Friday, December 24, 2010

Another reply in the same thread...

LT @ 54

“tgpeeler (41), You present a nice case. Let me ask, though, whether you find terms such as “past,” “cause,” and “first” in the context of the origins of the universe. Are these terms, as we are using them here, appropriate and applicable to the origins of the universe?”

First of all, thank you. Second of all, absolutely these terms are appropriate in the context of the origin of the universe. I’m curious, why anyone would think they wouldn’t be? Those are all “finite” terms and the universe is finite, ergo…

“When it comes to our universe, we have a scientific case for claiming that we can explain it without having to go outside of it. For a very high-level, 101, explanation of what I’m saying see Sean Carroll’s video at”

I watched this and I read Hawking’s book about two weeks after it came out last fall. He may be a stellar physicist but he flunks logic 101. I found Carroll’s comments to be mostly parroting what Hawking had to say so he flunks logic 101, too. I don’t have time to undo or correct all of the logical errors Carroll made in about three minutes, much less the ones Hawking made in an entire book, but I will comment on this phrase uttered by Carroll starting at 2:22 in the linked youtube video.

“The universe could just obey its own laws. It could be a natural, physical, material universe obeying the laws of physics and that can be a complete explanation of everything.”

The universe is FINITE. That means, according to the law of identity, that it began because that’s part of what finite means. And if it BEGAN, then it needs a CAUSE or EXPLANATION of its beginning, else it wouldn’t be here. But it is here. To just say that “we can explain it without having to go outside of it” without providing some rationale for that statement, some evidence, some proof, some argument, is ridiculous. On the face of it, it’s false.

To say, in the absence of any empirical evidence whatsoever, that universes can create themselves because Einstein said the net energy of the universe is zero and that the law of gravity allows them to, is utter nonsense. For one thing, as far as I’ve read, not that I track it closely, dark matter and/or dark energy comprise about 94% of the observable universe and no one really has a clue about what they are. I know for certain that the four fundamental forces have yet to be unified, the M-Theory metaphysical project not withstanding. But I’m supposed to believe that Hawking KNOWS that universes can be spontaneously created because of the laws of physics, the precursors to this natural, physical, material universe, “allow” that to happen? Ha. Sure. Not likely. Are you kidding me? Can anyone say or spell thermodynamics??

The other thing that strikes me right off the bat about this is something that the naturalists/physicalists/materialists never seem to grasp and which “we” allow to pass all too easily and often and it is this. What explanation do the laws of physics have for themselves? What explanation do the laws of physics have for the mathematical language in which they are expressed? Can either the language (the mathematics) or the physical laws be empirically detected? In other words, can they be sensed? No. They cannot. If you think they can, feel free to tell me what the Pythagorean theorem tastes like in your reply to this post.

So Hawking and Carroll cannot even rationalize the existence of the laws (and the language in which the laws are written) that they say allowed the universe, and other universes, to merely pop into existence. Think of this. That this kind of commentary purports to be scholarly, or if not scholarly, at least authoritative, is just amazing to me. That these guys are not summarily laughed off the stage only reflects the general level of ignorance of rational thinking in America, at least, and I’d probably also say the “West” in general.

“One of the arguments I’ve made to Kairos is that when going “outside” our universe, we are hard-pressed to extrapolate from the present (e.g., as you say, “things are changing in the present”) to a past as far back as the very origins of our universe.”

And why are we hard-pressed to do that? Why would you say that? I do it effortlessly all the time and so do many others out here.

“So, I think most everything that you or I could possibly say about a “first cause” would not only be uncertain, but I might wager it would be wrong (including this statement I just made). But now I’m speculating wildly, too.”

Of course you are. I am not. I am rigorously reasoning. There is a big difference. This is supposed to be a responsible conversation. That means that anything that anyone says that is logically sound is absolutely certainly true. It doesn’t matter when or where it’s said or by whom.

“I said before that we have a scientific case for the universe creating itself from nothing (I think this is close enough to the famous statement from Hawking’s recent book). I’m saying it’s a great or even a good case; I’m only asserting that there is a case. This much I think is indisputable.”

Did you actually read Hawking’s book? There’s also a case to be made that politicians are NOT lying, thieving, traitorous vermin that have destroyed the US economy but that doesn’t make it true. I’m sure some people think a “case” can be made that OJ is innocent, too. So what? I’m not interested in “cases,” I’m interested in rational arguments supported with empirical evidence. And so should you be.

“So, I have your case and I have Hawking’s case. I think the question at this point is how should reasonable people evaluate the two cases against each other (and other cases, as may be appropriate). Taking a neutral stance toward both cases, we need to know what criteria to apply in determining the quality of cases and the comparative evaluation.”

I am all for ignoring authority and going with the quality of the argument, i.e. reason and evidence.

“My intuition is that this is as far as any of us can go.”

May I sincerely and with no malice aforethought suggest that you go with reason and evidence over intuition. The argument I have presented is an exercise in pure reason, backed up with empirical evidence. The universe is finite. Therefore it needs a cause that cannot be finite. I recommend that you “get over” your speculation and intuition and start rigorously reasoning and demanding real evidence from the people who influence your thought.

p.s. And if that is not enough, please consider the claim Carroll made in the quote above. “It could be a natural, physical, material universe obeying the laws of physics and that can be a complete explanation of everything.”

Oh really? So physics can explain “everything.” I suppose, if everything means everything then I have a few questions for Carroll (and you).

Can physics explain information (or thought)? Or the necessary prerequisites for information (or thought)? – NO. (see the questions below)

Can physics explain Language (symbols and rules) – NO.

Can physics explain Free Will (the ability to manipulate symbols according to a certain set of rules – in this case English – so as to encode information, a message, into them) – NO.

Can physics explain Intentionality (the conscious, deliberate intent to communicate the message) – NO. (If I didn’t intend to say anything, I wouldn’t be writing something. But I am writing something. So I DO INTEND to say something.)

Can physics explain the Laws of Rational Thought (First Principles). Being, Identity, Non-contradiction, Excluded Middle, Sufficient Causality. Without which no coherent thinking is possible. (If 10 is less than 20 and 5 is less than 10. What do we know about the relationship between 5 and 20? Exactly, 5 < 20.) – NO.

Can physics explain mathematics? (See can physics explain Language.) – NO.

Can physics explain the Mind. That which reasons, freely chooses, and acts intentionally? – NO.

Must we go on? Physics cannot be a complete explanation of everything. Anybody with a normally functioning mind that has not been polluted with the intellectual virus of naturalism knows this. What does physics have to say about why it’s wrong to steal or murder or rape? Come on, man. You’re killing me…

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A reply to another naturalist

LT says “GEM’s argument in Item C seems to amount to COMPLEXITY, therefore NO EVOLUTION. It appears to be an argument from personal incredulity based on the idea of teleology. That is, the result of the process is really unlikely and the chances of getting to that specific result are almost infinitesimal. Yet, this is post hoc thinking, if I’ve represented GEM correctly.” (my comments to this paragraph follow)

I don’t believe you have. In fact, you couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. The argument is not “I can’t imagine how something this complex could arise by chance and time so it must not have.” The argument is “we ALWAYS find mind behind information in every aspect of life so it bears thinking about that biological information may also be caused by mind.” What, pray tell, is so difficult to comprehend about that?

A couple of problems for you are: you can not come up with one example of (human) information that does not involve language (symbols and rules), free will, rationality, intentionality, and mind. Not one. Second, there is not one example of information in the animal world that does not involve the use of symbols and rules.

If you are an intellectually “serious” (that is you strictly obey the laws of rational thought)naturalist/materialist/physicalist (in my experience there is no such animal) then you must deny the existence of free will, rationality, intentionality, and mind. Indeed, you have no explanation for language, either. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain how symbols are arranged so as to mean something. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain free will. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain intentionality. In other words, the intellectually serious naturalist can’t explain Jack S. about anything that matters to human beings. Your fakery (that you can) is breathtaking.

You, who reject the very existence of everything that makes information possible, by means of information presume to inform rational, serious people that time and chance and the laws of physics can account for everything. Why can’t you see the insanity of this? You can apparently deny everything that makes information possible, while using information in order to make that denial, without your head exploding. I can’t connect to that but perhaps that’s just me.

p.s. The argument from “personal incredulity” can be perfectly valid. I’m sure you use it all the time. Let’s say I offer you a foolproof way to beat the lottery. All you have to do is give me 50% of your “certain” winnings up front. Gonna jump on that deal? Didn’t think so.

I have personally seen hundreds of thousands of books, millions, even, and probably read close to five thousand. I’ve never seen one yet that did not have an author. Therefore, I think I am perfectly justified to be incredulous when any intellectual poseur comes along and trots out the nonsense that biological information, which is orders of magnitude more complex than human generated information, can be explained by “natural” causes. What a joke. I am entitled to my incredulity. Indeed, I am forced by an overwhelming mass of evidence and the relentless authority of reason to be incredulous. When you come across one book, just one book, without an author, let me know and I’ll start paying serious attention to what you have to say. Until then, not.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On "natural selection"

Here’s the thing about ‘natural selection.’ It is just a phrase that performs some linguistic sleight of hand. It’s a meaningless phrase that means “Designer” but purports to represent a purely mechanical, that is to say, physical process, i.e. one without a designer. So ‘ns’ means that no designer designed the apparent design in a universe that contains no real design. WTF, over? Excuse my technical Marine Corps acronym. (It means “where’s the fire” or something like that, I forget.)

Of Molecules and Men, Crick, page 67.
“The crucial point is the one at which natural selection could begin to act, since from then on the system could go on improving itself.”

Act?? Improving itself?? The laws of physics do not “act” and I’d be willing to bet (a lot) that they could “care” less about improving anything.

River Out of Eden, page 98. “… The true process that has endowed wings and eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the strong illusion of purposeful design is now well understood. It is Darwinian natural selection.”

So let me get this straight. In a universe of no purpose and no design, a “natural” process (living things procreate) has somehow managed to produce organisms that have the “strong illusion” of things that do not actually exist (design and purpose), by a process that is blind and purposeless. Oh yeah, I’m buying that.

The God Delusion, page 189. “natural selection has set up the perception of pain as a token of life – threatening bodily damage, and programmed us to avoid it.”

Are you kidding me? Think about what is being said here. The laws of physics “set up the perception of pain as a token of life” – what does that even mean? Somehow the laws of physics “decided” that pain was a good way to inform us that our bodies were being damaged and that it PROGRAMMED us to avoid pain?? They cannot even avoid using the language of purpose and design as they deny the existence of purpose and design.

“Throughout this book, I have emphasized that we must not think of genes as conscious, purposeful agents. Blind natural selection, however, makes them behave rather as if they were purposeful…”The Selfish Gene. p. 196.

The abuse of the law of identity is stunning. Blind ‘ns’ makes them behave ‘as if’ they were purposeful. What is this but a ludicrous assertion that defies reason? Something blind that has no purpose make things behave as if they were imbued with purpose but actually had no purpose?

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” River Out of Eden. p. 132.

OK, so Dawkins knows that ‘ns’ is just another way to say physics. And note the lack of purpose. He says that in a universe of no purpose, what we should expect to see are complex beyond imagination creatures that are obsessed with purpose and meaning who are created by blind forces to only think that real purpose and meaning actually exist. In other words, I’m trying to get this Orwellian lingo down – in a universe of no purpose, only physics, that physics has created human beings (and everything else) that THINK that design really exists in the universe, but it really doesn’t!!! I think I’ve got it now. Where is the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts. And this is what Dawkins would expect a priori???? Pullease.

On physics… Dawkins again… from The God Delusion, page 181. “The physical stance always works in principle, because everything ultimately obeys the laws of physics.”

Did I “obey” physical laws when I chose this particular set of symbols to communicate this message? Or was something else going on? What physical law says that periods end sentences and commas act as pauses? What physical law says capitalize the first letter of a sentence plus names and proper nouns?

The Blind Watchmaker, page 5, Dawkins. “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way.”

Dawkins “gets it.” Natural selection is just another way to say “physics.” But here’s a curious thing. I looked through the four fundamental forces of the universe currently recognized by the best physical theories and here’s what I found. Electromagnetism, gravity, nuclear weak, and nuclear strong. Hmmm. Conspicuously absent is “natural selection” as a “force” in nature. If ‘ns’ has causal power, is actually a FORCE in nature, then the physicists would know about it. But they don’t. ‘ns’ is a meaningless phrase that means that living things live and only living things reproduce. Gee. Who’d a thunk?

If ‘ns’ means that there is some sort of differential reproductive advantage then that should be measurable. But it’s not. It doesn’t mean anything other than what I just said. If something is alive, hello, it must be fit, by definition, or it wouldn’t be alive. So we say that living things are fit and that fit things are living. And we say that only the living things reproduce and somehow that, THAT, accounts for the amazing panoply of life on the planet. Dear God in heaven. How can people be so, so gullible?

It’s as if I say the champions always win the tournament and therefore the tournaments are always won by the champions! And if I say it in a breathess manner and with authority then some people might think I’m on to something. Hardly. But it “explains” the results of every tournament ever won. NO! It’s just a definition. ‘ns’ is a definition, too. It means “being alive.”

And the most obvious abuse of logic in the whole ridiculous idea of ‘ns’ is the notion that there is a “struggle for survival” in nature. Wait a minute. I thought the universe was blind and indifferent and PURPOSELESS? Why would “physics” or the “universe” care if anything survived or not? And why would anything that was accidentally animated have any intent to “survive?” Much less “care” or “struggle” to do the same??? This is just irrational on the face of it but they have gotten away with this nonsense for so long that even people who know better think that ‘natural selection’ is some kind of real force in nature.

Let me offer a counter proposal as to what is going on. There is indeed differential reproduction and there is indeed adaptation to environment but what we are witnessing when we see this is not ‘natural selection’ at work but we are seeing the intricate interplay of exquisitely designed creatures with their environment. The information already exists in the genome so the weasel changes color in the winter, for example, when environmental cues are detected and somehow responded to by the weasel. Presumably without his knowledge. I doubt that there are weasels running around Canada right now fretting about when their fur is going to change color. There is no mysterious or magical or mythical ‘ns’ going on. Here’s the ‘ns’ story: somehow a weasel had a mutation and it turned his fur white one November, just before the first snow fell, and this weasel therefore had an “advantage” and his offspring… well, this is just too ridiculous for words. Gould had a phrase for this kind of thing, borrowed from Kipling, “just so stories.”

p.s. Here’s one of my all time favorite Dawkins explanations of how birds got wings. Don’t be drinking anything while you read this as you will risk exhaling it through your sinus cavities.

The Blind Watchmaker, p.89-90.

“What use is half a wing? How did wings get their start? Many animals leap from bough to bough, and sometimes fall to the ground. Especially in a small animal, the whole body surface catches the air and assists the leap, or breaks the fall, by acting as a crude aerofoil. Any tendency to increase the ratio of surface area to weight would help, for example flaps of skin growing out in the angles of joints. From here, there is a continuous series of gradations to gliding wings, and hence to flapping wings. Obviously there are distances that could not have been jumped by the earliest animals with proto-wings (or as he earlier called them, flaps of skin, my editorial comment). Equally obviously, for any degree of smallness or crudeness of ancestral air-catching surfaces, there must be some distance, however short, which can be jumped with the flap and which cannot be jumped without the flap.

Or, if prototype wingflaps worked to break the animal’s fall, you cannot say ‘Below a certain size the flaps would have been of no use at all.’ Once again, it doesn’t matter how small and un-winglike the first wingflaps were. There must be some height, call it h, such that an animal would just break its neck if it fell from that height, but would just survive if it fell from a slightly lower height. In this critical zone, any improvement in the body surface’s ability to catch the air and break the fall, however slight that improvement, can make the difference between life and death. Natural selection will then favour slight, prototype wingflaps. When these small wingflaps have become the norm, the critical height h will become slightly greater. Now a slight further increase in the wingflaps will make the difference between life and death. And so on until we have proper wings.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

On naturalism and materialism - a post I made on UD in August (2010)

Late to the party again.

JMcL “1: If atheism is true, then so is materialism.”

I’ve always approached this in the opposite way. That is, if materialism is true, then God cannot exist and neither can souls or minds because God and minds are not matter.

If only matter exists, then everything must be subject to the laws of physics. (what else is there plus it seems to be inductively true to a virtual certainty)

After all, naturalism, materialism, and physicalism all define themselves in terms of the causal closure of nature so the laws of physics governing the behavior of matter is just part of the definition.

Atheism is a conclusion of materialism, not the other way around. In my opinion, anyway.

In fact, I’m not sure that you even need this premise for the rest of your argument to follow. Let’s see how it would play out if we turned the first premise around.

1: If materialism is true, then atheism is true. (True by definition but as we will see not needed.)

2: If materialism is true, then the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain. (This is also true by definition.)

3: If the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain, then human autonomy and consciousness are illusory because our free choices are determined by the dual forces of chance and necessity. (maybe say the laws of physics – quantum/chance, necessity/gravity) (also true by definition)

4: Human autonomy exists.

5: Therefore, the mind is not reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain.

You’ve set up modus tollens:

If materialism is true we’d have no free will. (2 and 3)

But we do have free will. (4)

Therefore, materialism is false. (conclusion of modus tollens) (5)

But this begs the question, I think. For you have still only asserted but not proven free will. Fortunately, there is a way around this.

It’s more cumbersome than the way I will use at the end but I think this will give you the missing piece.

What you need to do is link the creation of information with free will. In fact, this JUST occurred to me as a decisive argument for free will. Cool. So here’s how it goes.

In order to create information, contingency is required. (I already knew this part)

This is self-evidently true. Any algorithm based upon, say gravity, would necessarily result in a sequence of letters like aaaaaaaaaa.

Drop object.
If object falls. Type a.
If object ~falls. Type any other key at random.
Result will be aaaaaaaa.

OK. But how about chance? Say we could set up an algorithm based on quantum activity like radioactive decay. Somehow we map time of particle decay to an alphabet and every time a particle decays we type the letter that is associated with that time.

So now we are faced with insurmountable odds. Say 26 letters, a space, three punctuation marks, and ten numbers, total of 40 characters in our “alphabet.” Now, what would the odds be of getting a meaningful string of letters ten letters long? Our denominator would be 40^10 which is 10^10xlog40 or 10 x 1.6 = 16. So to get a meaningful string of letters we have 10^16 possibilities of meaningful strings. The problem here now is to put some meaningful number on the numerator and to be honest I really don’t know how to do that. I’m sure it’s a lot fewer than 10^16 but how to get it? As it turns out, we don’t need that number because we have ASSUMED that certain combinations of letters have meaning and others don’t. Why is that and how could physics account for it?

Well, we immediately see that physics cannot account for it because physics has nothing to say about our alphabet of symbols and the rules that govern the arrangement of them into words and phrases that mean something. Find a law of physics that bears on why “dog” means man’s best friend. That’s not what physics is about. Physics is about sub-atomic particles in energy fields and their interactions. Physics has nothing to say about the symbols or the rules that give meaning to certain arrangements of symbols.

So by definition physics is excluded. It’s a category mistake to even say it can. It’s tantamount to saying information is physical. We’ve seen that law cannot produce information (no contingency) and we’ve sort of seen that chance cannot do it. (Take a 100 letter string of meaningful characters and our denominator is now 10^160. Random doesn’t hack it.)

But with my mind I can effortlessly pick and choose letters and organize them in what I hope is not a completely incoherent ramble and arrange them in various ways so that I communicate my message. So what I am saying, inelegantly, I’m sure, is that free will is required to generate information. That’s the insight I just had earlier. I’ve always said that physics couldn’t do it and I’ve always said mind can do it but I’ve never said what about mind actually makes it happen and it’s FREE WILL! For if there is no free will, if there is only law, then even given an alphabet, there is no information. So that’s how I would try to work that in.

But here’s an even easier way to defeat the “isms.”

If naturalism, etc… are true, then physics can explain everything. (This is true by definition.)

But physics cannot explain language. (As we have just seen why.)

Therefore, naturalism is false.

It is not only false, it cannot be true. It MUST BE false. The only way to prove it false is to generate information by means of physical law. But physical law says nothing of symbols and rules which comprise language and which are necessary for encoding information.

This is devastating to neo-darwinism as well but it’s late. In any case, I’m sure this will offend someone’s sensibilities and I can see that tomorrow.

p.s. This doesn’t get us to theism and God but now the immaterial is on the table and any of the first cause arguments that rely on the impossibility of an infinite regress can easily prove that the First Cause is uncaused, eternal or infinite, and immaterial.

p.p.s. This is a great idea you have.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Language and Physics

Language can be reduced to physics because:
Meaning in language is merely the result of computational minds having the same dictionaries (that they built up by evolution). Symbols represent objects and that matching pattern is stored in the brain. So, the symbols "CAT" match the stored definition and thus "mammal", "purr", etc.

I don't really understand what you are saying. How do you even have a mental dictionary without language? And how do you have a language without symbols? How do you explain those symbols in terms of physical laws? The fact that the symbols "cat" "match" a connection to a certain kind of mammal is a free will, mental mental function that has nothing to do with physical law. That cannot possibly be explained by general relativity or quantum physics. Ever.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reply to comment from Rich

"The real problem for tgpeeler is conflating abiogenesis with evolution."

Hi Rick, actually, I don't think so. Evolution cannot get going without life and the naturalist explanation of life (abiogenesis) is the one a true proponent of evolution must agree to so the argument applies equally well. It really doesn't matter if I'm talking about the origination of the information of life or any changes to that information after life began. The central issue remains information. And you can't get to information apart from mind. Physics cannot get you from quarks, leptons, and forces to English, Greek, mathematics, COBOL, or whatever. Or, as I would argue, in the case of the language of life, Mind.