoter.

    Tulse,

    Instead, we rely on reasoning and evidence — that’s just how we roll.

    What you call an appeal to authority, is all the publications (most from atheists, since most scientists are not theists) that, based on the cosmological and nuclear physics evidence, acknowledge the fine tuning problem, and somehow fail to recognize your clever scientific evidence-based explanation #93 that it it simply due to a failure of imagination. I would rather make this kind of appeal to authority (appealing to published literature, both popular and peer-reviewed, by atheistic scientists) that to simply assert, as you do, that I see the obvious explanation when so many others do not.

    As for your question,

    So do you have specific responses to the arguments against fine tuning that have been presented here?

    the answer is no, because no such arguments against the position that the constants appear to be fine tuned has been provided. There have been some arguments against interpreting the fine tuning problem as evidence for a deity, but those I have ignored since that is not a scientific debate. And arguments like yours, that the acknowledgement of a fine tuning problem is due to a failure of imagination, are just too ignorant to address in a serious manner.

  104. #104 Ken Cope
    January 9, 2008

    Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.

    –Mark Twain

  105. #105 mothra
    January 9, 2008

    The idea of a ‘fine tuning problem’, i.e. fine tuning the universe for life is delusional at best. How, using the ‘fine tuning’ argument, would one recognize a universe (or any subdivision thereof) as not fine tuned if we accept that our universe is.

  106. #106 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    no such arguments against the position that the constants appear to be fine tuned has been provided.

    Nonsense, unless you missed the part about “why is it that we are using ‘life’ as a criterion for fine tuning, and not the production of black holes”. “Fine tuning”, just like “purpose”, involves a particular subjective end — it is a teleological claim. My argument is that saying the universe is “fine tuned for life” automatically presumes that life is the end goal of such fine tuning. But there are endless other criteria that could be used that also arise from the same constants, such as production of black holes. Saying the universe is fined tuned for life simply begs the question, and it relies on human hubris to make it sound reasonable that end goal is us (or even carbon-based life). What counts as “fine tuning” is a purely a matter of perspective, and not objective reality — if black holes could think, I’m sure they’d say the universe was designed to produce them. How would you argue that they would be wrong?

    Put another way, I could just as easily say that the universe is fine tuned to produce me — I am clearly the end goal of the universe’s existence, since without the highly specific, finely tuned beginning state of the universe, I would not have arisen. Somehow, though, I don’t think that’s what Tipler has in mind.

    And, as I also pointed out, presumably universes in which the constants are different could have radically different “life”, and if those beings are as unintelligent as Collins they presumably would be making the same arguments about how “special” their universe is.

    All of these arguments undercut the notion of “fine tuning”.

    There have been some arguments against interpreting the fine tuning problem as evidence for a deity, but those I have ignored since that is not a scientific debate.

    This is hugely disingenuous. First off, as I have argued, the whole notion of “fine tuning” entails the notion of a purpose, an end goal, and you don’t get that without a deity — there is no notion of “fine tuning” without a “fine tuner”. Regardless of whether you want to talk about a deity, the whole notion of fine tuning is teleological, and to deny that is to be either grossly confused or deceptive. Second, you won’t convince anyone that the entire purpose of the fine tuning debate isn’t solely to give a scientistic sheen to religious creationism (as broadly construed).

    And arguments like yours, that the acknowledgement of a fine tuning problem is due to a failure of imagination, are just too ignorant to address in a serious manner.

    Ah, the refuge of the coward — “your just too ignorant for me to debate!” If the argument is so easy to defeat, then it should be fairly simple to provide a clear summary of the main counter.

  107. #107 Ken Cope
    January 9, 2008

    Tulse,

    You’re right.

    Any flavor of the Anthropic principle is teleology. Teleology is theology. Theology is storytelling. People tell stories. Some people should not.

    PZ has repeatedly asked us not to engage the heddle.

  108. #108 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    PZ has repeatedly asked us not to engage the heddle.

    My apologies — in future I shall studiously ignore him/her/it.

  109. #109 Aaron
    January 9, 2008

    Matt Nisbet thinks that Francis Collins should be the next presidential science advisor. He does this after rejecting excellent popularizes of science, such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and E.O. Wilson, on the following grounds:

    Most science popularizers such as Wilson or Tyson don’t have the years of government experience to understand the machinations of Federal science policy.

    Does Nisbet complete ignore the fact that Neil deGrasse Tyson WAS a science advisor to President Bush?????

    Moreover, they have a paper trail of strong opinions on issues that might make appointment politically tough.

    Ah there it is. Fear of atheism. Bottom line.

  110. #110 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    Ah, the refuge of the coward — “your just too ignorant for me to debate!” If the argument is so easy to defeat, then it should be fairly simple to provide a clear summary of the main counter.

    Sorry Tulse, but the real refuge of the coward is refusing to acknowledge the teleological implications that you so clearly delineated in comment #103 so he can play all sciencey in an effort to disguise his obvious anthropocentric faith.

    Just like those lying IDiots who seek to undermine actual science so they enact a theocracy (Now With 20% More Scienciness!)

  111. #111 Tully Bascomb
    January 9, 2008

    …It is clear that I never, ever stated anything even remotely close to “some atheists believe the universe is finely tuned (designed by a supernatural entity)” which would be absurd–but it is fun to argue against an absurd statement, even if the person didn’t actually make it, isn’t it?

    So you are worse that a quote-miner, you are just a garden variety jack-ass of a misquoter…

    Well of course. That is my point. You cleverly add the word “problem”, which of course makes your reference philosophical, not scientific, but pretend otherwise. Do not pretend to be discussing science if discussing human perceptions of science. That is real misquoting.

  112. #112 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Tulse,
    You are correct, there is something of cowardice involved. If you had said, “take the cosmological constant, there is not really a fine-tuning problem there because it being a hundred or so orders of magnitude smaller than calculation is due to… [insert physics argument]” or if you had stated “people are wrong, a habitable universe does not require an inexplicably small cosmological constant because [insert physics argument]” or “cosmologies relying on a cosmological constant are wrong out of the box because [insert physics argument] therefore the problem with its value is not really a problem at all” or even “there are many universes, obviously we are in one of the lucky ones, duh” then you would have made a sensible argument. Instead you argue that we suffer from a “failure of imagination.” You are correct, I am afraid to debate an argument that ignorant.

    Brownian OM,

    Let’s see, I have argued, and only argued that
    1) The universe appears to be fine tuned for life (or rocks) in that with a little tweak you have a universe with no heavy elements, and
    2) This is a more or less universally accepted problem among physical scientists. That is, the appearance of fine tuning is an acknowledged problem independent of one’s theology or lack of theology.
    You wrote:

    so he can play all sciencey in an effort to disguise his obvious anthropocentric faith.

    I’m curious–and I know I am already out of my league with even routine commenters here let alone OMs, but I have a question. Are you disputing points 1 and/or 2, or are you stating that if an atheist makes these points (as many do) it is legitimate, but if a theist makes them, he is just being “sciencey” in an effort to disguise his real intentions?

    Tully Bascomb

    No I added the word problem, because that is what the science indicates–that we have a fine tuning problem. Same question for you–if an atheist states we have a fine tuning problem is that legit, while if a theist states it, it is part of a hidden agenda? If so and you were at a seminar (as I was recently) where the fine tuning problem was mentioned, would you (or you, Brownian) interrupt and ask for the speaker’s religious beliefs?

    I really am amazed that you have no shame in quoting what you think I meant instead of what I actually wrote, and justifying it by saying I am the one guilty of misquoting because–I am writing one thing but I really mean another…

  113. #113 Blake Stacey
    January 9, 2008

    Tulse (#68):

    Think of it another way — whatever could “fine tune” the actual fabric of the cosmos presumably could have, for example, filled those trillions of cubic light years with warm breathable air. And quintillions of Starbucks. And fountains filled with Lagavulin. And iPod trees. And an unlimited supply of Natalie Portman.

    Wow. It’s like Starbucks set up shop in each hexagon of the Library of Babel!

  114. #114 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    Are you disputing points 1 and/or 2, or are you stating that if an atheist makes these points (as many do) it is legitimate, but if a theist makes them, he is just being “sciencey” in an effort to disguise his real intentions?

    Yes Heddle, I dispute both your points.

    All of the arguments you have made thus far only point to the fact that if this universe were any other way (ie, different physical constants), this universe likely wouldn’t have rocks, planets, or life. That I do not dispute.

    That this is more or less accepted by scientists, I do not dispute.

    That one should call this ‘fine-tuned’ as opposed to ‘the way it happened to happen’ is most definitely disputable (and is disputed–see Anthropic Principle for an example of something that is not at all accepted by a majority of scientists). That is what this argument is about, and it is this point that we have failed to impress upon you (though not for lack of trying.)

    The fact that you are a theist and do have faith is exactly why you insist on the former label for this happenstance. As Science Goddess, Tulse, Blake Stacey, David Marjanovi?, Tully Bascomb and a host of others have pointed out, the only reason to call this a problem (as opposed to a set of observations about the universe) is if you intend to make the teleological argument implied by the term “fine-tuning”. Your faith is not irrelevant here. And we are not ignorant of your intent, despite your repeated protestations of innocence. (The comment above regarding your constant thread derailment strikes deep at the heart of this.)

    Now, I’m sure you’re going to trot out some ‘atheist’ scientist’s comments that echo and support your point, but the truth is that teleological arguments such are not scientific. Dressing them up with babble about physical constants and neutron stars is indeed sciencey.

  115. #115 Tully Bascomb
    January 9, 2008

    …I really am amazed that you have no shame in quoting what you think I meant instead of what I actually wrote, and justifying it by saying I am the one guilty of misquoting because–I am writing one thing but I really mean another…

    Well, lets get down to brass tacks then and clarify. When you claimed that scientists have a “fine tuning problem”, did you mean they have a scientific problem with fine tuning? If so, which finely tuned constant runs contrary to scientific theory? Does our universe run counter to modern physics? What is the scientific problem exactly?

    Or did you mean the scientists have a philosophical problem? That the constants seem improbable by human standards? Or whatever.

  116. #116 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    It’s like Starbucks set up shop in each hexagon of the Library of Babel!

    Don’t forget the single-malt and the indie starlet in each of those 1.563*10^1834173 rooms. Maybe it’s just me, but I think those are critical to making a library universe primarily filled with books of nonsense words much more interesting.

    Now if only Borges would have populated each hex with a bearskin rug and fireplace…

  117. #117 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Tully Bascomb,

    Fair enough. What I mean by fine tuning problem is this:

    It appears that if the physical constants were not within certain surprisingly tight constraints, that the universe would not support any kind of life. This is a big problem in the sense that it is uncomfortable for science to be in a position where we appear to be “lucky”–it is sort of anti-Copernican. In the case of the cosmological constant, the constraint is so amazing as to be described as an embarrassment. This is a bad situation–it is a fine tuning problem. We would expect the habitability of the universe to be somewhat indifferent to the values of the constants. As such, it demands a solution. Such a solution may ultimately be found–or some even think the multiverse theories effectively solve it already–although even multiverse proponents admit they do not provide a totally satisfactory explanation, in that in general the multiverse aspects of these theories cannot be tested.

    You asked which constants run contrary to theory. Well most of the constants are not calculable at this time–they just are what they are. The doesn’t remove the problem that if you change them by (whatever) amount it appears the universe would be sterile. The cosmological constant is one that can be estimated, and when it is, the calculations suggest a value that is ~100 orders of magnitude too big. Right now it is simply unknown how the contributions to the calculation could cancel to give such a small value. Maybe it will be understood someday–but at the moment it is a fine tuning problem, but there is little debate that a cosmological constant much bigger than the one we have (let alone 100 OOM bigger) would produce an uninhabitable universe, one that was expanding too rapidly.

    To reiterate, science rightly doesn’t like to accept “luck” as an answer, and so science views the “lucky” values of the constants as a fine tuning problem.

    To get philosophical, I would say that at the moment the situation favors multiverse theories over ID, because multiverse theories are consistent with the constants appearing to come from a random draw. And the problem in general has nothing to do with improbability–the problem would still exist if the constants had unit probability–that is they were calculable from first principles. The problem is that the habitability of the universe is overly sensitive to their values.

    Brownian, OM,

    That one should call this ‘fine-tuned’ as opposed to ‘the way it happened to happen’ is most definitely disputable

    But of course, I don’t call it “fine tuned”, I consistently used the accepted phraseology, “the appearance of fine tuning,” the same phrase almost everyone uses–along with “fine tuning problem.” You say you disagree with both of my points from #109, but then you wrote:

    All of the arguments you have made thus far only point to the fact that if this universe were any other way (ie, different physical constants), this universe likely wouldn’t have rocks, planets, or life. That I do not dispute.

    That this is more or less accepted by scientists, I do not dispute.

    So by your own words you first claim to dispute my two points and then turn around and say you don’t dispute them. Those two points, which you wrote you do not dispute, are in fact my two points from #109, which you do dispute. I don’t get it.

  118. #118 JimC
    January 9, 2008

    Folks give up, heddle finds fine tuning compelling. Thats all one really needs to know. Look that puddle was designed specifically for that water.

    He buys it for his own emotional reasons.

    appears that if the physical constants were not within certain surprisingly tight constraints, that the universe would not support any kind of life

    So what? That supports fine tuning not at all. It’s an appearance. Read into it what you will.

    This is a big problem in the sense that it is uncomfortable for science to be in a position where we appear to be “lucky

    No luck involved. Why is it uncomfortable that out of many possible outcomes this is the one we have? All it needs is to happen once and it apparently has done so.

  119. #119 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    So by your own words you first claim to dispute my two points and then turn around and say you don’t dispute them. Those two points, which you wrote you do not dispute, are in fact my two points from #109, which you do dispute. I don’t get it.

    If you’d read what I wrote, you’d notice that I broke down your claims into components, some of which I dispute, and other which I do not.

    Forget stars and galaxies, I want to know what physical constants we can tweak so you won’t be so fucking dense.

    Anyway, feel free to believe that the fine-tuning ‘problem’ is more or less universally accepted physical scientists if you wish. None of it explains why you need to hijack nearly every thread here to beat that horse.

  120. #120 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    JimC,

    Same advice I gave to someone else–please publish your sophisticated “so what?” explanation so that scientists will know that they don’t have to worry about the problem. It would be the honorable thing to do–to share your insight with the scientific community.

  121. #121 Blake Stacey
    January 9, 2008
  122. #122 Blake Stacey
    January 9, 2008

    I mean, I just think it’s about time we had some whines about “censorship”. . . posted at another site.

  123. #123 Blake Stacey
    January 9, 2008

    Brownian, OM:

    All of the arguments you have made thus far only point to the fact that if this universe were any other way (ie, different physical constants), this universe likely wouldn’t have rocks, planets, or life. That I do not dispute.

    Actually, you can dispute that, too.

  124. #124 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Blake Stacey,

    Actually, you can dispute that, too.

    Did you actually read Caroll’s paper? I somehow doubt it. He does not dispute that there is a fine tuning problem. He argues that perhaps the problem isn’t so bad as it appears–after all we do not know how to calculate with any confidence what would happen in a universe with different constants. Fair enough–although I would argue that we can say a great deal about the effects on, say, chemistry if you tweaked the fine structure constant. And he more or less speculates on the possibility that a different chemistry and/or nuclear physics might still produce a fertile universe, but he doesn’t speculate on how a universe of only hygrogen and helium might produce life. But he may be right. His argument is not as strong Stenger’s suggested approach–which is to do the calculations and show that life really isn’t so sensitive. That’s a very good approach that nevertheless recognizes that there is a problem worth pursuing–if only to demonstrate that the problem was an illusion.

    By the way, if I am put in the dungeon I won’t complain about censorship anywhere. You are wrong about that, too.

    Brownian, OM,

    If you’d read what I wrote, you’d notice that I broke down your claims into components, some of which I dispute, and other which I do not.

    Lets see, I wrote, in #109:

    1) The universe appears to be fine tuned for life (or rocks) in that with a little tweak you have a universe with no heavy elements, and

    2) This is a more or less universally accepted problem among physical scientists.

    And you wrote, after saying you disputed both my points, that you do not dispute, in your own words, in #111,

    1′) if this universe were any other way (ie, different physical constants), this universe likely wouldn’t have rocks, planets, or life.

    2′) That this is more or less accepted by scientists

    Are they substantively different from my 1) and 2)? What are the components from 1 and 2 that you discarded? I don’t see it.

    None of it explains why you need to hijack nearly every thread here to beat that horse.

    What other thread have I hijacked on Pharygnula to beat the fine-tuning horse? Do you have a link? Since it is “nearly every thread” that should be easy.

  125. #125 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    Same advice I gave to someone else–please publish your sophisticated “so what?” explanation so that scientists will know that they don’t have to worry about the problem.

    Hey Twaddle, kindly explain why it is a ‘problem’ or shut the fuck up.

    A quick perusal of literature (links provided by Blake Stacey above, and a quick search of ‘fine-tuning argument’) shows that it’s only a ‘problem’ in the minds of theists.

    Anyways, we’ve wasted enough time and pixels on this troll. He’s made appeals to authority without providing one (just one) paper or citation of his lengthy list of atheistic cosmologists who are all in a knot about this. Besides, when has Twaddle ever demonstrated he’s got a clue about what scientific consensus is?

  126. #126 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    The list of threads you’ve hijacked with your banality is too long to enumerate.

    I guess we’re at a detente then aren’t we?

    Anyways, since you are in such agreement with Sean Carroll’s article titled “Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists”, I guess you’ll be renouncing your faith and wearing a scarlett A any day now.

  127. #127 heddle
    January 9, 2008

    Brownian, OM,

    You really are dumb as a pile of bricks. I explained what the problem was several times, You even admitted that it was more or less accepted by scientists. You “perused” (while I read) Caroll’s paper, and he didn’t say it was “no problem” as I already pointed out. But that’s OK, since Blake provided a link that constitutes proof around here. And you did a google search, and found (duh) that theists use the reality of the fine tuning problem as a launching point for ID arguments, from which you conclude, as incorrectly as person could possibly conclude something incorrectly, that the fine tuning problem is only a problem for theists. Well neither Susskind, nor Weinberg, or Krauss are theists (just to name a few) but all have stated in various ways that there is a fine tuning problem that needs looking into.

    Why don’t you start with something simple, (atheist) Susskind’s Cosmic Landscape bestseller? (I mean read it, if you can handle it, don’t “peruse” it.) He states emphatically that there is a deadly serious fine tuning problem.

    Oh wait, now I am appealing to authority! Blake is not appealing to authority when he links to Carroll, even though Caroll doesn’t state what Blake implies. But I’m sure that I’ll be accused of appealing to authority, even though Susskind states exactly what I claim he does: that the fine tuning problem is a serious problem that demands a scientific explanation.

  128. #128 Google
    January 9, 2008

    Google returns 693 hits for [heddle "fine-tuning"].
    Google returns 101 hits for [heddle pharyngula "fine-tuning"].
    Google returns 818 hits for [heddle pharyngula].

  129. #129 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    You really are dumb as a pile of bricks. I explained what the problem was several times

    Sorry, but I’m dumb as a pile of bricks. Please restate for the record here how the ‘appearance’ of fine tuning constitutes a ‘problem’ that demands scientific explanation. In your own words, please. Feel free to cut and paste from any of the plethora of comments here where you’ve made it so painfully clear for all of us dummies.

  130. #130 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    Oh, and take the stick out of your ass about how you’re so unaccepted here.

    There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks he’s got personal relationship with an all-powerful deity whining like a child.

    You may call me stupid (I’m sure many would agree with you), but as you pointed out yourself, you’re out of your league here with many of the other commenters.

    If you’re doing such a bad job persuading them, you might want to ask yourself why.

  131. #131 Ken Cope
    January 9, 2008

    Please restate for the record here how the ‘appearance’ of fine tuning constitutes a ‘problem’ that demands scientific explanation. In your own words, please.

    First of all, you’re encouraging him, but ignore that; for our efforts, all anybody ever gets from heddle is post after ludicrous post featuring at least one of the following modes of dungeon-worthiness:

    Insipidity

    A great crime. Being tedious, repetitive, and completely boring; putting the blogger to sleep by going on and on about the same thing all the time.

    Wanking

    Making self-congratulary comments intended only to give an impression of your importance or intelligence.

    Godbotting

    Making an argument based only on the premise that your holy book is sufficient authority; citing lots of bible verses as if they were persuasive.

  132. #132 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    First of all, you’re encouraging him

    But I wanna know how come all the atheist cosmologists are so baffled by an problem that’s so obviously solved by ‘goddidit’.

    Aw, okay. Sorry Heddle. I guess we aren’t interested in your genius after all.

    (Don’t worry though pal; you’ve convinced me. And since the universe isn’t a collection of neutron stars, I’m gonna run out and not suffer the first witch I see (or has the appearance of one) to live. I might go kill some Hindus too while I’m at it, the fucking false-idol worshippers. All because the universe appears to be fine-tuned for rocks.)

  133. #133 JimC
    January 9, 2008

    Same advice I gave to someone else–please publish your sophisticated “so what?”

    Your such a goof. You think yourself sophisticated when really your mind is rot. There is no sophisticated argument necessary for ‘fine tuning’. It is simply an appearance. It’s no more than saying ‘Hey I’m here therefore the world mustbe designed to let me be here’.

    How much sophistication is needed to see that the idea is bullocks? You have to really,really want it to be true on an emotional level to think otherwise. It appears the ‘problem’ is nothing more than an illusion and wishful thinking.

    but all have stated in various ways that there is a fine tuning problem that needs looking into.

    an illusion of a problem.

    But not in the manner you use it goofus.

  134. #134 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 9, 2008

    Icthyic:

    Re #70:

    I did kind of feel as if I was misrepresented, but I don’t have enough history with Matt to have any feel as to his intention.

    As far as your question goes, I merely meant that I don’t feel that Collins should be excluded from consideration just because Nisbet views his evangelical Christianity as a plus in the political realm goes. I think he’s a decent enough candidate because of reasons I gave on my site.

    And, yes, based on my dealings with Dr.Collins (we’ve corresponded briefly) I think he is entirely capable of keeping his private religious views off the radar of public servant. He has never once brought up his faith to me, much less try to schmooze me in the ‘wink wink’ manner of so many public ‘servants’ who trip over themselves in plugging their alleged piety.

    Any way, all of this is probably moot. Chances are the guy who gets tabbed will be party loyalist with some scientific and public policy background, and I don’t actually think that Collins actually fits that bill, and he probably wouldn’t even be all that interested.

  135. #135 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 9, 2008

    Google returns 693 hits for [heddle "fine-tuning"].Google returns 101 hits for [heddle pharyngula "fine-tuning"].Google returns 818 hits for [heddle pharyngula].

    Can there be any doubt that Pharyngula was designed to host the likes of heddle? Since Pharyngula was so designed, there must be a Great Pharyngula Maker! All hail PZ!

  136. #136 PZ Myers
    January 9, 2008

    Your analogy has some interesting implications — the Maker may be a malign entity with intents beyond your ken, and he may actually greatly dislike some of the inhabitants of his domain.

    And sorry, no, Collins is unsuitable — not so much because of his religion, but because he is openly irrational and demonstrably ignorant of evolution. That book of his was so goddamned bad that I think he lost the respect of a lot of people in the scientific community.

  137. #137 Neil B.
    January 9, 2008

    First, my regards to heddle for carrying on a good fight. I’ve got more to dish in like vein.

    Ken Cope takes aim and misses the truly worthy targets, and I’m not surprised:


    shorter Neil B.

    I prefer not to be bound by observation and evidence, so any premise I feel like pulling out of my ass is not only not forbidden, but compulsory.

    Yep, that line *is* the kind of trash both in logic and cheesy tweenage tone one would expect from a lower-grade freeper or ironically, right-wing blogger (well the grodiest lefties do it too; I guess my political bias is showing. And yeah, I put out my own snark but no one’s perfect, ;-O ) If “bound by observation and evidence” is supposed to mean falsifiability, then all speculation is wrong – that means about multiple universes as well, not just “God” or foundational levels that produce other realities, etc. as the argument may be. Then start by picking on all those hypocrites like Stenger who play with ideas of “multiple universes” in large part to avoid having to deal with why ours “appears” to be fine tuned for life. I don’t accept falsifiability anyway as a defining principle, only as a heuristic rule of thumb for profitable lines of investigation. (Really, is a good theoretical argument for what happens if protons collide at 10^20 eV “meaningless” in the literal semantic sense, just because we can’t find a way to make it happen, etc? And what should matter in testability, being verifiable/falsifiable “in principle” or in practice, and why?) At least that statement could be based on known physics, but the variation of constants doesn’t even have a clear theoretical background (or please provide the calculation of the “chance” that alpha will turn out between 1/136 and 1/138, etc.) I know how it works: the principles are employed until the hypocrite needs to evade them for his own purposes, then they can be shirked (like the sort of “conservatives” who talk up the Constitution but then run around it when they want to wage war, etc. – try “neoskepticons” on for size.)

    One thing I really don’t get is running off into comparison to conventional religion. Sure, that matters if it’s about politics etc, but *we* really don’t have to talk about such subjects that way just because “that’s what “most people mean by ‘God’” or whatever. We don’t need to give a damn what they think or mean for philosophical purposes. It looks too much like an easy “tainting” trick than a legitimate conceptual issue. Also, about modal realism – OK, I hear you, and I don’t believe in it either (but clever physicists like Max Tegmark do, go and argue with him.) I figured most would get that and know I was just toying with MR, but carelessness reigns around here. But then, you lose the whole “benefit” it gives of *not* having to explain why the universe is the way it is, since with MR there’s just every damn imaginable universe and we’re just in a lucky one. You should have hung on, it’s the only decent rebuttal there was.

    Many of you of course are not hypocrites, and the honest ones will firmly denounce speculations of multiple universes, and affirm the emptiness of e.g. trying to make a case or critique by saying “maybe science will someday explain why things are the way the are, in a way that requires no teleology” etc. – well, maybe it will, but guess what – that is a statement of faith. Many here don’t care because it’s your purpose that really matters, not how one does the job. Hey, when you provide such a self-starting physical explanation I will be impressed, but there’s not much supporting the idea that physics can be derived from pure math or logic and not have to follow the other way around. Just consider what Woit has been doing to poo-poo string theory, which still has to back-engineer the universe greatly and not start from pure logic.

    Arguments about why the universe is the way it is, whether empty like most of what is posited here, or teleological, do of course have to use the observations we already have, that is granted. The point about how amazing to see that particular license plate completely misses that point – the whole idea is that certain things are more worthy than others, not just that “this” is here regardless of which possible one it happens to be. And of course the idea that “life” is something especially worthy and “should be here” is a value judgment, that’s why it counts as a philosophical argument and not just doing “physics.” It’s one of those fundamental unprovable starting points (and gauges of mindset) that are all we have if we’re going to speculate about such things at all

    Also, if you’re going to indulge the pretense that we shouldn’t even consider the universe “fine tuned,” but only “appears” to be, please make a better case since the case “for” has been well made by Barrow and Tipler etc. Most skeptics grant that, and either look at multiple universes, pace Karl Popper, or just say who knows/who cares. I guess those who think this is all about expressing “mathematical beauty” (whatever that is) think the universe is here for the sake of being admired by geeks who hate the sentimentality of thinking it might be about everyone, not just them? Most physicists don’t believe in the teleological explanation of the “appearance” of fine tuning because it just isn’t their job to look for that, not because they really have any good alternative scoop on why things are like that – there isn’t one. And until there is, of course that doesn’t justify throwing up a straw-man pretense of claims made that therefore the alternative “must be” for a life-supporting purpose. I didn’t say that, it’s just a possibility to prefer or not if you permit speculation at all. I fully respect those who honestly just don’t want to dabble in it or think the whole business, with no answer applicable one way or the other, is “meaningless.” I can’t say as much for mud and metaphysics-slinging antimetaphysicians.

    Finally, some of you folks may think better of me once you see that I am a blasphemer! Yes, look at this curiously apocalyptic jeremiad from one of your own jihadists:


    Calling us freepers, and accusing PZ and commenters of practicing scientism, along with your latest exercise in fatuous solipsism, entitles you to mockery and derision.

    So, I insulted your holy prophet and his true believers and must be consigned to damnation for all eternity. Note well, to mockery and derision because I dared *criticize* commenters, not just for what I believe in. (Actually, not all of them – only the ones for whom by definition the accusation was true, but you know how little regard religious zealots have for logic. As for the OBO, I grant he is snarky but not really “beyond the pale” like Mike Savage so far as I’ve seen.) And of course I wasn’t exercising solipsism myself, just pointing out the silly problems you get from radical positivism (What is the operational definition of “Things continue to exist even while not being observed.” etc.) Well, that’s not my fault or problem – if you don’t want to be ridiculed, don’t come up with hopelessly tight-assed logical strictures.
    Blasphemy is fun! Now I know how the naughty kiddies feel.

  138. #138 Glen Davidson
    January 9, 2008

    And sorry, no, Collins is unsuitable — not so much because of his religion, but because he is openly irrational and demonstrably ignorant of evolution. That book of his was so goddamned bad that I think he lost the respect of a lot of people in the scientific community.

    Exactly. Why people keep on about Collins, with his mindless waterfall “experience,” his stupid “moral argument,” and his denial of so much of evolution, is beyond me. Especially when there are so much better theistic evolutionists, like Keith Miller and Ken Miller, skulking around–even if we might have reservations about Ken’s cosmological arguments.

    Not that I think we should necessarily be touting theistic evolutionists at all, it’s just that when people do, they could do so much better if they mentioned Dobzhansky, or even Father Coyne (at least from what I’ve heard about him so far), than if they go off on Collins, who pointedly avoids the scientific method whenever it gets too close to explaining what he wants to explain via God.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  139. #139 Glen Davidson
    January 9, 2008

    Many of you of course are not hypocrites, and the honest ones will firmly denounce speculations of multiple universes, and affirm the emptiness of e.g. trying to make a case or critique by saying “maybe science will someday explain why things are the way the are, in a way that requires no teleology” etc. – well, maybe it will, but guess what – that is a statement of faith.

    No it is not, at least as most here use these comments. Multiverses are not brought up by myself as a “solution,” but only to point out that we simply don’t know the denominator in any equation which is supposed to make life “unlikely.” It’s stupid to claim that we do know the denominator, when multiverses are as well attested as claims that this is the “only universe” are.

    And the point about science maybe explaining things someday is not properly used as the religious claim that “God will someday explain,” but merely to point out that science is the only thing that is ever likely to explain anything new about the universe and/or multiverse, and about any probabilities surrounding these. Indeed, maybe someday science will explain “fine-tuning,” but if it doesn’t, we will almost certainly will not have an explanation. The only thing that is important in the religion debate is that clearly religion has no means whatsoever to explain “fine-tuning,” while science at least gives us a method which could potentially give us some answers in the future (though it may not do so in every case).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  140. #140 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    And, no, Ichthyic, I don’t base my opinions on Wiki.

    then you shouldn’t be citing it in authoritative fashion, as you did in the post i referred to.

    if instead, you had started with your personal observations of Collins himself, that might have been a more logical place to start, even if that STILL doesn’t address the fact that he has, in fact, made some horrific arguments in places where you did not apparently have occasion to directly observe him, like his book.

    Just because you personally failed to observe his bad faith-based arguments, most certainly does not mean they do not exist, and NOBODY has seen any kind of retraction from Collins regarding them.

  141. #141 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 9, 2008

    That is exactly right–saying the universe appears to be fine-tune for rocks is the same as saying it appears to be fine tuned for life. A universe that cannot produce rocks cannot produce life, and one that can produce rocks will produce the building blocks for life.

    You seem not to have noticed my intent. What if life is a marginal unimportant byproduct of the universe reaching its true goal, the production of rocks?

    For black holes instead of rocks, this argument has indeed been made, as you yourself have mentioned.

    Also, you write that “science rightly doesn’t like to accept ‘luck’ as an answer”. That’s wrong. Science of course accepts testable hypotheses of luck all the time. Why did this radioactive decay happen right now? Luck.

    But since there’s really no logical theory of likely existence, you really then can’t say why there isn’t a 23-dimensional field of moving specks instead, etc.

    You have fallen among the scientists. We know full well that it’s impossible to disprove solipsism. Please stay within methodological naturalism — unless you actually want to stay boring.

  142. #142 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 9, 2008

    That is exactly right–saying the universe appears to be fine-tune for rocks is the same as saying it appears to be fine tuned for life. A universe that cannot produce rocks cannot produce life, and one that can produce rocks will produce the building blocks for life.

    You seem not to have noticed my intent. What if life is a marginal unimportant byproduct of the universe reaching its true goal, the production of rocks?

    For black holes instead of rocks, this argument has indeed been made, as you yourself have mentioned.

    Also, you write that “science rightly doesn’t like to accept ‘luck’ as an answer”. That’s wrong. Science of course accepts testable hypotheses of luck all the time. Why did this radioactive decay happen right now? Luck.

    But since there’s really no logical theory of likely existence, you really then can’t say why there isn’t a 23-dimensional field of moving specks instead, etc.

    You have fallen among the scientists. We know full well that it’s impossible to disprove solipsism. Please stay within methodological naturalism — unless you actually want to stay boring.

  143. #143 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    Why people keep on about Collins, with his mindless waterfall “experience,”

    what’s really interesting (?) is that Collins bases his “conversion experience” on a pastoral hike to a waterfall, while 2 years earlier (before he published his book), he is quoted as claiming that the death of a family member was at the core of his “conversion”.

    But, I’m sure that a pastoral reference sounds nicer for public consumption.

  144. #144 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    And, yes, based on my dealings with Dr.Collins (we’ve corresponded briefly) I think he is entirely capable of keeping his private religious views off the radar of public servant.

    uh, you HAVE read his book, right?

    just because someone is capable, at times (and not consistently), of being able to compartmentalize is not actually noteworthy in my book.

    I appreciate why you might think differently, though.

  145. #145 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    You seem not to have noticed my intent. What if life is a marginal unimportant byproduct of the universe reaching its true goal, the production of rocks?

    hmm, following that line of thought, if there is mostly empty space in the universe, then isn’t the universe fine tuned for nothing?

  146. #146 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    Does Nisbet complete ignore the fact that Neil deGrasse Tyson WAS a science advisor to President Bush?????

    among the many other things he conveniently ignores in the furious process of trying to create a niche for himself as a “leader in science communication”.

    phhht.

    maybe i missed it somewhere amongst all the fine-tuning diatribe, but did anybody figure out who is directly countering the advice Nisbet offers to science organizations and politicians?

  147. #147 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    How come those who believe atheists are doomed to an eternity in hell are so intent on recreating it here on Earth with their mind-numbing insipidity?

  148. #148 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    Maybe we need a Science Advisor who can try to bridge this gap and bring the “unbelievers” into the fold. We need more credibility for science, not more animosity. We need someone who can discuss both sides of the argument without alienating anyone.

    -you cannot bring “unbelievers” “into the fold”. by definition, most of them think that they will go to hell in capitulating to science. if you don’t understand this yet, I highly suggest you spend some time trying to debate a hard-core YEC yourself sometime. the best you can do is get them to keep their idiocy to themselves. Frankly, from my POV, that simply isn’t good enough any more.

    -we do indeed need someone within government to clearly elucidate the credibility SCIENCE ALREADY HAS. there is no need to build credibility for science, it has a fucking fantastic record built up over hundreds of years.

    -finally, there is no “both sides of the argument”, and you know it. shall we regrind the arguments for the Flying Spaghetti Monster to demonstrate?

    it’s the height of hubris to think that there can be reconciliation between the entirely irrational and science.

    now, if you want to talk about courting “undecided votes”, then the answer is damn simple:

    we need a president who publicly utilizes their science adviser to clearly demonstrate the already existing credibility and indispensable usefulness of science in general, and evolution in specific.

    sorry, but in placating the religious right, all presidents in my lifetime have essentially eroded the “credibility” of science all by themselves. it wouldn’t be hard to reverse that logistically, the difficulty lies in the will to do so.

  149. #149 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    the whole idea is that certain things are more worthy than others, not just that “this” is here regardless of which possible one it happens to be.

    I couldn’t have done better at indicating how completely non-scientific this issue is than the above-emphasized phrase.

    And of course the idea that “life” is something especially worthy and “should be here” is a value judgment, that’s why it counts as a philosophical argument and not just doing “physics.”

    As a value judgment, it has absolutely nothing to do with physics. But thank you for making it completely clear that this is all about how special we are, and not about any objective scientific issue.

    The point about how amazing to see that particular license plate completely misses that point

    No, it is the frickin’ point. Let’s rework the license plate example. Let’s say the next Powerball lottery is won with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Amazing, no! Look at those numbers! There must be some sort of special process behind producing numbers as significant and meaningful and worthy as those! There must be some sort of cheating going on! Why the chances of those numbers coming up are astronomical (1 in 21,137,943,750)…and, of course, exactly the same as the chance that any specific given sequence of numbers would come up. (And lest this been seen as a “multiverse” argument, it should be clear that the odds equivalence is true even if Powerball is played exactly once.) Just because that particular sequence is especially salient doesn’t change the odds of it coming up, or, more to the point, require a special explanation when it does.

    In other words, just because a particular actual event appears highly unlikely doesn’t mean that the process involved in actually producing it has to be rigged or “fine tuned” in some way. Sometimes you really are dealt a royal flush, and that doesn’t mean the deal was rigged — the odds of you getting that hand are precisely the same as getting any other set of five cards.

    Why is this so hard to understand?

  150. #150 Glen Davidson
    January 9, 2008

    I’d just like to point to what Collins is reported to have indicated at a more recent event:

    The audience’s questions tended to focus on Collins. For example, one questioner (who had read Collins’ book) correctly identified Collins’ alleged “evidence for belief” as fundamentally a God of the gaps argument. According to Collins, naturalistic science can’t account for human Moral Law (Collins’ capitalization) or the origin of the universe and its (alleged) fine-tuning, and therefore belief in a God is at least partly justified. To his credit, Collins answered that he wasn’t claiming “proofs” (his word) but rather only indications or pointers.

    pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/11/noma-is-alive-a.html

    I suppose one could give Collins a tiny bit of credit for not saying that his “indications or pointers” aren’t “proofs,” but they are far from being indications or pointers as well.

    I mostly thought it would be useful to point to what Collins is reported to have said, and that even when he’s trying to defend his statements, it still consists of offal.

    The best use we can make of Collins is to point out that he uses a host of bad “arguments” and piss-poor reasoning in his attempts to make religion sound reasonable, and yet where he has true scientific expertise he adheres to the multiple lines of evidences and predictions which make evolution the only reasonable idea for life’s large number of variations on a few themes. That is, we have to mention that he thinks poorly outside of his specialty in order to note that nonetheless he cannot dispense with evolution within his specialty.

    So he can still be of use, but only as someone whose inconsistencies break in favor of science when the actual work has to be done, not as someone whose thinking should be emulated. He does good work with the nuts and bolts of evolution, but he’s not a consistent or reasonable thinker beyond that.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  151. #151 Ichthyic
    January 9, 2008

    tangential to Tulse’s argument, there have been several studies published in the last few years indicating an evolved predisposition in humans for pattern recognition.

    the idea of seeing “significance” in a sequence of numbers, or the shape of a cloud, is likely merely due to that evolved predisposition, and nothing more.

    IIRC, a couple of those papers were discussed on PT last year, if someone wanted references.

    just search PT for “pattern recognition” and the relevant threads will likely pop up.

  152. #152 Brownian, OM
    January 9, 2008

    But Tulse, if you change any one of those Powerball results, you won’t win with your 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 ticket.

    Clearly, your example demonstrates that the Powerball lottery has the appearance of being fine-tuned to make you win.

    Looks like all those statisticians have a huge problem on their hands.

  153. #153 Tulse
    January 9, 2008

    But Tulse, if you change any one of those Powerball results, you won’t win with your 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 ticket.
    Clearly, your example demonstrates that the Powerball lottery has the appearance of being fine-tuned to make you win./blockquote>

    You know what else has “the appearance of fine-tuning”? Pi! That’s right, a fundamental mathematical value shows irrefutable evidence! Extending a revelation made in another thread, within the decimal expansion of pi is an ASCII value version of the complete King James Bible!!!!!!! It can be proven that pi contains the Bible!!!! Now tell me again how this universe isn’t fine-tuned!!!!

  154. #154 Ken Cope
    January 9, 2008

    Hm. Neil B. stayed out of this thread for the better part of 24 hours before unloading his angry little wank. Go, me. We also have learned that heddle now has a fan club of two.

    If “bound by observation and evidence” is supposed to mean falsifiability, then all speculation is wrong

    False dichotomy. I generate and consume vast amounts of speculation, not just in driving defensively, acting as if that meaning I want to constellate upon the appearance of a pattern was real, in order to live long enough to consider it later, but also in working out with my neighbors the best way to avoid fooling myself into believing in things that just ain’t so. Among the ways I do this is to extend to my neighbors the courtesy of assuming they are real and not hallucinations. I work as hard as I can to discern the borders of science, science fiction, fantasy, and religion, which really isn’t a continuum. I try to avoid granting hypotheses the status of theories, and treat theories as (provisionally) more than hypotheses. The true measure of mere speculation is not just how elegant, or well-informed it is, but what can be done with it.

    Take Tipler. What can be done with Tipler? Martin Gardner can get a good article out of him in the New York Review of Books. Spielberg, in the movie A.I., portrays Tiplerian Sparkle Crest alien robot archivists from the future who enable the fulfillment of the ultimate teleological pinnacle of humanity: a little robot is turned into a real boy by the Blue Fairy so he can have one perfect day believing a simulation of mommy and daddy that never loved him really did love him, so that he can shut down happy.

    Speculation can either be useful or otiose. Heddle wants to use the speculations of physicists to rationalize the object of his faith. Neil B. uses them to show us all how impressed he is with himself. When two such insipid wankers spew boring, spittle-flecked, unimaginative bullshit we’ve all heard before, the question I raised was what can be done with the speculation. In matters of taste, there can be no dispute, and with such tired speculation, it comes down entirely to matters of taste. Neil B.’s taste embraces heddle, Tipler, espistemological nihilism, sneering with contempt at the science of biology and at the host of this blog and its regulars, and nattering on about how impressed he is with himself.

    Neil B. clearly has no taste.

  155. #155 poke
    January 9, 2008

    I just fail see why you need a “deeper” explanation of the constants or laws (either theological, philosophical or the pseudo-physical multi-verse explanations). I personally hope there is a big ugly irreducible constant in our Final Theory, something not even amenable to numerological analysis, just to remind us that the Universe really doesn’t give a shit about our sense of the intuitive or the aesthetically pleasing.

  156. #156 Ken Cope
    January 9, 2008

    the Universe really doesn’t give a shit

    I don’t even want to try to understand people who need to anthropomorphize the universe into a vast conspiracy on their behalf.

  157. #157 windy
    January 10, 2008

    Also, about modal realism – OK, I hear you, and I don’t believe in it either (but clever physicists like Max Tegmark do, go and argue with him.) I figured most would get that and know I was just toying with MR, but carelessness reigns around here.

    Protest too much? In #71, you listed 3 possibilities: modal realism (more or less), God or other “necessary being”, or banal non-explainability.

    If you now say that the first option was a kind of joke, you are saying that the universe is either explained by God or non-explainable. How’s that for careless argumentation?

  158. #158 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 10, 2008

    PZ writes:

    Your analogy has some interesting implications — the Maker may be a malign entity with intents beyond your ken, and he may actually greatly dislike some of the inhabitants of his domain.

    Well, to tell the truth, my ken has never gotten over that Barbie girl. And I’m not that fond of everyone here, either. But I am fond of your domain, O Maker, and so I’ve decided not to fire you for failing to win the World Series. After all, you did finish 93-63 in the regular season.

  159. #159 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 10, 2008

    hmm, following that line of thought, if there is mostly empty space in the universe, then isn’t the universe fine tuned for nothing?

    Many other values of plenty of constants would have produced just as much nothing, or even a little bit more…

  160. #160 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 10, 2008

    hmm, following that line of thought, if there is mostly empty space in the universe, then isn’t the universe fine tuned for nothing?

    Many other values of plenty of constants would have produced just as much nothing, or even a little bit more…

  161. #161 Blake Stacey
    January 10, 2008

    Ichthyic:

    so, the question is:

    WHO is countering Nisbet’s nonsense within the area of scientific communication and politics?

    and, no, a blog is hardly a sufficient counter, so don’t bother going there.

    I wasn’t going to go there, so don’t worry. :-/

    I think the problem is that Nisbet is a communications specialist, and therefore interested in building a reputation as a communications expert, while the people who disagree with him are biologists and physicists, and therefore interested in doing biology or physics. (I name those fields because I have my own sampling bias; I read blogs in those areas more than others, so the names which spring to mind naturally cluster in those areas. Fill in your own candidates: let’s make a list.) So, assuming that no academics tenured in Lakoffology are going to come forth to arrange counter-panels, what can we do ourselves?

  162. #162 Tulse
    January 10, 2008

    Many other values of plenty of constants would have produced just as much nothing, or even a little bit more…

    Exactly, which indicates that the constants themselves have been designed to produce empty space — if not, why do large changes in them still produce emptiness? The very nature of the universe has been created so that even if the constants themselves vary, the desired result, emptiness, is produced.

    Hey, this kind of transcendental arguing is fun!

  163. #163 Neil B.
    January 10, 2008

    Glen D, David M, Tulse, et al: I think you still don’t understand where I (and likely Dr. Heddle) are coming from. What we are doing is indeed “philosophy” as I have directly professed many times (and I presume Heddle has too.) Sure it isn’t physics, although it uses physical data (philosophy can be defined as starting with what we know and using thought process to find what is convincing to various degrees to believe – quite accepted to often not be proof or provable. I know what science is, the argument is rather over whether it is “OK” in some sense to use philosophical (“armchair”) methods to get more insight than we have given by science and math. I think it is acceptable, others think a more strict approach like positivism is appropriate. Note that even positivists have to use arguments, not scientific experiments, to make the case about what science should be. (Wags often point out that LP’s founding statement looks to fail its own test.)

    Since science doesn’t have an answer yet to the foundational why question, “philosophy” may be acceptable to probe that question. That has nothing to do with believing what any traditional or revelatory text says, and I never use them (I didn’t join the Unitarian Universalists to follow a holy book, to slip Jesus through the back door, etc.) I don’t think Heddle ever referenced religious texts as authority either (if so, contradicting Ken Cope’s claim of “Godbotting” above. As for “insipidity”, don’t so many of you here make the same arguments over and over also? I keep making mine because I see the same starting or rebuttal arguments over and over. Give *me* something new to look at, and I will try the return favor.

    But Ken is absolutely and directly a liar or at least utterly careless in this “spittle-flecked” sentence right here: “sneering with contempt at the science of biology and at the host of this blog and its regulars, and nattering on about how impressed he is with himself.” I never sneered with contempt at “biology”, I don’t argue for divine intervention in an existing universe. I don’t want any need for intervention, because the better the universe can make even rotary flagella naturally, then the more “clever” the fine-tuning is. If you can’t even keep the different arguments straight, your fitful entertainment value no longer compensates for the worthlessness of the rants.

    And of course, once again, there’s the hilariously ironic air of blasphemy that I dare criticize the BO or the commenters. Yes I have said some are jerks, some not, and appreciate the better sort I have been dialoguing with in the thread “Paulos summarizes Beyond Belief.” And what shows whether someone is “so impressed” with himself? Really, you can tell me that isn’t what you see from the many confidently down-putting and snark-oozing antitheists here? More hypocrisy.

    Since it is philosophy, the idea that what’s behind the universe may “value” life is fair game. That’s what the structure of the laws looks like, and those who think it isn’t about that don’t have a clear scientific explanation for it. Of course it’s a value judgment and not “physics”, I never said it wasn’t – I am defending the use of it, not trying to redefine what it is.

    People keep making the same silly argument over and over about why I shouldn’t be surprised that a certain number sequence came up rather than any other single sequence – that’s a fallacy of understanding probability anyway, since it is less likely for certain *categories* to come up than others, (like, less likely for sequences than unrelated numbers etc.) The category of life-friendly traits is very much smaller than the category of non-friendly traits, and that’s what matters in the debate. Anything about “sometimes you get a royal flush” references of course presumed repeated dealings of cards – so, who or what is composing and dealing the “cards” here anyway, once or many times as the case may be? That’s the question.

    Re 153:


    Protest too much? In #71, you listed 3 possibilities: modal realism (more or less), God or other “necessary being”, or banal non-explainability.


    If you now say that the first option was a kind of joke, you are saying that the universe is either explained by God or non-explainable. How’s that for careless argumentation?

    Well, I actually do suspect that, for exactly the reasons given in that #3. You can’t call it “careless” just because you think I just plum ought to say “maybe science can explain that instead.” Think about what science does to explain things: it looks for “laws” in the universe, available for experimentation, and then uses them to explain particular phenomena. Once you have Maxwell’s equations, then you explain other things – but what do those equations come from? Why aren’t they different, etc? Sure, there are ways to relate them (consistency with conservation laws etc.) but there are many ways to make model universes “with math” that aren’t like ours.

    Well, maybe there is a way to get a scientific handle on it, I can’t assume there isn’t – but if you think so, I expect you to at least get a handle on starting it and impressing me with *something* in that direction.

    Finally, there is too much a false dichotomy that either there’s just the universe here etc, or something resembling the God of religious faith is responsible. I think there’s instead a range of ways to look at it, from just starting principles of a mathematical sort, to them having “values” and purposes etc, and classical, omnipotent deities as the other end of the spectrum (very unlikely since I accept the power of the con-argument from the existence of evil, ironically a value-based argument itself!) In any case, unless you accept the universe and its properties as a “brute fact”, you have to seek foundational principles one way or another.

  164. #164 Tulse
    January 10, 2008

    . What we are doing is indeed “philosophy” as I have directly professed many times (and I presume Heddle has too.) Sure it isn’t physics

    If the issue is how the specific qualities of the physical universe arose, then that is indeed a scientific question, and not philosophy. And, as heddle has pointed out, some of those who believe this issue to be a “problem” have indeed offered scientific explanations (e.g., multiverse approaches), so it seems clear to me that this issue is not one of philosophy. I’m not even clear how you are using the term “philosophy” in this context, other than “speculating without evidence or theory”.

    Since it is philosophy, the idea that what’s behind the universe may “value” life is fair game. That’s what the structure of the laws looks like, and those who think it isn’t about that don’t have a clear scientific explanation for it. Of course it’s a value judgment and not “physics”

    This is completely incoherent. Either we are talking about the facts of world (“physics”) or not (“value judgements”). If the former, such questions are answered by physics, not philosophy — if the latter, then we are not addressing a question that even makes sense in scientific terms. You can’t have it both ways, suggest that because science can’t answer a question about a “value judgement” that science is wrong or incomplete. Either the question is scientific, and thus not the domain of “values”, or the question is about “values”, and therefore irrelevant to science.

    And you still have not provided any argument as to why we should think that the universe “values” life. Yes, life has arisen in the current universe, and yes, the current universe is a product of its physical constants, so yes, life is a product of those constants. But so are so many other things that are far more common and prominent in the universe (such as black holes, or supernovas). Apart from sheer parochialism, why should we think the universe does not “value” those phenomena more than life?

    People keep making the same silly argument over and over about why I shouldn’t be surprised that a certain number sequence came up rather than any other single sequence
    – that’s a fallacy of understanding probability anyway, since it is less likely for certain *categories* to come up than others, (like, less likely for sequences than unrelated numbers etc.)

    I don’t usually like to argue from personal authority, but I’ve taught statistics at the graduate level, so I think I know a bit about probability. The whole point of the statistical argument is that what you see as “unrelated numbers” is completely subjective (since it is possible to construct a relationship among any sequence of numbers). You “value” some arrangements of numbers and cards more than others, but that valuing doesn’t change their likelihood, or the likelihood of other arrangements (just as if a fair coin comes up heads 1000 times, the probability of heads on the next throw is still 50/50).

    The category of life-friendly traits is very much smaller than the category of non-friendly traits

    At best that is true for life as we know it. As I argued before, one could easily “philosophize” that with different physical constants, organisms made up of light-years of naked quarks could wonder why the universe was so fine tuned for them, and didn’t instead produce dead clumps of matter. Again, the “fine tuning” position is, in part, just a failure of imagination.

    and that’s what matters in the debate.

    No, that is purely a parochial view. There are presumably phenomena in the universe that are even more sensitive to the specific physical constants than life is — why shouldn’t those particular phenomena be seen as the “reason” the universe is like it is? The only reasons that people fixate on “life” is that humans happen to have that quality.

    Anything about “sometimes you get a royal flush” references of course presumed repeated dealings of card

    Nonsense. Take a deck of cards and deal out a single five-card hand. What is the likelihood of dealing a diamond royal flush? The probability is 2,598,960 to one — even if you never deal another hand. The probability is solely based on the number of elements and the process used to deal them, and not any presumed repetition (which is why multiverse “explanations” completely miss the point).

    Does that hand look particularly improbable? To our eyes, which attach significance to that sequence, it does. But someone who has never played poker, or even seen a deck of cards, could calculate exactly the same probabilities and yet wouldn’t be impressed if that sequence arose, since it is exactly as probable as any other specific draw of five cards.

    In other words, it is only our particular poker-centric bias that sees this particular set of five cards as special — the probability that it might appear in a deal is exactly the same as any other specific hand. And likewise, it is only our particular bias about life that makes us see this set of physical constants as special.

    The whole “fine tuning problem” is nothing but parochialism — it has nothing to do with science.

  165. #165 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 10, 2008

    any case, unless you accept the universe and its properties as a “brute fact”, you have to seek foundational principles one way or another.

    Only if you’re interested in describing the universe in terms that can’t be vetted by the scientific community, sir. Science tends to take a dim view of claims that can’t be tested and most scientific research is operationally defined within a particular discipline with respect to the models that are out there. Foundational claims are unlikely to draw much interest from the likes of us unless they are testable ones that do a better job of predicting and explaining more phenomena than claims that are operationally defined within the discipline. Metaphysics (because that’s what you seem to be pushing) has been eclipsed by real physics over the last three centuries, and you’re not going to be able to turn back that clock.

  166. #166 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    Tulse,

    I agree that the fine-tuning problem is a big word. Not all scientists agree that there is a fine-tuning problem for all degrees of freedom.
    But there is at least one parameter for which it is recognized, at least by all cosmologists, that there is a very clear case of apparent fine-tuning : the cosmological constant. It’s energy equivallent over the planck energy, as dimensionless constant, represent a fine tuning problem of the order of 10^-120, an incredible level of precision.

    Even if we find a better fundamental physical theory than the ones we have at our disposal today, one that can explain for example the interrelationships between the other degrees of freedom, the behaviour of the universe at it’s birth it is most likely that at least one fundamental parameter of nature would remain, and that its degree of precision be even smaller than the 10^-120.
    I’m not sure that even then, the question will remain, as to wether this parameter has been fixed by an intelligence, that understood sufficiently the laws of nature as to be able to fix this parameter and experiment, and produce such an universe, or by a purely random phenomena, as part of an ever evolving multiverse of infinte possibilities.
    My view, is that one day, we, as a species, could become sufficiently knowledgeable, as to make such an experiment. And the question for us, will be, how do we know if there will be intelligent life in there, so suffcient as to reproduce, one day, another one of those universes. Could we observe it’s event horizon( it would appear to us as a giant black hole ) and see what is happening, the same way as a hologram is sufficient to give us a 3d temporal picture, as in a giant movieplex of entertainment. Could we intervene ?

    Think about it, if we have the liberty to make a metaphysical statement as : “we are part of infinte multi-universe of with naturally fixed parameters”, there is no reason to believe that another metaphysical statement as the one I just explained (the creator / experiment / Interactive Movieplex) should not be equivallently analysed.

    I have been thinking about it for the last 3 years of my life. I read everything I could get myhand on, including about 150 selected scientific papers from the Arxiv.

    And, my cocnlusion is, that there will be no way to infer the first cause of the universe without experimenting. And experimenting will tell us the truth.
    We won’t know until then. So, for now, I remain agnostic. We’ll know one day.

    I hope.

  167. #167 Ken Cope
    January 10, 2008

    I don’t think Heddle ever referenced religious texts as authority either (if so, contradicting Ken Cope’s claim of “Godbotting” above.

    Heddle defines godbotting on this blog.

    I never sneered with contempt at “biology”,

    Why the scare quotes around the word? This sophomoric scientism dittohead freeper would like to know what I’m to make of your sentence:

    If you were right, then PZ certainly would be totally worthless, true? (As a high-level thinker, he in fact is, but isn’t bad as a biologist per se.)

    Praise be unto Wilkins, but if Neil B. were the only exposure to philosophy around these parts, I’d have to conclude that it’s perfect for those who aspire to writing science fiction, but who can’t hope to attain Elrond Hubbub’s talent, imagination, basic grasp of science, and wit.

  168. #168 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    A short way of saying what I believe :
    The only way to make a metaphysical statement is to verify it with an experiment. Ie to make it scientific.

  169. #169 windy
    January 10, 2008

    Anything about “sometimes you get a royal flush” references of course presumed repeated dealings of cards

    Just that it’s possible to get repeats. But saying “it’s unlikely to get this particular combination” presumes the very same thing.

    Well, I actually do suspect that, for exactly the reasons given in that #3. You can’t call it “careless” just because you think I just plum ought to say “maybe science can explain that instead.”

    No, I’m saying that you plum ought to realize that “just add God” explains nothing.

    Finally, there is too much a false dichotomy that either there’s just the universe here etc, or something resembling the God of religious faith is responsible.

    That’s exactly the same false dichotomy you try to foist upon us.

    …classical, omnipotent deities as the other end of the spectrum (very unlikely since I accept the power of the con-argument from the existence of evil, ironically a value-based argument itself!)

    Evil is not a counterargument for omnipotence.

    In any case, unless you accept the universe and its properties as a “brute fact”, you have to seek foundational principles one way or another.

    No, first we accept the universe as a brute fact, and then we seek possible foundational principles.

  170. #170 Ichthyic
    January 10, 2008

    I think the problem is that Nisbet is a communications specialist, and therefore interested in building a reputation as a communications expert, while the people who disagree with him are biologists and physicists, and therefore interested in doing biology or physics.

    I think that’s an accurate enough assesment.

    So, assuming that no academics tenured in Lakoffology are going to come forth to arrange counter-panels, what can we do ourselves?

    it’s been a long time for me (about 15 years since I last dealt with this kind of issue at the federal level); I’m a bit rusty on the idea front.

    I’d hate to think, though, that there really is nobody on any of the larger science panels who disagrees with Nisbet.

    I’m going to have to backtrack a bit and see if I can get some answers from some of my old contacts; if they are still around, that is.

    off the top of my head, I think that if you are associated directly with a Uni at this point, it might be worth seeing how many others in your dept. have contemplated the issue of science communication, and then bring up the directions that folks who agree with Nisbet want to take it. letters from dept. heads, signed by a majority of faculty, will tend to let groups like NAS know that more voices need to be heard. That should be sufficient to get invites sent out so that future panel discussions on the issue are at least hearing some of the counters to the tactical direction Nisbet and others seem happy to adopt. Everyone is busy, but I’m sure there will be those within any given dept. who will be willing to take up the slack.

    past that, there are plenty of scientific lobbying groups who always welcome input from scientists regarding better communication of specific concepts both upwards (congressional/administrative) and downwards (public).

    I just want to stress, as the issue has come up in several threads on different fora now, that I do see the tactical value of using someone like Collins to placate the fundies. I just want to make sure that in using someone like Collins to “frame” science, we don’t lose the larger picture of what science is all about. using Collins’ book as an example, I can see the value it might have in placating SOME fundies (not even the majority, IMO), but i don’t think the dangers inherent in adopting such a tactical strategy are worth it in the long term. It appears at best nothing more than a delaying tactic, to me, in the end. At worst, it will degrade the very definition of science we work so hard to present. Someone reading Collins’ book without the relevant background in the fields discussed, will end up horrifically misinformed in taking the book as a whole, for example, even if it does manage to make them stop thinking their kids are going to hell if they study evolution.

    I used to work with the Committe for the National Institute for the Environment (which evolved into this: http://ncseonline.org/ ), and a primary focus of effort when I was working with them was on the science communication front. If I get any info from my old contacts there, I’ll go ahead and post it in this thread.

  171. #171 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    Ichthyic,

    I respectfully disagree, but I find Collins’ book less “dogmatic” than you seem to express.
    He is quite careful to explain the reasons why he believes in theistic evolution, and provides a description of what it entails, for him.
    I agree with the statement that his main evidence, ie , the existence of what he calls a moral law in humans, is far from being “air-tight”. But another hand, let’s face it, the more scientific explanations for evolutionary morality are for the time being, quite metaphysical themselves.

    Maybe at least getting the majority of human beings to believe in theistic evolution, rather than YEC or other literal biblical accounts, will be a necessary first step before giving it all up one day.

    Wgo knows ?

  172. #172 Ichthyic
    January 10, 2008

    But another hand, let’s face it, the more scientific explanations for evolutionary morality are for the time being, quite metaphysical themselves.

    bullshit.

    you, like Collins, like Michael Egnor, apparently have never even bothered to read the thousands of articles on the subject of altruism (the core of his arguments, btw) not only in the field of evolution/behavior (sparked by and large by the work of WD Hamilton), but have also managed to miss all the papers regarding the effects of injury and genetics on behavior in the realm of physiology/medicine as well.

    no wonder you think Collins’ rationalizations “careful explanations”.

    Maybe at least getting the majority of human beings to believe in theistic evolution, rather than YEC or other literal biblical accounts, will be a necessary first step before giving it all up one day.

    sweet jeebus, it’s not like i didn’t discuss the value of tactics, or anything, right in the post previous to yours, while pointing out the inherent dangers in the approach.

    here’s a tip:

    read for comprehension, and not for the chance to claim someone is attacking “dogma” when it is entirely irrelevant.

    In fact, I’m going to use your response as EXACTLY the kind of thing I was afraid would happen when someone not well versed in the relevant fields reads Collins’ book and takes it at face value.

    so, for that at least, I thank you for supporting my point, if unintentionally on your part.

  173. #173 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    Sorry, Ichtyic, I didn’t base my assertion on Collins’ book (he actually doesn’t touch the subject of a hypothetical theory of evolutionary morality). His reading left me actually very sceptical on his idea of a “God given” Moral Law.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I personally believe that one day, we will have a thorough scientific explanation of how human morality has evolved, without the need for any supernatural agent. I know that there is much progress made in various subjects such as Altruism (eg the existence of Mirror neurons and their evolutionary underpinnings). I was particularly impressed with what I learned for example during the two Beyond Belief conferences on this subject.

    All I am saying is, as much as evolutionary biology has had something like a century of research and underpinnings behind it, and as such, is as close as one will ever get to the truth, a theory of the mind is still in the making and I am not aware of a defintive consensus from the experts in the field. Progress is being made every year on the subject, but if we can’t convince the world of the basics, on which there is an evident consensus, it doesn’t surprise me if people like Collins can write such a book, and get away with it.
    I fully agree that this has very much the flavour of a god of the gaps argument, but as long as science has not explained all key aspects of the Universe, life, and the mind, it’s quite clear that religion will be hiding in the gaps.

  174. #174 Neil B.
    January 11, 2008

    This assumption in #159 needs to be challenged, pardon any gummy italicization:


    If the issue is how the specific qualities of the physical universe arose, then that is indeed a scientific question, and not philosophy. And, as heddle has pointed out, some of those who believe this issue to be a “problem” have indeed offered scientific explanations (e.g., multiverse approaches), so it seems clear to me that this issue is not one of philosophy.

    This and later elaboration shows confusion between “physics” the activity and “nature” the object of study. The fact that we have constructed a *program* of study cannot force what we are studying to present itself conveniently to those methods, to exist only for the sort of reasons that method is oriented around, etc. You are making the utterly unfounded pretension that the thing, the universe, must somehow be frameable only in terms that physicists want to use because that’s what they do


    This is completely incoherent. Either we are talking about the facts of world (“physics”) or not (“value judgements”). If the former, such questions are answered by physics, not philosophy — if the latter, then we are not addressing a question that even makes sense in scientific terms. You can’t have it both ways, suggest that because science can’t answer a question about a “value judgment” that science is wrong or incomplete. Either the question is scientific, and thus not the domain of “values”, or the question is about “values”, and therefore irrelevant to science.

    Again, the same confusion. “Physics” uses the facts of the world and acts on them according to its program, but it “isn’t” the facts of the world or the world itself. You are right that if the question addresses “values” it is not science (although if the results has consequences, it is a stretch to say “irrelevant” to science.) Of course, that does mean that science is incomplete, by leaving that out – no prob, then we use philosophy (and I don’t imply a definition of the latter that is petty etc.) Your mistake is in thinking that being “irrelevant to science” means “being irrelevant to why the universe is the way it is” or “Isn’t a valid avenue of thought” etc. Why should it? Is that physicistocentric design?

    The final irony of course, that you guys keep tripping over, is that your own *arguments* about what physics is and should be versus philosophy etc, are themselves “philosophy” and not “facts of world”, so why should I believe them if I’m going to be so suspicious of “philosophy”? That’s the breaks, and I’m also still waiting for that explanation of why our universe uses Maxwell’s equations, etc, none of which has been forthcoming. INHMB.

  175. #175 Neil B.
    January 11, 2008

    A few things to wrap up:

    159 again:
    Me: Anything about “sometimes you get a royal flush” references of course presumed repeated dealings of card…

    Nonsense. Take a deck of cards and deal out a single five-card hand. What is the likelihood of dealing a diamond royal flush? The probability is 2,598,960 to one — even if you never deal another hand. The probability is solely based on the number of elements and the process used to deal them, and not any presumed repetition (which is why multiverse “explanations” completely miss the point).

    OK, I know that and was careless. I thought you meant repetitions since you said “some times” (split for effect), so I thought you meant the MV stuff. Well, of course the whole point is making a “value judgment” that life is “worthy” etc, I would never deny that – see above. As I once said, so far it’s a matter of taste whether you want to accept that or not (and sorry, I consider it a test for cynicism.)

    Note about multiverses I forgot last time: they aren’t AFAWK observable/testable, so they fail falsifiability and become meaningless/unscientific etc. (do you believe in that? Sadly, it in turn must be argued for or against with “philosophy.”) Well, if you accept that philosophical premise, the MV is not science, so can’t partake of explanation as you suggested in part.

    164:
    “Evil is not a counterargument for omnipotence.”

    Maybe not, but Dawkins, Sagan, and Stenger have all used it as grounds for doubt. If you meant simply as written, v. “omnipotence” not “omnipotent and good” that is true. But I suggest you keep that complaint, since it’s the only good counterargument (v. counter-pro argument, which is different) you have, other than maybe modal realism (also shrugged off around here.)

  176. #176 Tulse
    January 11, 2008

    You are making the utterly unfounded pretension that the thing, the universe, must somehow be frameable only in terms that physicists want to use because that’s what they do

    Not at all — there are aspects to the universe that are most certainly not the domain of physics (e.g., math, aesthetics, film criticism). But if one is asking about the fundamental qualities of the universe, then that indeed is the domain of physics. Philosophy will not tell you how specific physical constants arose — if anything can, it will be physics. (It may very well be that because of epistemic issues, our human understanding and practice of physics can’t get us to that kind of explanation. But if that is the case, nothing else can either.)

    “Physics” uses the facts of the world and acts on them according to its program, but it “isn’t” the facts of the world or the world itself.

    No, physics attempts to provide an explanation (or model) of the facts of the world. You’re right, it isn’t the universe itself, but nothing else is either (certainly not philosophy). Physics is how we understand the basic fabric of existence.

    You are right that if the question addresses “values” it is not science (although if the results has consequences, it is a stretch to say “irrelevant” to science.)

    I have no idea what you mean by this (unless it is the completely trivial point that, for example, if people don’t like scientists using embryos then they can’t easily do certain kinds of stem cell research).

    the whole point is making a “value judgment” that life is “worthy” etc, I would never deny that – see above. As I once said, so far it’s a matter of taste whether you want to accept that or not

    How does this kind of position not have the same consequences as radical relativism? I can argue that mathematics is an anti-feminist, phallologocentric practice that I don’t “value”, but that won’t change whether my bank account is balanced, or how many eggs come in a dozen. I can suggest that I “value” levitation, but somehow I don’t think gravity will be impressed by my impassioned desires. In other words, you can value what you want all you like, but the universe won’t care. Until you can demonstrate to me that you’re using “value” in some way different from a radical anthropocentric relativism, why should anyone take it seriously?

    More to the point, if this issue is only a “matter of taste”, then at best we are arguing aesthetics, and not science or even philosophy (except inasmuch as aesthetics is a branch of philosophy). I can say I “value” vanilla ice cream over chocolate, but why should that be taken as anything other than a personal preference?

  177. #177 windy
    January 11, 2008

    Maybe not, but Dawkins, Sagan, and Stenger have all used it as grounds for doubt. If you meant simply as written, v. “omnipotence” not “omnipotent and good” that is true.

    Of course I fucking meant it as written! Possibly an unfamiliar concept to you.

    But I suggest you keep that complaint, since it’s the only good counterargument (v. counter-pro argument, which is different) you have, other than maybe modal realism (also shrugged off around here.)

    Make up your mind – is modal realism to be considered seriously or not? Of course, if atheists would only listen to you and start arguing for silly things like modal realism or saying “omnipotent” when they mean “benevolent”, it would be easier fot you to dismiss them.

  178. #178 Kseniya
    January 11, 2008

    What is “INHMB”?

  179. #179 Ichthyic
    January 11, 2008


    All I am saying is, as much as evolutionary biology has had something like a century of research and underpinnings behind it, and as such, is as close as one will ever get to the truth,

    what you just said is equivalent to saying we will never learn anything new in physics, since the field has been around for so long.

    Moreover, the study of the evolution of behavior is not actually nearly as ancient as you seem to think, and most field-tested hypotheses, especially regarding altruism, didn’t occur until after WD Hamilton published his work on kin selection.

    that wasn’t that long ago (70s).

    even still, there most certainly has been much more research elucidating critical aspects of behavior than appears known by yourself.

    again, a basic evolutionary text would help, and wr specifically to behavior, I might also suggest Alcock’s “Animal Behavior”, and the more advanced reader by Krebs and Davies: “Behavioral Ecology: an evolutionary approach”, which will serve as a start to introduce you to both the history and current literature pertinent to the issue of the study of behavior, including altruism and cooperation.

    I would highly suggest you learn a bit more about the field, and both your and Collins’ ignorance of it, before you espouse further.

    I am not aware of a defintive consensus from the experts in the field

    I’m not buying this argument at all.

    just how many interesting topics within evolutionary biology ARE you aware that there is or is not “consensus”?

    sexual selection?

    mate choice?

    parental investment theory?

    the relative importance of drift vs. selection as mechanisms?

    is “consesus” important to you to understand the difference between doing actual science and proposing completely ignorant nonsense as Collins does?

    like I said, if this is the kind of impact Collins will end up having on the rest of the science community, or those interested in it, I find that more than a bit troubling.

    and you should too.

    I hope you actually DO take the time to learn what IS so troubling about the presentation Collins makes wrt behavior, and spend some time looking at the actual research that has been done in the field.

    at least, if for no other reason, so that you yourself can see the difference between how science studies behavior vs. how someone like Collins, apparently ignorant of the entire field of endeavor, makes proclamations about the limits of said science in favor of his religious delusions.

    you’re on a very slippery slope.

  180. #180 negentropyeater
    January 12, 2008

    Ichtyic,
    “is “consensus” important to you to understand the difference between doing actual science and proposing completely ignorant nonsense as Collins does?”

    Yes scientific consensus (from the experts in the respective fields) is important to me, because unless otherwise, experience shows that this leaves an open door for people like Collins to make their “God of the Gaps” arguments.

  181. #181 Neil B.
    January 12, 2008

    INHMB means “I’m not holding my breath” – as in, not likely to happen soon. It is likely not accepted abbr usage.

    “Philosophy will not tell you how specific physical constants arose — if anything can, it will be physics. (It may very well be that because of epistemic issues, our human understanding and practice of physics can’t get us to that kind of explanation. But if that is the case, nothing else can either.)”

    Sorry, you can’t just put that out with confidence. You are again using philosophy to make the very claim about what philosophy and physics can show us, an irony you folks never seem to appreciate. I already explained in actual detail what sorts of things physics does explain and why they are explainable in that way, etc, and what it likely can’t and why not, and what philosophy has to offer. You just offer basic (and ironically, philosophy-based) insistence or declaration about it.

    When I say “values”, I mean the idea that the values are expressed in the universe (per a philosophical argument of course) not the expression of values of the person doing it. Sure, the latter affects how you look at it, but are you going to rag on even the physicists who think “mathematical beauty” is somehow expressed or in-effect “valued” by the universe? Why should it be? We can’t even get science off the ground without some presumptive equivalent of values about it’s being regular, lawful etc, as Hume noted.

    As for my use of “taste” it may have been a poor choice – I mean, it is a matter of taste whether one decides to “accept” the very act of using philosophy (since he or she *must* or course accept actual ways things work, versus “why they are here to begin with” etc.) That is not to be confused with thinking that there is no truth about which arguments are good or not, it just isn’t really clear cut. (I am not a post-modernist, and look at the fuzziness problem: You probably want to say, torturing children is wrong, maybe democracy is better than tyranny, and Plan 9 From Outer Space is not as good a movie as On the Waterfront without either pretending it’s mathematically certain and “science”, or just giving up as if we couldn’t decide at all.)

    Modal realism: It is not “silly”, it is in fact the most strictly rational way to look at the problem of defining existence. There *is no* strictly logical way to define “material existence” versus logical existence as of roots and the nth digit of pi etc. (Or, please do so and impress lots of very serious logicians, physicists, and other thinkers. But MR founders on issues of generating true random results (see my latest post on the thread “Is the Universe a Computer?” in Cosmic Variance, also supported by comment #23), consciousness (if you care) etc. I said several times that I didn’t believe in MR for such reasons, but no need to get uptight since none of us has time to pour over everybody’s comments to get it all straight – we can all lighten up about that, right?

    PS: I used quotes around biology above since it was an actual quote, not to imply anything wrong with it, but any intelligent person would figure that – just for the record.

  182. #182 Ichthyic
    January 12, 2008

    Yes scientific consensus (from the experts in the respective fields) is important to me, because unless otherwise, experience shows that this leaves an open door for people like Collins to make their “God of the Gaps” arguments.

    then you don’t understand how science works at all. There will ALWAYS be gaps. it is simply not relevant.

    suggest you spend more time reading the literature, and less time contemplating your navel?

  183. #183 Ichthyic
    January 12, 2008

    … look again at the examples i gave you.

    show me where there is consensus. (rhetorical, since there isn’t)

    since there isn’t, does that really mean that evolutionary biology isn’t a science that has excellent explanatory power and makes consistent and testable predictions?

    not hardly.

    try taking your approach to any other field of scientific endeavor, and ask yourself if a lack of consensus means that religious types attack such with the same arguments.

    there are lots of “gaps” even in metereology, but strangely enough, we don’t find many people still claiming lighting comes from Thor.

  184. #184 Ichthyic
    January 12, 2008

    I used quotes around biology above since it was an actual quote,

    uh, for future reference, you hardly need to put quotes around a single word ripped from another, especially if it is a word in common usage.

    but, as an “intelligent” person, surely you know that, right?

    LOL

  185. #185 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    uh, for future reference, you hardly need to put quotes around a single word ripped from another, especially if it is a word in common usage.

    but, as an “intelligent” person, surely you know that, right?

    LOL

    This really isn’t fair. Ken Cope is a blithering idiot who first groundlessly accused Neil B. of “smearing biology” and then stupidly accused him of putting “biology” in “scare quotes”. Note that none of my uses of quotes there were scare quotes.

    Not having read or comprehended all of what he wrote, I don’t know what I do or do not agree with Neil B. on, other than that people fail to appreciate the arguments of modal realists (disclaimer: I was personally acquainted with and influenced by David Lewis).

  186. #186 Ken Cope
    January 12, 2008

    Hey, TM,

    Before you wade in and start shooting, do your research. The guy is for modal realists one post, and against them the next, depending on whom he’s addressing. His posting style contains nearly as much charm as yours, and he has conferred a professorship upon heddle, because they’re both here arguing for various flavors of the anthropic principle. We’re at a rough impasse at this point, because I appreciate the line he’s dancing around– what he’s advocating is mostly a matter of taste. He may not even be going for a Templeton Foundation grant, even though he’s a fan of Paul Davies. I’d have more respect for his ideas if they were packaged in a format that would get them nominated for a Hugo.

  187. #187 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    It is like saying that that the New York sewers are “fine tuned” to produce jewelry because occasionally someone drops their wedding ring in the toilet.

    It’s also like saying that the universe is fine tuned to produce the “Mr. Hanky” that appeared in my toilet a few minutes ago.

    This “fine tuning” idea is, at bottom, based on the mistaken notion that we human beings are special somehow, so a universe that produced us is “fine tuned”. As Heddle notes, a universe that produces rocks has the potential to produce life, but he gets the import of this wrong. We’re just a particular sort of rock, and no more an indication of any intent behind the values of physical constants than any other rock. Some values result in rocks, some don’t. That worlds with rocks have those values for the physical constants (or parameters) that can produce rocks is a tautology — a sort of statement from which nothing further can be inferred.

  188. #188 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    The guy is for modal realists one post, and against them the next, depending on whom he’s addressing.

    Tu quoque arguments are for morons. You’re wrong about “scare quotes” regardless of what he’s wrong about.

  189. #189 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    The number of atheistic physicists/cosmologists who acknowledge the fine tuning problem (for the universe, not the earth) is too lengthy to enumerate.

    As is the number who claim that it simply isn’t a “problem” (quotes, not scare quotes, folks; I quote it to draw attention to the fact that it’s question begging). For instance,

    http://mind.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/110/440/1027
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI301.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle#Origin_of_the_anthropic_principle

  190. #190 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    The number of atheistic physicists/cosmologists who acknowledge the fine tuning problem (for the universe, not the earth) is too lengthy to enumerate.

    As is the number who claim that it simply isn’t a “problem” (I quote it to draw attention to the fact that it’s question begging). For instance,

    mind.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/110/440/1027
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI301.html
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle#Origin_of_the_anthropic_principle

  191. #191 Ken Cope
    January 12, 2008

    Tu quoque arguments are for morons.

    Thanks, TM, I appreciate the irony.

  192. #192 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    it exists on a razor’s edge for producing the building blocks of any kind of life

    So the universe could slip a little and all the rocks would perish?

    This is an absurd and question-begging image. One cosmological model is of repeatedly flapping branes that have to interact just so in order to produce a universe like ours; flap long enough and it will happen. Rather than a razor’s edge, we get inevitability.

    Again, we have a tautology: if there are rocks, the physical parameters must be such that rocks are possible. Beyond that, nothing can be inferred; we cannot say what the probability of this universe existing is, because we have no idea of what the conditions are for universes existing; we know nothing of the sample space from which universes are drawn. Presenting the universe as being balanced on a “razor’s edge” of possibilities sliced from a much wider range of possibilities is sheer question begging. And even if the probability of the universe being just like this is minute, that’s only a “problem” if the existence of rocks (and stars and humans) is intrinsically interesting, rather than merely interesting to us, and you’ll have a heck of a time making any coherent sense out of such intrinsicality.

  193. #193 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    Thanks, TM, I appreciate the irony.

    Even if my saying that were ironic (but in fact I offered no tu quoque argument), pointing it out would also be tu quoque.

  194. #194 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    The question is, why should the universe have traits “friendly to life” if the “why” of its being that way is not “purposive” in some way directed to that end.

    This is like asking why the roulette wheel should stop on my number if the “why” of its doing so is not “purposive” in some way directed to that end. Sorry, but it’s a misplaced burden of proof. If you wish to claim that some outcome is purposive, the burden is on you to show it and, as my analogy shows, mere lack of likelihood won’t do. In both cases, lack of likelihood doesn’t indicate purposiveness because there is no reason to think that the outcome was preselected; there is nothing intrinsically interesting about universes friendly to life, no matter how much they may interest us. And, as others have pointed out, if this universe is “friendly to life”, it is just barely so. It’s intellectually dishonest to compare this universe only to more barren universes, never to universes far more fecund, especially if one is considering not just tuning of the physical parameters of our universe but modal realism, which allows for an infinitely rich set of possibilities.

    (Indeed, modal realists argue cogently that there is no logical way to make a meaningful distinction between “existing” in the non-mathematical sense that supposedly distinguishes material worlds from platonic descriptions. Their argument is formally impeccable, so ironically one must be a sort of mystic to be a “materialist” – I bet you guys didn’t realize that.)

    This is frankly dishonest. Materialism is an alternative to substance dualism, and that distinction is orthogonal to the distinction between modal realism and non-indexical realism.

  195. #195 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    Well, what’s your (or anyone else’s) fabulous explanation for why the universe is the way it is?

    We don’t have one (yet).

    If you can’t answer that question your way, I have little sympathy for your being very self-assured against other concepts.

    We aren’t self-assured against other concepts, only against bad arguments — like that we should consider whatever isn’t logically impossible, regardless of its other flaws. What you seem to lack sympathy for is your own strawman.

    As for “Any deity who could ______” riffs, that is based on a presumption of omnipotence.

    That ridiculous claim is quite ironic when we have Heddle pointing out that universes in which rocks are possible have the potential for life. Reasonable inferences can be made from a set of characteristics, even if it’s logically possible that they don’t hold. The “riffs” are simply based on the notion that hypotheses should have something to recommend them other than being logically possible.

    Yet there is no logical reason why some foundational uncaused being would have to be “omnipotent,” given one at all. (Look – isn’t it silly to disagree with religious folks about whether God exists, but think they have to be right about what It must be like if It does exist? Why couldn’t it be the other way around?)

    Yeesh but that is stupid. The disagreement is about the existence of the God they conceive of, not some other logically possible “God” that they don’t conceive of. The only thing they “have to be right about” is their own beliefs. “Why couldn’t it be” is something most people grow out of by around 10 years old. It could be that, for instance, the universe was created 6,000 years ago, or last Thursday, as atheists the world over have acknowledged repeatedly, but those logical possibilities have nothing to recommend them.

  196. #196 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    there is no logical reason why some foundational uncaused being would have to be “omnipotent”

    So this “foundational uncaused being” has limitations, and these limitations result in it producing a universe just like this one. If you want to argue that this universe being just as it is implies “purposiveness”, from which you posit this “uncaused being”, why don’t the limitations of this “uncaused being” that result in this universe being just as it is further imply “purposiveness” — that this “being” that you hypothesize as “uncaused” isn’t uncaused after all? Sorry, but this age old infinite regression argument always works — whatever reasons you can find to justify a belief in a creator of the universe also justify a belief in a creator of that creator, and if you abandon those justifications, you have no reason to think that the universe itself isn’t uncaused. So, no creator or an infinite sequence of creators are to some degree supportable through argument, but stopping after one creator is completely arbitrary and not supported by any logic.

  197. #197 truth machine
    January 12, 2008

    But again, Collins’s blurb that you quoted does not imply intent.

    Ahem. “Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life”

    1. with the object or purpose of: to run for exercise.

    2. intended to belong to, or be used in connection with: equipment for the army; a closet for dishes.

    3. suiting the purposes or needs of: medicine for the aged.
    4. in order to obtain, gain, or acquire: a suit for alimony; to work for wages.

  198. #198 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    It appears that if the physical constants were not within certain surprisingly tight constraints, that the universe would not support any kind of life. This is a big problem in the sense that it is uncomfortable for science to be in a position where we appear to be “lucky”–it is sort of anti-Copernican.

    Being “lucky” is not a big problem for science at all — to the contrary, our existence is clearly the result of a long series of contingencies. What you mean is that it’s uncomfortable for us to appear to be privileged — it’s sort of anti-Brunoan. However, no privilege follows from mere existence.

  199. #199 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    All of the arguments you have made thus far only point to the fact that if this universe were any other way (ie, different physical constants), this universe likely wouldn’t have rocks, planets, or life. That I do not dispute.

    Actually, you can dispute that, too.

    Did you actually read Caroll’s paper? I somehow doubt it. He does not dispute that there is a fine tuning problem.

    Does Heddle understand the meanings of the words “can”, “dispute”, or “that”? From Carroll’s paper:

    In fact, the argument has been made that the particles and interactions we observe are not chosen at all randomly; instead, they are precisely tuned so as to allow for the existence of human life (or at least, complex structures of the kind we consider to be necessary for intelligent life).

    In order for this argument to have force, we must believe both that the physical laws are finely tuned to allow for life (i.e., that the complexity required for life to form is not a robust feature, and would generally be absent for different choices of particles and coupling constants), and that there is no simpler alternative explanation for this fine-tuning. I will argue that neither statement is warranted by our current understanding, although both are open questions; in either case, there is not a strong reason for invoking the existence of God.

  200. #200 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    A quick perusal of literature (links provided by Blake Stacey above, and a quick search of ‘fine-tuning argument’) shows that it’s only a ‘problem’ in the minds of theists.

    The notion that it’s a “problem” certainly carries with it a host of assumptions, but it certainly isn’t only in the minds of theists; your perusal must have been quick indeed, to miss the fact that, for instance, Stephen Hawking wrote in A Brief History of Time: “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers (i.e. the constants of physics) seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life”, and Hawking is by no means alone.

  201. #201 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    People keep making the same silly argument over and over about why I shouldn’t be surprised that a certain number sequence came up rather than any other single sequence – that’s a fallacy of understanding probability anyway, since it is less likely for certain *categories* to come up than others, (like, less likely for sequences than unrelated numbers etc.)

    I don’t usually like to argue from personal authority, but I’ve taught statistics at the graduate level, so I think I know a bit about probability. The whole point of the statistical argument is that what you see as “unrelated numbers” is completely subjective (since it is possible to construct a relationship among any sequence of numbers). You “value” some arrangements of numbers and cards more than others, but that valuing doesn’t change their likelihood, or the likelihood of other arrangements (just as if a fair coin comes up heads 1000 times, the probability of heads on the next throw is still 50/50).

    Um, why do you think a straight is worth more than an un-sequenced series of cards? It’s not just because we have a subjective affinity for sequences, it’s because there are fewer sequences than non-sequences, so they’re less likely to occur. Of course you could define other sets of cards with the same number of instances, but that misses the point of Neil’s comment, which is correct. (His claim that this applies to “friendly to life” is not, however, because he has ignored that vast number of logically possible universes that are far more “friendly to life” than this one.)

  202. #202 Tulse
    January 13, 2008

    It’s not just because we have a subjective affinity for sequences, it’s because there are fewer sequences than non-sequences, so they’re less likely to occur.

    A specific set of 5 cards is just as likely to come up as any other specific set of five cards. Sequences are subjectively salient to us, and the overall class of sequences is less likely than the entire class of non-sequence hands, but that doesn’t change the point.

  203. #203 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    Does that hand look particularly improbable? To our eyes, which attach significance to that sequence, it does. But someone who has never played poker, or even seen a deck of cards, could calculate exactly the same probabilities and yet wouldn’t be impressed if that sequence arose, since it is exactly as probable as any other specific draw of five cards.

    Someone who has never played poker will still lose if you get a royal flush and she doesn’t; she had better be impressed by the dealer taking her money away from her. What matters isn’t “our eyes”, but a priori specification. The a priori probability of getting a royal flush is 4/52!; the a priori probability of getting some unspecified hand is the same as the a posteriori probability of getting the specific hand you got: 1.

    People like Neil cheat; they declare the hand they got a posteriori, life as we know it, to have been the a priori winner — “a bunch of dead stuff is just dumb”. But if that’s dumb, why is so much of the matter in the universe not alive? And how do we know that “uncaused beings” prefer life, or have preferences at all? Neil can suppose that this “uncaused being” can only (so much for being “uncaused”) choose the values of the physical parameters for a particular physical model, rather than being able to choose among all logical possibilities, and for some reason (so much for “uncaused”) chooses those parameters that produce stars, black holes, and life, but why suppose that other than simply wanting to? It certainly doesn’t flow in any logical way from the observed facts of our universe, and thus his suppositions are irrelevant; he simply believes what he wants to because he wants to, and so his explanations are not anything that anyone else has any reason to care about.

  204. #204 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    the overall class of sequences is less likely than the entire class of non-sequence hands, but that doesn’t change the point.

    But it was Neil’s point. It does no good to point out that any hand is just as likely as a diamond royal flush when royal flushes a priori have been designated as special. And if the Powerball winner is 1,2,3,4,5,6, certainly that’s just as likely as any other set of numbers assuming that the process was random, but the very fact that it has special significance in human affairs, which Powerball is a part of, is good reason to think that something may have gone wrong, just as finding a card deck in order is good reason to think that it has never been shuffled, or was intentionally stacked. Ignoring these unusual occurrences on the basis of your statistical argument would be very bad science.
    The examples don’t do the work you want from them. What you need to do is attack the notion that “life” is a priori special (which you have done as well),

  205. #205 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    assuming that the process was random

    Note that making this assumption begs the question — it’s the very thing being disputed. I can assure you that, if we play poker and I get even two royal flushes in a row, you will find yourself challenging this assumption, and it’s not just because of your “eyes”.

  206. #206 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    And to make the point more specifically: you wrote “the probability that it might appear in a deal is exactly the same as any other specific hand”, but in fact the probability that a royal flush might appear in a deal is higher than any (or at least some) other specific hand because people have intentions and they sometimes cheat. So, any observation that would be more likely by virtue of being the intended result of some agent is evidence to some (perhaps vanishing) degree that it is in fact the intended result of some agent.

  207. #207 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 13, 2008

    We can’t even get science off the ground without some presumptive equivalent of values about it’s being regular, lawful etc, as Hume noted.

    Well, that’s true, but this is not a “presumption”. It is itself a scientific hypothesis. If it were wrong — if the universe were unpredictable –, we would notice. This hypothesis is being tested in every single observation (whether of an experiment or of anything else), and it has still not been disproved.

    Philosophy is pretty much helpless in this situation. Philosophy can only tell if an idea leads to logical contradictions. If an idea is merely wrong instead, philosophy can’t tell.

    Take your “why” question for example. Does that question even make sense in the first place? What if there simply is no “why”? I don’t see how philosophy can tell us that. Maybe — maybe! — physics (in other words, science) will one day be able to do that, but philosophy?

    Incidentally, not all multiverse hypotheses are untestable. Smolin’s cosmological natural selection would for example be disproved if we found a single neutron star that’s twice as heavy as the Sun. Furthermore, the principle of parsimony is applicable: from what little I’ve read, eternal inflation explains the same data as cosmological natural selection with fewer assumptions.

  208. #208 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 13, 2008

    We can’t even get science off the ground without some presumptive equivalent of values about it’s being regular, lawful etc, as Hume noted.

    Well, that’s true, but this is not a “presumption”. It is itself a scientific hypothesis. If it were wrong — if the universe were unpredictable –, we would notice. This hypothesis is being tested in every single observation (whether of an experiment or of anything else), and it has still not been disproved.

    Philosophy is pretty much helpless in this situation. Philosophy can only tell if an idea leads to logical contradictions. If an idea is merely wrong instead, philosophy can’t tell.

    Take your “why” question for example. Does that question even make sense in the first place? What if there simply is no “why”? I don’t see how philosophy can tell us that. Maybe — maybe! — physics (in other words, science) will one day be able to do that, but philosophy?

    Incidentally, not all multiverse hypotheses are untestable. Smolin’s cosmological natural selection would for example be disproved if we found a single neutron star that’s twice as heavy as the Sun. Furthermore, the principle of parsimony is applicable: from what little I’ve read, eternal inflation explains the same data as cosmological natural selection with fewer assumptions.

  209. #209 windy
    January 13, 2008

    Not having read or comprehended all of what he wrote, I don’t know what I do or do not agree with Neil B. on, other than that people fail to appreciate the arguments of modal realists (disclaimer: I was personally acquainted with and influenced by David Lewis).

    I’m not that familiar with the work of Lewis, but does he argue that modal realism means that “cartoons and whatever, but also gods and devils and heavens and hells etc.” must be real? It seems that it’s just a way for Neil B. to smuggle in God through the back door. But a “god” in a completely isolated possible universe would hardly be the “God” of our universe.

    And in addition to the points discussed lately in this thread, the self-defeating (or at least self-weakening) nature of the fine-tuning argument illustrated by Sastra in #31 deserves more attention.

  210. #210 Tulse
    January 13, 2008

    What matters isn’t “our eyes”, but a priori specification. The a priori probability of getting a royal flush is 4/52! [...] It does no good to point out that any hand is just as likely as a diamond royal flush when royal flushes a priori have been designated as special. [...] The examples don’t do the work you want from them. What you need to do is attack the notion that “life” is a priori special

    truth machine, the only point of the discussion of probability was to make clear that the a priori designations of “special” in cards (or in Powerball sequences) are purely a matter of convention, and are not some inherent quality of the probabilistic system. There is nothing about royal flushes inherent in the cards that are particular special — one of any set of four specific hands will have the same probability as one of any of the four possible royal flushes [and the probability there is actually calculated by 4 * (52!) / (47!) * (5!)].

    So when you say that royal flushes have been designated a priori as special, that has nothing to do with the actual probability of those particular cards appearing as a hand — if the conventions of poker were different, we might not care about royal flushes and full houses, but instead about hands composed of all primes (“I’ve got 2,3,5,7, and jack, boys — read ‘em and weep!”), and square-free integers (“I already had the 3, 5, 7, and 10, but on the last card I drew the inside 6.”). Yes, we would calculate the likelihood of these sequences and arrange the hierarchy of hands accordingly, but the only reason these hands would now be “special” is because we had designated them so, and not because of their probability of appearance.

    The only point in this particular argument that is being made, therefore, is that the specific outcomes we see as “special”, as potential candidates for “fine tuning”, are “special” only because we designate them so — this specialness is not inherent in those outcomes, but just a matter of our interest.

    And that is hardly a scientific argument, since we could value other outcomes, and make exactly the same argument (“wow, I’ve been dealt three square-free integer hands in a row — the cards must be rigged!”). The Anthropic Principle advocates are essentially arguing about the likelihood of poker hands, when all the universe did is deal out five cards, and didn’t (and can’t) specify the actual “winning” conditions, or even the game.

  211. #211 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    I’m not that familiar with the work of Lewis, but does he argue that modal realism means that “cartoons and whatever, but also gods and devils and heavens and hells etc.” must be real?

    If they are logically possible, then a world that contains them exists. But that doesn’t mean that they are “real” in the sense that people ordinarily use the word — Lewis says that “real” is an indexical that points out this world. Thus, since MR doesn’t assert that these “cartoons and whatever” are in our world, it doesn’t assert that they are real.

    It seems that it’s just a way for Neil B. to smuggle in God through the back door. But a “god” in a completely isolated possible universe would hardly be the “God” of our universe.

    Yes.

  212. #212 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    Tulse, I can’t see where you’ve indicated any error in what I wrote; at the same time you seem to have failed to grasp some of my points (while repeating some as if you were disagreeing). We agree that Neil is in error; I’m going to leave it at that.

  213. #213 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    Ok, one point: And that is hardly a scientific argument, since we could value other outcomes, and make exactly the same argument (“wow, I’ve been dealt three square-free integer hands in a row — the cards must be rigged!”)

    If square-free integer hands were as rare as royal flushes, then yes, it would be reasonable — scientific, even — to infer that the cards were rigged. But square-free integer hands aren’t as rare as royal flushes, so your analogy is invalid. If in fact you lose to a royal flush three times in a row in a game of poker you would be an idiot — someone acting unscientifically — to not seriously suspect that someone was cheating.

  214. #214 Tulse
    January 13, 2008

    truth machine, I do think we are talking past each other somewhat. Let me try this last response:

    If square-free integer hands were as rare as royal flushes, then yes, it would be reasonable — scientific, even — to infer that the cards were rigged.

    My point was not that they were identically rare, but that you don’t notice when you get square-free integer hands in regular poker. The only reason we care about flushes, or full houses, or the other canonical hands in poker is because they are subjectively valued, but not because they are rare in themselves. If you got three hands in a row that were all sequences of primes (e.g, 2, 3, 5, 7, Jack; 3, 5, 7, Jack, King), you might think nothing of it, or not even notice, even though to get those cards is far less likely than to get three straights.

    What we value, and therefore what seems rare, is largely subjective. That is the only point I was making, along with the addendum that, if it is subjective, it is not a scientific issue.

    Let me put it this way (as I did earlier): It is far more improbable that the universe produced me than it produced life in general, but only someone who is psychotic would think that this makes them the reason that the universe exists. So improbability alone is no reason to think that this universe is somehow “special”.

  215. #215 truth machine
    January 13, 2008

    Tulse, you keep telling me things that I obviously understand and have already noted; it’s really rather tiresome. Once again, I’m going to leave it at that.

  216. #216 truth machine
    January 14, 2008

    What the heck, one more stab at it:

    To follow your argument to its logical conclusion, any mention of probabilities would not be scientific, because any organization of events into categories is “subjective”. But that’s absurd; events are collected into categories based on a model. Of course modeling the world is “subjective”, in that it’s how we humans make sense of the world, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t yield valid results.

    If Feynman had walked through the parking lot and noticed that the license plates on all the cars formed a contiguous sequence, it would have been foolhardy for him to ignore it as a mere subjective sensitivity to sequences, because an accurate model of how car license plates are produced and distributed makes it an unlikely occurrence. It would be purely subjective if car license plates were generated randomly but as an objective matter, they aren’t. This is the same point I made about finding a card deck that is in order; it would be just another sequence, of only subjective interest, if card decks were produced in random order — but they aren’t. Thus, we must take into account our knowledge — captured in models — of how events are correlated, in making probability estimates; this is fundamental Bayesian reasoning.

    When it comes to evaluating the probability of this universe existing, we need to take into account models that group universes into categories. And this is where many people fall down — the only model they imagine is one in which there’s a possible universe for each possible value of the physical constants, universes with constants that result in the existence of stars, planets, and life are a tiny fraction of the total, and the probability of encountering any of these universes is equally likely. But in addition to the fact that we have no evidence that this model of the probability distribution of possible universes is accurate, as a matter of logic the probability of a cognitive entity encountering a universe that doesn’t support the existence of that sort of cognitive entity is 0. It’s a tautology that this universe is of the sort that makes us possible and its a matter of logic that nothing can be inferred from a tautology (much as everything can be inferred from a fallacy). Since nothing can be inferred from the fact that we live in a universe that makes us possible, there’s no “problem” to solve.

  217. #217 Tulse
    January 14, 2008

    tm, I think we’re still talking past each other. I agree that models change the probability estimates — of course that’s the case. But that is not, as far as I can see, what the “fine tuning” folks are on about. Indeed, they seem emphatically committed to the default notion being “universes with constants that result in the existence of stars, planets, and life are a tiny fraction of the total, and the probability of encountering any of these universes is equally likely” — in other words, a random model, which can be appropriately analogized by cards. You’re right that such is not the only possibility, that there are other possible distributions, but that is not what I was addressing.

    The only point I was trying to make is that saying that life would be rare under such a random model does not imply what they think it does, namely that the model must have been “gamed” or “fine tuned” in some way. The objection is that, under a random model, any specified outcome is “rare” — it is only our identification of some subjectively preferred outcomes that makes life seem “special”.

    In any case, I think you and I are the only ones really discussing this, and given that we’re both essentially on the same side of the larger issue, I’m happy to let this rest.

  218. #218 truth machine
    January 14, 2008

    tm, I think we’re still talking past each other.

    That’s a funny way to put only being able to hear yourself.

  219. #219 Tulse
    January 14, 2008

    Hugs and kisses, tm.

  220. #220 truth machine
    January 14, 2008

    The objection is that, under a random model, any specified outcome is “rare” — it is only our identification of some subjectively preferred outcomes that makes life seem “special”.

    What you’re unable to grasp is that “subjective” can’t do all the heavy lifting you want it to do. Of course it’s subjective — it’s selected the target of inquiry. If someone notes that neutrino detections are rare, it’s silly to complain that it’s “subjective” just because any set of events (with the same frequency as neutrino detections) is rare. That’s what I pointed out when I wrote To follow your argument to its logical conclusion, any mention of probabilities would not be scientific, because any organization of events into categories is “subjective”. Rather than address that, you foolishly say that we’re talking past each other. Yes, that’s what happens when you don’t take into account what the other person is saying, and just repeat your own point over and over.

    It isn’t “subjectivity” that’s the problem — you’ve got the wrong concept. It’s the a posteriori selection of the target that’s the problem. It’s sad that someone who has taught statistics is so unfamiliar with a fundamental concept, but it’s not uncommon.

    The a priori situation is like having a bag of a billion cubes of metal, all inert except one, which is a robot that is switched off. Someone asks, before reaching into the bag, “What would you bet I can find the robot?”, reaches in and grabs the robot. This would be a phenomenally unlikely event, and we should suspect that the person cheated somehow, that the selection of the robot was somehow the result of their intent. Chalking it up to our subjective interest in robots would be incredibly stupid.

    The a posteriori situation is like having a bag of a billion cubes of metal, all inert except one, which is a robot that is switched off. Someone reaches into the bag, happens to grab the robot, turns it on, the robot looks around and says “Damn, what are the chances that I would have been turned on?”

    The mistake of those who think there’s a “fine tuning problem” is to view it as the former situation rather than the latter.

  221. #221 Tulse
    January 14, 2008

    You’re certainly a terrier, tm, although I suppose I already knew that.

    It isn’t “subjectivity” that’s the problem — you’ve got the wrong concept. It’s the a posteriori selection of the target that’s the problem.

    A posteriori selection is certainly not a problem for the computation of probability, as the analogous examples we have been discussing show — I can calculate the probability of a particular hand of poker either before or after it is dealt, and the math is the same. Likewise, if we think that the cosmic constants are given their values randomly (and as you correctly point out, this is by no means assured), we can (theoretically) determine how likely it would be for any particular universe to arise, whether we live in it or no — the math would be the same.

    My point is that those enamoured of the Anthropic Principle think that, to use the card analogy, some rare hands (or universes) need a special explanation, whereas other equally rare (or rarer) hands (or universes) don’t. It’s not the post facto selection — that doesn’t change the math. The problem is that only certain outcomes are thought of as “special” and in need of a special mechanism. I will certainly grant you that the outcome they are interested in is the one that they (and the rest of us) are actually experiencing, but again, the post facto nature of the choice doesn’t change the probabilities.

    It’s sad that someone who has taught statistics is so unfamiliar with a fundamental concept, but it’s not uncommon.

    If I were unkind, I’d suggest that it is odd that someone who provides the wrong formula for the basic probability of poker hands should lecture about statistics…but I won’t be unkind. Again, we really are on the same general side of this issue. Honest.

    The a posteriori situation is like having a bag of a billion cubes of metal, all inert except one, which is a robot that is switched off. Someone reaches into the bag, happens to grab the robot, turns it on, the robot looks around and says “Damn, what are the chances that I would have been turned on?”

    Right, the robot is interested in that outcome, and thinks that that result is “special”, as opposed to the other equally likely events. In other words, it is viewing things from the subjective perspective of that particular outcome, rather than looking a the process overall. The reason it chooses that outcome as its starting point, as demanding a special explanation, is because it cares about that outcome (just as we care about straights, but not about primes, in poker). It looks at its situation and says “Boy, this outcome has a low probability!”, without acknowledging that any particular outcome in that situation would have a low probability.

    You may (and apparently do) see the situation differently, but as I read the Anthropic Principle advocates, the problem is not that they are selecting the target a posteriori — again, we can calculate the probability of particular poker hands either before or after they are dealt. The problem is that they see one particular outcome, one particular result, as special (“Wow, I was just dealt a straight!”), and ignore the other results that are equally improbable (“I got nuthin’, just a set of cards that happen to all be primes”). They think that the former case needs an explanation, whereas the latter case does not.

    I think this is probably enough on this issue, since we both agree that Anthropic Principle advocates are idiots, and we don’t seem to be able to agree on why. I’ll grant you the last word, however, since it seems likely you would take it anyway :-)

  222. #222 truth machine
    January 15, 2008

    If I were unkind, I’d suggest that it is odd that someone who provides the wrong formula for the basic probability of poker hands should lecture about statistics…but I won’t be unkind.

    I would say that anyone who uses such a tu quoque argument is a moron; my haste in writing 4/52! doesn’t change the fact that you are a stupid wanker and thick as a brick. Good bye.

  223. #223 Neil B.
    January 15, 2008

    Wow, this got interesting for awhile and I should have stayed in, but in any case:

    First off, it’s really silly of Ken Cope, rightly smacked down for various other reasons, to claim I “conferred” professorship on David Heddle: He is a physics PhD, is a professor at CNU, and works at the renowned Jefferson Lab, as anyone just clicking and exploring his handlelink would find. But that is just the wanker style. (BTW I have no particular beef with biology, as rightly suspected, and of course many posters/commenters here do often throw out derogatory and careless trash talk of the freeper sort.)

    Second, there’s a bit of confusion here. I think it’s great that a colleague (truth machine) of David Lewis would appear and I missed a lot, however of course his big involvement in MR doesn’t mean his word is the last/best on the subject (you guys don’t want prophets, do you? PS I don’t either.) Modal Realism: No, I didn’t and don’t pretend to agree with it or not depending on who I’m talking to etc. You really need to read carefully and appreciate the practice of Socratically putting forth points to test other people’s consistency etc. I said, that MR is a good-sounding argument in purely logical terms if we just consider the problem of defining “material existence” and don’t look too carefully at issues like genuine quantum indeterminacy, consciousness, etc. (BTW TM, can you really define “existence” for the material world in a way that doesn’t circularly reference our experiential encounter with it? What is it’s logical status.) I never said I believed in MR, just putting it in that relative context as challenge for those who do want strictly logical definitions of everything. Good Lord, heh, you guys never heard of reductio and etc? The point is, if MR is not true, then we have a problem figuring why any universe/s “exist” in that more substantive sense.

    Thanks to TM for at least appreciating what my statistical argument was, again with much argument wasted over misunderstanding. (BTW if you think experts even get the facts right all the time, remember Marilyn vos Savant’s correct smackdown of the confused experts in the case of the three door problem?) Of course it’s a “value judgment” about life being important (and IMHO a test for cynicism), and it’s a matter of whether you think that is relevant – it can’t be proven, I know that, it’s a philosophical speculation that I believe in and defend – I say that’s OK, I don’t try to redefine it or trick people about what it is, OK? Remember that it is still true that philosophical argument is being used here in the above comments, to pretend to prove that we should be suspicious of philosophy, never really appreciated. And sure, we know and could prove that the universe is orderly etc, but my point was, the initial sentiment to suspect that was not already thus yet justified, and derived in large part from a value judgment of the universe.

    Note that Victor Stenger uses some very metaphysical arguments such as, there should be multiple universes because “It takes a special assumption to say there should only be one” (not necessarily exact quote but close) – is that a hypocritical use of speculative philosophy from a guy claiming to be a skeptic?

    BTW you later commenters came across fine as debaters despite some careless confusions, and sure, who has time to pour over these comments ;-) All I ask is that you believe I present “in good faith” (no pun intended), agree or not with my contentions and yes speculations. I griped about freepers etc but I know plenty of smart people come here too.

    TM, I do want to talk to someone who has studied modal realism, if there’s a way for you to get in touch, well at risk of getting flak too, here’s my own email, using a metaphor:

    neil_delver@caloricmail.com

  224. #224 Ken Cope
    January 15, 2008

    While Truth Machine’s online persona may only model a finite state machine, it is oddly comforting to have not been the only one asked to leave The Future immediately for having violated Robot’s Rules of Order. Thank you, TM, and, may I say (at the risk of plagiarizing TFST even more), “fuck you, too!”

    Sometimes, no matter how erudite the bullshit, bullshit it remains. I freely admit I’m often full of it myself, and share. Some people prefer to conduct themselves as if these comments threads existed for the exclusive purpose of the most elevated discourse. Occasionally, even I can make positive contributions in that vein. Other times, some people just need mocking. Sometimes that person is me! I’m entertained that TM, master of the ad hom (“but it isn’t ad hom if it’s true!”) blanches at that subset of ad hom of which I was guilty, and further compounded. I really don’t mind. It’s always informative to watch Truth Machine make those fashionably late entrances and extend the thread by a few dozen flaming but salutary posts telling us why we’re all idiots for not having taken our opponents apart the way he does. (I mean really, Tulse, you should know by now that once TM is on the scene, he’s going to proceed in his own particular … idiom) There’s a reason, though, that Indiana Jones got the big laugh in the first movie when he responded to masterful and intimidating multiple scimitar slashing with a single pistol shot, and moved on. Some bullshit, so frequently and eloquently refuted everywhere, deserves nothing better. There is a place in the world for those of us struggling to shed some, but not all, of our blithering idiocy; foolishness, and fools, also have a time-honored tradition to uphold–you can see from my website, linked from my name below, that I’ve made a living pursuing many follies. It’s my role in life. Comedy, for me, is watching philosophy get trumped by science. More FST: “Man, Woman, Child! All are up against the Wall of Science!” I try to use what little I’ve learned about philosophy, reason, logic and science to keep from fooling myself. Compared to that task, it’s easy to spot people using philosophy, reason, logic and science to try to fool themselves and others.

    Despite the anthropic principle having been shredded so many ways, I was wrong about NB, having predicted he’d have to come up with better material if he was hoping for a pile-on. He got one, and look, here he is, because of my indiscretions, claiming victory, as if nobody had laid a glove on him. OK, Neil, I was wrong about that too. Professor Heddle is a demented fuckwit. What I can’t understand is why anybody would want to follow his URL.

    At the risk of opening another can of worms, here’s a question for NB, based on this snippet of his:

    genuine quantum indeterminacy, consciousness

    Penrose/Hameroff fan? (Look at me! I’m being Socratic!)

  225. #225 Tulse
    January 15, 2008

    I mean really, Tulse, you should know by now that once TM is on the scene, he’s going to proceed in his own particular … idiom

    Sure — as I said, tm is a terrier, and once roused will aggressively (and often obnoxiously) worry at an issue. When the object of ire is an opponent, tm is a delight to watch, but when it’s you, tm is a pain the ass. That just comes with the territory, though. I’m very glad that tm is usually on the same side as I am. Pharyngula would not be the same without tm.

  226. #226 Neil B.
    January 16, 2008

    Ken:

    Other times, some people just need mocking. Sometimes that person is me!

    Ken, sure, you have a sense of humor and admirable self-deprecation. A lot of your stuff is fun to read, like the offbeat responses to my query about theoretical predictions of a worm-hole environment (a perfectly valid test of commitments to strong verifiability.) I confess it’s a little boorish, maybe more, to treat everyone like they should present as prim Edwardian intellectuals. It’s OK not to, it’s part of the blogging fracas, and there isn’t much point in complaining about it. And really, I did get a kick out of truth machine pissing on Tulse up there. Maybe I come across like TM to people around here sometimes, or annoying for different reasons, so be it.

    Just remember, prissy or Victorian sounding philosophical nerds are part of the food fight too, to just accept and get over (including saying things just like this, see?) Guess what – I get a kick out of what I do too, it’s another way to be eccentric or imposing, and I enjoy mulling and scrapping over high metaphysical issues for the sake of fussing over it, not just to make a case that really no one can make well one way or another.

    As for your assurance that commenters here “shredded” anthropic design, I don’t see the grounds for thinking they did such a great job. They made many fallacies, especially improper inference of what the point even was (just look at all that bulling and confusion over statistics – you think that sounds like people who know what they’re doing?) ATEOTD, it seems to boil down to, are we going to chose to entertain “value judgments” when thinking about why the universe is the way it is, etc. It can’t be demonstrated one way or the other, that’s why I called it a “matter of taste”, and there’s little excuse for not getting better appreciation for that rather humble approach.

    Finally, yes I am a fan (always selective and ready to turn my own way of course) of Penrose/Hameroff – I’m not sure that’s being Socratic to just ask.

  227. #227 Neil B.
    January 16, 2008

    I should add, that the argument that we shouldn’t really consider ourselves “important” etc. smacks of nihilism. If it is in any sense the case that ethics and human value (and of other creatures) are real – as any good Humanist would affirm – then they shouldn’t be dismissed as mere arbitrary sentiments. If real, I don’t see a priori that if the universe clearly has features aligned to that end (as also for other “values” – see below) that it is groundless, or especially not idiotic as a sometime wank/s averred upthread. (Really, even if not clearly provable, it isn’t clearly wrong or logically absurd either. Throwing such insults just cheapens them for use against YECists etc.)

    And, consider that I didn’t imply (just being interesting in promoting that particular value at the time) that if the universe expresses (in some sense) “values” or worthy existents etc., there need not be only one of them. So many here seem at least to have so much trouble with multiplicity, really it seems to me that mathematical beauty, literal aesthetics, and life-friendliness are all, at a minimum, “values” that the universe appears primed to express. (Hence the idiocy of an argument I saw recently, that some feature of physical constant wasn’t clearly life-friendly and therefore anthropic design was in doubt. That’s a fallacy of isolation regardless of who’s right about the rest of it.)

  228. #228 Ken Cope
    January 16, 2008

    I did get a kick out of truth machine pissing on Tulse up there

    That phrasing leads me to think that the virtues I saw in the exchange do not overlap at all with NB’s schadenfreude. If I understand what winds up TM, you don’t want to hold a position he has rejected and/or has reasoned to be untenable; it’s almost just as bad, if not worse, to agree with him for the wrong reasons or argue for his position poorly or lazily. TM and Tulse got into a heated exchange here, perhaps because the extent of their disagreement, and the investment in energy required to communicate it, exceeds the bandwidth of this medium and the patience of its participants. Unresolved disagreement in such an exchange is a feature, not a fault, of those who value science and its tools. Every positive claim is up for grabs. By knocking down bad and badly made claims, and examining the reasons that what still stands resists being knocked down (so far!), we learn, even if we’re doomed to be perpetually as far away from The Truth as Zeno is from that Antelope Freeway exit.

    Maybe I come across like TM to people around here sometimes

    I think maybe … no.

    just look at all that bulling and confusion over statistics – you think that sounds like people who know what they’re doing?

    There’s a lot to learn from TM and Tulse’s argument here. That statistics are counter-intuitive and easily misunderstood is obvious. It sounds to me like you want to use that fact to impugn TM and Tulse for running out of patience before they reached agreement. If anything, it impugns the reliability of exclusively statistical arguments for either side. Perhaps, since you and the Professor are so intimate with WAP, SAP, FAP and, well, what Martin Gardner calls it, you could tell us misanthropists if there are any tools you anthropomorphizers use to establish just what questions need to be answered before you can ask better questions, in the mold of Frank Drake’s famous equation? You know, the one for increasing the precision of what is currently a WAG about the probability of the existence of any ETI, which is only now putting values in only a few of its many variables? We know there is at least one star in one galaxy with a planet teeming with life, one type of which can wonder if we are alone in the universe; we’re only just now getting a good look at the likelihood of how many stars there are with planets of any sort. There is much of practical value we can learn as we replace those open variables with solid numbers. If not a Drake Equation, perhaps a Panglossian Paradigm? Whaddya got at the end of the day?

    It can’t be demonstrated one way or the other, that’s why I called it a “matter of taste”, and there’s little excuse for not getting better appreciation for that rather humble approach.

    I don’t yet see what the worthy question is, for which AP is such a great answer.

  229. #229 Ken Cope
    January 16, 2008

    Finally, yes I am a fan (always selective and ready to turn my own way of course) of Penrose/Hameroff – I’m not sure that’s being Socratic to just ask.

    I just wanted to find out if you were a Platonist. Try the veal. But seriously… the genius of Penrose is not on display in his Mysterian arguments in The Emperor’s New Mind and Shadow’s of the Mind. I think the problem of consciousness for platonist dualists is that its nature need not be a mystery. At the risk of being what Michael Shermer calls scientistic (owning scientism to contest the word’s pejorative usage), the claim that consciousness is made of unexplainium, and will never be modeled on any mere machine, is one that Penrose supports poorly. Rather than put Penrose on one end of the spectrum and Kurzweil at the other (since I’d rather read about The SingularityTM when Vernor Vinge writes about it), I’ll invoke Marvin Minsky, and pass on to you the question he asked me in 1993, when Minsky and Danny Hillis were consulting on Disney Imagineering’s original Virtual Reality project, for which I was the first computer animator. Before then I’d been working on Symbolics computers to model and animate, even though they were the tool of choice for AI researchers, including Minsky. Forget the conflict between the control key on Windows and the Command key on the Mac, Symbolics also had a Hyper and a Meta key.

    Penrose argued in his first Mind book that researchers trying to get Symbolics machines to think with (a) Lisp were doomed to fail. But by the time I’d been working on projects for some time in which loads of money was invested, and research into the best way to represent 3D themed spaces and branded characters to the broadest number of people (i.e. guests at Disney themed parks) had been very productive, Penrose, in his second Mind book, asked the reader to consider the act of visualization, of imagination: “…if our arguments indicate to us that our visual imaginations achieve non-computational things, then we are encouraged to look outside the framework of existing physics for the underpinnings of our visual imagination.” Penrose claimed that internal, mental visualization of an architectural space cannot be analogous to the computational tasks of calculating geometry to represent a location in virtual reality. Claiming that the parts of the brain that process visual information are not necessarily the same as those that recall a space is no more controversial than saying there is no exact correspondence with software running on a modern graphics processor. What Penrose ignored is the fact that whether it’s cameras and computers, or eyes and brains, visual information is retrieved and processed within complex specialized systems that are well understood. In 1993, when Penrose compared visualization to computer graphics, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of graphics computing did not hold up to even the dullest imagination. Progress is so rapid in that field that imagination cannot keep up with what is routine in computer graphics today, on a student’s budget. “My belief that our actual acts of visualization must indeed be non-computational is an inference from the fact that other types of human awareness do seem to have a demonstrable non-computational character.”

    Penrose was making those arguments around the time I was using $150K SGI boxes that performed at a level comparable to the $150 Playstation 2 of only a few years later. Disney, with its deep pockets, wanted to make sure there were no liability issues for subjecting guests to high detail video screens at refresh rates that might induce seizures or motion sickness (what are called at the parks protein spills). We needed to be aware of what vision was and how the brain processed it, and some consultants got a lot more money than I did for their answers. I don’t think Penrose’s remarks referred to above pass the laugh test.

    The VR team went to lunch one day with Minsky and Hillis, and since I was the only one there who had read his Society of Mind, and we had spoken before at SIGGRAPH, I had him to myself that day. He started our conversation with a question (inspired, perhaps, because Hillis was there), which I’ll share with you, in the hope that you’ll think about it and perhaps share your thoughts here:

    “So, do you suppose consciousness is linear, or parallel?”

  230. #230 Tulse
    January 16, 2008

    I should add, that the argument that we shouldn’t really consider ourselves “important” etc. smacks of nihilism. If it is in any sense the case that ethics and human value (and of other creatures) are real – as any good Humanist would affirm – then they shouldn’t be dismissed as mere arbitrary sentiments.

    Wow, that’s just confused. To say that humans are somehow “important” to the trillions of cubic light years that makes up the universe smacks of profound hubris to me. But of course, our preferences don’t impact on the facts of the world established approximately 15 or so billion years ago. And it is ludicrous to think that if the very fabric of creation is somehow not fine tuned for the existence of some bits of carbon in an infinitesimally small portion of that creation, then there is no such thing as ethics (beyond mere sentiment). Furthermore, fine tuning itself doesn’t get you a foundational ethics — it sure sounds to me like you’re fishing for the Christian god here.

  231. #231 Ken Cope
    January 16, 2008

    I should add, that the argument that we shouldn’t really consider ourselves “important” etc. smacks of nihilism.

    What makes you say nihilism, rather than humility?

    If it is in any sense the case that ethics and human value (and of other creatures) are real – as any good Humanist would affirm – then they shouldn’t be dismissed as mere arbitrary sentiments.

    What, or who, are you arguing against? Life is, it’s safe to assume for grins, rare, and certainly over all too soon, presumably forever. This is it, the life I get, and that’s all, makes it important to me, and via empathy I can understand it’s important to anybody else. What if we were the only shot the universe had at noticing itself? What if we were the only ones in NB’s imaginary array of multiverses that did? How is that not special? It doesn’t take much to work that out, nor should any formally labeled system of ethics get to hog the credit as if it were some profound insight. If life is only a veil of tears, or to a vedantist, merely a passion play, some cosmic drama in which we get to keep reincarnating to play new roles after falling down dead when it’s our turn in the game, then it’s religion that cheapens the value of life.

    If real,

    “What is reality?” I hope you don’t mean reified…

    I don’t see a priori that if the universe clearly has features aligned to that end (as also for other “values” – see below) that it is groundless, or especially not idiotic as a sometime wank/s averred upthread. (Really, even if not clearly provable, it isn’t clearly wrong or logically absurd either. Throwing such insults just cheapens them for use against YECists etc.)

    Oh please. Idiocy must be a teleological inevitability as there is so much of it about. Oh, and don’t forget ugliness. As Frank Zappa said, “I have an important message to deliver to all the cute people all over the world. If you’re out there and you’re cute, maybe you’re beautiful. I just want to tell you somethin’ — there’s more of us UGLY MOTHERFUCKERS than you are, hey-y, so watch out.”

    And, consider that I didn’t imply (just being interesting in promoting that particular value at the time) that if the universe expresses (in some sense) “values” or worthy existents etc., there need not be only one of them. So many here seem at least to have so much trouble with multiplicity, really it seems to me that mathematical beauty, literal aesthetics, and life-friendliness are all, at a minimum, “values” that the universe appears primed to express. (Hence the idiocy of an argument I saw recently, that some feature of physical constant wasn’t clearly life-friendly and therefore anthropic design was in doubt. That’s a fallacy of isolation regardless of who’s right about the rest of it.)

    I’m going to assume that you knew what you meant by what you wrote, because I really don’t consider it worth the effort to constellate any meaning upon it. Something about, if there’s niceness and values and unicorns and butterflies then there should be friendly happy mulitple identity stamps for everybody in barbershop mirrors of slightly differently-abled beautificalness…

    Look. Let’s pretend the H-R diagram describing stellar evolution is a properly mapped model. Suppose some of the lower mass stars that explode, providing planetary nebulae, and higher mass stars that have fused iron in their cores before exploding, went nova just long enough before similar events resulted in Sol (that type G star about which Earth orbits), that, say, 5 or 6 billion years ago, a planet hosted life that adapted to its environment to the extent that some of its inhabitants wondered if the universe wasn’t a vast conspiracy on behalf of the question-askers, and then, whoops, they just happened to be in the way of the glorious contingency that resulted in the formation of the planetary system that yielded you and me. Gosh. Sucks to be those guys, when it was really us for whom the universe was intended. Until the next stellar catastrophe that puts Earth, formerly in the Goldilocks Zone, inside a red giant. Good for those really smart guys a few billion years from now who work out they’re made of atoms forged in the deaths of stars, just so they could celebrate the uncaused causer, all covered in sequins! For whom is the universe fine tuned?

    Rinse, lather, repeat. Principled anthropomorphism is not some elegant rejection of nihilism, it’s arrogant narcissistic twaddle.

    Oh, and in case you were enjoying the Monty Python analogies, here’s another one. Hint. I don’t know who that guy on the left is, but it isn’t NB.

  232. #232 truth machine
    January 17, 2008

    I’m entertained that TM, master of the ad hom (“but it isn’t ad hom if it’s true!”)

    You continue to blither idiotically. Truth has nothing to do with ad hominem arguments being fallacious, irrelevance does. The only way I’ve “mastered” ad hom fallacies is in detecting them. As far as insults (which, despite frequent practice, I haven’t mastered) go, they aren’t “ad hom” in regard to logic — they are just noise words in that regard.

    I have to admit though that some of what you have written above is not entirely idiotic. :-)

  233. #233 truth machine
    January 17, 2008

    even if we’re doomed to be perpetually as far away from The Truth as Zeno is from that Antelope Freeway exit

    Love the reference. I once double dated with Peter Bergman.

  234. #234 truth machine
    January 17, 2008

    If anything, it impugns the reliability of exclusively statistical arguments for either side.

    I’m making a logical argument, not a “statistical” argument. If you look at my robot example, Tulse and I have no disagreement that the robot is wrong to think that it’s having been turned on is “a problem” or something that needs to be explained. But I’m not sure Tulse grasps that it isn’t a problem because “I’ve been turned on” or “We exist in a universe that makes us possible” are tautologies — if the statements were false, they couldn’t be uttered or even conceived. This is true regardless of how likely or unlikely this or that universe is (which isn’t even coherent because we have no basis for selecting a probability model), or how likely it was to pull a robot out of a bag (from the POV of the robot, whose cognitive processes don’t come into existence until it is turned on, the probability is 1). In a way, our disagreement wasn’t so much about what’s right, but rather about how to characterize what’s wrong with the thinking of those who think there’s “a problem”.

    My annoyance came primarily from Tulse repeatedly ignoring what I had written and instead repeatedly belaboring the obvious — points I myself had already made — and then talking about us “talking past each other”; no, I was talking past him, but that wasn’t my fault. I had two more instances of this today, where people kept going “But my point is …”. Usually, when people keep repeating that, they aren’t paying attention to the arguments of their correspondent, and mistake lack of agreement with lack of comprehension.

  235. #235 truth machine
    January 17, 2008

    “So, do you suppose consciousness is linear, or parallel?”

    Dennett (echoing the best in neuroscientific thinking) answered that in Consciousness Explained.

  236. #236 Ken Cope
    January 17, 2008

    (re: double dating…I can’t say anything that cool in a public forum! They’re sure realistic. I’ve been chasing them around the dial since Radio Free Oz, and have even seen them from inside the radio!)

  237. #237 truth machine
    January 17, 2008

    So many here seem at least to have so much trouble with multiplicity, really it seems to me that mathematical beauty, literal aesthetics, and life-friendliness are all, at a minimum, “values” that the universe appears primed to express.

    It doesn’t “seem to appear” that way to rational people … any more than rational people who win a lottery interpret that as the lottery system seeming to appear to be “primed to express” their win, or whatever they do with their winnings; that is very idiotic. If the universe is “primed to express” the things you name, then it is “primed to express” everything that happens, including suffering, death, ugliness, stupidity, malaria (Behe’s pet), ebola, and my noting what a moron you are.

  238. #238 Ken Cope
    January 17, 2008

    Dennett (echoing the best in neuroscientific thinking) answered that

    Aw, now everybody’s gonna know the right answer. For me, it wasn’t open book, and I had to extemporize. I’m a multiple drafts kind of guy, and described the process of 2D hand animation–while the line I put on paper is well, linear, how it gets there is not. Projecting onto paper a 2D shadow of multiple slices of time to describe not just 3D shape and movement, but personality and any number of other attributes, requires that many simultaneous drafts, multiple agencies, processes, must cooperate, especially if you’re following something on the radio or some music. At least that’s what the part of me with the outside voice at the time had to say.

    Oh, Minsky is a FST fan from way back too. In 1987 he was poo-pooing Wm. Gibson’s originality, citing his pal Vinge’s True Names as contributing more to the notion of thyberthpaithe. I reminded him of Bozos having precedence by a number of years, and he had to agree.

    Millions of months passed, and then, twenty eight days later, the Moon appeared…

  239. #239 Tulse
    January 17, 2008

    Minsky certainly did a lot of impressive work, but I would take him far more seriously as a cognitive scientist if he hadn’t said “Within 10 years computers won’t even keep us as pets”…in 1967. (Wasn’t AI all cute and wildly exuberant back then?)

    do you suppose consciousness is linear, or parallel?

    The neural processes that produce consciousness definitely run in parallel, but the question of whether the experience of consciousness itself is “linear or parallel” seems a rather odd question to me. My problem with Dennett is that he seems to confuse the two.

  240. #240 Ken Cope
    January 18, 2008

    computers won’t even keep us as pets

    And Stanley Kubrick with hotels in space by 2001! What was he smoking? Sure made me suspicious of his skills as a director.

    Wildly optimistic boosterism that anything was possible was very 1967, especially for projects that were hoovering down massive government contracts. By the late 80s, AI’s free government ride was over. Penrose, in his Emperor’s New Mind, was shaking the litter off his hind paws after scratching in the catbox that reeked of AI’s fresh, stinky demise. Man. You should have seen the blazing speed of the Symbolics 3600 at that time, or the screaming 40Mhz CPU on my Maciifx.

    the question of whether the experience of consciousness itself is “linear or parallel” seems a rather odd question to me

    You seem to be saying that’s a rather odd question, Tulse.[/Liza]

    I don’t understand why. If you agree that consciousness is a product of parallel neural processes, what else is there but parallel neural processes to do the experiencing? I’ve got so many simultaneous processes running in my brain I have one of them dedicated to finding the process id numbers on the most unproductive ones so I can hit em with kill -9.

    Have you never driven while yakking on a cell phone and wondered how you got home safely? Don’t you have to collect your thoughts? In a dream, is the part of you that generates the dream the same part of you that experiences it, or do you never quite actually experience it, but reshuffle it as a memory of having dreamed it? I can’t go all Ken Nordine and invite you into my split level mind or tell you how my analyst told me I was right out of my head, but I can tell you that “attention” is only one process among many going on in my brain, and the decider of what holds it is frequently rationalizing its behavior by trying to act as if it meant to do that. Language and cognition allows “me” to be a useful, fluid symbolic representation that need only stand for any number of other abstractions, without needing to actually be anything by itself.

    Consciousness feels to me more like an ocean than a stream.

  241. #241 Tulse
    January 18, 2008

    And Stanley Kubrick with hotels in space by 2001! What was he smoking? Sure made me suspicious of his skills as a director.

    The difference being that Kubrick was a creator of entertainment, whereas Minsky is an computer scientist — I’d hope the predictions of the latter would be more accurate than the former.

    I’m also willing to bet that we’ll have hotels in space long before we have human-level AI.

    If you agree that consciousness is a product of parallel neural processes, what else is there but parallel neural processes to do the experiencing?

    I think it is a confusion to say that the processes themselves are doing the experiencing, just as it is a confusion to say that bits on a DVD of Hamlet are doing Shakespeare. The neural processes produce consciousness, but those processes themselves qua neural processes aren’t consciousness.

    “attention” is only one process among many going on in my brain, and the decider of what holds it is frequently rationalizing its behavior by trying to act as if it meant to do that.

    Sure, and I’m not at all denying that a lot of stuff is going on outside of the realm of conscious experience.

    Consciousness feels to me more like an ocean than a stream.

    That’s a nice way of putting it — I’m not sure I’d disagree.

    I can’t go all Ken Nordine and invite you into my split level mind

    I don’t know Nordine from anything but his extremely cool Colors album — I realize this is completely tangential, but can you point me to the reference here?

  242. #242 Ken Cope
    January 18, 2008

    Kubrick had Clarke for a consultant, and I don’t think less of Clarke either. But yes, the prediction biz is intensely dicey, which is why I pay less attention to Kurzweil than I might have another time.

    I hope I’m wrong, but we are more likely to have something close to Bradbury’s Nursery, or a Holodeck with no need for safety protocols, long before we have a colony on the Moon, although Japan’s space agency wants to put the Qrio and Asimo robots of a decade from now on the Moon to build those hotels on the Moon for us. Or for China.

    I think it is a confusion to say that the processes themselves are doing the experiencing, just as it is a confusion to say that bits on a DVD of Hamlet are doing Shakespeare. The neural processes produce consciousness, but those processes themselves qua neural processes aren’t consciousness.

    What extra undefined thing that isn’t neural processes is the experiencer, the experiencing or that being experienced? It sounds like you’re offering Searle’s Chinese Room as an objection, where the person with the rule book, the room of symbol manipulators, and the exchange of symbols on bits of paper are simulations of understanding that cannot themselves possess understanding. Douglas Hofstadter dismisses it pretty well:

    …it is a mistake to try to impute the understanding to the (incidentally) animate simulator; rather it belongs to the system as a whole, which includes what Searle casually refers to as ‘bits of paper.’

    I’m not at all denying that a lot of stuff is going on outside of the realm of conscious experience.

    Why reserve special status for one part of what the brain is doing, to call that consciousness, while calling other aspects of the process unconsciousness?

    Every event in my brain is a change in its structure. The so-called bits of information that can fit into a buffer and be juxtaposed as symbols for manipulation feel linear, partly due to the passage of time, partly due to how many moments one sound or image or word can filter the shape of something else, including the symbols I use to stand in symbolically for “me” (at least that’s the latest feedback from the highly recursive autocerebroscope, which my mind uses to watch my mind watch my mind…)

    If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s book, Botany of Desire, you’ve seen his chapter on what is suspected makes cannabis work the way it does, being a close analog to the neurotransmitter they’re calling anandamide, which has to do with regulating the sense of the duration of the present moment. In a sense, the capacity to discriminate among multiple streams of external and internal sensory data is challenged when anandamides enlarge the buffer, making a larger slice of time feel like “now.”

    [segue]

    I know I have at least two Ken Nordine CDs (Colors and Word Jazz) but can’t locate either of them at the moment (URG). However, the title, I Live in a Split Level Head is likely to be from Napoleon XIV. Surfing around for little mp3 snippets of Ken Nordine is its own reward. From his Transparent Mask CD, I caught the phrase, “…inside my mind, where fantasies play hide and seek…” which is the sort of thing Ken Nordine can say better than anybody else. I’d rather have Ken Nordine do my mental interior decorating than Nappy the XIV, or Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

  243. #243 Neil B.
    January 18, 2008

    There’s so much space wasted here by straw men and other fallacies targeting my speculations that I’ll pick a bit of it to illustrate common themes:

    “truth machine” fizzled forth:

    It doesn’t “seem to appear” that way to rational people … any more than rational people who win a lottery interpret that as the lottery system seeming to appear to be “primed to express” their win, or whatever they do with their winnings; that is very idiotic.

    One person comparing himself to *other persons* who might win the lottery is not like wondering why the universe we have is favorable to life in general etc. The first case is comparing like to like, when a known statistical process has to pick one of the members of course, the other is about life in general versus non-life in a single case that we don’t even know is reflective of any statistical processes behind its rules. The former isn’t even about the nature of the outcome, but the relative importance one member of a group puts on himself versus others basically like himself. (But if the lottery was won every year by politicians, then you’d start to wonder, right?)

    I know that if there are multitudes of universes with all possible properties then we would be a lucky example. Yes, enough monkeys typing away will produce Shakespeare etc. That’s basically the same point of the robot argument upthread. But we don’t know whether it even makes sense to refer to “the chance” that say, the fine structure constant will turn out between 1/136 and 1/138. If you think there is, give it a shot and get back to me, but there’s lots of trouble. If there are infinite (Aleph null) MUs, then there’s the Hilbert Hotel problem about trying to claim there’s more of one type than another, which of course makes for a messy measure theory definition and for difficult Bayesian back-engineering from what you see. Physics just hasn’t got a good handle on that question of why laws are what they are. If it did, you’d have more cause to complain about philosophical alternatives to looking for answers.

    There’s also the issue of falsifiability etc., as a self-consistency issue for those who claim loyalty. And yes some theories claim consequences of there being other universes in various contexts, but see, the problem is: how do you operationally define that the result actually is due to their presence and not something else instead? Some in QM insist that the sorts of things we already see are because of the MW hypothesis, but it’s just an interpretation since we can’t find them.


    If the universe is “primed to express” the things you name, then it is “primed to express” everything that happens, including suffering, death, ugliness, stupidity, malaria (Behe’s pet), ebola, and my noting what a moron you are.

    That’s like saying that highway engineers must want accidents to happen. Of course if something omnipotent is behind the world’s existence we have to wonder why every little thing happened or was allowed, but it isn’t necessary to assume that an existentially dependent universe derived from such a being. Once there are rules that allow the game to be played at all, shit happens. If you’d rather not be here because the problems ruin the rest of your existence, you can make that happen.

    It’s easy to indulge the childish fantasy your opponent is a moron when:
    1. You don’t even appreciate what they said and meant.
    2. You don’t draw legitimate conclusions.

    C’mon, you studied under a noted philosopher? Act like it.

    Here’s another muddle,

    Tulse:


    Wow, that’s just confused. To say that humans are somehow “important” to the trillions of cubic light years that makes up the universe smacks of profound hubris to me. But of course, our preferences don’t impact on the facts of the world established approximately 15 or so billion years ago. And it is ludicrous to think that if the very fabric of creation is somehow not fine tuned for the existence of some bits of carbon in an infinitesimally small portion of that creation, then there is no such thing as ethics (beyond mere sentiment). Furthermore, fine tuning itself doesn’t get you a foundational ethics — it sure sounds to me like you’re fishing for the Christian god here.

    Well, AD enthusiasts have pointed out so long that life-friendliness is not fixated on humans but the ability of the universe to produce life in general, so again we have straw-man hype in the wording. You can gripe about fine-tuning as an idea, but science hasn’t really provided its own explanation of the why of the laws, and the laws are found to have those curious features. To think that shouldn’t be interesting, and given the stock put-down tropes about bits of carbon etc, is cynical, fluke-of-the-universe noirish shtick.

    And I didn’t imply that there’s no such thing as ethics unless there’s the fine tuning, I implied that the reality of ethics means that we actually do have value, and that should be a part of why something producing us exists. IOW, the argument went the other way around. I believe in ethics being intrinsically “real” to the circumstances. Hence any God would have to be telling us, or at least knowing, what was good, rather than deciding it (as if It could just as easily say that ethics was about what color socks we wore, and that would make it so.)

    But the latest back and forth about consciousness is decently good material (like you guys’ slammings on the righties in the political threads, looks as good as any in WaMo, ironically perhaps I’m on your side there), and shows how getting away from something people have a hissy fit about clears their minds. It’s something about this “creation” subject, I know. As for the hard problem in consciousness: the qualitative nature of experience is what makes it special, not anything about the nature of the processing or function. Would you have any clue how to make a circuit to feel nauseated, really, the way you could imagine how to program it to play chess? Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing. Chalmers is right.

    PS Today would have been Robert Anton Wilson’s 76th birthday. I still have the Guinness bottle he drank out of when I had him stay over back in the day. I can’t be all that bad if I hung out with old Bob.

  244. #244 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    I can’t be all that bad if I hung out with old Bob.

    I’m sure there’s a famous quote to counter that notion, but instead I’ll relate one of my own associations:

    I was in zoology as a grad student at the same time as Jonathan Wells was across the hall in the molecular and cell bio dept. at Berkeley.

    by your logic, I must be a Mooney and a creationist, since I had lunch with him on occasion.

  245. #245 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    Chalmers is right

    If Neil B. wants humanity to change substrate and upload mankind’s greatest hits into the seraphic robotic silicon bodies of Sparkle Crest Aliens that go all Von Neumann Machine on the universe, teleologically spooging in a Tiplerian wet dream that creates an alternate universe where Neil’s posts make sense, he’d better pray that Chalmers, with all his philosophical zombies, is as much of a dementard as Neil is.

    By 1987 I’d already read anything RAW wrote worth reading (unless I missed a few good replies in letters to the editor in Playboy, back when I was a 12 year old in Orange fnord County who found it easier to get my teenybopper mitts on copies of nudist magazines, Ramparts, Screw, Horseshit Magazine and the Aquarian Oracle, back in the summer of ’67) so I wasn’t there to see Wilson when I attended a joint reading and book signing in East LA’s Amok Books with Wilson and Timothy Leary.

    Kindly old Uncle Tim had a big pile of books and some software to sell (I was interested at the time in his reissue of his great prison opus, Exo-Psychology, which had just been re-released as Info-Psychology, the sort of thing he focused on after having been crushed by the information he got from his joint visit at San Quentin from Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, who told him definitively that even if he and the Jefferson Starship hijacked the Saucer, they’d never make it out of here to the nearest neighboring star alive). I told Tim his book would make a great CD-ROM. RAW provided a blank look and asked Leary, “What the fuck is a CD-ROM?”

    Leary calmly replied, “A CD-ROM is a computer-mediated device enabling an author and a reader to create a uniquely individual performance of the work, no matter how many times it’s accessed.” RAW could only sip his pint in response.

    Maybe 5 years later, I was working on the VR project and caught Wilson gabbling about what Disney was doing with Virtual Reality and Mind Control on whoever it was who used to host that deep overnight quantum woo program on the LA Pacifica station, KPFK. It was sad to realize that whatever he was smoking, it wasn’t the good stuff.

  246. #246 windy
    January 19, 2008

    That’s like saying that highway engineers must want accidents to happen.

    More like saying that the programmers of Halo might not have been entirely averse to violence.

    (to TM:)

    If you’d rather not be here because the problems ruin the rest of your existence, you can make that happen.

    Classy, Neil.

  247. #247 Neil B.
    January 19, 2008

    Ichthyic, you know damn well that only assholes take on the literal logic of casual bull-shootings. I tend to suspect, it’s a substitute for having something really worthwhile to say.

    Windy, if you really care about “class”, then no point in hanging around cynical goth tweens (in spirit at least) prating about flukes of the universe and such rot. I was only giving back to them in like measure – after all who cares if a “speck of carbon” in a vast impersonal blah blah extinguishes himself, it’s arrogant to think we’re important etc. ad nauseum in the nearly literal sense.

    Ken, you were at least entertaining and my hat tip to another RAWophile. You don’t really get it about Tipler, or at least how I look at it: we don’t need silicon aliens/robots or “real hardware” for our minds to continue, because they can run on a platonic computer – the process should be the same regardless of whether reified in so-called “matter” or not. I’m not a modal realist because I think G*d selects the universes worth having more or less, but there really isn’t a logical way to define matter in any non-circular way. It’s an artifact of how the cosmic program sets up the regularity of our experiences, IMHO (and as I keep saying, none of us *knows* anything about that mess so why get uptight about it?)

  248. #248 windy
    January 19, 2008

    Windy, if you really care about “class”, then no point in hanging around cynical goth tweens (in spirit at least) prating about flukes of the universe and such rot. I was only giving back to them in like measure – after all who cares if a “speck of carbon” in a vast impersonal blah blah extinguishes himself, it’s arrogant to think we’re important etc. ad nauseum in the nearly literal sense.

    Oh, posh. ‘Giving in like measure’ when someone calls you a moron is to call him one, not to suggest they might as well kill themselves if they don’t agree with you. It’s a complete non sequitur anyway – if someone says that evolution seems better primed to produce insects than humans, do you assume that this person would rather be an insect? WTF?

  249. #249 Ichthyic
    January 19, 2008

    I tend to suspect, it’s a substitute for having something really worthwhile to say

    no, it’s an attack on what appeared to be an argument from authority based on mere association.

    if you wish to weaken what you said by calling it “casual bullshit”

    that’s fine and dandy; it caught my eye, is all.

    as far as the rest is concerned, I haven’t given a shit about any of the arguments you guys are maintaining since it was first brought up.

    If I did, surely you know by now I would have waded in with both feet?

  250. #250 windy
    January 19, 2008

    surely you know by now I would have waded in with both feet?

    Feet?? What kind of actinopterygian are you? ;)

  251. #251 Ichthyic
    January 19, 2008

    it’s a figure of speech…

    Windy you know damn well that only assholes take on the literal logic of casual bull-shootings. I tend to suspect, it’s a substitute for having something really worthwhile to say.

    :p

  252. #252 windy
    January 19, 2008

    Touché :)

  253. #253 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    who cares if a “speck of carbon” in a vast impersonal blah blah extinguishes himself, it’s arrogant to think we’re important

    I must secretly believe I’m the center of the universe that gob made just for me, or else I’d already have become a murderous misanthrope with nothing to care about or live for. That surely does thoroughly exhaust the range of options.

    hat tip to another RAWophile

    I’m not one. I’ve read his stuff. Did you know it’s fiction? I was making the point that he was ignorant about technology and willing to broadcast unfounded nonsense about it. No wonder you like him.

    we don’t need silicon aliens/robots or “real hardware” for our minds to continue, because they can run on a platonic computer – the process should be the same regardless of whether reified in so-called “matter” or not.

    Cuckoo clocks. So, your pribbling twittery here is explained by your being stuck with an inferior instantation of a mind, a pale shadow of the superior process running in the idealized realms on gob’s platonic computer that is actually smart and writing something worth reading. You’re no mere machine made of matter because what you really are is running on God’s CPU! Nothing you do or say in this artificial synthetic simulation really matters, love or hate, life or death, because you are backed up in the great offsite archive in the sky. That’s some mighty fine nihilism.

    You are a fluke of the universe. Whether you can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind your back.

  254. #254 windy
    January 19, 2008

    Would you have any clue how to make a circuit to feel nauseated, really, the way you could imagine how to program it to play chess?

    A robot could be programmed to *exhibit* nausea just as we can program a circuit to virtually exhibit the behaviours we classify as chess. We don’t know whether an AI can develop to the point where it “really” is nauseated, but the same goes for “really playing” chess. Do you believe that animals can feel nausea, and why?

    Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing. Chalmers is right.

    If thermostats can be said to be conscious (Chalmers), why can’t circuits feel nauseated?

  255. #255 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    Dennet is a denialist

    No he isn’t, not any more than his arguments are elimitavist. Reductionism is a powerful tool, against which consciousness is no more impervious than any other problem. As Dawkins wrote in The Blind Watchmaker:

    …you may have noticed that ‘reductionism’ is one of those things, like sin, that is only mentioned by people who are against it. To call oneself a reductionist will sound, in some circles, a bit like admitting to eating babies. But, just as nobody actually eats babies, so nobody is really a reductionist in any sense worth being against.

  256. #256 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    Nor are Dennett’s arguments elimitivist.

  257. #257 Ichthyic
    January 19, 2008

    You are a fluke of the universe.

    there’s flukes running around the cosmos?

    where, where!

    horror of horrors, some giant fluke waiting around to suck all of our fishy blood straight from our gills!!!

    what next?

  258. #258 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    there’s flukes running around the cosmos?

    They have no right to be here.

  259. #259 Ichthyic
    January 19, 2008

    They have no right to be here.

    damn straight!

    oh, wait…
    ;)

  260. #260 Ichthyic
    January 19, 2008

    …sorry, I’ll refrain from the peanut gallery until there is more to say wrt the original subject of the thread.

  261. #261 Owlmirror
    January 19, 2008

    The universe was created for the flukes.

    For lo, it is written:

    God is good,
    God is great,
    God’s a big invertebrate

  262. #262 thalarctos
    January 19, 2008

    I thought I had tapeworms once, but it was just a fluke.

  263. #263 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    All things dull and ugly,
    All creatures short and squat,
    All things rude and nasty,
    The Lord God made the lot.

    Each little snake that poisons,
    Each little wasp that stings,
    He made their brutish venom.
    He made their horrid wings.

    All things sick and cancerous,
    All evil great and small,
    All things foul and dangerous,
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each nasty little hornet,
    Each beastly little squid–
    Who made the spikey urchin?
    Who made the sharks? He did!

    All things scabbed and ulcerous,
    All pox both great and small,
    Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
    The Lord God made them all.

    Amen.

  264. #264 Ken Cope
    January 19, 2008

    Just to keep Icthyic from going away:

    Moderator Joe Quirk asks great questions that don’t faze his panelists (Michael Lerner, George Smoot, Joan Roughgarden, Robert Russell) at a recent event held at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club (it’s real audio but any other free player than real audio is advisable if you need one), broadcast last week on NPR.

    Science and Religion: can’t they just get along? or are they fighting over the same turf, turf being what’s true, and what’s false. A rabbi, an astrophysicist, a biologist, and a theologian, walk into a bar. Tonight we’re going to learn the punchline of that joke.

    We learn that the dominant religion of the western world is scientism. The only participant in the debate who wasn’t there was Richard Dawkins, who we learn appeared not to notice the truly sophisticated garments worn by today’s theologians.

    She’s no Francis Collins, but I think the biologist who, if not born to be Mike Huckabee’s science advisor, is really a much better choice than Collins for many reasons, is Joan Roughgarden, who certainly does not like scientism any more than she likes Richard Dawkins.

  265. #265 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    oh, seriously, I figured i was interrupting the “debate” over fine tuning.

    Ok then.

    The only participant in the debate who wasn’t there was Richard Dawkins, who we learn appeared not to notice the truly sophisticated garments worn by today’s theologians.

    LOL

    Joan Roughgarden, who certainly does not like scientism any more than she likes Richard Dawkins.

    I wonder what her views are on the evolution of sexual identity?

    yes indeed, that would be a most, uh, “interesting” choice for a Huckleberry science adviser.

  266. #266 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    I figured i was interrupting the “debate” over fine tuning

    Debate? It switched.

    I wonder what her views are on the evolution of sexual identity?

    She’s opposed to the homogeneity of the ideology of the people doing science.

  267. #267 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    i gather she actually covered something along those lines in
    Evolution’s Rainbow?

    http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10139.html

    yes, I’m sure Huckleberry would be beating down her door to get her to sign on to his ticket!

    I’m wondering if you somehow saw her at the “beyond belief” thing?

  268. #268 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    Youtube is our friend. ISTR Roughgarden and Dawkins exchanging words, or at least glares at Beyond Belief, but I haven’t tracked down just where among all the clips up at the moment.
    A recently deceased San Francisco talk show host, Pete Wilson, only slightly smarter than Bill O’Reilly, gushed all over Francis Collins as a guest and not long after, Joan Roughgarden. If a recent disc crash didn’t eat it, I have copies of both interviews. I didn’t know scientism was such a popular enemy until I heard these guys droning on about how evil it is.

  269. #269 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    A recently deceased San Francisco talk show host, Pete Wilson, only slightly smarter than Bill O’Reilly

    damn we sure have had our share of moronic folk named Pete Wilson!

    He was also a governor of CA (I’m sure you recall) and was also about the same level of intelligence as O’Reilly.

    I didn’t know scientism was such a popular enemy until I heard these guys droning on about how evil it is.

    something tells me the arguments would sound similar if one substituted “darwinism” for “scientism” at any given creationist conference.

    I’m loathe to directly attack Roughgarden, knowing her history, though. at least she has some excuse (gees, could you imagine having to go through all that AND establish a science career at Stanford??). *sigh* I suppose a bad argument is a bad argument, however, history of the relayer not withstanding.

    what’s Collins’ excuse?

    if you run across that clip, share?

    there are some clips available from the beyond belief thing, but it keeps crashing my browser for some reason.

  270. #270 windy
    January 20, 2008

    yes indeed, that would be a most, uh, “interesting” choice for a Huckleberry science adviser.

    This is a different clip, but revealing – she’s not saying that a secular morality isn’t possible, she’s just very skeptical about it. Lovely. Maybe she’d fit as Mitt Romney’s science advisor?

  271. #271 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    It looks like most of the 2006 Beyond Belief sessions can be viewed here. Roughgarden appears at the beginning of session 3, followed by Dawkins. Since they are not allowing downloads, their viewer must be relied upon, which appeared to have no controls to pause or advance until I used the down arrow on my keyboard to reveal it.

    I’d like to see both Huckabee’s and Nisbet’s consternation if Roughgarden’s name were floated, because while she wants to sugar coat evolution for Christians by grasping at the slightest straws she can glean from Bible stories (Jacob and the spotted sheep, parable of the talents, etc.) to claim, “see? no conflict between science and religion!” I doubt that either Huckabee or Nisbet would countenance Joan Roughgarden the person as an advisor. While Hucktard would climb out of his skin to get out of the same room with her, I would expect Nisbet to stammeringly try to frame why she would be the wrong person to frame science for the religious without openly admitting it’s because of who she is and her history–which is how shallow and futile I think his entire framery scam is.

  272. #272 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    If it’s the Beyond Belief site that’s browser crashing, here at least is Dawkins’ response to Roughgarden, part of the clip I linked to. He doesn’t really care for her proposal, which is from her more recent book, Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist, not from Evolution’s Rainbow. I can’t imagine why she’d be promoting a cooperation model rather than emphasizing the conflict between science and religion, can you?

  273. #273 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    In the realaudio clip I originally linked to, that dogpile on Dawkins, the reason Roughgarden goes after him is because she’s promoting evolutionary cooperation while resenting the success she says Dawkins has enjoyed for the last 30 years of his selfish gene, calling it “no longer credible to try to advertise the selfish gene as though that were still the appropriate defining concept in evolutionary biology for cooperation.” This is roughly halfway through. One of the panelists responds that it’s really the popularization for the marketplace, and explains that Dawkins’ concept of the selfish gene is what you’d expect from 300 years of the secular notion of self-interest and looking out for number one, so Dawkins is only reflecting the dominant ideology of the day, which the good guys on the panel have to get out and do something about. The moderator calls the panelists on miscaracterizing Dawkins, who has explained that selfish genes can give rise to selfless organisms, but Roughgarden will have none of it.

    It’s worth a listen. The entire hour plays like a sort of Wedgie Document about how the good theists must stop the evil atheists, but arguing from the American political left.

  274. #274 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    >> I tend to suspect, it’s a substitute for having
    >> something really worthwhile to say

    > no, it’s an attack on what appeared to be an argument
    > from authority based on mere association.
    > … that’s fine and dandy; it caught my eye, is all.

    It should “catch your eye” right away that a casual informal saying like “I can’t be all bad if I’ve …” is fluff and not something you should treat like a thesis in a dissertation. It isn’t even applicable, nor need to “weaken” something like that to point it out either. The occasion was RAW’s 76th, that should tip you I felt like shooting some bull about having met him, not offering up a goddam syllogism.


    Oh, posh. ‘Giving in like measure’ when someone calls you a moron is to call him one, not to suggest they might as well kill themselves if they don’t agree with you. It’s a complete non sequitur anyway – if someone says that evolution seems better primed to produce insects than humans, do you assume that this person would rather be an insect? WTF?

    You guys have to keep BSing about what people meant because you don’t have much to offer in honest terms IMHO. I didn’t say/imply anyone might as well kill themselves if they disagree with me. I said: “If you’d rather not be here because the problems ruin the rest of your existence, you can make that happen.” That means, if you don’t like how shitty it is you can get away as a matter of principle not advocacy, and it has nothing to do with “agreeing” with me. The point is, you ask yourself why you’d rather be alive than not and that indicates there’s something “worthwhile” to us that this is here (for most of us, now, most of the time at least.) It has nothing to do with rather being something else entirely. The point isn’t about evolution being primed very directly anyway, but the laws and constants which have a very general effect on what’s possible.

    You guys wouldn’t have so much of a problem if you didn’t get so mixed up all the time – but getting mixed up pays, because you can pretend to have a better case against the put-up straw men than you really have.

    I must secretly believe I’m the center of the universe that gob made just for me, or else I’d already have become a murderous misanthrope with nothing to care about or live for. That surely does thoroughly exhaust the range of options.

    No, it surely doesn’t. For example, AD has nothing to do with sarcastic little too-cute-by-half *you* being the center of the universe, which is more of the now obligatory straw-man bullshitting from about all of you here now. But not believing that there’s at least some point in the laws and constants being the way they are (and you guys have never come close, to even offering some answers to that have you?) for the sake of life in general is strongly correlated to being a cynical little boy, as well evidenced around here by quotes like “Whether you can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind your back.” I grew *out* of thinking that was funny long ago.

    As for RAW: like almost all his fans, I know there’s high entertainment value and lots of wishful speculation and fabulism even in his “non-fiction” writing. That’s a lot of his appeal. But I can’t imagine you don’t think he made quite a few good points for real from time to time.

    Nothing you do or say in this artificial synthetic simulation really matters, love or hate, life or death, because you are backed up in the great offsite archive in the sky. That’s some mighty fine nihilism.

    A mighty un-fine non-sequitur. Why would it not be worthwhile because it was backed up? You think all that work you do on animation etc. is worthless because it is on record? It seems to me, it matters more because more people can see it, you can get back to it, you can make sequels etc. It seems to me, it would have less value if it’s just utterly gone someday and not a basis for more work somehow.


    A robot could be programmed to *exhibit* nausea just as we can program a circuit to virtually exhibit the behaviours we classify as chess. We don’t know whether an AI can develop to the point where it “really” is nauseated, but the same goes for “really playing” chess. Do you believe that animals can feel nausea, and why?

    Hmmm, so why are *you* making a distinction between “exhibiting” nausea (as if it had a clear outward manifestation anyway) and “really” being nauseated? Perhaps you appreciate that “really” being nauseated is not a behavior, but a phenomenal subjective quale that has no logical need to accompany behavior (hence David Chalmers’ core argument, which I don’t think you got) and can only be presented “from the inside.” There is no need to put about really playing chess in “scare quotes” as you once wrongly dissed on me over, because it’s something the machine can do or not and we can see it being done directly as defined. I believe animals feel nausea and maybe circuits because *reality* is set up that way, since I doubt very seriously that any mere mathematical model or information flow can “run” something like subjectively given qualities. IOW, it can be like that in the world, but it can’t be modeled as a mathematical process. (There’s precedent already – quantum randomness can’t be modeled directly either since math is a logical system with required output. All simulating of randomness in math either uses generalities like proportions, or putting in actual run results by hand.)

    Dennettt denies qualia and therefore is an eliminativist however much he or his fans bullshit about it. I read the deceptive Consciousness Explained. Dennett often dissimulates: he claimed early on that he wouldn’t “feign anesthesia’ like a psychotic, conscious-experience denying behaviorist (stick your hand in the hot water again and wake up Amurica!) But he is indeed an anesthesia-feigning denier of our having literal subjectively given qualia. He just substitutes information processing in inner darkness for the outward behaviorism of a crank like Skinner. They get away with it through a sly manipulation of “seeming” talk, which is supposed to be about how things appear to us through our feelings, but Denyittians double-task it by talking of “seeming to have feelings” and other run-arounds to confuse people so they can believe in their feelings and deny them too.

    Now, what you or Dawkins means by reductionism in a sense worth being against I’m not sure. If you mean just trying to explain something in terms of simpler processes, instead of literally denying the reality of the result (like subjectively given qualia) then I can’t blame people for trying, but even then there’s no guarantee it will work. Why doesn’t someone explain then why particles decay exactly when they do? Oh, there isn’t a reason they say. Well, maybe the same can be said for other things to, and maybe some of the reasons aren’t the kind that reductionists would like.

    Finally, I see more talk about “science versus religion.” That’s a misnomer since everyone arguing about subjects like fine tuning who isn’t referencing a revelatory text is best said to be “doing philosophy,” like it or not. It’s the subject that makes it that way, not the position you take. Like I said and few appreciate, none of us *knows* anything about this mess (the speculative part) so why get uptight about it?

  275. #275 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    (BTW TM, can you really define “existence” for the material world in a way that doesn’t circularly reference our experiential encounter with it? What is it’s logical status.)

    We’re in science here, not in philosophy. We know we can’t disprove solipsism, but we don’t care. Why should we ever bother trying to define existence? In science, the argumentum ad lapidem is not a logical fallacy.

    Eat that. :-)

    ————–

    Ken (218), thanks for the Monty Python link! LOL! As the Klingon proverb says, “Four thousand throats can be cut in one night by a running man.”

    ————–

    If life is only a veil of tears

    Eggcorn. Vale, as in valley. A deep valley where you can only look up to the mountaintops and sigh…

    the H-R diagram describing stellar evolution

    I know the astronomers call it evolution, but they really shouldn’t. They should call it development.

    —————

    Well, AD enthusiasts have pointed out so long that life-friendliness is not fixated on humans but the ability of the universe to produce life in general

    But, as we keep telling you, this is just as wrong. It’s not just life, it’s rocks in general, and black holes!

    science hasn’t really provided its own explanation of the why of the laws

    And what exactly makes you think that this will forever stay the state of affairs?

    I implied that the reality of ethics means that we actually do have value, and that should be a part of why something producing us exists.

    That doesn’t follow.

    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    Would you have any clue how to make a circuit to feel nauseated, really, the way you could imagine how to program it to play chess?

    Homer Simpson: So far!

    Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing.

    You could be right, but your pathetic argument from personal incredulity isn’t going to help us find out if you’re right.

    And that is supposed to be a philosopher? Where’s the logic!?!

    I’m not a modal realist because I think G*d selects the universes worth having more or less, but there really isn’t a logical way to define matter in any non-circular way. It’s an artifact of how the cosmic program sets up the regularity of our experiences, IMHO

    Why do you write “think” when you mean “believe”?

    (and as I keep saying, none of us *knows* anything about that mess so why get uptight about it?)

    We don’t know anything about the mess. We only know about the logic. :-)

  276. #276 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    (BTW TM, can you really define “existence” for the material world in a way that doesn’t circularly reference our experiential encounter with it? What is it’s logical status.)

    We’re in science here, not in philosophy. We know we can’t disprove solipsism, but we don’t care. Why should we ever bother trying to define existence? In science, the argumentum ad lapidem is not a logical fallacy.

    Eat that. :-)

    ————–

    Ken (218), thanks for the Monty Python link! LOL! As the Klingon proverb says, “Four thousand throats can be cut in one night by a running man.”

    ————–

    If life is only a veil of tears

    Eggcorn. Vale, as in valley. A deep valley where you can only look up to the mountaintops and sigh…

    the H-R diagram describing stellar evolution

    I know the astronomers call it evolution, but they really shouldn’t. They should call it development.

    —————

    Well, AD enthusiasts have pointed out so long that life-friendliness is not fixated on humans but the ability of the universe to produce life in general

    But, as we keep telling you, this is just as wrong. It’s not just life, it’s rocks in general, and black holes!

    science hasn’t really provided its own explanation of the why of the laws

    And what exactly makes you think that this will forever stay the state of affairs?

    I implied that the reality of ethics means that we actually do have value, and that should be a part of why something producing us exists.

    That doesn’t follow.

    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    Would you have any clue how to make a circuit to feel nauseated, really, the way you could imagine how to program it to play chess?

    Homer Simpson: So far!

    Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing.

    You could be right, but your pathetic argument from personal incredulity isn’t going to help us find out if you’re right.

    And that is supposed to be a philosopher? Where’s the logic!?!

    I’m not a modal realist because I think G*d selects the universes worth having more or less, but there really isn’t a logical way to define matter in any non-circular way. It’s an artifact of how the cosmic program sets up the regularity of our experiences, IMHO

    Why do you write “think” when you mean “believe”?

    (and as I keep saying, none of us *knows* anything about that mess so why get uptight about it?)

    We don’t know anything about the mess. We only know about the logic. :-)

  277. #277 Owlmirror
    January 20, 2008

    But not believing that there’s at least some point in the laws and constants being the way they are for the sake of life in general

    But you have no possible way of demonstrating or knowing that the laws and constants can in fact be different from what they are.

    All you have is the untestable idea that they might have been different.

    I doubt very seriously that any mere mathematical model or information flow can “run” something like subjectively given qualities. IOW, it can be like that in the world, but it can’t be modeled as a mathematical process.

    Bah. The only reason it cannot be done at this point in time is because the neurobiology of sensation and emotion is not fully understood. Once we know more about what exactly is happening, we should be able to simulate it.

    I am nearly certain that there will be machine intelligence, and that being could know nausea, if we wanted it too. I can think of arguments for and against doing so, as well: On the one hand – why inflict such a sensation on it, if it is unnecessary? On the other hand – I think I would our interaction with such a thing would be easier if it could sympathize with us; that is, know how we feel.

    stick your hand in the hot water

    Yet such an event correlates with detectable physical changes and neural events: The skin and layers below are damaged; nerves in the hand, detecting the sort of damage that correlates with heat, fire, sending signals to the spinal cord, and to the pain center of the brain.

    You seem to be suggesting that sensation can never be understood and modeled. Why? We know a great deal already; why will further analysis fail?

    none of us *knows* anything about this mess (the speculative part) so why get uptight about it?

    Because there’s a fundamental contradiction or paradox inherent in the fine-tuning argument, as with all arguments from design: If this universe, with all of its size and complexity and intelligent life (us) required fine tuning (before it existed) by an actual intelligence in order for it to exist as it does, how did an intelligence complex and powerful enough to know how to fine-tune universes ever come into existence without it being fine-tuned itself? And why would this intelligence do so, and yet not communicate with the intelligences that arose inside of the universe that it presumably went to the trouble to fine tune?

  278. #278 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    like a thesis in a dissertation:

    It isn’t even applicable, nor need to “weaken” something like that to point it out either. The occasion was RAW’s 76th, that should tip you I felt like shooting some bull about having met him, not offering up a goddam syllogism

    uh huh.

    I can has more theory of Bull, plz?

  279. #279 windy
    January 20, 2008

    I said: “If you’d rather not be here because the problems ruin the rest of your existence, you can make that happen.” That means, if you don’t like how shitty it is you can get away as a matter of principle not advocacy, and it has nothing to do with “agreeing” with me.

    Nice try to worm away from what you said. Some people said that the universe appears not to be especially friendly to “human values”, which is the negation of your world view, and you suggest that they might want to off themselves then.

    You guys wouldn’t have so much of a problem if you didn’t get so mixed up all the time – but getting mixed up pays, because you can pretend to have a better case against the put-up straw men than you really have.

    Projection is fun.

    (hence David Chalmers’ core argument, which I don’t think you got)

    Surprise, surprise. How about less telling us how we don’t get stuff, and more demonstrating that you do get stuff.

    There is no need to put about really playing chess in “scare quotes” as you once wrongly dissed on me over

    No, I didn’t.

    because it’s something the machine can do or not and we can see it being done directly as defined.

    No, it’s a false comparison that invites humans to feel superior about their feelings. The right comparison would be between *wanting* to win a game of chess and *feeling* nauseated (feelings that motivate subsequent behaviour).

    I believe animals feel nausea and maybe circuits because *reality* is set up that way, since I doubt very seriously that any mere mathematical model or information flow can “run” something like subjectively given qualities.

    So the talk about circuits not feeling nauseated was just a red herring to throw us off track, and in principle you have nothing against circuits feeling nauseated? Good grief.

    Finally, I see more talk about “science versus religion.” That’s a misnomer since everyone arguing about subjects like fine tuning who isn’t referencing a revelatory text is best said to be “doing philosophy,” like it or not.

    It’s not a “misnomer”, we went back to talking about the original subject of the thread, which was not fine tuning. For a philosopher, you seem strangely unable to follow shifts in topic.

  280. #280 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    I doubt that either Huckabee or Nisbet would countenance Joan Roughgarden the person as an advisor.

    understatement!

    actually, i rather doubt any of the current crop of candidates would deal with Roughgarden the person very well. I’ll say it again: I have tremendous respect for someone who has worked through all the things she has and still managed to get herself a tenured position at Stanford. However, I don’t think that respect would be shared by the majority of Americans. while we kinda kid about her being a science adviser, the obvious reason she wouldn’t make a good choice is that, like you point out, by and large the public wouldn’t be able to get past who she is.

    It’s worth a listen. The entire hour plays like a sort of Wedgie Document about how the good theists must stop the evil atheists, but arguing from the American political left.

    yes, I think that would be worth a listen. will do.

  281. #281 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    you are backed up in the great offsite archive in the sky. That’s some mighty fine nihilism.

    A mighty un-fine non-sequitur. Why would it not be worthwhile because it was backed up? You think all that work you do on animation etc. is worthless because it is on record? It seems to me, it matters more because more people can see it, you can get back to it, you can make sequels etc. It seems to me, it would have less value if it’s just utterly gone someday and not a basis for more work somehow.

    Until I download that work from the platonist overmind and manifest it in the real world, nobody will pay me for it. I act on the assumption that this is it, and you don’t. I won’t teach my children what you believe, as it’s dangerous rubbish. I’m operating on the assumption that the universe is a bottom up affair. Top downism is religion.

    When you argue, as a Tiplerian, platonist dualist, that you believe that “reality” is a magic platonist computer that will “save” you when you die, and you tell me your imaginary, unevidenced faith is philosophy, but not religion, or even just narcissistic, hallucinatory wish-fulfillment, then you hemorrhage credibility you never had here to begin with.

    He just substitutes information processing in inner darkness for the outward behaviorism of a crank like Skinner

    That is a misrepresentation of Dennett. What people try to describe by using the word “qualia” is something that the concept is inadequate to explain. If anybody can think of anything that the concept “qualia” properly maps that is less otiose than “irreducibly complex ineffability” I’d like to hear it.

    re: reductionism

    If you mean just trying to explain something in terms of simpler processes, instead of literally denying the reality of the result (like subjectively given qualia) then I can’t blame people for trying, but even then there’s no guarantee it will work.

    Who expects guarantees? Nobody who is sane.

    Scientists persist in trying things that have been successful in the past–trying to understand something in terms of component parts is not a guarantee of success, but it’s better than declaring a problem to be off limits by giving it a special name and declaring it irreducibly complex.

    Finally, I see more talk about “science versus religion.”

    It was a long time ago, but you may want to review the original post and the top of the comments thread, before we hijacked it.

  282. #282 windy
    January 20, 2008

    Owlmirror:

    Because there’s a fundamental contradiction or paradox inherent in the fine-tuning argument, as with all arguments from design: If this universe, with all of its size and complexity and intelligent life (us) required fine tuning (before it existed) by an actual intelligence in order for it to exist as it does, how did an intelligence complex and powerful enough to know how to fine-tune universes ever come into existence without it being fine-tuned itself?

    Thanks, that needed to be said, once again.

    We could also ask, if we need to get our values from an external fine-tuner, where does the fine-tuner get its values? ;)

  283. #283 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    We’re in science here, not in philosophy.

    No, wrong. What we’re “in” is what we are actually doing here, which is philosophy regardless of the intentions of the OP or anyone else.

    Why should we ever bother trying to define existence?

    You bother if you want to. Why bother arguing with someone who does want to, if you don’t care?

    Me: Well, AD enthusiasts have pointed out so long that life-friendliness is not fixated on humans but the ability of the universe to produce life in general

    DM: But, as we keep telling you, this is just as wrong. It’s not just life, it’s rocks in general, and black holes!

    I said before, it can be about more than one thing.

    Me: Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing.

    DM: You could be right, but your pathetic argument from personal incredulity isn’t going to help us find out if you’re right.

    And that is supposed to be a philosopher? Where’s the logic!?!

    Philosophy, science, etc. have to “get off the ground.” It isn’t personal incredulity, it’s the nature of what’s given. Since feelings are the subject, that’s what I refer to, from the subjective viewpoint that’s by definition what it means.


    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    First, it isn’t necessarily conscious the way we are to express value, but the answer was not assumed a priori, it came from the values of things like the fine structure constant having values narrowly in the range needed to support life, and with no clear physical argument (again, none of you provide any) for why laws and constants should have to be what they are. It is then a supposition derived from observation and logical reflection, not an “assumption” out of thin air or emotion, similar in type to a sense that the universe expresses mathematical beauty for some deep reason (you guys really wouldn’t pick on that, would you, because most of you don’t cynically despise that concept?)

    As for talking about “think” versus “believe”: if we don’t “know” then is there such a big difference? And finally for you, you once said that philosophy only tells us what arguments are logical etc. Sorry, wrong: how much of the philosophical journals are taken up with assessing the logical fitness of arguments, and how much with making points about reality, mind, language, etc? Very little of the former, otherwise it would be just symbolic logic applied to the writings of non-philosophers. You can’t have philosophy of language for example using pure logic, since the former is about “natural languages.” Finally, even the very saying that “philosophy only tells us what arguments are logical” breaks its own rule (in the same hilarious way as the theses of logical positivism, etc.)
    But you final statement is cute and humble, except for that.

  284. #284 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008


    But you have no possible way of demonstrating or knowing that the laws and constants can in fact be different from what they are.

    All you have is the untestable idea that they might have been different.

    A little off. I don’t even know what “might have been” is supposed to mean in literal probabilistic terms, do you? That isn’t my point and I said so – you guys are the ones I’m waiting with bated breath to show why scientifically the constants either must be what they are, or the “chances” they could be this or that in some multiverse.

    My point, and that of most AD thinkers (and for crying out load, I don’t pretend to know any of what’s going on either) is that the values could “logically” have been different, IOW we can make a new mathematical model and change those values and not get contradictions, it thus forms a “logically possible universe” a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard. So the question is, why does this have those properties instead of others? In any case, whether there are worlds literally with different ones, shouldn’t it be at least interesting for something presumed unrelated to having a reason for our existence, to have been so well suited for causing that?

    Yet such an event correlates with detectable physical changes and neural events: The skin and layers below are damaged; nerves in the hand, detecting the sort of damage that correlates with heat, fire, sending signals to the spinal cord, and to the pain center of the brain.

    You seem to be suggesting that sensation can never be understood and modeled. Why? We know a great deal already; why will further analysis fail?
    You seem to be suggesting that sensation can never be understood and modeled. Why? We know a great deal already; why will further analysis fail?

    The question is whether further “analysis” would even in principle apply to something qualitative in nature. More details of one type don’t make for a clear connection to something that is experienced in a different way. Are you saying, the study would explain why sensation actually is qualitative, or just pretending like Dennett et al that it really isn’t? Note that you said “correlate with” not “is” the “detectable” (! – we have to sense those outward observations in turn anyway) response to the hot water. It correlates not “is” because it isn’t just literally the same thing (in a way relative to perspective, not having to be a new “substance” etc.)


    Because there’s a fundamental contradiction or paradox inherent in the fine-tuning argument, as with all arguments from design: If this universe, with all of its size and complexity and intelligent life (us) required fine tuning (before it existed) by an actual intelligence in order for it to exist as it does, how did an intelligence complex and powerful enough to know how to fine-tune universes ever come into existence without it being fine-tuned itself? And why would this intelligence do so, and yet not communicate with the intelligences that arose inside of the universe that it presumably went to the trouble to fine tune?

    No, whatever is behind this does not have to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values. Why doesn’t space itself have to have parts to transmit radiation, how can “structureless” particles decay after random times, etc? I think of a structured First Cause as being a bit like the gyroscopic ether of Victorian physics. It is mechanism that needs efficient abstract cause (such as laws for example) not the efficient cause that needs mechanism. I admit this is just a OTTOMH breeze, the point has been made better and more comprehensively by Alvin Plantinga. The properties and values of the FC are a default state of existence involving perhaps a superposition of all potentialities and facts about same, and I don’t think “this” particular mess of peculiar ins and outs is that state.

  285. #285 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008


    uh huh.

    I can has more theory of Bull, plz?

    It was a well-known and understood catch phrase, who the hell would need a theory about that? You folks have already made fools of yourselves hyping and griping about it.

    But if you foolishly insist on more, your buddies are dishing it up all around you, fishy!

  286. #286 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Once again, I didn’t say it was the appearance of the universe not having human-based values that might tempt them to suicide, it was the existence of unpleasantries, and I was suggesting that we can do it, but most people don’t, since it’s still worthwhile. As for windy re chess, OK:

    windy:
    but the same goes for “really playing” chess.

    That’s what you said, really, but I got you confused with Ken about the reference to me earlier. My point stands in any case – why put that way?

    As for my turn to the subject of AD in this thread originally about politics, well, my first post here was about that directly. Then “Stinky” put forth the following, and I responded. The rest of you didn’t have to follow up, why gripe and then do it yourself and vice versa? Go ahead then and talk about Francis Collins if you like.


    According to the “fine-tuning argument” life is only possible in a narrow range of these free parameters, therefore… I don’t know. Something. The universe is just as likely to have different free parameters than the ones it has so the universe probably isn’t the way it is? Something like that.

    He got it so muddled that I jumped in, but you didn’t have to follow if you thought it unclean to discuss OT issues. I sure as hell wouldn’t care and come back, if no one had argued further with me.


    It’s [science versus religion] not a “misnomer”, we went back to talking about the original subject of the thread, which was not fine tuning.

    Little excuse for not appreciating that I consider that trope to be badly framed, and was criticizing it for that – that has nothing to do with whether it was original subject or changed or whatever, it’s a critique of its essential correctness as a way to describe the different possible ways to think about it.
    (Heh, re projection being fun – just saying that is empty crap, I go to the trouble to describe it and explain why it’s something I put up with here all the time.)

  287. #287 Tony Jeremiah
    January 20, 2008

    @275

    I’m familiar with this paradox as well, but in the form of the question, that if God exists, how did such an entity come to be?

    I imagine there are two basic conclusions to this paradox that would rely on one of two critical premises: (1) time is linear; or (2) time is nonlinear (i.e., it is circular).

    If we go with the apparent linearity of time, we could go with a Dawkin view that human morality is a continuously evolving set of memes. Perhaps these memes started out as behavioral rules which were necessary to maintain the survival of prehistoric clans. For example, as I understand the basics of human prehistory, humans wondered about in clans. It was very important that clan members not kill each other for the overall survival of the clan. Thus creating a set of rules (probably behavioral) were needed to ensure survival. With the advancement of language, these rules became morality and those that followed them more easily survived and reproduced. This hypothesis is weakened to the extent that conflict seems to be a prominent feature of humanity. (Of course there is some other theory that homo sapiens wiped out or interbred with other human ancestors such as the Neanderthals).

    (2) The more sci-fi version is that time is circular and we are in fact in the middle of some evolutionary circular loop (like the minute hand of a clock being at the 30 second mark). We may be at a point where “God” doesn’t exist, but will exist at some point in the future. But because time is circular, we’d technically describing an entity that both exists and does not exist.

    This sci-fi idea is close to Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return, the Bible’s description of God as the alpha and Omega, the concept of deja vu, Plato’s recollection theory, some spiritual beliefs (especially Native Americans) in the circularity of life, maybe supported by Einstein’s relativity theory, and portrayed somewhat well in the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray as the main character–only instead of a day, it’s more like a few billion years circular loop.

  288. #288 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Tony, you’re at least providing some fresh air here.
    What I think/believe about “so why does God exist then” (whatever you want to call wondering about such subjects, the same muddle pro or con as may be):

    I consider the question, what just “ought to exist” of itself, what in effect is the default condition of existence? Sure that’s hard to get a handle on, but I don’t think our universe is a likely candidate for that. It seems derivative to me for reasons similar to Mortimer Adler’s argument (similar having been made for centuries): Why should this particular state of affairs, with it’s peculiar (a philosophers’ term for arbitrary-seeming states of affairs that don’t seem to have clear logically necessary reasons to have to be that way, not the popular idea of weird etc) features? We can imagine other non-contradictory model universes, and there are offbeat features of the world. For example, one constant is dimensionless alpha with esthetically ugly but life-enabling value around 1/1/37. Wouldn’t a value of one be more “logical” if the universe was just “about” mathematics?

    So some thinkers consider this world to be derivative, which I know doesn’t tell us much about that “default” uncaused given. I imagine it as being like a plenum like the platonic world but not just a sort of housing for conceptual furniture. I think it has efficient cause and singular identity built into it, and expresses all sorts of “values” in some sort of combination as universes “emanate” from it. You don’t have to think e.g. it values evil as much as good, for if there’s something objectively the case about moral truths, this would be incorporated as well. (Well, do you really entertain doubts over whether it is really wrong to torture children, etc?) In any case, it need not be able to commit specific acts, as for why X can be “allowed” in the world etc. If it’s better on net for life to exist versus the emptiness of not at all, then life does, warts and all.

    I would in any case find this universe not an appealing “just here” given, regardless of what we can do to imagine what it is contingent on.

    The circular time and similar self-referential ideas are interesting, and Wheeler has some similar fun putting his stamp on speculating about why the universe is life-friendly.

  289. #289 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    Why doesn’t someone explain then why particles decay exactly when they do? Oh, there isn’t a reason they say. Well, maybe the same can be said for other things to[o]

    Indeed. Why should there be a reason for why all those constants have the values they have? I’m not saying research on this shouldn’t continue. I’m saying you shouldn’t simply assume there is a reason and proceed from this — you could end up trying to explain why Napoleon crossed the Mississippi.

    No, wrong. What we’re “in” is what we are actually doing here, which is philosophy regardless of the intentions of the OP or anyone else.

    OK… you are trying to drag us into philosophy, we try to stay in science, and we end up talking past each other. Is that more like it?

    (Hmmm. An “inclusive/exclusive we” distinction would be very practical sometimes.)

    You bother if you want to. Why bother arguing with someone who does want to, if you don’t care?

    Because you act as if we must define existence before being able to talk (meaningfully) about fine-tuning. If I have misunderstood you, please explain.

    I said before, it can be about more than one thing.

    Then why of all possible choices single out life and not mention the others?

    Philosophy, science, etc. have to “get off the ground.”

    What ground exactly?

    It isn’t personal incredulity, it’s the nature of what’s given. Since feelings are the subject, that’s what I refer to, from the subjective viewpoint that’s by definition what it means.

    Er… then please explain why your talking about qualia isn’t an argument from personal incredulity.

    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    First, it isn’t necessarily conscious the way we are to express value, but the answer was not assumed a priori, it came from the values of things like the fine structure constant having values narrowly in the range needed to support life, and with no clear physical argument (again, none of you provide any) for why laws and constants should have to be what they are.

    Here you are assuming that just because science hasn’t found an answer yet it is incapable of finding one.

    You are also again assuming that it’s life, and not rocks or black holes, that is of importance.

    It is then a supposition derived from observation and logical reflection, not an “assumption” out of thin air or emotion, similar in type to a sense that the universe expresses mathematical beauty for some deep reason (you guys really wouldn’t pick on that, would you, because most of you don’t cynically despise that concept?)

    I do pick on it.

    Firstly, mathematical beauty is nothing but mathematical simplicity — and the assumption that the universe is mathematically simple is nothing else than the application of the principle of parsimony, in other words, science. There is no physical or metaphysical reason for why the universe should be mathematically simple; we just start from the simplest possible assumptions and only complicate them when we are forced to. What else than maximum parsimony should we start from, maximum munificence?

    Secondly, my concept of mathematical beauty really does not include tensors and endless heaps of differential equations! ARGH!

    (Tensors occur in the theory of relativity. They are thus fundamental. A tensor is… I forgot… a vector where each coordinate is a matrix, right? Differential equations are all over the place in physics.)

    As for talking about “think” versus “believe”: if we don’t “know” then is there such a big difference?

    I’m using these words for rational vs irrational. If I’m wrong, I prefer being wrong for the right reasons.

    And finally for you, you once said that philosophy only tells us what arguments are logical etc.

    Not quite. I said, or at least tried to say, that philosophy can tell us when there’s a logical error in an idea, which is fine and important. What it cannot tell us is whether an idea that is logically consistent with itself and others is wrong. For that, you need to observe reality — and that’s what science does.

    I’m reminded of Goethe’s theory of colors. He simply refused to accept that white was a composite; to him, pure white was pure white. On this, he built a nice, contradiction-free theory… which is still wrong. We can observe, again and again, that white is a composite. Merely thinking about it doesn’t help.

    Also, what is the point of philosophy of language? Now that the science of language — linguistics — exists, philosophizing about language is just meddling in the affairs of science. Good riddance. Or are there still philosophers of nature running around now that biology has grown up?

    The question is whether further “analysis” would even in principle apply to something qualitative in nature.

    Wait and see. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. If we never try (which is what you suggest), we’ll never find out… It was once thought the composition of the stars would forever remain unknown to us. Then it was discovered that simply looking at them (admittedly in a sophisticated way — spectroscopy) was sufficient and much more informative than anyone would have dared to hope.

    Also, that assertion of yours that anything is “qualitative in nature”: it may well be correct, but how is it not an argument from personal incredulity? Please explain.

    Are you saying, the study would explain why sensation actually is qualitative, or just pretending like Dennett et al that it really isn’t?

    Maybe this, maybe that, maybe something nobody has ever thought of (philosophers have a tendency to overlook the fact that their imagination is limited). Or maybe it won’t explain anything. We’ll see. Just wait for it.

    No, whatever is behind this does not have to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values. Why doesn’t space itself have to have parts to transmit radiation, how can “structureless” particles decay after random times, etc?

    Here’s what you wanted to write:

    No, we don’t know whether whatever is behind this has to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values.

    This I can agree with. Pretending to know that it doesn’t have to is not defensible. After all, you (like everyone else) don’t even know if your analogy is defensible.

    (Oh, and radiation consists of particles that move through space… and at the same time, they are a “deformation” of space… no parts required.)

  290. #290 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    Why doesn’t someone explain then why particles decay exactly when they do? Oh, there isn’t a reason they say. Well, maybe the same can be said for other things to[o]

    Indeed. Why should there be a reason for why all those constants have the values they have? I’m not saying research on this shouldn’t continue. I’m saying you shouldn’t simply assume there is a reason and proceed from this — you could end up trying to explain why Napoleon crossed the Mississippi.

    No, wrong. What we’re “in” is what we are actually doing here, which is philosophy regardless of the intentions of the OP or anyone else.

    OK… you are trying to drag us into philosophy, we try to stay in science, and we end up talking past each other. Is that more like it?

    (Hmmm. An “inclusive/exclusive we” distinction would be very practical sometimes.)

    You bother if you want to. Why bother arguing with someone who does want to, if you don’t care?

    Because you act as if we must define existence before being able to talk (meaningfully) about fine-tuning. If I have misunderstood you, please explain.

    I said before, it can be about more than one thing.

    Then why of all possible choices single out life and not mention the others?

    Philosophy, science, etc. have to “get off the ground.”

    What ground exactly?

    It isn’t personal incredulity, it’s the nature of what’s given. Since feelings are the subject, that’s what I refer to, from the subjective viewpoint that’s by definition what it means.

    Er… then please explain why your talking about qualia isn’t an argument from personal incredulity.

    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    First, it isn’t necessarily conscious the way we are to express value, but the answer was not assumed a priori, it came from the values of things like the fine structure constant having values narrowly in the range needed to support life, and with no clear physical argument (again, none of you provide any) for why laws and constants should have to be what they are.

    Here you are assuming that just because science hasn’t found an answer yet it is incapable of finding one.

    You are also again assuming that it’s life, and not rocks or black holes, that is of importance.

    It is then a supposition derived from observation and logical reflection, not an “assumption” out of thin air or emotion, similar in type to a sense that the universe expresses mathematical beauty for some deep reason (you guys really wouldn’t pick on that, would you, because most of you don’t cynically despise that concept?)

    I do pick on it.

    Firstly, mathematical beauty is nothing but mathematical simplicity — and the assumption that the universe is mathematically simple is nothing else than the application of the principle of parsimony, in other words, science. There is no physical or metaphysical reason for why the universe should be mathematically simple; we just start from the simplest possible assumptions and only complicate them when we are forced to. What else than maximum parsimony should we start from, maximum munificence?

    Secondly, my concept of mathematical beauty really does not include tensors and endless heaps of differential equations! ARGH!

    (Tensors occur in the theory of relativity. They are thus fundamental. A tensor is… I forgot… a vector where each coordinate is a matrix, right? Differential equations are all over the place in physics.)

    As for talking about “think” versus “believe”: if we don’t “know” then is there such a big difference?

    I’m using these words for rational vs irrational. If I’m wrong, I prefer being wrong for the right reasons.

    And finally for you, you once said that philosophy only tells us what arguments are logical etc.

    Not quite. I said, or at least tried to say, that philosophy can tell us when there’s a logical error in an idea, which is fine and important. What it cannot tell us is whether an idea that is logically consistent with itself and others is wrong. For that, you need to observe reality — and that’s what science does.

    I’m reminded of Goethe’s theory of colors. He simply refused to accept that white was a composite; to him, pure white was pure white. On this, he built a nice, contradiction-free theory… which is still wrong. We can observe, again and again, that white is a composite. Merely thinking about it doesn’t help.

    Also, what is the point of philosophy of language? Now that the science of language — linguistics — exists, philosophizing about language is just meddling in the affairs of science. Good riddance. Or are there still philosophers of nature running around now that biology has grown up?

    The question is whether further “analysis” would even in principle apply to something qualitative in nature.

    Wait and see. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. If we never try (which is what you suggest), we’ll never find out… It was once thought the composition of the stars would forever remain unknown to us. Then it was discovered that simply looking at them (admittedly in a sophisticated way — spectroscopy) was sufficient and much more informative than anyone would have dared to hope.

    Also, that assertion of yours that anything is “qualitative in nature”: it may well be correct, but how is it not an argument from personal incredulity? Please explain.

    Are you saying, the study would explain why sensation actually is qualitative, or just pretending like Dennett et al that it really isn’t?

    Maybe this, maybe that, maybe something nobody has ever thought of (philosophers have a tendency to overlook the fact that their imagination is limited). Or maybe it won’t explain anything. We’ll see. Just wait for it.

    No, whatever is behind this does not have to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values. Why doesn’t space itself have to have parts to transmit radiation, how can “structureless” particles decay after random times, etc?

    Here’s what you wanted to write:

    No, we don’t know whether whatever is behind this has to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values.

    This I can agree with. Pretending to know that it doesn’t have to is not defensible. After all, you (like everyone else) don’t even know if your analogy is defensible.

    (Oh, and radiation consists of particles that move through space… and at the same time, they are a “deformation” of space… no parts required.)

  291. #291 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    (alpha value is 1/137)

  292. #292 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    The rest of you didn’t have to follow up, why gripe and then do it yourself and vice versa?

    Because if two ideas contradict, at least one of them is wrong, and we’re interested in finding out which one(s) is/are wrong, and why. That’s a habit scientists have…

    Perhaps these memes started out as behavioral rules which were necessary to maintain the survival of prehistoric clans. For example, as I understand the basics of human prehistory, humans wondered about in clans. It was very important that clan members not kill each other for the overall survival of the clan. Thus creating a set of rules (probably behavioral) were needed to ensure survival.

    This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    This hypothesis is weakened to the extent that conflict seems to be a prominent feature of humanity.

    Game theory.

    (That’s a branch of mathematics.)

    maybe supported by Einstein’s relativity theory

    How?

    Also, I can’t see how an eternally expanding universe can have circular time…

    I consider the question, what just “ought to exist” of itself, what in effect is the default condition of existence?

    Do you know if this question makes sense?

    Wouldn’t a value of one be more “logical” if the universe was just “about” mathematics?

    No, why? (Apart from the question what it might mean to be about mathematics.)

    (Well, do you really entertain doubts over whether it is really wrong to torture children, etc?)

    No. But I also don’t doubt that this is not a law of physics. I hold that tenet because I have empathy, and it seems I have empathy because it’s innate, and it seems innate empathy exists because it has evolved. If I want to, I can also add utilitarian arguments (if children can be tortured, then my hypothetical children can be tortured, and probably I can be tortured, too… I don’t want that).

    Why would anyone conflate ethics and physics? I don’t get it.

  293. #293 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    The rest of you didn’t have to follow up, why gripe and then do it yourself and vice versa?

    Because if two ideas contradict, at least one of them is wrong, and we’re interested in finding out which one(s) is/are wrong, and why. That’s a habit scientists have…

    Perhaps these memes started out as behavioral rules which were necessary to maintain the survival of prehistoric clans. For example, as I understand the basics of human prehistory, humans wondered about in clans. It was very important that clan members not kill each other for the overall survival of the clan. Thus creating a set of rules (probably behavioral) were needed to ensure survival.

    This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    This hypothesis is weakened to the extent that conflict seems to be a prominent feature of humanity.

    Game theory.

    (That’s a branch of mathematics.)

    maybe supported by Einstein’s relativity theory

    How?

    Also, I can’t see how an eternally expanding universe can have circular time…

    I consider the question, what just “ought to exist” of itself, what in effect is the default condition of existence?

    Do you know if this question makes sense?

    Wouldn’t a value of one be more “logical” if the universe was just “about” mathematics?

    No, why? (Apart from the question what it might mean to be about mathematics.)

    (Well, do you really entertain doubts over whether it is really wrong to torture children, etc?)

    No. But I also don’t doubt that this is not a law of physics. I hold that tenet because I have empathy, and it seems I have empathy because it’s innate, and it seems innate empathy exists because it has evolved. If I want to, I can also add utilitarian arguments (if children can be tortured, then my hypothetical children can be tortured, and probably I can be tortured, too… I don’t want that).

    Why would anyone conflate ethics and physics? I don’t get it.

  294. #294 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    David, some mostly general answers might be better and easier on my diminishing time for this fascinating but exasperating thread food fight. Sometimes you ask about whether something “makes sense” etc, and I must say: How do you get a handle on the very idea of making sense without some philosophical reasoning that is not itself science? If science deals with finding facts, it can’t even critique its own alternatives or their “sensibility” – this is what all critics founder on, they can’t even critique “metaphysics” without doing metaphysics.

    One thing you said shows the confusion I am facing here:


    Why would anyone conflate ethics and physics? I don’t get it.

    I am not conflating ethics and physics, I am “conflating” ethics and the universe, which does not mean the same thing. Physics is a certain program of study we developed, it has context and applicability to this and that by definition and limitations too of course. The universe is not a human activity, it is “something” and I can consider exploring a possible relationship between it and ethics, unless you can propose an a priori reason why that cannot be the case.

    As for “arguments from personal incredulity”: that is how we get the givens off the ground, to prove anything else with! What if I just didn’t believe in the results of experiments you showed me, you’d have to say “But we just know this is what happened right in front of us” etc. – all science and philosophy (data, initial “axioms” that are by definition underived from other axioms – “you have to start somewhere” – just seen by the mind’s eye until we can use them and see how they do) ironically starts from “givens” backed up by an implicit threat of argument from incredulity. You can insert “personal” there to make it seem subjective, but people are making the initial appreciations and claims in any case. Sure, it’s an honor system to some extent, but that’s the breaks. Our experiences and logical intuitions are the actual ground it all derives from, which you appreciate unless falling for the idiocy of naive realism.

    You did make a good point in your next comment up, but still not fully convincing:


    Here’s what you wanted to write:

    “No, we don’t know whether whatever is behind this has to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values.”


    This I can agree with. Pretending to know that it doesn’t have to is not defensible. After all, you (like everyone else) don’t even know if your analogy is defensible.

    Sure I don’t know, and thanks for at least not going with those who assume any originator of the universe has to be complex. However, I found precedents to action without structure such as muons, the virtual particles in “empty space” etc. Remember that force fields were once considered absurd since “how could one particle reach out to another at a distance without actually touching it” etc. Hence it is at least credible based on things we actually know.

    BTW, pls. tell me about the (presumed) “Order of Merit” you were awarded.

  295. #295 windy
    January 20, 2008

    That’s what you said, really, but I got you confused with Ken about the reference to me earlier. My point stands in any case – why put that way?

    Asked and answered.

    It’s [science versus religion] not a “misnomer”, we went back to talking about the original subject of the thread, which was not fine tuning.

    Little excuse for not appreciating that I consider that trope to be badly framed, and was criticizing it for that – that has nothing to do with whether it was original subject or changed or whatever, it’s a critique of its essential correctness as a way to describe the different possible ways to think about it.

    Sorry, we forgot that this is all about you. I’m sure Ken will refrain from linking to offendingly-named events in the future.

    You don’t have to think e.g. it values evil as much as good, for if there’s something objectively the case about moral truths, this would be incorporated as well. (Well, do you really entertain doubts over whether it is really wrong to torture children, etc?)

    Why should the universe incorporate my values on this matter, and not the values of Dr Mengele, Genghis Khan or commenter Jamie?

    It’s amazingly naive to assume that the universe shares the values of a single species of ape, when those values are contingent on the evolutionary history and culture of the species. You probably don’t entertain doubts over whether it’s wrong to fuck children? But if you were a bonobo, you might consider it wrong not to.

  296. #296 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    It was a well-known and understood catch phrase, who the hell would need a theory about that?

    ch1: Shooting Bull is well known and understood catch phrase.

    I get.

    I can haz more Shooting Bull theory now?

    kthxbye

  297. #297 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Re qualia etc:

    >> He just substitutes information processing in
    >> inner darkness for the outward behaviorism
    >> of a crank like Skinner


    That is a misrepresentation of Dennett. What people try to describe by using the word “qualia” is something that the concept is inadequate to explain. If anybody can think of anything that the concept “qualia” properly maps that is less otiose than “irreducibly complex ineffability” I’d like to hear it.

    The concept of qualia does not map to any logical or mathematical representation because it is about qualitative differences. You either can get that or not. If you want to tell me you look at colored surfaces and don’t realize that the nature of the sensations of color (please don’t tell me you’re a naive realist idiot who thinks that what you experience is just the stuff sitting in front of you) differ in an irreducibly qualitative way, I can’t do anything with your understanding.

    Qualitative is about irreducibly simple nature, not irreducibly complex. It’s ineffable because there aren’t parts within it to distinguish one from another. You can’t talk about anything without something fundamental that we need to just appreciate, to get off the ground. Hence, talking about a concept like that being “inadequate to explain” what it refers to is the play-dumb trick which Dennett indulges in. Fundamental appreciations to get things off the ground, as I explained to David above, work on an honor system and you hope the other thinkers around won’t be coy and manipulative to jerk the process off. Anyway, “explaining” why or expectations about how to correlate it to neural activity etc. isn’t the core issue, it’s candor in admitting that it’s how our experience is.

  298. #298 windy
    January 20, 2008

    Sure I don’t know, and thanks for at least not going with those who assume any originator of the universe has to be complex.

    I don’t, just that anything that picks and chooses among possible universes to ensure that there will be life and that evolution will result in sentient beings and that they shall consider torturing their children to be wrong, will probably be complex.

    But it might have been better to ask if such a cause was likely to exist.

  299. #299 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008


    ch1: Shooting Bull is well known and understood catch phrase.

    I get.

    No you don’t. I was clearly referring to the phrase “I can’t be all bad if I ______ with soandso.” By now you’re just playing along for fun, OK, so what then.

    More rubbish up there about my making a certain distinction meaning it’s all about me, etc. But one point is a bit interesting: why should the universe be based on our ethics etc. if at all. OK, then maybe it isn’t, so you don’t have as much point in complaining about some kind of mismatch. Some thinkers toy (that’s all any of us can do here) with the idea that the way it is, is indeed the value that is expressed. Sounds circular, but would at least be self-consistent. Remember though I am looking at AD from the very sloppy idea of conscious existence being more worthwhile on average than not at all, which I think is just saying that the universe is about something more than nihilism. Not very hominid-ocentric I hope. BTW the Bonobo are very gentle and don’t force themselves AFAIK, FWIW and however ambiguous in the context.

    As for Mengele, etc: If you believe people and (in some sense, hard to figure as you go down the scale) have some “inherent worth” then respecting that is supposed to be the basis even for humanistic ethics (my UU colleagues for example.) It is sloppy of course and not a “science” but few consider that an excuse for conceptual dismissal. If it can be real, I say the universe can incorporate it. If you don’t believe it is real, then you aren’t even an ethical humanist but a nihilist. Do you think Carl Sagan, or PZ or other humanist heroes of yours are nihilists? Are you?

  300. #300 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Windy, I already explained why it probably isn’t necessary for something expressing “picks” to have parts or complexity in that sense. OK, as for why it’s “there”, then what is your answer to what just ought to be in existence, the default given in effect? This stuff, really? See my reply to David about this.

  301. #301 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    No you don’t.

    damn.

    I was clearly referring to the phrase “I can’t be all bad if I ______ with soandso.”

    example of Shooting Bull theory in practice.

    now i gets?

    By now you’re just playing along for fun, OK, so what then.

    *hook*

    *sound of line being drawn in*

    More rubbish up there about my making a certain distinction meaning it’s all about me, etc.

    ch2: Theory of Shooting Bull has application to self-interest.

    I can haz more, plz?

  302. #302 windy
    January 20, 2008

    As for Mengele, etc: If you believe people and (in some sense, hard to figure as you go down the scale) have some “inherent worth” then respecting that is supposed to be the basis even for humanistic ethics (my UU colleagues for example.) It is sloppy of course and not a “science” but few consider that an excuse for conceptual dismissal. If it can be real, I say the universe can incorporate it. If you don’t believe it is real, then you aren’t even an ethical humanist but a nihilist. Do you think Carl Sagan, or PZ or other humanist heroes of yours are nihilists? Are you?

    “Have you or have you ever been a nihilist?” Stop poisoning the well. No, I don’t believe some “inherent worth” of humans floats around in the universe separate from humans, it’s a concept humans have developed. And how the fuck do you know who are my “humanist heroes”?

    Also, I didn’t say anything about nihilism. Mengele et al weren’t nihilists, they were very enthusiastic about their values.

    Windy, I already explained why it probably isn’t necessary for something expressing “picks” to have parts or complexity in that sense.

    No, you hand-waved to the effect that you think it’s possible.

    OK, as for why it’s “there”, then what is your answer to what just ought to be in existence, the default given in effect? This stuff, really?

    Uh-uh. You have been pushing fine-tuning as a better explanation. Now you suddenly turn very coy in actually how it is a better explanation. And WTF does it mean what “ought” to be in existence? Ponies and ice-cream for everyone?

  303. #303 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Ken ululated forth this ironic and shocking confession:


    Until I download that work from the platonist overmind and manifest it in the real world, nobody will pay me for it.

    Ah, so you’re a little capitalist piggie are you! I thought you militant scientism juveniles were liberals, so I am shocked, just shocked, that you think it’s all about money! Well, maybe then you should throw in your lot with the Baptist Republicans, who think GOD is all about ensuring that the righteous can “make” money, and not just petty concerns like whether the fine structure constant is right around 1/137 and other geeky twiddlings.

    (Hope you could nibble on some spillover crumbs, fishy poo – remember, it’s not all about you either, so be satisfied for now.)

  304. #304 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Of course Mengele wasn’t a nihilist, I meant those who see no way to judge him relative to other people. You guys keep getting mixed up all the damn time.

    I don’t get the coy part about fine tuning, but instead of answering a question with a question, would you even make a stab at an answer to my question about default reality? I did address the issue above, like it or not, instead of just splatter. You folk don’t like my answers but don’t want to do anything at all to provide some alternative. I’d rather have what I speculate about it than nothing at all.

  305. #305 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    Hope you could nibble on some spillover crumbs, fishy poo – remember, it’s not all about you either, so be satisfied for now

    so, it’s not about self-interest?

    I confused again.

    plz to correct ch2?

    kthxbye.

    *psst* you don’t seem to be getting it yet, even with hints, so perhaps this will explain what I am doing to you more plainly:

    troll, in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response.

    I think the net is in the boat at this point, though i think I probably could have kept getting responses from you for quite a while longer.

    it’s been fun, though.

    thanks for playing.

    kthxbye.

  306. #306 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    Ponies and ice-cream for everyone?

    yes please.

    cake too?

  307. #307 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    I actually do understand Ichthyic’s game, but the trouble was: so many here actually do get so very mixed up all the time about the points I’m making, that it’s very hard for me to be sure anyone is just kidding. I believe you personally, “just sayin’”

  308. #308 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    Me: Windy, I already explained why it probably isn’t necessary for something expressing “picks” to have parts or complexity in that sense.

    Windy: No, you hand-waved to the effect that you think it’s possible.

    No, I gave known examples and explained that the universe has to work like that or the machinery wouldn’t have anything to get it going in the first place. There’d have to be machines to run the laws, etc., “machinery all the way down.”

    And nothing much you guys do is anything better than hand-waving.

  309. #309 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    it’s very hard for me to be sure anyone is just kidding

    it’s suggestive when one is so easily baited.

    just sayin’

  310. #310 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    And nothing much you guys do is anything better than hand-waving.

    if you really think that, why are you continuing to debate them?

    sheer boredom?

  311. #311 windy
    January 20, 2008

    cake too?

    Finish your pony first, and we’ll see.

  312. #312 Neil B's alter ego
    January 20, 2008

    Right, I should have said, “anyone around here.”

  313. #313 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    Finish your pony first, and we’ll see.

    “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!?”

    2 pts. for the source (easy).

  314. #314 Neil B's alter ego
    January 20, 2008

    I debate them because the universe came from “hand-waving”, what else?

  315. #315 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    many posts ago, Ken pointed out:

    The moderator calls the panelists on miscaracterizing Dawkins, who has explained that selfish genes can give rise to selfless organisms, but Roughgarden will have none of it.

    Dawkins on Roughgarden (from the vid clip you linked to):

    Bad poetry

    perfect.

  316. #316 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    I debate them because the universe came from “hand-waving”, what else?

    now all you have to do is prove it.

    oh, wait, are we going back to the fine tuning argument again?

    *zones out*

  317. #317 windy
    January 20, 2008

    I don’t get the coy part about fine tuning, but instead of answering a question with a question, would you even make a stab at an answer to my question about default reality?

    You answered my question with a question first, but perhaps because it wasn’t explicitly framed as a question:

    What is the likelihood of a first cause capable of universe-picking?

  318. #318 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!?”

    All in all, somebody around here is as thick as a brick (cue flutes)

  319. #319 windy
    January 20, 2008

    Of course Mengele wasn’t a nihilist, I meant those who see no way to judge him relative to other people. You guys keep getting mixed up all the damn time.

    Of course we can judge Mengele, but Mengele can judge us too. I thought you’d be able to make this obvious next step in the reasoning without laying on the smarm about “nihilism”. We don’t have to ultimately settle for cultural relativism between us and Mengele, but it’s stupid to expect the universe to settle in our favour.

  320. #320 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    All in all, somebody around here is as thick as a brick (cue flutes)

    I get it, but keeping to the quiz question:

    “Wrong! Do it again!”

    same era (right after the happiest days of our lives), different artist.

    on the other matter, I’d be curious to know, since we all evidently share a fondness for the poetry of cuttlefish, for example; what people think about the value of the kinds of poetic constructions Roughgarden is fond of using?

    I am of two minds about it myself; one part of me sees the value of framing using poetry as metaphor – trying to reach people using language they might be familiar with. the other part (much louder) is in complete agreement with Dawkins that overreaching and inaccurate metaphors do little more in the long run than help sell books, and actually tend to muddy up communication instead of helping to clarify.

    Collins does this as well, and so does Miller to some extent.

    so, is there any net value to it?

    tactically?

    strategically?

  321. #321 Neil B's alter ego
    January 20, 2008


    but it’s stupid to expect the universe to settle in our favour.

    Why?

    Well, I likely should just give up on you freaks, but to get you all started again, here’s the coolest post from UseNet:

    news:af3acbd4-dc6d-4e46-8810-05d2213888ce@f47g2000hsd.googlegroups.com

  322. #322 Neil B.
    January 20, 2008

    OK, quick and temporary change of heart:


    What is the likelihood of a first cause capable of universe-picking?

    I’d say 100%. It’s what has to exist. Something needs to be self-existent, and that’s It. I gave my answer, now you can try.

  323. #323 Ichthyic
    January 20, 2008

    Well, I likely should just give up on you freaks

    oh please, please?

    pretty please with fucking sugar and a pony on top, with cake on the side?

  324. #324 Ken Cope
    January 20, 2008

    one part of me sees the value of framing using poetry as metaphor – trying to reach people using language they might be familiar with. the other part (much louder) is in complete agreement with Dawkins that overreaching and inaccurate metaphors do little more in the long run than help sell books, and actually tend to muddy up communication instead of helping to clarify.

    I’ve been accused of having never metaphor I didn’t like, but I am actually more discriminating than that. Dawkins employs good and accurate metaphors precisely because he has had the benefit of being raised in an environment that valued good poetry, and good metaphors. So I am in favor of improving the metaphoric environment in which we raise our children, and making sure that they can recognize the difference between good poetry and bad.

    For instance, even though Mickey’s Christmas Carol is poorly animated in contrast with Mickey’s Prince and the Pauper (on which you can find a screen credit for YT), I let my 6 year old watch it unattended. After he saw it, he asked me, “Daddy, what’s a spirit?” I told him, same as a ghost. Remember what ghosts are? He said, “Things that aren’t real?” “Right.” So, I don’t mind exposing people to bad poetry and bad ideas, so long as there is good material they can contrast with it. I guess the idea of Plato and his advice to nursemaids is what I’m following, but I’m hoping to create stories and poetry of my own that sneaks beneath the radar subversively enough.

    You’ll have to excuse me for a while, because I’m in the middle of a boss battle on a PS2 game, Kingdom Hearts, where I’ve got to defeat Clayton and his gun on behalf of Tarzan and his Gorillas.

  325. #325 Tony Jeremiah
    January 20, 2008

    @284 (David)

    Re: This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    ** I think that assumes natural selection is an all-or-none phenomenon though. Stabilizing selection (if I’m recalling the construct correctly) results in a normal distribution of a particular phenotype. And the normal distribution is the basis of most statistical analyses, so it’s likely the most common form of selection. This should predict that most people are normal, while there’ll still be a few serial killers like Manson, Dalmer, and a few other Hannibal Lecter-like types left in the gene pool.

    Re: Game theory

    **I’m familiar; though my introduction to it was from the movie A Beautiful Mind. Going by intuition (and a quick outline on wikipedia), I have to ask, is the difference between noncooperative and cooperative games such that one predicts less conflict? I’m familiar with cooperative game strategy in psychology (my primary background), particularly concerning the Robbers Cave experiment, prisoner’s dilemma, and the jigsaw puzzle classroom. Also, does game theory explain why humans may have opted for rules that appear to conform to noncooperative game strategies as evidenced by nonequivalent distribution of resources (e.g., something like 1% of the world’s individuals own 90% of the money)?

    Re: Einstein’s Theory

    **Well, I have taken some liberty with understanding relativity theory in a construct I call the clock model, because I simply cannot comprehend the time-is-relative concept if I think about it purely from a linear perspective–it’s more intuitive to me from a circular perspective. Namely, if one imagines moving linearly along the minute hand of a clock, one can literally understand how time can be relative; the velocity of time (i.e., the speed of the minute hand) should move slower closer to its axis of rotation and faster further away from it as a consequence of tangential velocity. I’m guessing that time slows down as one approaches light velocity is a consequence of linear movement along a space-time plane that is actually rotating (probably towards the centre of some hypothetical point).

    The explanation for circular time could be explained by this clock model concept, and, the idea that even though space is expanding, objects (or more accurately, events) maintain their same relative distance. This would be akin to having two cars (one in front of the other) maintaining their same distance because they don’t change their relative speed, and, yet are moving toward (or away) from a common event point.

  326. #326 Tony Jeremiah
    January 20, 2008

    @281

    Thanks for your comment David.

    I’m a physics amateur (education and cognitive psychologist by trade), but dabble in many other fields and have a basic understanding of the significant issues in the natural and social sciences. I am also a deep believer in simplicity, intuition, basic knowledge, and interacting with others as at least the starting point of good ideas in any area.

    Your ideas sound also like the basis of string theory, especially the derivative and multiple world concepts that derive from it. As I was explaining to David, I developed my own model (the clock model) to try and intuit relativity theory. I’m not sure how well it maps to Einstein’s predictions, but it makes the concept of relative time intuitive to me.

    Additionally, I’m thinking it might be possible to map the concept of multiple worlds onto this clock model. Namely by the idea of imagining that there are particular space-time-event nodes along the points of the minute hand, which could represent the space-time coordinates of different realities. Possibly they are identical realities to our own that differ not by the events that occur, but by when they occur. So for example, there could be someone duplicate to me that’s typing this note a second behind or a second ahead of me. If there’s such a thing, that could explain things like qualia and other exotic forms of consciousness.

  327. #327 windy
    January 21, 2008

    on the other matter, I’d be curious to know, since we all evidently share a fondness for the poetry of cuttlefish, for example; what people think about the value of the kinds of poetic constructions Roughgarden is fond of using?
    I am of two minds about it myself; one part of me sees the value of framing using poetry as metaphor – trying to reach people using language they might be familiar with. the other part (much louder) is in complete agreement with Dawkins that overreaching and inaccurate metaphors do little more in the long run than help sell books, and actually tend to muddy up communication instead of helping to clarify.

    Perhaps Roughgarden has used better metaphors somewhere I haven’t seen, but the “mustard seed of DNA” is one of the most nonsensical I’ve seen. Isn’t the original meaning “something tiny that grows into something big”, so the connection to “a mutation increases in frequency” is tenuous at best.

    I think we can find better metaphor-users out there to use as examples. Like Sagan’s (OK, more of an analogy than a metaphor) of how Kung tribesmen studying antelope tracks use the same logic as scientists studying moon craters.

  328. #328 Owlmirror
    January 21, 2008

    No, whatever is behind this does not have to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values.

    Wait, what?

    This makes no sense, and neither does the further explication that follows. The entire point of the fine tuning argument is that the appearance of tuning implies intent. And of course from intent is inferred an entity with awareness, intellect and understanding and desires, as well as the power to implement its desires, etc.
    And awareness, intellect, understanding, and desire, as best we understand from our own experience of them, require enormous complexity. Indeed, it is implicit in your own arguments about qualia.

    You now seem to be arguing that the First Cause is ultimately some sort of hypercosmic transistor circuit or thermostat or whatever it is you mean by the rather incoherent “gyroscopic ether of Victorian physics”; something that has no awareness or ability to behave in a way other than it does as a regulator and generator of universes.

    Is that in fact what you have been trying to say all along; that you are positing that the First Cause is what causes the universal constants to be the way they are, but neither knows what it is doing nor cares? It’s just a mechanism of the hypercosm?

  329. #329 Owlmirror
    January 21, 2008

    What is the likelihood of a first cause capable of universe-picking?

    I’d say 100%. It’s what has to exist. Something needs to be self-existent, and that’s It.

    And the universe itself can’t be self-existent because…?

  330. #330 Owlmirror
    January 21, 2008

    2) The more sci-fi version is that time is circular and we are in fact in the middle of some evolutionary circular loop (like the minute hand of a clock being at the 30 second mark). We may be at a point where “God” doesn’t exist, but will exist at some point in the future. But because time is circular, we’d technically describing an entity that both exists and does not exist.

    I would suggest that “speculative” is a better word than “sci-fi”.

    This is actually something I’ve already thought about. One of the reasons that we think of time as linear; as cause followed by effect, is because of the entropy of this universe; of this space-time continuum that we now inhabit. Memory and perception are ultimately biochemical; chemistry occurs in the way it does because of entropy; entropy is in the same temporal direction that the universe is expanding. Everything that we perceive in the universe arises from that context.

    Yet in the hyperdimensional context from which our universe arose, it might indeed be possible for an effect to lead to its own cause; for entropy to be either reversed, and/or varying from positive to negative based on unknown factors, and/or completely nonexistent.

    I cheerfully admit that this is all speculation. I don’t have a genuine grasp of how to express this with consistent mathematics (if that is even possible) or in a way that better references current cosmological observations and knowledge.

    But I note that there are, after all, arxiv papers that are speculating on that sort of similarly looping cosmology. One paper I recently noted was one that suggested that universes might give rise to other universes, and one of those universes could consistently give rise to its own parent. The universe as ultimately self-caused rather than uncaused. I couldn’t follow more than the abstract describing the idea, though.

  331. #331 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Minsky certainly did a lot of impressive work, but I would take him far more seriously as a cognitive scientist if he hadn’t said “Within 10 years computers won’t even keep us as pets”…in 1967. (Wasn’t AI all cute and wildly exuberant back then?)

    I would take you more seriously (though not much) if you didn’t choose how seriously to take Minsky based on a comment 40 years ago that is very uncharacteristic of Minsky since then.

    The neural processes that produce consciousness definitely run in parallel, but the question of whether the experience of consciousness itself is “linear or parallel” seems a rather odd question to me. My problem with Dennett is that he seems to confuse the two.

    Sigh. What Dennett has spent a lot of effort to show is that there is no such thing as “the experience of consciousness itself” separate from or in addition to the the brain processes that constitute consciousness. Those processes construct a model of an unified self-contained homuncular self “having experience”, but there is no such homunculus.

  332. #332 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    ” If you agree that consciousness is a product of parallel neural processes, what else is there but parallel neural processes to do the experiencing?”

    I think it is a confusion to say that the processes themselves are doing the experiencing, just as it is a confusion to say that bits on a DVD of Hamlet are doing Shakespeare. The neural processes produce consciousness, but those processes themselves qua neural processes aren’t consciousness.

    You notably didn’t answer the question, you anti-materialist twit.

    When you play your DVD on your home theater system, the whole system is “doing Shakespeare”.

  333. #333 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    “If the universe is “primed to express” the things you name, then it is “primed to express” everything that happens, including suffering, death, ugliness, stupidity, malaria (Behe’s pet), ebola, and my noting what a moron you are.”

    That’s like saying that highway engineers must want accidents to happen.

    No, moron, it’s like saying what it says — something you can’t answer, so you invent a strawman that at the same time begs the question (which is whether there are highway engineers).

    In fact, you get it exactly backwards — it is you who are insisting that, say, traffic accidents out on the Oceano dunes proves that the dunes were designed by traffic engineers.

  334. #334 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    If Neil B. wants humanity to change substrate and upload mankind’s greatest hits into the seraphic robotic silicon bodies of Sparkle Crest Aliens that go all Von Neumann Machine on the universe, teleologically spooging in a Tiplerian wet dream that creates an alternate universe where Neil’s posts make sense, he’d better pray that Chalmers, with all his philosophical zombies, is as much of a dementard as Neil is.

    Actually, Chalmers’s view in this world, with its particular “psycho-physical laws”, silicon robots are just as capable of being conscious as humans — this follows from his notion of “organizational invariance”. In zombie world, which (according to Chalmers) lacks the “bridging laws” of ours, the robots running the programs of our zombie counterparts are zombie robots, while in this world robots running our programs would be just as conscious as we are.

  335. #335 Ken Cope
    January 21, 2008

    robots running the programs of our zombie counterparts are zombie robots

    I’m going to have to dig deeper to understand what Chalmers wants to prove with pzombies; ostensibly he wouldn’t be a Mysterian if silicon robots properly built would be as conscious as we are, but those who need qualia to exist point their fingers and shriek at Dennett like pod people discovering somebody who has avoided being replaced by their pod.

  336. #336 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Would you have any clue how to make a circuit to feel nauseated, really, the way you could imagine how to program it to play chess? Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing. Chalmers is right.

    It’s amusing just how wrong you dualists can get this stuff. Making a circuit to feel nauseated is an engineering problem, the sort of thing Chalmers considers (with just such examples) to be an “easy” problem; the human body contains such circuits, as do our counterparts in Chalmers’ zombie world (but according to Chalmers, while the zombie circuits do exactly the same thing as ours, being physically identical, the zombies don’t have the mental state of being nauseated, although they show all the same physical responses, including claiming that they are nauseated).

    Oh, and a computer playing chess is “just a bunch of signals or logical processing”, yet it plays chess too.

  337. #337 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Oh, posh. ‘Giving in like measure’ when someone calls you a moron is to call him one, not to suggest they might as well kill themselves if they don’t agree with you. It’s a complete non sequitur anyway – if someone says that evolution seems better primed to produce insects than humans, do you assume that this person would rather be an insect? WTF?

    WTF, Windy, is that I call Neil a moron precisely because of this sort of illogic.

  338. #338 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    I still have the Guinness bottle he drank out of when I had him stay over back in the day. I can’t be all that bad if I hung out with old Bob.

    You’re not “all that bad” because you’ve enshrined some futurist wanker’s sloppy seconds?

  339. #339 Ken Cope
    January 21, 2008

    When you play your DVD on your home theater system, the whole system is “doing Shakespeare”.

    That would be the systems answer provided by Hofstadter in The Mind’s Eye, which, if I understand it correctly, would map here to include the home theater system (the Chinese Room that follows the rules uncomprehendingly to send pixels to one device and 7.1 channels of audio to others) the DVD provides the raw bits that the home theater system unwittingly “translates” into something the viewer contends with, all parts of one system performing and (at least attempting to be) appreciating Shakespeare.

  340. #340 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    If thermostats can be said to be conscious (Chalmers)

    That was McCarthy, not Chalmers.

  341. #341 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    I doubt very seriously that any mere mathematical model or information flow can “run” something like subjectively given qualities. IOW, it can be like that in the world, but it can’t be modeled as a mathematical process.

    Very dense people doubt all sorts of things very seriously.

    Clearly the physical human organism can be modeled. In addition, we already have models that do a good job of explaining why an organism such as we are has the behaviors and behavioral dispositions we have, including such behaviors as our folk psychology and our claims about consciousness and what it is like. Minsky made the point in Society of Mind that a system organized in certain ways would create the sort of self-models that we do. This explains why things seem to us the way they do. Not only is an adequate explanation, it’s the only sort of explanation that is logically possible. No “third person” or “objective” explanation will contain “first person” or “subjective” elements; a description of why we say the things we do about, say, colors, won’t itself have color experience, or induce color experience by virtue of reading it — to insist upon the impossible before accepting an explanation is stupid and intellectually dishonest.

  342. #342 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    I think of a structured First Cause as being a bit like the gyroscopic ether of Victorian physics.

    And I think of you as being a bit like Zippy the Pinhead. At least my view is grounded in reality.

  343. #343 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Tony, you’re at least providing some fresh air here.

    For methane breathers.

  344. #344 windy
    January 21, 2008

    #331: Chalmers has discussed it too, but he must have got it from McCarthy, then. My point was not so much to provide an original reference for the idea, but to spell out for Neil the dishonesty/ignorance of trying to gotcha us with “you can’t make a circuit feel stuff” and two sentences later appealing to Chalmers, who has at least seriously considered panpsychism.

  345. #345 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    I’m going to have to dig deeper to understand what Chalmers wants to prove with pzombies

    Frankly, if you don’t know that, you don’t know anything about Chalmers or pzombies. He wants to prove that physicalism is false; that’s the whole purpose of the invention (by Robert Kirk) of pzombies. But some people have moved on:

    http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/philosophy/staff/robert-kirk.php:

    Robert Kirk is Emeritus Professor in the Department. His main interests are consciousness, physicalism, and intentionality. He is also known for his work on Quine’s doctrine of the indeterminacy of translation. His publications include Translation Determined (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), Raw Feeling (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, paperback 1996), Relativism and Reality (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), Mind and Body (Chesham: Acumen, 2003), and Zombies and Consciousness (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005) which to some extent atones for his error in having defended the possibility of zombies in articles in 1974. (For more about zombies, see his entry in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies/.) He is currently working on a book on physicalism and the necessity of the physical-mental connection.

    ostensibly he wouldn’t be a Mysterian if silicon robots properly built would be as conscious as we are

    Wrong. Chalmers’ explanation as to why they would be as conscious as we are is that they necessarily obey the “psycho-physical laws” of this universe. Among other possibilities, Chalmers entertains the notion of “panprotopsychism”, which is that all matter has some “proto-psychic” attribute which, when joined together in certain configurations (like human brains or functionally equivalent robot brains) produces consciousness.

    but those who need qualia to exist point their fingers and shriek at Dennett like pod people discovering somebody who has avoided being replaced by their pod

    Chalmers is a banner carrier of the qualiaphiles. Chalmers doesn’t just point his finger, he also points his hair dryer:

    This morning Dave Chalmers displayed his prototype “consciousness meter” for the first time during a debate with Paul Churchland. (OK — the thing looked like a hair-dryer but it can’t have been, as the qualia-detection light, functioning when the machine was directed towards ordinary mortals, only flickered when pointed at Pat and was resolutely off when aimed at Dan Dennett . . .)

  346. #346 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    I’m going to have to dig deeper to understand what Chalmers wants to prove with pzombies

    Frankly, if you don’t know that, you don’t know anything about Chalmers or pzombies. He wants to prove that physicalism is false; that’s the whole purpose of the invention (by Robert Kirk) of pzombies. But some people have moved on:

    http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/philosophy/staff/robert-kirk.php:

    Robert Kirk is Emeritus Professor in the Department. His main interests are consciousness, physicalism, and intentionality. He is also known for his work on Quine’s doctrine of the indeterminacy of translation. His publications include Translation Determined (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), Raw Feeling (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, paperback 1996), Relativism and Reality (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), Mind and Body (Chesham: Acumen, 2003), and Zombies and Consciousness (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005) which to some extent atones for his error in having defended the possibility of zombies in articles in 1974. (For more about zombies, see his entry in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at: plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies/.) He is currently working on a book on physicalism and the necessity of the physical-mental connection.

    ostensibly he wouldn’t be a Mysterian if silicon robots properly built would be as conscious as we are

    Wrong. Chalmers’ explanation as to why they would be as conscious as we are is that they necessarily obey the “psycho-physical laws” of this universe. Among other possibilities, Chalmers entertains the notion of “panprotopsychism”, which is that all matter has some “proto-psychic” attribute which, when joined together in certain configurations (like human brains or functionally equivalent robot brains) produces consciousness.

    but those who need qualia to exist point their fingers and shriek at Dennett like pod people discovering somebody who has avoided being replaced by their pod

    Chalmers is a banner carrier of the qualiaphiles. Chalmers doesn’t just point his finger, he also points his hair dryer:

    This morning Dave Chalmers displayed his prototype “consciousness meter” for the first time during a debate with Paul Churchland. (OK — the thing looked like a hair-dryer but it can’t have been, as the qualia-detection light, functioning when the machine was directed towards ordinary mortals, only flickered when pointed at Pat and was resolutely off when aimed at Dan Dennett . . .)

  347. #347 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Chalmers has discussed it too

    Ah, you’re right, sorry.

    but he must have got it from McCarthy, then.

    Definitely.

    to spell out for Neil the dishonesty

    I think you missed a major case of it. You asked him “Why should the universe incorporate my values on this matter, and not the values of Dr Mengele, Genghis Khan or commenter Jamie?” Rather than answering, he wrote about the inherent worth of humans being real and “If it can be real, I say the universe can incorporate it. If you don’t believe it is real, then you aren’t even an ethical humanist but a nihilist.” and you took the bait (not that your response wasn’t valid in its own right).

  348. #348 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    That would be the systems answer provided by Hofstadter in The Mind’s Eye, which, if I understand it correctly, would map here to include the home theater system (the Chinese Room that follows the rules uncomprehendingly to send pixels to one device and 7.1 channels of audio to others) the DVD provides the raw bits that the home theater system unwittingly “translates” into something the viewer contends with, all parts of one system performing and (at least attempting to be) appreciating Shakespeare.

    Neil’s example is even dumber than Searle’s CR. Searle was at least devious enough to insert a human being (but performing functions that no human is capable of) into the room as a means of misdirection, but there is no human who is “doing Shakespeare” in the home theater system; there doesn’t even need to be a (possibly now dead) actor, as it could be an animation. Neil said “it is a confusion to say that bits on a DVD of Hamlet are doing Shakespeare”, but the confusion is all his, on multiple levels; you were talking about processes, but bits aren’t processes, and you were talking about experiencing, not “doing”.

    There is a good analogy here, though not one that mysterians like Neil (or Tulse) can appreciate: the person in the room with the theater system is experiencing a “Shakespeare” quale, but that quale is no more ineffable or irreducible to physical processes as are color hue quales.

  349. #349 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Neil’s example … Neil said … mysterians like Neil (or Tulse)

    Oops, it was Tulse’s example. Well, they are indistinguishable on this issue.

  350. #350 windy
    January 21, 2008

    you took the bait

    Mea culpa, man, but by then there were too many glaring contradictions to address before the inevitable meltdown. BTW, what was all that about being “Victorian”?

    To go off on a tangent, here’s something interesting I found while looking for a link. Dennett writes

    In an elegant paper, “Cued and detached representations in animal cognition,” Peter Gärdenfors (forthcoming) points out “why a snake can’t think of a mouse.” It seems that a snake does not have a central representation of a mouse but relies solely on transduced information. The snake exploits three different sensory systems in relation to prey, like a mouse. To strike the mouse, the snake uses its visual system (or thermal sensors). When struck, the mouse normally does not die immediately, but runs away for some distance. To locate the mouse, once the prey has been struck, the snake uses its sense of smell. The search behavior is exclusively wired to this modality. Even if the mouse happens to die right in front of the eyes of the snake, it will still follow the smell trace of the mouse in order to find it. This unimodality is particularly evident in snakes like boas and pythons, where the prey often is held fast in the coils of the snake’s body, when it .e.g. hangs from a branch. Despite the fact that the snake must have ample proprioceptory information about the location of the prey it holds, it searches stochastically for it, all around, only with the help of the olfactory sense organs. (Sjölander, 1993, p. 3) Finally, after the mouse has been located, the snake must find its head in order to swallow it. This could obviously be done with the aid of smell or sight, but in snakes this process uses only tactile information. Thus the snake uses three separate modalities to catch and eat a mouse.

  351. #351 Ken Cope
    January 21, 2008

    Your Chalmers profile is pretty scary. I knew he was an anti-physicalist, opposed to a computational model of consciousness, but I was thrown for a loop considering he might think machines could be conscious. But then you reassure me that he explains that robot consciousness would be due to dualist magic pixie dust or whatever it is he’s promoting, and then I’m even sadder (not just because it tends to vitiate my little retort). When I read trendoids like Jaron Lanier sputtering in revulsion about Dennett, citing Chalmers and raising pzombies, I recoil from wanting to descend sufficiently into madness to follow the inanity of the argument, and am happy to have more deeply explored Minsky, Hofstadter, and Dennett. At least in trying to follow Penrose, I can learn something about physics and math, while playing spot the bad argument. When the Mysterians wonder what it’s like to be a bat in a Chinese Room full of philosophical zombies, about the only thing I learn is that I’m glad I stopped smoking pot almost 3 decades ago.

  352. #352 Ken Cope
    January 21, 2008

    There is a good analogy here, though not one that mysterians like Neil (or Tulse) can appreciate: the person in the room with the theater system is experiencing a “Shakespeare” quale, but that quale is no more ineffable or irreducible to physical processes as are color hue quales.

    I like it better as a stored and retrievable externally accessible quale. I’m trying to imagine objections. “It wouldn’t be an actual Shakespeare quale, it would be a Shakespeare quale trigger, still requiring a homunculus to experience it…”

  353. #353 Tulse
    January 21, 2008

    Oh, dear — with much trepidation I will jump back into it with tm, (although I will try to confine my remarks to a single, albeit long, post):

    I would take you more seriously (though not much) if you didn’t choose how seriously to take Minsky based on a comment 40 years ago that is very uncharacteristic of Minsky since then.

    Perhaps it is uncharacteristic because his prediction didn’t come to pass thirty years ago. But you’re right, we all make comments in our youth that we regret.

    What Dennett has spent a lot of effort to show is that there is no such thing as “the experience of consciousness itself” separate from or in addition to the the brain processes that constitute consciousness. Those processes construct a model of an unified self-contained homuncular self “having experience”, but there is no such homunculus.

    Yeah, that’s what he says, and he’s simply confused, since a model requires someone to interpret it. Representations aren’t just representations of something, but they are also representations to someone. You can’t have an “illusion” of consciousness without someone who is being fooled by that illusion. A symbol without a symbol interpreter is not just meaningless, but an incoherent concept. And a system can no more recursively generate such meaning than a tube with mirrors sealed at either end generates reflections.

    I can produce a mathematical model that models perfectly the behaviour of a physical systems of springs. That identical mathematical model can also model perfectly a system of electrical circuits. Which system is it really modeling? The one that I choose, of course — it is modeling nothing independent of how I use it. Without such an interpretation, models aren’t models.

    And all of this is just how you get semantics out of Dennett’s approach — the problem of subjective experience is the issue I’m most interested in, and in that domain Dennett is nowhere.

    I think it is a confusion to say that the processes themselves are doing the experiencing, just as it is a confusion to say that bits on a DVD of Hamlet are doing Shakespeare. The neural processes produce consciousness, but those processes themselves qua neural processes aren’t consciousness.

    Right, and if you did whatever physical reduction you want, you wouldn’t find a need for the notion of “consciousness” qua subjectivity in those processes. In other words, you could describe them fully in physical terms, implement an atom-by-atom duplication of them, and at no point would you need to import the notion of subjective experience. See, the problem is that we seem to be able to give a complete physical description of the universe without the notion of subjective experience. Which make it really problematic to say that anything that falls under such a description could be an explanation for consciousness.

    When you play your DVD on your home theater system, the whole system is “doing Shakespeare”.

    For that to be true, the “whole system” has to include me as the one who is understanding that the system is doing that. Without that interpretation, the “system” is doing a whole bunch of things: producing heat, spinning a mass, emitting photons (from the screen, but also from the various component displays, and the DVD laser), causing the physical movement of air molecules (through the speakers, but also through the heat, and through whatever fans the system may have). The only way that the system is “doing Shakespeare” is if I, or someone else, interprets it to be doing Shakespeare. The meaning, the “modeling”, is imported into the system, it is not an inherent part of it. And such modeling isn’t an option if you want explain how meaning gets there in the first place.

    Actually, Chalmers’s view in this world, with its particular “psycho-physical laws”, silicon robots are just as capable of being conscious as humans — this follows from his notion of “organizational invariance”

    …aka “functionalism”, with all its attendant problems, only an even more limited notion of functionalism since is seems to have this odd modal restriction to our universe (and presumably some universes like ours), rather than to all possible worlds. In other words, a contingently-true functionalism, which is seriously silly, and gets you nowhere (but not as far as good old-fashioned functionalism, which itself really only dealt with semantics, and not with subjectivity anyway).

    Oh, and a computer playing chess is “just a bunch of signals or logical processing”, yet it plays chess too.

    No, it is a physical system that we interpret as playing chess. It could just as easily be modeling something else, or nothing at all. (As a thought experiment, imagine that this computer pops into existence in a world where chess doesn’t exist — is it “playing chess” in that world, or is it just producing some rule-governed behaviours?)

    Resorting to “modeling” won’t get you what you need (either in terms of semantics or subjectivity).

    Making a circuit to feel nauseated is an engineering problem

    Making a circuit appear to feel nauseated, act as if it is nauseated, is indeed easy — how we would determine whether it felt nauseated (or anything at all) is precisely what we’re debating.

    “If thermostats can be said to be conscious (Chalmers)”
    That was McCarthy, not Chalmers.

    To be more accurate, McCarthy was talking about beliefs, not consciousness. The former does not necessarily have a subjective component. While the discussion in this thread has in many cases conflated the notion of semantic content (how can something think) with subjectivity (how can something feel like), the two are very separate problems.

  354. #354 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Yeah, that’s what he says, and he’s simply confused, since a model requires someone to interpret it.

    That’s as stupid as claiming that a design needs a designer.

    A model doesn’t need a “someone”, it needs a “something”, and the thing is the same multi-draft process that produces the model. As Dennett and Minsky note, this sort of thing is hard for pre-computational thinkers to comprehend.

    I’ve discussed these issues with Dennett, Minsky, Robert Kirk, and many many other very bright people … even Chalmers, although he was drunk at the time … I’m not going to waste any more of my time discussing it with a dullard like you.

  355. #355 Tulse
    January 21, 2008

    A model doesn’t need a “someone”, it needs a “something”, and the thing is the same multi-draft process that produces the model.

    Right, so the model is a model to the model. Hofstadter thought that recursion would somehow magically produce semantics, and the “multiple draft” approach is really no different.

    As Dennett and Minsky note, this sort of thing is hard for pre-computational thinkers to comprehend.

    An insult is hardly an argument.

    I’ve discussed these issues with Dennett, Minsky, Robert Kirk, and many many other very bright people … even Chalmers

    So have I, sonny Jim. I’m not impressed with names — I much prefer arguments.

  356. #356 Tony Jeremiah
    January 21, 2008

    @334 (truth machine)

    Apparently.

  357. #357 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    Your Chalmers profile is pretty scary. I knew he was an anti-physicalist, opposed to a computational model of consciousness, but I was thrown for a loop considering he might think machines could be conscious.

    Don’t forget that Searle also is opposed to a computational model of consciousness, but thinks that machines can be conscious if their physical implementation has the right “causal powers”. Chalmers totally rejects Searle’s anti-functional argument, while Searle rejects Chalmers’s dualism. They are both mightily confused, although Chalmers is a much much brighter guy than Searle.

    When I read trendoids like Jaron Lanier sputtering in revulsion about Dennett

    I confronted Lanier after he gave a talk in Tucson (the same event and room in which Chalmers pointed his hair dryer at Dennett) in which he attempted to explain Alan Turing’s computational views in terms of his being homosexual; while Chalmers was joking about Dennett not understanding consciousness because he’s a zombie, Lanier was dead serious. The man is slime.

  358. #358 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    So have I, sonny Jim. I’m not impressed with names — I much prefer arguments.

    Oh, like “he’s simply confused, since a model requires someone to interpret it”? None of your claims against Dennett’s views have any merit. Dennett’s arguments have been given at length elsewhere; if you find them “confused”. so much the worse for you. As Valerie Hardcastle once said, at some point naturalists need to simply ignore the naysayers and focus on with the work of figuring this stuff out — and a lot has been achieved since then.

  359. #359 Tulse
    January 21, 2008

    Chalmers totally rejects Searle’s anti-functional argument

    As I read Chalmers, he only rejects anti-functionalism in this particular world — the point of Zombie World is that functionalism is not necessarily true for all possible worlds. I honestly don’t know how Chalmers resolves the notion of functionalism in this world but not others without resorting to some sort of handwaving like Searle’s “causal powers” argument, which is pretty much what “organizational invariance” is — “in this world, putting things together in a certain way produces subjective experience”. Presumably that is just a brute fact of this universe (it is clearly not necessary, since he argues that Zombie World is possible), just like Searle’s “causal powers” are brute facts.

    Oh, like “he’s simply confused, since a model requires someone to interpret it”?

    Yep, that’s pretty much the short version.

    Dennett’s arguments have been given at length elsewhere

    As have objections to his position. I thought we were discussing the issue here, though, which is why I raised the objections, which haven’t been responded to (saying “multiple drafts” as if it is a magic incantation is not a response). But this thread has gone on for quite a while, so if you want to bail on it, I’m happy to as well.

  360. #360 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    In an elegant paper, “Cued and detached representations in animal cognition,” Peter Gärdenfors (forthcoming) points out “why a snake can’t think of a mouse.”

    This reiterates part of Dennett’s response in “Dennett and his Critics” where he comments on Kathleen Akin’s analysis of whether bats can be said to have a concept of an object:

    there might not be anything at all that it is like to be a bat. “Nagel inadvisedly assumes” that a bat must have a point of view, but, Akins claims, if the bat is well designed in a cost-effective way, this may be gratuitous.

  361. #361 truth machine
    January 21, 2008

    I thought we were discussing the issue here

    I was chatting with Ken about the foolishiness of mysterians.

  362. #362 Tony Jeremiah
    January 21, 2008

    @321 (windy)

    Speculative it is.

    At this point, I also would be unable to (at least immediately) grasp the symbolic jargon that is mathematics in order to comprehend those papers, but I do believe they are capable of being intuited if the right metaphorical devices are employed (e.g., something like Feynman diagrams, electron dot formulas, and the periodic table, which are mostly non-mathematical but can make predictions).

    And really, it’s the predictions that are important regardless of whether they are based on mathematical or metaphorical deductions.

    As an example, if the clock model is correct, it predicts that there will be a difference in the speed at which time moves for atomic clocks that rotate at different speeds; a physically rotating atomic clock should be observed to have faster moving time than a stationary atomic clock.

    This is slightly different than an experiment testing a relativity prediction that a moving clock (not a rotating one) would be observed to show a slower progression of time than a stationary clock.

    I’m not sure if there are any physics models that make predictions about physically rotating atomic clocks.

  363. #363 Ken Cope
    January 22, 2008

    Penrose agrees with only the part of the conclusion of Searle’s Chinese Room that has it that actual understanding does not transpire, but considers the argument superfluous and the thought experiment unachievable on any computer, ever. He goes so far as to deny the possibility that any computer will ever be able to translate symbols from another language and generate appropriate responses in that same symbol system–effectively, that no computer will ever pass the Turing test.

    Other mysterians include fideist Martin Gardner (who wrote an introduction to the second of Penrose’s anti-computationalist screeds, and yet bequeathed his mathematical games column to Douglas Hofstadter (not a mysterian, who renamed the column with the anagram metamagical themas) and Noam Chomsky (why, do insoluble problems exist for the sake of the word mystery?). If people paid serious attention to those who say things can’t be done, nothing would ever be accomplished.

    In an awesomely pretentious SIGGRAPH performance I saw, Jaron lost his virtual saxaphone in front of the full house, because he had accidentally translated it behind his head, to the full view of everybody in the auditorium but him. An ex-boss of mine was reduced to apoplexy the day Lanier’s stipple portrait appeared in the Wall Street Journal, livid that that man “made women [swoon].” His consternation was perhaps the only time I’ve seen that former employer capable of passing the Turing test in person.

  364. #364 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    If people paid serious attention to those who say things can’t be done, nothing would ever be accomplished.

    Ken, the issue with regards to subjective experience is whether it would be possible epistemically for us to know if we had accomplished it artificially, to know if we had an explanation. I personally don’t doubt at all that one could recreate the human brain functionally in silicon, neuron by neuron, and produce behaviour identical to that of a human. The problem is how would we know that such behaviour is accompanied by subjective experience? In other words, what empirical test could we perform that would tell us whether functionalism for subjective experience in correct, or whether something like Searle’s “causal powers” “explanation” is correct? (For the record, I think Searle’s account is silly, but I don’t know how we would rule it out empirically.)

    The issue is most decidedly not about the ability to create cool computers that do cool things. The issue is whether such cool things are accompanied by subjective experience (and if so, how).

  365. #365 truth machine
    January 22, 2008

    Penrose agrees with only the part of the conclusion of Searle’s Chinese Room that has it that actual understanding does not transpire, but considers the argument superfluous and the thought experiment unachievable on any computer, ever. He goes so far as to deny the possibility that any computer will ever be able to translate symbols from another language and generate appropriate responses in that same symbol system–effectively, that no computer will ever pass the Turing test.

    While Chalmers rejects Searle’s argument for all the right reasons, Penrose rejects it for all the wrong ones. Turing anticipated Penrose in his original paper:

    3) The Mathematical Objection

    There are a number of results of mathematical logic which can be used to show that there are limitations to the powers of discrete-state machines. The best known of these results is known as Gödel’s theorem(2), and shows that in any sufficiently powerful logical system statements can be formulated which can neither be proved nor disproved within the system, unless possibly the system itself is inconsistent. There are other, in some respects similar, results due to Church, Kleene, Rosser, and Turing. The latter result is the most convenient to consider, since it refers directly to machines, whereas the others can only be used in a comparatively indirect argument: for instance if Gödel’s theorem is to be used we need in addition to have some means of describing logical systems in terms of machines, and machines in terms of logical systems. The result in question refers to a type of machine which is essentially a digital computer with an infinite capacity. It states that there are certain things that such a machine cannot do. If it is rigged up to give answers to questions as in the imitation game, there will be some questions to which it will either give a wrong answer, or fail to give an answer at all however much time is allowed for a reply. There may, of course, be many such questions, and questions which cannot be answered by one machine may be satisfactorily answered by another. We are of course supposing for the present that the questions are of the kind to which an answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is appropriate, rather than questions such as ‘What do you think of Picasso?’ The questions that we know the machines must fail on are of this type, “Consider the machine specified as follows. . . . Will this machine ever answer ‘Yes’ to any question?” The dots are to be replaced by a description of some machine in a standard form, which could be something like that used in § 5. When the machine described bears a certain comparatively simple relation to the machine which is under interrogation, it can be shown that the answer is either wrong or not forthcoming. This is the mathematical result: it is argued that it proves a disability of machines to which the human intellect is not subject.

    The short answer to this argument is that although it is established that there are limitations to the powers of any particular machine, it has only been stated, without any sort of proof, that no such limitations apply to the human intellect. But I do not think this view can be dismissed quite so lightly. Whenever one of these machines is asked the appropriate critical question, and gives a definite answer, we know that this answer must be wrong, and this gives us a certain feeling of superiority. Is this feeling illusory? It is no doubt quite genuine, but I do not think too much importance should be attached to it. We too often give wrong answers to questions ourselves to be justified in being very pleased at such evidence of fallibility on the part of the machines. Further, our superiority can only be felt on such an occasion in relation to the one machine over which we have scored our petty triumph. There would be no question of triumphing simultaneously over all machines. In short, then, there might be men cleverer than any given machine, but then again there might be other machines cleverer again, and so on.

    Those who hold to the mathematical argument would, I think, mostly be willing to accept the imitation game as a basis for discussion. Those who believe in the two previous objections would probably not be interested in any criteria.

    Actually, Penrose seems to violate the first sentence of Turing’s last paragraph.

  366. #366 truth machine
    January 22, 2008

    Ken, the issue with regards to subjective experience is whether it would be possible epistemically for us to know if we had accomplished it artificially, to know if we had an explanation.

    We can’t “epistemically know” anything empirical, fool. In particular, we can’t “epistemically know” that you aren’t a zombie. But we can know that we have a model of human cognition that explains everything important about it, including why humans say what they do about “subjective experience” — making the notion of “subjective experience” as some sort of add-on superfluous.

    The issue is whether such cool things are accompanied by subjective experience (and if so, how).

    The notion that “subjective experience” is something above and beyond an aspect of the physical processes of the brain is what Dennett calls “the Zombic Hunch”. It’s a sort of mental disease that neither Ken nor I suffer from.

  367. #367 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2008

    I personally don’t doubt at all that one could recreate the human brain functionally in silicon, neuron by neuron, and produce behaviour identical to that of a human. The problem is how would we know that such behaviour is accompanied by subjective experience?

    There’s something very wrong with those above lines. I think it’s the implicit solipsism.

    How do you know that any behaviour of any human that isn’t yourself is accompanied by subjective experience?

    When truth machine calls you a fool, do you assume that there’s real irritation motivating the insult, or instead that there is simply the appearance of irritation? And how do you know, one way or the other?

    For that matter, how do you know that you yourself have subjective experience? Maybe all you have is the sensation of subjective experience, which feels exactly the same to you as real subjective experience would, but is in actuality just a sensory illusion.

    And so on and so forth. I think that hair is split pretty fine at this point.

  368. #368 Tony Jeremiah
    January 22, 2008

    Re:The notion that “subjective experience” is something above and beyond an aspect of the physical processes of the brain is what Dennett calls “the Zombic Hunch”. It’s a sort of mental disease that neither Ken nor I suffer from.

    **Adherence to the Zombic hunch would seem to be an important requirement for passing the Turing test.

    Re:How do you know that any behaviour of any human that isn’t yourself is accompanied by subjective experience?

    Emotional states. Without them, the Zombic hunch would probably not exist.

  369. #369 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    How do you know that any behaviour of any human that isn’t yourself is accompanied by subjective experience?

    I presume that, because other people are made of the same stuff I am, in roughly the same physical arrangement, they probably work the same way I do. I don’t have direct access to their subjective states, but because I presume that the causal processes must be pretty similar, I can presume that they are like me regarding this feature.

    The issue is what in particular is it about that arrangement of physical stuff that causes subjective experience. You can offer a purely functionalist account if you like, such as Dennett does, and that’s probably a reasonable hypothesis, but it is philosophy, and not science, unless it can be tested. There are other hypotheses that offer other explanations (often quite silly), but I don’t see any suggestion of how to rule out those alternatives scientifically. Instead, all I see is faith in functionalism.

    When truth machine calls you a fool, do you assume that there’s real irritation motivating the insult, or instead that there is simply the appearance of irritation?

    If truth machine were a chatbot, spitting out insults in response to key phrases, would such software actually be experiencing irritation? Surely there must be more that just the appearance of subjective states? If not, a Furby or Pleo has subjective states, and a giant lookup table would have subjective states.

    For that matter, how do you know that you yourself have subjective experience? Maybe all you have is the sensation of subjective experience, which feels exactly the same to you as real subjective experience would, but is in actuality just a sensory illusion.

    Now that is a statement from someone in the grip of an ideology. It does no use to feign anesthesia, and, as I pointed out earlier, it is idiotic in the extreme to say that subjective experience is an illusion, since illusions are subjective experiences. Sure, it makes sense to say that one’s experiences are not veridical, that through various experiments and neurological conditions experiences can be decomposed and studied. But to claim we don’t have subjective experiences is to drop yourself in to Chalmers’ Zombie World. You can do that if you like, but I actually believe Descartes that the only information we can be absolutely certain of is that we have experiences.

  370. #370 windy
    January 22, 2008

    There’s something very wrong with those above lines. I think it’s the implicit solipsism.

    Not to mention that if one seriously holds that there would be no possible way to tell* if sufficiently advanced zombies/robots had subjective experience, they must believe that their subjective experience has no effect on their own behaviour. In other words, it’s not you who physically produces and types in these comments discussing your subjective experience, it’s your material body that’s producing such behaviour zombie-like, while you sit on the platonic plane feeling stuff.

    (*Tulse may not have been implying this, but some people do)

  371. #371 Tony Jeremiah
    January 22, 2008

    @360

    I would also add that in the non-Zombie world (i.e., planet earth), there are phenomena that (perhaps indirectly) suggest how it might be possible to distinguish between human (primarily affective) and computer (primarily cognitive) states; thus making it possible to suggest how one can distinguish between a human and computer in the context of the Turing test.

    One of them involves training soldiers for war. Before it is possible for soldiers to do their job (i.e., take the life of another human being), they must go through some extensive mental training that requires them to view the enemy as nothing more than the sum of their parts. Albert Bandura refers to it as moral disengagement–a process by which another person is dehumanized and essentially viewed as mechanistic. I contend that this is akin to disengaging the (default) Zombic hunch setting.

    Re-engaging that setting occurs when soldiers come back from war, many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, which is essentially a reaction to acts that one would normally not engage in under normal circumstances (assuming non-psychopathic tendencies).

    In the Zombie world, I would imagine that many emotion-related disorders prominent on planet earth (such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, and SAD), would not exist.

    The Achilles’ Heel for these (primarily cognitive) theories of consciousness, is that (1) they seem to be several steps removed from reality; and (2) they don’t seem to take into account affective states, which by default, result in mechanistic conceptualizations of consciousness.

  372. #372 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    they must believe that their subjective experience has no effect on their own behaviour. In other words, it’s not you who physically produces and types in these comments discussing your subjective experience, it’s your material body that’s producing such behaviour zombie-like

    So you don’t believe it is solely your material body that produces your behaviour? You don’t believe that a full description of your behaviour could be had solely from the purely physical interactions of your neurons? Isn’t that essentially substance dualism?

  373. #373 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    In the Zombie world, I would imagine that many emotion-related disorders prominent on planet earth (such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, and SAD), would not exist.

    So in Zombie world, where the physical brains are literally identical to our own, the effects would be different? There is something else other than our physical brain that makes us act the way we do in this world? Just as in windy’s comment, isn’t this just advocating substance dualism?

  374. #374 windy
    January 22, 2008

    Tulse, no, I said: “IF one seriously holds that there would be no possible way to tell if sufficiently advanced zombies/robots had subjective experience”, then the latter part follows.

    (I don’t mean that we can *know for sure*, just whether it’s testable or not.)

  375. #375 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    Right, windy, so (unless I’m misunderstanding you) if one does hold that there are possible ways to tell if sufficiently advanced zombies/robots had subjective experience, then one must hold that a purely physical description would not suffice to account for all behaviour.

  376. #376 windy
    January 22, 2008

    No, the opposite :) How would we “tell” if not for differences in the physical description?

  377. #377 windy
    January 22, 2008

    Perhaps I’m not making my point clearly enough here. But imagine Android Tulse with a silicon brain and silicon neurons corresponding one-to-one to a human brain. You doubt whether a silicon brain can really experience things. Assume it doesn’t. So what’s going on when the android says “I’m feeling a bit under the weather”? How is this behaviour (talking about experience it doesn’t have) produced?

  378. #378 Neil B.
    January 22, 2008

    Wow, this thread is still interesting and got into Mysterians and all that stuff, once more of us appreciated that real thinking was preferable to cynical trollplay (but I appreciate that has its place, maybe not very far up the totem pole …) Did you know that “96 Tears” was originally to be titled “69 Tears”, but the band was afraid of censors or etc. finding that number too interesting? I think “137 Tears” would have made a good point but been a clunky title. Why being able to argue sophisticated points isn’t correlated well enough with getting what point someone else is trying to make, I still don’t get.

    OK, I won’t give up yet.


    You now seem to be arguing that the First Cause is ultimately some sort of hypercosmic transistor circuit or thermostat or whatever it is you mean by the rather incoherent “gyroscopic ether of Victorian physics”; something that has no awareness or ability to behave in a way other than it does as a regulator and generator of universes.

    I made it clear that the gyroscopic ether (their actual model, don’t blame me but do your sci-history homework) was something I was making fun of, the sort of thing that people *like you* think (in the context of getting it all off the ground) a causative or law-expressing agency has to be. I don’t know, none of us does anyway pro or con, but do think “It” is aware and has purpose. That does not have to translate into “processes” in the sense of shifting content from one moment to another. I do not think such a Ground must have parts and machinery, and it is dangerous (yeah, I know …) to compare to our own example.

    Note that there is a strong argument against the notion that what produces complexity in some sense must be complex in ironically the argument that some physicists use to account for the universe. They say some state of space or perhaps some pre-space popped “the” or at least our universe in a mega analogy more or less to virtual particle production. Well, if such a “space” without parts can do that, regardless of what went into thinking it can, that works against the idea that a “creator” has to be complex. I say, if that pre-space or whatever can “express” mathematical elegance or symmetry or whatever, I think it can express other “ideas” as well, as well as partake of “consciousness” (whatever it is in principle as a fundamental, not to be confused with what makes this or that be its contents and process) at least in some unchanging and basic form.

    As for why can’t our universe just be self-existent, I answered that before with what I consider a matter of basic logical credulity:

    It is legitimate to question wonder why a non-specific, non-predicate abstraction like “exist” should or even could have blessed this particular form and nature of things instead of other logically possible worlds with other laws and constants etc. To me, that would be a ridiculous existential loose end flapping around, like the number “137″ just for no good reason (as a *number* per se …) being reified into brass numerals somewhere. Of course, maybe “everything” exists which is modal realism’s answer to the question of apparently unjustified (in “logical terms”) existential selectivity. I will not even respect the vacuous playground answer “why not?” Well, what do you think? (I fully respect those who take a complete pass on such issues, but don’t pretend that you can play the game but not get muddy like me.)

  379. #379 Tony Jeremiah
    January 22, 2008

    @364

    Not advocating anything except pragmatism (i.e., empiricism) really.

    I’m suggesting that based on real-world phenomena, there would be a difference between p-zombies and humans that would likely be related to emotional states. And I can think of at least one study (Eslinger and Damasia, 1985) that gets pretty close to inducing a p-zombie like state in a human. In that study, the researchers examined a man who had damage to the orbitofrontal cortex. They asked him theoretical questions about what he would do in particular moral, ethical, and practical situations and gave sensible answers with careful logic. But when examined in actual situations, he failed to demonstrate similar logic. The authors wrote, “He had learned and used normal patterns of social behavior before his brain lesion, and although he could recall such patterns when he was questioned about their applicability, real-life situations failed to evoke them” (p. 1737).

    The description of this individual seems fairly close to that of a p-zombie. That is, intellectually understanding what behaviors are required in certain situations, but seemingly unable to execute them in actual situations. This is also a fairly close description of autism, and, behavioral therapy is usually necessary in such cases.

    These disorders are generally theorized (I believe) to be a disconnect between cognitive and affective brain regions. So literally, anatomical dualism. And assuming that these two modes of the brain give rise to qualia, we are technically talking about substance dualism if I’m comprehending that term correctly.

    Also from a pragmatic standpoint, Windy’s question (@368) would seem explainable in the context of the person from Eslinger and Damasio’s study, who was noted to have orbitofrontal cortex damage.

  380. #380 windy
    January 22, 2008

    The description of this individual seems fairly close to that of a p-zombie. That is, intellectually understanding what behaviors are required in certain situations, but seemingly unable to execute them in actual situations.

    No, a p-zombie is supposed to be able to *execute* the behaviours perfectly.

  381. #381 Neil B.
    January 22, 2008


    Maybe all you have is the sensation of subjective experience, which feels exactly the same to you as real subjective experience would, but is in actuality just a sensory illusion.

    But then it just is subjective experience, making such a distinction is vacuous. What did *you* mean by “feels …” then if not the way “Mysterians” (and almost every sane person) admits is the raw qualitative nature of their sensorty experience? That’s the sort of confused doubletalk that charlatans like Dennett purvey to those who can be fooled into thinking they can agree with him (Oh, our sensations “aren’t really like that”) and yet still have their experiential cake too (“It seems to feel that certain terrible way that just doesn’t make sense as mere information/data/numbers etc., so it might as well be” etc.) The same goes for his fronting the straw man about whether we have an experience of consciousness but not just the “consciousness” itself (meaning what, pray tell?) He’s trying to double up (in a way that Mysterians don’t tend to do anyway) on what should be just the acceptance of consciousness itself being a sort of cover for awareness in general, like space perhaps for matter etc.

    If what you (and DD) meant was, “Maybe we are like *deluded* (a cognitive concept) robots (all “dark inside”) who merely *think* that they have creepy irreducibly (simple BTW) and ineffable qualities that are worthy of anesthesia etc. in a way that just don’t pass the laugh test for just knowing something, well go ahead and be effectively a schizophrenic who thinks he really doesn’t suffer or have joy in a qualitative phenomenal way that isn’t mappable to data. If someone plays dumb at the getting-off-the-ground stage, that is an argument stopper, but not in the good sense of the term. Really, you finally have to be inauthentic in a flabby way, by prating about just being data etc. and yet knowing damn well you want to avoid “a mysterious terrible something” as the appropriate reason for needing anesthesia. You guys that make fun of Zombies etc, are running away from reality as we actually live it and can’t even act like you really believe your arid arm-chair dismissals. It’s all so phony.

    The dualism issue even, isn’t just about whether experience *is* something “beyond the physical” (the appreciation of which is dependent on various relative encounters anyway) but whether you can understand it and define it by outside approaches. The point is, what “it is like for us” is a relative state of affairs, something we already at least have some physical examples of similar in the case of length contraction, being particle or wave depending on circumstances or interaction, etc. BTW I am not saying that *real robots* we can make wouldn’t actually feel (because of how *our universe* works), just that process/information models can’t explain or describe that, only the behavior. If you want to fret over “How do we know ….” concerning such issues, my answer is not indulgence in pretending things are different, but rather: “Not being able to be sure of such things is just our tough crap.” (REM that positivism can’t even make its claims without breaking its own rules.)

    To follow up more, there doesn’t have to be another “substance” for the same something to be different in relative ways (I think this is Chalmers point and thought of since Spinoza and likely earlier), and the substance being gone (as I argued before) doesn’t have to mean the process can’t “run” somewhere else either. (I just couldn’t resist starting another “quantum woo” sub thread – as if the “woo” was more in how enthusiasts used it than in the universe’s weirdness itself.)

  382. #382 Neil B.
    January 22, 2008

    PS: truth machine, I hope you can provide a big scoop here on modal realism, which I find is one of the hiply cool ideas in philosophy, even though I find reasons to disagree (for example, true quantum randomness not able to be modeled by “mathematical structure” which are logic bound and thus deterministic. Why doesn’t Max Tegmark know any better?)

  383. #383 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2008

    I don’t know, none of us does anyway pro or con, but do think “It” is aware and has purpose.

    You’re contradicting yourself a bit here. If you don’t know, then you can’t make absolute statements, only carefully qualified ones.

    And as for “aware” and “has purpose” — these concepts necessarily require complexity. If you think they don’t, the burden of proof is on you to show how. Even an amoeba, to a small degree, can be described as “aware” and “has purpose”, and is reasonably complex.

    Would you say that the First Cause is more complex than an amoeba, or less?

    They say some state of space or perhaps some pre-space popped “the” or at least our universe in a mega analogy more or less to virtual particle production. Well, if such a “space” without parts can do that, regardless of what went into thinking it can, that works against the idea that a “creator” has to be complex.

    Your example fails to serve your purpose. What you cite is exactly the opposite speculation: that the universe is the result of a process that has no awareness and no purpose. The idea that it serves the idea of a First Cause that is aware and has purpose is like reading a meteorology textbook about the physical processes that lead to lightning, and saying that it supports the existence of Zeus.

    All in all, for someone who is apparently well read, you’re making pretty stupid arguments.

    As for why can’t our universe just be self-existent, I answered that before with what I consider a matter of basic logical credulity:
    It is legitimate to question wonder why a non-specific, non-predicate abstraction like “exist” should or even could have blessed this particular form and nature of things instead of other logically possible worlds with other laws and constants etc. To me, that would be a ridiculous existential loose end flapping around

    And I apply that same argument to your ridiculous purposeful and aware First Cause, itself an existential loose end flapping around.

  384. #384 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2008

    And just to clarify my earlier comment, which appears to have been misconstrued a bit, I copy again the comment by Tulse that I was reacting to:

    I personally don’t doubt at all that one could recreate the human brain functionally in silicon, neuron by neuron, and produce behaviour identical to that of a human. The problem is how would we know that such behaviour is accompanied by subjective experience?

    (emphasis mine, of course)

    My point was that the simulation is described as being exact (I infer “behaviour” to mean not just expressed external behaviour, but also internal neural behavior). All of the emotional centers, the complete orbitofrontal cortex — the whole enchilada is hypothetically in there. The idea that the exact replica of a functioning brain would not have a subjective experience functionally identical to that of any of the 6 billion humans on our planet seems absurd; on what basis would the experience differ? The wording appears to imply dualism, with “subjective experience” being a variant wording for “soul”.

  385. #385 Ken Cope
    January 22, 2008

    The wording appears to imply dualism, with “subjective experience” being a variant wording for “soul”.

    “You can’t fool me, young man, it’s homunculi all the way down!”

  386. #386 Tony Jeremiah
    January 22, 2008

    @371

    Yes. That is indeed the weak point of the argument. Although, I should technically have a stronger argument given my premises are not based on hypothetical entities (i.e., similar to the great sky personality called God).

    Nonetheless, it does seem that the p-zombie argument is glorified radical behaviorism. Particularly if the assumption is that p-zombies BEHAVE exactly the same way that humans do, but don’t have these behaviors governed by qualia. So ultimately, it’s suggesting that Skinner is correct and there is no such thing as mind.

    My contention still, is that the difference between p-zombies and humans involves affective processes. A more complex version of the behaviorist view (Staats’ basic behavioral repertoires), holds that there are three basic categories of behavior: language-cognitive, emotional-motivational, sensory-motor. The first is associated with language as a behavior (e.g., conditioning to say things in particular situations; related to your question); the second associated with how we can learn to associate particular emotions with particular situations; the third associated with performing everyday behavioral tasks (taking a shower, combing hair, cleaning the house).

    I could imagine a situation where p-zombie (or a cyborg of some kind) has protocols for language-cognitive and sensory-motor functioning, but not emotional-motivational functioning. I’d bet such a robot would be indistinguishable from a human and would differ primarily in how it goes about learning and degree of spontaneity.

    While a human might learn (on its own) not to put a fork in a plugged in toaster more than once; a p-zombie might not. With the difference being the qualia of pain experienced by a human. It’s possible that a p-zombie could learn this response (behaviorally) through observational learning.

    If p-zombie learned everything solely through observational learning (i.e., mimicry), probably it would
    be indistinguishable from a human with the exception of lacking emotional states (i.e., it can only say it has such states).

  387. #387 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    windy:

    You doubt whether a silicon brain can really experience things.

    To be accurate, I doubt that we can ever know whether such a brain has experience, or have an explanation as to how it is possible that a silicon brain, or any brain, does.

    Assume it doesn’t. So what’s going on when the android says “I’m feeling a bit under the weather”?

    Unfortunately, today that would make the Android Tulse a rather accurate simulation…

    How is this behaviour (talking about experience it doesn’t have) produced?

    So Eliza necessarily has conscious experiences when “she” asks you how you are feeling? A Nintendog necessarily has conscious experiences when it complains you haven’t fed it? We have plenty of examples of objects that we’re reasonably certain don’t have subjective experiences claiming that they do. Are we to simply let anthropomorphizing run rampant, and grant subjective experience to anything that says it has it? Or are we going to have a principled way of distinguishing between things that say they have it, and things that actually do? Are we going to think that there is actually a distinction to be made?

    And to return to my earlier point, your clarification still presumes that in normal biological brains subjective experience must have some sort of causal efficacy. Perhaps I’m still misunderstanding you, but you seem to be saying that, in real brains, when people say they have subjective experiences, the reason they say that is because their subjective experiences causally impinge on their physical states. In other words, physical states are not sufficient to completely describe and predict behaviour, or, in other words, you’re advocating dualism.

    Owlmirror:

    The idea that the exact replica of a functioning brain would not have a subjective experience functionally identical to that of any of the 6 billion humans on our planet seems absurd; on what basis would the experience differ?

    The point of Chalmers’ Zombie World is to show that subjective experience does not seem to be necessary to get the same behaviour that we see in our world. Chalmers’ example is a possible worlds thought experiment. He says, essentially, that if you think the subjective aspect of existence is necessary to our physical arrangement of neural material, imagine a universe where beings are exactly physically identical to us, but who do not have such an inner life — they are zombies. Chalmers’s point is that such as world is physically identical to our own, and there is no physical or behavioural test you could conduct that would distinguish them. In other words, subjective experience does not seem to be a necessary component of the brain, and furthermore, any scientific explanation we can give of the brain does not seem to need the notion of subjectivity — it appears to be a complete add-on, superfluous.

    The challenge then, is to explain why we have subjective states (and we most certainly do), when it does not seem that such qualities are physically necessary, and thus physically explicable.

    For the record, I am definitely not a believer in substance dualism — I don’t believe there are souls, or that “information” or “consciousness” is somehow a fundamental part of the universe. My own view is simply that subjectivity is a “hard” problem of philosophy, and one that may, because of its very nature, be insoluble.

  388. #388 windy
    January 22, 2008
    Assume it doesn’t. So what’s going on when the android says “I’m feeling a bit under the weather”?

    Unfortunately, today that would make the Android Tulse a rather accurate simulation…

    Heh, same here – is it contagious over the internet? :)

    So Eliza necessarily has conscious experiences when “she” asks you how you are feeling? A Nintendog necessarily has conscious experiences when it complains you haven’t fed it? We have plenty of examples of objects that we’re reasonably certain don’t have subjective experiences claiming that they do.

    This seems like a slippery slope argument and it doesn’t really answer my question. We know that Eliza and the Nintendog were helped along by their designers. However, we know that no one gave Android Tulse any lookup tables on human emotions since it’s (by definition) nothing but an exact copy of your neural network. So what’s making it say things about emotions, pain, experiences?

  389. #389 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2008

    There’s still something in there that bothers me. Maybe I just don’t get it.

    So I imagine a world where people have no inner life. OK, so what? What does that imagining have to do with actual neurology; with emotion, cognition, and perception in the real world?

  390. #390 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2008

    In other words, subjective experience does not seem to be a necessary component of the brain,

    To emphasize: how is the above derived from imaginary tests (those physical and behavioral tests) that are imagined to not fail when they’re imaginarily applied to imaginary people in an imaginary world where it is imagined that people have no inner life?

    You might as well use the Sims to analyze human psychology.

  391. #391 windy
    January 22, 2008

    Perhaps I’m still misunderstanding you, but you seem to be saying that, in real brains, when people say they have subjective experiences, the reason they say that is because their subjective experiences causally impinge on their physical states. In other words, physical states are not sufficient to completely describe and predict behaviour, or, in other words, you’re advocating dualism.

    No, I’m saying that subjective experience is a physical state.

  392. #392 windy
    January 22, 2008

    So I imagine a world where people have no inner life. OK, so what?

    Looks like even Chalmers himself has trouble keeping it straight:

    ————-
    Natasha Mitchell: For example, could zombies have beliefs…memories? Are those things dependent on consciousness?

    David Chalmers: That’s a tricky question, it really depends on what you mean by “belief”. What we ordinarily mean by belief and memory, is something that has a first-person subjective experience. So, I remember what it was like growing up in my house in Sydney, and I’ve got some images from the inside of what the harbour looked like from there. So a zombie couldn’t have a memory like that.

    Natasha Mitchell: Because they don’t have an inner life.

    David Chalmers: No, no inner life at all. If, on the other hand, all you mean by a memory is some kind of internal registration in the brain, of information that later leads to behaviour – for example, so that a zombie remembers its old house if it can locomote back there later on – then we might say a zombie can remember in that sense. So we might say there’s “zombie memory”, which zombies can have, and “conscious memory” which they can’t have.
    ————–

    But remember that a zombie is supposedly able to talk perfectly convincincly about growing up in Sydney and how the harbor looked like and all that…

  393. #393 Tulse
    January 22, 2008

    We know that Eliza and the Nintendog were helped along by their designers. However, we know that no one gave Android Tulse any lookup tables on human emotions since it’s (by definition) nothing but an exact copy of your neural network. So what’s making it say things about emotions, pain, experiences?

    So, to be clear, you’re saying that Real Tulse says things about emotions, pain, experiences (and feeling like hell because of some sort of weird flu/cold thing) because of the causal efficacy of subjective experience? That, for Real Tulse, the purely physical features of his brain are not a sufficient description of why he behaves as he does?

    I’m saying that subjective experience is a physical state.

    windy, that just seems confused to me. The subjective experience may be associated with, or an epiphenomenon of, the physical state, but it is surely not identical to the state (e.g., you can in principle see all the physical states of my brain, but you can’t see my subjective experiences; my physical states are not blue, or C#, or pain, or vanilla). And it is surely the case that I can provide a complete description of Real Tulse’s behaviour at the neurological level without ever having to resort to notions of subjective experience (note that we do this all the time with animals).

    And you also seem to be placing a lot of weight on the history of Android Tulse. What if I do create a second android, Lookup Table Tulse, that (for an arbitrary period as long as you like) uses a giant lookup table to act just like Android Tulse and Real Tulse. As long as LT Tulse produces the same identical behaviour, does that mean that it has subjective experiences? Even if it runs on a mere lookup table? If not, what is the critical difference between LT Tulse and Android Tulse?

  394. #394 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    In the Zombie world, I would imagine that many emotion-related disorders prominent on planet earth (such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, and SAD), would not exist.

    ex hypothesi, the Zombie world is physically identical to ours. That means that its zombie inhabitants act exactly as the inhabitants of our world act; they display exactly the same symptoms, and say exactly the same things — even the same things being said in this thread. And David Chalmers’ zombie says exactly the same things, making exactly the same claims — that he (the zombie) is not a zombie, but has a zombie counterpart. ex hypothesi, David Chalmers’ zombie makes false statements when it claims to have subjective experience. But it isn’t lying, because it doesn’t have mental states; it has no beliefs whatsoever, even though it appears to, behaving exactly like conscious people who have beliefs do — specifically like David Chalmers does. Notably, if we were to observe David Chalmers and his zombie, we would be utterly incapable of telling them apart — only the real David Chalmers would know that he isn’t a zombie, due to his inaccessible private subjective experience. All of this is required of his claim that zombies are logically possible. Anyone who doesn’t think there’s something fishy about this idea is deeply in the grips of an ideology.

    In other words, subjective experience does not seem to be a necessary component of the brain

    This is entirely circular; zombies are only logically possible if subjective experience is not a necessary component of the brain — the logical possibility of zombies = the Zombic Hunch = the negation of physicalism. But if physicalism is true, if subjective experience is a necessary consequence of certain physical processes rather than being something above and beyond them, then zombies — physically identical counterparts of us but lacking consciousness — are not logically possible, any more than physically identical counterparts of us that are smaller than a bread box are logically possible, since our size is no more than an aspect of having our physical state, and cannot be altered without altering that state.

  395. #395 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    The subjective experience may be associated with, or an epiphenomenon of, the physical state, but it is surely not identical to the state (e.g., you can in principle see all the physical states of my brain, but you can’t see my subjective experiences; my physical states are not blue, or C#, or pain, or vanilla).

    I can look inside of a computer and see an algorithm in execution on;y if I look just right, by applying the right interpretive model. Ditto for subjective experience.

    And it is surely the case that I can provide a complete description of Real Tulse’s behaviour at the neurological level without ever having to resort to notions of subjective experience (note that we do this all the time with animals).

    And we can do the same sort of thing with computers without ever having to resort to notions of programs; so what? The same can be said of mills — in fact, Leibniz said it, long ago. The same fallacious arguments have been trotted out for centuries, but they are no less fallacious than ever.

    There’s no secret sauce, whether it’s the essence of milling, or elan vitale, or computation, or consciousness/qualia/subjective experience. They are all purely physical, the necessary consequences of physical processes.

  396. #396 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    My own view is simply that subjectivity is a “hard” problem of philosophy, and one that may, because of its very nature, be insoluble.

    Problems are certainly “hard” if one refuses to accept the solution.

    Subjective experience is what it’s like to be a certain brain process. When those brain processes are going on, subjective experience occurs; when they aren’t, it doesn’t. Zombies aren’t logically possible because they purportedly have those brain processes going on but lack what it’s like to have those brain processes going on — a simple contradiction.

    That solves the philosophical problem — the ontology of subjective experience. What remains are the “easy” scientific problems of working out all the fine details of exactly what those brain processes are, how they function, how they manifest in human behavior (heterophenomenology), etc.

  397. #397 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    Looks like even Chalmers himself has trouble keeping it straight

    I don’t think so; Chalmers is very experienced and careful with this sort of thing, and doesn’t make the common sorts of mistakes (that people like Tony Jeremiah make).

    But remember that a zombie is supposedly able to talk perfectly convincincly about growing up in Sydney and how the harbor looked like and all that…

    And it would; it would talk exactly as Chalmers talks. But it’s behavior would all be based on “zombie memory”: “some kind of internal registration in the brain, of information that later leads to behaviour” — rather than “conscious memory”: “some images from the inside”.

    If that seems like a distinction without a difference, a use of two parallel vocubularies to explain identical phenomena — welcome to Zombie Hunch world.

  398. #398 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    @385 (truth machine)

    It does sound fishy to me. In fact the argument sounds like some variant of a tautology that looks something like:

    Person A: Person B’s statement is false.
    Person B: Person A’s statement is true.

    There doesn’t seem that there will be a solution to this tautological paradox called consciousness anytime soon. Unless of course the tautological paradox itself is the epitome of a conscious entity.

  399. #399 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    The idea that the exact replica of a functioning brain would not have a subjective experience functionally identical to that of any of the 6 billion humans on our planet seems absurd; on what basis would the experience differ? The wording appears to imply dualism, with “subjective experience” being a variant wording for “soul”.

    Yes, of course it implies dualism; as I said before, the whole point of the invention of philosophical zombies was to disprove physicalism. If pzombies are logically possible, it immediately follows that physicalism is false; from Larry Hauser’s review of Bob Kirk’s Zombies and Consciousness:

    Chapter 2, Zombies and Minimal Physicalism, argues “if zombies are even possible, physicalism is false” (p. 7) since physicalism involves commitment to the strict implication of all phenomenal or qualitative truths (Q) by the conjunction of all the basic physical truths (P). “In other words, ‘P and not-Q’ involves inconsistency or other incoherence of a broadly logical or conceptual kind,” i.e., “it is absolutely impossible that P should be true and Q should be false” (p. 10). Kirk explains that just as “physicalists about mountains are committed to the view that ‘P and not-M’ is inconsistent or incoherent,” so “physicalists about the mental are committed to the view that ‘P and not-Q’ is inconsistent or incoherent” (p. 13). What seems obvious in the case of mountains seems doubtful in the case of qualia because

    we have only shaky ideas about what it takes for something to be a case of phenomenal consciousness, and therefore only shaky ideas about how descriptions of subjective experiences might be made true by a purely physical reality. (pp. 22-3)

    Chalmers himself has acknowledged that the zombie argument does not falsify physicalism because, while he (and other zombiephiles) can’t discern any logical contradiction in their conception of zombies, they haven’t proved that there is none. Again from Hauser’s review of Kirk’s book:

    Chapter 3, The Case for Zombies, examines arguments for the zombie possibility, focusing especially on thought experiments previously developed by Kirk, as well as by Chalmers, Block, Jackson, Nagel, and others. Kirk points out that these arguments proceed from the seeming conceivability of zombies to their possibility, but notes that such an inference is sound “only so long as you don’t already know that the situation in question is impossible” (pp. 27-8). In the next chapter, he goes on to establish precisely that impossibility, and hence, the conclusion that no thought-experimental imagining or argumentation can establish the possibility of zombies.

    Kirk, who introduced the notion of philosophical zombies in 1974, knows what he’s talking about, as does Hauser, whose PhD thesis was a thorough rebuttal of Searle’s Chinese Room. OTOH, people like Tulse are rather clueless, and downright pathetic when they silly stuff like that Dennett is “simply confused, since a model requires someone to interpret it” — human brains process models, and there’s no “someone” in the brain, the brain is in someone. Interpretation is a function of an interpreting engine, which need not be a “someone”. All this insistence on homunculi and the separability of subjective experience (the zombic hunch) is quite shallow and primitive thinking, not suitable for dealing with problems at this level.

  400. #400 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    In fact the argument sounds like some variant of a tautology

    A tautology is a statement that is a logical necessity; the liar’s paradox is anything but that. And it’s not anything like the zombie argument.

    There doesn’t seem that there will be a solution to this tautological paradox called consciousness anytime soon.

    The liar’s paradox was resolved by Alfred Tarski. The zombie argument isn’t a paradox, it’s a flawed (see my post above) argument against physicalism. As for consciousness, it isn’t an argument or claim of any sort, and thus isn’t a paradox. The nature of consciousness and subjective experience is a nutty problem, but a great deal of productive work has been done on it, such as Bernard Baar’s “Global Workspace Theory” and Dennett’s “multiple drafts”/”fame in the brain”/”cerebral celebrity” model, not to mention all the neuroscientific work that has tied specific brain activity to specific contents of consciousness, has mapped out visual, olfactory, and auditory sensory spaces … as well as such work as Dan Wegner’s The Illusion of Conscious Will. Often when people talk about how far we are from solving some scientific problem, they are decades behind in their familiarity with the state of scientific knowledge, and that’s particularly true of the brain and consciousness.

  401. #401 truth machine
    January 23, 2008

    **Adherence to the Zombic hunch would seem to be an important requirement for passing the Turing test.

    Uh, no. The Zombic Hunch is the belief that subjective experience is something separate from the workings of physical processes; that one could have two physically identical mechanisms, one of which has subjective experience and one that doesn’t. Your statement is very confused, since it is computers that are supposed to try to pass the Turing Test, and there’s certainly no need for them to adhere to the Zombic Hunch in order for them to do so — unless the judge is a moron like Neil who claims that anyone who doesn’t adhere to it is a “charlatan”.

  402. #402 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    (truth machine): Great. Now you’re speaking with the intent to teach.

    Now to ask some questions.

    I am simply not grasping the purpose of the p-zombie construct. Which one of the following sets of premises (if any) is p-zombie based on. Does it allow one to distinguish between the rest of the indicated premises?:

    SET (A):

    1.Human: Qualia = Physicalism
    2.p-zomb:—– = Physicalism

    SET (B):

    1.Human : Qualia –> Physicalism
    2.p-zomb: —— –> Physicalism

    SET (C)

    1. Human : Physicalism –> Qualia
    2. p-zomb: Physicalism –> ——

    SET (D)

    1. Human: Physicalism < ---> Qualia
    2. p-zomb: Physicalism —> ——

    Notes:

    *(—> = causes)

    *Physicalism = I’m assuming it is the same as Skinnerian behaviorism, as in motor responses without intervention of a black box. Although here, I guess we could also extend it to neural behavior.

    How exactly is the p-zombie supposed to be an argument against physicalism? It seems to support it. But perhaps I’m interpreting physicalism incorrectly. Is it fundamentally the same as Skinnerian behaviorism?

  403. #403 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    Set D (Should be):

    1.Human: Physicalism < --- > Qualia
    2.p-zomb: Physicalism

  404. #404 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    Last one is not showing up, (must be html language issue). Should be double arrows indicating an interaction between physicalism and qualia.

  405. #405 Owlmirror
    January 23, 2008

    I’m tempted to hunt up a picture and do something like this to it:

    http://www.imarc.net/communique/view/42/freakish_zombie_in_11_steps

    And maybe add a caption: I CAN HAS QUALIA?

    Or put the “before” and “after” together, and respectively caption them I HAS A SUBJECTIVE EXPEERIENCE and NOOOOOO! THEY BE TAKIN MY SUBJECTIVE EXPEERIENCE!!!!!

    And then submit it to phiLOLsophers.

  406. #406 windy
    January 23, 2008

    So, to be clear, you’re saying that Real Tulse says things about emotions, pain, experiences (and feeling like hell because of some sort of weird flu/cold thing) because of the causal efficacy of subjective experience?

    Well, I’m a bit cautious of saying “causal” since it easily implies that experience is an extra “thing”. What if it’s like the difference between life and non-life? As far as we know, life is just matter arranged in certain patterns. Do plants grow because of the causal efficacy of life, or for purely physical reasons? Same thing.

    And it is surely the case that I can provide a complete description of Real Tulse’s behaviour at the neurological level without ever having to resort to notions of subjective experience (note that we do this all the time with animals).

    I don’t think we have come even close to a complete description of any animal’s behaviour. When we do, it may well include subjective experience – and it already does in case of chimps and such animals.

    And you also seem to be placing a lot of weight on the history of Android Tulse.

    Hey, you started that thought experiment :) And it’s very relevant to the zombie question, since they are supposed to be exact copies of us without any lookup tables etc. So if you are having trouble imagining why your android copy would go on about subjective experience without having it, you’re not alone.

    What if I do create a second android, Lookup Table Tulse, that (for an arbitrary period as long as you like) uses a giant lookup table to act just like Android Tulse and Real Tulse. As long as LT Tulse produces the same identical behaviour, does that mean that it has subjective experiences?

    I can imagine that such an android could be constructed and pass *for a while*. But what would it mean to have identical behaviour to humans based on a lookup table? You can’t prepare it for all possible situations unless the android has infinite memory. To pass for a human, it would have to be able to learn, to combine elements from several lookup tables to create new reactions, and so on.

  407. #407 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    Taking a random approach to catching up:

    The snake exploits three different sensory systems in relation to prey, like a mouse. To strike the mouse, the snake uses its visual system (or thermal sensors). When struck, the mouse normally does not die immediately, but runs away for some distance. To locate the mouse, once the prey has been struck, the snake uses its sense of smell. The search behavior is exclusively wired to this modality. Even if the mouse happens to die right in front of the eyes of the snake, it will still follow the smell trace of the mouse in order to find it. This unimodality is particularly evident in snakes like boas and pythons, where the prey often is held fast in the coils of the snake’s body, when it .e.g. hangs from a branch. Despite the fact that the snake must have ample proprioceptory information about the location of the prey it holds, it searches stochastically for it, all around, only with the help of the olfactory sense organs. (Sjölander, 1993, p. 3) Finally, after the mouse has been located, the snake must find its head in order to swallow it. This could obviously be done with the aid of smell or sight, but in snakes this process uses only tactile information. Thus the snake uses three separate modalities to catch and eat a mouse.

    Sounds stupid. But how sure are we that we don’t behave the same way? We prefer literally looking for things over relying on other senses even when they would work… that’s probably because our sense of sight has more precision than the others, but snakes smell in stereo…

    Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    Buddha: Asking this question betrays your own chicken nature.

  408. #408 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    Taking a random approach to catching up:

    The snake exploits three different sensory systems in relation to prey, like a mouse. To strike the mouse, the snake uses its visual system (or thermal sensors). When struck, the mouse normally does not die immediately, but runs away for some distance. To locate the mouse, once the prey has been struck, the snake uses its sense of smell. The search behavior is exclusively wired to this modality. Even if the mouse happens to die right in front of the eyes of the snake, it will still follow the smell trace of the mouse in order to find it. This unimodality is particularly evident in snakes like boas and pythons, where the prey often is held fast in the coils of the snake’s body, when it .e.g. hangs from a branch. Despite the fact that the snake must have ample proprioceptory information about the location of the prey it holds, it searches stochastically for it, all around, only with the help of the olfactory sense organs. (Sjölander, 1993, p. 3) Finally, after the mouse has been located, the snake must find its head in order to swallow it. This could obviously be done with the aid of smell or sight, but in snakes this process uses only tactile information. Thus the snake uses three separate modalities to catch and eat a mouse.

    Sounds stupid. But how sure are we that we don’t behave the same way? We prefer literally looking for things over relying on other senses even when they would work… that’s probably because our sense of sight has more precision than the others, but snakes smell in stereo…

    Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    Buddha: Asking this question betrays your own chicken nature.

  409. #409 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    I don’t like random approaches. :-)

    When I say a question makes sense, I mean that the question isn’t wrong. The textbook example of a wrong question is “why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi”: it doesn’t make sense to say that any imaginable answer to this question is right or wrong, the question itself is wrong because it includes a wrong assumption.

    If science deals with finding facts, it can’t even critique its own alternatives or their “sensibility” – this is what all critics founder on, they can’t even critique “metaphysics” without doing metaphysics.

    We know full well that it’s impossible to disprove solipsism. But science isn’t about truth, it’s about reality…

    Science requires one single assumption: that there is a consistent reality (no matter if it only exists in my solipsistic mind!), “consistent” meaning that the world is largely predictable and that unpredictable miracles don’t happen all the time at unpredictable intervals in unpredictable locations etc. etc..

    Fortunately, this assumption (methodological naturalism) is not an axiom. It is itself a scientific hypothesis: it can be tested, and is tested in every single observation (whether of an experiment or of something else). In other words, science is capable of disproving itself.

    It keeps failing to do so, therefore the basic assumption of science is correct beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the assumption that science works is justified. No metaphysics necessary: science hovers on its own bootstraps (mixing metaphors is fun).

    I am not conflating ethics and physics, I am “conflating” ethics and the universe, which does not mean the same thing. Physics is a certain program of study we developed, it has context and applicability to this and that by definition and limitations too of course.

    Fine, physics is the science about the universe, it’s not itself the universe. That’s what you want to say, right? Isn’t ethics the philosophy of how to behave, rather than the behavior itself, too?

    The universe is not a human activity, it is “something” and I can consider exploring a possible relationship between it and ethics, unless you can propose an a priori reason why that cannot be the case.

    Why should it be the case? You do seem to be arguing that moral laws and laws of physics are comparable, and I don’t get why that should be, nor do I see any evidence that it is that way.

    As for “arguments from personal incredulity”: that is how we get the givens off the ground, to prove anything else with!

    I still don’t get what you mean by “off the ground”. Also, proof is only possible in math and logics.

    What if I just didn’t believe in the results of experiments you showed me, you’d have to say “But we just know this is what happened right in front of us” etc.

    No, we don’t “just know” anything other than cogito ergo sum. But we don’t need to.

    - all science and philosophy (data, initial “axioms” that are by definition underived from other axioms – “you have to start somewhere” – just seen by the mind’s eye until we can use them and see how they do) ironically starts from “givens” backed up by an implicit threat of argument from incredulity. You can insert “personal” there to make it seem subjective, but people are making the initial appreciations and claims in any case. Sure, it’s an honor system to some extent, but that’s the breaks. Our experiences and logical intuitions are the actual ground it all derives from, which you appreciate unless falling for the idiocy of naive realism.

    Science does not require naive realism. See above: it’s even compatible with solipsism. It doesn’t have an axiom, it rests itself on a scientific hypothesis. Its method consists of nothing more than applying the principles of falsifiability (“if I were wrong, how would I know, given methodological naturalism?”) and parsimony (where else should we start from — munificence?). That’s it. It really is that simple.

    Sure I don’t know, and thanks for at least not going with those who assume any originator of the universe has to be complex. However, I found precedents to action without structure such as muons, the virtual particles in “empty space” etc. Remember that force fields were once considered absurd since “how could one particle reach out to another at a distance without actually touching it” etc. Hence it is at least credible based on things we actually know.

    I can’t help thinking the analogy is completely spurious. I can’t disprove its applicability, but the burden of evidence is on you. Claiming your analogy is credible is indefensible; we merely don’t know that it is wrong.

    Incidentally, force fields do consist of particles touching each other. For example, photons are particles that carry the electromagnetic force (…in addition to at the same time being waves).

    BTW, pls. tell me about the (presumed) “Order of Merit” you were awarded.

    It’s the Order of the Molly.

    If you want to tell me you look at colored surfaces and don’t realize that the nature of the sensations of color (please don’t tell me you’re a naive realist idiot who thinks that what you experience is just the stuff sitting in front of you) differ[s] in an irreducibly qualitative way, I can’t do anything with your understanding.

    I don’t understand what you mean. Do you just mean that the sensation of red differs from the sensation of green?

    Qualitative is about irreducibly simple nature, not irreducibly complex. It’s ineffable because there aren’t parts within it to distinguish one from another.

    If it’s ineffable — not falsifiable even in principle –, then it isn’t science, and I’m out of here.

    And no, science is not an honor system.

    which I think is just saying that the universe is about something more than nihilism.

    Why do you think the universe is about anything? I submit that “what is the universe about?” is probably a wrong question.

    If it can be real, I say the universe can incorporate it.

    But it doesn’t have to. There’s not even a reason why it should, is there?

    Can’t you imagine justifying a system of ethics on your own long-term self-interest, for example? Does it really have to be based on laws that are comparable to those of thermodynamics?

    OK, as for why it’s “there”, then what is your answer to what just ought to be in existence, the default given in effect? This stuff, really? See my reply to David about this.

    Nobody has any idea on what that might be. Nobody even knows whether the very question is wrong — a possibility that you seem to overlook.

    Something needs to be self-existent

    What about quantum uncertainty allowing particles to come into and out of existence all the time, and yet be measurable in the meantime? Casimir effect?

    ————————-

    Re: This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    ** I think that assumes natural selection is an all-or-none phenomenon though. Stabilizing selection (if I’m recalling the construct correctly) results in a normal distribution of a particular phenotype. And the normal distribution is the basis of most statistical analyses, so it’s likely the most common form of selection. This should predict that most people are normal, while there’ll still be a few serial killers like Manson, Dalmer, and a few other Hannibal Lecter-like types left in the gene pool.

    That’s right. More importantly, mutations happen all the time, so while certain phenotypes may disappear very quickly every time they appear, they still never stop appearing. Natural selection works all the time, not just once.

    I can’t answer your questions about game theory because I’ve actually read rather little on that topic. I was alluding to the prediction of game theory that a society without a low level of people doing something that brings them short-term advantages and long-term disadvantages cannot be stable.

    Re: Einstein’s Theory

    **Well, I have taken some liberty with understanding relativity theory in a construct I call the clock model, because I simply cannot comprehend the time-is-relative concept if I think about it purely from a linear perspective–it’s more intuitive to me from a circular perspective. Namely, if one imagines moving linearly along the minute hand of a clock, one can literally understand how time can be relative; the velocity of time (i.e., the speed of the minute hand) should move slower closer to its axis of rotation and faster further away from it as a consequence of tangential velocity. I’m guessing that time slows down as one approaches light velocity is a consequence of linear movement along a space-time plane that is actually rotating (probably towards the centre of some hypothetical point).

    Erm… no, that’s not how it works at all. What’s going on is that the speed of light is the same for all observers and that there’s no reason to think that mass as in gravity and mass as in inertia might be different things. Everything else follows from that — by means of (for the layman like me) horrible, horrible mathematics. A math geek once told me it’s so advanced that after looking at two lines of the mathematical derivation every normal person quits — and I’m pretty sure that by “normal person” he meant himself.

    Rotation is a form of acceleration, and therefore not relative. Speed is relative, acceleration isn’t.

  410. #410 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    I don’t like random approaches. :-)

    When I say a question makes sense, I mean that the question isn’t wrong. The textbook example of a wrong question is “why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi”: it doesn’t make sense to say that any imaginable answer to this question is right or wrong, the question itself is wrong because it includes a wrong assumption.

    If science deals with finding facts, it can’t even critique its own alternatives or their “sensibility” – this is what all critics founder on, they can’t even critique “metaphysics” without doing metaphysics.

    We know full well that it’s impossible to disprove solipsism. But science isn’t about truth, it’s about reality…

    Science requires one single assumption: that there is a consistent reality (no matter if it only exists in my solipsistic mind!), “consistent” meaning that the world is largely predictable and that unpredictable miracles don’t happen all the time at unpredictable intervals in unpredictable locations etc. etc..

    Fortunately, this assumption (methodological naturalism) is not an axiom. It is itself a scientific hypothesis: it can be tested, and is tested in every single observation (whether of an experiment or of something else). In other words, science is capable of disproving itself.

    It keeps failing to do so, therefore the basic assumption of science is correct beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the assumption that science works is justified. No metaphysics necessary: science hovers on its own bootstraps (mixing metaphors is fun).

    I am not conflating ethics and physics, I am “conflating” ethics and the universe, which does not mean the same thing. Physics is a certain program of study we developed, it has context and applicability to this and that by definition and limitations too of course.

    Fine, physics is the science about the universe, it’s not itself the universe. That’s what you want to say, right? Isn’t ethics the philosophy of how to behave, rather than the behavior itself, too?

    The universe is not a human activity, it is “something” and I can consider exploring a possible relationship between it and ethics, unless you can propose an a priori reason why that cannot be the case.

    Why should it be the case? You do seem to be arguing that moral laws and laws of physics are comparable, and I don’t get why that should be, nor do I see any evidence that it is that way.

    As for “arguments from personal incredulity”: that is how we get the givens off the ground, to prove anything else with!

    I still don’t get what you mean by “off the ground”. Also, proof is only possible in math and logics.

    What if I just didn’t believe in the results of experiments you showed me, you’d have to say “But we just know this is what happened right in front of us” etc.

    No, we don’t “just know” anything other than cogito ergo sum. But we don’t need to.

    - all science and philosophy (data, initial “axioms” that are by definition underived from other axioms – “you have to start somewhere” – just seen by the mind’s eye until we can use them and see how they do) ironically starts from “givens” backed up by an implicit threat of argument from incredulity. You can insert “personal” there to make it seem subjective, but people are making the initial appreciations and claims in any case. Sure, it’s an honor system to some extent, but that’s the breaks. Our experiences and logical intuitions are the actual ground it all derives from, which you appreciate unless falling for the idiocy of naive realism.

    Science does not require naive realism. See above: it’s even compatible with solipsism. It doesn’t have an axiom, it rests itself on a scientific hypothesis. Its method consists of nothing more than applying the principles of falsifiability (“if I were wrong, how would I know, given methodological naturalism?”) and parsimony (where else should we start from — munificence?). That’s it. It really is that simple.

    Sure I don’t know, and thanks for at least not going with those who assume any originator of the universe has to be complex. However, I found precedents to action without structure such as muons, the virtual particles in “empty space” etc. Remember that force fields were once considered absurd since “how could one particle reach out to another at a distance without actually touching it” etc. Hence it is at least credible based on things we actually know.

    I can’t help thinking the analogy is completely spurious. I can’t disprove its applicability, but the burden of evidence is on you. Claiming your analogy is credible is indefensible; we merely don’t know that it is wrong.

    Incidentally, force fields do consist of particles touching each other. For example, photons are particles that carry the electromagnetic force (…in addition to at the same time being waves).

    BTW, pls. tell me about the (presumed) “Order of Merit” you were awarded.

    It’s the Order of the Molly.

    If you want to tell me you look at colored surfaces and don’t realize that the nature of the sensations of color (please don’t tell me you’re a naive realist idiot who thinks that what you experience is just the stuff sitting in front of you) differ[s] in an irreducibly qualitative way, I can’t do anything with your understanding.

    I don’t understand what you mean. Do you just mean that the sensation of red differs from the sensation of green?

    Qualitative is about irreducibly simple nature, not irreducibly complex. It’s ineffable because there aren’t parts within it to distinguish one from another.

    If it’s ineffable — not falsifiable even in principle –, then it isn’t science, and I’m out of here.

    And no, science is not an honor system.

    which I think is just saying that the universe is about something more than nihilism.

    Why do you think the universe is about anything? I submit that “what is the universe about?” is probably a wrong question.

    If it can be real, I say the universe can incorporate it.

    But it doesn’t have to. There’s not even a reason why it should, is there?

    Can’t you imagine justifying a system of ethics on your own long-term self-interest, for example? Does it really have to be based on laws that are comparable to those of thermodynamics?

    OK, as for why it’s “there”, then what is your answer to what just ought to be in existence, the default given in effect? This stuff, really? See my reply to David about this.

    Nobody has any idea on what that might be. Nobody even knows whether the very question is wrong — a possibility that you seem to overlook.

    Something needs to be self-existent

    What about quantum uncertainty allowing particles to come into and out of existence all the time, and yet be measurable in the meantime? Casimir effect?

    ————————-

    Re: This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    ** I think that assumes natural selection is an all-or-none phenomenon though. Stabilizing selection (if I’m recalling the construct correctly) results in a normal distribution of a particular phenotype. And the normal distribution is the basis of most statistical analyses, so it’s likely the most common form of selection. This should predict that most people are normal, while there’ll still be a few serial killers like Manson, Dalmer, and a few other Hannibal Lecter-like types left in the gene pool.

    That’s right. More importantly, mutations happen all the time, so while certain phenotypes may disappear very quickly every time they appear, they still never stop appearing. Natural selection works all the time, not just once.

    I can’t answer your questions about game theory because I’ve actually read rather little on that topic. I was alluding to the prediction of game theory that a society without a low level of people doing something that brings them short-term advantages and long-term disadvantages cannot be stable.

    Re: Einstein’s Theory

    **Well, I have taken some liberty with understanding relativity theory in a construct I call the clock model, because I simply cannot comprehend the time-is-relative concept if I think about it purely from a linear perspective–it’s more intuitive to me from a circular perspective. Namely, if one imagines moving linearly along the minute hand of a clock, one can literally understand how time can be relative; the velocity of time (i.e., the speed of the minute hand) should move slower closer to its axis of rotation and faster further away from it as a consequence of tangential velocity. I’m guessing that time slows down as one approaches light velocity is a consequence of linear movement along a space-time plane that is actually rotating (probably towards the centre of some hypothetical point).

    Erm… no, that’s not how it works at all. What’s going on is that the speed of light is the same for all observers and that there’s no reason to think that mass as in gravity and mass as in inertia might be different things. Everything else follows from that — by means of (for the layman like me) horrible, horrible mathematics. A math geek once told me it’s so advanced that after looking at two lines of the mathematical derivation every normal person quits — and I’m pretty sure that by “normal person” he meant himself.

    Rotation is a form of acceleration, and therefore not relative. Speed is relative, acceleration isn’t.

  411. #411 Tulse
    January 23, 2008

    Well, I’m a bit cautious of saying “causal” since it easily implies that experience is an extra “thing”.

    Yep. That is precisely the issue.

    What if it’s like the difference between life and non-life? As far as we know, life is just matter arranged in certain patterns. Do plants grow because of the causal efficacy of life, or for purely physical reasons? Same thing.

    Plants grow for purely physical reasons. There is nothing that is lost about a purely physical description of plants — there is nothing more to them being alive but specific physical processes, no elan vital that is missing in a purely physical description. But there is something lost in a purely physical description of your (or my) brain, namely, the subjective experience it involves. No matter how precisely you describe my brain processes, that description will not include what it is like to taste chocolate, hear a bell, or feel pain.

    I don’t think we have come even close to a complete description of any animal’s behaviour. When we do, it may well include subjective experience – and it already does in case of chimps and such animals.

    What do you mean by “include subjective experience”? Do you really mean that as a causal notion we won’t be able to provide a complete objective third-party description of their behaviour? That at some points in our description involving neuronal activity, we’ll have to say “the causal connection between this cluster of neurons and this brain structure is the sound of middle C?”, and that there would be no physical connection between them? That sure sounds like dualism to me.

    it’s very relevant to the zombie question, since they are supposed to be exact copies of us without any lookup tables etc. So if you are having trouble imagining why your android copy would go on about subjective experience without having it, you’re not alone.

    Right, so just to repeat (and I apologize if this is getting old), you seem to me to be saying that in our world subjective experience has a causal role in our behaviour, separate from physical selves, since if Android Tulse doesn’t have such experiences, it shouldn’t talk about them.

    I can imagine that such an android could be constructed and pass *for a while*. But what would it mean to have identical behaviour to humans based on a lookup table? You can’t prepare it for all possible situations unless the android has infinite memory.

    That’s why I put in the qualifier “for an arbitrary period as long as you like” — just make the table as big as necessary (this is a thought experiment, after all — if you’re willing to grant me a complete silicon replica of my brain, surely a lookup table version is easier to create). For the purposes of the thought experiment, an LT Tulse that perfectly replicated Real Tulse’s behaviour even for five minutes would be sufficient to prove the point.

    So let’s simply assume that, for however long you like, LT Tulse has a big honkin’ lookup table that handles its behaviour. It is (we are assuming) behaviourally identical to Android Tulse and Real Tulse, even though it is not doing Dennettian “Multiple Drafts” or Minskian “Society of Mind” or any of that sort of thing.

    So is having the behaviour sufficient to produce subjective experience in it? Even if it is just using a lookup table? If not, then clearly simply being able to generate a model that produces behaviour associated with Real Tulse’s subjective states isn’t a guarantee that that behaviour is actually accompanied by subjective states. If a lookup table is sufficient to produce subjective states, then you’ve got a very interesting behaviourist view of consciousness (and the problem that a whole host of objects now potentially possess rudimentary subjective states, such as your thermostat, a Furby, and Warcraft).

  412. #412 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    @400

    Re:What do you mean by “include subjective experience”? Do you really mean that as a causal notion we won’t be able to provide a complete objective third-party description of their behaviour? That at some points in our description involving neuronal activity, we’ll have to say “the causal connection between this cluster of neurons and this brain structure is the sound of middle C?”, and that there would be no physical connection between them? That sure sounds like dualism to me.

    ** I believe a study by Damasio et al. (2000) might lend some support to dualism. Highlights:

    (1) 39 Participants were scanned using PET while recalling emotionally-charged memories meant to generate subjective feelings of sadness, happiness, anger, and fear.

    (2) Each emotion could be physically identified in the brain since they produced differing patterns of activation and deactivation in various brain regions.

    (3) PET scans also showed that the somatosensory cortex (which processes sensory information from skin, muscles, and internal organs) were activated during emotional experiences. However, the somatosensory cortex was shown to be activated before subjects actually reported a subjective feeling. This supports a basic premise of the James-Lange theory of emotion, which states that physiological changes occur before subjectively experiencing an emotion. It’s the same principle as the facial-feedback hypothesis, which states that changes in facial expression governs what emotion we subjectively experience.

    It would be difficult to argue how this research doesn’t demonstrate dualism and causality.

  413. #413 windy
    January 23, 2008

    Plants grow for purely physical reasons. There is nothing that is lost about a purely physical description of plants — there is nothing more to them being alive but specific physical processes, no elan vital that is missing in a purely physical description. But there is something lost in a purely physical description of your (or my) brain, namely, the subjective experience it involves. No matter how precisely you describe my brain processes, that description will not include what it is like to taste chocolate, hear a bell, or feel pain.

    Sounds like you are assuming your conclusion.

    What do you mean by “include subjective experience”? Do you really mean that as a causal notion we won’t be able to provide a complete objective third-party description of their behaviour?

    No, but such a description would at some level explain subjective experience, if physicalism is true. You could in principle have an atom-for-atom causal account of bacterial division without mentioning life, but it’s more interesting when you state it in higher level terms. I know you disagree with the analogy of life=experience, but I think you are too narrowly focused on one possible level of explanation (the single neuron level?) without considering that there might be interesting patterns at higher levels of organisation that physicalism *also* could explain.

    Right, so just to repeat (and I apologize if this is getting old), you seem to me to be saying that in our world subjective experience has a causal role in our behaviour, separate from physical selves, since if Android Tulse doesn’t have such experiences, it shouldn’t talk about them.

    It has a causal role but it isn’t separate from our physical selves. You mentioned the taste of chocolate. Are you saying that the experience of tasting chocolate has no effect on subsequent chocolate-eating behaviour?

    (this is a thought experiment, after all — if you’re willing to grant me a complete silicon replica of my brain, surely a lookup table version is easier to create)

    I don’t think so. The author of the lookup table would have to know what you’d answer to every possible imaginable question. I am willing to grant that omnipotent gods or aliens could design a non-conscious robot with an immense lookup table that could fool humans for any period of time, but somehow I don’t think this is a huge problem for physicalism.

    For the purposes of the thought experiment, an LT Tulse that perfectly replicated Real Tulse’s behaviour even for five minutes would be sufficient to prove the point.

    If you are going to pick that short a period, you might as well use a dummy playing a recorded message. How about a year?

    So is having the behaviour sufficient to produce subjective experience in it?

    No, I’m not saying that, I think there is a middle way between not being able to explain experience at all, and saying that lookup tables are conscious.

  414. #414 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    Here’s a song and a short story about philosophical zombies.

    First is a little video tribute to Chalmers and his zombies, I’ve looked at minds from both sides now.

    This next is from Skeptic’s Dictionary, from the entry on pzombies:

    For what it’s worth, I side with Dennett and those who think that the concept of the p-zombie is a logical absurdity. If the “zombie” exhibits all the symptoms of consciousness, then the “zombie” is not a zombie; for to exhibit all the symptoms of consciousness is to have consciousness, which the zombie is denied by definition.

    Anyway, this reminds me of a story by Raymond Smullyan, the great logician and paradoxer. A man wants to commit suicide but does not want to cause his family any grief. He finds out about an elixir he can take which will kill him, i.e., separate his soul from his body, but leave his body intact to wake up, go to work, play with the kids, keep the wife satisfied and bring home the bacon. But before he takes the elixir, a well-intentioned friend sneaks in during the night and injects his suicidal friend with the stuff, thereby killing him, i.e., releasing his soul. The man wakes up and doesn’t know he’s dead (i.e., that he has no soul), so he takes the elixir. He can’t kill himself, since he’s already dead. But he thinks he can kill himself and become a p-zombie. However, he is already a p-zombie. Question: if the p-zombie can’t tell the difference between a real person and a p-zombie, why would we think that we real persons could tell the difference? In fact, since the conception of the “soul” makes absolutely no difference in either the nature of a person or a p-zombie, the concept of the “soul” is superfluous. If persons are indistinguishable from p-zombies then they are not two distinct concepts, but one concept manipulated by language to mislead us into thinking there are two distinct concepts here.

  415. #415 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    It would be difficult to argue how this research doesn’t demonstrate dualism and causality.

    I don’t see at all how it even just implies dualism. Please explain.

  416. #416 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    It would be difficult to argue how this research doesn’t demonstrate dualism and causality.

    I don’t see at all how it even just implies dualism. Please explain.

  417. #417 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    Your ideas sound also like the basis of string theory, especially the derivative and multiple world concepts that derive from it.

    Whose? Mine? I don’t have a single original idea on physics at all.

    I presume that, because other people are made of the same stuff I am, in roughly the same physical arrangement, they probably work the same way I do. I don’t have direct access to their subjective states, but because I presume that the causal processes must be pretty similar, I can presume that they are like me regarding this feature.

    That’s a nice argument from parsimony, nice enough that I buy it, but nothing more. How falsifiable is it?

    the argument that some physicists use to account for the universe. They say some state of space or perhaps some pre-space popped “the” or at least our universe in a mega analogy more or less to virtual particle production. Well, if such a “space” without parts can do that, regardless of what went into thinking it can, that works against the idea that a “creator” has to be complex.

    More importantly, it works against the whole idea of a creator being necessary. You can stop here, as long as you don’t find an argument for why a creator is necessary anyway.

    I say, if that pre-space or whatever can “express” mathematical elegance or symmetry or whatever, I think it can express other “ideas” as well, as well as partake of “consciousness” (whatever it is in principle as a fundamental, not to be confused with what makes this or that be its contents and process) at least in some unchanging and basic form.

    Since when is symmetry an idea (as opposed to an observable property), what do you mean by “fundamental”, and why do you think consciousness could be one?

    It is legitimate to question wonder why a non-specific, non-predicate abstraction like “exist” should or even could have blessed this particular form and nature of things instead of other logically possible worlds with other laws and constants etc. To me, that would be a ridiculous existential loose end flapping around, like the number “137″ just for no good reason (as a *number* per se …) being reified into brass numerals somewhere.

    Well, I don’t get it. What makes you think the values for the constants observed in our universe are less likely than any others? What makes you think we have the foggiest idea on what a likely number for that particular constant would be? What makes you think you or anyone has an idea on whether 1/137 is a likely value? You wrote 1 would be more likely — why? Are integers somehow special?

    We don’t even know if any of these constants really are constants, i. e. independent from any other constant. All evidence we have on this topic is negative: we haven’t succeeded in deriving their values so far. Why do you think we will never succeed?

  418. #418 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    Your ideas sound also like the basis of string theory, especially the derivative and multiple world concepts that derive from it.

    Whose? Mine? I don’t have a single original idea on physics at all.

    I presume that, because other people are made of the same stuff I am, in roughly the same physical arrangement, they probably work the same way I do. I don’t have direct access to their subjective states, but because I presume that the causal processes must be pretty similar, I can presume that they are like me regarding this feature.

    That’s a nice argument from parsimony, nice enough that I buy it, but nothing more. How falsifiable is it?

    the argument that some physicists use to account for the universe. They say some state of space or perhaps some pre-space popped “the” or at least our universe in a mega analogy more or less to virtual particle production. Well, if such a “space” without parts can do that, regardless of what went into thinking it can, that works against the idea that a “creator” has to be complex.

    More importantly, it works against the whole idea of a creator being necessary. You can stop here, as long as you don’t find an argument for why a creator is necessary anyway.

    I say, if that pre-space or whatever can “express” mathematical elegance or symmetry or whatever, I think it can express other “ideas” as well, as well as partake of “consciousness” (whatever it is in principle as a fundamental, not to be confused with what makes this or that be its contents and process) at least in some unchanging and basic form.

    Since when is symmetry an idea (as opposed to an observable property), what do you mean by “fundamental”, and why do you think consciousness could be one?

    It is legitimate to question wonder why a non-specific, non-predicate abstraction like “exist” should or even could have blessed this particular form and nature of things instead of other logically possible worlds with other laws and constants etc. To me, that would be a ridiculous existential loose end flapping around, like the number “137″ just for no good reason (as a *number* per se …) being reified into brass numerals somewhere.

    Well, I don’t get it. What makes you think the values for the constants observed in our universe are less likely than any others? What makes you think we have the foggiest idea on what a likely number for that particular constant would be? What makes you think you or anyone has an idea on whether 1/137 is a likely value? You wrote 1 would be more likely — why? Are integers somehow special?

    We don’t even know if any of these constants really are constants, i. e. independent from any other constant. All evidence we have on this topic is negative: we haven’t succeeded in deriving their values so far. Why do you think we will never succeed?

  419. #419 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    @(404, David)

    Well. IMO, the evidence that there are different brain states associated with each emotional state makes it easier to infer a dualism-like process must exist.

    The two premises are as follows:

    (1) People do not have direct knowledge of what physical brain state their brain happens to be in at any given moment. (And direct knowledge can only be achieved through brain imaging).

    (2) Via brain imaging, we know that there are particular brain states associated with specific emotions, and, that people will consistently report a particular emotion associated with particular brain states.

    ———————————————————-

    How then do people report particular emotions associated with these physical brain states, if they do not have direct knowledge of physical brain states?

    I suppose the neural pattern is suggesting that how one feels can be dictated by say, facial behavior (e.g., if you’re smiling, you must be happy), but the neural data is showing that such behavior is being registered by the somatosensory cortex. But what is happening in the somatosensory cortex, appears to be distinct from the brain states associated with each emotion, especially given that subjective feelings arise after activation of the somatosensory cortex.

    Which then still leaves the question of how it is that people can report particular emotions consistent with particular brain states,if they presumably do not have direct knowledge of these brain states?

  420. #420 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    How then do people report particular emotions associated with these physical brain states, if they do not have direct knowledge of physical brain states?

    People report particular emotions when they feel them, because that’s how they feel, whether they’re being scanned or not, don’t they? Should we expect physical brain states associated with emotional states that aren’t the ones they report?

    But what is happening in the somatosensory cortex, appears to be distinct from the brain states associated with each emotion, especially given that subjective feelings arise after activation of the somatosensory cortex.

    Why would it be surprising that the brain changes state, while different systems within the brain associated with monitoring how one feels respond to that changed state in various ways? I think about something sad, I start tearing up, then I notice I’m feeling sad, I report it. I don’t understand what you think the showstopper for physicalism could possibly be.

    Once the subjects have been scanned, must they now suddenly check the brain scans to make sure what they feel correlates with activation of the proper portions of the brain before what they can know what to report that they’re feeling?

  421. #421 Owlmirror
    January 23, 2008

    Which then still leaves the question of how it is that people can report particular emotions consistent with particular brain states,if they presumably do not have direct knowledge of these brain states?

    Neural processes must necessarily occur without direct knowledge of what those processes are. Do you have direct knowledge of exactly which nerves are firing and brain regions are activated when you read these words and when you type your reply?

  422. #422 windy
    January 23, 2008

    I’m tempted to hunt up a picture and do something like this to it: …
    And maybe add a caption: I CAN HAS QUALIA?

    That would be perfect :)

  423. #423 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    That creepy Chalmers fan video I linked to in #403 has a slide show that includes a snapshot of Chalmers with the caption:

    doood

    I HAS A HARD PROBLM

  424. #424 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    Re: Should we expect physical brain states associated with emotional states that aren’t the ones they report?

    **Paradoxically, this is why I think showing a consistent match between particular feelings (i.e., qualia) and particular brain patterns is crucial for testing dualism. We can expect that a person is capable of lying about what qualia they are experiencing via, for example, verbal report, but they cannot manipulate their brain state to conform to a qualia different from the one they are actually experiencing (i.e., you can’t make your brain “look” sad if you’re actually happy and if you did, you’d have to fake a qualia state). It’s basically the same reasoning as Brain Fingerprinting technology where it’s impossible to pretend that specific information isn’t in your brain.

    Re: I don’t understand what you think the showstopper for physicalism could possibly be.

    **IMO, a showstopper would be evidence that people do not vary in specific brain patterns associated with particular qualia (i.e., emotions). That would mean, for example, that sadness is a consistent experience among individual brains. A non-showstopper would be evidence showing that significant individual differences exist in specific brain patterns associated with reported qualia. That would mean that, according to brain activity, qualia are inconsitent experiences among individual brains and that words used for various qualia are arbitrary. The somatosensory cortext, I suspect, just “colors” the qualia experience (e.g., you can vary from somewhat happy to very happy).

    Re: Once the subjects have been scanned, must they now suddenly check the brain scans to make sure what they feel correlates with activation of the proper portions of the brain before what they can know what to report that they’re feeling?

    **The subjects don’t have to. But an outside observer such a researcher might, to see if there’s a correspondence between what could be just acting, and an actual qualia as manifested by brain activity.

    Re: Neural processes must necessarily occur without direct knowledge of what those processes are. Do you have direct knowledge of exactly which nerves are firing and brain regions are activated when you read these words and when you type your reply?

    ** In general, I do. But that’s mostly due to a consequence of reading about what regions are activated during reading and responding (occipital lobe, somatosensory cortex, cerebellum, etc).

    This may be total B.S., but what I’m trying to get at is if someone could authentically “feel” a particular qualia by attempting to manipulate their brain state (e.g., biofeedback of some kind).

  425. #425 windy
    January 23, 2008

    That Chalmers shot is from philolsophers

  426. #426 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    I’m just trying to follow pzombie logic here.

    So, if everybody has the identical part of their visual cortex light up when their visual field is hit with a red light, which corresponds with the same area of everybody’s brain when they ARE HAS RED QUALIA, that should just about wrap it up for physicalists and we should all pack it in and become dualists?

  427. #427 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    what I’m trying to get at is if someone could authentically “feel” a particular qualia by attempting to manipulate their brain state (e.g., biofeedback of some kind).

    Easy. Get enough neurotransmitter analogs past the blood brain barrier (the brain mistakes DMT for serotonin at first, until it realizes it had better flush it, which is why it starts working so fast and wears off almost as quickly) and before you know it, just a few micrograms of the stuff will be saying I’M IN UR SYNAPSE LITEN UP UR QUALIA like a Cthulhu Tree.

    Long before everybody knew LSD makes you crazy, when Oscar Janiger gave it to lots of smart people in the fifties most people reported that it made them feel at one with the universe. This happened under controlled medical conditions. Don’t try this at home.

    Were they at one with the universe? Or were they experiencing at-one-with-the-universe qualia? Or was that just something that can be triggered by alteration of the brain’s chemistry, lighting up an area that overlaps the I can has orgazms area and the mmm donutz region?

  428. #428 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    I don’t quite see what the word qualia adds to the discussion. While my retina is exposed EM wavelengths of a certain frequency, a certain part of my brain is active and I report that I see red. Then Chalmers comes along and says, “and that’s a qualia!” it strikes me as just as redundant as a theistic evolutionist responding to every scientific discovery with the exclamation, “and that’s how god did it!”

    What are the qualia of perceptual illusions, where I can only see a color as dark or light based on the value of its neighbors? Why the commitment to belief in magic and the rejection of natural explanations?

  429. #429 Tony Jeremiah
    January 23, 2008

    Re: So, if everybody has the identical part of their visual cortex light up when their visual field is hit with a red light, which corresponds with the same area of everybody’s brain when they ARE HAS RED QUALIA, that should just about wrap it up for physicalists and we should all pack it in and become dualists?

    **IMO, it’s not so much about the lighting up of identical brain regions upon seeing red. It’s about a situation whereby a person insists on reporting green after ruling out obvious mechanistic explanations such as color blindness or learning the wrong name for that sensory experience.

    What would the neural substrate for that look like without referencing any qualia-like phenomena?

  430. #430 Ken Cope
    January 23, 2008

    It’s about a situation whereby a person insists on reporting green after ruling out obvious mechanistic explanations such as color blindness or learning the wrong name for that sensory experience.

    So, there’s a lot of that about, eh?

    I worry about that kind of thing happening almost as much as worrying about suffering the same fate as this guy I heard of who woke up one morning and discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

    It hasn’t happened to me, because I’ve been staying up all night with a flashlight and a color wheel, making sure those evil optic nerve tampering malicious neurosurgeons don’t get their scalpels into me.

    google the phrase “quining qualia,” take a blue pill, and forget to call me in the morning.

  431. #431 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008
  432. #432 Owmirror
    January 24, 2008

    But the Stroop effect does not rule out “obvious mechanistic explanations”. It’s the result of a neural confusion, trying to prioritize two different sets of simultaneously perceived visual data.

    There’s also that animation with the blinking magenta dots, and the illusionary green afterimage that shows up. But again, there’s an obvious mechanistic explanation.

  433. #433 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2008

    Stroop effect demonstrates parallel functioning, and conflict resolution when color perception and names of colors are incongruent. Functionalism! Phyicalist accounts suffice. Where is ur qualia?

    Thinking about the spectrum inversion experiment made me think of synesthesia. After a night out with a co-worker of my wife’s some years ago, we learned that she has a form of synesthesia that was documented in a study of various forms. Her form of synesthesia has to do with ordering her account of events in time–they correspond spatially to various positions spiraling about her body. Events on her to-do list, or on her projects milestones calendar, are places in a 3 dimensional mobile surrounding her, a useful skill for a multimedia producer. She locates last Thursday and its events at a specific place, say, to her left, at the end of her extended fingers when her elbow is unbent and her arm held at a 45 degree angle.

    Here’s an effect for you. Make a friend, grab a mirror, and watch your friend’s eyes as they intentionally alternate focus, first to gaze at one pupil, then the other. Their eyes will change focus quickly, but you’ll be able to note the time interval as they rotate some 30 to 45 degrees, depending on how close they are to the mirror. Now, it’s your turn. As you focus on one eye, then the other, what happens to the time interval you noted in your friend? It’s as if your brain has stolen that moment from you, editing it out. What kind of quale is that?

  434. #434 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    Right. And it also satisfies the criteria of not referencing qualia-like phenomena, while the quining qualia reference would require one to have some internal experience about quining qualia.

  435. #435 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2008

    Could you please recompose #421 using complete sentences?

  436. #436 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2008

    Zombie Cat sez: I CAN HAS SUBJEKTIVE EXPEEREEENCE OF CHEEZBURGR?
    Chalmers sez: DENIED.

    (Zombie Cat is incapable of feeling disappointed, but expresses the exact behavior of this emotion, and claws Chalmer’s leg, then pees on it.)

    While my initial reaction to the zombie world is still “So what?”, I think I can express a more formal reaction to the idea. I dunno, maybe Chalmers (or other zombiephiles (necrophiles?)) has already addressed this, but still:

    I think there is an unconscious avoidance of the fact that despite zombies not actually having consciousness (etc), zombie world still requires consciousness somewhere in the picture. The thesis is that the zombies behave exactly as if they do have consciousness. Well, my question is: What is it that causes them to behave that way?

    In one sense, of course, it is the mind of the one imagining the world, but that’s probably a bit too meta as an objection. Still, we can assert that the zombie world can only be imagined, and therefore it cannot be real; cannot be possible.

    Yet if we grant the thesis that zombie world is to be considered separate from our imaginations, the question of what it is that guides all zombie behavior remains unanswered. I suppose zombiephiles would say that it is just the way zombie world works, but that means the zombie world is distinct from our own in that cause and effect are defined as not working the same way as in ours; if the zombies don’t actually have sensations, their reactions must come from somewhere else.

    OK, so the zombiephiles insist that zombie world just works that way. If the zombie world itself “just works that way”, does the behavioural enforcement come from the zombie world itself?

    It would certainly appear that if the zombie world is defined such that zombies act as though conscious, it is the zombie world that actually “cares” about how zombies react to physical phenomena and each other; processes their sensations; records the memories of those sensations; and generally enforces reactions consistent with the appearance of consciousness. Inasmuch as the zombie world is modeling all of those appearances of consciousness, it must necessarily be in some way conscious itself, some sort of world-spirit; a massively multiplexing puppeteer for all the meat puppets.

    O, HAI! I UPGRADED UR PARADIME. U CAN HAS DUALISTIC CONSHUSNESS.

    I bet that someone less lazy than I am could type the above up using more formal language and clearer arguments, make the logic more rigorous, add in some more polysyllabic words of Latin or Greek or German (world-spirit is Weltgeist, puppeteer is Puppenspieler), and submit it to some philolsophy journlol. I mean, philosophy journal.

  437. #437 windy
    January 24, 2008

    I think there is an unconscious avoidance of the fact that despite zombies not actually having consciousness (etc), zombie world still requires consciousness somewhere in the picture. The thesis is that the zombies behave exactly as if they do have consciousness. Well, my question is: What is it that causes them to behave that way?

    And Tulse’s assertion in #355 suffered from the same problem: (“I personally don’t doubt at all that one could recreate the human brain functionally in silicon, neuron by neuron, and produce behaviour identical to that of a human.”) Assuming the silicon brain is not conscious, why would it nevertheless behave identically?

    This is not the same problem as some android with an immense lookup table, because that presumes a programmer with extensive knowledge of how conscious humans behave in a given situation.

    I suppose zombiephiles would say that it is just the way zombie world works, but that means the zombie world is distinct from our own in that cause and effect are defined as not working the same way as in ours; if the zombies don’t actually have sensations, their reactions must come from somewhere else.

    Or they can say that our bodies work exactly the same way as zombie bodies, and both types of bodies have some kind of materialistic Pavlovian subsystem that’s making our bodies act as if they have experiences, and all the experiences are just epiphenomenal add-ons. But that doesn’t make much sense either.

  438. #438 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    Zombie Cat sez: I CAN HAS SUBJEKTIVE EXPEEREEENCE OF CHEEZBURGR?
    Chalmers sez: DENIED.

    (Zombie Cat is incapable of feeling disappointed, but expresses the exact behavior of this emotion, and claws Chalmer’s leg, then pees on it.)

    **Haha. That’s funny stuff (but that’s just, uhm, subjective)**…

    ********************************************************
    Android Chalmers sez: I AM NUT HASING A SUBJEKTIVE EXPEREEENCE. (But expresses the exact behavior of this emotion in the form of screaming whilst describing the mechanisms associated with pee/wound contact).

    Android Tony: (proceeds to access his Freudian defense mechanism look up table, as well as his identify-and-select-the-Freudian-defense-mechanism-employed-by-human Chalmers, look up table)
    ********************************************************

    I have (maybe) the benefit of not reading to closely the specific literature concerning the p-zombie construct or any of the arguments for or against it. But whatever these arguments are, the belief that dualism (or at least dual consciousness–good term–as you describe it) doesn’t exist, becomes an increasingly weak hypothesis with the reality of the current discourse here on planet earth (or perhaps I’m in denial, and this is actually Zombie world and my consciousness is actually an illusion).

    Rather than submitting an article on this topic to a ‘serious’ philosophy journal, I’d suggest submitting a parody article to Perspectives in Psychological Science (which accepts such articles). In fact, check out a summary of an article from that journal at Mixing Memory on the implicit attitude test. It’s absolutely hilarious and somewhat related to the p-zombie construct (especially concerning the dead implicit attitude test).

  439. #439 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2008

    One more side thought…

    The idea that just imagining zombie world allows you to draw conclusions about the way the real world and human consciousness actually works strikes me as being suspiciously similar to the ontological argument for God.

    MY REIFIED NOUMENA. LET ME SHOW YOU THEM.

  440. #440 Neil B.
    January 24, 2008

    Cat sez: I CAN HAS SUBJEKTIVE EXPEEREEENCE OF CHEEZBURGR?
    Dennett sez: DENIED.

    I notice a lot of nibbling around edges here, examples of things which aren’t quale as if that meant there weren’t any, etc. It boils down to, certain ideologues deny or sophistrize the raw feely-icky sometimes scary ground-floor nature of our epistemic interface because they think the universe does not have the right to be that way. How ironic. If we are just processing information, you don’t need anesthesia but straps to hold you down. And if you can look at colored surfaces and think the way red, green, blue looks is a structural distinction, you are just dense or disingenuous. You shouldn’t even need to think about reconnecting color neurons, but if you do: better to do half of a retina, then you can experience two qualia at the same time coming from the same nm of light, busting down on playas who twaddle to us about memory problems.

    Another irony: Denyitt supposedly “showed” (how does a bunch of arguments get that good a review in principle, just wondering) that we don’t have an extra awareness of being conscious, but just the being conscious (leaving the nature of that still messy anyway.) Well, to the contrary, common-sense “mysterians” (ie, normal people who accept that we have real subjective experience) don’t try to double up like that. It is Dennnett and fans, bumbling up with messes like it seeming that we have real seemings or feelings etc, Suppose I denied that it seems to be qualitative to throw back at people who say it seeming to be qualitative doesn’t mean that it is? What are we getting off the ground with? Is there an infinite regression of inference? At some point, it’s a honor system. Dennett fails the test.

  441. #441 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    It would be difficult to argue how this research doesn’t demonstrate dualism and causality.

    If there is one thing that zombie world demonstrates, it is that it isn’t possible to demonstrate dualism, since all experiments in zombie world come out exactly the same as in our world, despite the absence of anything non-physical.

    Or they can say that our bodies work exactly the same way as zombie bodies, and both types of bodies have some kind of materialistic Pavlovian subsystem that’s making our bodies act as if they have experiences, and all the experiences are just epiphenomenal add-ons. But that doesn’t make much sense either.

    Windy, you might want to look at that review of Robert Kirk’s book (http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=6823), and its discussion of the “paradox of phenomenal judgment” and “epistemic intimacy”. We talk all about our subjective states, yet according to the dualists and zombiephiles there’s no causal connection between having those states and our talking about them — our apparent knowledge of them, our deep epistemical intimacy with them, has no source, if one follows the claims to their logical conclusion. That’s a frankly incoherent picture. (As you note, this isn’t an issue with the lookup table, because the source of the knowledge of these states comes from the programmers — assuming that such a lookup table is even remotely realizable, which of course it isn’t.)

    Honestly, if you’re interested in this subject there’s a lot of material out there by very sophisticated thinkers who don’t suffer from the evident disabilities of folks like Tulse, Tony, and Neil.

  442. #442 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    Re: If there is one thing that zombie world demonstrates, it is that it isn’t possible to demonstrate dualism, since all experiments in zombie world come out exactly the same as in our world, despite the absence of anything non-physical.

    **What is the difference between philosophy and scientific philosophy?

  443. #443 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    Cat sez: I CAN HAS SUBJEKTIVE EXPEEREEENCE OF CHEEZBURGR?
    Dennett sez: DENIED.

    You are such an ignorant dolt. Dennett does not deny that we have subjective experience; in fact, his “heterophenomenology” is a scientific method for studying subjective experience. What he denies is that qualia, as defined by philosophers of mind, are real; he denies that our subjective experience has the characteristics that qualiaphilic philosophers attribute to it.

    Here is an intelligent critique of Dennett’s view, which shows how good philosophy is done — by taking care to understand the argument one is attempting to refute — something that you are neither cabable of nor have any desire to do.

  444. #444 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    P.S. Ken has repeatedly referred to Dennett’s Quining Qualia, but I can be quite sure that Neil hasn’t read it (bold added):

    Everything real has properties, and since I don’t deny the reality of conscious experience, I grant that conscious experience has properties. I grant moreover that each person’s states of consciousness have properties in virtue of which those states have the experiential content that they do. That is to say, whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia. Qualia are supposed to be special properties, in some hard-to-define way. My claim–which can only come into focus as we proceed–is that conscious experience has no properties that are special in any of the ways qualia have been supposed to be special.

  445. #445 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    What is the difference between philosophy and scientific philosophy?

    What’s the difference between you and a chatbot? Both produce bizarre non sequiturs.

    Do you really think the Stroop effect demonstrates dualism because “It’s about a situation whereby a person insists on reporting green after ruling out obvious mechanistic explanations such as color blindness or learning the wrong name for that sensory experience”? I realize that you’re incredibly stupid, but do you really think that ruling out two mechanistic explanations means that there are no mechanistic explanations? Apparently you don’t even know what the Stroop effect is; it isn’t an insistence on “reporting green”, which is hardly inexplicable when the presented image is in fact green, it’s that it takes longer to report the word “red” when it is colored green. That there is an obvious mechanistic explanation for that is something that only the most retarded person could fail to grasp.

    The advance of science has slayed every sort of dualism of the past, and continues to do so. Over and over, science has knocked the supports out from under dualistic conceptions of consciousness; the final frontier will be to scientifically explain the pathology of brains like yours that continue to cling to obviously false ideas.

  446. #446 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    Windy, you might want to look at that review of Robert Kirk’s book

    Sorry, Owlmirror, I really should have addressed that to you (as well). Robert Kirk and others have already written papers and books making this point.

    How’s this: Imagine a thought experiment in which you were somehow able to substitute yourself for your zombie equivalent in zombie world so that you could study its inhabitants … suppose that you could travel back and forth between that world and our world at will … blink your eyes and you’re there, blink your eyes and you’re back here … amazing how different the two worlds are while appearing to be exactly the same!

  447. #447 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    I don’t quite see what the word qualia adds to the discussion. While my retina is exposed EM wavelengths of a certain frequency, a certain part of my brain is active and I report that I see red.

    The exact same wavelengths can elicit different reports, depending on the whole visual environment. And we report seeing red when not receiving wavelengths at all, as from phosgenes and dreams. Color perception is not the same as color physics. Consider the fact that red looks more like violet than like green or blue, contrary to their wavelengths.

    Suppose that there were no qualia with ineffable properties, that there were only relative sensory spaces and psychological assocations of color with objects and emotions (e.g., red: blood, ripe apples, alarm; blue: sky, water, calm). What then would color perception be like? I suggest that it would be just like it is.

  448. #448 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    Which then still leaves the question of how it is that people can report particular emotions consistent with particular brain states,if they presumably do not have direct knowledge of these brain states?

    Uh, because having those brain states causes those reports? If you really think that there’s some mystery about how you can feel horny or hungry without having knowledge of the biochemistry that produces such feelings, then you are a profoundly stupid person … but then, that was already clear.

  449. #449 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    So if I’m understanding this, a primary assumption is that there’s a difference between subjective experiences and qualia. A few questions:

    (1) Isn’t this some kind of semantic argument?

    (2) Qualia have four properties (ineffable, intrinsic, private, directly or immediately apprehensible in consciousness). How is it possible to articulate the presumably non-exist phenomena of qualia, if they don’t exist? Also, wouldn’t this by definition, make qualia a subjective experience, given that the ability to describe what qualia should be, no longer makes the concept ineffable?

    (3) So if someone has a dream every night and does not report the elements of those dreams, does the dream count as a subjective experience, or, qualia?

  450. #450 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    “this is a thought experiment, after all — if you’re willing to grant me a complete silicon replica of my brain, surely a lookup table version is easier to create”

    I don’t think so. The author of the lookup table would have to know what you’d answer to every possible imaginable question.

    Indeed. It’s hard to fathom the stupidity that would lead to the claim. It’s equivalent to saying that it would be harder to copy a program (or, more precisely, a computer with the program loaded in its memory) than to make a list of every output the program (computer) would produce for every possible input. If Tulse can’t handle such blatantly obvious issues, it’s pointless to debate the more complex ones with him.

  451. #451 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    How is it possible to articulate the presumably non-exist phenomena of qualia, if they don’t exist?

    How is it possible to articulate the presumably non-existent phenomena of unicorns or God if they don’t exist?

    Honestly, Tony, you’re a dolt. You really should stick to stuff you understand — something simpler than even Tic-Tac-Toe; tying your shoes, perhaps.

  452. #452 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    You’re not really answering the question.

  453. #453 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    You’re not really answering the question.

    It’s a dolt’s question, like how is it possible for me to talk about you tying your shoelaces if you wear loafers. The burden isn’t on me to answer your questions, but for you to justify the absurd claims couched in your questions, like that talking about something that doesn’t exist makes it exist. Or your moronic assertion that Damasio’s experiments that show that brain activity precedes reports of emotions supports dualism, when most people reasonably take it as undermining dualism by illustrating that conscious experience is a consequence of physical activity, not independent of it.

  454. #454 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    You’re not really answering the question.

  455. #455 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    you seem to me to be saying that in our world subjective experience has a causal role in our behaviour, separate from physical selves, since if Android Tulse doesn’t have such experiences, it shouldn’t talk about them.

    This is incredibly dense. For the physicalist, subjective experience isn’t separate from physical selves, it’s an aspect of out physical selves. We have it and we talk about it, just as computers produce reports about their internal states as a consequence of having those internal states. If Android Tulse doesn’t have such experiences, it shouldn’t talk about them, but since it’s a physical copy of Tulse, a physicalist would hold that it must have such experiences, if Tulse does.

    So Eliza necessarily has conscious experiences when “she” asks you how you are feeling? A Nintendog necessarily has conscious experiences when it complains you haven’t fed it?

    No, moron, because Eliza and Nintendog do not display extensive internally consistent detailed reports about conscious experience, and are not physically equivalent to ourselves, whom we know have conscious experiences.

  456. #456 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    You’re not really answering the question.

    Dolt.

  457. #457 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    Here’s a clue, dolt: answer my question, “How is it possible to articulate the presumably non-existent phenomena of unicorns or God if they don’t exist?” and you’ll have the answer to your question.

  458. #458 truth machine
    January 24, 2008

    So is having the behaviour sufficient to produce subjective experience in it? Even if it is just using a lookup table? If not, then clearly simply being able to generate a model that produces behaviour associated with Real Tulse’s subjective states isn’t a guarantee that that behaviour is actually accompanied by subjective states.

    So what? That doesn’t touch the argument that having the exact same physical makeup of someone with subjective experience is sufficient to produce subjective experience.

    If a lookup table is sufficient to produce subjective states, then you’ve got a very interesting behaviourist view of consciousness (and the problem that a whole host of objects now potentially possess rudimentary subjective states, such as your thermostat, a Furby, and Warcraft).

    I’d say you have a real interesting ontology for “subjective states”. At just what moment, during your own personal development, do you suppose such states arose in you?

  459. #459 Tony Jeremiah
    January 24, 2008

    Re:Here’s a clue, dolt: answer my question…”How is it possible to articulate the presumably non-existent phenomena of unicorns or God if they don’t exist?” and you’ll have the answer to your question.

    **Zombie World actually exists**

  460. #460 windy
    January 24, 2008

    you might want to look at that review of Robert Kirk’s book (http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=6823), and its discussion of the “paradox of phenomenal judgment” and “epistemic intimacy”

    I read it, it was very good. Is ‘e-qualia’ Kirk’s own term?

    It’s equivalent to saying that it would be harder to copy a program (or, more precisely, a computer with the program loaded in its memory) than to make a list of every output the program (computer) would produce for every possible input.

    Other than “Hello World”…

    If Android Tulse doesn’t have such experiences, it shouldn’t talk about them, but since it’s a physical copy of Tulse, a physicalist would hold that it must have such experiences, if Tulse does.

    The android was not an exact physical copy by definition (but if it turns out that the silicon brain works differently, the ‘functionally equivalent’ condition was probably violated in the design, depending on how strictly you interpret the condition)

  461. #461 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2008

    Color perception is not the same as color physics.

    DOH! Big omission in my massive over-simplification. There’s an entire set of photoshop filters edge and motion detecting, along with many other well understood processes, like inverting the image so people aren’t walking on their heads (you’d be amazed how rapidly people adjust to walking around wearing image inverting prisms), that happens before I can report what color I’m seeing.

    Consider the fact that red looks more like violet than like green or blue, contrary to their wavelengths.

    This page demonstrates many color and contrast “perceptual illusions” that also points out how much we know about how known functional processes in the brain conspire to process visual information.

    relative sensory spaces and psychological assocations of color with objects and emotions

    But, must we call that qualia? People constellate meaning onto colors and patterns and associate events tagged with unique relationships to other memories all the time. Creative people can use evocative linguistic cues to generate (culturally dependent but fairly) universal associations, so that readers can construct how they imagine it would be to feel a certain way, or picture an event they’ve never personally witnessed–but I don’t see how that construction can be the same as whatever is meant by qualia.

  462. #462 Neil B.
    January 25, 2008

    Here’s the heart of the disingenuous bait and switch regarding subjective experience put forth by experience deniers:

    “TM” prated forth:

    But we can know that we have a model of human cognition that explains everything important about it, including why humans say what they do about “subjective experience” — making the notion of “subjective experience” as some sort of add-on superfluous.

    In other words, you like Dennett are an anesthesia-feigning behaviorist wacko after all (in spirit, not of course about the conditioning of behavior to stimuli their way) who doesn’t really believe there is a special qualitative character to our “raw feels.” Elsewhere you complain that Dennett really doesn’t deny subjective experience, but only says it “can’t” (legislating reality) have the properties that “qualiphiles” (pretended to be abstruse philosophers, but actually anyone candid non-crank commenter on our epistemic ground floor) say it has. But not having the properties that pick something out for its identity is denying it. Aren’t properties what make things what they are? Yes, unless it’s a silly “whatever is in this box is what I meant, apart from the traits that would identify it.” The Dennett quote from “Quining Qualia” is in his best tradition as prevaricating trickster in that vein, first saying he doesn’t deny something, and then saying it has none of the properties that make that very term and distinction meaningful. The man ought to run for president with Karl Rove as advisor.

    You are positing that what makes us talk that way is the point, and that “experience” is a superfluous add-on?! A person like that is grossly neurotic. At least Skinner had the guts and honesty to admit he was just (insanely) denying the “buzz” factor of sensation and not use fraudulent doubletalk to dance around the issue. As much of a pathetic crank as he was, I respect him for that.

    Here’s another revealing quote:


    Clearly the physical human organism can be modeled. In addition, we already have models that do a good job of explaining why an organism such as we are has the behaviors and behavioral dispositions we have, including such behaviors as our folk psychology and our claims about consciousness and what it is like. Minsky made the point in Society of Mind that a system organized in certain ways would create the sort of self-models that we do. This explains why things seem to us the way they do. Not only is an adequate explanation, it’s the only sort of explanation that is logically possible.

    Here’s the anti-mysterians favorite trick phrase, used to put forth a pseudomysterian something or another called “seeming”:

    “This explains why things seem to us the way they do.”

    Hmmm, so just what is this mysterious “seeming”? What does it boil down to? It’s a mushy common expression, can’t you do better as rigorous thinkers? If you are denying still that we really have qualitative experience, then this exposes “seeming” as a way for people to pinch themselves, have the feeling, say “Oh it seems to be a weird something that really hurts” and confuse that with the seeming of a round object to be irregular because intervening warped glass distorted the image on the retina. Then you can pretend to have your cake and discard it too. But if there really isn’t qualitative subjective experience, that seeming is just more number crunching in the dark, there really isn’t anything for you to fell or even “seem to feel” (an idiotic clunker of a mixed up phrase) in any non-delusional sense.

    And yes, it *is* an honor system at the ground floor, or else we couldn’t agree on what to start with, to infer other things from, whether our knowing that experiments were even done or how they or other things were experienced by us. If you say that’s not science, then is there a science to investigate whether experimental evidence is really evidence and so on? Unless you are a childish naive realist, you realize that our perceptions are the first-line given and we infer out from them. I know that the nature of something is not the same issue as whether it exists at all, but it’s a similar issue of getting agreement from people who aren’t coyly playing dumb (or maybe are dumb in some particular way relevant to this, despite abilities in other areas?) to make a point.

    Why “qualitative”? Because that is the given nature of how red looks to us (how the light itself looks, i.e. the given sensation it causes, not to be confused with fraudulent concepts of doubling up into seeming to look etc.) compared to green, etc., and the honor system is whether I can get you to consider that honestly instead of throwing up ideologically-based evasions. They are said to be “ineffable” because fundamentals can’t be explained in more fundamental terms (that term doesn’t have to mean theres’ *nothing* you can say about it, you have to understand context.) But I don’t think that’s a good term, since you do have ways of talking about them, such as saying that the sensation caused by 580 nm light more resembles that caused by 600 nm light that either do that caused by 420 nm light, but that similarity is still not subjectively like vibrations or patterns etc. Really, if every thing needed to be defined further, what do we have – a regression of definitions all the way down?

    Interesting phrase used by TM up there:


    Consider the fact that red looks more like violet than like green or blue, contrary to their wavelengths.

    Umm, “looks more like”, interesting comparison there. How do you know it looks more like violet than green or blue? If you consider what you are doing honestly instead of being an ideologue who thinks reality doesn’t have the right to be problematical for philsophers/scientists/modelers etc. you might be able to admit what that’s all about. But then you blow it with your fundamentally preposterous idea that experience of color would be the same if the qualia weren’t there. No, it wouldn’t be at all the same, it would be “like” having nothing to see but just being able to talk bout it. I doubt seriously you can’t imagine that as a thought-experience distinction, you are so wrapped up in the idea that the universe owes you and Dennett and other tinny intellectual Babbitts some special accessibility/comprehensibility and all sorts of things very much like what you ridicule me, Heddle, et al about in the context of anthropic design.

    Finally, there is much confusion here about physicalism and what it should be telling us. Most here imply that the issue is whether brains could exist without having real experiential feel connected to them, and think that is what the zombie idea is about. But the better-put notion is not whether experience must be correlated or generated by neural process. The zombie idea is designed in the end to get you to imagine behavior or physical properties without consciousness to show the difference in character, not so much whether they have to coexist or not. (Even Dennett admits it’s an intuition pump to that end, not a literally attack on physicalism, and that comports with what Chalmers says he means.) It’s the idea that the nature of it is relative to circumstance, that it is qualitative for the brain having it and this is not analyzable by investigatory models involving data etc.

    This should actually not be too hard for people who really care about science (as opposed to worshiping it: compare realistic understanding of the value and limitations of free markets with cranks who think every problem is perfectly solved by a FM and we can just rid ourselves of government.) Science involves collecting the results of interactions and interpreting them using various *useful* conceptual models, rather than having “the way it really is” just presented naked to the mind’s eye (however you imagine that.) In many cases, it isn’t even clear how “real” the model elements should be, as with “A” field that magnetic field *can be considered* as the curl of. So it isn’t about explaining what we do, or even why we *act like* or think we (and don’t even run that stupid diversionary expression, “seem to”) have weird qualitative feelings that make them literally worth having or avoiding, but explaining why it is like that “for us.” That’s more like explaining why there is a wave function, how to “interpret it” and how it collapses, not like explaining superconductivity using given principles in turn.


    Not only is an adequate explanation, it’s the only sort of explanation that is logically possible.

    The first part is a fraud, but maybe you are right in the second clause. However, that doesn’t make the alternative not so unless you are a legislator of reality. Of course you are still confusing “explanation” and “characterization.” Finally, to those who say about honest characterization of the nature of subjective experience: “Well that isn’t science”, I reply: OK, fine, you’re the one who said it – then don’t have it both ways and say science can explain or deal with everything. Science is a method and not the world it studies only as best it can. All methods are developed in certain contexts and have their advantages and limitations, unless you want to worship them. Maybe then it can’t be explained, just as science had to give up on predicting in principle when a muon or Co60 nucleus would decay. What about the universe would guarantee that it can be? Do you believe in sciencentric design? After all that bitching about God, don’t go there. (Once again, c.f. libertarian cranks and the FM.)

    PS, “truth machine”, you have called everyone around here an idiot etc, once Ken a “blithering idiot”, then Tulse, then Tony Jeremiah and me of course, et al, showing that you are a pathetic and bitter crank. BTW I don’t think you are stupid, just an ideological hack – a more realistic criticism than your petulant booger flickings. Now, do you think Park is an idiot too like everyone else you disagree with or who irritates you, note the last sentence of his paper:

    “Hence, proponents of qualia seem to have a clear avenue by which they can travel around Dennett’s call for the elimination of the concept of qualia.”

  463. #463 Neil B.
    January 25, 2008

    TM, careless about what people think as usual. This sheds light on some of the hostility thinkers like him express, that is somewhat deserved against certain concepts but not others. Some of the time, we are talking past each other, comparing apples and oranges, etc:


    We talk all about our subjective states, yet according to the dualists and zombiephiles there’s no causal connection between having those states and our talking about them — our apparent knowledge of them, our deep epistemical intimacy with them, has no source, if one follows the claims to their logical conclusion. That’s a frankly incoherent picture.

    Well, sure it’s a problem for a “substance” dualist who thinks there’s a separate stuff in there which needs to hook up to neurons to get the word and the choices out etc. But if you really were well-read, you would have appreciated “property dualism” to consider, agree or not (maybe I can forgive a bit since the Wikipedia article doesn’t really get to the best point.) PD is the idea I discussed earlier, that the “way things are like” is relative, in a way we may or may not get a handle on any better than how best to interpret QM. In such a case, there is no causality problem since the one process produces behavior, but it’s “character” is relative to how it is being considered/measured/who is doing it, etc. Methods of checking something reflect back the method, not just the essence of what’s there. (Maybe not realizing that is the foundational fallacy of scientism such as it is?) To think that when something relatively manifests as “different” there to be a separate thing there, is (roughly) like thinking that Lorentz-contracted versions of a rod must all live within it as ghostly shorter sticks of other material, etc.

  464. #464 Neil B.
    January 25, 2008

    Also, here’s a better way to appreciate the concept of p-zombies: instead of wondering if someone else could be a p-zombie, ask yourself if there’s any *use* you could put the state to in your own case. Well, suppose you could turn yourself into a PZ (Hah!) for an hour if you wanted to avoid an unpleasant situation that your expertise was needed to get a desired outcome later. Say, horrible eating of maggots to win money etc. You can imagine wanting to be a PZ during that time so as not to be “actually miserable” while clearly eating maggots or rotten octopus meat with *apparent* disgust. (OK, you get to spit it out after chewing.) Then you collect your money and can actually enjoy the fruits of the winnings with a cheeseburger you *want* to get qualia from (since mere data wouldn’t make it worth eating.)

    (Sorry PZ, it just came out that way!)

  465. #465 Neil B.
    January 25, 2008

    TM, you did at least show some glimmer of insight with the following line, but then you run away from digging into the real implications and nature of “what it’s like to be”:


    Subjective experience is what it’s like to be a certain brain process.

    Terrific, I agree! But what do you mean by what it’s “like”? Why use that suspiciously touchy-feely common slop phrase when you could have picked a nice rigorous characterization? I mean, if they are just there, why that “superfluous add-on”? I think you instinctively realize there’s a special way that subjective experience is, and don’t want to admit it (so like many of your bent, you built up literal double-talk castles in the sand to pretend to have it both ways.)

    But you can admit if without supernaturalism, if you accept property dualism. Just remember that feelings nearly by definition aren’t really “feelings” if they can be described in terms of physical concepts (which is not at all the same idea as that they can’t be an aspect of the same thing – note the key word “concepts” here.)

    Note: On another of your takes on the prevaricating trickster Dennett:


    Dennett does not deny that we have subjective experience; in fact, his “heterophenomenology” is a scientific method for studying subjective experience.”

    Absolute rubbish to the core. The very idea and definition of “subjective” is bound up in the notion of what it is like to be the individual having the brain processes involved (as you allude to without appreciating where you’re going with that) and not how it or even accompanying behavior is observed or interpreted by other people. He says we don’t “judge” the subject (why not myself?) in some smarmy provisional PC-sounding sense and that adds to the trick that he isn’t going to deny anything later, which he of course does.

    But you may be right, by *definition* of “science” (not equivalent to definition of “real” etc.) that likely is the only scientific way to study it. All that just goes to show that science can’t study it, not that it isn’t real. Sometimes you guys bray that science can find out anything, or imply similar. Other times you use the claim (maybe right) that science probably can’t to pretend the insight or phenom. can’t be had – make up your minds (whatever they are.)

  466. #466 Tony Jeremiah
    January 25, 2008

    @432:

    Jeremiah, A.R. (2006). Using the converging methods approach to understand the Stroop effect and visual word recognition. Dissertation Abstracts International, 67(04), 2252B. (UMI No. 3215970).

  467. #467 truth machine
    January 26, 2008

    I read it, it was very good. Is ‘e-qualia’ Kirk’s own term?

    It’s just shorthand for “epiphenomenal qualia”, which certainly isn’t Kirk’s own phrase – Frank Jackson wrote a paper with that title in 1982.

    Other than “Hello World”…

    Yeah, I should have included the word “generally”.

    The android was not an exact physical copy by definition

    Yeah, you’re right. But I don’t think it’s relevant here — or, if it is, so much the worse for Tulse’s argument (such as he has one). After all, he could have written “carbon” instead of “silicon”, and “The problem is how would we know that such behaviour is accompanied by subjective experience?” would still pertain (to the extent that there is such a problem, and as someone who rejects the Zombic Hunch, I don’t think there is). In fact, Tulse explicitly wrote “I doubt that we can ever know whether such a brain has experience, or have an explanation as to how it is possible that a silicon brain, or any brain, does.” This is just ye olde other minds problem; silicon and zombies aren’t relevant, except in the way that they illustrate the sort of mistake people like Tulse make. Zombies spend a lot of time talking about their minds and their mental states and their subjective experiences (exactly as much time as humans do); what the heck causes them to do that, if they don’t have minds, mental states, or subjective experience? Clearly, minds, mental states, subjective experience are all the result of certain sorts of processes — brain processes — and are not epiphenomenal, since they have obvious effects on human behavior. And that’s how we know that people have subjective experience — the same way we have any sort of empirical knowledge, by inference to the best explanation. And as always, empirical knowledge is subject to radical skepticism — but skepticism about knowledge doesn’t make it any less knowledge. The other minds “problem” boils down to naive epistemology, a failure grasp that knowledge is true justified belief, and our only problem is getting the justifications worked out, not getting that which we justifiably believe to be true.

  468. #468 truth machine
    January 26, 2008

    you’d be amazed how rapidly people adjust to walking around wearing image inverting prisms

    Not me; I’m well aware.

    This page demonstrates many color and contrast “perceptual illusions” that also points out how much we know about how known functional processes in the brain conspire to process visual information.

    Been there.

    But, must we call that qualia?

    I’m talking about what I think is the actual character of what people do call qualia.

    Creative people can use evocative linguistic cues to generate (culturally dependent but fairly) universal associations, so that readers can construct how they imagine it would be to feel a certain way, or picture an event they’ve never personally witnessed–but I don’t see how that construction can be the same as whatever is meant by qualia.

    But I wasn’t talking about similes, I was talking about the real thing — “the redness of red” does not, I suggest, have any intrinsic attribute above and beyond its informational relationships within the brain. If you woke up tomorrow and your visual spectrum were inverted, but the rest of your cognitive space weren’t respectively inverted, it would seem very wrong because you would have the wrong memory and emotion associations — the sky would look alarming, like blood. It could be fixed so as not to seem wrong by changing all those associations; fix them all, and nothing would seem wrong at all. That implies that that’s all those “qualia” actually are.

  469. #469 truth machine
    January 26, 2008

    Neil, even if your babbling and your mental confusion were penetrable, it wouldn’t be worth my time.

  470. #470 Tony Jeremiah
    January 26, 2008

    Re: The other minds “problem” boils down to naive epistemology, a failure grasp that knowledge is true justified belief, and our only problem is getting the justifications worked out, not getting that which we justifiably believe to be true.

    **Justification Hypothesis

  471. #471 Neil B.
    January 26, 2008

    Well TM, your reference to babbling is a handy excuse to dodge what I’ve said, but I admit to over-long posting, too many clauses connected by commas, etc. (That’s partly indulgence as art. But if all I do is annoy and confuse people, it’s worthless, sure.) I will correct that to some extent here. You indulge rather much as I’ve said, for example phrases like “what it’s like to have brain processes” without explaining how that differs from just talking of having them. The key point I was trying to make in the mess is the idea of aspect dualism, meaning that the same process has different properties depending on what relates or interacts to it and how it is accessed. Hence, saying “it’s just the brain processes” can be true but not have the implications you think it has or has to have. Those processes manifest in literally qualitative ways “for” the system having the processes within itself. In that sense, “empirical” as socialized epistemology (the same character should just be revealed observers equally and in the same way) would be transcended. I don’t see any other way around the mind-body problem, since neither disconnection nor denial of the subjective are tenable to me.

    Here’s a bad way to reason:


    If you woke up tomorrow and your visual spectrum were inverted, but the rest of your cognitive space weren’t respectively inverted, it would seem very wrong because you would have the wrong memory and emotion associations — the sky would look alarming, like blood. It could be fixed so as not to seem wrong by changing all those associations; fix them all, and nothing would seem wrong at all. That implies that that’s all those “qualia” actually are.

    It’s very dangerous to reason that things don’t have alleged properties because modifying how your mind worked would take away to ability to tell the difference. For one thing, if “associations” includes everything pertaining to memory, then almost by definition you couldn’t tell if certain things were changed around. Well of course you can’t tell if things are switched around in such a case, but it doesn’t prove anything. The reverse reductio is to say, if the sensations really were qualitative, imagine the memory being taken away: you still wouldn’t be able to remember the difference (by circular argument.) Whatever the difference was, taking the memory and reactions away would by circular definition make it impossible to tell the difference between sensations whatever they were. Hence, the argument can’t make a point about what they are or aren’t like – it’s vacuous.

    Also, how about times when your associations and reactions change but you know it’s the same color? How about, a POW gets beaten a lot in a dull greenish-blue room, so they have a creepy feeling about that color. But that doesn’t affect their ability to ID the physical stimulis, or talk about it as being between green and blue, “dull” etc – nothing is any different except their creepy feeling in it’s presence. It had no effect on their appreciation of that quale as such, which can be abstracted away from the associations. (This is sort of, your experiment in reverse.)

    My own example way above was to change half the retina so you could see it half red-looking and half blue-looking, to bypass memory issues. *You* also still use that phrase “look like”, umm, what do you mean by that? Finally, such a capability mutilation wouldn’t fool me anyway. Unless my abstracting ability was taken away too, I would appreciate that the “looking like” was qualitative in nature – that way it differed from other color sensations was not describable then and there in process or structure terms, regardless of whether any were the same or different as before. That’s because I’m not an ideologue, and I accept the world, weird worts and all.

  472. #472 Neil B.
    January 26, 2008

    PS, “aspect dualism” is a synonym for “property dualism”, the latter being the common term. It’s a great way to just live with mind and body as they are in experience and under dissection without having to consider it a problem.

  473. #473 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2008

    TM:

    “the redness of red” does not, I suggest, have any intrinsic attribute above and beyond its informational relationships within the brain.

    If I could have said it that simply, I would have, but we are in complete agreement. To claim the converse would be needlessly multiplying entities, in order to support platonism.

    Neil:

    That’s because I’m not an ideologue

    Such a comedian. Nice act, beating up on straw-Dennett. Neil, you should polish these up, throw in some footnotes and submit them to Social Text. Those folks can appreciate impenetrable contentlessness.

    Neil:

    That’s because I’m not an ideologue

    Such a comedian. Nice act, beating up on straw-Dennett. Neil, you should polish these up, throw in some footnotes and submit them to Social Text. Those folks can appreciate impenetrable contentlessness.

  474. #474 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2008

    halting problem issues –ank you. readto: This ride is closed.

  475. #475 Tony Jeremiah
    January 26, 2008

    Esref Armagan (paintings from a man born blind at birth)

  476. #476 JimC
    January 27, 2008

    Science is a method and not the world it studies only as best it can

    These type of arguments are amusing. Here we have an individual stating the above about science while proposing what in reality is, well, nothing as an alternative way to understanding anything.

    If it exists in the natural world science can study it. We just have to look in the correct manner and ask the right questions.

    Neil you seem to be,well, out to lunch and confused.

    owes you and Dennett and other tinny intellectual Babbitts some special accessibility/comprehensibility and all sorts of things very much like what you ridicule me, Heddle, et al about in the context of anthropic design

    I did find this particurally amusing. Bashing Dennett, who really is a great thinker, while joining up with the likes of heddle one of the largest internet cranks(and a ridiculously poor thinker) out there and one who thinks genocide is good if a book says so. Your really putting yourself in crankhood by doing this.

  477. #477 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    PS, “aspect dualism” is a synonym for “property dualism”, the latter being the common term.

    I am of course very familiar with these terms. But I still remain a physicalist (and therefore a monist), despite having faced far better arguments for property dualism than your semi-coherent ramblings.

  478. #478 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    Esref Armagan (paintings from a man born blind at birth)

    This doesn’t say anything about the issues being debated, since no one disputes that blind (and totally colorblind) people know what colors things are.

  479. #479 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    Well TM, your reference to babbling is a handy excuse to dodge what I’ve said

    What have you said? I peered into that shit and found no pony. Above you blabber about “the memory being taken away”, but that has no relevance to what I wrote, it just reveals how incapable you are of reasoning about these issues.

  480. #480 windy
    January 27, 2008

    You indulge rather much as I’ve said, for example phrases like “what it’s like to have brain processes” without explaining how that differs from just talking of having them.

    Maybe the zombiephiles could explain the distinction for us – it’s a much bigger problem for them anyway.

  481. #481 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Maybe the zombiephiles could explain the distinction for us – it’s a much bigger problem for them anyway.

    I thought the big problem for zombies was having somebody else’s brain, with or without processes.

    Do qualia lacking zombies eat brains in which they hope to find qualia, as a sort of dietary supplement? Perhaps this memo will help sort it out: re: Your Brains

  482. #483 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    This is certainly not to say they’re shallow, but qualia do not seem to concern these living dead girlz as much as the apprehension that all those brains might make their butts look big.

  483. #484 Owlmirror
    January 27, 2008

    On searching youtube, there are several videos of Esref Armagan; the first one appears to be a cell-phone camera video of him making a pencil sketch of a house and yard. Watch his fingers, carefully measuring distances.

    While interesting, I am not sure what point bringing him up serves.

  484. #485 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Check out the Motluk (2005) article @469 and TM’s comment @465.

  485. #486 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Conventional wisdom suggests that a person can’t have a “mind’s eye” without ever having had vision.

    “Conventional wisdom” is an ass. What moron would ever claim such a thing?

    TM’s remark (as usual) bears repeating:

    This doesn’t say anything about the issues being debated, since no one disputes that blind (and totally colorblind) people know what colors things are.

    Tony, don’t expect us to provide context for your links from Zombie World.

  486. #487 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Wrong closing tag. TM didn’t say, “Tony, don’t expect us to provide context for your links from Zombie World,” I did.

  487. #488 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Do the paintings that Esref draw’s count as subjective experience, or, qualia? Provide support for your answer.

  488. #489 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Burden is on you, TJ dear. Please explain WTF you mean by qualia. Use language carefully. Esref’s paintings are artifacts.

  489. #490 Owlmirror
    January 27, 2008

    The input device (the eye) is not what actually processes vision, but rather the visual centers of the brain.

    One possibility that I haven’t seen mentioned is that he may have a form of synaesthesia, thus being able to experience colour without necessarily seeing it. Although that doesn’t mean that he experiences the same colours as sighted people. There’s a recent mention of a colour-blind individual who is also synaesthetic; he calls the colours he sees as synaesthetic sensations “martian colors” (because he never saw them in real life).

    Another thought that comes to mind is that Armagan is, in some ways, acting as a Chinese room for colour: he mixes his pigments, and asks people: “Is this blue what the sky looks like? No? Lighter? It needs more white? OK, is this better?” And so on. By demanding that someone make close observations of the subjects, and his pigment mixtures, he gets a rough idea of what they ought to look like. In this scenario, Armagan does not know colour at all directly; Armagan knows what people report as colour.

    Presumably, he has a good memory.

    Here’s the report of the psychologist mentioned in the NS article: Esref Armagan and perspective in tactile pictures.

  490. #491 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    That’s the impression I got, Owlmirror. Drawing is a craft that most cultures mystify and fail to instill. It’s learned behavior that can be taught to anybody, but people seem to prefer to think of it as magic. Drawing is merely a communication skill. Tactility and collaboration seem to be a large part of what Esref is doing. Human beings build simulations of the world and check to see that they correspond, Esref is no different from anybody else in that regard.

    Consider yourself groping around your house at night in a power blackout. You remember where everything is, you have a mental model of the space, and if anything is out of place or your memory doesn’t map properly, you stub your toe. A 51 year blind person has the advantage on visualizing spaces by memorizing them with tactility, perhaps with a bit of echolocation. There is no shortage of material for Esref to study, using his tactile senses and mental model construction skills to explore embossed drawings, and practice drawing with perspective (the prospect of learning 3 point perspective horrifies non-artists for some reason, when it is merely a technical process, far less reliant on skill than any other aspect of drawing). If he asks for a tube of red, and somebody plays a joke and gives him green, have his qualia been inverted?

    TJ’s asking us to assume a load of nonsense and make his argument for him. The only reason I’m playing along is because I’m on a deadline and I’m procrastinating.

  491. #492 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Ok so here’s some tentative definitions for distinguishing subjective experience and qualia:

    Qualia = Projection of (Gestalt) artifacts (e.g., paintings, words, other human inventions) into objective reality (i.e., external world).

    Subjective experience = Projection of objective reality (i.e., external world) into the brain.

  492. #493 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    I’m sorry, but I can’t be bothered to waste further time trying to communicate with anybody who requires their own special flavor of Babel Fish to find out WTF they’re trying to say, when they use words that already have a common connotation having nothing whatsoever to do with what Tony Jeremiah here has pulled out of his ass.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs: they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

    ‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

    ‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

    ‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

    ‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

  493. #494 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Re:…has pulled out of his ass.

    **That would also be my folk definition of philosophy**

  494. #495 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Less Descartes, more Kant (at least for starters) please. Then, once you’ve gotten all of that philolsophy out of your system, you may consider trying to catch up with where the subject has gotten to by the early 21st century.

  495. #496 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008

    >>PS, “aspect dualism” is a synonym for “property dualism”, the latter being the common term.


    I am of course very familiar with these terms. But I still remain a physicalist (and therefore a monist), despite having faced far better arguments for property dualism than your semi-coherent ramblings.

    Talk about semi-coherent. If you think that accepting *property* dualism means you can’t be a physicalist/monist in denotative terms, you don’t understand what PD is despite having “better arguments” than I gave. (It is at the least compatible with monism – ever hear of “neutral monism”? – even if your notion of “physicalism” is based on a misguided naive realist treatment of our empirical encounter with matter rather than its denotative exclusivity per se.) The whole point and definition of PD is for the *same thing* to have different *properties* depending on relative access etc. as I explained (not “invented”, but explained.) You made a fundamental error just getting the basic point. If you can do better, expressing that is the only evidence, not throwing snot at everyone else.

  496. #497 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008

    >> “the redness of red” does not, I suggest, have any intrinsic attribute above and beyond its informational relationships within the brain.

    >If I could have said it that simply, I would have, but we are in complete agreement. To claim the converse would be needlessly multiplying entities, in order to support platonism.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The “redness of red” is first of all supposed to be about the character of the sensation caused by light in a certain range. Whether aptly worded or not is not the key issue about evaluating concepts, since what is denoted by bad phrasing does not logically have to be an erroneous or incoherent concept – that depends on further explication and reflects more on those who coined the expression. The saying is equivalent to “what it feels like” i.e. the character of sensation, that makes it worth calling “feeling” for example instead of just “knowledge” or “data.” Are you guys really saying, there isn’t a way things feel, a character to nausea etc? Just the equivalent of numbers, how can that be equivalent of sensations as they are for us? Thinking that is denial, “feigning anesthesia”, just what Dennett really did and not a straw man version, perversity at the epistemic ground floor. It is not attention to Ockham’s razor. OR is after all about whether to multiply hypothetical entities to explain something else, not about how to characterize something we already accept. There’s nothing for the support of Platonism there, just candor about sensory life. I ask you again, what is it about “pain” that makes analgesia worthy having, if just signal processing?

    TM:


    If you woke up tomorrow and your visual spectrum were inverted, but the rest of your cognitive space weren’t respectively inverted, it would seem very wrong because you would have the wrong memory and emotion associations — the sky would look alarming, like blood.


    It could be fixed so as not to seem wrong by changing all those associations; fix them all, and nothing would seem wrong at all.

    But then, deceitfully or incompetently:


    What have you said? I peered into that shit and found no pony. [Again, I don't think you *can*] Above you blabber about “the memory being taken away”, but that has no relevance to what I wrote, it just reveals how incapable you are of reasoning about these issues.

    You started with the ordinary case that inverting one’s visual spectrum would be noticed because of *memory* associations etc., and then imagine a very contrived experiment in which those are taken away albeit just called “associations” (and what makes you think that can be done in a vacuum, as if a separable module?) and you claim the person would not be able to tell the inversion anymore. If “memory” isn’t relevant to that, then Noah really could get all the world’s animals in the Ark and even get the Kangaroos back to Australia. So right there you are lying or can’t even remember your own (really Dennett’s, but I didn’t see the “credit”) stupid thought experiment just so you can shoot off a worthless new flying booger. (BTW, you didn’t seem too bothered that you were confidently arguing from an expected outcome and not a real outcome anyway, does that matter to you?)

    Furthermore, you clowns’ thought-experiment ironically (I just love irony) lends support to the very idea it is clumsily purporting to disprove: if taking away the memories and associations allowing comparison would leave you unable to tell which quale went with which frequency, that is precisely because qualia *are* ineffable. If the difference was describable in terms of other fundamentals (e.g. our color perception modeled the actual frequency of the light) then it *would* be possible to know there was a change in coding of sensation and light. You could actually examine the sensation to find the frequency and realize they weren’t in accord anymore. But since qualia are ineffable there isn’t any way to write notes to yourself explaining how to compare them later if you forget what to all them (like you could compare coding by patterns of lines and dots, as in old engravings to represent different regions.) Also, you’ve got that favorite sloppy-folk-epistemology word “seem” in there which you don’t explain and elaborate. Just what is that? (Sure, it refers to something, but what.)

    Finally, your insults aren’t even effectual because you insult basically everyone and the distinction is worthless. Ken, now agreeing with you, was a “blithering idiot” upthread, Tulse wasn’t an idiot until he started disagreeing with you, etc. ad nauseum. Like I said, you come across as a bitter tween-grade booger flicker and not a good thinker either. But maybe you only “seem” to be!?

  497. #498 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Neil, your obfuscatory baffle gab, when comprehensible, appears to consist mostly of rage that nobody understands what you’re trying to say. Why do you suppose that may be?

    You made a fundamental error just getting the basic point.

    When nobody can be bothered to try to follow your execrable prose, you should consider trying to correct the fundamental error of not appearing to even have a basic point.

  498. #499 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008


    If it exists in the natural world science can study it. We just have to look in the correct manner and ask the right questions.

    JimC, is there a way to prove that logically must be the case, not just from zealous belief based on previous experience (which does not alway continue in like vein, did you know?)

    There are already things science had to give up on, like being able to predict when particles would decay, how to imagine what it is that really propagates into space when electrons are emitted (per the wave-particle duality), no real progress on why the laws are what they are versus just using them to explain other things, etc.

    The very point of property dualism (probably the best resolution to the mind-body problem there is, requiring neither an extra substance nor the pathological denial of the given nature of our experiences) is that the nature of things is relative to how they are studied, hence by definition one must be the subject to know what feelings are like.

    Let me ask you, is it a “scientific experiment” if you try headache pills to see which ones work better on you (by being aware of whether your own pain is less or less bothersome), or would you require someone else to look at you and read what you wrote about it etc? Why? What if you don’t want to consider it a “scientific” experiment, so what? I am reminded of the SNL skit in which there was a blood-sugar-type medical test you took to find if you really had a headache. It make me think of cranks like BF Skinner.

  499. #500 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Perhaps, Neil, you could find somebody who clearly states an idea that you want to promote, so that it may be examined? Here for instance, on somebody’s blog, (whose mission appears to be to generate Christian apologia in the style of C. S. Lewis), is a remark he quotes from Edward Feser, arguing against property dualism:

    …Property dualism seems if anything to have a worse problem with epiphenomenalism than does Cartesian dualism. Recall that the Cartesian dualist who opts for epiphenomenalism seems to be committed to the absurd consequence that we cannot so much as talk about out mental states, because if epiphenomenalism is true, those mental states have no effect at all on our bodies, including our larynxes, tongues and lips. But as Daniel Dennett has pointed out, the property dualist seems committed to something even more absurd: the conclusion that we cannot even think about our mental states, or at least about our qualia! For if your beliefs–including your belief that you have qualia–are physical states of your brain, and qualia can have no effects on anything physical, then whether you have qualia has nothing to do with whether you believe that you have them. The experience of pain you have in your back has absolutely no connection to your belief that you have an experience of pain in your back; for, being incapable of having any causal influence on the physical world, it cannot be what caused you to have beliefs about it.

  500. #501 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008

    Ken, maybe my prose is usually bad (I just chop it out verbatim and I tend to string along clauses, I admit it.) It is older, 19th century style, and younger readers are less attuned to that. But people do tend to find difficulty in what they don’t want to agree with. Some things are pretty simple, like TM (“blithering idiot”) disingenuously saying it was “irrelevant” for me to talk about “memory” to critique his thought experiment, when memory and related processes were the core of that very experiment. In any case, there are certain key concepts that you can find and appreciate, so here’s a very fundamental one again:

    I ask you, what is it about “pain” that makes analgesia worthy having, if just signal processing?

  501. #502 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    (It is at the least compatible with monism – ever hear of “neutral monism”

    This is a definition of compatible with which I was not previously familiar.

    A physicalist monist isn’t a neutral monist (Spinoza) any more than he is a subjective monist (Berkeley).

  502. #503 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    It is older, 19th century style

    That would be style in the “not” mode, and an insult to everybody in the 19th century.

    I ask you, what is it about “pain” that makes analgesia worthy having, if just signal processing?

    Because that signal is disruptive to my system’s homeostasis, and unless I address those signals by fixing the problem, and availing myself of analgesia, i’m not going to be functioning at my best. It doesn’t mean that “pain” is some magic essential ineffable magic word for you to wield like a club over here.

    Yours is every bit as stupid a question as the way you try to characterize people who reject the notion that the universe is a vast conspiracy on their behalf up thread, fool:

    after all who cares if a “speck of carbon” in a vast impersonal blah blah extinguishes himself, it’s arrogant to think we’re important etc. ad nauseum in the nearly literal sense.

    If I’m not magic and only a Mayfly in contrast with the scale and scope of the universe, then I may as well just shoot myself (“don’t worry, I’ll be quite humane”)? How does that follow?

  503. #504 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    This discussion is starting to remind me of why classical introspectionism was rejected as an appropriate method for studying human behavior (namely consciousness) back in the late 1800s.

    So, for the time being, I’m done with this conversation and leave it up to the consciousness geniuses to solve this mouse-runing-on-a-treadmill problem.

  504. #505 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    Do the paintings that Esref draw’s count as subjective experience, or, qualia?

    They count as paintings, dimwit.

  505. #506 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008

    “Pointed out”?! Unless your blogger friend blew the interpretation, Dennett really is incompetent in some way at least, and not just an ideologue. Here’s the quote and I will expose his error, highlighted with my own asterisks:


    But as Daniel Dennett has pointed out, the property dualist seems committed to something even more absurd: the conclusion that we cannot even think about our mental states, or at least about our qualia! For if your beliefs–including your belief that you have qualia–are physical states of your brain, and *qualia can have no effects on anything physical*, then whether you have qualia has nothing to do with whether you believe that you have them.

    That is a gross misunderstanding of the very definition of property dualism. The whole point of property dualism is that the *same thing* (such as the brain processes that produce behavior, including talking about qualia etc.) manifests different properties depending on how it is encountered, studied, measured, and especially if they are the processes constituting the very identity of the entity instead of what comes to the entity when it gathers data about processes outside of itself. Thus the same thing “doesn’t seem to be” the same thing in these different contexts. Maybe that’s a good use we can put “seeming” to, but understand that the relative properties are thought to be fully real, but really like that in a *relative* way (rather than being just a conceptual delusion etc.) So since the process is physical, it can of course have effects on the physical, including stimulating our talking about it. What is literally qualitative “for us” has some property that makes sense as the generator of our saying that (well, some of us!)

    Yet we don’t find literally qualitative character when we study brains with electrodes etc. That’s because the latter generate data types and possible interpretative schemes relative to what those methods are instead. IOW, it’s “right under our noses.” Most of us don’t realize they are the “same thing” (denotatively – as in taking away one would always take away the other) but not “the same” in traits.

    Regardless of whether one accepts that interpretation or not, it is inexcusable to think that PD *implies* that qualia can’t have effects on the physical. That is confusing relative traits with the literally separable “entities” that are put forth in literal old-fashioned dualism. IOW, the entities of traditional dualism are like two different rods of different stuff, the relative rods of PD are (rough analogy of course!) like the different lengths in Lorentz contraction.

    Finally, there is an interesting parallel to imagining zombies versus “people with real feelings” (and can you really not imagine that as an essential distinction?) It resembles the difference most of us feel there is between “real worlds” of “real matter” and the model Platonic worlds that a hard-line modal realist says are fully equivalent to the former. A non-modal-realist would think of “non-existent” model worlds as being like the “zombies” of philosophy of mind, lacking that certain difference that no structure description can give. Real worlds are like real consciousness to anyone who isn’t into hard MR.

    A modal realist can use most of the same arguments against “real worlds” that you guys use against “real consciousness.” The main similarity is the idea that we don’t need more than information itself to define something. A modal realist can argue that you can’t explain the *ineffable* something that is the essence of “really existing” versus just being a mathematical model etc. As I said before, there is no logical way to do that, since logic is a formal system and only deals with the structural relationships. Therefore, the modal realist is right – unless you grant something more to “existing” than purely logical distinctions like those we make between quadratic and cubic equations.

    It is so ironic that you would find yourself in similar predicament to me, pleading to someone who cannot or will not accept the distinction you are trying to make in similar vein to how I would make it. You might say “But look, here we are, we know we’re here” and similar to any normal person’s pleadings about real feelings etc. The rejection (in principle, apart from how a given thinker would do it) follows the same pattern of the doubters, the same perversity “in the face of the given.” I myself at least am consistent about it, since I reject both challenges. I reject the challenge to the specialness and realness of consciousness apart from information structures, and I reject the challenge to the specialness of “material existence” apart from the “logical existence” of descriptive structures. As a property dualist, it is sensible for me to affirm the special and logic-transcending “realness” of both together as different aspects of the same thing.

  506. #507 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Re: They count as paintings, dimwit.

    **You’ll make an amazing teacher one day.

  507. #508 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008


    Because that signal is disruptive to my system’s homeostasis, and unless I address those signals by fixing the problem, and availing myself of analgesia, i’m not going to be functioning at my best. It doesn’t mean that “pain” is some magic essential ineffable magic word for you to wield like a club over here.

    That is incredible, that you can think only of it in terms of “functioning” ability and not it being what it is, to avoid directly. That’s what I and Chalmers and almost anyone who reflected on it means by “denial.” Pain (why the “scare quotes” Ken around something that’s part of our lives?) is not a magic ineffable *word* it’s a magic ineffable *something* or we wouldn’t need to care so much.

    And your toss up of moldy oldy argument fodder is irrelevant to the point. You guys made put-down remarks implying that we aren’t important, if you meant in context about the universe and not “as such” then OK I misunderstood so let it go already. BTW I am not the most turgid writer of philosophy out there.

    BTW TJ about “introspection” being discarded – introspection is really what we do all the time, since the world is represented to us by our own processes – our brains can’t put real coffee cups and trees inside of themselves. Tough luck.

  508. #509 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    You started with the ordinary case that inverting one’s visual spectrum would be noticed because of *memory* associations etc., and then imagine a very contrived experiment

    Neil, you’re dumber than dirt and more dishonest than Bush and Slick Willie combined. The “ordinary case” of inverting one’s visual spectrum is a “very contrived experiment” — a rather common thought experiment. In the classic version, all the memory traces and emotional associations are inverted too, so that the subject is completely unaware that anything changed. Separating these two aspects of the change is an instance of a standard philosophical device for understanding the issue by teasing out hidden assumptions. Honest philosophers of mind don’t raise idiotic complaints about thought experiments being “contrived” — especially qualiaphiles and other anti-physicalists, since they are the ones who invented these intuition pumps in the first place.

    I ask you, what is it about “pain” that makes analgesia worthy having, if just signal processing?

    Analgesia makes it possible to think clearly about things other than the pain. Pain is actually an excellent example, the characteristics of which you qualiaphiles all willfully ignore. The evolutionarily crafted function of pain is to demand attention, the effect of pain is to demand attention, and the qualitative nature of pain is demand for attention; analgesics take away that demand, thereby taking away the essence of pain.

  509. #510 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    You’ll make an amazing teacher one day.

    Pay me what it would be worth to try to educate a cretin like you and I might take it on. But my comment actually was quite instructive, if you were receptive to being educated.

  510. #511 truth machine
    January 27, 2008

    Pain (why the “scare quotes” Ken around something that’s part of our lives?) is not a magic ineffable *word*

    But “pain” is a word, and that’s what he was referring to, and that’s why he put quotes (not scare quotes) around it, moron.

    it’s a magic ineffable *something* or we wouldn’t need to care so much

    No, it is neither magic nor ineffable, and it doesn’t take being magic or ineffable to be something we need to care about, cretin.

  511. #512 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Re:BTW TJ about “introspection” being discarded – introspection is really what we do all the time, since the world is represented to us by our own processes – our brains can’t put real coffee cups and trees inside of themselves. Tough luck.

    **Oddly, that is why I think dualism is at work–because you can’t actually fit coffee cups and trees inside the brain. So when a person is able to draw paintings and create other works of art, just exactly where does the brain store such things? Is the storage system similar to that of a computer? Is it just merely a result of synapses firing in particular ways?

    My issue is specifically how those memories are stored in particular that is the issue. It has something to do with various regions of the brain talking to each other, but as far as I know, no one has solved the specifics of this riddle.

  512. #513 windy
    January 27, 2008

    A non-modal-realist would think of “non-existent” model worlds as being like the “zombies” of philosophy of mind, lacking that certain difference that no structure description can give.

    They are nothing like zombies, since philosophical zombies are self-contradictory, possible worlds aren’t.

    So since the process is physical, it can of course have effects on the physical, including stimulating our talking about it.

    And to stimulate identical behaviour to humans, zombies would have to have it too, making it a distinction without a difference.

  513. #514 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008

    TM, it figures that you would pick on the least important part of my critique of the experiment (about it being contrived) and not the important part (that if accepted, it doesn’t prove what Denyitt thinks it does anyway.) It is contrived in the sense that we can’t do it and so don’t have actual data to interpret – look, *I* don’t mind doing thought experiments, but I wanted to tweak all the scientism types who think it’s meaningless if we can’t really do it etc, they’re the ones who think that not me. It was a sly hypocrisy jab, sorry you didn’t get it. Go rag on logical positivists if you want to.

    Maybe Ken meant the word, but I meant the actual experience itself – I should have not put that in quotes either, but context made my reference clear. Demand for attention could be ignored if there wasn’t something intrinsic about it worth avoiding. And is not nausea qualitatively different from itchy feelings etc? The evolution of it in comparison to its qualitative nature is just the way it hashes out in the property dualism, of course they’re going to be consistent. But pain (as is) wouldn’t be something worth being afraid of, anymore than having data shown on a chart, if just signal processing and not more.

    Analgesics make it different, it is not the same subject but contaminated, that does not get rid of the implications of what it is like without them. At some point, if people won’t admit something at the ground level, we can’t go any further with that.


    especially qualiaphiles and other anti-physicalists,

    Again, a misunderstanding of what property dualism is saying, unless by “physicalism” you mean the silly idea that measurements and models are more than makeshift relative ways to get an indirect handle on something not really given directly by them. But if you only mean that there is just that process and not some separable other entity as well, I can accept that per se.

  514. #515 Neil B.
    January 27, 2008


    philosophical zombies are self-contradictory, possible worlds aren’t.

    No they aren’t a *self*-contradictory concept, because they are denied to have “subjective experiences” – if you want to think that has no meaning apart from physical processes and their definition, you can argue it. But you can’t claim that is a given to throw up as an alleged internal contradiction per se. Sure we couldn’t tell the difference by outside investigation, that is the very stipulated trait. But again that does not *mean* there couldn’t be a real difference of another kind. And see my example upthread of wanting to be a p-Z for awhile to see application to personal utility.

    Above all, *I* don’t believe that Zombies are really possible either since I am a property dualist, hence the process must manifest the subjective traits albeit in a relative way. You may be confusing what I believe in with my comparison of other people’s ideas, or send-up (reductio) of their contradictions, etc. What I meant was, modal realists reject the supposed difference between real worlds and model worlds for reasons similar to the argument used against zombies – that there isn’t a special “esse” that can distinguish the two. To a modal realist, there is not meaning to even one “substance” to be distinguished from platonic forms. To the physicalist critiquing zombies, it is not credible (with good cause) for there to be an *additional* substance to make a non-zombie distinct from a zombie.

    But since I myself am a property dualist, the “esse” for mind is a matter of relative character not two “substances.” Zombies are for me just an intuition pump to get people to consider the relative difference in properties. Unlike modal realists, I take the neutral monist base reality to not merely be a platonic form. That isn’t much easier for me to justify than for anyone else who doesn’t want to accept MR, but I think it has to do with things like true quantum randomness not being able to model with mathematical structures (which must be deterministic since they are logical systems), the qualia of conscious experience etc.

  515. #516 Owlmirror
    January 27, 2008

    I ask you, what is it about “pain” that makes analgesia worthy having, if just signal processing?

    The question implies that “signal processing” is in some way not “real”.

    Hm.

    Perhaps the problem is that the phrase “signal processing” is too divorced from the actual sensation. Yet that phrase is just a simplification of a description of the actual neural cascade, which description would itself require a long, long book full of chemicals with very long names interacting with each other. And of course this book of chemical reactions would just be an abstraction of the actual chemicals and their reactions.

    So given all that, the wording seems to imply that well, the simplification of an abstraction isn’t the real thing. And no, I suppose it isn’t.

    Continuing on: I suppose that the particular neural cascade called pain is instinctively negative. However, precisely because we all experience it (with certain notable exceptions), we can refer to it by a common word. Describing the signal processing is just a way of analyzing the event better.

    PAIN: DO NOT WANT. I CAN HAS AN… ANA…
    I CAN HAS PAINKILLA?

    Or, I suppose, to sum up, pain is the neural chain that occurs; the signal that is processed. If the neural cascade could be replicated in the brain of anyone, the sensation would be the same. Or as near as can be replicated, anyway.

    Otherwise, as Ken Cope put it, it’s homunculi all the way down.

    I still don’t get property dualism. If the whole is different from the sum of its parts, then the whole is different from the sum of its parts? I can has tautology?

    ONTOLOGY CAT IS WATCHING YOU OBFUSCATE.

  516. #517 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    Phantom Limb Pain is one phenomenon that suggests that pain doesn’t simply boil down to interacting chemicals. Especially considering that persons with this condition often don’t respond to conventional treatments (e.g., analgesics). In fact, virtual reality technology (which allows people to pretend that they have their missing limb) is being used to help those who have this unusual condition get rid of their pain.

  517. #518 Tony Jeremiah
    January 27, 2008

    This may or may not be relevant to whatever major issue is being discussed here, but from my own education background, the ideas implicit to monism are likely not a perspective psychotherapists would appreciate, since their focus is on psychogical manifestations, and not the physical manifestations (although this is a primary assumption of psychiatrists concerning mental disorders).

    Mood disorders (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, SAD) can be treated with various forms of medication. However, such treatment is based on the biomedical model of therapy, which has the same underlying assumption as monism–that the mind essentially boils down to brain processes. But, there are many forms of psychotherapies (e.g., humanistic, RET, cognitive, and psychoanalysis) that are likely to have dualism as an implicit assumption–psychological manifestations are primary, physiological manifestations are secondary. So perhaps the disagreement boils down to the usefulness of various levels of explanation for various phenomena.

    The evidence that suggests that a distinction exists between physical and psychological processes, is data indicating that treatment of mood disorders such as depression are more effective when both biomedical and various forms of psychotherapy are used (i.e., so called biopsychosocial models of therapy).

  518. #519 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2008

    Phantom Limb Pain is one phenomenon that suggests that pain doesn’t simply boil down to interacting chemicals

    Unless, of course, you destroy the proprioceptive (like pain, another negative feedback system) system by overdosing on pyridoxine, a B vitamin, and find yourself living like Oliver Sacks’ patient, Christina, the Disembodied Lady:

    She continues to feel, with the continuing loss of proprioception, that her body is dead, not-real, not-hers-she cannot appropriate it to herself. She can find no words for this state, and can only use analogies derived from other senses: ‘I feel my body is blind and deaf to itself . . . it has no sense of itself’-these are her own words. She has no words, no direct words, to describe this bereftness , this sensory darkness (or silence) akin to blindness or deafness . She has no words, and we lack words too…

    Cutting back on the vitamin B megadoses got the health nuts’ sense of self back. Google it.

  519. #520 Owlmirror
    January 27, 2008

    Phantom Limb Pain is one phenomenon that suggests that pain doesn’t simply boil down to interacting chemicals.

    Stuff and nonsense.

    Phantom limb pain doesn’t mean that the brain is supernatural; it’s means that the brain is complicated and misfiring.

    The brain is nevertheless indeed still made of interacting chemicals.

  520. #521 Owlmirror
    January 28, 2008

    But, there are many forms of psychotherapies (e.g., humanistic, RET, cognitive, and psychoanalysis) that are likely to have dualism as an implicit assumption–psychological manifestations are primary, physiological manifestations are secondary.

    The hell?

    Psychotherapy does not mean that the brain is supernatural.

  521. #522 JimC
    January 28, 2008

    probably the best resolution to the mind-body problem there is, requiring neither an extra substance nor the pathological denial of the given nature of our experiences

    There is no ‘real’ mind body ‘problem’. Without the body,hence the brain you have no mind. The only ‘problem’ is figuring out how the neurons connect, fire, and work in such a manner. This is a science problem.

    no real progress on why the laws are what they are versus just using them to explain other things, etc.

    We’re just out of the caves there fella. It took us nearly 2000 years to go to the freaking moon and thats as far as we have gotten. 2000 year from if humanity exists we’ll be way further ahead. That is assuming the religious nutters don’t toss us 3000 years backwards.

    No answer now doesn’t mean no answer ever. While you mindlessly spew nearly indecipherable babble here real scientists are actually working on this material.

    Phantom Limb Pain is one phenomenon that suggests that pain doesn’t simply boil down to interacting chemicals

    Mr.Cope dealt with this quite nicely. You seem to have a limited understanding of neuroscience and it’s complexity. Phantom pain is also a recorded memory. It is stored in the brain the administration of other material can remove this aspect. Why is this so hard to understand and appreciate? We are the sum of our parts, it’s a marvelous machine. One we barely understand. Many of these questions will seem I think superstitous to future generations as they equip themselves with more complete knowledge of our neurological state.

    It make me think of cranks like BF Skinner.

    You call Skinner a crank and side with heddle as mentioned above, a real crank. Methinks you are to deluded and confused to take seriously in a discussion. Onecan only wonder what woo you will embrace in your time on the planet.

  522. #523 Ken Cope
    January 28, 2008

    I just had to endure a semester of a witless Marin County artiste prattling on about “gestalt” this, and left-brain right-brain that, as if it had squat to do with learning how to draw (I was to help ease non-artists into tackling perspective drawing).

    The way she handwaved that shit around as if by using the words people would think she knew what she was talking about, she may as well have been selling Tarot Cards, Astrology, or I Ching. I have no more respect for anybody who rejects the role of the body when trying to understand mental pathologies.

    By the way Tony, is that your material in post #505? It doesn’t read like your typical addled non-sequitur.

  523. #524 Tony Jeremiah
    January 28, 2008

    By my definition, supernatural means ‘not yet understood’ or ‘pushing boundaries of understanding’. It does not mean ‘woo’. As an example, I presume that if a person in the 1400s were transported to now, most of what has been accomplished would look like woo. I’d imagine the same thing if it were possible to transport ourselves 500 years into the future.

    I’m not disputing that the brain results from interacting chemicals. What I find very interesting is the use of virtual technology, to construct a visual representation of a person’s missing arm, to create an illusion that their missing arm exists, that subsequently makes it possible for a person to remove the sensation of pain from a non-existent arm.

    If a person were operating solely from a monistic view, I’d assume an inability to predict other ‘supernatural’ phenomena such as the Global Consciousness Project which undoubtedly will trigger the predictable woo reaction, rather than a “Hmm. Well that’s new to me. I wonder how one can explain that?” (Which is typically my response to unusual things, rather than it’s magic).

    There’s really no need to learn anything else then, if we’re just ultimately interacting brain chemicals. Something seems fundamentally wrong with that, as it’s much like saying that Einstein’s ability to produce relativity theory is just hand-brain-eye coordination.

  524. #525 Ken Cope
    January 28, 2008

    By my definition, supernatural means ‘not yet understood’ or ‘pushing boundaries of understanding’. It does not mean ‘woo’.

    Use agreed upon definitions of language, you demented fuckwit.

    if we’re just ultimately interacting brain chemicals.

    Brain chemicals interacting with the environment in an entirely unique and individual way that can never be identical to anybody else’s interaction with their unique environment. Stop with the ludicrous false dichotomies–are you only using your brain to cool mucus? Gods, if I learned I’d written anything so fucking stupid–no, I’d better not put ideas into the head of anybody so insanely credulous as to spout the nonsense you have here.

    Do us all a favor, TJ. Before you post anything so incredibly stupid as what you have tonight, try and grow a brain. Perhaps you can rent, or lease.

  525. #526 Tony Jeremiah
    January 28, 2008

    I will do as I please. Thanks.

  526. #527 Ken Cope
    January 28, 2008

    You have just told everybody that it is pointless and futile to try to parse anything you write, TJ, as you reserve private definitions of common words to share, or not, as you please.

  527. #528 truth machine
    January 28, 2008

    it figures that you would pick on the least important part of my critique of the experiment

    What I picked out is your bad faith; and as I noted, the rest just shows what a fool you are. Here’s a clue: if you call Dennett a charlatan and a prevaricator, you deserve nothing better than being beat on the head with a 2×4.

  528. #529 truth machine
    January 28, 2008

    BTW, Neil, you stupid fucking lying moron, I picked out the core of your so-called critique; it is you who point to my noting the dishonesty of your “contrived” bullshit (along with the “deceitfully or incompetently” crap) while ignoring the rest of my response.

    The notion of an inverted “spectrum” (a misnomer) is supposed to be an anti-physicalist, or at least anti-functionalist argument. But like zombies, it fails miserably because it’s circular, incorporating its conclusion as an assumption. The functionalist view is that so-called “qualia” are purely relational, having no attributes other than their relationships to other elements of conceptual and perceptual space. If that’s true, then it’s meaningless to talk about “inverting” the entire space. The original spectrum inversion thought experiment of John Locke had one waking up the next day with all the hues inverted but no difference in their brain (or the rest of the world). But one can’t know that the hues have been inverted if one’s associated memories are correspondingly inverted. And simply imagining that the hues might be inverted from what they were yesterday, despite not having any evidence of it, is simply imagining that functionalism is false; that’s no argument against functionalism, which is what’s called for since functionalism is the default-by-Ockham position.

    Imagine a left-right inversion scenario, in which everything that was to your left (including the left side of your body) is now on your right, and v.v., and the words “left” and “right”, and all their equivalents in other languages, and any other mental associations, have been inverted. What you’re imagining is actually no change at all; the same is true of “spectrum” inversion. And if you reject leftness and rightness as “qualia” like hues … well, you’re rejecting an opportunity to gain considerable insight and let go of faulty intuitions.

  529. #530 truth machine
    January 28, 2008

    If you think that accepting *property* dualism means you can’t be a physicalist/monist in denotative terms, you don’t understand what PD is despite having “better arguments” than I gave. (It is at the least compatible with monism – ever hear of “neutral monism”? – even if your notion of “physicalism” is based on a misguided naive realist treatment of our empirical encounter with matter rather than its denotative exclusivity per se.)

    Neil, you stupid fucking moron … I said that, being a physicalist, I am a monist; I did not say that one cannot be a monist without being a physicalist — there’s no more “fundamental error” than such a fallacy of affirmation of the consequent.

    My “notion of ‘physicalism’” is based on the proper usage of the word; physicalism is monistic, period. People claiming that there are forms of physicalism that are dualistic are abusing one or both words.

  530. #531 thalarctos
    January 28, 2008

    I will do as I please. Thanks.

    You are, of course, correct on that point, Tony; it is your prerogative to do as you please. The question is whether you want to be taken seriously, and by whom.

    There are many fora where you can freely bandy about terms like “quantum” or your own private definition of “supernatural”, and no one will ever challenge you on it. But you are posting here, so one assumes you want to be taken seriously by scientists and science-sympathetic laypeople.

    If that is the case, then you can’t just go making up your own arbitrary definitions for words–it shuts down communication between people. If, as I suspect, forging interpersonal connections is a value you care about, you might want to consider the ramifications of shutting down communication in that way.

    As someone who works with complementary and alternative medical (CAM) practitioners who are coming to scientific education very late in the game, I can perhaps be more temperate in my language to you than Ken and truth machine, although I agree with the points they are making. If I were to get as frustrated as they clearly are with making the same basic and well-evidenced points over and over, I couldn’t work with the population I do, so perhaps explaining this in a more patient way will work. Or not–as you pointed out, it is indeed your prerogative to do as you please, including using terms in ways that deprecate communication. We shall see how it turns out.

    I am sympathetic to your concern about prematurely shutting down inquiry, but that is not what is occurring here. The concern of shutting down inquiry, whether or not it is premature, is not an issue of monism vs. dualism; it is a question of what can and cannot be studied scientifically, and blurring the line between those two categories with an idiosyncratic definition of “supernatural” does not promote scientific inquiry. If you, as you claim, are really using the term “supernatural” so that this sentence makes sense: “Before the 19th century, evolution was supernatural”, then we all might as well pack it in now, because this discussion will go nowhere really fast. As I said, there are plenty of other fora where your use of terms like that, and especially “quantum”, will be accepted uncritically.

    But if you want to comment on, and be taken seriously on, a scientific forum such as Pharyngula, you have to be willing to promote communication by not insisting on making up idiosyncratic definitions for words that already share a widely-used common meaning. If you’re willing to participate in such a dialog, there are a lot of interesting discussions we can have, such as how mind-body dualism puts you on the side of Descartes, or other such issues. But we can’t do that if you’re going to make up your own definitions and insist the rest of the world adopt them.

    There is a Zen Buddhist adage about not confusing the moon with the finger used to point it out. If you want to talk about the moon, we can do so, and we can also examine the fingers we are using–whether or not they are pointing in the right direction, etc. But if you consistently confuse the finger with the moon it points to, there is no real possibility of discussion to be had.

  531. #532 Owlmirror
    January 28, 2008

    To echo thalarctos….

    There are ways to discuss the problem of consciousness without bringing dualism into the discussion. You could talk about holism vs. reductionism. You could be even less fancy and discuss top-down vs. bottom-up approaches to analysis. But using “supernatural” and “dualism” (and other words and phrases) in an idiosyncratic way that confuses, makes you sound like a kook or a crank.

    If you want to communicate with others, either use words in a standard way, or clarify what you mean before you use the term, and explain why that’s better than preexisting synonyms. And if it’s not better, expect to be called on it.

    If all you care about is talking to yourself, then by all means do as you please.

    PS: Yes, using mirrors and other virtual limb creations to treat phantom limb pain is interesting — but the physical bottom-up explanation of that it results from the action of mirror neurons. Again, this does not support dualism; it implies a suprising yet nevertheless completely physical connection between different parts of the brain.

  532. #533 Tony Jeremiah
    January 28, 2008

    Ok,

    Thanks for being patient thalarctos. It’s much easier understanding things when swear words are not interspliced between important points of a discussion. Doing so actually puts the brain in a defensive mode and prevents understanding from happening. Also, this doesn’t really give the impression that one is witnessing a scholarly discussion. If any layperson is reading Pharyngula (I include myself as a layperson on this particular topic because my time has not been focused specifically on the mind-body problem), I’d suggest removal of swear words or any form of comments that don’t actually address the issues, since this it is not indicative of appropriate scholarly communication (unless you’re drunk and at a bar maybe). If TM or anyone else continues to do this, I’m ending this discussion right here. For a reference point for what I consider to be scholarly interaction (or at least the kind I’m used to), see Dave Munger’s Cognitive Daily. (My irritation usually comes out in the form of sarcasm that’s probably not easily detected by the literal minded).

    Anyways, let me ask this question. There has been some research on so called near-death experiences (NDE
    s) that indicate people are capable of reporting conscious experiences in the absence of measurable brain activity. Namely, that after being declared brain dead (measured by EEG activity), upon resuscitation, some patients have indicated a capacity to remember experiences that occured during brain death.

    IF, there is no alternative explanation for this data, do you think this might be suggestive of dualism?

  533. #534 Tony Jeremiah
    January 28, 2008

    If you look back at the conversation, nowhere did I use the word supernatural until after comment #507.

  534. #535 Ken Cope
    January 28, 2008

    If TM or anyone else continues to do this, I’m ending this discussion right here.

    Promises, promises.

    Oh, BTW, would you like a translation of what I meant by repeating that word in my own special idiom? You’d better be seated on the fainting couch, with smelling salts at hand. It would make a sailor blush, to hear such a phrase.

  535. #536 Owlmirror
    January 28, 2008

    IF, there is no alternative explanation for this data [NDEs], do you think this might be suggestive of dualism?

    Hm, “no alternative explanation” assumes its own conclusion.

    I’m looking specifically at the phrase “absence of measurable brain activity”. Current tools to measure brain activity in the surgery patients that NDEs occur in are superficial and non-invasive; I would rather suspect that more thorough and/or invasive measurements would indeed detect weak activity.

    There’s a surgeon who has a computer monitor displaying images towards the ceiling at the top of a file cabinet, in the hopes that someone who experiences an NDE will be able to float up and report back what the image is on awakening. So far, no dice.

  536. #537 thalarctos
    January 28, 2008

    Also, this doesn’t really give the impression that one is witnessing a scholarly discussion. If any layperson is reading Pharyngula (I include myself as a layperson on this particular topic because my time has not been focused specifically on the mind-body problem), I’d suggest removal of swear words or any form of comments that don’t actually address the issues, since this it is not indicative of appropriate scholarly communication (unless you’re drunk and at a bar maybe). If TM or anyone else continues to do this, I’m ending this discussion right here.

    Well, this isn’t really a scholarly discussion, although there happen to be some scholars here. Your bar discussion analogy is a more appropriate comparison to the comments section of a blog post. And tastes differ–Ken and truth machine almost always make me laugh, as does Great White Wonder, who I haven’t seen in a while. But I take your point that not everyone reacts to them in the same way as I do.

    IF, there is no alternative explanation for this data, do you think this might be suggestive of dualism?

    In the way that you posed the question, I would answer that, from a classical logic point of view, I would have to say “yes”. In other words, NOT(MONISM) ==> (NOT-MONISM) .

    But I would also say that that assertion is “trivially true”, meaning that as the question is posed, it is not particularly interesting or useful or meaningful, although it does satisfy an elementary logical form.

    What *would* begin to make it interesting or useful or meaningful is to explore the assumptions couched in your question. Owlmirror has touched on some of them, besides pointing out that the question is phrased problematically.

    I would begin with the assumptions couched in the phrase “no alternative explanation”. For that to be true, you would have to:

    1) disprove any possible biochemical explanation, including emergent effects arising from interactions. From a research design point of view, it would verge on an intractable number of possible combinations, even assuming that you could get IRB approval to almost kill your treatment group and then bring them back for an interview. Anything less than an RCT (randomized controlled trial), like the experiments of nature you are referring to, can never establish causality; the best they can do is be suggestive. So already, the absolute certainty your question requires is weakened by the nature of your data.

    2) In addition to eliminating biochemical explanations, the absolute certainty of your question means that you need to rule out any possible material explanation which we do not yet know of, but may discover in future. So not only are you in the unenviable position of “proving a negative”, you have to prove all possible negatives in the future as well. Again, an unenviable position.

    3) As Owlmirror points out, your absolute certainty requires that you must have perfect measuring instruments. It is not enough to say that the brain activity is undetectable by current methods of measurement; you must demonstrate that no future way of measuring will ever be capable of detecting activity either. Otherwise, the “no activity” may be an artifact of measurement error, rather than an actual lack of activity, and we are back to possible alternative explanations.

    So at the very high-level, abstract point of view of the assumptions couched in your question, it’s easy to get agreement to it, as it is phrased. But the interesting material emerges as you dig into the assumptions couched in the question, and when you do so, you begin to see how intractable the problems posed by your position are.

  537. #538 Ken Cope
    January 28, 2008

    Owlmirror, Thalarctos,

    Your responses are an astounding display of patience and assumption unpacking. I probably shouldn’t post under the influence of deadline procrastination and loratadine, although I think the best I would have been able to muster was not posting.

    It looks like TJ acts like he wants to learn, but he insists on whipping out the woo for us to ooh and aah at, and is petulant about how everybody but Obfuscatory Neil rejects it. That’s gotta be some painful cognitive dissonance. But there is a responsibility to at least make an effort to vaguely acquaint oneself with the current scientific consensus. Dragging in and laying at our feet every shiny Dancing Wu Li Mouse that he’s pounced on, that should just about wrap it up for the evils of scientism, is not behavior that will endear TJ to most folks here. I am a woo apostate myself. Woo is a hard habit to shake. Mainlining woo makes it easy to feel like whatever you feel like is right. Glomming onto woo is not a good way to avoid fooling yourself. Learning why people reject woo, and bad arguments (including some of the arguments I make) takes a lot of work, and nobody can do that for anybody else.

    I think Zen, by way of Alan Watts and one of his personal students (from whom I took a philosophy of religion course in 1975), is what first got me working my way out of woo, particularly the story of the dog and finger and the Moon. Watts got me hungry for Sagan and Dawkins. If all I can do is cling to my cherished conceptions of the way I want the world to be, all oozing comfy woo, those conceptions are going to prevent me from finding out the way things are. I may never find out the way things really are, but if the answer is in Nasrudin’s purse, science has the better flashlight. I also find that a modicum of boot to the head is most efficacious.

  538. #539 CJO
    January 28, 2008

    delurk/
    In Neil’s own words:
    But since qualia are ineffable there isn’t any way to write notes to yourself explaining how to compare them later if you forget what to [c]all them
    This suggests, to me, that the subject has no more access to the supposed special properties of qualia than an objective investigator. And if no one has the ability to discern, or “write notes” about, these properties, what justification is there for giving them privileged status or proposing them at all? It seems all the teeth-gnashing over the mind-body “problem” boils down to a truism: You’re not me.
    /delurk

  539. #540 windy
    January 28, 2008

    There are already things science had to give up on, like being able to predict when particles would decay, how to imagine what it is that really propagates into space when electrons are emitted (per the wave-particle duality),

    I’m surprised that no one has contested this repeated assertion since SW in #78, understandable fatigue perhaps, but: damn, what reactionary nonsense. Those are results of science, not failures.

  540. #541 Tony Jeremiah
    January 28, 2008

    OK (Devil’s advocate role once again–alot more fun):

    @524: Yes. Those are the same points I thought of too while reviewing that experiment. Also, if one rules out methodological issues and biochemical explanations, another alternative hypothesis could have something to do with the known connections (e.g., sympathethic nerve fibers) between brain and body. Perhaps the brain maps to the body, just like the body maps to the brain in the guise of the somatosensory cortex. This might be an appropriate explanation since participants eyes are closed, and it’s not immediately clear how participants could report specific visual information with their eyes closed.

    It would be interesting to conduct a study to see if one could report the identity of objects with eyes closed; but I guess the Esref Armagan reference already takes care of that issue.

    Anyways, thinking out loud here (and playing the much more fun devil’s advocate position).

  541. #542 Tony Jeremiah
    January 28, 2008

    @525, 1975 eh. I was still in diapers then.