Saturday, August 20
Under the headline Telstra deal may shrink federal coffers, The Age, Australia's answer to... I dunno, the Boston Globe, I guess... Bemoans the fact that if you sell a company, you don't get paid dividends any more:
THE loss of billions of dollars of Telstra dividend payments means the Government will have to run down budget surpluses or spend less on health, education and infrastructure, Finance Minister Nick Minchin has suggested.A 5% return isn't bad by current standards, but it does leave unasked the question of exactly why the government should own a profitable telecommunications company.
Telstra's full sale would involve a "fiscal tightening", implying less cash would be available for other spending priorities.
"We have been up-front about the fact that this policy involves an implied fiscal tightening," Senator Minchin said yesterday.
The Government's 6.4 billion Telstra shares, valued at $31 billion at today's prices, generate dividend payments that swell the budget bottom line by about $1.5 billion a year.
But unlike the previous two Telstra share floats, the proceeds from the sale of the remaining 51.8 per cent stake will not be used to pay off debt. That means there will be no interest saving to offset the lost dividends.Well, yeah.
They sort of gloss over the reason that the proceeds of the sale won't be used to pay off debt.
The reason is this: There isn't any.
The Australian federal budget has been reaping such huge surpluses for so long that the government has been able to pay off its entire debt.*
I think it's just a little bit unfair to criticise the government for not paying off a debt that it's already paid off.
* That's purely federal, public-sector debt, though, and says nothing about state or local governments - which mostly suck - or the private sector. Also - I need to look this up - the final payments may be coming in the next financial year, but still require nothing from the Telstra sale.
Posted by: Susie at Saturday, August 20 2005 11:58 AM (nekkG)
Posted by: Jojo at Saturday, August 20 2005 01:03 PM (X+l3k)
Posted by: TallDave at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:13 PM (lZMuK)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 05:57 PM (ymzzr)
Posted by: TallDave at Saturday, August 20 2005 07:09 PM (H8Wgl)
Posted by: ya pidoras at Thursday, July 27 2006 06:56 AM (hNGYv)
Friday, August 12
After trillions of experiments carried out by billions of volunteers over the course of thousands of years, we come to the inescapable conclusion that consciousness is the result of brain chemistry, and that everyone else - Cartesian Dualists, Berkelian Idealists, Penrosian Quantumists - is quite simply wrong.*
I'm talking, of course, about beer.
* Which doesn't falsify any of those positions, because - once more - they are not falsifiable. There's a lot of it going about.
G-d made man
frail as a bubble
G-d made love
love made trouble
G-d made the vine
was it a sin
that man made wine to drown trouble in?
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 13 2005 02:22 AM (gNc4O)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 13 2005 02:24 AM (AIaDY)
but pixy, if matter and energy are the underlying substrate for the electro-biochemical processes of thought and memory, don't we have to have quantum consiciousness?
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 13 2005 03:24 AM (gNc4O)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 13 2005 04:11 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Susie at Saturday, August 13 2005 10:42 AM (nekkG)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Sunday, August 14 2005 01:07 AM (QbcjU)
Posted by: Evil Pundit at Sunday, August 14 2005 11:32 PM (+2/LZ)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 15 2005 03:42 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Evil Pundit at Monday, August 15 2005 04:37 AM (+2/LZ)
Posted by: mitchell porter at Wednesday, August 17 2005 01:09 PM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 17 2005 07:17 PM (ymzzr)
Chemistry is really the quantum theory of electrons interacting with nuclei, and it inherits this same conceptual problem. What is the *actual* state of an electron in an orbital? Is it literally in all those places at once, or is it just in one of them? We may get to evade this question in most empirical contexts, but we have no excuse for ignoring it altogether. In Penrose's theory, quantum jumps are controlled by quantum gravity, not by "observation", and so quantum gravity is the ultimate determinant of the *actual* state. This is the sense in which "quantum gravity matters for biochemical dynamics" in his theory.
Next, neuroscience. The quest for the "neural correlates of consciousness" - that is, the part of the brain whose physical state is somehow to be equated with the subjective state of consciousness - is a mainstream preoccupation by now. Hameroff and Penrose are saying one needs to pick out not just a brain region, but actually a particular subcellular structure. E.g. that the physical correlate of visual consciousness is not just "neurons in the visual cortex", but, more precisely, quantum-entangled microtubules in neurons in the visual cortex. I'll return to the empirical merits of this particular hypothesis shortly. But if one can entertain it for a moment, it is clear that a biochemical change will be relevant to the state of consciousness, only if it eventually impacts on the quantum state of the microtubules, for instance by damping the thermal noise to which you refer. This strikes me as a rather fruitfully stringent criterion. It does not obfuscate; it invites inquiry about mechanism. The only trouble is that it's presently difficult to investigate exact quantum states in biological matter (with a few exceptions, such as NMR), but that situation will improve with time.
Now to the question of whether quantum-brain theories are badly motivated. Since it is clearly possible, in our current state of ignorance, that quantum computation occurs in the brain, this can only be a question of research *priorities*: one might say that we do know it's unlikely, or that the arguments advanced in its favor are spurious. Penrose, of course, got here via Turing and Goedel. I do not think the arguments for noncomputable mind are particularly potent, because we have no evidence that the human mind really can "jump out of the system" indefinitely. I have my own reasons for being interested in quantum-brain theories, namely (1) the unitary character of consciousness (2) the un-objectively fuzzy character, from a microphysical perspective, of classical computational states (3) the possible evolutionary advantages of (e.g.) quantum search over classical search. But if you do have an a-priori interest in the quantum mind, then microtubules really are a promising place to look, on account of their high degree of symmetry, something which can enhance quantum effects.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Thursday, August 18 2005 02:48 AM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 18 2005 03:59 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 18 2005 04:09 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 18 2005 04:14 AM (AIaDY)
Drexler's Nanosystems has a nice overview of the spectrum of modelling choices available. The bottom rung (quantum field theory) is indeed considered irrelevant to biophysics. But this is just a default-conservative assumption, made by people who are already preoccupied with understanding higher-level complexities, and not the result of any systematic consideration of the subject. The pseudo-crystalline structure of the cytoskeleton, and the microtubule's two-dimensional array of symmetrically coupled subunits, makes it a natural place to look for quantum many-body effects, for example among mobile electrons, whose activities would be coupled to conformational change and thus to molecular function. Furthermore, the cytoskeleton is a highly dynamic structure implicated in a wide variety of cellular processes; and it has a unique form (no "centrioles") in neurons. The information processing that we know about in neurons (action potential propagation, synaptic transmission) very definitely interacts with intracellular state changes, e.g. the "second messenger" system, and, in a quantum-brain model, should presumably be viewed as a form of classical co-processing. (Every model of quantum computation I've ever seen also features auxiliary classical computation.)
I could say much more about biological detail but I should answer a few other points. My list of reasons for being interested (such as "advantages of quantum search") are reasons to take an a-priori interest in the hypothesis, at a time when there is no empirical evidence either way. Exotic quantum effects in biomolecules will be "indistinguishable from biochemistry" because empirically, biochemistry is defined as what biomolecules are observed to do, and often we don't know the physical mechanisms involved in how they do it (e.g. protein folding). As for Penrose's amendment to quantum theory, he has managed to extract a testable prediction from it (see my first comment, second link). But it's a difficult experiment.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Thursday, August 18 2005 01:23 PM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 18 2005 10:31 PM (AIaDY)
But let's short-circuit this debate, which from my perspective really is about the necessity of "wild speculations". I think the Hameroff-Penrose theory is not as arbitrary as people say, but it certainly involves simultaneous multiple hypotheses. The theory's advocates should spend less time trying to interest the world, and more time developing the theory. But even if Penrose were shown to be 100% correct about brain physics, it would only be an incremental advance philosophically. Materialism about the mind, in every form that I have ever seen, either posits the identity of two very dissimilar things, or tries to deny the mental entirely; and Penrose's theory does not change this.
Consider everyone's favorite, color perception. What do the colors that one actually perceives have in common with an electromagnetic pulse of a certain wavelength, or with a particular spiking pattern in a neuron? Both the latter are arrangements of colorless matter in space-time, so where does the "color" come from? And the Dennett Line terminates with the even more fantastic conclusion that, despite appearances, color isn't actually there. Naturalistic philosophy of mind reduces to a Hobson's choice between impossibilities. I conclude that the metaphysics of naturalism is a bit too parsimonious, and that we must acknowledge ontological categories beyond those countenanced by mathematical physics. Understanding how they might relate to familiar categories such as number and form is the real challenge.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Thursday, August 18 2005 11:53 PM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 19 2005 01:24 AM (AIaDY)
So. My experience of the world includes visual sensations of color. I wish to know what, in materialist terms, color is. Your answer seems to be the following. First there is the "physical perception of color", which I take to be the physical response of sensory neurons to the physical stimulus of light. Then a series of neural computations occur, producing a "representation of color", which I take to be some sort of state of cortical neurons. In other words, all we have are states of neurons - which, on a physicalist account, are assemblies of colorless particles in space. No color so far. So where is the color? What is it? It's "information". But what is that? Is it perhaps a quantitative physical property, such as the Shannon information in the state of a particular set of neurons? Because that would be a very strange thing for color to actually be - the logarithm of a probability. I don't see how venturing into the configuration space of a set of colorless objects brings us any closer to actually having color there.
Given the premises so far, I see three options here. You can take the Dennett Line, throw up your hands and say, there's nothing to the phenomenon of color beyond what you've described. You can be an identity theorist and assert that color is information. Or you can be an "information dualist", and say that color and information aren't the same, but they're linked somehow. Is there another option?
Posted by: mitchell porter at Friday, August 19 2005 03:26 AM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 19 2005 03:58 AM (AIaDY)
Your turn: define information.
By the way, I can look in a paint catalog and have it inform me, correctly, that various squares of color on the page are red, orange, etc. This is not to be explained by attributing "perceptions" to the catalog. But there is no need to do this in the case of the computer, either.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Saturday, August 20 2005 12:39 AM (mr6sB)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 01:55 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:04 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:13 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:26 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:30 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:41 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:50 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:52 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:07 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:09 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:15 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:15 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:18 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:26 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:29 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:32 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:34 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:41 AM (7TtOW)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 03:55 AM (AIaDY)
In whatever context you had in mind when you first said that color is information, or a product of information processing. I brought up Shannon information because I know how to define that as a property of a physical system.
Well if [color is] location-specific, obviously you're not going to find it in the brain, which makes me wonder why you asked the question in the first place.
That's location in "visual space". I don't know if that changes anything for you.
But consider what we have so far. We have a "physical perception of color" (an event in a sense organ) and a neural "representation of color", neither of which has color in the straightforward sense, I think we are agreed; and no other physical entity has been mooted as relevant so far.
It might be clearer if I expanded this discussion to take in the whole world of appearances, since that is where the color I'm talking about resides. Once upon a time ;-), we managed to agree that we both have visual sensations of color. These sensations also have forms, which are the objects of visual experience. I am trying to adopt a language here which does not presuppose materialism; there was a time when I did not know about atoms or brains, but I did know that I could "see things". Now as an adult I am told that "seeing" is an activity of my brain, that the things I see directly are in some sense in my brain, but that (unless I am hallucinating) they have a causally-mediated resemblance to physical objects external to my body. The question is whether this account makes sense, given our current conception of matter. I submit that it does not, because the things we see directly have properties (such as color) which nothing in the universe of physical theory has.
At the dawn of mathematical physics, a distinction was made between primary qualities, such as length, and secondary qualities, such as color. It was somehow agreed that primary qualities were in the world external to us, but secondary qualities were not; they were in us, not in the world. But now that our brains are like the rest of the physical world, the secondary qualities are simply nowhere - in theory. In reality, of course, they're still right there in front of us, where they always were. But they represent more of a philosophical conundrum now that there are no souls for them to inhabit.
Dennett's response, it seems to me, really is to deny the existence of the so-called secondary qualities. See his discussion of "figment" in Consciousness Explained. But this is untenable; color, in precisely this sense, is a primary epistemological datum. So I think we need to backtrack to the last time we had an ontology featuring both primary and secondary qualities - somewhere between Descartes and Russell - and go forward again from there, alongside the path that physics already took, but being careful to maintain a sense of the reality of the neglected aspects of experience. If that requires dabbling in solipsism, idealism, or dualism for a while, so be it. I see no reason why a new monism should not eventually be possible, which we might even still call materialism, but it's going to have to be ontologically richer than what we now call naturalism.
Since I do think that states of consciousness could be and would be states of "something in the brain" in a new monism (by which I mean, only one type of substance; not literally only one thing in existence), a monism that must explain everything that naturalistic physics already explains, you might reasonably ask whether I would expect states of consciousness in existing computers as well. I do not, even though the brain presently looks to us like a classical computer, as we originally discussed. If I line up the features of consciousness as known from the inside, with the features of computers as known from the outside, I find that consciousness for computers would require a very complicated psychophysical dualism (that is, the laws describing the association would have to be very complicated). It's not logically impossible, but I rate it as less likely than quantum computing in the brain, and a monism in which consciousness requires quantum entanglement between its parts.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Saturday, August 20 2005 11:26 AM (mr6sB)
Searle I agree with; his Room doesn't understand anything, unless some peculiar form of dualism obtains. But then I think he doesn't go far enough, because he thinks that the physical brain, as described by contemporary natural science, can be a locus of "intrinsic intentionality". As a matter of logic, he should find that just as difficult to believe, but his simultaneous belief in naturalism and in consciousness leads him to trust that it must be possible, somehow. So I would agree with the criticism that there's a certain inconsistency in Searle, but I take off in the opposite direction from his critics.
Hofstadter... I read him around the same age, and I suppose I accepted his views. I know that by 20 I was already entertaining the idea that the self was a single knotted superstring, so atomism bothered me then; and by 22 or so I was an "aspect dualist", thinking in terms of correlation, rather than identity, between the string's topology and the mind's propositional state, so I had implicitly abandoned naturalism at that point. Anyway, as I recall, Hofstadter tries to escape Searle's dictum that "syntax is not semantics" (i.e. the physical tokens in a computational device do not have intrinsic meanings, and so cannot be regarded as components of a thought) by exhibiting puns, Godel sentences, and a variety of other objects whose semantics are more complex than "A represents B". But in every scenario he advances, I think you can separate out the intricacies which are causal, physical, and intrinsic, and the intricacies which are semantic and introduced by an act of interpretation. So I don't think he solved the "symbol-grounding problem" at all.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Saturday, August 20 2005 12:09 PM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 06:06 PM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 06:12 PM (ymzzr)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Sunday, August 21 2005 02:48 PM (ApZQK)
Posted by: Jason at Sunday, August 21 2005 05:44 PM (Dj3SK)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, August 21 2005 08:53 PM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Jason at Sunday, August 21 2005 09:14 PM (Dj3SK)
That clearly requires understanding. There is no way around this, except for redefining "understanding" in terms that deny Naturalism. Which immediately defeats the purpose.
On reflection, I think you're right. I say Searle's Room would not understand, so I agree with him there, but I also say Searle's Brain (i.e. the brain of ordinary naturalism) would not understand, for exactly the same reasons that the Room would not.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Tuesday, August 23 2005 12:53 AM (mr6sB)
As I recall, Tegmark introduces his two 'views' in the context of his 'reality is mathematics' theory. The birdseye view is then 'mathematics experienced from the outside', the frogseye view is 'mathematics experienced from the inside'. Even accepting Tegmark's framework, the two views are not completely disjoint, since every mathematician inhabits a particular place in the multiverse, and so is necessarily coming from a frogseye view, even when they think about things from a birdseye view. In fact, you could argue that the true birdseye view does not exist anywhere, and is at best asymptotically approximated by frogs that fly higher and higher, and see more and more of the Mindscape (to throw in a term from Rudy Rucker).
It is a risky thing to make analogies like this when you haven't really studied the original doctrines, but I might call the frogseye view Pythagorean rather than Aristotelian. Or maybe we should call these views 'Pythagorean Platonism' and 'Pythagorean Aristotelianism'. I bring up Pythagoras because he is said to have believed that 'all is number'. That would make him the original mathematical idealist.
To really discuss this properly, we would need to set aside birds, frogs, and ancient Greeks, and try to express the ideas in question plainly. Unfortunately, the modes of thought in question are simply unfamiliar to the modern mind, which is why we make allusive references to Plato and Aristotle, rather than using the correct technical vocabulary as developed by the scholastics. As for what I think, well, in this book I ran across the idea of a fundamental "exemplification relation" connecting "substance" and "property", and that would be my default position on the problem of universals (that's a very nice little book by Bertrand Russell behind the second link, incidentally), which is the technical question in metaphysics whose answer was the key issue at stake in the medieval debate. But I have beginner's agnosticism when it comes to most metaphysical questions; the whole substance-property metaphysic could be wrong, as Heidegger seems to have argued.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Tuesday, August 23 2005 01:18 AM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 23 2005 01:37 AM (AIaDY)
1. 'Understanding' is a matter of appropriate response; how this is achieved (implementation details, if you will) is irrelevant.
2. 'Understanding' exists if and only if a certain causal structure lies behind the appropriate responses.
3. 'Understanding' must be implemented in a thing called "mind" (followed by some theory of what mind is).
I think many people prefer (2) to (1) because of the possibility of implementation via Giant Look-Up Table (here's an old extropian thread on the topic). Someone like John Pollock, for example, who writes at length about the relationship between rationality and cognitive architecture. It's a little like the old distinction between knowledge and 'true belief'; you might believe the right thing for the wrong reason, in which you case you don't actually know that X, you just happen to correctly believe that X. The Lookup Table gives the right answers, but its internal representations are entirely structureless, so one might not wish to say that it understands.
However, I am staking out a variant of position (3), for the same reasons I gave when talking about color and physics. Just as the phenomenology of color tells us something about the ontology of color, there is a phenomenology of meaning and of meaning-perception that tells us something about the ontology of meaning, and I don't see anything like it in the world of particles in space. So in the debate about "naturalizing intentionality", I say yes, intentionality is the mark of the mental, and no, it does not exist in current physical ontology. However, one can certainly make a formal state-machine model of intentional processes, so intentionality can be simulated in a possible world without mind (so long as there are 'things' with 'states' and which interact in sufficiently complex ways), and it might even be simulated in a world where mind is ontologically possible, if it's implemented in the wrong way. And I think classical computation is a wrong way (for the creation of mind, anyhow), because the physical entities which constitute the computational states are not enough of a unit. Or, put another way, the only things that bind them are causal relations, and it seems to me that there are non-causal relations which play a constitutive role in mental states as well.
Quantum mechanics is of interest in this regard precisely because it has relationships like entanglement; the idea is that the complexity of entangled states may actually be a formal glimpse of fundamental intentional states. This idea has its own problems, but at least it avoids the main problem of functionalism, namely: which virtual machine is the machine whose states are the mental states? There are two sources of ambiguity here - one is the question of level (which "level of abstraction" is the right one?), the other involves the definition of the bottom level in terms of exact microphysical states, about which I say a bit here.
Posted by: mitchell porter at Tuesday, August 23 2005 10:09 AM (mr6sB)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 23 2005 10:42 PM (RbYVY)
Posted by: mitchell porter at Friday, August 26 2005 01:22 AM (mr6sB)
In any situation where there is the classic asymmetry of regard; that is, Group A thinks Group B is evil, while Group B thinks Group A is stupid, Group B is almost always correct.
The reasons for this become obvious once one realises that this still holds true when the labels are reversed.
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 13 2005 01:51 AM (gNc4O)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 13 2005 02:33 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Evil Pundit at Sunday, August 14 2005 02:30 AM (+2/LZ)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, August 14 2005 03:14 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Evil Pundit at Sunday, August 14 2005 03:22 AM (+2/LZ)
Posted by: TallDave at Wednesday, August 17 2005 11:24 AM (+zD27)
A nation in crisis.
Terrified victims flee the threat of climate change.
The usual suspects are up to their usual tricks.
(Via Tim Blair, who says basically what I just said, only he said it first. Okay, slow news day.)
(Picture by Craig Borrow for News Limited)
Posted by: Mitch H. at Friday, August 12 2005 09:48 AM (iTVQj)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 12 2005 10:21 AM (4N+SC)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Friday, August 12 2005 11:49 AM (JREvR)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Friday, August 12 2005 01:02 PM (+rGmJ)
Posted by: Susie at Saturday, August 13 2005 10:54 AM (nekkG)
Posted by: Mike Beversluis at Friday, August 19 2005 07:41 PM (SvK3c)
Tuesday, August 09
Supernatural, adj.: Indistinguishable from a normal distribution.
Posted by: tommy at Tuesday, August 09 2005 07:04 PM (OJ+GI)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Wednesday, August 10 2005 03:42 AM (Pd/E3)
Posted by: tommy at Wednesday, August 10 2005 10:39 AM (OJ+GI)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Wednesday, August 10 2005 08:04 PM (nqwdS)
Saturday, August 06
This comment appeared in a discussion of the Intelligent Design kerfuffle over at Vodkapundit:
No "theory" requiring a god or invisible intelligence or burning sage or nineteen-teated mythical bear can be falsified â€“ and is therefore not science.[The paragraph in italics was from Stephen's original post; the rest is from commenter Robert.]
Interestingly enough, this formulation ends up putting extremely large dents in science itself.
If a non-materialistic cause exists, it will not be falsifiable, and thus not science - and thus science's explanation for whatever-it-is will be automatically, inexorably, unavoidably wrong.
So to the extent that religion has any truth, science will hold some variable quantity of ineradicable wrongness. And that wrongness will be understood to exist by the religious majority.
This is of course correct.
Science is based on the metaphysical principle of Naturalism: That all things have natural causes. Natural causes are those that act in all ways as material causes, that is, there is no intervention from beyond the material Universe.*
If there were any such intervention, Science, as Robert says, would give us the wrong answer.
It's an interesting point that Science is so enormously successful. If there is a non-materialistic cause to anything, we haven't seen it.
To put it another way: The Theory of Evolution appears to be correct, based on immense amounts of evidence. If there is an Intelligent Designer, then The Designer is working in exactly the same way we would expect evolution to proceed naturally.
Which doesn't falsify ID, because you can't falsify ID.
* Science can be built from Materialism, which states simply that all things have material causes, or from Naturalism, which states that all things act in all ways as if they had material causes. Only Naturalism is required, but personally I think the distinction is meaningless.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Saturday, August 06 2005 09:19 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 06 2005 09:28 PM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Sunday, August 07 2005 03:56 AM (+2gjb)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, August 07 2005 04:22 AM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Sunday, August 07 2005 02:26 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: TallDave at Monday, August 08 2005 02:25 AM (H8Wgl)
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Monday, August 08 2005 03:04 AM (0FLZ0)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 08 2005 03:56 AM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Monday, August 08 2005 12:25 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: Neal at Monday, August 08 2005 12:37 PM (ZNAq7)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Monday, August 08 2005 01:45 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: TallDave at Monday, August 08 2005 07:04 PM (H8Wgl)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 08 2005 07:19 PM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 09 2005 12:05 AM (AIaDY)
Pixy: The details of how quantum mechanics generates quasi-deterministic results aren't germane to my argument; the key question is, "if a sapient being's judgements are solely the result of material causes ... then how can they also be the result of logical reasoning applied to evidence?" The comparison of humans to computers may illustrate the point. The execution of a computer program is the result of material causes (electrical power, the design of the circuits, the state of the memory devices) and is fully explained by them. And this means the computer's final state is absolutely determined by its initial state -- it cannot calculate any result except the one implied by the information given it. It cannot, in particular, recognize that the algorithm guiding the course of the execution is unsound. There's no gap left over in which logical reasoning from evidence could possibly influence the execution's result. (Nor, in a computer, would you want any such gap to exist!)
Now, under the assumption that human brains are only computers, we would have to admit that human judgements are results of some program's execution, from which it follows that such judgements are wholly determined by some initial state -- present perceptions, memories of past perceptions, etc. And it equally follows that logical reasoning has no influence over human judgements; and if the algorithm which gives rise to judgements is unsound, the human making a judgement could never discover it. Are you prepared to accept those propositions?
Passing to another point: would you agree that the question "how can carbon nuclei be generated within stars in great numbers" is meaningless? For if you did, you would have dismissed Fred Hoyle's speculation (later confirmed) that the carbon nucleus has a specific energy level.
I have always supposed that questions of the form "here is ...; how can it exist?" are exactly those that science is best equipped to answer.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Tuesday, August 09 2005 12:20 AM (YuM55)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 09 2005 02:00 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 09 2005 02:20 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 09 2005 02:26 AM (AIaDY)
This is true only for programs on the "application" level. I was thinking more of circuitry errors like the Intel Pentium's division error, or security holes in an OS's kernel. Errors on that level aren't things a computer can fix by itself.
And you haven't given an answer to this bit: "under the assumption that human brains are only computers, we would have to admit that human judgements are results of some program's execution, from which it follows that such judgements are wholly determined by some initial state ... it equally follows that logical reasoning has no influence over human judgements". Is there really nothing in that which strikes you as objectionable?
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Tuesday, August 09 2005 05:07 AM (YuM55)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, August 09 2005 05:27 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Tuesday, August 09 2005 10:57 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 10 2005 01:36 AM (AIaDY)
There are several reasons why neural systems are not "computers": neural systems are asynchronous, neural systems are fundamentally analog, and neural systems are not 100% deterministic in execution. (Also, behavior of neural systems is influenced not only by signal inputs, but also by such factors as fatigue, nutrition, genetics, blood hormone levels, and what other information has been processed recently -- and is being processed simultaneously, since neural systems never work on only one problem at a time.)
All of these outside influences, as well as the neural connections and signals, are material things; in principle, if we had a complete and detailed description of the brain at a specified time, and all the outside influences on the brain starting at that time, we could give an equally complete and detailed description of the brain at any future time. (Or, if quantum effects are relevant, we could give an ensemble of possible descriptions. I doubt this makes a difference to the argument.)
At some level of abstraction, there are events in any human brain which we call judgements; and these are supposed to be the conclusions, by a logical process of reasoning, from collections of evidence. Now, under the assumption of Naturalism judgements, like all other events, are only the results of material causes -- indeed, they are wholly composed of, and reducible to, events listed in one of the complete and detailed descriptions of the brain in which they occur. And the problem is, if this is the case, it does not seem possible for judgements to be, in addition, conclusions of an argument.
The form of a judgement is fully explained by the material events which are its constituents and the causes of those events, and logical reasoning is not one of those causes. Decompose a judgement down to the states of elementary particles; you will not find arguments or inferences. Trace back the changes of state that gave rise to the judgement; again you will not find arguments or inferences. And Naturalism admits no other kind of cause. So how is a judgement supposed to represent any aspect of reality, except itself? How does a judgement, under Naturalism, manage to be true, or false; or have any meaning at all?
In a word: is there a consistent epistemology of Naturalism?
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Wednesday, August 10 2005 04:53 AM (3xwLL)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 10 2005 05:16 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wednesday, August 10 2005 09:25 AM (CJBEv)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wednesday, August 10 2005 09:50 AM (CJBEv)
Posted by: owlish at Wednesday, August 10 2005 01:09 PM (kVnh2)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 10 2005 06:20 PM (4N+SC)
I personally like Sir Roger's take. Penrose proposes that the physiological process underlying a given thought may initially involve a number of superposed quantum states, each of which performs a calculation of sorts. When the differences in the distribution of mass and energy between the states reach a gravitationally significant level, the states collapse into a single state, causing measurable and possibly nonlocal changes in the neural structure of the brain. This physical event correlates with a mental one: the comprehension of a mathematical theorem, say, or the decision not to tip a waiter.
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Wednesday, August 10 2005 07:01 PM (PDOu0)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 10 2005 07:13 PM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Susie at Wednesday, August 10 2005 09:19 PM (nekkG)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 10 2005 10:01 PM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wednesday, August 10 2005 11:47 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Thursday, August 11 2005 01:27 AM (PDOu0)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 11 2005 02:28 AM (AIaDY)
IDist's do not use use mathematics, in the sense that i understand mathematics. the complexity argument is bogus as applied to ID. and, ID has already lost the memetic war against evolution, if you look at public opinion. we should go on to more interesting arguments.
the real difference between quantum theorists and IDist's, is that ID is desperately trying to cling to something from our past, and quantum theorists are thinking about something in our future. Penrose et al are the new heretics, metaphysicists like Newton and Leibnitz were in their time. they may, indeed, be wrong. but at least they are not afraid to think outside the box.
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Thursday, August 11 2005 10:36 AM (PDOu0)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Thursday, August 11 2005 12:59 PM (QbcjU)
Posted by: owlish at Thursday, August 11 2005 01:10 PM (kVnh2)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 11 2005 01:48 PM (4N+SC)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Thursday, August 11 2005 02:39 PM (PDOu0)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 11 2005 02:48 PM (4N+SC)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Thursday, August 11 2005 11:14 PM (JREvR)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 11 2005 11:26 PM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Friday, August 12 2005 02:06 AM (JREvR)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Friday, August 12 2005 02:49 AM (JREvR)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 12 2005 03:46 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 12 2005 04:28 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 12 2005 04:41 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Friday, August 12 2005 11:35 AM (JREvR)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 12 2005 11:48 AM (4N+SC)
Doesn't there have to be an interface between biology and mathematics somewhere? Is that interface physics?
I like Max Tegmark quite a lot too. "In other words, our successful theories are not mathematics approximating physics, but mathematics approximating mathematics."
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Friday, August 12 2005 12:22 PM (JREvR)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 13 2005 04:30 AM (AIaDY)
About Penrose. We need to distinguish between his various speculations. His ideas on objective state reduction as part of a theory of quantum gravity come from attempts to integrate quantum mechanics and general relativity, theories which (though confirmed separately by hosts of evidence) are not compatible as they stand. The quantum gravity hypotheses, that is, are answers to a question posed within physics.
Penrose's argument against "strong AI" comes out of the foundations of mathematics and the theory of computation; it exploits, that is, the results of Goedel, Turing, Church, and Tarski. And the speculations on consciousness depend on that argument and the quantum gravity hypotheses, plus some interesting experimental data.
... it's counter to several thousand years of collected evidence that consciousness is a product of biochemistry.
There's several thousand years of evidence that biochemistry is necessary to human consciousness. Not a shred of it is evidence that biochemistry suffices, which is the question at hand.
Michael, the fundamental flaw of your argument is that you implicitly deny the existence of emergent properties.
Actually, no, I don't deny the existence of emergent properties; what I deny is that the completion of a judgement can be an emergent property of matter. Unfortunately I haven't time just now to state my reasons properly, but as a hint: if the components of a system all have a property X, and all the available ways to combine components preserve X, then the system as a whole must have X. That rule of inference is called "structural induction".
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Saturday, August 13 2005 06:28 AM (1ce6z)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 13 2005 07:10 AM (4N+SC)
As I said before, I don't deny that emergent properties exist; in fact I can supply an example which the article I just linked to missed -- natural languages emerge, in exactly this sense, from human communities. But let us analyze the examples of emergence more closely.
The pressure and temperature of a gas emerge from the energy and momentum of the gas' constituent molecules; but pressure and temperature are defined in terms of the energy and momentum of the gas as a whole. Market prices regulate the use of goods and services in an economy, without need for a single director; but those prices, which summarize recent transactions, emerge by means of a host of attempted transactions. Languages, which regulate communications among the members of a community, normally emerge from and by means of people's attempts to communicate with each other.
The common thread is, I trust, clear: in each case the macro-scale emergent structure is of the same category as the micro-scale events from which it emerges. And this holds for every emergent property. So, if judgements are to be emergent properties, we must find some micro-scale events, of the same category as judgements but less structured, out of which a judgement could emerge.
Now there is a plausible candidate for this in perception -- which I define as recognition, by a sapient being, that some other event not only has occurred, but has significance. The trouble is that Naturalism denies any significance to the idea of significance. The suggestion that an event means, as well as occurs, is metaphysical, beyond the limits of science, therefore (to the Naturalist) without explanatory power. So Naturalists cannot appeal to perception as the ground of judgements.
To restate: the problem for the Naturalist is not to explain how the orderly structure of a scientific judgement emerges from a chaos, but to characterize the chaos from which a judgement emerges, without admitting the existence of immaterial entities.
And we can show that things that outwardly look remarkably like judgement can be produced as emergent properties of computer programs.
To the best of my knowledge, the two types of programs which come closest to performing judgements are heuristic-guided search and data mining. Neither of these really resembles the method of reasoning that scientists actually employ; and more importantly, the part of human reasoning they do resemble is the "emergent" aspect, bringing chaos into order, which is not where the difficulty lies.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Thursday, August 18 2005 10:56 PM (8LTnv)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 19 2005 01:35 AM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Friday, August 19 2005 06:26 AM (CJBEv)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Saturday, August 20 2005 02:08 AM (7TtOW)
Judgements are information processing. All interactions involve the processing of information. That's your category right there.
This would be satisfactory, if you had defined "information" as a result of material causes. However, as far as I am aware "information" belongs to the same family as "significance", "meaning", and "purpose". Which is to say, information is exactly what Naturalism excludes from the set of admissible causes of events: a non-material phenomenon. By making information processing a universal law, you have in effect declared that elementary particles think, and endorsed the ideas of Chalmers and Penrose.
You think there is a problem because you are importing a concept of judgement that simply doesn't apply under Naturalism.
Why yes, I am. Except that it's not a "concept" of judgement I'm appealing to; it's the thing itself, the experience of reaching a judgment, which every human being shares to some extent, of which the scientific method is a refinement. Saying that judgement as we experience it "doesn't apply under Naturalism" is just like saying the orbit of Mercury isn't what astronomers observe it to be, because Newton's theory of gravity would put it somewhere else.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Saturday, August 20 2005 06:21 AM (XYgLK)
Some systems oscillate, but there's no characteristic of the components which has anything to do with oscillation. Oscillation is an emergent property of the system which corresponds to no "microscale event".
Ah ... oscillation of what? You mention logic gates -- there, what oscillates is the voltage passing through the wires that connect the gates, correct? And voltage in a wire is certainly a characteristic of a component of the logic circuit (the circuit being the whole system.)
If two people engage in a transaction, that is a system and the transaction is an emergent property of that system ... One person is not a system ... What is the "microscale event" in a single person which corresponds to market pricing?
OK, now we're getting serious.
If we're going to analyze transactions as systems, the question is what, exactly, their components are. Obviously, these are the things to be exchanged, and the intentions of the exchangers. It is also obvious that exchangable things can exist, and that agents can have intentions, outside of transactions. So the "atoms" of markets are, goods and services, and the intentions of agents. But can you maintain that the prices of goods and services belong to a different category from an agent's intentions? Such was not my understanding of the economics textbooks I have read.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Saturday, August 20 2005 07:04 AM (XYgLK)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 08:14 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 08:21 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 08:25 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 08:33 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 08:39 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Saturday, August 20 2005 08:41 AM (ymzzr)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Saturday, August 20 2005 04:22 PM (CJBEv)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Sunday, August 21 2005 02:40 PM (ApZQK)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Monday, August 22 2005 01:21 AM (CJBEv)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 22 2005 02:14 AM (ymzzr)
the quote is from Diamond Age.
Stephenson interview-- http://www.reason.com/0502/fe.mg.neal.shtml
a part i liked-- "One could argue that people like Leibniz and the others were able to come up with some good ideas because they werenâ€™t afraid to think metaphysically. In those days, metaphysics was still a respected discipline and considered as worthwhile as mathematics. It got the stuffing kicked out of it through much of the 20th century and became a byword for mystical, obscurantist thinking, but in recent decades it has been rehabilitated somewhat. At bottom, anyone who asks questions like â€œWhy does the universe seem to obey laws?â€ or â€œWhy does mathematics work so well in modeling the physical universe?â€ is engaging in metaphysics. People like Newton and Leibniz were as well-equipped for this kind of thinking as anyone today, and so it is interesting to read and think about their metaphysics."
Don't you guys think that Science fiction predicts and informs science?
And, are we engaging in metaphysics in speculating about consciousness?
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Monday, August 22 2005 03:09 AM (HEZRG)
Somehow I'm not surprised to learn that Michael is not familiar with Claude Shannon's seminal work.
Allow me to quote from that seminal work: The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point. Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem. The significant aspect is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages. Shannon did not prove "that information is a purely physical phenomenon." Instead he restricted his subject to those aspects of information which are purely physical, leaving out the "semantic aspects", which are not. The researchers in bioinformatics restrict themselves in a very similar way, studying sequences of DNA bases and amino acids as abstract data, without considering how the genes and proteins participate in chemical reactions. Bioinformatics is useful and important, but nobody would expect a complete description of biological functions to arise from it; part of the data needed for such a description has been intentionally left out. "Information theory", Shannon's theory, is in the same boat: useful and important as it is, it is, by Shannon's express intention, not a theory of knowledge.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Monday, August 22 2005 05:40 AM (E2q5a)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 22 2005 06:38 AM (ymzzr)
I can get a computer to make accurate statements about its environment. I can even get it to take measurements, form hypotheses, test them, construct theories, and so on. ... Is this not judgement? And if not, why not?
At the current state of the art, you cannot, in point of fact, do all of these things. Forming and testing hypotheses, and constructing theories, are faculties beyond our present ability to teach to a computer. Now, it is possible to teach a computer to assess a list of effects (e.g. medical symptoms) and produce a probable cause of those effects. But the algorithms used for this (usually a Bayesian logic engine) do not give rise to new judgements of the scientific type: no expert system ever built will assert that "XYZ is impossible", unless its builders told it so. We can, at present, teach a computer to spot a statistical correlation -- but correlation is not causation, as every scientist knows.
You will no doubt say that I'm doing "judgement of the gaps" now. Not so. We always knew, long before the first expert systems, that diagnosis could be, to a large degree, mechanized; that known problems, with their list of symptoms, could be catalogued. And we also knew that anyone who depended solely on the catalog would be stumped by an unknown problem -- to solve those you need scientific judgement. The behavior of expert systems exactly matches that of a pure catalog-reader: solving known problems easily, and baffled by the unknown.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Monday, August 22 2005 06:41 AM (+bYY+)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 22 2005 07:00 AM (ymzzr)
That proof - actually a theory - is referred to as an Operational Theory of Consciousness. It would explain in detail how the biochemistry of the brain produces consciousness, and we don't have one. What we do have is an immense body of correlations which point - without exception - in one direction. We know that consciousness arises from brain biochemistry. We don't know how, at least not in sufficient detail.
Ah, Pixy. That "immense body of correlations" shows that biochemistry is among the causes of human consciousness. Precisely because we lack an operational theory of consciousness, we cannot state with any confidence that biochemistry is the sole cause. That's exactly the fallacy the apothegm "correlation is not causation" warns against.
By the way, I don't drink :)
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Monday, August 22 2005 07:04 AM (+bYY+)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, August 22 2005 08:15 AM (ymzzr)
The point being, semantics is syntax. The only way for semantics to exist or to act is through syntax. [...] We're not talking about knowledge, we're talking about information. Knowledge is like semantics: It only exists in information, and it is irrelevant to the engineering problem (i.e. explaining how things work).
Two minor errors: You may prefer to talk about information, but I have been asking you about knowledge from the start. The domain of engineering is not explaining how things work, but exploiting how they work. Network engineers need not know or care what the data passing through the networks they make means. (That's what Shannon was saying.) But if you want to understand the message's sender -- if you're acting, that is, as a scientist -- the meaning of the message is vital to your enquiry.
And now for the major error: "Semantics is just syntax, because it only acts through syntax." I don't know if you have kept up with researches into animal behavior; but it appears that several nonhuman species (all social mammals -- wolves, apes, dolphins) are capable of reaching judgements about their environment, without being able to express them. For these animals, that is, semantics exists without syntax -- a thing you have declared to be impossible.
You should also consider the entities of mathematics. Since these act on matter only through information (e.g. mathematical papers and computations) you would have to assert that they just are the information through which they act: that mathematics is mathematical syntax. However, from this it would follow that the truth of a mathematical theorem is just its provability -- the very proposition that Goedel disproved in 1931.
That's two reasons (from quite different domains, notice) why equating meaning to information is not plausible.
Lacking a theory providing a plausible and detailed causal link between biochemistry and consciousness, we do need to keep in mind that all we have is 7,000 years worth of data all pointing directly to the fact that in ever case ever examined, consciousness behaves in all ways as though it were generated by brain biochemistry.
You keep on repeating this. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Allow me, please, another quote:Again, did I know nothing about the movement of bodies, except what the theory of gravitation supplies, were I simply absorbed in that theory so as to make it measure all motion on earth and in the sky, I should indeed come to many right conclusions, I should hit off many important facts, ascertain many existing relations, and correct many popular errors: I should scout and ridicule with great success the old notion, that light bodies flew up and heavy bodies fell down; but I should go on with equal confidence to deny the phenomenon of capillary attraction. Here I should be wrong, but only because I carried out my science irrespectively of other sciences.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Wednesday, August 24 2005 06:03 AM (HJGD0)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 24 2005 07:59 AM (ymzzr)
"... several nonhuman species (all social mammals -- wolves, apes, dolphins) are capable of reaching judgements about their environment without being able to express them. For these animals, that is, semantics exists without syntax -- a thing you have declared to be impossible." Nope. For animals, semantics exists without spoken language, which is a completely different matter. The syntax is still there. Spoken language is just one specific form of syntax.
I assume you mean that the outward behavior of the social animals forms a "syntax". The trouble is, we could not deduce from only the outward behavior of the animals that they reach judgements; we infer that some animals reach judgements by analogy from our own experience as judgement-makers. We take our own minds as a model for the animals' and predict their actions accordingly. We do not find the model in their actions -- the "semantics" is not in the "syntax".
We make the same inference, incidentally, about other human beings: I know that other people reach judgements because, were I in their situation, my behavior as guided by judgements would resemble theirs as I observe it. If I did not have experience of forming judgements, the observable actions of other humans would be unintelligible.
"from [that mathematics is mathematical syntax] it would follow that the truth of a mathematical theorem is just its provability" No, that does not follow. A mathematical theorem does not stand alone, but is embedded in the syntax of mathematics. If you examine a theorem without the foundation of mathematics or logic, it doesn't mean much of anything.
If you suppose you've disagreed with me here, you are mistaken.
What science do you think I have neglected?
The science of consciousness and mentality. Yes, yes, there is no theory of consciousness -- that only means the science is in the empirical stage, disorganized and without a principle. Was there no science of biology before Darwin?
Your problem is, you take an engineer's view of the sciences; you think of the great scientific theories as established truths, to be accepted and turned to use. You are so impressed by the vast extent of phenomena that those theories cover that, though the scientists hold them provisionally and within the limits of observation, you are quite sure that they explain everything. And so, when faced with something the theories don't cover, you assimilate it as far as possible to something they do cover, and dismiss what's left over as "irrelevant to the scientific problem". You exemplify, in fact, the fallacy John Henry Newman spoke of:Men, whose life lies in the cultivation of one science, or the exercise of one method of thought, have no more right, though they have often more ambition, to generalize upon the basis of their own pursuit but beyond its range, than the schoolboy or the ploughman to judge of a Prime Minister. But they must have something to say on every subject; habit, fashion, the public require it of them: and, if so, they can only give sentence according to their knowledge. You might think this ought to make such a person modest in his enunciations; not so: too often it happens that, in proportion to the narrowness of his knowledge, is, not his distrust of it, but the deep hold it has upon him, his absolute conviction of his own conclusions, and his positiveness in maintaining them. He has the obstinacy of the bigot, whom he scorns, without the bigot's apology, that he has been taught, as he thinks, his doctrine from heaven. Thus he becomes, what is commonly called, a man of one idea; which properly means a man of one science, and of the view, partly true, but subordinate, partly false, which is all that can proceed out of any thing so partial. Hence it is that we have the principles of utility, of combination, of progress, of philanthropy, or, in material sciences, comparative anatomy, phrenology, electricity, exalted into leading ideas, and keys, if not of all knowledge, at least of many things more than belong to them,â€” principles, all of them true to a certain point, yet all degenerating into error and quackery, because they are carried to excess, viz. at the point where they require interpretation and restraint from other quarters, and because they are employed to do what is simply too much for them, inasmuch as a little science is not deep philosophy.
Posted by: Michael Brazier at Friday, August 26 2005 01:16 AM (8LTnv)
Posted by: TallDave at Friday, August 26 2005 06:46 PM (H8Wgl)
Posted by: matoko kusanagi at Sunday, August 28 2005 07:25 PM (s4jJk)
Wednesday, August 03
Via The Politburo Diktat and Balloon Juice, this choice tidbit of unmitigated idiocy:
President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss â€˜â€™intelligent designâ€™â€™ alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.The problem is, Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory to be discussed alongside Evolution. Lamarckism was an alternative to Darwinian evolution. It was also wrong, and was discarded once we knew that.
During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.
â€˜â€™I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,â€™â€™ Bush said. â€˜â€™Youâ€™re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.â€™
Lamarck proposed his theory, it was shown to be wrong, we threw it out. That's how science works.
Newton's laws of motion were wrong too; we didn't throw them out entirely because they were right most of the time, so today we keep them as useful rules of thumb for everyday situations.
But Intelligent Design isn't like that. Intelligent Design can't ever be proved wrong. In fact, it can't ever be tested in any way at all. That makes it unscientific. Not because it's wrong, but because it's utterly useless. We have no way of knowing whether it's wrong, not ever, not even in principle - so what's the point?
Worse, Intelligent Design was set up that way intentionally, and then its proponents tried - and continue to try - to push it into the science curriculum in schools.
It's not science, because we can't tell if it's wrong.
The IDists know that - and continue to push it as science.
Now, this is a hobbyhorse of mine (and the Commissar's, of course), and I react more strongly to it than most people. But President Bush, much as I respect the man, is promoting academic fraud, and it has to be pointed out, and it has to be said loud and clear.
There's even worse on the Democrat side of things, unfortunately. Post-modernism from the likes of Chomsky seeks to deny the validity of all Science, not just Evolution, and it's even more pernicious than Creationism and Intelligent Design. Even more actively fraudulent, too. I've taken the fight to the Post-modernists as well, and will continue to do so.
But right now, they're not President.
Oh, and if you want to post a comment suggesting that Intelligent Design is something other than pure bullshit, don't bother. Go here instead. (Of course, given my posting schedule of late, I probably have about three readers left - hi Susie! - so I don't have to worry about that.)
Posted by: Kathy K at Wednesday, August 03 2005 08:42 PM (Hy1rZ)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 03 2005 08:56 PM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Neal at Wednesday, August 03 2005 09:07 PM (pdiJG)
Posted by: Susie at Wednesday, August 03 2005 09:20 PM (PWYyH)
Posted by: tommy at Wednesday, August 03 2005 11:55 PM (OJ+GI)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Thursday, August 04 2005 04:17 AM (ds0+e)
Posted by: Evil Pundit at Thursday, August 04 2005 06:45 AM (rLLED)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 04 2005 08:35 AM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Neal at Thursday, August 04 2005 10:14 AM (OdCKj)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 04 2005 10:28 AM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Neal at Thursday, August 04 2005 11:13 AM (qIC+p)
Posted by: Mitch H. at Thursday, August 04 2005 03:13 PM (iTVQj)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, August 04 2005 11:13 PM (AIaDY)
Posted by: Wonderduck at Friday, August 05 2005 12:41 AM (G2sf8)
1. Farensic sciences include the examination of whether events were caused by design. e.g. was this fire started intentionally? So to say there is no science in ID may be an oversimplification.
2. A reason that so many are pushing for ID to be taught in schools is the near "religious" insistance on evolution which is far from a complete theory. Much evolution happens as a matter for observation. Some is a good scientific model closely explaining observations. Some of it may one day soon be replaced by new theories. So let's not be "evangelical" about evolution either.
Posted by: StonePiano at Friday, August 05 2005 08:57 AM (KXs4H)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, August 05 2005 09:23 AM (4N+SC)
Posted by: Evil Pundit at Sunday, August 14 2005 02:15 AM (+2/LZ)
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