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  Topic: Elsberry & Shallit on Dembski, Discussion of the criticism< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4937
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 04 2004,06:27   

To Define "Intelligence", or Not to Define It...

Salvador takes issue with a criticism of ours:


Just as Dembski fails to give a positive account of the second half of "intelligent design", he
also fails to define the first half: intelligence.

Salvador notes something Dembski said earlier:


Within intelligent design, intelligence is a primitive notion much as force or energy are primitive notions within physics. We can say intelligible things about these notions and show how they can be usefully employed in certain contexts. But in defining them, we gain no substantive insight.

Salvador concludes:


I think therefore Wesley and Jefferey's claim about Bill:

"he also fails to define the first half: intelligence"


is therefore an unfair representation of Bill's position on intelligence. If intelligence is primitive to reality, not defining it, but leaving it as an undefined is reasonable.

I suggest Wesley and Jeffrey withdraw that complaint from their paper in fairness of representing Bill's position correctly.

Wesley and Jeffrey may not agree with Bill, but owe him the courtesy of representing his work fairly. Bill has explicitly said he did not believe "defining" intelligence will gain substantive insight. Jeffrey I'm sure could offer examples of undefined terms in mathematics, etc....

So, the issue isn't that there is an inaccuracy in what we said, but rather that we aren't "fair" in making this observation.

I think that I will need to revise this criticism, as it becomes more trenchant with the noting of Dembski's demurral at even making an attempt to clarify what "intelligence" means when he deploys it.

Just as ID advocates like to note that the term "evolution" can have many different meanings, it is possible to note that "intelligence" also has many different meanings. Salvador's defense of an "undefined" use of intelligence critically depends upon the undefined term having a unitary and agreed-upon significance to the class of readers, and while this might be true for the concept of "force" in physics, this is clearly not the case for "intelligence".

The phrase "intelligent design", for example, doesn't really mean that a "design" will have characteristics that indicate that it was intelligently arrived at. Rather, all that is meant is that some agent (as opposed to a process) was involved in causing some event. The putative agent is carefully relieved of any responsibility for actually displaying what an outside observer might call "intelligence" (see Dembski's essay on "optimal design").

(Actually, I find it interesting that Salvador's quote concerning "force" is incomplete. The whole paragraph is: "In most expositions of mechanics, force is usually taken as a primitive, without an explicit definition. Rather it is taken to be defined implicitly by the (often vague) presentation of the theory within which it is contained. Various physicists, philosophers and mathematicians, such as Ernst Mach, Clifford Truesdell and Walter Noll have contributed to the intellectual effort of obtaining a more rational, non-circular, and explicit definition of force." Salvador only quoted the part in italics. The rest of the paragraph indicates that not everyone is just as comfy with undefined terms lying about as Salvador is.)

Of course, in the interest of brevity that whole sentence and the possible further line of criticism suggested by Salvador could be dropped, as its absence would do no harm to the remainder of the section on "Intelligence" and the next sub-section, "Animal Intelligence".

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

  52 replies since Nov. 12 2003,08:26 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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