Intelligent Design - why not?

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Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Graeme M on April 30th, 2017, 7:36 am 

Here's a question that's been niggling at me for quite a while. I'm sure it's been well covered here and more generally but as I rarely read philosophy and have but a general introduction to science, I can't say I've ever really come across the answer (or even the question!).

If we accept an entirely physical basis for consciousness, then it seems we have nothing more happening than brain stuff. There is no mental stuff. And brain stuff is simply the processes by which neurons connect to neurons as a result of sensory input, resulting in behavioural output. And if all that's going on is neural connectivity signalling muscles and the like, then everything about our consciousness, our intelligence, is simply biochemistry in action - physical operations arising from weighted synaptic connections and the like.

Which means that while these processes result in what appear to be "directed" and purposive behaviours, in reality there is no more direction or purpose than the unfolding evolution of the universe.

Put another way, what we seem to consider intelligent agency is no more so than other processes of great complexity in the universe. We object to claims of "intelligent design" in the creation and unfolding of the universe at large, yet embrace claims of intelligent design in the things that humans create. But surely the fact of the matter is that neither is intelligent, or both are intelligent, depending upon how you wish to look at it? The creation of a universe with all the physical laws that underpin its operation is substantially more complex than how a human brain operates, so why should we think of human beings as creative agents but discount any such agency in the universe at large?

I'm not arguing for a God, or intelligent agency. What I am asking is, why do we even think there is such a thing as agency, or intelligence? If the universe simply does what it does in response to physical laws acting through physical media, then that is all our brains ("minds") are doing.

It's all they can do.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby SciameriKen on April 30th, 2017, 8:31 am 

Creations by humans is intelligent design because we know the methodology or that there is methodology in the design - claiming creation based upon design does nothing to figure out the methodology or that any even exist
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Forest_Dump on April 30th, 2017, 9:06 am 

It is a tricky topic and one that seems to go sideways for odd reasons. I have no problems seeing the universe as having unfolded via purely natural processes that can still be very complicated and still in need of research to unravel. Ditto for human consciousness, etc. The idea of intelligent design as an analogy, to me, is just a way some people want or need to help try to understand things. If that works to help understand things, fine, but that does not mean there is an intelligence behind it all. Its just a tool for understanding. For example, I may refer some aesthetic values or even intelligence to appreciate some spider web with dew in the early morning light etc. But that doesn't mean I really think spiders are intelligent designers or artists. Of course choosing to explore how life evolved, etc., also does't preclude there isn't a gitchi manitou behind it all - it just means it isn't necessary and, in fact, it often can less than helpful.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 30th, 2017, 9:28 am 

Because we are limited to what we able to experience and understand. Stuff is happening. Beyond that we work with speculation and reason.

Why not tackle the idea of intelligent design? Because we are not able to confirm nor deny the idea of such a thing in any conceivable/practical way. Maybe one day we will have a shift in paradigm and be able to understand how to reframe this question and apply ourselves to it, or maybe not? In the mean time we keep on keeping on, and I am sure there are numerous people dogmatically pursuing this very idea regardless of the boundaries of reason and practically (we call them delusional and perhaps one day one of them will reveal something unexpected to us?)

There is something to be said for throwing around analogies of this or that, and they may prove fruitful in some areas. They are analogies though and should be considered as analogies of X not as proofs of X.

I am barely intelligent and I didn't "design" this piece of writing. I simply vomited my barely tangible thoughts into the tips of my fingers and sullied your mind with this regurgitation! :)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on April 30th, 2017, 9:51 am 

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:....And if all that's going on is neural connectivity signalling muscles and the like, then everything about our consciousness, our intelligence, is simply biochemistry in action - physical operations arising from weighted synaptic connections and the like.

Which means that while these processes result in what appear to be "directed" and purposive behaviours, in reality there is no more direction or purpose than the unfolding evolution of the universe.

There is the thing. Appear to whom?
You've got a circle there. Yes, we are nothing more than a bunch of cells with tiny electric sparks between them. And also, yes, this bunch of nothing-but-matter is able to entertain the illusion of order and purpose, maintain the delusion of volition and choice; act on the fantasy of its own self-generated direction.

Put another way, what we seem to consider intelligent agency is no more so than other processes of great complexity in the universe.

Why do so many of us use these derisive words: "just" and "only" and "merely"; such dismissive phrases: "no more than" and "nothing but", when referring the astoundingly old, vast and complex activities of matter and energy, space and time? How is that observable, palpable, comprehensible reality less than an imaginary intelligence we seek in vain?
We object to claims of "intelligent design" in the creation and unfolding of the universe at large, yet embrace claims of intelligent design in the things that humans create..... so why should we think of human beings as creative agents but discount any such agency in the universe at large?

That's the wrong way around. Intelligence is what we call the purposeful operation of our own brains. That's where the notion originates. We projected that notion outward, onto other seeming purposeful processes. It's not a matter of comparing intelligent designs - his, theirs and ours. It's a matter of recognizing the limits of our intelligent activity, realizing that superficial resemblance is not sameness; accepting the boundary between the little realm we dominate and the big rest of the universe over which we have no control.

What I am asking is, why do we even think there is such a thing as agency, or intelligence?

Because we get to make up the words in which we describe our experience.
Whatever it "really" is, this is how we understand it.

(Plus, what ^^^ Badger posted while i was editing.)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on April 30th, 2017, 12:30 pm 

How about intelligent design of the brain?

From Wiki: The cerebral cortex plays a key role in memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on April 30th, 2017, 12:51 pm 

vivian maxine » April 30th, 2017, 11:30 am wrote:How about intelligent design of the brain?

From Wiki: The cerebral cortex plays a key role in memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.

Who is supposed to be the designer of the cerebral cortex?
I'm going with the assumption that "it just growed". Once it had grown complex enough to look in the mirror, it went full-throttle-obessessive over its own image and then identified all other complex things it encountered as being made for itself, having a purpose; therefore designed.
The entire logic is circular: I want >>>> I design things for a purpose >>>> The wonderful things I make could not happen without my desire for them >>>> everything must be designed and have a purpose >>>> but I didn't design everything, can't make everything >>>> somebody else must have >>>> I am the most wonderful thing of all >>>> someone must have designed and made me >>>> so that I can want, design and make.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on April 30th, 2017, 1:08 pm 

I rather like your assumption, serpent. But I'm not putting bets on it. For sure, we did not ourselves design us. Not unless some human knows a way to force evolution according to our wishes or needs. Yet, that is how the body seems to have developed. Or? .... was it something we did?

I was reading an article about the brain. Our brains are smaller than they were in Neanderthal times. Yet we are also smarter with that smaller brain - or so the author said. How did that happen? How did a brain manage to shrink and yet hold more wisdom and knowledge? The author suggested better organization of the neurons and all. "Who" saw and took care of that?

Or was it just that we used some parts of our brain more and those parts grew while unused parts shrunk? The author gave an example of vision. Our vision is not as good as it was for hunters and gatherers because we no longer need the skills hunting and gathering required.

Good question, Graeme.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby hyksos on April 30th, 2017, 1:51 pm 

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 3:36 pm wrote:Here's a question that's been niggling at me for quite a while. I'm sure it's been well covered here and more generally but as I rarely read philosophy and have but a general introduction to science, I can't say I've ever really come across the answer (or even the question!).

If we accept an entirely physical basis for consciousness, then it seems we have nothing more happening than brain stuff. There is no mental stuff. And brain stuff is simply the processes by which neurons connect to neurons as a result of sensory input, resulting in behavioural output.

Are you disagreeing with the bald physical fact that neurons connect to neurons?


And if all that's going on is neural connectivity signalling muscles and the like, then everything about our consciousness, our intelligence, is simply biochemistry in action - physical operations arising from weighted synaptic connections and the like.

"Everything about our consciousness is physical operations". Physical operations versus what alternative?

Which means that while these processes result in what appear to be "directed" and purposive behaviours, in reality there is no more direction or purpose than the unfolding evolution of the universe.

"..no more direction and purpose.."
You have made an equivocation between teleology and consciousness. I don't see the relationship between these two topics. Could you be more specific?

Put another way, what we seem to consider intelligent agency is no more so than other processes of great complexity in the universe. We object to claims of "intelligent design" in the creation and unfolding of the universe at large, yet embrace claims of intelligent design in the things that humans create.

Inside this forum we object to the claim of intelligent design, because this is an internet forum and not a scientific journal at Oxford. Outside this forum, we have hypothesese, theories, and evidence. In that sphere of human activity, Intelligent Design was not objected to. It was put under the rigors of scientific testing and failed to produce a theory for the evidence measured.

We assume the participants of this forum already know this before logging in: and that is the basis of our objections here.



The creation of a universe with all the physical laws that underpin its operation is substantially more complex than how a human brain operates,

"The creation of a universe ... is substantially more... "

Maybe you meant to write something like : "Assuming this universe was created, the creation of that universe is substantially more complex than.... "

I'm not arguing for a God, or intelligent agency
.
(just wanted to quote this for later).


If the universe simply does what it does in response to physical laws acting through physical media, then that is all our brains ("minds") are doing.

There is a difference between the rules of chess and the consequences of those rules as they play out in a chess game. It turns out science has no theory of consciousness (yet). Worse, science has no theory of what it means for something to be alive, if such a theory must be stated in the language of physics. The origination of DNA is still not understood. You could posit a claim that DNA was designed by something outside the earth -- it would be a valid claim as far we know. Nevertheless you'd still have to produce evidence for that.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on April 30th, 2017, 3:21 pm 

vivian maxine » April 30th, 2017, 12:08 pm wrote:I rather like your assumption, serpent. But I'm not putting bets on it. For sure, we did not ourselves design us. Not unless some human knows a way to force evolution according to our wishes or needs. Yet, that is how the body seems to have developed.

Is this really all you might have wished for? Have we all really got everything we need?
In the environment that existed, how else could we/our brains have evolved? The creatures that didn't fit, died. The creatures that couldn't replicate and adapt fast enough, died out. What's extinct is what the environment killed off. What's left is whatever the environment produced - which includes quite a lot (and we'll never know how many, or where) of creatures very different from us . ...
We - however inferior to the cockroach - are still here.
Therefore, we must be what it's all been about all along.

Or? .... was it something we did?

We - well, our ancestors - did many things that they had no choice about, many that were beneficial, and many that seemed appropriate at the time but turned out counter-productive, harmful, maybe ultimately suicidal. Being here today is no indication of having done things right: it's a young species that may have mistaken a brief surge of overpopulation for success, while actually overgrazing, environmental degradation and sudden catastrophic habitat-loss, leading to extinction.

How did a brain manage to shrink and yet hold more wisdom and knowledge?

Are you sure about the wisdom and knowledge? Information, I grant; its quality, distribution and applicability to survival is unproven.
The author suggested better organization of the neurons and all. "Who" saw and took care of that?

Nobody. Everybody. Some wiz-kid with a slightly more efficient brain than his cousins chatted up more girls than his cousins did. He was looking to get laid, not to produce a line of small-headed people. But the small-headed babies killed fewer of their mothers, getting born. So they had a better chance of growing up and ...

Or was it just that we used some parts of our brain more and those parts grew while unused parts shrunk?

Don't think of this as something "we did". It's not a choice. When the environment changes, the animal has to change, or die. Us and the hooded seal, both.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Graeme M on April 30th, 2017, 11:09 pm 

Thank you for the interesting responses. I may not have been clear enough in what I was getting at. I am not positing any kind of "intelligence" behind the universe more generally, nor am I suggesting some kind of underlying teleological basis for how universes and humans operate.

My question is more aimed at what we think of as goal-directed or purposive behaviour in human beings. As I said I'm sure this has been thought about and written about, but I've never really seen anything in the few things I've read about philosophy.

I *think* that most people would claim that human beings do things out of a desire to achieve goals. We consider what people (and many other animals) do is goal-directed behaviour and hence we have an inner agency. I suppose this touches on matters of free will, but I don't think that is a necessary condition for the proposition that our inner operations work towards an outcome of benefit to us.

What I am asking is whether in philosophy the view is held or argued that this position is true - ie that human beings really exhibit goal directed behaviour and have agency in pursuing these goals.

If we accept a purely materialist basis for our operation as organic objects (ie that consciousness or mind are results of material interactions), then it seems that our behaviours can only result from purely physical relations. In theory, those relations can be fully described (and in fact with sufficient description we should be able to predict all possible behavioural outcomes for any given input).

This is no different from the universe at large. Physical laws have been described that explain physical relations and make predictions about outcomes. In effect, it seems to me, we can observe that the relations in nature exhibit responses to events that result in behaviours and outcomes.

Why then do we see the universe as a largely mechanistic system that operates according to describable principles but choose to accord human beings with some further property, that of "agency"?

I get the impression that many modern philosophers and scientists are of the materialist school of thought. And as hyksos points out, the concept of an "intelligent design" behind the formation of the universe and its ongoing operation has been rejected. Yet, those who make that rejection would similarly argue that the design and construction of say a modern airliner reflects a process of intelligent design - that is, intelligent beings undertook a purposive behaviour in order to achive the goal of making an airliner.

But if human beings are phyical systems for which no substantive difference in physical terms exists between them and a solar system, what exactly is this "intelligence"? What is the agency that makes what human beings do in constructing an airliner somehow different from what a universe does in constructing a solar system?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 1st, 2017, 1:16 am 

Why then do we see the universe as a largely mechanistic system that operates according to describable principles but choose to accord human beings with some further property, that of "agency"?

Because we can choose.
We divide what we know of reality into the inanimate and animate portions of the universe.

There was lots of "stuff" converting back and forth between matter and energy, without any purpose or design, but just because that's how its physical characteristics operated, more or less randomly trending toward stability.
And then, there was the accident, the freak event, the peculiar convergence of just the right number of just the right atoms under just the right circumstances, that resulted in an RNA molecule and eventually grew into monsters of desire, lust and self-regard. The freak event may have taken place in millions or billions of tide-pools on billions of planets. We can't know how many, or what kind of life-forms, though we're beginning to guess how many possible host planet there are.
After the freak event, the rest of the universe continued right along on its mindless, purposeless processes, but these little smuts of differently-abled matter went the other way: up-stream; anti-entropy. Everything they did from that minute on was purposeful, goal-directed, willful. Intelligence comes along much later; imagination, later still. What all their variants and mutations have in common: they consume resources, resist extinction, seek that which promotes well-being and avoid that which diminishes survival capability, and they make more of their own kind.

But if human beings are physical systems for which no substantive difference in physical terms exists between them and a solar system, what exactly is this "intelligence"? What is the agency that makes what human beings do in constructing an airliner somehow different from what a universe does in constructing a solar system?

I don't know much about how modern philosophers are contending with this question - these questions - but I'm pretty sure they are trying to. Certainly, posters on philosophy forums kick it around a lot. Of course, we tend to kick it around and around and around on circumscribed football fields with nobody scoring a lot of goals. Maybe that's because "what is intelligence?" is a silly question for intelligence to ask, like "What is puma?" would be a poser for a cougar. Maybe because intelligence is a property of all animate matter once it reaches a critical level of complexity, and can't be separated out as an entity in its own right, any more than red can exist independently of light. Maybe because we lack the information. Maybe because we're looking at it from the inside and trying to describe it from the outside.

Whatever --- Raising an unknown quantity to the next magnitude doesn't explain anything about it. Positing a super-intelligence behind the universe tells us nothing more about the nature of intelligence. So the answer does not reside in ID. Perhaps there is no answer. Perhaps we - or one of the more evolvable life-forms - will get it someday. Perhaps it will be in a tweet from Alex the crow tomorrow afternoon.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 1st, 2017, 4:08 am 

My position is that the universe is self-perpetuating and self-aware (in terms of conscious entities such as us).

The question is: what is self-aware?

I think this is a relative term depending on what is being aware.

Is a stone aware? Well, nothing like we are but still, a stone, or an atom must be 'aware' to the extent it can react to its surrounding. For example, a stone is 'aware' of gravity or being kicked around, so it can react to other forces that it comes into contact with.

If you get a bit more sophisticated and look at something like an insect, then it also is able to react to its surroundings but more than a stone or an atom, can be pro-active and shape its environment.

You can rise up the evolutionary ladder until you reach the level of human beings and see that we shape our environment, more than any other species.

Now if we assume this process is nothing new and has been going on for a lot, lot longer than we can imagine, it is possible that our universe is actually the result of 'awareness' in action, in other words, something that shows conscious generation. What we call 'God' may be a label we give to those conscious beings who have reached such a high level of sophistication that we can hardly imagine their handiwork.

After all, why is it the universe can be studied by science? There is a definite 'design' involved in the way the universe is put together and to argue that this all comes about as a random process isn't that convincing to me.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 1st, 2017, 9:27 am 

Whatever --- Raising an unknown quantity to the next magnitude doesn't explain anything about it. Positing a super-intelligence behind the universe tells us nothing more about the nature of intelligence. So the answer does not reside in ID. Perhaps there is no answer.
- Serpent

Well said (your whole post). I think ID is sort of putting "God of the Gaps" right at the top, i.e. the explanatory gap is placed at a postulated "highest" level of organization and capacity to influence reality. It just kicks the question - how does an immensely complex living thing come to be? - up the road a little farther, but does nothing in regard to the question, "Well, gosh, where did this intelligent designer come from?" Our anthropoid brain likes to understand things in terms of beginnings and origins, and quails at comprehending a process that simply IS.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 1st, 2017, 10:38 am 

Google did it. And I am not sure I am being facetious there. Long story off topic. Leave it. I did read somewhere that the universe created itself out of nothing. Wish I could find that again. Still, I have the book "Nothing" (New Scientist) which talks of things that can be created from nothing.

I know. A universe creating itself from nothing sounds far-fetched but confess: Don't you read of things that have actually been proven and still seem far-fetched? And this is science we are reading. So, we pay attention just in case. It does, does it not, eliminate Intelligent Design(er)?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 1st, 2017, 11:10 am 

Ha! I knew it!!

A universe creating itself from nothing sounds far-fetched but confess: Don't you read of things that have actually been proven and still seem far-fetched? And this is science we are reading. So, we pay attention just in case. It does, does it not, eliminate Intelligent Design(er)?

I'm not sure that any proposition can be eliminated at that far a remove from our ability to study it. We always hate to admit this, but we're just shooting blanks in the dark. The other thing we hate to admit is that we may not be capable of understanding, or collecting the information for, everything we're curious about. The think we most of all hate to admit is that we don't control most of what affects us.

(Where do I go to have words officially changed back? I'm irritated every time someone uses "impact" when they mean "affect".)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 1st, 2017, 11:22 am 

Impact is perhaps a stronger affect on something? My guess.

"The other thing we hate to admit is that we may not be capable of understanding," Right you are. We'd rather put on a pretense of understanding - even to the point of making up explanations.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 1st, 2017, 11:35 am 

The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

For all we know we could be in the middle of some 'cosmic test-tube.'
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby neuro on May 1st, 2017, 11:45 am 

Graeme,
I think I got your point, and I will try and help not to divert from the crux of your question.

It seems to me that you say:
if our "intelligence" is the result of physical/biochemical processes, why cosmic processes that have a similar (or higher) degree of complexity and a similar (or higher) capability of producing effects cannot be called "intelligence" and we dismiss the idea of "an intelligent design" behind the development of the universe?

If I got you correctly, I believe that the question you raise is rooted in the insufficient precision of the terms "intelligence" and "intelligent design".

If you look at bacteria, or ants, they "seem" to behave intelligently: think of how bacterial colonies escape our antibiotics by developing resistance; or think of the majestic architecture of ant nests (the colonies are even described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity).
Still, the pretty complex things they do do not require planning. And the way bacteria overcome environmental challenges is by random mutations and "sacrifice" of most of them, in a rapid turnover, until favorable mutations get stabilized.

This is the main point biologists make against the Lamarckian view of a design behind evolution: Evolution does not need a design, because it is driven by its own results, when they are bad the become dead ends and are "dropped", when they are good they become new paths that are bound to be explored and expanded.

When you now compare human behavior to the evolution of the universe you see that most of our behaviors (the ones we call "intelligent" behaviors) come from planning, mentally simulating, imagining, prefiguring events, actions, consequences.

We do not call "intelligence" the procedure of finding a solution by random trial and error (which is - simply speaking - the way Evolution and the universe proceed). We call "intelligence" acting along a plan, i.e. planning in the first place, and acting afterwards, because imagining and planning has made us able to skip the random-trial-and-error phase.

And I think that if you stop for just a minute to think of what "intelligent design" means, you should quite rapidly realize that an intelligent design is such not because it is particularly clever, or complex, or successful in producing a result; it is such because a design has preceded choice and action.

I believe this is the crux of the question: the universe appears to behave in an intelligent way, mostly because it is successful in surviving and becoming more and more complex.
But there is no need for it to be following a design that has been planned in advance.
We also appear to behave in an intelligent way, even if we sometimes are not successful.
But when we act consciously ("intelligently") we do follow a design that has been planned in advance.

So, be "intelligence" whatever you like it to be, human actions are driven by a plan, a design. Possibly a stupid design, possibly an intelligent one. Conversely, the "actions" of the universe do not need to be driven by a plan, a design: they may well look intelligent, sometimes more intelligent than our own, but they do not need to be the result of an "intelligent design".
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 1st, 2017, 12:06 pm 

webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 8:35 am wrote:The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

For all we know we could be in the middle of some 'cosmic test-tube.'


Have you read about what's called the Anthropic Principle? Basically, it suggests that the reason the universe we are in is so perfectly tuned (Fine Structure constant, matter-antimatter asymmetry, etc.) to allow complex chemistry and resulting life, is that of course we just happen to occupy the universe where the constants randomly landed at those values that allow us to be. No one is around to observe, in any other universe where, say, quarks bind more weakly or the Higgs field is weaker so that electrons lack mass and can't kickstart chemical bonding. In a multiverse where initial conditions are random, we will always happen to be in the one that allows us to arise and be "amazed" at how well-tuned everything is.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 1st, 2017, 12:26 pm 

Braininvat » Mon May 01, 2017 4:06 pm wrote:
webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 8:35 am wrote:The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

For all we know we could be in the middle of some 'cosmic test-tube.'


Have you read about what's called the Anthropic Principle? Basically, it suggests that the reason the universe we are in is so perfectly tuned (Fine Structure constant, matter-antimatter asymmetry, etc.) to allow complex chemistry and resulting life, is that of course we just happen to occupy the universe where the constants randomly landed at those values that allow us to be. No one is around to observe, in any other universe where, say, quarks bind more weakly or the Higgs field is weaker so that electrons lack mass and can't kickstart chemical bonding. In a multiverse where initial conditions are random, we will always happen to be in the one that allows us to arise and be "amazed" at how well-tuned everything is.


The question is, though, what are the odds of us happening to be in one of the universes that is finely tuned to allow life?

It's pretty remote, isn't it?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 1st, 2017, 12:53 pm 

Are you thinking we could have ended up in another universe that didn't do so well? Sometimes the odds are in our favor, I suppose.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 1st, 2017, 1:07 pm 

vivian maxine » Mon May 01, 2017 4:53 pm wrote:Are you thinking we could have ended up in another universe that didn't do so well? Sometimes the odds are in our favor, I suppose.


Well, you have to ask yourself how lucky we need to be to happen to inhabit a universe with such a improbable combination of laws that permits us to question it.

I think this may be looking at things the wrong way.

From quantum mechanics, we know 'stuff' is not set in stone in the absence of 'observers' and it may be that our universe, any universe, isn't hospitable or uninhabitable to life but is amenable to being formed by a participatory process that involves both matter and mind.

In other words, it is not a question of whether universes are 'pre-set' to support life or not, but whether self-awareness is possible in any particular one. In my view, there is some kind of ethereal 'substance' existing that we have yet to discover that drives consciousness and matter.

There may be a kind of 'cosmic Internet' that gives rise to conscious beings and this needs things like brains to operate within the physical world.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 1st, 2017, 1:16 pm 

Hmmm. It's no harder to contemplate than other things science tosses at us.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 1st, 2017, 1:19 pm 

vivian maxine » Mon May 01, 2017 5:16 pm wrote:Hmmm. It's no harder to contemplate than other things science tosses at us.


Yep.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 1st, 2017, 1:28 pm 

Braininvat » May 1st, 2017, 11:06 am wrote:
webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 8:35 am wrote:The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

For all we know we could be in the middle of some 'cosmic test-tube.'


Have you read about what's called the Anthropic Principle? Basically, it suggests that the reason the universe we are in is so perfectly tuned (Fine Structure constant, matter-antimatter asymmetry, etc.) to allow complex chemistry and resulting life, is that of course we just happen to occupy the universe where the constants randomly landed at those values that allow us to be. No one is around to observe, in any other universe where, say, quarks bind more weakly or the Higgs field is weaker so that electrons lack mass and can't kickstart chemical bonding. In a multiverse where initial conditions are random, we will always happen to be in the one that allows us to arise and be "amazed" at how well-tuned everything is.


In other words, count our blessings, smile and have a slice of Linda chocolate chip cake. Sometimes things go right.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 1st, 2017, 4:10 pm 

webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 9:26 am wrote:
Braininvat » Mon May 01, 2017 4:06 pm wrote:
webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 8:35 am wrote:The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

For all we know we could be in the middle of some 'cosmic test-tube.'


Have you read about what's called the Anthropic Principle? Basically, it suggests that the reason the universe we are in is so perfectly tuned (Fine Structure constant, matter-antimatter asymmetry, etc.) to allow complex chemistry and resulting life, is that of course we just happen to occupy the universe where the constants randomly landed at those values that allow us to be. No one is around to observe, in any other universe where, say, quarks bind more weakly or the Higgs field is weaker so that electrons lack mass and can't kickstart chemical bonding. In a multiverse where initial conditions are random, we will always happen to be in the one that allows us to arise and be "amazed" at how well-tuned everything is.


The question is, though, what are the odds of us happening to be in one of the universes that is finely tuned to allow life?

It's pretty remote, isn't it?


The odds of us being in a universe that allows life to evolve are 100%. I think there is sometimes a misunderstanding of the Anthropic Principle. No one is making such observations in a universe that won't support life. So finding "ourselves" here, where a living thing can exist, is a certainty, in a way that's really sort of tautological. Saying that the odds are unlikely would be logically equivalent to a fish saying, "How amazing it is that I find myself to be in water, a substance that so perfectly supports my continued existence!"

Or, put another way, we may say that consciousness has a selection bias, since it can only observe universes that happen to allow complex neural networks to develop.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby mitchellmckain on May 1st, 2017, 4:14 pm 

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:Intelligent design -- why not?

Intelligent design is a veiled attack on modern science seeking to make it subservient to the ideology of a dogmatic religion. Why not? Because I have no desire to live in the squalor and ignorance of the dark ages.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:If we accept an entirely physical basis for consciousness, then it seems we have nothing more happening than brain stuff. There is no mental stuff.

This depends on the definition of the word "physical" you are using.

Merriam Webster wrote:Definition of physical
1
a : of or relating to natural science
b (1) : of or relating to physics (2) : characterized or produced by the forces and operations of physics
2
a : having material existence : perceptible especially through the senses and subject to the laws of nature
everything physical is measurable by weight, motion, and resistance — Thomas De Quincey
b : of or relating to material things
3
a : of or relating to the body physical abuse
b (1) : concerned or preoccupied with the body and its needs : carnal physical appetites (2) : sexual a physical love affair physical attraction
c : characterized by especially rugged and forceful physical activity : rough a physical hockey game a physical player

You are using the third of these and it is a bit archaic. By the first two definition it depends entirely on your solution to the mind-body problem. Since I, like most scientists going with all the objective evidence, am a physicalist (the mind is no less physical than the body), then a physical basis for consciousness DOES NOT mean there is no "mental stuff."

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote: And brain stuff is simply the processes by which neurons connect to neurons as a result of sensory input, resulting in behavioural output. And if all that's going on is neural connectivity signalling muscles and the like, then everything about our consciousness, our intelligence, is simply biochemistry in action - physical operations arising from weighted synaptic connections and the like.

Furthermore, being a physicalist with regards to the mind-body problem does not necessarily mean that you equate the mind with the brain. I do not. I believe the mind is a physical living organism in its own right with its own organization, development, needs, and system of inheritance quite apart from the body and brain. I can easily imagine the human mind without the human biology or without any biology at such as in a machine designed with the same funcionality.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:Which means that while these processes result in what appear to be "directed" and purposive behaviours, in reality there is no more direction or purpose than the unfolding evolution of the universe.

Incorrect, this does not follow.
1. Living organisms are self-organizing processes which conceive their own direction and purpose.
2. Life learns and develops in response to an environment which can include shepherds and teachers.
3. Physical causality is an open system therefore the possibility of outside involvement cannot be excluded.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:Put another way, what we seem to consider intelligent agency is no more so than other processes of great complexity in the universe.

Incorrect. An intelligent agency is inscrutable and beyond the methods of science to study. Thus this is in sharp contrast with the mathematical laws of nature which has been shown quite well to be a sufficient source for all the complexity of the universe.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote: We object to claims of "intelligent design" in the creation and unfolding of the universe at large, yet embrace claims of intelligent design in the things that humans create. But surely the fact of the matter is that neither is intelligent, or both are intelligent, depending upon how you wish to look at it? The creation of a universe with all the physical laws that underpin its operation is substantially more complex than how a human brain operates, so why should we think of human beings as creative agents but discount any such agency in the universe at large?

I think the valid elements of your argument is essentially the one which I make against absolute determinism. It challenges one to find a distinction between our existence and that of an inanimate recording. I think it is absurd to make this nothing more than the realism of the artwork, so if you make it a fancy enough holo-novel with all the details, then that is no different than real life. Thus, I quite agree that a deterministic universe (materialistic or otherwise) is a universe without conscious intelligence. But the crucial difference is NOT intelligent design, quite the opposite since the fancy holo-novel is a product of design but devoid of life and consciousness.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:I'm not arguing for a God, or intelligent agency.

I am not arguing against a God or intelligent agency. I am in fact a theist. I am also, however, an opponent of intelligent design because I believe this is incompatible with the nature of the living process. I actually think that evolution is MORE compatible with Christianity than intelligent design, for otherwise there is no answer to the problem of evil and suffering and would have to conclude that the intelligent designer is evil, uncaring, irresponsible and/or inept.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:What I am asking is, why do we even think there is such a thing as agency, or intelligence?

Basic human experience.

Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:If the universe simply does what it does in response to physical laws acting through physical media, then that is all our brains ("minds") are doing.

Unless... the whole point of the laws of nature is to enable spontaneous self-organization and thus allow living things to have their own choices and free will.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 1st, 2017, 7:41 pm 

webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 10:35 am wrote:The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

Then how come life is so rare? There seems to be an awful lot of non-living, chaotic universe between the finely-tuned bits. If life was the purpose, why all the waste?

Then, too, don't you wonder whether that proposition is right-side-up?
The fact is, life is so finely-tuned to exist in this universe that it seems highly unlikely that it could have developed any differently, given the laws of physics.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Dave_C on May 1st, 2017, 10:14 pm 

Hi Graeme,
Graeme M » April 30th, 2017, 6:36 am wrote:If we accept an entirely physical basis for consciousness, then it seems we have nothing more happening than brain stuff. There is no mental stuff. And brain stuff is simply the processes by which neurons connect to neurons as a result of sensory input, resulting in behavioural output. And if all that's going on is neural connectivity signalling muscles and the like, then everything about our consciousness, our intelligence, is simply biochemistry in action - physical operations arising from weighted synaptic connections and the like.

Interesting, and well written. I guess the question that strikes me is about this 'mental stuff'. Is brain stuff not equal to mental stuff? Dennett would suggest it is. Jaegwon Kim would argue otherwise, as would Chalmers. Lots of different approaches to this separation you could make.

People talk about emergence as a possible solution to 'mental stuff' having some sort of causal influence over 'brain stuff'. Some would posit 'downward causation' and that levels of nature constitute divides that produce new causal influences. Psychology for example, can't be described in terms of the lower level sciences such as neuroscience (we can't describe desires, experiences, etc... in terms of neuron interactions). Some will then say (ex: Fodor) that since there can be no bridge laws between levels of science, the higher levels must be causally efficacious.

All this philosophy can be discussed without bringing up "intelligent design" which is generally understood to be nothing more than a thin veneer used by religious fundamentalists to press their agenda on grade school students.

There's more than 1 line of thought in this OP making it difficult to separate out the more fundamental issue regarding 'mental stuff' and 'brain stuff' from ID.

Good post though, there's some interesting thoughts and ideas in there. :)
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