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  Topic: Uncommonly Dense Thread 2, general discussion of Dembski's site< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Reciprocating Bill



Posts: 4244
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2008,19:12   

Ok, I caught the last 25 minutes or so of the Arrington/O'leary show.

Barry was sorta chipper and even winning. Doesn't sound at all like the pompous dildo his writing seems to suggest. Denyse did her usual wheezy grandma thing.

But the content was the usual utter dreck.

I do agree with Barry that "Keith," whoever he is, did a fine job representing a non-dualist position, and correcting Denyse's and Barry's ridiculous misrepresentations.

I laughed aloud when Barry introduced Denyse as an "expert" on the hard problem of consciousness, having written The Spatula Brain.

--------------
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2008,20:21   

Quote (Reciprocating Bill @ Dec. 19 2008,17:12)
I do agree with Barry that "Keith," whoever he is, did a fine job representing a non-dualist position, and correcting Denyse's and Barry's ridiculous misrepresentations.

Thanks, Bill. †I was 'Keith'. †Still am, actually.

Quote
Barry was sorta chipper and even winning. Doesn't sound at all like the pompous dildo his writing seems to suggest.

I agree. †Part of that might have been wanting to put his best face forward, so to speak, on the radio; but he was just as polite and cordial off the air. †It requires a certain emotional distance to be a nimrod. †That distance is harder to maintain when you meet someone voice-to-voice instead of text-to-text.
Quote
But the content was the usual utter dreck.

Yep. †I wish I'd had the opportunity to respond to more of their misconceptions.

Some highlights for those who missed the show:

1. Barry asked why scientists refer to evolution as a fact, when we all know it's a theory. †Yes, he really said that.

2. Barry claimed that Behe showed that irreducibly complex structures cannot be built by stepwise processes.

3. Denyse explained that she co-authored The Spiritual Brain with Beauregard because "you know how scientists and engineers write."

4. Denyse claimed that the Turing test was designed to show whether computers can be conscious, when of course Turing only meant for it to test whether they can behave intelligently.

5. Denyse said that if free will is an illusion, there is no reason for us to have democratic governments. †We might as well use the farm as a model for governance. †I have absolutely no idea what she meant by that.

6. Denyse said that if Darwin had lived in modern times he would never have proposed his theory, because cells are supercomputers, and Darwin was a smart guy, and there wasn't enough time for supercomputers to arise between the formation of the earth and the emergence of life.

7. A caller asked whether the 'leviathan' of the book of Job was an actual dinosaur, and whether that meant that the dinosaurs were all fire-breathing. †Barry diplomatically tiptoed around the question and avoided knocking the poles out from under the "Big Tent".

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And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Ptaylor



Posts: 899
Joined: Aug. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2008,20:43   

Quote (keiths @ Dec. 19 2008,20:21)
Thanks, Bill. †I was 'Keith'. †Still am, actually.

Bravo keiths - well done. You were the very voice of reason countering O'Leary's wild assertions. Pity that she made so many given the limited air time you were given to respond.

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To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today. - Isaac Asimov

"Grow up, assface" - Joe G., grown up ID spokesperson, Sandwalk, April 2014

  
Reciprocating Bill



Posts: 4244
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2008,21:10   

The circularity of their thinking was very much on display. †

For them, it is absolutely self-evident, something that all plain folks with the sense God give 'em know, that phenomena like belief and the direction of attention are "purely mental." Hence when we display beliefs and focus attention, and that is reflected in changes in brain activity, that proves that something non-physical drives the brain.

"Hard problem" solved. What was the big deal?

--------------
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2008,22:08   

Just posted this on the UD thread. †Let's see if it gets out of moderation and whether Barry and Denyse respond:
Quote
6

ribczynski

12/19/2008

10:56 pm

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Barry,

I enjoyed speaking with you and Denyse today on your radio show -- it's much more pleasant than debating by text.

I wish we'd had more time, because there were a few points I wanted to add:

1. I mentioned that the problem of qualia is a problem for dualists as well as materialists, just shifted slightly: materialists have to explain how the brain gives rise to subjective experiences (including qualia), and dualists have to explain how the soul can give rise to those same subjective experiences (not to mention that they violate the spirit of Occam's razor by proposing the existence of a soul simply to explain this subjectivity).

You replied that I was asking you to explain an infinite regress, but I don't understand what you meant by that. †Could you elaborate? †In any case, if asking you how the soul gives rise to qualia leads to an infinite regress, hadn't you already placed the same burden on me by asking how the brain gives rise to qualia?

2. You brought up the "brain as radio receiver" metaphor to explain why physical damage to the brain can affect a person's behavior even if the mind or soul is a separate, immaterial entity.

DaveScot used that metaphor on another thread, and I replied as follows:
Quote
Dave,

There are some serious problems with that metaphor.

The most obvious is that in reality, information flows both ways between body and mind. The broadcast station/radio receiver metaphor represents the information as flowing only one way.

We can correct the flaw in the metaphor by stipulating that the receiver is really a two-way radio that can transmit as well as receive, and that the broadcast station is really a base station with two-way capability.

If we adopt the modified metaphor, another question arises: which functions are performed by the base station (soul), and which by the radio (brain and body)?

The naive view (held by a surprising number of people who are unfamiliar with the findings of modern neuroscience) is that all of the ďinterestingĒ stuff ó thinking, feeling, remembering, deciding ó is carried out by the soul, and that the body (including the brain) has only two main functions: passing information to the soul, and carrying out the commands issued by the soul.

Naive though it is, many people cling to this idea because it allows them to believe in a soul that survives death while retaining all of a personís essential characteristics: memories, temperament, cognitive abilities, etc.

In reality, of course, the brain isnít nearly as passive as the radio metaphor would suggest. Evidence shows that the brain is intimately involved with (and possibly fully responsible for) all of the characteristics mentioned above.

For example, the temperament, personality, cognitive abilities and memories of an Alzheimerís patient may be damaged to the point that the person bears no resemblance to his former self. To a materialist, this makes sense. Alzheimerís damages the brain, and when the brain is damaged, the person is damaged.

The naive dualist has a much harder time explaining how these faculties can be so seriously damaged if they are wholly (or even primarily) carried out by the soul and not the brain.


Even stronger evidence against the dualist position is provided by split-brain patients. †There is a procedure, the corpus callosotomy, that disconnects the two hemispheres so that epileptic seizures cannot spread from one to the other. The hemispheres are only disconnected; neither is removed. This operation contains the seizures, dramatically improving the patient's quality of life, but it also severs the path through which the hemispheres normally communicate. †The results are fascinating, and they're not very friendly to the dualist position:

a. In experiments with split-brain patients, itís possible to pass information to one hemisphere but not the other. The left hemisphere literally doesnít know what the right hemisphere knows, and vice-versa.

If there were a single, immaterial mind, it would know what both hemispheres know. Clearly, this doesnít happen. As a dualist, how do you explain this? Surely the immaterial mind doesn't split in two at the moment the corpus callosum is cut, does it?

These fascinating videos of a split-brain patient demonstrate the phenomenon:

video 1
video 2

b. The left hemisphere controls the right half of the body, and vice-versa. When the connection between the two is cut, this results in bizarre behaviors indicating the presence of two ďwillsĒ in the same skull.

One patient was seen to pick up a cigarette with her right hand and place it in her mouth. Her left hand plucked it out and threw it away before the right hand could light it.

In another case, a man attacked his wife with one arm while defending her with the other.

If a single immaterial mind were running the show, this would not happen. How do you explain this within the dualist framework? †

3. Denyse, you brought up a) the placebo effect and b) Jeffrey Schwartz's treatment of obsessive-complsive disorder via focused attention as examples of phenomena that support the existence of an immaterial mind or soul. †I replied that materialism has no difficulty with these, because if mental events are physical events in the brain, it's no surprise that they can have effects on other parts of the brain or on the body.

Indeed (and I didn't mention this on the show) dualists have the harder problem of explaining how an ethereal mind or soul can manipulate the physical body. †For materialists, this problem doesn't exist: †of course matter in the brain can interact with other matter in the brain or in the body.

You were about to respond when we hit the final commercial break. †What were you going to say?

4. You also stated that if free will is an illusion, there's no point in having democratic governments -- we might as well use the farm as our model for governance. †Could you explain what you mean by this and why you believe it?


--------------
And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Missing Shade of Blue



Posts: 62
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2008,23:56   

Hi all,

I've been lurking here and at UD for a little while because I'm very interested in the evolution/ID debate. I'm fairly convinced that you guys are on the right side of pretty much all the specific arguments that get discussed here. The level of discourse at UD is distressingly juvenile (that's also often true of the discourse here, but at least you guys do it intentionally). But I am still not convinced that evolutionary theory can fully explain all the apparent design in the biological world. Believe me, I want to be convinced. I'm not hubristic enough to think that the entire scientific establishment is wrong and I'm right. Any questions I have are most probably misunderstandings on my part. Still, I haven't yet seen those questions adequately addressed.

What I'm getting to in a roundabout way is that I was wondering if it would be kosher for me to post a couple of questions I have in the hope that some of you could help me answer them. I don't want to derail the UD discussion, so I'm not going to post them here, but I don't really know which is the appropriate forum. I can't start a new thread because I just registered. Is there an existing thread for stuff like this?

Thanks.

  
Occam's Aftershave



Posts: 1515
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,00:12   

Quote (Missing Shade of Blue @ Dec. 19 2008,23:56)
Hi all,

I've been lurking here and at UD for a little while because I'm very interested in the evolution/ID debate. I'm fairly convinced that you guys are on the right side of pretty much all the specific arguments that get discussed here. The level of discourse at UD is distressingly juvenile (that's also often true of the discourse here, but at least you guys do it intentionally). But I am still not convinced that evolutionary theory can fully explain all the apparent design in the biological world. Believe me, I want to be convinced. I'm not hubristic enough to think that the entire scientific establishment is wrong and I'm right. Any questions I have are most probably misunderstandings on my part. Still, I haven't yet seen those questions adequately addressed.

What I'm getting to in a roundabout way is that I was wondering if it would be kosher for me to post a couple of questions I have in the hope that some of you could help me answer them. I don't want to derail the UD discussion, so I'm not going to post them here, but I don't really know which is the appropriate forum. I can't start a new thread because I just registered. Is there an existing thread for stuff like this?

Thanks.

I'd say go ahead and post them here. †If the topic gets into too much detail, I'm sure the mods will split it off and move it to its own thread.

Keep in mind that "we don't fully understand yet" is a perfectly acceptable answer in science, and that ID does not win by default.

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JoeG: And by eating the cake you are consuming the information- some stays with you and the rest is waste.

  
Missing Shade of Blue



Posts: 62
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,01:25   

Thanks, OA.

The thing that bothers me most is inductive bias. We are physiologically set up to carve the world up in certain ways, and to consider certain predicates natural and projectible. The worry is basically the same as in Nelson Goodman's 'New Riddle of Induction', so I'll use his example (and apologies for rehashing this if you're familiar with the example).

Consider the predicate grue, which translated into our language, means "green if discovered before 2012, and blue afterwards", and the corresponding predicate bleen, "blue if discovered before 2012, and green afterwards." To us, this is an extremely unnatural predicate, and it is definitely not projectible. All emeralds we've found so far are green, and we think this licenses the inductive inference "All emeralds are green." All the emeralds we've found so far are also grue, but, crucially, we don't think this licenses the inference "All emeralds are grue." Our inductive bias is for blue-green rather than grue-bleen predicates. Now, Goodman's insight is that any attempt to justify this preference by appealing to the simplicity of green over grue, or the way green rather than grue integrates with the rest of science, is bound to be circular. If we encountered an alien species that was physiologically set up to consider grue and bleen natural, then there would be no way to rationally convince them they were wrong. Well, there would be one way. We could wait till 2012 and show them that their predictions have failed and ours haven't. Short of that, though, there's nothing we could do.

Now, natural selection can't see the future, so until 2012 creatures with green-blue predilections have no obvious selective advantage over the grue-bleeners. And of course, this holds not just for grue-bleen but a zillion other gruesome predicates. So from an evolutionary standpoint, it seems to me like we'd have to say that our particular inductive biases don't stand out uniquely in search space. There's a whole host of different biases that, ceteris paribus, would have been just as fit as the actual one in the environments in which we evolved. The surprising thing, then, is that our particular biases have worked so incredibly well.

I guess one way to bring this out is to modify grue so that the change occurs in 1912 rather than in 2012. If grue and bleen (modified in this way) had been the actual predicates that fit the world, then we would have been thrown into a tizzy in 1912. But it turned out that they weren't. We dodged that bullet. We also dodged a bullet in 1712, and in 1612. In fact, we've dodged an infinite number of bullets. So far, out of the many ways in which the world could have radically bucked our inductive expectations, none have come to pass. It looks like our inductive biases fit the structure of the world pretty well. This is apparent design.

Now what confuses me is that it seems that it is basically impossible to come up with an evolutionary explanation for this apparent design. Like I said, the environment in which we evolved these biases was just as compatible with a number of other biases (an infinity, basically) which would have failed by now, such as the 1912 grue-bleen bias. And yet we ended up with the bias that works. And its not like there was some population of 1912 grue-bleeners who went extinct when 1912 came around, leaving us top dogs.

I guess it seems to me that this example is distinct from the usual god-of-the-gaps nonsense because it's not just that we are ignorant of the mechanism by which natural selection hit upon the right (at least, right so far) inductive bias. It's more like we have principled reasons to think there could be no such mechanism. For natural selection to choose blue-greenism over grue-bleenism it would need information about the future that is unavailable to it.

Anyway, that's my longwinded question. I hope I've explained it adequately. Any answers or references to literature that discusses this problem would be greatly appreciated.

  
Nerull



Posts: 317
Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,02:07   

To me, your argument sounds like the equivalent of pulling a card from a deck, revealing it to be a queen of spades, and declaring that the universe was obviously designed for the sole intent of you pulling that queen of spades from that deck.

We are the way we are because that's what happened. Yes, it could have happened many, many, many different ways. There is no 'reason' that it didn't, and also no reason to think that those ways are somehow worse than the way it happened. There are 52 different cards you could have pulled from that deck, but you pulled one in particular. That doesn't make the other cards 'wrong'. If you did it again, the outcome would almost certainly be different. If you ran evolution all over again, things would certainly be different. There is no reason we have to be the way we are. Evolution didn't have us at the top as a goal, it just happened. It didn't require a designer for you to pick the card you did from the deck - that's just the way it turned out. Likewise, it didn't take a designer to make us the way we are, verses any other way. That's just the way it turned out.

For a similar argument, see the recently discussed puddle example. If a puddle could marvel at anything, it might marvel that it fits so well into the hole it is in, and determine that the hole is early meant for it. Of course, in reality puddles adapt to whatever shape you put them in - but if the puddle doesn't understand that, it can easily conclude design. Similarly, life works pretty well here, in general. That's because its been evolving here for a few billion years.

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To rebut creationism you pretty much have to be a biologist, chemist, geologist, philosopher, lawyer and historian all rolled into one. While to advocate creationism, you just have to be an idiot. -- tommorris

   
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4521
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,02:18   

Quote

So far, out of the many ways in which the world could have radically bucked our inductive expectations, none have come to pass. It looks like our inductive biases fit the structure of the world pretty well. This is apparent design.


Never heard the phrase "counter-intuitive", I take it.

Whose inductive bias corresponded to quantum mechanics? Phlogiston was a perfectly common-sense approach to the problem of heat. Science provides plenty of refutations of the "none have come to pass" claim.

 
Quote

Now what confuses me is that it seems that it is basically impossible to come up with an evolutionary explanation for this apparent design.


Since the "apparent design" claim seems to be based on a false premise, it doesn't look like there is a problem in the offing.

 
Quote

For natural selection to choose blue-greenism over grue-bleenism it would need information about the future that is unavailable to it.


This is just a complex question fallacy. As yet unobserved conditions or stimuli (as in the "ue" of "grue") are also unavailable to natural selection; why would anybody imagine that natural selection could develop systems corresponding to "grue-bleenism" prospectively?

There are obvious counter-examples from biology. Many insect species have positive phototropism, which given a moonlit night will mean that flyers will congregate high in the air. In our world, though, artificial light is all too common, and you get swarms of insects around light bulbs at night. A similar problem of a stimulus that becomes unreliable is that sea turtles hatch at night and take their bearings based on the brightest light available. It used to be the moon, but many beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs have human dwellings around, and newly hatched turtles may head toward artificial lights and away from the ocean, which is their sole chance of survival. Having some of the population pursuing the equivalent of "grue" could have been helpful, but since no such stimulus was available before, natural selection didn't have the opportunity to adapt populations to the nonexistent stimulus.

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

    
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,02:32   

Hi Missing,

To clarify:

1. If we see a green object before 2012, we put it in the category 'grue'.
2. If we see a green object afterwards, we put it in the category 'bleen'.
3. If we see a blue object before 2012, we put it in the category 'bleen'.
4. If we see a blue object afterwards, we put it in the category 'grue'.
5. For the purposes of this discussion, the appearance of objects does not change. †Once blue, always blue, etc.

It's been years since I read Goodman, but that's the way I remember it. †Do you concur?

If so, then I think your question has a very simple answer. †As you said, natural selection has no foresight. Since grass has been green and the sky has been blue for long stretches of time, natural selection has favored organisms that respond accordingly, treating blue as blue and green as green regardless of the time. †A species that suddenly inverted the two would be at a disadvantage and would be selected out of the population.

Life is effectively betting that blue will remain blue and green will remain green, just as they have in the past. †To us, this seems like a pretty good bet, though not guaranteed.  On the other hand, when natural selection "invented" the polar bear, it was betting that the Arctic would remain cold and white. †That looks like a bad bet these days, and natural selection is unlikely to operate fast enough for the polar bear to keep up with environmental changes.

--------------
And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Missing Shade of Blue



Posts: 62
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,04:34   

Keith,

Your five premises are accurate, but I think you're missing the full force of Goodman's reasoning. Let me play the role of a Keith counterpart on a planet with grue-bleen inductive biases. Here are my five premises, which are collectively equivalent to yours, but rephrased so that green and blue sound like absurd gerrymandered predicates:

1. If we see a grue object before 2012, we put it in the category 'green'.
2. If we see a grue object afterwards, we put it in the category 'blue'.
3. If we see a bleen object before 2012, we put it in the category 'blue'.
4. If we see a bleen object afterwards, we put it in the category 'green'.
5. For the purposes of this discussion, the appearance of objects does not change.  Once bleen, always bleen, etc.

I hope it's obvious that if your five premises are true, then these five must also be true. So far, the blue-green and grue-bleen situations are symmetric. Everything else you said in your post can also be completely symmetrically translated into grue-bleen language. For instance, you say natural selection is betting on blue and green because the sky has always been blue and the grass has always been green. But of course, given my definitions of grue and bleen, it is also the case that the sky has always been bleen and the grass has always been grue. So why would natural selection bet on blue-green over grue-bleen? It seems you're surreptitiously relying on some notion that blue and green are more natural or simpler than grue and bleen, but of course, this is just your inductive bias speaking.

I agree with you that a species that latched on to non-projectible predicates would eventually be selected against. But the point I was trying to make is that this selective story can't be the explanation for our preference for blue-green over grue-bleen, because selection could only kick in when the difference in predicates makes an significant material difference in the behavior of the organism, and that's only in 2012. Natural selection figures out whether blue-green or grue-bleen is right at the same time that we do. It has no special prospective access to the fact of the matter.

Now you may say, "Yes, you're right. Natural selection doesn't know whether blue-green or grue-bleen will turn out to be right. It has contingently bet on blue-green and we'll have to wait and see in 2012 whether it wins the bet." My point is that it has already won a stupendous series of bets. I don't know how far back trichromatic color vision stretches, but I know chimps have a visual system that's pretty much like ours, so our blue-green inductive bias stretches at least as far back as 5 million years. Some of our more basic inductive biases stretch back much further than that. Any time between then and now our inductive biases could have failed us, but they didn't. For five million years, evolution's bet on blue-green has been vindicated. And it's not like we started out five million years ago with populations with all different kinds of color biases, and they went extinct one by one until we are the only ones who remain. If that were the case, then the sort of anthropic reasoning Nerull suggested would render our success unsurprising. But as far as I know, in the last five million years, no known species has gone extinct due to incorrect color inductive bias. What we have, and what I'm having trouble explaining, is natural selection guessing five million years ago that a particular set of predicates would be projectible, and even though this guess was vastly underdetermined by the information available at the time, it has been borne out for five million years.

I chose color as an example due to Goodman, but I could have chosen any number of other, much more fundamental inductive biases. Something constrained the evolution of inductive preferences to ones that have worked fairly consistently. It couldn't have been natural selection, because given he environment up to time t, there is a literally infinite choice among predicates that agree up to t, but disagree later. Somehow the predicates chosen for us at t have worked all the way up to t + 5*10^6 yrs. This is mysterious to me.

  
Nerull



Posts: 317
Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,05:07   

Quote (Missing Shade of Blue @ Dec. 20 2008,05:34)
And it's not like we started out five million years ago with populations with all different kinds of color biases, and they went extinct one by one until we are the only ones who remain.

Except that there are.

Humans see green-blue because the apes tend to eat is green. Birds see color differently than we do, because they are adapted to different things. They have tetra-color vision, in fact. They can often see UV, something no mammal can do. Most mammals are dichromatic, many, but not all, primates are trichromatic. In some populations it is a genetic trait, but not a common one. Only some of them have it, because the selective pressure on that species isn't enough to spread it. Why would a designer give some primates a genetic trait for tricolor vision and only give it to a small portion of the population?

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To rebut creationism you pretty much have to be a biologist, chemist, geologist, philosopher, lawyer and historian all rolled into one. While to advocate creationism, you just have to be an idiot. -- tommorris

   
Missing Shade of Blue



Posts: 62
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,05:14   

Wesley,

I'm not claiming our inductive biases are perfect, especially when it comes to highly theoretical predicates like "phlogiston" or "caloric". But our folk inductive assumptions about medium-sized dry goods (stuff like shape, sensory properties, causal properties, etc.) works well enough to allow us (and all kinds of other animals) to get by pretty well. And that in itself is surprising to me.

The radical Humean skeptic about induction: "Hey, why do you think nature will continue to be so stable and uniform? How do you know Planck's constant won't change tomorrow? Or that your cat won't turn into some kind of evil fire-breathing demon?" This is the kind of thing people make fun of philosophers for.

Goodman's skepticism is subtly different, and to me far more troubling. It's not "Why do you think nature is, to a large extent, uniform across time?" It's "Granted that nature is uniform, what does that mean?" And the answer is that it depends on your choice of vocabulary. What it would be for nature to be uniform is different for creatures with blue-green vs. grue-bleen predilections. Now we were endowed with certain predilections in the distant past, and it turns out that so far, nature has actually been pretty uniform on our preferred descriptions.
Our biases haven't been perfect, sure, but our inductive expectations are very rarely shattered by everyday macroscopic phenomena millions of years after they evolved. And that fact in itself, I suspect, puts them in a set of measure zero in the space of all possible biases.

Quote
As yet unobserved conditions or stimuli (as in the "ue" of "grue") are also unavailable to natural selection; why would anybody imagine that natural selection could develop systems corresponding to "grue-bleenism" prospectively?


It seems like the lack of clarity in my initial post has claimed another victim. I hope the response I wrote to Keith makes things a little clearer. The point I was trying to make was that "grue" and "green" are really on the same footing evolutionarily. In particular, "grue" does not involve unobserved conditions or stimuli any more than "green" does. To suppose otherwise is to assume an asymmetry between the predicates that can only be justified by our inductive bias. And it is the emergence of that very bias that we're trying to explain. Note that the temporally disjunctive aspect of grue and bleen is merely an artifact of their representation in our blue-green basis. If we try to represent blue or green in a grue-bleen basis, then they would appear temporally disjunctive.

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,05:21   

Missing,

I think what you're missing (so to speak) is that grue and green are not on the same footing evolutionarily. The blue/green system is simpler than the infinitude of grue/bleen systems, and that simplicity is crucial because "simpler" means "less expensive".

A system that always responds to a particular wavelength of light in a particular way is less complicated than one that switches its behavior completely at some arbitrary time T. †An organism that "bets" on grue/bleen will be more complicated than one that bets on blue/green. †Given that the organism evolves during a time when there is no difference between the blue/green and grue/bleen worlds, the simpler blue/green scheme works just as well as the grue/bleen scheme, but is better overall because it costs the organism less. †Natural selection will weed out the grue/bleen variants in favor of the blue/green variants if they both appear in the population.

In reality, the grue/bleen variants will probably never appear, because the organism will stumble upon the blue/green variant first, and an associated timing mechanism will never evolve at all, there being no selection pressure toward that outcome.

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And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Missing Shade of Blue



Posts: 62
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,05:29   

Nerull,

I wasn't denying that there are species with different color perception than humans. What I was saying is that the continued success of specifically hominid trichromatic color vision millions of years after it emerged can't be explained away by an anthropic argument. We didn't start out with a vast number of different hominid species with different inductive biases which were gradually pruned away until we (and chimps, gorillas and orangutans) were the only ones left. What happened was that hominid color biases were fixed millions of years ago, and then they continued to be successful. What I am asking is how evolution knew which biases to pick (out of the infinite number of choices) all those years ago.

Also, the question about the designer. I want to assure you that I'm not coming into this with any intent to vindicate ID. While I probably have less of a distaste for ID-type hypotheses than a lot of the posters here, I still see it as a position of last resort. Even if it turns out that this particular case of apparent design cannot be explained evolutionarily, I would look for other non-teleological explanations before turning to some kind of design hypothesis.

  
Missing Shade of Blue



Posts: 62
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,05:59   

Keith,

I don't think talking about wavelengths ameliorates the problem. All you're doing there is justifying the idea that one of predicates is projectible by appealing to the projectivity of another of our predicates (in this case, a far more theoretical predicate). Anyway, I have a minor and a major response to your argument.

Minor response: It's inaccurate to think that our perceptual system responds in a simple way to any fundamental physical property such as wavelength. In actual fact, we are not the kinds of systems that respond in a simple manner to wavelength or surface reflectance. There are all kinds of phenomena in color science that demonstrate this. Metamers have different surface reflectance properties but they appear to be of the same color. Conversely, patches with identical reflectance properties can look differently colored depending on the environment in which they are placed, as a number of awesome optical illusions illustrate. Certain colors (brown, for instance) only exist as contrast colors. There is no such thing as a pure saturated brown stimulus. All of this goes to show that color perception is already quite a complex phenomenon and does not obviously track any fundamental physical property. So the assumption that evolution will tend to produce creatures that respond simply and directly to fundamental physical properties is questionable.

Major response: Let's say I accept that the perception of green and blue is a direct response to wavelength. I never said the grue-bleeners respond to wavelengths any differently than we do. I merely said that their natural dispositions to classify stimuli are different. They might agree that light of 500 nm wavelength is green and 450 nm light is blue. But this supports the projectibility of blue and green only if you make the prior assumption that wavelength measured in nm is projectible. The grue-bleeners deny this. For them, of course, the projectible predicate is "500 nm wavelength before 2012 and 450 nm after 2012".

The larger point here is that justifying the projectibility of our predicates with reference to our best science can't take us where we want to go. It only works if we assume that our scientific theories are projectible, which only works if we assume the predicates involved in those those theories are projectible. And ultimately, the assumed projectibility of scientific predicates is grounded on the assumed projectibility of certain macroscopic observational predicates (the kind that are used in measurement and experiment). And really we have no justification for these other than our inductive biases. We can't collectively vindicate our entire vocabulary as the simplest or most natural choice.

  
Beelzebub



Posts: 2
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,06:03   

Apologies for the de-rail, but I can't find an appropriate active thread.......

Does anyone here know why the Talk Origins site (and the temporary toarchive.org site) is down?
It has been unavailable for a week or more now.
In other Fora, there have been claims about a missing IP address, and DNS problems - Well, these are matters that can be resolved in a few hours - not days, so just what has happened?

Again, my apologies for being OT

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,06:07   

Beelzebub,

Here's the latest status from Wes Elsberry:

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin....y131064

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And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Beelzebub



Posts: 2
Joined: Dec. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,06:22   

Quote (keiths @ Dec. 20 2008,06:07)
Beelzebub,

Here's the latest status from Wes Elsberry:

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin....y131064

Thanks Keiths,
I do hope it is just a technical problem, although such a delay seems odd (I work in IT, and problems like this are usually pretty quick to resolve!).

The paranoid bit of me is beginning to suspect pressure being put on Service Providers ('Did you know you are hosting "God hating Atheists!!" on your servers?')

Anyway, hope all is sorted out soon.
Cheers †:)

  
Reed



Posts: 274
Joined: Feb. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,06:27   

Quote (Missing Shade of Blue @ Dec. 19 2008,23:25)

"Granted that nature is uniform, what does that mean?"

As far as science is concerned, it doesn't mean anything. It's just a phenomena which is consistently observed. If we didn't live in such a universe, there would be no such thing as science.

"deeper" meaning is irrelevant, unless it provides some testable prediction. If it makes you happy, say God created it this way just for us.
†  
Quote

What happened was that hominid color biases were fixed millions of years ago, and then they continued to be successful.

Human (never mind all hominid) color perception isn't fixed. The frequency of red/green color blindness suggests large variations aren't an overwhelming disadvantage. So does the success of species with different levels of color vision. Color vision undoubtedly provided an advantage to some of our ancestors, but contingency probably played a big role too. One can certainly imagine a color blind species coming out roughly the same way we did.
Quote

What I am asking is how evolution knew which biases to pick (out of the infinite number of choices) all those years ago.

Bad assumptions. There aren't an infinite number of choices that work in our universe, and evolution can only build on what came before. It doesn't know anything. The lineages that went in directions which turned out wrong (and they outnumber successful lineages by orders of magnitude) aren't around to speculate about it.

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,06:50   

Missing,

1. I understand the complexities of the human visual system, but my earlier comments were regarding the initial evolution of differential color sensitivity, long before there was a visual cortex capable of doing the complex computations you describe.

2. You wrote: "So the assumption that evolution will tend to produce creatures that respond simply and directly to fundamental physical properties is questionable." †I disagree. †As my previous comment explains, evolution will produce simple, direct systems tied to fundamental physical properties before it produces complicated, indirect systems like the visual system of humans.

3. Regarding your "major response": †The reasoning I sketched out in my previous comment regarding color sensing also applies here in the context of color concepts. †The concept "has a wavelength corresponding to green", with no time dependence, is less complicated than the concept "has a wavelength corresponding to green, unless it's 2012 or later, in which case has a wavelength corresponding to blue". †Organisms that "have a natural disposition to classify stimuli" in an unnecessariy complex way when simpler concepts would suffice are wasting resources and will be at a competitive disadvantage.

It boils down to this: †whether we are talking about light sensitivity or color concepts, green/blue is simpler than grue/bleen. †Simpler means less expensive. †If both systems are functionally equivalent during the evolution of the system, then natural selection will favor the less expensive one.

Green/blue is objectively better than grue/bleen.

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And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Reciprocating Bill



Posts: 4244
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,07:09   

My first quick reading raises several questions:

First this passage:
† † † † †
Quote
Now, Goodman's insight is that any attempt to justify this preference by appealing to the simplicity of green over grue, or the way green rather than grue integrates with the rest of science, is bound to be circular. If we encountered an alien species that was physiologically set up to consider grue and bleen natural, then there would be no way to rationally convince them they were wrong. Well, there would be one way. We could wait till 2012 and show them that their predictions have failed and ours haven't. Short of that, though, there's nothing we could do.

There are other forms of efficiency beyond the inductive efficiency of a sensory system at play in evolution - such as metabolic and developmental efficiency. All else being equal (including inductive efficiency), a perceptual system that is metabolically or developmentally more complex, yet confers no selective advantage vis perception, is likely to be selected against. As you indicate in your example, neither Grue-Bleen nor Green-Blue provides (at least to date) perceptual selective advantage relative to the other, and aliens in possession of the former may find them utterly perceptually natural, but to be "physiologically set up to consider grue and bleen natural" is likely to require greater biological complexity. Hence grue-bleen vision prior to 2012 is at a selective disadvantage, although for reasons other than perceptual efficiency. There is no analogy within Goodman's purely conceptual puzzle for these other forms of adaptive advantage/disadvantage.

[ETA: I see Keiths has touched on this above as well: "Simpler means less expensive. If both systems are functionally equivalent during the evolution of the system, then natural selection will favor the less expensive one."

Exactly. and CURSES, Keiths.]

I also see problems in this passage:
† † † † †
Quote
I guess one way to bring this out is to modify grue so that the change occurs in 1912 rather than in 2012. If grue and bleen (modified in this way) had been the actual predicates that fit the world, then we would have been thrown into a tizzy in 1912. But it turned out that they weren't. We dodged that bullet. We also dodged a bullet in 1712, and in 1612. In fact, we've dodged an infinite number of bullets. So far, out of the many ways in which the world could have radically bucked our inductive expectations, none have come to pass. It looks like our inductive biases fit the structure of the world pretty well. This is apparent design.

This ignores extinction. Almost all evolutionary bets, including inductive biases, are eventually lost, as 99.9% of once extant species are now extinct. They are lost when circumstances arise to which bets a species has made (the structural, ecological, behavioral, metabolic, and sensory - including previously useful inductive biases) are not well adapted, and the game ends. It indeed does not follow from past successes that future success is assured, and indeed it is inevitable that "The losing card we'll someday lay." The intimation of design to which you are responding is smuggled into the scenario within this mistaken characterization of the success of biological adaptations. Indeed, this passage commits an inductive error of its own, as it doesn't follow from past dodged bullets that future evasion is assured. This for precisely the reason you indicate: evolution is not forward-looking. The "design" suggested by your characterization is indeed only "apparent."

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Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,07:15   

Missing,

Let me relate an example that shows that this principle (of preferred conceptual simplicity) is relevant even in modern humans.

Someone (can't remember who -- I'll try to find out tomorrow) performed a wonderful experiment recently.

Volunteers were taken individually into a room and given n-digit numbers to memorize, with n varying from person to person. †They were then instructed to walk from the room down a hallway and into another room where they were to recite their number to the best of their ability. †As each subject walked down the hallway, a staff member would "coincidentally" walk by with a tray full of treats, offering the subject a choice between a cup of fresh fruit and a piece of rich, frosting-laden cake as a reward for participating in the experiment. †What they discovered was that the subjects who were trying to remember the most digits were most likely to succumb to temptation and pick the unhealthy cake, while those who memorized smaller numbers had the wherewithal to make the healthy fruit choice. †The researchers hypothesized that by loading the brain down with digits, they were "using up" some of the same neural circuits that would otherwise be available for rational decision-making. †Thus encumbered, subjects were less able to reason themselves out of the primal urge for cake.

If a few digits can affect decision making so drastically, I think you can see why a preference for unnecessarily complicated concepts like grue/bleen would be maladaptive.

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And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,07:40   

This comment to Barry's thread on compatibilism disappeared for some reason, so I'm reposting it here and at UD:
Quote
11

ribczynski

12/20/2008

8:28 am

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I posted this a few hours ago, but the comment did not go through for some reason.

Barry,

Your opening post indicates that you find compatibilism self-contradictory, tantamount to claiming that your existence is compatible with your non-existence. That's a common reaction, but in my opinion it is mistaken.

In past discussions I've had on the topic, people have expressed their objections to compatibilism like this, more or less: "If the universe is deterministic, then I'm not really deciding anything. †It's all predetermined, and I'm just along for the ride."

Implicit in that view is the proto-dualist intuition that we -- our core selves, including our wills -- are separate from our bodies. †If that were true, then we truly would be "just along for the ride" in a deterministic universe. †Our bodies would act out their predetermined dance, and our separate selves -- our souls -- would be unable to control them in any way.

Now look at the problem from the materialist perspective, and you'll see that the problem disappears. †In a materialist world, you are no longer a "passenger" in your body, merely along for the ride. †You <i>are</i> your body (including your brain, of course). †When your brain makes a decision and executes it via the body, it is <i>you</i> making the decision and performing the action.

Keeping that in mind, look what happens when you make a decision under a materialistic, deterministic scenario:

1. You gather information according to your habits and inclinations.

2. You evaluate the information using your own intellect, taking into account your own experiences, your own learning, and your own memories.

3. You mull over alternatives, weighing them against each other, predicting future possible outcomes, and gauging your emotional reactions to them.

4. You make a decision based on your own personality and temperament, choosing the outcome that you prefer.

5. You act accordingly.

To me, that sounds like the perfect description of a free choice. †At every stage you do exactly what you want to do, based on your own personality, temperament, intellect, emotions, memories and learning. †You can even decide, on a lark, to flip a coin instead of deliberating, if that's what you want to do. †The outcome utterly depends on you, as a person, and could have been vastly different if someone else had been in your place.

In what significant way does this fall short of "free will"?


--------------
And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Quack



Posts: 1802
Joined: May 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,07:43   

Quote
The level of discourse at UD is distressingly juvenile (that's also often true of the discourse here, but at least you guys do it intentionally)

I donít find it ďdistressingly juvenileĒ here. I find it rather refreshingly juvenile. Revealing the position of people who can afford to express their sense of humour and confidence in what they are doing because they know what they are doing. A relieving attitude in such stark contrast to the deadpan, humourless but involuntarily comical faÁade of the largely faith-based expressions of ID-ism.

(Isn't man actually an immature ape, still able to monkey around?)

Lack of humour is a sign of stupidity. †

WRT †the subject of grue/bleen I better not express any opinion.

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The first principle is that you must not fool yourself ‚ÄĒ and you are the easiest person to fool.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†         Richard Feynman

  
Nerull



Posts: 317
Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,07:45   

Quote (Missing Shade of Blue @ Dec. 20 2008,06:29)
Nerull,

I wasn't denying that there are species with different color perception than humans. What I was saying is that the continued success of specifically hominid trichromatic color vision millions of years after it emerged can't be explained away by an anthropic argument. We didn't start out with a vast number of different hominid species with different inductive biases which were gradually pruned away until we (and chimps, gorillas and orangutans) were the only ones left. What happened was that hominid color biases were fixed millions of years ago, and then they continued to be successful. What I am asking is how evolution knew which biases to pick (out of the infinite number of choices) all those years ago.

Also, the question about the designer. I want to assure you that I'm not coming into this with any intent to vindicate ID. While I probably have less of a distaste for ID-type hypotheses than a lot of the posters here, I still see it as a position of last resort. Even if it turns out that this particular case of apparent design cannot be explained evolutionarily, I would look for other non-teleological explanations before turning to some kind of design hypothesis.

And how did you know to draw the queen of spades from that deck?

And who says our color vision is fixed?

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To rebut creationism you pretty much have to be a biologist, chemist, geologist, philosopher, lawyer and historian all rolled into one. While to advocate creationism, you just have to be an idiot. -- tommorris

   
k.e..



Posts: 3060
Joined: May 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,08:17   

Quote (Quack @ Dec. 20 2008,15:43)
Quote
The level of discourse at UD is distressingly juvenile (that's also often true of the discourse here, but at least you guys do it intentionally)

I donít find it ďdistressingly juvenileĒ here. I find it rather refreshingly juvenile. Revealing the position of people who can afford to express their sense of humour and confidence in what they are doing because they know what they are doing. A relieving attitude in such stark contrast to the deadpan, humourless but involuntarily comical faÁade of the largely faith-based expressions of ID-ism.

(Isn't man actually an immature ape, still able to monkey around?)

Lack of humour is a sign of stupidity. †

WRT †the subject of grue/bleen I better not express any opinion.

Arden loves u (but buy some cheap protection) †and Louis is still a Homo .....I'm glad u shorten-ed -ed that for me.

Juveen nile indeed.

DS is a technicolour dreamcoat 'n so is this new guy.

!?'Ras ...hmmm well say no more, he's not jewvnyle BTW.

I'm on my way out for a few weeks somehere in Afrika.

Bye for now or very soon.

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"I get a strong breeze from my monitor every time k.e. puts on his clown DaveTard suit" dogdidit
"Abbie Smith (ERV) who's got to be the most obnoxious arrogant snot I've ever seen except for when I look in a mirror" DAVE TARD
"ID is deader than Lenny Flanks granmaws dildo batteries" Erasmus

  
J-Dog



Posts: 4369
Joined: Dec. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,09:03   

Quote (keiths @ Dec. 19 2008,19:08)
Barry, paraphrased:
†  
Quote
The difference between computers and humans is that when I'm using a search engine, if I type in "Uncommon Descen", leaving off the 't', the computer has no idea what I'm talking about, whereas a human knows, "Oh, you meant 'Uncommon Descent'."

Guess what happens when you enter "Uncommon Descen" into Google?

I use Googel - and get prompted: †"Did you mean Uncommonly Dense?"*



added in edit: *I totally made this up for a cheap laugh. Based on futher reading of the serious discussion up-thread, however, I thought I should make sure everyone realized this, so it wouldn't degenerate into another "blue-green, it looks designed so it is" thread.

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Come on Tough Guy, do the little dance of ID impotence you do so well. - Louis to Joe G 2/10

Gullibility is not a virtue - Quidam on Dembski's belief in the Bible Code Faith Healers & ID 7/08

UD is an Unnatural Douchemagnet. - richardthughes 7/11

  
Zachriel



Posts: 2612
Joined: Sep. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2008,09:16   

Moved to Missing Shade of Blue Thread

--------------
Not joey

   
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