Stranger Fruit

Fire in the sky.

A few weeks ago I noted the fact that some Christians appear to detect design and divine control in the beauty of nature. For example, witnessing lightning and a rainbow simultaneously, one observer was driven to comment: “It reminded me that God is really in control.” Now, it appears, Dembski is thinking the same way. He notes a photo (reproduced below) “captured this week on the Idaho/Washington border” that shows a “fire rainbow”*.

i-dce49fe134c199ef67ec99a6083ed521-firerainbow.jpg

Below the fold, I comment.


Dembski comments:

It’s the gratuitousness of such beaty [sic] that leads me to rebel against materialism

The email that accompanies the photo – which Dembski may have received – screams:

CLOUDS HAVE TO BE CIRRUS, AT LEAST 20K FEET IN THE AIR, WITH JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF ICE CRYSTALS AND THE SUN HAS TO HIT THE CLOUDS AT PRCEISELY [sic] 58 DEGREES.

As Snopes notes:

[A] circumhorizontal arc (or “fire rainbow”) appears when the sun is high in the sky (i.e., higher than 58° above the horizon), and its light passes through diaphanous, high-altitude cirrus clouds made up of hexagonal plate crystals. Sunlight entering the crystals’ vertical side faces and leaving through their bottom faces is refracted (as through a prism) and separated into an array of visible colors. When the plate crystals in cirrus clouds are aligned optimally (i.e., with their faces parallel to the ground), the resulting display is a brilliant spectrum of colors reminiscent of a rainbow.

The un-named designer gratuitously put together such a beautiful show for us, arranging everything so “PRCEISELY” that it is witnessed. Perhaps the designer aligned the ice crystals so that someone in Idaho would see it and take a picture which would be distributed on the tubes that are the Internets and I would see them. Perhaps the designer is trying to tell me something? Boy, I feel …. special.

You’d think the very rarity of circumhorizontal arc (and a passing familiarity with Littlewood’s law) would tell Dembski something about natural phenomena. But no. The conditions for circumhorizonal arcs are well known – near to noon near to the summer solstice when the sun is very high in the sky. You can also run software to simulate them. See, an ID research program in the making!

* As it happens, the photo was snapped on June 3rd, minor point, I know.

Comments

  1. #1 Bruce Thompson
    August 8, 2006

    How about this one(scroll down the page) right in our own back yard. A missile launch from White Sands visible in Phoenix. Definitely intelligently designed, we know the source.

  2. #2 Logicman
    August 8, 2006

    Hmmm, I wonder if Dembski finds equal awe when looking at the picture of a malnourished child or a once pristine mountain trout that been overwhelmed by whirling disease? Sounds like he’s cherry picking the data he wants to account for … which, by the way, is the ONLY way that Intelligent Design is able to maintain its illusion of viability.

  3. #3 somnilista, FCD
    August 8, 2006

    A rainbow – it’s a clear sign. God supports gay rights.

  4. #4 Glen Davidson
    August 8, 2006

    Yes, that’s such a bizarre post by Dembski. He takes an entirely “materialistically” understandable phenomenon, and claims that it is enough cause for him to doubt “materialism” (which he calls explaining the world via cause and effect (so to speak) mechanisms).

    I suppose it’s worth paying attention to, however, since the ineffable and the wonderful do indeed lead people to doubt that it’s all “just chance” or “just matter”, as they misleadingly label physical explanations. Whittaker Chambers (sp?) tells of looking at his daughter at one point in time, and deciding right then and there that there had to be a greater explanation than just “Darwinism” or whatever he called it.

    What is important is that many people who mistake physics explanations for the wonderful and, in the strict sense, indescribable phenomena that we do explain via physics, evolution, etc., nonetheless do not deny the physics and evolutionary explanations. Is even Dembski stupid enough to state that Newton was wrong, that rainbows are not understandable via internal reflections, refraction, etc.? Then why does he have to deny causal explanations for Chambers’ daughter, and his own kids, even if he feels like there is something more to living organisms than physics and evolution?

    The trouble with a number of Xians today is that they cannot understand the phenomena themselves as wonderful and, in the comprehensive sense, not explained or explainable via reductionistic, logocentric models (models can only via explain abstracted characteristics) and language. They mistake scientific explanation as something that is posited to exist in place of the wonder of rainbows and children, and they thus have to ascribe the wonder to something beyond science and the phenomena themselves. Yet clearly it is absurd to see wonder and to suppose that wonder lies beyond the sky, in the ideal realm, or some such place.

    Organisms and rainbows are wild and wonderful entities that do not reduce down to scientific explanations. What science does is to understand all of the wild and wonderful phenomena as interacting causally and consistently to give us rainbows and children again and again, in an empirically understandable yet sensually ineffable manner. The fact that babies develop according to increasingly-understood processes does not obviate the fact that the sum is more than the parts, that cause is not “equal to” effect to our minds, and that the results are sublime masterpieces of non-designed artistry (could children be wonderful if they were products of design? Maybe in a way, but not to the extent that they are). Phylogeny no more erases the wonder of organisms than does ontogeny, and only a poorly thinking religious apologist could think so.

    I have my doubts about the sense of seeing wonder and ascribing it to something unseen, yes. However, if this is the way that people think, it is nevertheless compatible with science. That is to say, Dembski is welcome to see a rainbow and to think “God”. What he is not welcome to do, and insults the intelligence of others when he does it, is to see a “natural” phenomenon like a rainbow or a child and to deny the derivation of rainbow and child from upstream causal forces and ancestry.

    He is incoherent in his denial of the child’s ancestry while he does not deny the causal forces giving us rainbows (at least he didn’t in the blog post in question).

    He is also incoherent in ascribing scientific explanation to “materialism”. If he only understood the Kantian foundations of scientific philosophy, he’d know that “materialism” is an idiotic designation for science (though many scientists would not know this themselves). Romantic and Transcendental empiricism were the product of Kant’s philosophy, in addition to a rather sophisticated understanding of how we are able to do science without (necessarily) knowing anything about “things in themselves”.

    Science is just a way that we have of relating phenomena reliably to each other, while sensual understanding of children and rainbows is the more comprehensive experience from which scientific data may be abstracted and correlated. But Dembski has a poor philosophical background, hence he does not understand either the senselessness of ascribing wonder to something beyond the phenomena that we sense, nor the crucial importance of abstraction and rationality to relating those phenomena according to their apparent causal relationships.

    He’d rather gawp at beauty and invent an entity behind it to explain it, than to enjoy the wonder of the phenomena and to explain it causally and rigorously (though abstractly) by utilizing the wonderful brains that humans possess. Paradoxically, then, he denigrates the wonder that is the human and its capacities in order to protect his naive wonder at both human and rainbow. The ineffable sublimity of being human is that we are able to swoon at beauty and be overwhelmed by the sheer sensuality of each others’ presence, while still being able to come up with meaningful and highly predictive models of how humans and rainbows are produced. Dembski must diminish humans in order to reduce them to uncomprehending dolts who must be explained by a feckless and apparently incompetent “designer”.

    It is a small world in which rainbows must be enjoyed only as the result of the incomprehensible behind “being”. For aesthetic as well as scientific reasons, we fight the diminishment of humanity that Dembski would visit upon public schoolchildren.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  5. #5 DragonScholar
    August 8, 2006

    Simple way to sum it up – why can’t nature be beautiful without someone pulling the strings?

  6. #6 MYOB
    August 8, 2006

    I saw some mud splash on my shoe today.
    Clearly this is proof god exists and that materialism is evil.

    MYOB’
    .

  7. #7 improvius
    August 8, 2006

    WD’s hittin’ the good stuff.

    Dude, have ever looked at clouds? I mean really looked at them? Whoa.

  8. #8 truth machine
    August 8, 2006

    It’s striking that someone so moronic about probability can put himself forward as an expert on the subject. By his reasoning, it’s a miracle and a work of God every time anyone wins the lottery.

  9. #9 truth machine
    August 8, 2006

    The sense of wonder is a psychological phenomenon that is itself understandable through science. And anyone who really wants a “philosophical background” in this area should read C.L. Hardin’s “Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow”; human thought did not stop with Kant.

  10. #10 Glen Davidson
    August 8, 2006

    No one said that human thought stopped with Kant. Thankfully it did not, for, apart from his central thesis, he was more wrong than right. However, in his central thesis Kant dealt rather well with the problem of our not being able to independently verify that our senses report the world accurately, something that a putative philosopher such as Dembski ought to know. Following from that is the fact that Kant knocked the pins out from under “materialism”, also something Dembski ought to know.

    Btw, if it is entitled “Color for Philosophers,” then it is unlikely to be a good “philosophical background” in this area. Likely one should have the gist of Kant down before reading it. For myself, I tend to read more primary scientific sources than Hardin, which are, naturally, not beholden to “matter”, rather to “forces” and energies which are as wonderful and primordial as any of the resulting phenomena are.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  11. #11 Greg Peterson
    August 8, 2006

    Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?
    Douglas Adams

  12. #12 Mark Paris
    August 8, 2006

    It’s a miracle to him because he can’t be bothered with all that mathy and physicsy stuff.

  13. #13 Michael Suttkus, II
    August 8, 2006

    Someone once asked me, “Why do scientists have to look at a flower and reduce it to parts? Why can’t you* just look at it and say that it’s pretty?”

    My answer was that it was even more impressive to a scientist. The flower isn’t just pretty, it is the heir to a dynasty, the result of billions of years of evolution, the product of a finely balanced biochemical machine, a million interlocking molecules, winding and unwinding. What was to him just a pretty flower was, to me, an adventure story of struggles between the forming broadleaves and the dominant connifers in the Cretaceous, a romantic drama between plant and insect, a comedy as white-bracted sedges evolve flowers, drop the flowers, then evolve them all over again!

    And at no time does knowing all that, seeing it, understanding it, feeling the deep time hidden in each leave and the billions of generations of living things separating this flower from it’s pre-biotic predecessors ever once stop me from appreciating it’s beauty as a flower. It only adds.

    I pointed to a stand of hitchhiker growing nearby, a drab green plant with tiny, unremarkable purple flowers and very annoying seeds and asked him if he thought it was beautiful. He said no and I told him that, while it was less aesthetically pleasing, it was just as amazing. I told him of the texture of the seedpods clinging to the fur of passing animals, of the way the skin on the pods dried to release the seed, how the timing gave it competitive advantage, how the small flowers did the same, how it all represented yet another amazing way to solve the problem of just being alive.

    Every living thing is a miracle, not in the gauche *poof* sense, but in terms of the amount of wonder it can contain if you’ll open your mind to it. Dembski isn’t acknowledging the wonder in the rainbow, he’s crushing it, stamping it out, replacing it with a monotonous, uninspired thoughtless, non-explanation.

    If I am someday blessed with a daughter, she will be the result of 4.5 billion years of history. I can think of nothing more amazing for her to be.

    * Not that I claim to be a scientist in the professional sense.

  14. #14 below_the_belt
    August 8, 2006

    I’ve heard that Dembski has an autistic child. I wonder if he also sees this same beautiful gratuitousness in the design of his child’s brain?

  15. #15 Foggg
    August 8, 2006

    “We can get outside the universe. I mean in the sense of putting a model of the universe inside our skulls. Not a superstitious, small-minded, parochial model, filled with ghosts and hobgoblins, magic and spirits. A big model, worthy of the reality that regulates, updates, and tempers it. A powerful model capable of running on into the future and making accurate predictions of our destiny and that of our world. We are alone among animals in foreseeing our end. We are also alone in being able to say, before we die: Yes, this is why it was worth coming to life in the first place.”

    —Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

  16. #16 Bruce Thompson
    August 8, 2006

    I’ve heard that Dembski has an autistic child.

    Leave the family out. Pokes at ID, pokes at stupid statements by ID proponents everything is fair game but someone’s family member, especially when they are not in a position to defend themselves.

  17. #17 John Lynch
    August 8, 2006

    >Leave the family out. Pokes at ID, pokes at stupid
    >statements by ID proponents everything is fair game
    >but someone’s family member, especially when they are
    >not in a position to defend themselves.

    Agreed.

  18. #18 Shaffer
    August 8, 2006

    But wait a second. I thought that the whole point of ID was differentiation between that which was of natural (i.e. non-intelligent) origin and that which was of, um, more “intelligent” origin?

    But if God is really behind rainbows and such, then doesn’t the statement become “God made everything, thus everything is intelligently designed, and all my filter junk is worthless because if it works, it’ll just always test positive?”

    Now I’m confused.

    Maybe now’s a good time to quote Monty Python:

    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.

  19. #19 shiva
    August 8, 2006

    Hasn’t Dawkins said that humans should be compassionate with each other because nature left to itself is not? I do know that Bill’s son has had some problems with his health. Whatever it is wish Bill and the family all the very best. Material is all there is. And surely we all know why Darwin chose science over medicine and what he went through when his daughter was terminally ill.

  20. #20 Matt McIrvin
    August 8, 2006

    I saw one of those about two years ago and somehow failed to start believing in God.

    That said, they are beautiful. The colors are more saturated than the ones in an ordinary rainbow, and the arc is so large that it usually just lights up the whole cloud that makes it.

    That whole atmospheric optics site that John linked to is well worth a look. If you know what to look for, ice-crystal haloes can be surprisingly easy to find. Simple 22-degree haloes and sundogs are far more common than rainbows, and often missed.

    Another very pretty one that is somewhat more common than the circumhorizontal arc, though not as common as sundogs, is the circumzenithal arc, which looks like a disconnected piece of a rainbow hovering at the top of the sky. I’ve seen those on a couple of occasions, as well as one amazingly complex display involving a parhelic circle, 120-degree parhelia, and a bunch of arcs around the sun.

  21. #21 jeffw
    August 8, 2006

    I dunno, looks ugly to me. Could be satan’s work. I like the puffy white clouds next to it, tho. An average rainbow is much prettier, but of course those were created after the flood as an apology from the Lord (and YES, the laws of light diffraction were different before the flood).

  22. #22 Chiefley
    August 9, 2006

    Michael and Glen say it best. In summary, though, what we know about the universe is perhaps more awesome than what we don’t know.

    It was the study of physics that brought me to faith. Once you start seeing the wave equation everywhere, it all seems way more miraculous than the idea that things were placed here ad hoc by magic “poofs”. If you can’t sense the numinous in that, then you might as well become an accountant or something.

    Dembski’s sentiment is maudlin and cheezy.

  23. #23 Sean
    August 9, 2006

    This little ditty seems particularly apt:

    I’m Always Chasing Rainbows

    At the end of the rainbow there’s happiness
    and to find it how often I’ve tried
    but my life is a race, just a wild goose chase
    and my dreams have all been denied!

    Why have I always been a failure?
    What can the reason be?
    I wonder if the world’s to blame?
    I wonder if it could be me?

    I’m always chasing rainbows
    watching clouds drifting by!
    My schemes are just like all of my dreams
    ending in the sky!

    Some fellows look and find the sunshine
    I always look and find the rain!
    Some fellows make a winning sometime
    I never even make a gain!

    Believe me . . .

    I’m always chasing rainbows
    waiting to find a little blue bird in vain!

    ( Rainbows seem to fade away! )

    Music by Harry Carroll
    with lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, 1917, 1946
    EMI – Robbins Catalog Inc. ~ ASCAP

  24. #24 Chiefley
    August 9, 2006

    “Hmmm, I wonder if Dembski finds equal awe when looking at the picture of a malnourished child or a once pristine mountain trout that been overwhelmed by whirling disease? Sounds like he’s cherry picking the data he wants to account for … which, by the way, is the ONLY way that Intelligent Design is able to maintain its illusion of viability.” – Logicman

    Yes, in fact any theology that doesn’t deal well with misery and suffering cannot be valid. This is the heart of Christianity, but the fundies would like it the other way around. You have to find as much awe in the wake of deadly tsunami as you do a rainbow cloud formation.

    Evolution’s “red in tooth and claw” is perfectly consistent with the theme of redemption through suffering and death. Happy little rainbows made by God is perfectly consistent with a Disney cartoon.

  25. #25 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    Btw, if it is entitled “Color for Philosophers,” then it is unlikely to be a good “philosophical background” in this area.

    “Background” is not the same as “fundamental”, you silly gasbag.

    For myself, I tend to read more primary scientific sources than Hardin, which are, naturally, not beholden to “matter”, rather to “forces” and energies which are as wonderful and primordial as any of the resulting phenomena are.

    More primary scientific sources? Hardin beholden to “matter”? This from someone who judges a book by its title. What a pompous and silly twit you are.

  26. #26 Chloe
    August 9, 2006

    Yes, in fact any theology that doesn’t deal well with misery and suffering cannot be valid. This is the heart of Christianity.

  27. #27 FlyGuy
    August 9, 2006

    Does knowing the physical properties responsible for a fire rainbow make it any less aesthetically pleasing?

  28. #28 Michael Suttkus, II
    August 9, 2006

    >Each beastly little squid…

    BEASTLY LITTLE SQUID? A POX ON YOU, MONTY PYTHON! Squid are among the most amazing and wonderful creatures in all creation: The cephalopods! Beastly? Beastly? Who are you calling beastly, ye body-bald ape! How dare you, with your mere two arms and not a single tentacle besmirch the incredible perfection of the cephalopod design? Can you change to a myriad shade of colors at will? Can you squirt out ink on your foes? Do you have two hearts (four in nautilus) and an esophagus that passes through your brain? Bah! What right do you have, Mr. Python, to dare lambast your obvious superiors? You, with your silly retina with the veins in front! BAH AGAIN!

    (Yes, their esophagus passes through their brain. It’s not half as stupid a design element as our urethra passing through the prostate. Brains don’t tend to swell, even if you think a lot.)

  29. #29 below_the_belt
    August 9, 2006

    I’ve heard that Dembski has an autistic child. I wonder if he also sees this same beautiful gratuitousness in the design of his child’s brain?

    Alright, I agree this was below the belt. But there is actually a legtimate point here. Why is that the same people who find rainbows and little lambs and waterfalls all lovely and beautiful, do not recognize that the same processes also create horrible diseases (resulting from random mutations), tsunamis and devasting hurricanes?

  30. #30 James Fletcher Baxter
    August 9, 2006

    Consider:
    The missing element in every human ‘solution’ is
    an accurate definition of the creature.

    The way we define ‘human’ determines our view
    of self, others, relationships, institutions, life, and
    future. Important? Only the Creator who made us
    in His own image is qualified to define us accurately.

    Many problems in human experience are the result of
    false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
    in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

    Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.
    The balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human
    reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the
    intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it
    perceives and measures values.

    Humanism makes man his own standard of measure.
    However, as with all measuring systems, a standard
    must be greater than the value measured. Based on
    preponderant ignorance and an egocentric carnal
    nature, humanism demotes reason to the simpleton
    task of excuse-making in behalf of the rule of appe-
    tites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.

    Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament,
    cannot invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist
    lacks a predictive capability. Without instinct or trans-
    cendent criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with
    foresight and vision for progression and survival. Lack-
    ing foresight, man is blind to potential consequence and
    is unwittingly committed to mediocrity, collectivism,
    averages, and regression – and worse. Humanism is an
    unworthy worship.

    The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with
    a functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the
    foot-dragging growth of human knowledge and behav-
    ior. Faith, initiated by the Creator and revealed and
    validated in His Word, the Bible, brings a transcend-
    ent standard to man the choice-maker. Other philo-
    sophies and religions are man-made, humanism, and
    thereby lack what only the Bible has:

    1.Transcendent Criteria and
    2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.

    The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival
    equipment for today and the future.

    Human is earth’s Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
    nature and nature’s God a creature of Choice – and of
    Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
    characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
    foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
    spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
    ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the
    universe. Selah

    – from The HUMAN PARADIGM

  31. #31 Glen Davidson
    August 9, 2006

    Btw, if it is entitled “Color for Philosophers,” then it is unlikely to be a good “philosophical background” in this area.

    “Background” is not the same as “fundamental”, you silly gasbag.

    Apparently you don’t know anything about either one, idiot. You sound like GWW (and/or “Registered User”), stupid, uneducated, and unable to do anything except attack.

    For myself, I tend to read more primary scientific sources than Hardin, which are, naturally, not beholden to “matter”, rather to “forces” and energies which are as wonderful and primordial as any of the resulting phenomena are.

    More primary scientific sources?

    Yes, I thought an idiot like yourself wouldn’t understand the concept. The yammering about “subjectivity” vs. “objectivity” in the book is neither good science, nor particularly good philosophy.

    Hardin beholden to “matter”?

    OK, so you’re a liar, as well. I didn’t say he was beholden to matter, and you either know that and deliberately lied, or are simply too stupid to read English prose.

    This from someone who judges a book by its title.

    OK, so another lie. You’re a disgusting fool. The fact is that I believe I have looked it over and found it to be of minimal use, but wasn’t sure, and made some remarks based on the title (unlike you, I don’t go around telling lies and making unfounded comments).

    And gee, no, I couldn’t actually read the book through prior to responding, but then I have some knowledge of the literature and of what titles indicate, while apparently you know almost nothing at all but would rather attack using your stupid projections and misrepresentations (it’s amazing how moronic and out of context your first remarks were, which suggests that you know essentially nothing about Kant and of his importance to science (he is hardly my favorite philosopher, but where science is concerned he matters, something you’d know if you had a modicum of knowledge of the intersection of philosophy and science). It is compatible with science and its regularities, but much remains to be elucidated as to mechanism–though I’m sure that you wouldn’t know that, truth mangler).

    What a pompous and silly twit you are.

    What a lying and stupid cretin you are. I write intelligent and meaningful posts, and you simply regurgitate your ignorance and throw in strawmen and dishonest rhetoric. And yes, I’ve answered you quite enough despite the fact that you’ve never written anything intelligent here (or elsewhere, if you’re GWW), and I don’t intend (but don’t promise to not) to respond to your lies and moronic tactics again.

    I’ll probably not bother reading the thread again, as it happens, since there is little to add, and you have no intelligent comments to make. Stew in your idiocy and IDist level of “honesty”.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  32. #32 secondclass
    August 9, 2006

    below_the_belt, your point could have been made without involving Dembski’s family. Your comment was insensitive and uncalled for, and I think an apology is in order.

  33. #33 speedwell
    August 9, 2006

    “This week”?? Try June 3rd! Check this out: http://www.snopes.com/photos/natural/firerainbow.asp

    So he probably got it in the e-mail and accepted the e-mail’s claim unquestioningly; what else is new?

  34. #34 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 9, 2006

    Glen:
    “Romantic and Transcendental empiricism were the product of Kant’s philosophy, in addition to a rather sophisticated understanding of how we are able to do science without (necessarily) knowing anything about “things in themselves”.”

    In my own stumbling way I’m occasionally trying to explore the concepts of science instead of merely using it. Since I haven’t read Kant yet I will take the opportunity to ask.

    Wikipedia claims Kant himself proposed Transcendental Idealism and that “Kant sees as an undesirable consequence of being a Transcendental Realist who also holds that demonstrating the reality of material objects outside of us is impossible”. Are you discussing the view he tried to avoid?

    Being used to think in terms of theories and models, I can’t see that the claims Transcendental Idealism or Transcendental Realism do are correct. Kant claims “that our experience of things is about how they appear to us, not about those things as they are in and of themselves”. This seems to me to be too naive, as is scientific realism that considers ideal theories without acknowledging real theories such as dualities. But with theories we make the implicit assumption that persistent phenomena and objects exists.

    truth:
    “anyone who really wants a “philosophical background” in this area should read C.L. Hardin’s “Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow””

    IIRC correctly from an SciAM article I can’t find now, Hardin discusses qualia. As some blogger use to say, these assumptions are often cryptodualisms.

    Based on a naive thinking in terms of theories and models, I don’t see why the usual idea of a (possibly unique) internal representation should be difficult and avoided in neuroscience, especially since dualisms hardly can be considered in naturalistic theories?

  35. #35 below_the_belt
    August 9, 2006

    below_the_belt, your point could have been made without involving Dembski’s family. Your comment was insensitive and uncalled for, and I think an apology is in order.

    OK, I apologize. I do not mean any ill-will to Dembski or his family. In fact I have a friend with an autistic child and have a very small idea of what a huge and difficult challenge it is.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it is easy to adopt this kind of compartmentalized thinking. I see this a lot especially with religious people — they pray a thousand times for something with no answer, and then one time, concidentally, a prayer appears to be answered (and it’s usually something trivial like finding lost keys). Yet their same God is apparently indifferent to most if not all of the suffering in the world.

    So it’s all very nice to point out all the ‘good’ designs in the world, but the reality of course is that there are many bad designs in both the natural and biological worlds that cause untold suffering. My understanding is that the only way the ID/Christian community (aren’t they really the same?) can make sense of this is through some bizarre post-hoc rationalizing that these ‘bad designs’ are the result of some cosmic fall where mankind turned their back on God – and the only evidence they have for this is an ancient document of very dubious provenance that is likely at best a composite of several early myths. A shaky foundation indeed if you ask me!

  36. #36 Bruce Thompson
    August 9, 2006

    OK, I apologize. I do not mean any ill-will to Dembski or his family. In fact I have a friend with an autistic child and have a very small idea of what a huge and difficult challenge it is.

    Thank you for standing up and apologizing. If Dembski finds theological considerations help him organize his world view, fine that’s his prerogative. It represents part of the variability in human social structure. My concern is with unsupported views greater than 2 standard deviations from the mean and their introduction into the classroom as science.

  37. #37 Unsympathetic reader
    August 9, 2006

    John Lynch notes: “As it happens, the photo was snapped on June 3rd, minor point, I know.

    Ah, well that cinches it.
    As it says on the Holy Package of Ramen:

    In a small pot bring 2 cups (17 oz)*** of water to a boil.
    Add noodles, breaking up if desired.
    Cook 3 minutes, stirring ocassionally.
    Remove form heat.
    Stir in seasoning from soup base packet.

    Using a one-time crypto pad, I was able to decipher the hidden meaning of the Holy Instructions. The message reads: “As evidence of my Holy Existence and Command over nature, on June 3rd I will create a rainbow through which a lightning bolt shall be seen. In lieu of animal sacrifice to Me, please wire the contents of your bank account to the following account number in the 1st National Bank of the Cayman Islands: 0053868392AD34″

    ***Aside: This lead the former majority on the Kansas School Board to propose redefining one fluid cup as 6.5 fluid ounces. When it was brought to the attention of the board that later packages of the Holy Ramen were printed as “2 cups (500 mL)”, the majority passed a second measure instructing science teachers to recalibrate their labware to reflect the definition of a milliliter as equivalent to 0.004 cups.

  38. #38 Mike Rogers
    August 9, 2006

    Now I think I’m finally beginnning to understand Dembski’s presuppositions. He’s a direct, and naive, realist. That explains both these recent remarks but also his view that the modern scientific picture must be “not just wrong but massively wrong” and his rejection of modern (Bayesian) hypothesis testing (which at first seem to underly the intuitions he is trying to justify with his “explanitory filter”) in favor a poorly-defined – and intrinsically subjective – notion of “specification”. He wants to reify and objectify subjective experiences and human – specifically human – perceptions in order to completely reject all philosophy since Descarte and form a consistent underpinning for his simple-minded theistic world-view.

    Dembski, I now believe, seeks a kind of science akin to Goethe’s approach to science, in which subjectivity and reified percepts form the basis of its fundamental ontology. In this view, God may still be transcendal but the reality of nearly everthing else is simply transparent. The problem with this is that, given everything learned about subjectivity and perceptions since at least pre-Socratic times, given the history of modern science and philosophy (Kant, Hume, etc.), why should the rest of us affirm this view? He may object that it is a presupposition and it may be for him. But we all know there are plenty of reasons to reject this kind of realsim. So it simply cannot pass as an unjustified presupposition for anybody who doesn’t have a psychologically motivated prior commitment to it.

    Also, scientific theories still need to rely on inter-subjectively understood abstract concepts as its fundamental elements in order to merely be sensibly falsifiable – to be honest candidates for the ideal of objective truths (although the ideal will most likely only ever be approximated in practice) – as well to maintain the pragmatic efficacy of a culturally univeral scientific enterprise. (Although, I suspect Dembski would not consider the later objective to be desirable.)

  39. #39 Bruce Thompson
    August 9, 2006

    The Unsympathetic reader has the wrong crypto pad since the account number, 0053868392AD34, has a hidden meaning. Substituting numerical values for alphabetic in the account number, the first 11 digits add to 666. 00538 + 68 + 39 + 21 = 666, the remaining 3 digits 4 + 3 + 4 = 11, telling us that is was 11 digits that we needed to add together to get 666.

  40. #40 Chiefley
    August 9, 2006

    “My understanding is that the only way the ID/Christian community (aren’t they really the same?) can make sense of this is through some bizarre post-hoc rationalizing that these ‘bad designs’ are the result of some cosmic fall where mankind turned their back on God”

    below_the_belt,
    This is an accurate understanding of theodicy from a fundamentalist Christian point of view. In that way, you are right, ID/Fundy are similar. You will notice that ID people never hold up nasty things like Ebola as good examples of Design.

    But mainstream Christian theology does not hold with what you describe. It tends to want to reconcile misery, suffering, and Bad Design head on instead of pretending that its a different subject all together. While fundies are lamenting about the “fallen world”, mainstream Christians are building hospitals. This is one of the reasons why mainstream theology is not uncomfortable with Evolution being “Red in tooth and claw”, as Longfellow once put it.

    But I do share your astonishment and outrage with the fundamentalist point of view. As Bones used to say to Capt Kirk, “Its not life as we know it, Jim.”

  41. #41 Mark Paris
    August 9, 2006

    One way to understand people like Dembski and what he says is to recognize that, for the believer in a god, life is one long, unending process of trying to convince oneself that one’s belief is true.

  42. #42 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    IIRC correctly from an SciAM article I can’t find now, Hardin discusses qualia. As some blogger use to say, these assumptions are often cryptodualisms.

    Even Daniel Dennett, the leading eliminativist in re qualia, discusses them. The assumptions are all yours. Here’s a clue: “qualia” does not appear in Hardin’s index; the closest is two entries for ‘”subjective” colors’.

  43. #43 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    It seems it doesn’t take much of a scratch to reveal what’s lying close beneath the surface of Davidson’s gasbaggery. and no, I’m not GWW, I simply borrowed her descriptive term.

  44. #44 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    BTW, Davidson’s take on consciousness at his linked page is laughably ignorant. “Consciousness is comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields, probably mostly electrical in nature.” Ah, right, the detailed structure of the brain is just an electromagnetic field generator. In any case, this is an extraordinary category mistake, a bit like saying that a computer operating system is “comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields”. Consciousness is an aspect of brain processes; while electromagnetic fields may causally contribute to a process, they can’t “comprise” a process.

  45. #45 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    Another analogy to Davidson’s nonsense would be “Life is comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields, probably mostly electrical in nature.” This kind of handwaving talk is little better than elan vitale, displaying great ignorance of the actual details, and treating “life” and “consciousness” as if they were some sort of essences, rather than being vague terms that we slap onto a broad array of physical processes and characteristics.

  46. #46 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    More on “Color for Philosophers”: The book lays out the facts of color physiology and color perception in great detail, largely to challenge widespread naive philosophical beliefs about color, perception, “qualia”, and so on — it is a discussion of color for philosophers, so of course it discusses the views that philosophers hold. Here’s Hardin’s summary at the end the section “Materialist reduction and the illusion of color”: “So much for a general sketch of where color phenomena ought to be located. We are to be eliminativists with respect to color as a property of objects, but reductivists with respect to color experiences. The value of a program to reduce chromatic experiences to neural processes can be determined only by its success–or at least reasonable promise of success–in dealing with otherwise intractable problems. To some of these we must now turn our attention.” He then goes on to show how reduction of chromatic experiences to neural processes can deal with what many philosophers, with their dualistic and anti-functionalist “intuitions”, find to be intractible problems. This is far more powerful and scientifically and philosophically valid than gassy blather about “forces” and “energy”.

  47. #47 Craig T
    August 9, 2006

    The comments on Dembski’s post start with responses to a comment by Comrade, whose post was removed but clearly along the lines of what’s been said here. They seem to like things heavily monitored at UD:

    I didn’t see comrade’s post, but anyone that goes by the name of comrade can’t have anything good or intelligent to say. Bill, I’m glad to see you (or someone) back cleaning up the thread. Frankly, I’m not interested in the thoughts of anti-ID folks. I understand their arguments, have read their books, listened to their lectures, etc. I come here to read your thoughts and others that are, at a minimum, intriqued by Intelligent Design. Thanks for keeping the thread readable.

    Comment by Barrett1 — August 8, 2006 @ 9:38 pm

    Barrett1: We try to run a clean blog!

    Comment by William Dembski — August 8, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

    The rest is an attack on a strawman version of natural selection and quotemining Darwin saying that peacock feathers made him sick. I think I saw a critical post slip in under the radar, but it’s hard to tell what’s sacrasm on a site like that.

  48. #48 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    Dembski of course does not challenge the view that “the thoughts of anti-ID folks” are dirt that must be removed in order to be “clean”.

  49. #49 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 9, 2006

    truth:
    “Even Daniel Dennett, the leading eliminativist in re qualia, discusses them.”
    I was suggesting that it seems uneccessary to introduce them. I wasn’t aware that they needed to be eliminated.

    “The assumptions are all yours”
    I’m not aware that I make any assumptions. I thought I was relating the usual view. Wikipedia claims:
    “definitions this broad make it difficult to discuss the precise nature of qualia, and their interaction with the mind and the environment … Finally, Jackson argues that qualia are epiphenomenal: that is, that they are causally inefficacious with respect to the physical world. Jackson does not give a positive justification for this claim–rather, he seems to assert it simply because it defends qualia against the classic problem of dualism.”

    “Here’s a clue: “qualia” does not appear in Hardin’s index; the closest is two entries for ‘”subjective” colors’.”
    I’m even more clueless about what you are trying to say here on index and entries. But I can google it.

    Anyway, I suceeded in finding the article I remembered. It was Chalmers, not Hardin. “Wherever we find conscious experience, it exists as one aspect of an information state, the other aspect of which is embedded in a physical process in the brain.” ( http://consc.net/papers/puzzle.html ; perhaps Hardin was discussed in the context of the link.)

    Googling Hardin it seems he may be proposing something along the lines I was discussing. Thank you for your help!

  50. #50 Mike Rogers
    August 9, 2006

    Mark Paris wrote:
    “One way to understand people like Dembski and what he says is to recognize that, for the believer in a god, life is one long, unending process of trying to convince oneself that one’s belief is true.”

    Amen brother! (Yes, I was being intentionally ironic.) That same realization was the very thing that set me on the road to apostasy. And the fact that everything I later found just confirmed that original impression figured greatly into the tipping point when I stopped believing. If it takes that much constant effort to keep convincing yourself, it’s probably unreasonable to beliive it in the first place.

  51. #51 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 9, 2006

    truth:
    “He then goes on to show how reduction of chromatic experiences to neural processes can deal with what many philosophers, with their dualistic and anti-functionalist “intuitions”, find to be intractible problems.”
    Now it seems even more likely that he is on my page… err, I’m on his page. :-)

    “BTW, Davidson’s take on consciousness at his linked page is laughably ignorant. “Consciousness is comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields, probably mostly electrical in nature.” ”
    This is OT, but I have also criticised his theory. If you dig further you will notice that the theory itself is more realistic, and that he has published a book on it among some other topics. It is however based on a mechanism that is unsubstantiated and probably unnecessary to explain the workings of the brain. In other words, it is a theory in search of a problem. I used a stronger characterisation than “ignorant”. :-)

  52. #52 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    I was suggesting that it seems uneccessary to introduce them. I wasn’t aware that they needed to be eliminated.

    Anyone who considers a concept to be unnecessary is an eliminativist in re that concept.

    I’m not aware that I make any assumptions.

    You made assumptions about what Hardin writes in his book, or what his views are, based on an article that you recalled reading that wasn’t even by Hardin.

  53. #53 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    If you dig further you will notice that the theory itself is more realistic

    I did dig a little deeper and found
    http://students.wwcc.edu/~glendavidson/website/the_fluid_consciousness.htm
    which is full-blown crackpottery.

    “The mind is not spirit, but neither is it a computer or some other machine.”

    That’s right, the mind is not a machine, but the brain is a machine (as well as a component of the body, which is a machine), and the mind is a process of the brain.

    “despite the wonderfully solid, and essentially exact processes happening in the brain the colors do float, sometimes run, and especially coordinate, clash, and interact in the fluid sense that had people thinking that the mind was analogous to air, fire, and lightnings back in ancient times.”

    The perception of floating and running is fully explicable in terms of the visual processes of the brain, about which we’ve learned a great deal lately. Just as the perception of hues does not imply that there are elements of the brain with those hues, the perception of floating and running does not imply that there are floating and running elements of the brain.

  54. #54 Kristine
    August 9, 2006

    I came very close to commenting on this at UD–against my better judgement. I chose not to comment there. But for pity’s sake, I like pretty rainbows as much as anyone else! Is Dembski arguing that this particular phenomenon has no material basis, or that his experience of its beauty doesn’t? He seems to think that the rest of us just sit around, reducing flowers to numbers (but doesn’t he do that whenever it suits his purpose?).

    I just wish I could understand his point of view better… At times he seems sincere, at others, a real con-artist, and I don’t know which is true.

    I agree that the comment regarding his child was inappropriate, but I did read Dembski’s attempt to reconcile “bad design” with intelligent design, and he concluded that “this is a fallen world.” It frightens me. What, disease is a product of “sin”? Forget it. Were he to ask me the one thing that would make me believe in God, I would answer: nothing bad happening to children. No children being born sick or deformed, no children starving to death, no children being kidnapped or abused, or murdered in horrible ways.

    If the God of the universe can defy the laws of the universe to help Debbie in Dallas with her diet or Joel Ornstein with his latest bloviating crap book, why can’t he step in to help someone truly needy? Because he doesn’t exist, and we are the ones who decide or not whether a sky is beautiful.

  55. #55 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    I was suggesting that it seems uneccessary to introduce them. I wasn’t aware that they needed to be eliminated.

    Consider ID; it’s not necessary to introduce it, but since it has been introduced, we do find it necessary to discuss it and to eliminate it as a viable concept. OTOH, the notion of qualia is not just religion wrapped in politics, it’s a “natural” but mistaken concept that has a long history in human thought and still is dominant among philosophers of mind. For qualia, which are characterized by such phrases as “the redness of red”, it’s considerably harder to demonstrate that there is no such thing, that it’s a result of conceptual confusion and a failure to properly model consciousness and its contents. That’s why some philosophers like Dennett and Hardin go to great lengths to explain the problems with the concept and how it can be eliminated without giving up anything real.

  56. #56 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    Were he to ask me the one thing that would make me believe in God, I would answer: nothing bad happening to children. No children being born sick or deformed, no children starving to death, no children being kidnapped or abused, or murdered in horrible ways.

    Perhaps if God were a woman. Not surprisingly, your notion of God has your values; what your God would deem good is what you would deem good. But why should God have values that are the consequence of human female biology? From the POV of a parasite, the only believable God might be one who creates a world in which there are lots of juicy babies to feed on.

    Personally, I would be very suspicious if I awoke into a world that was just the way I wanted it to be; I don’t think I would conclude that God was real and had answered my prayers.

  57. #57 MYOB
    August 9, 2006

    ID and the notion of seeing a waterfall as proof of god’s existence or a creator period is the basis behind every concept of god, gods, and spirits. The notion that something which marvels us is somehow manifested or controled by a humanoid-like superbeing is the foundation behind every myth around.
    Some cro-mags thousands of years ago see a lightning strike and think that because it was something unfamiliar and loud that came from the sky then it must be the cause of some humanoid being, god, or spirit. They see fire and because it hurts, because it changes thing from raw to cooked, from alive to dead, and gives off heat and light that, rather than seek to find an explanation for why and how, that it must come from some spirit or humanoid being in the clouds who has power over us.

    ID as manifested by the likes of Dembski, who see something complex and strange, something that they cannot fathom and explain in like 30 seconds like it is in the bible, is the foundation of human ignorance and not worth tolerating or being nice towards.

    These people are the scum of humanity.

    MYOB’
    .

  58. #58 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 9, 2006

    truth:
    “Anyone who considers a concept to be unnecessary is an eliminativist in re that concept.”

    That must be a philosophical term or idea. If my theory doesn’t use a concept, I haven’t eliminated it.

    “You made assumptions about what Hardin writes in his book, or what his views are, based on an article that you recalled reading that wasn’t even by Hardin.”

    If that was that you meant, yes. My mistake was of course an assumption – it was so stipulated by “IIRC”.

    “I did dig a little deeper and found http://students.wwcc.edu~glendavidson/website/the_fluid_consciousness.htm
    which is full-blown crackpottery.”

    I think the gist is “the connections possible between nerves via the electrical fields”. Anyway, as I see it it isn’t so much crackpottery (going against accepted science) as cranky. In any case Davidson doesn’t seem to score high on Baez crackpot index ( http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html ).

  59. #59 truth machine
    August 9, 2006

    “Anyone who considers a concept to be unnecessary is an eliminativist in re that concept.”
    That must be a philosophical term or idea. If my theory doesn’t use a concept, I haven’t eliminated it.

    This is the second time that you have written “eliminated” when the subject was “eliminativist”. I would have thought that, from “unnecessary” you would have grasped that it was about “eliminatable”, not “eliminated”. If your theory provides all the explanatory power that is needed, without the use of some concept, and further it shows that the concept is based on mistaken assumptions or conceptual confusions, then it eliminates the need for that concept in the absence of any real thing to which it might refer; that which the concept refers to is eliminated from our ontology. One might, for instance, consider Einstein to have been an eliminativist in re the ether and simultaneity.
    And yes, of course, it’s a philosophical term — not surprising since we were discussing philosophers Hardin and Dennett, and a book with “for philosophers” in the title. You might want to simply google “eliminativist” or “eliminativism”. You will find things such as

    http://www.iscid.org/encyclopedia/Eliminativism

    The position, in the philosophy of mind, that denies the real existence of things like beliefs, desires and sensations in favor of a reductive neurophysical description. The eliminativist argues that these concepts (e.g. beliefs, etc.) have entered our language through a non-scientific folk-psychology and that future scientific research will make these terms obsolete.

    Eliminativism is also known as eliminative materialism.

    That’s an all-encompassing version, but by extension philosophers talk about eliminativism in re specific concepts such as qualia — e.g., Dennett being famous for his paper “Quining Qualia”, but holding onto some folk-psychological terms as being useful:

    http://www.arrod.co.uk/essays/eliminative-materialism.php

    The view that consciousness can be entirely dispensed with is associated with a theory called eliminative materialism. Paul and Patricia Churchland proposed eliminative materialism or eliminativism in the 1960s. As with all materialist theories it supposes that all phenomena are physical (in contrast to substance dualism and idealist monism).

    The Churchlands dismissed consciousness as ‘folk psychology'; describing it as simply a term ascribed to a phenomenon that couldn’t be understood, in much the same way as ancient peoples ascribed spirits to things that they couldn’t understand. They argued that the only way to understand anything is via a physical description and that consciousness clearly could not be captured in such terms.

    Thus the conclusion is simply that what we call consciousness does not exist and is hence eliminated. Our concepts of mental states can be re-framed in terms of a physical neurological description and the advancement of science will make talk of mental states obsolete by fully understanding the physical processes that cause our perceptions of mental states.

    http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~philos/MindDict/eliminativism.html

    …Daniel Dennett agrees with many of the key points of the eliminative materialists. He admits that he sees the future of the sciences of the mind “very much as Churchland does, but with some shifts in emphasis” (Dennett 1987 p.235). These shifts arise partly because, in Dennett 1975 and 1989, he is addressing at least part of his message to psychologists who were trained in Skinnerian behaviorism, and are now interested in Cognitive Science.

    Talking about the mind, for many people is rather like talking about sex: slightly embarrassing, undignified, maybe even disreputable. . . .Those in other disciplines who are newly eager, or at any rate reluctantly willing, to indulge in various mentalistic sorts of talk find that philosophers, who have never been shy about talking about the mind, have a lot to tell them about how to do it. (Dennett 1987 p. 1)

    Dennett thus assumes that much of his audience will already be inclined to accept the eliminativist dismissal of folk psychology. Consequently, even though Dennett accepts, and even frequently defends, the eliminativist position, he also emphasizes how useful folk psychology is, not only in daily life, but in scientific disciplines like Artificial Intelligence. Because philosophers have not been shy about talking about the mind, eliminativism was a radical position in the philosophy community. But for behaviorist psychologists, it was a stagnating orthodoxy that needed to be transcended.

  60. #60 Fross
    August 9, 2006

    For some reason I picture Dembski sitting on a log in a swamp singing this:

    Why are there so many songs about rainbows
    And what’s on the other side?
    Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
    And rainbows have nothing to hide.
    So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it
    I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
    Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
    The lovers, the dreamers and me.
    Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
    When wished on the morning star?
    Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it,
    And look what it’s done so far.
    What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing
    And what do we think we might see?
    Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
    The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
    All of us under its spell,
    We know that it’s probably magic…
    … Have you been half asleep? And have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name.
    … Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
    The voice might be one and the same
    I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
    It’s something that I’m s’posed to be…
    Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
    The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

    (usually sung by Kermit the Frog)

  61. #61 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 10, 2006

    truth:
    “This is the second time that you have written “eliminated” when the subject was “eliminativist”.”

    Perhaps I should have asked for an outright definition. Thanks for the links.

    I can see the considered use of such a term, but I can’t find it substantiated. I guess I’m going to grapple with philosophy, always a risky business since it is so slippery.

    First, if the concept is isolated from the theory set it wasn’t really eliminated except for those who supported it. It was simply not used. Here I’m of course looking at it practically or minimally instead of ontologically. But I can’t see that I’m obligated to consider all possible concepts since theories will eliminate the useless. In science it is a good thing to, well, eliminate as many ideas as possible as early as possible. (I know, in philosophy it isn’t always possible so it is inclusive instead. Perhaps that is my point.)

    Second, just because the concept isn’t used in the theory doesn’t mean it is eliminated in the ontological sense. For example (but probably a bad one), classical mechanics considers mass to be static and eliminates possible dynamic mass as based on mistaken assumptions, while relativity shows that the inertial mass isn’t (while keeping static rest mass).

    I think we will have to agree on disagreeing here.

  62. #62 truth machine
    August 11, 2006

    Second, just because the concept isn’t used in the theory doesn’t mean it is eliminated in the ontological sense.

    Attacking your own strawman, eh? “eliminativism” refers to elimination in the ontological sense, not to elimination in some non-ontological sense. Eliminativist theories may be mistaken if the concept really is ontologically valid; for instance, maybe Dennett is wrong and there really is something with the characteristics attributed to qualia — which is what Dennett denies.

    I think we will have to agree on disagreeing here.

    A common situation when one party is ignorant of a large body of analysis.

  63. #63 truth machine
    August 11, 2006

    In science it is a good thing to, well, eliminate as many ideas as possible as early as possible.

    Consider the quoted text above. B.F. Skinner eliminated the mental from scientific consideration. The problem is that, regardless of its ontological validity, it serves an important explanatory role. This has always been the case in folk psychology — try explaining human behavior without recourse to beliefs, intentions, etc. — but with the advent of computers, AI, and a growing appreciation of computational models of cognition, it became clear that the taboo against the mental in science was a straightjacket — “a stagnating orthodoxy that needed to be transcended”. It was a bit like banning the use of Newtonian mechanics even before the development of relativity, just because it’s not veridical. But Newtonian mechanics has great explanatory power, despite being only an approximation. The same is true of mental models. A good illustration of this (and a good read) is Dennett’s fable of the two black boxes:
    http://cogprints.org/247/00/twoblack.htm

  64. #64 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 11, 2006

    truth:

    “Attacking your own strawman, eh?”

    Sure, I could have worded myself better. I don’t see that it is a strawman if I want to question the concept itself. I see no correspondence between the concept and science as it is. I want to eliminate it. :-) Or rather, I’m probably not going to use the concept now that I know what it stands for.

    “A common situation when one party is ignorant of a large body of analysis.”
    Now who is raising strawmen? I’m quite familiar with a body of science.

    On a related topic, where I do confess naivity, I have never seen any claims of philosophical analysis that describes science faithfully being substantiated, nor any efforts to show how that comparison is to be done.

    I’m not sure why agreeing to disagree isn’t as agreeable to you as to me. But feel free to comment.

    On Dennett’s fable, which was indeed a good read even though unimportant details on computers and languages properties were somewhat mishandled, I’m not sure what conclusions you want me to draw. I believe I see what conclusions Dennet wants us to draw though. And I tend to agree.

  65. #65 Robert O'Brien
    August 11, 2006

    John:

    Thanks for bringing the picture to my attention. Upon seeing it I arrived at the same conclusion as Bill Dembski.

  66. #66 goddogtired
    August 13, 2006

    AH! COTCHED YA, Robert! You ARE just another “demented fuckwit” who ‘as lying about ‘is “objectivity”!

    Prease to no tly foor again! You vely bad-bad man: make you mommy ashamed!

  67. #67 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    Being used to think in terms of theories and models, I can’t see that the claims Transcendental Idealism or Transcendental Realism do are correct. Kant claims “that our experience of things is about how they appear to us, not about those things as they are in and of themselves”. This seems to me to be too naive, as is scientific realism that considers ideal theories without acknowledging real theories such as dualities. But with theories we make the implicit assumption that persistent phenomena and objects exists.

    I only came back through search engines, since I see from Lycos that dumbfuck lying machine keeps on lying. Christ, he’s a moron.

    But you have some legitimate questions. I think, though, that I can’t answer them. The best I can say is that I studied science before studying philosophy, much as Kant did, and Kant’s basic solution is quite compatible with science. Indeed, it is largely the basis of positivism, which, although not much favored today philosophically, is still roughly how science operates.

    Kant is not easy to understand well, using words which seem to point away from his high regard for science and his general compatibility with science. The fact of the matter is that Kant is intent on integrating Newtonian science and philosophy, and he succeeds to some degree.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  68. #68 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    BTW, Davidson’s take on consciousness at his linked page is laughably ignorant. “Consciousness is comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields, probably mostly electrical in nature.” Ah, right, the detailed structure of the brain is just an electromagnetic field generator.

    You are indeed laughably ignorant, as well as being a complete and utter liar. In no way whatsoever have I even implied that the detailed structure of the brain is just an electromagnetic generator. The whole point of my hypothesis is to incorporate the detailed structure with consciousness. You prefer simply to lie about what I’m saying, and to attack your disingenuous muddled idiocy.

    In any case, this is an extraordinary category mistake, a bit like saying that a computer operating system is “comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields”.

    Unfortunately, your dumbfuck brain is so stupid that I can’t get anything across to you. If I were arguing that the brain didn’t operate according to neuron spikes, only then would I come close to your utterly stupid and incompetent strawman.

    Consciousness is an aspect of brain processes; while electromagnetic fields may causally contribute to a process, they can’t “comprise” a process.

    You’re not even discussing phenomena, which doesn’t surprise me, as you apparently understand science as little as you do philosophy. You’re playing word games, like any pseudoscientist/IDist.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  69. #69 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    Another analogy to Davidson’s nonsense would be “Life is comprised of one or more electromagnetic fields, probably mostly electrical in nature.”

    Another utter and complete lie. I discuss an aspect of life, of brain activity, and you dishonestly conflate the part with the whole and attack it as if I made the same category mistakes that you do. You are about the most dishonest and stupid cretin that I have ever encountered.

    This kind of handwaving talk is little better than elan vitale, displaying great ignorance of the actual details, and treating “life” and “consciousness” as if they were some sort of essences, rather than being vague terms that we slap onto a broad array of physical processes and characteristics.

    That’s right, and it only indicates just how poorly and dishonestly you read. Instead of dealing with what I actually wrote, all you have done is come up with completely stupid caricatures. As I thought, you are extremely unintelligent and incompetent in all of these matters.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  70. #70 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    More on “Color for Philosophers”: The book lays out the facts of color physiology and color perception in great detail, largely to challenge widespread naive philosophical beliefs about color, perception, “qualia”, and so on — it is a discussion of color for philosophers, so of course it discusses the views that philosophers hold. Here’s Hardin’s summary at the end the section “Materialist reduction and the illusion of color”: “So much for a general sketch of where color phenomena ought to be located. We are to be eliminativists with respect to color as a property of objects, but reductivists with respect to color experiences. The value of a program to reduce chromatic experiences to neural processes can be determined only by its success–or at least reasonable promise of success–in dealing with otherwise intractable problems. To some of these we must now turn our attention.” He then goes on to show how reduction of chromatic experiences to neural processes can deal with what many philosophers, with their dualistic and anti-functionalist “intuitions”, find to be intractible problems. This is far more powerful and scientifically and philosophically valid than gassy blather about “forces” and “energy”.

    This stupidity of yours is appalling. Actually, forces and energy are the currency of science, which you’d know if you understood science at all. Physics has to be the basic language of any honest discussion of consciousness, which is why a dumbfuck such as yourself sneers at all real science, preferring the gassy blather of a subjectivist (of course when you call me “Gasbag” it is all too apparent that it is projection on your part).

    I’m the one who insists on using science for consciousness, while you’re too stupid to understand the problems that philosophers interpose into the issue.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  71. #71 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    This is OT, but I have also criticised his theory. If you dig further you will notice that the theory itself is more realistic,

    It is entirely physics-based, quite unlike lying machine’s incompetent blather about consciousness.

    and that he has published a book on it among some other topics. It is however based on a mechanism that is unsubstantiated and probably unnecessary to explain the workings of the brain.

    The mechanism of electric fields interacting is not unsubstantiated, and these interactions inevitably do exist in the brain. Much remains in question as to the details, of course, as well as whether or not the effects of fields are configured properly to account for science, but that’s why it’s a hypothesis, something waiting to be checked out via science (I don’t have the expertise to do so).

    In other words, it is a theory in search of a problem. I used a stronger characterisation than “ignorant”. :-)

    No, it is not a theory in search of a problem, since the unities of conscious are an outstanding issue in consciousness research. It accounts for other problems as well, but the problem of unity in consciousness has been an scientific issue at least since Kant included “unity” as a category consciously known.

    There is something to be said for keeping an open mind when a proposal is brought up, rather than being either dismissive, or outright dishonest as lying machine is.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  72. #72 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    “The mind is not spirit, but neither is it a computer or some other machine.”

    That’s right, the mind is not a machine, but the brain is a machine (as well as a component of the body, which is a machine), and the mind is a process of the brain.

    What an incompetent liar you are. The brain is not a machine, it is an organic system, according to conventional terminology. “Biological machine” is used for much smaller and less complex entities in organisms. I’m not surprised that you apparently don’t know that, and that you resort to IDist lies in your hatred and dishonesty of actual scientific thinking.

    And of course I deny absolutely no neuroscience, while using physics in my own hypothesis. Unlike you, I know science and insist on using it.

    “despite the wonderfully solid, and essentially exact processes happening in the brain the colors do float, sometimes run, and especially coordinate, clash, and interact in the fluid sense that had people thinking that the mind was analogous to air, fire, and lightnings back in ancient times.”

    The perception of floating and running is fully explicable in terms of the visual processes of the brain, about which we’ve learned a great deal lately. Just as the perception of hues does not imply that there are elements of the brain with those hues, the perception of floating and running does not imply that there are floating and running elements of the brain.

    Yes, and it remains for empiricism to show whether or not floating and running elements are used by the brain to model floating and running phenomena in our perceptions. I don’t deny that fact.

    But something needs to actually account for the aspects of consciousness which appear not to be actually accounted for by digital-like neuron spikes. Hence I have come up with a hypothesism, which you attack simply with ignorance and IDist-like false analogies. Like IDists, you can’t deal with the scientific aspects of my argumentation.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  73. #73 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    Anyone who considers a concept to be unnecessary is an eliminativist in re that concept.”

    That must be a philosophical term or idea. If my theory doesn’t use a concept, I haven’t eliminated it.

    I agree, Torbjoern. I do utilize the term “quale” (“qualia” in the plural) when I write about consciousness, however I am not sure if it is a particularly useful term. You’ll get these cretins who have read a book or two on philosophy insisting on terms like “quale” to be dealt with according to their own definitions of “quale” is supposed to be, without their dealing with the fact that “quale” is not well-defined, to say the least.

    For instance, is an intention “qualic”? Are emotions characterized by qualia?

    I use the term “quale” sparingly, because I do understand the problem of reductionism and prejudicing the questions that a category like “quale” introduces. It’s not that qualia don’t need to be explained–they do–but truly defining “quale” awaits a good physical explanation.

    I think the gist is “the connections possible between nerves via the electrical fields”. Anyway, as I see it it isn’t so much crackpottery (going against accepted science) as cranky. In any case Davidson doesn’t seem to score high on Baez crackpot index

    Yes, that is the gist, of the physical basis at any rate. And I still fail to see any reason for calling it “cranky”. I am not the first to propose electrical fields to be underlying consciousness (unfortunately), however I do believe that I’m the first to propose a credible causal basis for such a mechanism.

    Thanks for the words, though, as I think you have a far better understanding of what I’ve written than the lying weasel “truth machine” does. And “cranky” doesn’t bother me much, whether or not it ought to.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  74. #74 Glen Davidson
    August 14, 2006

    I realize that you may never read this, Torbjoern, but I decided to try to give one more shot at indicating how Kant dealt with “transcendental idealism” while completely preserving science.

    Kant is largely coming out of a philosophical tradition that believes in “transcendence”, and notably “transcendental idealism”. That is to say, he is still affected strongly by Platonic ideas, as were Descartes and Spinoza before him. Hume broke with that nonsense, but he did not account for how we can “know the world”, ascribing our cognitive abilities to learning by “habit”.

    Kant knew that we did not come into the world tabula rasa or any such thing. He knew that we had certain modes and categories of knowing, and if he had learned from Hume that categories were not attributable to the world impressing these upon us via naive realism, he had to include them in his model of cognition.

    Kant thus recognizes that what had been called “transcendent” in fact belonged to the mind. He seems to have essentially a soul conception of mind, but however bad that appears to us today, he was the one who largely allowed science to go ahead and place goblins, ghosts, and influences cast by others into the mind. His use of “transcendent” is actually akin to Freud’s use of “Eros”, that is, Kant understands “transcendence” to belong to the mind and not to “reality”, and Freud makes the Greek god “Eros” into a drive within the psyche (not accidentally either, since Freud was sensibly Kantian).

    Kant is moving away from the traditional view of the transcendent, then, and placing it into the psyche. Thus we have “transcendent concepts” like time and space that are largely known by us in the abstract sense (no, I know, unlike Kant, that they are not entirely abstract), but which have nothing to do with “real transcendence”, rather they are only ways that we use to understand “reality”.

    In Kant’s view, we synthesize objects and reality through our categories of understanding, yet we are dependent upon perceptions to give us the raw data. We don’t know the raw data to reflect reality “in itself”, however we can use these data to understand the world in our human way.

    To be sure, Kant shifts dramatically toward idealism, not crediting evolution for our faculties and categories of knowing. And most of us who have studied philosophy considerably do not suppose that we know things in ways entirely unlike the “reality” that we perceive. For myself, the fact that we can sort out illusions in various ways suggests that we have crucial capacities for checking up on our senses–especially through the use of other senses and the machines that we make.

    This is one reason why I said he was mostly wrong outside of his solution to the problem of knowing through our perceptions without any independent capacity to check reality against our perceptions of it. As a philosophical solution it is mostly OK, other than his belief in “Ding an Sich” (how could he know it to exist?), but scientifically it makes little sense today.

    Kant opened a can of worms with his incomplete solutions, and swiftly gave rise to really transcendent philosophies from Fichte and Hegel, with Marx to soon follow. Nevertheless, his central thesis remains with us as something like the best pathway to integrating science and philosophy with a minimal number of problems. The sense that we are not looking for “ultimate solutions” as many theists/IDists are, comes to a significant degree out of Kant (though he himself clung to a kind of Paleyism using “practical reason”–so he couldn’t follow his own warnings against speculation).

    Nietzsche is actually preferable to me over Kant, especially since he questions so much of Kant that I consider to be wrong. However, in scientific matters Kant’s solution to doing science is considered to be quite workable, thus the influence of Kant via positivism continues to affect science considerably. That’s the reason I brought up Kant, something that Lying Machine is too stupid and ignorant to recognize. I guess we need dumb things like him to know that our side isn’t entirely composed of intelligent beings, rather we have dumbfucks like him (her?) speaking out of their asses about matters of which they know essentially nothing.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  75. #75 truth machine
    August 15, 2006

    What a sad sick person.

  76. #76 truth machine
    August 15, 2006

    “A common situation when one party is ignorant of a large body of analysis.”
    Now who is raising strawmen? I’m quite familiar with a body of science.

    I was talking about the work of Dennett, the Churchlands, et. al.

  77. #77 William Hart
    August 16, 2006

    I have not read Dembski’s note about the rainbow in detail, but I would be almost certain he was not making an argument for design from the rainbow itself, and I am quite certain he understands the physics of it quite well. The readers here seem to have missed his point altogether. He is almost certainly not saying that God adjusted the crystals in a particular fashion so that the phenomenon could be witnessed at that time (as though he were unaware that there is a physical explanation for it which does not require the suspension of the laws of physics). The argument, rather, is about the superfluity of beauty.

    Reductionism’s greatest danger is that of reducing all of reality to physical laws which fail to encompass the richness of the mental states of human beings. It reduces the entire human will, intellect and the complexity of emotion to a series of numbers measuring action potentials, chemical neurotransmitters and other chemical and electromagnetic phenomenah.

    Dembski has three publications that show up in Zentralblatt, two on design, and one of 16 pages, on uniform probability. He apparently also has students.

    His other (presumably unpublished) mathematical papers that I have seen, are quite dense with mathematics. I don’t doubt he is a competent mathematician. Whether I would say that his models bear a close relationship to the real world, however, I would not be prepared to say.

    After slogging through one of his more abstract papers, I discovered that essentially the point of all that mathematics (metric spaces, distribution functions, etc) was to put forward the notion that even if evolutionary mechanisms were an efficient way of traversing a search space for maxima (beneficial innovations), the evolutionary mechanism itself could only be discovered after a search through a correspondingly large search space.

    In other words, Darwinism only transfers the search problem from a search for an appropriate biological solution to a search for an efficient search algorithm. In even more simple terms, it merely states that even if a cell acted upon by evolution can innovate, one is still left with the problem of explaining how the cell happened upon such an efficient search mechanism in the first place (or more properly, how a cell capable of being acted upon by evolution, came to be), i.e. one has the problem of explaining the origin of life itself.

    I personally did not see the need for all that mathematics, to make this simple point, though of course I may have misinterpreted the application of Dembski’s theorem.

    As to the responders above who believe that people like Dembski only see design in the beautiful parts of the world, and not in disaster or evil, I would ask, what on earth does that have to do with the design inference? This is a matter of theology and has nothing to do with science, so why are you discussing it here.

    From the perspective of a Christian (I now take my scientific hat off momentarily to make the comment), the problem of evil is quite well dealt with in Christian theology and uglier aspects of life which might be attributed to the general judgement of God (note Christianity does not make the claim that Dembski’s child was judged because of something the Dembskis personally did) reveal an aspect of the character of the Christian God (to the Christian) which fills the Christian with as much wonder as the beauty experienced in a cloud. Similarly, horrible diseases are attributable in Christian theology to a general corruption related to the judgement of God.

    Parasites, to the extent that they inflict suffering, may be viewed similarly. To the extent that they do not, they are wonders of design, to the Christian, as are those that do.

    Now, putting my scientific hat back on again, what did any of that have to do with ID? ID is a thesis in the philosophy of science and is purportedly supported by information coming from the sciences and mathematics. The Discovery Institute alone has fellows who include a Catholic, a Moonie, an Agnostic secular Jew and many others besides. To try to make ID about Christianity is a mistake.

    If you want to defeat it, do so on philosphical and scientific grounds. Any other argument only makes ID opponents look prejudiced.

  78. #78 Wiliam Bradford
    August 16, 2006

    “I’ve heard that Dembski has an autistic child. I wonder if he also sees this same beautiful gratuitousness in the design of his child’s brain?”

    Dembski sees a capacity of that child to love and respond to love. In doing so he perceives a surpassingly beautiful thing.

  79. #79 perianwyr
    September 9, 2006

    Why does God have to be as dumb and uninventive as the least of his creatures?

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