Evolution, Myths and Reconciliation: Part 2

Bookmark and Share

May 11, 2011 Tags: Science & Worldviews

Today's entry was written by Robert C. Bishop. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Evolution, Myths and Reconciliation: Part 2

In Part 1, I used Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True to clarify Christian misunderstandings regarding evolution. What about Coyne’s treatment of religion? This only comes up peripherally in the book. In a number of places he points out what he takes to be contrasts between evolutionary theory and the Intelligent Design thesis. For instance, we’ve discovered that extinct species represent over 99 percent of all species that have ever lived. Coyne thinks that this “poses an enormous problem for theories of intelligent design...It doesn’t seem so intelligent to design millions of species that are destined to go extinct, and then replace them with other, similar species, most of which will also vanish” (p. 13). Further examples would be cases of “imperfect design” such as kiwis’ useless wings, whales’ vestigial pelvis, mammals’ recurrent laryngeal nerve and the human male’s urethra (pp. 81-85). Even though it’s controversial to identify the intelligent agency of ID with God—ID advocates regularly deny that the designer they are seeking is God—Coyne clearly relishes this identification and intends for his remarks to reflect badly on God as the designer of nature.

Two brief comments: First, although Coyne doesn’t own up to it, all of his comments about a designer are theological rather than scientific. After all comments about what a good or bad designing god would do are statements about the character, wisdom and plans of such a god. Such comments don’t tell us anything about the existence of such a designer. If anything, they only tell us about how Coyne appraises the work of such a designing god.

Second, Coyne’s recurring fascination with designers and “bad design” illustrates how easily the metaphor of God as a designer distorts our thinking about God and His relationship to creation. The image of God as an engineer or designer is a creation of 18th century deism not a biblical image. Theologians and historians have discussed how disastrous the design metaphor has been for biblical Christianity.1

A more serious slide from science to theology occurs in Coyne’s discussion of human evolution. There he writes “Encouraged by the religious belief that humans were the special object of creation...we resist the evolutionary lesson that, like other animals, we are contingent products of the blind and mindless process of natural selection” (p. 192). Later, he claims “Darwinism tells us that, like all species, human beings arose from the working of blind, purposeless forces over eons of time” (p. 224). There are at least two problems with this line of argument. First, given what Coyne said earlier about evolution’s agnosticism regarding sources of variations in organisms (see Part 1), it’s rather striking that he so clearly rules God out as a possible source. What biologists mean by random variations is that the underlying causes are left open by the theory because mechanisms like natural selection can work with any variations handed to them, whether those variations are due to God’s activity through natural laws (e.g. genetic copying, cosmic rays) or God’s supernatural activity.. Consider the analogy with dice in Part 1 again. That the dice landed snake eyes on a particular throw is fully consistent with there being an underlying law governing the dice or that God somehow determined the particular outcome of the throw (the latter idea lies behind the Old Testament practice of casting lots). Similarly that some organisms in a particular population received a particular genetic variation that increases their likelihood of surviving and reproducing is fully consistent with there being an underlying law governing genetics or that God somehow determined the particular variation.

The second problem is that Coyne–along with many Christians–treats evolutionary explanations as competing with or replacing God’s activity in creation. However, that is a theological interpretation of evolutionary theory, an interpretation that presumes God can’t or wouldn’t be involved in evolution. That Coyne has added a theological interpretation that rules God out of the picture can be seen by comparing his claims with contrasting claims from philosopher of biology Elliott Sober and theologian Colin Gunton:

“Evolutionary theory is a scientific theory, not a philosophy. It says nothing about God, or materialism, or ethics, or free will, or life after death.”2

“The [threat of evolution] is if it can somehow demonstrate that the sole reason for the emergence of the human is impersonal evolution. It is clear that this cannot be done on merely scientific grounds. How could it be demonstrated that something happens only by virtue of natural forces rather than by those as directed by God’s providential guidance? It is clear that matters of world-view are also at work in the making of a decision about which interpretation is the more reasonable.”3

Clearly Coyne chooses an atheistic over a theistic interpretation. Readers need to realize that he is drawing on significant non-scientific assumptions in this choice and that nowhere in Why Evolution Is True does Coyne even pretend to off a defense of these extra-scientific assumptions.

This point leads us finally to the relationship between faith and science. Although in his book Coyne doesn’t address his view that this relationship is one of conflict, he has made his case for this conflict in other publications.4 He thinks the two necessarily conflict because “a true harmony between science and religion requires either doing away with most people’s religion and replacing it with a watered-down deism, or polluting science with unnecessary, untestable, and unreasonable spiritual claims” (“Seeing Is Believing,” p. 39). I have to confess I’m very sympathetic to the argument suggested here because it is a special case of the problem of integration. When speaking of integrating two fields of knowledge a specific problem repeatedly crops up: On what basis are we to achieve integration? The problem of integration is that we apparently must choose one of the two fields of knowledge as the basis on which to integrate the other. That looks more like conquest than reconciliation (think the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation).

In the case of science and religion, the problem of integration looks to be as serious as Coyne claims. Do we choose science as the basis of integration, in which event there can be nothing in religion other than what is empirically testable or explainable purely in scientific terms? This is not only a problem for Christians; it’s a problem for science as well because it’s an expression of scientism, the philosophical belief that science has the only ways of knowing that count. That looks to be a clear nonstarter as we have no scientifically acceptable means of establishing the truth of scientism (and simply assuming its truth as so many atheists do isn’t rationally compelling). Or do we choose religion as the basis of integration, in which event there are lots worries about how science is supposed to fit in with the supernatural (whatever that category is supposed to mean), along with possibly having to allow empirically inaccessible elements into its scientific ontology and methodologies. On top of all that, we can throw in the question of which religion is supposed to form the basis for integration?

In the final part, I’ll address this problem of integration by offering an alternative approach to reconciliation.

Notes

1. For example, see Colin Gunton’s The Triune Creation: A Historical and Systematic Study, Eerdmans (1998), and Jim Turner’s Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America, Johns Hopkins University Press (1986).
2. Elliot Sober, “Darwin and ID,” presented at Wheaton College, 26 March 2009.
3. Gunton, The Triune Creator, p. 187.
4. For instance, “Seeing and Believing,” The New Republic, February 2, 2009, pp. 32-41.


Robert C. Bishop is the John and Madeline McIntyre Endowed Professor of Philosophy and History of Science and an associate professor of physics and philosophy at Wheaton College in Illinois. He received his master’s degree in physics and doctorate in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin. Bishop's research involves history and philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. Bishop is the author of The Philosophy of the Social Science and co-editor of Between Chance and Choice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Determinism.

< Previous post in series Next post in series >


Share your thoughts

Have a comment or question for the author? We'd love to hear from you.

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Loading...
Page 2 of 2   « 1 2
Roger A. Sawtelle - #61797

May 30th 2011

If E. coli are placed in a petri dish with more food on one side than
the other, they will go toward the food. Isn’t that a rational process
arising from mere natural forces?

Good question.  What is a natural force?  Most people think that natural forces are gravity, light, electricity, and the strong force.  Hunger which is a life force so to speak is not considered a natural force, in part because it is mental in that it originates in the nervous system of a life form. 

A calculator adds numbers through merely physical processes. Why is
it impossible for brains to be like big calculators? Calculators are
human inventions, but if calculators could reproduce themselves, and
computational ability were heritable and advantageous, then wouldn’t
unguided natural selection would make bigger calculators?

Computers are a bad comparison, because computers are not natural, but humanly designed.  Humans might use electricity to run compurters, but it is the programs, which are not natural forces which allow the computer to “think,” and human minds which provide the information which is the basis for this thought.

Computers can think at a certain level because they are designed by humans to do so.  Now if you want to say that Nature designed people to think, you can do so but then you have “begged the question” of Who designed Nature.  

If you
believe that God’s existence is necessary to explain the world,
then you must show that the godless scenario above is impossible.

I would not say that a Godless scenario is impossible, but it does not seem very probable, to say the least.  In fact even Dawkins agrees the probability that the universe is formed by random chance is practically zero, so he provides a semi-guided explanation, in other words he begs the question.
 
One scientist put the probability of existence of our universe as 1 in 10 to the 500 BILLIONETH power.  Even if he were a little off in his calculations, that makes the possibility of a Godless senario extremely small, but it you want to believe that it is true, be my guest.

God did not create just huamity, God created the universe and all that is a part of it.  Are there some problems where humans interface with nature, so to speak?  Yes, because we are all physical beings, which by nature are imperfect.  To have a perfect world so to speak we would have to be immaterial beings who do not suffer and die, but then we would not be human. We can discuss that if you want.


<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61798

May 30th 2011

For the record the response to Glock’s comments is found in #61797. 


glocke01 - #61803

May 30th 2011

Roger A. Sawtelle wrote:
Hunger which is a life force so to speak
is not considered a natural
force, in part because it is mental in that it originates in the nervous
system of a life form. 


Of course, bacteria don’t have a
nervous system.  The particular behavior I mentioned is well studied in
E. coli http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemotaxis#Bacterial_chemotaxis
The scientific explanation, invoking mere natural forces, is
convincing. 

E. coli have a sort of chemical integrator that
allows them to sense when the food is getting more or less abundant. 
The only information the E. coli uses is the food gradient: is the food
getting more or less abundant?  If the former, then don’t change
direction, keep going; if the latter, change direction.  (In other
words, the bacteria don’t measure food concentration per se,
what they measure is change in concentration.)  The way this works is
that the integrator, a system of proteins on the bacteria’s surface that
detects changes in abundance, sends a chemical signal that biases the
machinery responsible for changing direction - it encourages rotation
when the food gets less abundant and vice versa.  That’s basically all
there is to it.  (If you’re interested, I can go into further detail. 
The wiki page
isn’t as clear as it could be, but the facts are basically there.) 

The
point is that bacteria “make a decision” using purely chemical means. 
They do something rational, going to where there’s more food, because of
mechanistic processes.  Isn’t that a rational process arising from mere
natural forces? 

Computers are a bad comparison, because
computers are not natural, but
humanly designed.  Humans might use electricity to run computers, but
it is the programs, which are not natural forces which allow the
computer to “think,” and human minds which provide the information which
is the basis for this thought.


My point wasn’t about where
the computers came from in the first place, but how a complex computer
could arise from a simple one without a guiding hand.  Replace computer
with E. coli and the argument still works.

I would not say
that a Godless scenario is impossible, but it does not
seem very probable, to say the least.  In fact even Dawkins agrees the
probability that the universe is formed by random chance is practically
zero, so he provides a semi-guided explanation, in other words he begs
the question.


I thought we were discussing whether the
universe as it exists could produce intelligence without active guidance
from God/designer.  If you don’t agree that this is possible, then we
ought to stick with that question before asking how the universe came to
be.  If you do agree, then you’re saying that nonthinking matter can
produce thinking matter so long as a watchmaker set the forces up with
that in mind.  It seems to me that the latter position is inconsistent
with your original statement, “Thinking is not a physical property”.

Basically, my argument starts with bacteria and
from there I argue that it’s not such a stretch to imagine computational
power being advantageous, heritable, and accessible by mutation.  From
these premises, I conclude that naturalistic evolution can produce
intelligence from bacteria.  If your only recourse is to ask where did
the first bacteria come from, or where did the universe come from, then
you’re either giving up the premise that nonthinking matter, bacteria,
can produce thinking matter, people, or you’re arguing that bacterial
“thought” is not a physical property, which doesn’t jive with what we
know about processes like chemotaxis.  You are free to dispute my
premises of advantage, heritability, and accessibility, or you may argue
that intelligence requires more than high computational power, but
you’ve yet to do so.

- George Locke


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61807

May 30th 2011


Basically, my argument starts with bacteria and
from there I argue that it’s not such a stretch to imagine computational
power being advantageous, heritable, and accessible by mutation.

Goerge Locke

Where does the computational power come from?  In computers it comes from design.  Why is there any reason for that not to be the same in nature?

The alternative is random chance by which I am correct.


glocke01 - #61813

May 30th 2011

I’m still not quite sure if you’re disputing common descent, but my argument is premised on it.

Either bacteria “think” or they don’t.  If they do, how can you say that thought is not a physical property, since processes like chemotaxis are nothing more than a chain of chemical reactions to produce a “rational” result.  Where’s the ghost in the machine?

If they don’t think, and we’re descended from bacteria (or share a common ancestor that didn’t think), then how can you argue that thinking matter can’t arise from non-thinking matter.  Keep in mind my previous arguments for how bigger computers can arise from little ones.

Where does the computational power come from? 

Let’s do one thing at at time.  I don’t want to move on to the question of ultimate origins until we resolve our disagreement about whether thought is a physical property or not.  Either bacteria think or they don’t.  Which is it?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61824

May 30th 2011

Glocke01 wrote:

Either bacteria “think” or they don’t. If they do, how can you say that thought is not a physical property, since processes like chemotaxis are nothing more than a chain of chemical reactions to produce a “rational” result. Where’s the ghost in the machine?

By the definition that I use, bacteria think.  But then so do plants whose roots seek out water and nutrients and leaves seek out light.  This is the key, living things interact with the environment, while non-living things do not.

The point is that plants and animals are not machines.  They are life forms.  The “ghost” is the use of codes or language to communicate signals to tell the body what to do.  This whatt the brain does, how nerves communicate, how glands work. and apparently how DNA works.    

God has given life the ability to respond to many kinds of complex problems and develop sophisicated and elegant solutions to them.  Certainly human thought is the ultimate solution to the challenges of nature, but there are many other wonderful and sophisticated solutions.  

Why some people think that these solutions could be obtained by random chance is beyond me, although when they began to go down this path nature appeared to be much less complex that it does today.         


glocke01 - #61828

May 31st 2011

By the definition that I use, bacteria think.  But then so do plants
whose roots seek out water and nutrients and leaves seek out light. 
This is the key, living things interact with the environment, while
non-living things do not.

I like your definition of living things, that they interact with their environment, and I thank you for graciously answering my question.  I start having trouble following you when you say that living things aren’t machines.  When does the not-machine happen?  In executing the design?  In making the design? 

Either way, I don’t buy it.  These codes you mention all operate mechanistically, and evolution by natural selection is sufficient to explain them without a guiding hand.

Why some people think that these solutions could be obtained by random
chance is beyond me
...

I’m guessing you’ve heard the argument that evolution by natural selection is the opposite of “random chance”, so I won’t bore you repeating it.

We agree that living things are marvelous, but I don’t weigh that evidence the way you do.  If there were a designer willing and able to create us, then our existence would hardly be unlikely, it would be assured, but is there really such a creator?  To me, it seems less likely that a designer exists than that the first living thing should emerge from the primordial soup.  From there, it’s barely a stretch to imagine that a bacterium could evolve into a human. 

On the one hand is the possibility that a creator exists, and on the other you’ve got abiogenesis plus naturalistic evolution.  A designer would have to somehow be aware of the design, so however intricate the design, the designer has to be more intricate.  The mechanistic hypothesis doesn’t require any new existents or processes, just one rare coincidence over the course of a few billion years.  The designer hypothesis requires a designer with means and motive to manipulate the world.  That’s enough to convince me the designer is the less likely.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61836

May 31st 2011


The designer hypothesis requires a designer with means and motive to manipulate the world. That’s enough to convince me the designer is the less likely.

My friend, human beings have the means and the motive to manipulate the world, so that is certainly not out of the question.  Unfortunately along with the positive steps we have made we have polluted the air, land, and water and made it easier to kill each other, but that is another story, although it should be noted that in the Bible God have humanity the power to do this.

The question ultimately of course is not only where did we come from but where did the universe come from?  Was there a Beginning or not?  There was a time when science thought there was no Beginning of time and space, but the Big Bang discovery and the fact that the universe is expanding proves otherwise.  

If there was a Beginning, you are right the universe must have haqd an origin in Something or Someone greater than it.  That Being is usually defined as God, because only God is defined as Eternal.  

As you may know there are some people who say that our universe may be the product of a multiverse whereby the Creator God set up an almost infinite set of universes in order to create at least one where intelligent life will live.  While that is an interesting theory, which cannot be proven and had little significance, it certainly violates Ockham’s Razor as you say.

You and others speak of natural selection as if it were a clear, well defined biological process, which it is not.  If it were, it would be part of the design of the universe put into plce by the Designer.  However, instead natural selection is used as deus ex machina to “solve” all the problems of evolution without explaining how evolution works.

On the other had if you really want to know how evolution really works I suggest you read my book, DARWIN’S MYTH: Malthus, Ecology, and the Meaning of Life.        
<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—><!—END comment-61828—><!—END comment-children—><!—END comment-61824—>


glocke01 - #61844

May 31st 2011

I fear we’re digressing.  The question I’m trying to focus on is whether thought is a physical property or not.  I understand your position as follows: the nonphysical aspect of bacterial thought is in the design of the mechanisms that permit bacteria to respond to their environment (correct me if I’m wrong).  You seem to have conceded that the processes which actually constitute the “thinking” are merely physical at least in bacteria, so that the only non-physical property is the design.  (You’ve hinted that you believe the designer has been actively guiding evolution through the ages, and you haven’t disputed common descent, but I can’t quite tell where you fall on these issues.)

So, I will restrict my comments regarding questions of origins to their bearing on the question of whether the designs of thinking organisms constitute non-physical properties.  This means I will not discuss the question of cosmic origins.  If you can demonstrate its relevance I will pony up.

My friend, human beings have the means and the motive to manipulate the world, so that is certainly not out of the question.

If I want to convince you there’s a teapot orbiting the sun, it hardly suffices for me to say, “But look, there are teapots on earth, so supposing there’s one orbiting the sun is no big deal.”  Yes, humans are designers with means and motives to design teapots among other things, but that’s no reason to think that a designer with means and motive to create the first living thing is anything but a fiction.  I’ll just note in passing that the question of means is by no means trivial; it involves entirely new physics.

Everything we know about designers indicates that they must be more complicated than the things they design.  If the problem you’re trying to solve is the existence of something complex, it simply doesn’t work to suggest that there must be a designer.  You’ve only replaced a complexity problem with a bigger complexity problem.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61848

May 31st 2011

Glocke wrote:

Everything we know about designers indicates that they must be more complicated than the things they design. If the problem you’re trying to solve is the existence of something complex, it simply doesn’t work to suggest that there must be a designer. You’ve only replaced a complexity problem with a bigger complexity problem.

The question for me is whether the universe is rationally ordered or not.  What I seem to hear from your side is that yes and no.  Physics and the natural sciences are premised on a rationally ordered universe, but evolution, the life, and social sciences are not.  Thus nature is governed by natural laws, but humanity is not governed a corresponding moral laws.

Logically and scientifically this does not make sense.  If humans are a part of nature, which is the whole premise of evolution, then our behavior should be governed by rules, just as a planet is, similar but different.  

The comment about humans being redesigning the earth just is an observation that when going from what we know to what we don’t understand, it makes sense that since humans have the power to redesign physical reality, we are following in the footsteps of God Who created the universe, rather than acting like rocks who cannot think, or cats who are limited in their ability to think.  

Creation and design are a part of the human world.  They are not imposed in an irrational manner upon the universe, but in their best organic and ecological form work with nature instead of against it.  

Now Darwinian evolution claims that nature is irrational, it is mindless without purpose.  Even when it has been pointed out that our universe has been constructed in such a way that intelligent life is possible (Antropic Theory) and this cannot be based on chance, people hold to the belief that it is based on chance.  

If you think that evolution is based on one random event in nature that gave life the ability to act interdependently fine.  I think that rationality and order are built into the universe, and logically they can only come from a rational Creator God.

Things are subject to physical forces.  Life forms are organic and are self motivated to seek nourishment.  Humans need mental and spiritual nourishment as well as physical. 

The universe has a beginning.  We understand that all events have causes.  We can say that the the earth has a beginning, but we have no idea what caused it or the cause of its beginning is beyond our ability to understand, so we will just ignore that fact and pretend that the universe had no cause.

Or we can go from what we know and understand to that which we do not.  We know that the universe was rational form even though we do not completely understand it.  We know that it appears to be designed, even though we can’t completely explain it.  From this we can make the rational conclusion that the universe was designed by a rational Designer Which humans call God.   

If you believe that science proves that the universe is not rationally structured or can prove that this rational structure comes from some One else than God, feel free to show me the evidence.          
<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>


glocke01 - #61855

May 31st 2011

You don’t seem interested in the original issue of whether thought is purely material, and I’m willing to drop it.

Moving on.

The question for me is whether the universe is rationally ordered or
not.  What I seem to hear from your side is that yes and no.  Physics
and the natural sciences are premised on a rationally ordered universe,
but evolution, the life, and social sciences are not.  Thus nature is
governed by natural laws, but humanity is not governed a corresponding
moral laws.


I don’t really know what you mean by “rationally ordered”.  Does it mean that a rational being put order to things?  If so, science does not presume rational ordering, just apprehensible ordering.  In order to conduct science, one must assume that there are regularities in the world and that observation allows us to learn them.  One doesn’t have to assume anything about where the regularities come from.  Physics, chemistry, biology, economics, and psychology all share these assumptions.

In short, I don’t follow you.  What exactly is the difference between evolutionary theory and physics that makes the former bogus?

As to the cosmological fine tuning argument, the response by “bitbutter” here ( http://www.asktheatheists.com/questions/650-what-is-your-counter-argument-for-the-teleological-argument/ ) debunks it utterly.  The gist of bitbutter’s remarks is that the argument makes many baseless assumptions, such as the assumption that universes with other natural laws are possible.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61869

May 31st 2011

Glocke,

How can thought be purely physical?  You are reading a sentence composed of letters, spaces, grammar, and punctuation.  Which of them are physical?  The message, the idea, the thought comes from the order found in the sentence.  Ideas and thought are not material. 

If something is not rationally ordered, that is understandible by rational persons, it is not aprehensible.  Regularies come from order.  It is the opposite of random chance. 

I am not saying that science must presume that rational order comes from a Designer, but it does believe that it does not come from the abilities of the universe to think.  Thus it is fair to ask the question which is philosophical or theological as to from where order comes from if not from nature itself?  

As Karl Popper pointed out a few years ago, Darwinian natural selection is a tautology.  Survival is because of “fitness,” and “fitness” is evidenced by survival.  Show me the formula for natural selection that can be tested like E = mc2.

The gist of bitbutter’s remarks is that the argument makes many baseless assumptions, such as the assumption that universes with other natural laws are possible.

First of all the Antropic Principle is not an argument for God, but a scientific principle that says that our universe is structured in such a way that human life is possible.  I see no evidence that it claims that other universes arfe possible.  That is the multiverse concept, which grew out of Antropic to explain how our universe could exist based on almost infinite alternative universes.

If there is only one universe with one set of natural laws, then Whoever formulated these laws had only one chance to get it right.  Now there might be some way that intelligent life may exist in other situations, but we know that life is very sensitive and seemingly small changes can have major consequences.

Study for yourself.  You do not have to take my word for it or some blogger’s.  I think that you will find that Antropic Principle is sound, which does not mean that it proves the existence of God, but to me it gives something to think about.  

If the universe is aprehensible or rationally ordered, then how can evolution be mindless or irrationally ordered?  If natural selection rationally ordered, what is the form of that order that can be tested and proven or disproven?  Then we go to the original question, which is from where does natural laws and natural order come from if not from God?  

   
<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>


glocke01 - #61912

June 1st 2011

How can thought be purely physical?  You are reading a sentence
composed of letters, spaces, grammar, and punctuation.  Which of them
are physical?  The message, the idea, the thought comes from the order
found in the sentence.  Ideas and thought are not material.

You’re
basically saying that abstractions are non-physical.  My reply is that
abstractions do not exist independently of us.  They only exist when we
conjure them in our minds, and a mind is nothing but the product of a
brain. 

If something is not rationally ordered, that is understandible by rational persons, it is not aprehensible.  Regularies
come from order.  It is the opposite of random chance.


Have you had any exposure to probability and statistics? 
Stochastic processes are both orderly and random.  With study, one can
identify their regularities and quantify their randomness.  Stochastic
models can be used to make exceedingly precise predictions.  The
science of chemistry is ultimately based on them.  You can’t really believe that stochastic processes are incomprehensible, can you?

I
am not saying that science must presume that rational order comes from
a Designer, but it does believe that it does not come from the
abilities of the universe to think.  Thus it is fair to ask the
question which is philosophical or theological as to from where order
comes from if not from nature itself?


I can’t quite parse
this.  Science doesn’t presume that the universe can think.  I agree
that it’s a fair question to ask where the order comes from.  Since
science doesn’t make any assumptions in that regard it, like
philosophy, is also equipped to answer it.

As Karl Popper pointed out a few years ago, Darwinian natural selection is a tautology.

That’s
not really what he said.  The quote is, “Darwinism is not a testable
scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programmemetaphysical
research programme.”  (If you learn a bit of Popper’s philosophy, you
will see that he believed metaphysical research programmes are
essential elements of science.)  He later changed his mind and said
that evolution is testable.  See talk origins for a thorough
examination of this quote:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part4.html#quote4.17


I’m separating my response into two pieces b/c the forum doesn’t like the length.


glocke01 - #61914

June 1st 2011

Replying to Roger A. Sawtelle - #61869

Survival is because of “fitness,” and “fitness” is evidenced by survival.

Defining fitness is tricky, but not impossible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_(biology)  In any case, it would not be a problem if fitness were equivalent with survival so long as you were careful not to treat them as distinct as in this quote of yours. (Of course, fitness is more precisely a measure of how much an organism propagates its genes, also measurable.)

Evolution by natural selection is a logical consequence of simple premises.  This is makes it a powerful theory, not a tautology.

Show me the formula for natural selection that can be tested like E = mc2.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_genetics

There are many tests of evolutionary theory, but for formulae, population genetics is where it’s at.  There aren’t many formulae on the wiki page, but take a look at any textbook on the subject and you will not be disappointed.  

First of all the Anthropic Principle is not an argument for God, but a scientific principle that says that our universe is structured in such a way that human life is possible.

This is self-evident.  Humans exist, therefore the structure of the universe permits our existence.  It’s just a fact, and it does no work for you.

If there is only one universe with one set of natural laws, then Whoever formulated these laws had only one chance to get it right.

When you start to try and do the work of showing that a human-friendly universe indicates design, you start running in to hidden assumptions, and here you are making the very assumption I mentioned.  The idea of a designer who formulated our natural laws necessarily implies a choice between possible alternatives.  If there are no possible alternatives, then there is nothing for a designer to do.

A second assumption, not so hidden, is your qualifier, “If there is only one universe with one set of natural laws….”  This is a tenuous premise without which there is no reason to infer design.  Note that this is a separate assumption from the one I just mentioned.  If many sets of natural laws are possible, then there might be only one universe or there might be many; here your inference relies on the premise that there is only one, but you have to establish it if you want your inference to be sound.

If the universe is apprehensible or rationally ordered, then how can evolution be mindless or irrationally ordered?

Where’s the mindfulness in Newton’s laws?  I just don’t see what distinguishes evolution from any other natural science in your mind.  Mutation may not be exactly predictable, but neither is the motion of a pollen grain on the surface of a cup of water.  

A pollen grain in a cup of water appears to jiggle around randomly ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownian_motion ).  If you knew the position and velocity of each water molecule, then, in principle, you could predict the pollen grain’s trajectory, but in practice this is impossible and we use statistical methods to describe the possible trajectories.  Mutation is no different: if you knew the state of a cell perfectly, then, in principle, you could use basic chemistry and physics to predict mutations exactly.  This is of course impractical.  Nevertheless, we can measure mutation rates and use them to make predictions (this is the essence of population genetics).

Apparently you don’t think statistical mechanics makes physics “irrationally ordered”, and I don’t see how evolution is materially different.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61919

June 1st 2011

You’re basically saying that abstractions are non-physical. My reply is that abstractions do not exist independently of us. They only exist when we conjure them in our minds, and a mind is nothing but the product of a brain.

Glocke, are you saying that natural laws as well as mathematics do not exist independently of the human human brain?  If so how can natural laws or science govern the universe?


glocke01 - #61921

June 1st 2011

Glocke, are you saying that natural laws as well as mathematics do not
exist independently of the human human brain?  If so how can natural
laws or science govern the universe?


The map is not the territory.  Science describes nature, often with math, but as you said earlier, science is an artifice, a tool to describe the world.  Whatever nature does, it goes about its business regardless of how we describe it. 

Gravity, the attraction between massive bodies, is not an abstraction, and neither is its dependence on distance.  The tools we use to describe this dependence are only that: tools.  To whit, our models of gravity are incomplete.  We have no quantum description of gravity, and the implications of general relativity are far from understood as regards black holes, etc.  Why should an incorrect model of how massive bodies interact exist independently of the modelers?

As for mathematics, it’s a set of specially defined constructs and logical inferences about the relationships of these constructs.  If other species defined the same constructs and used two-valued logic like we do, they would arrive at the same relationships.  None of this is the same as mathematics existing as an ideal out in the ether.

You can call me George if you like. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61922

June 1st 2011

The idea of a designer who formulated our natural laws necessarily implies a choice between possible alternatives. If there are no possible alternatives, then there is nothing for a designer to do.

Glocke, are you saying that natural laws are eternal without origin or design?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61926

June 1st 2011

Thank you, George.  I’m afraid that Glocke reminded me of the automatic pistol used by the Germans in WW2.

I disagree with your epistemology.  Natural laws are real in that they govern the universe as Steven Hawkings claimed.  Our understanding of these natural laws are incomplete, but that is further proof that they exist independent of the human mind.  Gravity is not an attactrion as Newton’s model said, but a bending of space/time, a field according to Einstein’s model.  The standard model posits the existence of the gravitron, which has yet to be verified and quite possibly never be verified.  

Scientific laws are not abstractions, they are models of how nature works or how we think it works.  Because they are relational models, not things composed of matter/energy, but real intellectual constructs, we are able to test them to determine how closely they conform or resemble reality, which itself is relational in form, not a random collection of mollecules and energy.

A map is an excellent example of a model, it is not an abstraction.  You construct a model of an area to scale and you have a map.  If the map does not accurately depict the area, it needs to be reconfigured.

You are right, math is not an idea or ideal out in the ether (which I understand Newton accepted as existent).  Math is a language, a language that successfully models or depicts natural laws and events.  Math is not a thing, not matter/energy, and yet it exists as an intellectual component of reality and nature.       


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61931

June 1st 2011

George wrote:

That’s
not really what he said. The quote is, “Darwinism is not a testable
scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme.” (If you learn a bit of Popper’s philosophy, you
will see that he believed metaphysical research programmes are
essential elements of science.) He later changed his mind and said
that evolution is testable. See talk origins for a thorough
examination of this quote:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part4.html#quote4.17

George, I read the article at talkorigins.  It said that natural selection could in theory be tested, but did not indicate that it has ever been tested.  Why not?  This seems to bear out Popper’s long time concerns. 

His primary contribution to the philosophy of science is that science must be testable, in a way that philosophy and theology are not.  I quite agree.

If Darwinian natural selection has not been tested and determined to be true, how can it be considered scientific knowledge?

I think that he recanted (strange word for a scientist) because he had no alternative scientific answer for how natural selection works other than Malthusian theory.  

Today we have ecological theory which covers the same ground as Darwinism, biological diversity, has been tested, and does so much better than Darwin.  The only problem is that ecological science is based on mutualism, while Darwinian natural selection is based on conflict.  One approach to evolution has got to give way, although variation can remain the same. 

From my point of view Lynn Margulis and her understanding of ecological natural selection is clearly preferable to Dawkins and his Darwinian view, which is still standard.     


nedbrek - #61811

May 30th 2011

Hello glocke, you said in (#61792) (this system does not allow follow-ups after a page break):
“TE = Theistic Evolution, I’m guessing.”

Yes, correct.  I realize I should have said OE (Old Earth), since the problem extends to Intelligent Design advocates who accept an OE.

“You’re not defending your argument, you’re making a new one.  The
original point you made was that for someone to question why the design
is such and such is to put oneself in the position of the designer,
which is a bad thing because, if i understand you, it’s arrogant to
assume you can know the mind of the designer.”

Correct, sorry, I wasn’t very formal there.  I always seek for the heart of a matter, and here it is idolatry (forming a false god in our imagination - even if it is only for the purpose of rejection).

“When was the design better, what changed to ruin the design, and how do
you know?”

Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”

Now, that is not an absolute proof, merely my explanation for how I know it was good (I believe God, and I believe the “good” here really means good - not some weird version of “good/functional”).

Later, in Genesis 3:18 “It [the land] will produce thorns and thistles for you”.  I believe the land did not produce thorns and thistles before this point (they are “not good”).  I believe this is the point were (animal) death was introduced into the world.  This brings along all the carrion eaters, and bacteria for the processing of dead animal matter.


glocke01 - #61814

May 30th 2011

I always seek for the heart of a matter, and here it is idolatry
(forming a false god in our imagination - even if it is only for the
purpose of rejection).


It seems to me that the heart of the matter is that idolatrous arguments are not necessarily wrong.

Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”

I guess I should’ve asked “why should I believe you” rather than “how do you know”. 

Okay, so you believe the design was better and got worse because it’s written in your favorite book.  You say it’s God’s book?  Why should I believe that?


nedbrek - #61833

May 31st 2011

Ah, ok.  The only way to come to know God is on His terms.  The Bible says that the natural mind is the enemy of God - you can’t be argued into it.  You’ll always come up with some excuse to not believe.

The path is via the conscience - the understanding of right and wrong.  You must see your heart condition as it is.  This is amplified by examination of God’s Law, which is best summed up in the ten commandments.  Have you lied?  Have you stolen anything (for example, not working hard for 8 hours, but getting paid is “stealing” from your boss - also, greed or desiring what does not belong to you)?  You haven’t killed anyone, but Jesus said if you are angry without cause, or hate anyone - it shows you are a murderer at heart.  If you look with lust, you are an adulterer at heart.

These things reveal our disconnected state from God (sin).  They demand justice.

Does that make sense?


glocke01 - #61840

May 31st 2011

I believe I understand you, but your proposal makes no sense.  I should believe in the factual claims of the Bible because its self-help advice is good?  I happen to prefer the self-help advice of Buddhism. (Ever read the Dhammapada? It’s pretty good.)  Should I therefore believe in reincarnation or that suffering is the essence of life?

I try to believe only what I can justify, and the justifications for identifying the source of the Bible with an all-powerful spirit are no good.  When you say (when the Bible says) a person can’t be “argued into” your position, I understand you to mean that your position makes no sense and can only be arrived at by refusing to evaluate the truth of it in any meaningful way.


nedbrek - #61866

May 31st 2011

“I should believe in the factual claims of the Bible because its self-help advice is good?”

Not at all, our conscience tells us that the world is wrong.  That everything and everyone is broken.  That God is right to judge us.

“I understand you to mean that your position makes no sense and can only
be arrived at by refusing to evaluate the truth of it in any meaningful
way.”

Ah, that is not what I meant.  I meant only that it will not make sense from your point of view.  If you adopt a biblical view, then everything can make sense.


glocke01 - #61915

June 1st 2011

Not at all, our conscience tells us that the world is wrong.  That
everything and everyone is broken.  That God is right to judge us.

My conscience doesn’t tell me any of that.  What it does say is that there’s a moral imperative to consider why I believe the things I believe, because I use those beliefs to make decisions that affect other people.  Because my beliefs affect other people, I want to be as sure as I can be that what I believe is true.  Now, I’m sure you’ve put a lot consideration into the basis of your faith, and I don’t have any reason to believe you’re immoral. 

However, your justifications for belief make no sense.  Not only do they make no sense, but you seem to know it on some level and feel that this is not a problem, as when you say that I can’t be argued into your position.  What that literally means, whether you like it or not, is that there’s
nothing you can say that will persuade me that your position is
coherent or justified by the facts.  In short, there’s no reason for me to believe you. 

If you can’t persuade an impartial observer, then I can only wonder how you ever came to your beliefs in the first place and why you don’t abandon them in favor of a better justified position.  (I’m as impartial as the next guy, that is, not particularly impartial.  But you seem to think that an impartial observer can’t be convinced even in principle.)

I meant only that it will not make sense from your point of view.  If
you adopt a biblical view, then everything can make sense.


But what’s wrong with my point of view?  Why would anyone adopt a Biblical view?  There’s just no reason for it, and plenty of reason to think it’s all bunk. 


nedbrek - #61949

June 2nd 2011

It really comes down to purpose (teleology) and epistemology.  The atheistic view is empty on both counts - you have no (long-term) purpose, and you can never know anything.

In the biblical worldview, all purpose revolves around God.  That is why is it closed to man’s (self-centered) reasoning.  If you can find God through your own power (or through my powers of logic to persuade you), then we get the credit - not God.

It is said: the door to heaven is wide enough for all, but so short, the only way in is on your knees.


glocke01 - #61977

June 2nd 2011

Thanks for taking the time, but if this is all you got, then we may as well call it quits.

Cheers,
George


nedbrek - #61996

June 2nd 2011

I must admit, that is the most unusual response I have ever heard!

I’ve just claimed you can know nothing and have no purpose… now either that claim is true or false, if false, you should be able to point me to some defense for your epistemology and teleology…


glocke01 - #61933

June 1st 2011

Responding to Roger A. Sawtelle - #61922 and 61926

Glocke, are you saying that natural laws are eternal without origin or
design?


I am not aware of a time when our natural laws were any different, but I don’t know any reason they should be “eternal”, at least for many of them.  Noether’s theorem proves that conservation laws (energy, momentum) follow from basic symmetries like time reversal, coordinate reflection, and translation, so those are the exceptions that I think are probably “eternal”. 

Natural laws are real in that they govern the universe as Steven
Hawkings claimed.  ...and quite possibly never be verified. 

We agree so far.

Scientific laws are not abstractions, they are models of how nature
works or how we think it works. 

To me a model is an abstraction.  It’s a mental picture or tool.  An idea or system of ideas.  Whatever you call it, I’m saying a model’s existence is contingent on the beings who create and use it.  Take those beings away and the model no longer exists.  I don’t see how the testability of a model has anything to do with the the question at hand.

A map is an excellent example of a model, it is not an abstraction.  You
construct a model of an area to scale and you have a map.  If the map
does not accurately depict the area, it needs to be reconfigured.


A map is a physical object as well as a model, and I’m tempted to spout irrelevant arguments, like “if I burn the map it stops existing”. 

Perhaps more germane is the neuroscience of how our brains store location-information, i.e. mental maps.  I’m afraid I haven’t got a better reference than this radio show, http://www.radiolab.org/2011/jan/25/you-are-here/ where they discuss the idea that when we enter a room, our brain arranges itself into a map with such specialized cells as boundary cells which identify walls and locator cells which point to where in the map we are at any given moment. 

The specifics aren’t really that important.  What’s important is that before we enter an unknown space, we have no concept of how the space is arranged.  We enter it and a new model comes into existence: a map of an auditorium, say.  When I die or forget or get brain lesions or whatever, that model ceases to exist.  Models are nothing but superstructure in the brain.  The room may still be there, but the model is not.

So it is with science.  Scientific models will continue to exist after I’m gone, but only if other people are still using them. 

Think of a model as information.  Information X is encoded in the brain, and when no more brains contains X, the information X no longer exists.  X may have referred to something that still exists, but that doesn’t save X.  It’s dead.


glocke01 - #61934

June 1st 2011

It said that natural selection could in theory be tested, but did not
indicate that it has ever been tested.  Why not?  This seems to bear out
Popper’s long time concerns. 


My interpretation of the TO page is that they interpret Popper to mean that NS has never been tested, not that they endorse this view.  There have been many tests, so many that I find your lack of awareness of or confidence in those tests discouraging. 

Here’s a fuller quote of his “recantation” (his words, not mine, FWIW): http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA211_1.html

Here’s a relevant selection:

However, Darwin’s own most important contribution to the theory of
evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test.
There are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some
cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as ‘industrial
melanism’,
we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as
it
were.


So Popper came to recognize that NS has been tested.  He names one such test: industrial melanism.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution

A list of tests of NS can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_evolution#Evidence_from_observed_natural_selection

First on the list, and probably the most obvious confirmed prediction of natural selection, is the appearance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Second is Richard Lenski’s longitudinal bacteria experiments, where a strain of E. coli that could metabolize citrate, which wild E. coli cannot eat, recently emerged.

It only took me a few minutes of googling to find these.  I’m sure if you look you will find many more confirmed predictions.

From my point of view Lynn Margulis and her understanding of
ecological natural selection is clearly preferable to Dawkins and his
Darwinian view, which is still standard.


Margulis made a landmark contribution to the field in suggesting endosymbiosis as the origin of mitochondria, and she makes a great news item because she fought an entrenched and unreceptive establishment and won.  More recently, she’s taken her great idea and applied it where it most certainly it does not belong, and her well-earned reputation has provided her crackpot ideas (she even disputes the connection of HIV and AIDS) with attention that the ideas themselves hardly warrant.  There is just no way that endosymbiosis or other modes of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) could account for a significant fraction of genetic variation in higher organisms simply because there is no way for the genes to get from one organism to another.  (Perhaps I should qualify that by saying that such HGT events in higher organisms probably occur, but far too infrequently in comparison with ordinary mutations to account for a significant fraction evolutionary change.)

If you want to read a smack-down of her work from an expert on speciation and evolution, see http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/lynn-margulis-disses-evolution-in-discover-magazine-embarrasses-both-herself-and-the-field/


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61963

June 2nd 2011

George wrote:

Models are nothing but superstructure in the brain.

If something is nothing but then it is “something.”  So let a say that a model is a superstructure in the brain.  I would call it a mental pattern or stucture.  

Whether it lasts or not is not important.  The question is whether it is physical, which I sday it is not, because it does not have mass or not.  It is strictly a pattern or design found in the brain which reflects to some degree of accuracy the real world which is also the world of ideas like democracy, freedom, justice, and peace.

To claim that ideas are not real because they are nothing but superstructures in the brain ignores the clear fact that we live based on our ideas.  Whe we are is based primarily what they are.  If you had my brain, my ideas, you would be me, right.  

That brings me to another point.  The brain is the hardware, but the mind is the software and data of the computerlike structure we have in our heads.  The mind needs the hardware, the physical structure, but also the brain needs the software, the programs and data which are part of the brain.  When the software does not work, the computer does not work and when the hardware doe not work the computer does not work.

Fortunately it seems that humans have the ability to determine when their software is not working properly, when ideas are not corresponding to reality.  Sadly many people do not listen these signals and refuse to adjust their thinking.

One thing that you should be aware of is that symbiosis is most crucial to human existence.  There are an estimated 110 trillion cells in the human body, but only 10 trillion of these cells are “human,” that is have our DNA.  The rest are symbionts.  

The examples of natural selection you gave are both examples of selection based on the form’s ability to adapt to a given environmental niche, rather than Malthusian conflict for scarse resources.  Some current research shows that genetically adapted life forms do not “selfishly” run and hide to protect themselves, but share their genes with others to improve the whole group.  

Do you disagree with ecology and the effects of climate change?  Do you not see how the changes in the earth’s form and climate have influenced and guided evolution and diversity?  Darwin was not in the position to know how much the earth has changed over millions of years, but we know and if today scientists choose to ignore this basic fact as a basic factor in evolution, evolutionary science deserves to be ridiculed.      
     


glocke01 - #61974

June 2nd 2011

Replying to Roger A. Sawtelle - #61963

The question is whether it is physical, which I’d say it is not, because it does not have mass or not.  It is strictly a pattern or design found in the brain which reflects to some degree of accuracy the real world which is also the world of ideas like democracy, freedom, justice, and peace.

What you’re saying is that the pattern is something other than the objects which take on that pattern, that it exists independently of the objects exhibiting it.  You’re reifying an abstraction.  What I’m saying is that a pattern is either exactly equivalent with objects in space or a construct that exists in the brain. 

The entire extent of the truth of the statement, “these two things X and Y have the same pattern P,” is that we identify the configuration of both things as the same.  X and Y, after all, are physical objects, and physical objects never match entirely perfectly, and they always exist in different parts of space.  Saying that they both express P is therefore a judgment call. 

Examples of this ambiguity can be found in the work of Jasper Johns.  http://www.artchive.com/artchive/J/johns/map.jpg.html  Is this a map?  It’s definitely a painting, but is it also a map?  No one would ever use it like one, or do they just by seeing the representation of the States?  How obscure would you have to make the map before it is no longer a map?  The category “map” is as well defined as any, but one always has to decide when something is a map or isn’t, and that decision is a physical process in the brain.  The category “Map” exists insofar as we use it and no further.

To claim that ideas are not real because they are nothing but superstructures in the brain ignores the clear fact that we live based on our ideas.  Whe we are is based primarily what they are.  If you had my brain, my ideas, you would be me, right. 

I believe ideas are real, so I guess you’ve misunderstood my position.  If you think something I’ve said is inconsistent with the above then I’d be obliged if you’d explain how. 

If I had your entire body, brain included, and you didn’t, then I would be you.  With two people walking around sharing thought patterns but acting differently (even if we followed each other around, we’d still have to stand apart from one another), they’re not the same person.

The mind needs the hardware, the physical structure, but also the brain needs the software, the programs and data which are part of the brain.  When the software does not work, the computer does not work and when the hardware doe not work the computer does not work.

Again, you’re creating a false distinction between the brain and its configuration and activity.  Software can be copied from one computer to another, but identifying software on two computers as the same is merely a practical convenience on our part.  The bare reality is that software is nothing but a configuration of magnetic domains on a disk. 

Sadly many people do not listen these signals and refuse to adjust their thinking.

It’s true.  Changing the way you think and act is never easy.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61980

June 2nd 2011

George wrote:

What you’re saying is that the pattern is something other than the objects which take on that pattern, that it exists independently of the objects exhibiting it. You’re reifying an abstraction. What I’m saying is that a pattern is either exactly equivalent with objects in space or a construct that exists in the brain.

A map or a model or an equation is clearly not the same as that which it depicts.  Does that make it an abstraction?  If so then does that make it unreal?  Are we living in an unreal world because we live in a world of ideas, which are not composed of matter/energy?  Or do we live in a real world of ideas that conform to the laws of nature and the ways of human beings?  are traditions, laws, and mores unreal because they are not composed of matter/energy?

To say that something is a nothing but a “construct of the brain” means what?  Does it mean that all thoughts are purely subjective and cannot be tested?

The category “map” is as well defined as any, but one always has to decide when something is a map or isn’t, and that decision is a physical process in the brain.

Since when is making a decision a physical as opposed to a mental process? 

With two people walking around sharing thought patterns but acting differently (even if we followed each other around, we’d still have to stand apart from one another), they’re not the same person.

Why would we be acting differently if we have the same brain or mind?  You don’t think that if you had my mind in your brain, instead of your own that your friends would not know that there is something very different about you or in other words, “you are not yourself.” 

The bare reality is that software is nothing but a configuration of magnetic domains on a disk.

Here we are back to nothing but again.  That is the point, computer programs are electronic patterns on a disc and thoughts are electronic patterns in the brain.  We share our thoughts with others through all sorts of communication.  We can do this because we can code and decode our thoughts in many ways.  We can share information that is in a computer electronically over the internet or by making a hard copy and sharing it that way.  All this is because knowledge is based on patterns and language, which is not physical, but intellectual or ideational.  We cannot store things, objects in our minds as you have said.  We store and share ideas, models, and maps, which are not physical, not matter/energy.     


glocke01 - #62004

June 2nd 2011

A map or a model or an equation is clearly not the same as that which it
depicts.  Does that make it an abstraction?  If so then does that make
it unreal?  Are we living in an unreal world because we live in a world
of ideas, which are not composed of matter/energy?


I don’t think you’re really engaging my arguments.  I know that you think that patterns and the objects which capitulate are “clearly” distinct, and I addressed that position in my previous post.  The only thing I think is unreal is the nonphysical nature of ideas.  Ideas are real, naturally.

To say that something is a nothing but a “construct of the brain” means
what?  Does it mean that all thoughts are purely subjective and cannot
be tested?


I wrote, “a pattern is either exactly equivalent with objects in space or a
construct that exists in the brain.”  My use of the word “either” was meant to distinguish between two alternative understandings of the ultimate meaning of the word pattern.  In one sense, a pattern is nothing but stuff arranged in such and such a way.  In another, a pattern is a generalization that we create and apply in response to observation, an idea stored and retrieved by the brain like any other.  This latter sense is closer to the actual use of the word.

I recognize that people don’t think about patterns or other ideas in this way in practical situations. It is useful to imagine that a pattern can exist independently and be recapitulated, but this is nothing but a useful fiction, a model.  A pattern can indeed be recapitulated, but in an ultimate, ontological sense, the singular identity of a pattern across separate incarnations is a judgement, not a transcendent truth independent of thinking beings and the objects they consider.

Since when is making a decision a physical as opposed to a mental
process? 


Show me where this non-physical mind stuff is so that I can verify that it exists.  Seriously.  It seems to me that ontological idealism is entirely meaningless.

Remember that you said that bacterial chemotaxis is thought.  Where’s the ghost in that machine?  If it’s all in the design, then it’s not in the process of thinking itself. 

Why would we be acting differently if we have the same brain or mind? 

Imagine two copies of yourself walking down a hallway.  They reach a
door too slim to let both of them through at once.  One will have to
wait while the other goes through.  That’s all I mean by “acting
differently”.  They obviously don’t share one brain between two bodies.  I am tempted to suggest that your confusion on this point is related to your difficulty understanding me about the reality of ideas. 

We cannot store things, objects in our minds as you have said.  We store
and share ideas, models, and maps, which are not physical, not
matter/energy.    


Obviously, I can’t put my house inside my head.  What goes in my head is a representation of the house, and this representation, like a map, like a program on a hard disc, is an arrangement of objects, namely neurons.

It seems that you have a fundamental confusion about signifiers and 0


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62036

June 3rd 2011

George wrote:

Show me where this non-physical mind stuff is so that I can verify that it exists. Seriously. It seems to me that ontological idealism is entirely meaningless.

Response: There is no non-physical “stuff,” just non-physical patterns, primarily language, models, ideas, the “superstructure of the brain” if that is what you want to call it.  I am not talking about ontological idealism at all.  That is the idea that you are projecting on my thinking, not something that I have said.

If you can show me that patterns are physical, that they have mass, then you are right and I am wrong, but you have not done so.  

Remember that you said that bacterial chemotaxis is thought. Where’s the ghost in that machine? If it’s all in the design, then it’s not in the process of thinking itself.

Response:  Again there is no ghost and there is no machine, only an organism.  The relational design of the bacteria allows for the relational process of communication and response.  As I pointed out before the sunlight falling on a plant can cause the plant to react by positioning its leaves to best receive the effects of the sun’s rays through a complex chemical procress designed into the plant.


this representation, like a map, like a program on a hard disc, is an arrangement of objects, namely neurons.

It seems that you have a fundamental confusion about signifiers and 0.

Response: I think that we are basically in agreement as to how humans think, although my understanding of thinking is based not on the arrangement of neurons, but synaptic connections within the brain.  However the idea is similar. 

The question is encoding and decoding.  A person sees a robin.  That visual image is encoded into a mental form and then decoded by the brain so the person can actually see the robin.  Then it may be encoded and stored in the brain as a memory.  My understanding of this whole process that we are constantly engaged in is a mental process that takes place in the brain and it is not physical in that it is based on patterns and forms which are relational rather than physical.

The codes we use continually are not nothing, you are right, but that does not make them physical.  That is where your ontology has misled you.  The world is made up of more than matter and energy.  Reality is made up of non-physical intellectual patterns or forms or structures, such as natural laws, truth, justice, love, peace, etc.  That does not mean that they exist apart from the physical reality, which is what you want me to say or think.  They are a part of the whole and transcend who we are and what nature is.     

  
<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>


glocke01 - #62191

June 5th 2011

Replying to Roger A. Sawtelle - #62036

I am not talking about ontological idealism at all.  That is the idea that you are projecting on my thinking, not something that I have said.

You’re right.  I was mistaken about what ontological idealism was.  I meant to refer to your belief that ideas exist independently of their physical substrate.

There is no non-physical “stuff,” just non-physical patterns, primarily language, models, ideas, the “superstructure of the brain” if that is what you want to call it.

I only meant to use the word “stuff” to refer to “non-physical patterns, primarily language…”.  Where do these non-physical patterns exist?  This question is obviously nonsense, but how am I to rephrase it?  I can’t tell if statements of non-physical existence are meaningful.

If you can show me that patterns are physical, that they have mass, then you are right and I am wrong, but you have not done so. 


There’s plenty of evidence that brains store information such as patterns.  You’re saying there’s more to it.

My claim is that “information” is merely a useful way of describing the products of consciousness, products that derive from physical processes in the brain.  Your position is that there is something extra.  Your position is the one that adds complexity to a simple model, and without evidence that there is this something extra, why should I believe you? 

If you can demonstrate that physical entities are insufficient,  then you will convince me to change my mind.

Again there is no ghost and there is no machine, only an organism.  The relational design of the bacteria allows for the relational process of communication and response.

You’re quibbling.  “Ghost in the machine” is a common idiom that describes your position well enough.  The mechanism which enables E. coli to find more food is entirely chemical.  Or is there something non-physical in it?  Where?  If it’s in the design only, then the mechanism itself is all physical. 

Words like “relational” and “communication” add no weight to your argument.  One may as well call Newton’s cradle a “relational process”.  What’s the difference between Newton’s cradle and bacterial chemotaxis?  Both are equally mechanistic.

Response: I think that we are basically in agreement as to how humans think, although my understanding of thinking is based not on the arrangement of neurons, but synaptic connections within the brain.

Yes, it’s not just the arrangement, but the behavior determined by that arrangement. 

The question is encoding and decoding.  A person sees a robin.  That visual image is encoded into a mental form and then decoded by the brain so the person can actually see the robin.

How do nerve impulses from the retina get “encoded into a mental form”?  What does the encoding or decoding?  Why is it necessary to insert this additional step between eye and brain?  Why isn’t the physical brain sufficient?

My understanding of this whole process that we are constantly engaged in is a mental process that takes place in the brain and it is not physical in that it is based on patterns and forms which are relational rather than physical.

You seem to be saying that if something is “relational” it must be non-physical, but I don’t understand why that should be the case.  Are you using “relational” to mean something special?  The various elements of a pinball machine seem to be arranged in a “relational” way, but I fail to see anything non-physical about pinball.

Reality is made up of non-physical intellectual patterns or forms or structures, such as natural laws, truth, justice, love, peace, etc.  That does not mean that they exist apart from the physical reality, which is what you want me to say or think.

What you’re saying is that a pattern is something more than physical stuff and process.  What I’m saying is that a pattern is our name for what happens when we make certain kinds of judgments, judgments that are the product of physical mechanisms in the brain.  You are reifying this event, asserting that once we recognize a pattern, that pattern achieves transcendent existence beyond the brain (or perhaps it always existed?).  But why should that be the case?  Why is it that the brain activity we already know is happening is insufficent to explain the existence of a pattern?  Why should a pattern be something besides that activity?


glocke01 - #61975

June 2nd 2011

Replying to Roger A. Sawtelle - #61963 cont’d

One thing that you should be aware of is that symbiosis is most crucial to human existence.

Yes.  I’m kind of in to pro-biotic food partly for this reason, and partly b/c homemade sauerkraut tastes better.  Co-evolution of symbiotic life is no more a challenge to evolutionary theory than co-evolution of predators and their prey.

The examples of natural selection you gave are both examples of selection based on the form’s ability to adapt to a given environmental niche, rather than Malthusian conflict for scarse resources.

That’s not entirely accurate.  In Lenski’s experiment, the citrate metabolizing bacteria certainly adapted to their environment, but they also achieved fixation, which means that it out-competed its parent strain so well that the parent strain died off.  Both strains had the same resources available; one made better use of them, and the other died out.

Either way, your focus on such scarce resource conflicts is artificial.  My understanding is that most speciation occurs when two populations of the same species get separated for long enough that their reproductive systems diverge, usually by drift and not selection (though selection may be acting on other aspects of their physiology), so that interbreeding is no longer possible.


Some current research shows that genetically adapted life forms do not “selfishly” run and hide to protect themselves, but share their genes with others to improve the whole group.

This is news to me, and I’d like to know more.  I am skeptical.  Bacteria sometimes exchange DNA when they are stressed ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competence_(biology) ), and a similar process occurs in yeast though that’s closer to sex than competence, but I’ve never heard of thriving organisms spreading their DNA to others altruistically (aside from reproduction, of course).  If true, it doesn’t seem entirely discordant with the gene-centric view of evolution (it could just be a new tool in the toolbox), but it’s hard to imagine a mechanism that could be responsible.  What would be the signal that would cause an organism to share its genes?  How would it know when its genes were worth sharing?  How would other organisms distinguish harmful (e.g. viral) and beneficial DNA when they encounter it?

Do you disagree with ecology and the effects of climate change?  Do you not see how the changes in the earth’s form and climate have influenced and guided evolution and diversity?

Yes I believe in climate change, but I don’t really know what you’re talking about with regard to evolution.  Generic evolutionary theory predicts that a changing environment will alter the selection pressures on populations, so I don’t really see why you’re regarding this issue as being somehow outside the scope of the standard theory.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #61987

June 2nd 2011

George wrote:

That’s not entirely accurate. In Lenski’s experiment, the citrate metabolizing bacteria certainly adapted to their environment, but they also achieved fixation, which means that it out-competed its parent strain so well that the parent strain died off. Both strains had the same resources available; one made better use of them, and the other died out.

I read that the old strain divided into two new strains, one metabolized citrate, while the other adjusted differently to the hostile environment.  The point is IMHO that it was the citrate environment that somehow triggered the change, which would haver not been necessary in the normal environment of the e. Coli.  I would not say that the parent strain died off, but that it was changed into the new one(s) and of course it still flourished in other environments which were not citrate and oxonic.  Again it is the niche and tghe ability of the bacteris to adapt to it, which was the determinate factor. 

Either way, your focus on such scarce resource conflicts is artificial. My understanding is that most speciation occurs when two populations of the same species get separated for long enough that their reproductive systems diverge, usually by drift and not selection (though selection may be acting on other aspects of their physiology), so that interbreeding is no longer possible.

You are right, Malthusian natural selection is artificial, but it has not be repalced by any alternative Darwinian mechanism.  Your discusion as bout separation is about two populations adapting to different niches, an ecological concept, whereby the adaptations and separation cause them to become different species.  

Generic evolutionary theory predicts that a changing environment will alter the selection pressures on populations, so I don’t really see why you’re regarding this issue as being somehow outside the scope of the standard theory.

I trust that Generic should read Genetic. 

Every school child knows that mammals probably would not have flourished as they did to bring humans into existence without the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, caused mind you not by genetic change, but by climate change created initially by an asteroid hit which cause the environmental niches of the dinosaurs to disapear.  If this important event in the history of evolution is outside Darwinian Theory and well within a ecolgical understanding of how evolution actually took place, how can the genetic driven Darwinian theory be preferable.

Are you aware that symbiotic lichens have been instrumental in regulating the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere so animals can develop and grow? How is that explained by genetic mutation?  Evidence indicates that diversity of life forms, plants and animals has deveoped in response to changes in the environment, the opening of new niches for diverse life forms.  Interdependence between plants, herbivores, carnivores, scavengers, insects, bacteria, etc. is basic, not an after thought as Darwinian thought would have it.   
<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>


John - #61993

June 2nd 2011

I would not say that the parent strain died off, but that it was changed into the new one(s)...”Ah, the classic creationist straw man.Your discusion as bout separation is about two populations adapting to different niches, an ecological concept, whereby the adaptations and separation cause them to become different species.”


Roger, please focus. glocke pointed out that drift was integral. You omitted drift while pretending to agree. Why?

John - #61994

June 2nd 2011

Sorry, bad formatting.


glocke01 - #61997

June 2nd 2011

The point is IMHO that it was the citrate environment that somehow triggered the change, which would haver not been necessary in the normal environment of the e. Coli.  

Are you saying the mutation wouldn’t have arisen without the citrate?  If so, you’re going to need to back that up with some hard evidence.  How could a bacterium decide when and how to mutate?  Does your theory explain why some of Lenski’s strains mutated and not others? Conventional science has no trouble with that one, nor the entire situation for that matter.

(If the new strain did share its genes with the old one as you suggest, then the old one would still be gone since the recipients of this hypothetical transfer would become indistinguishable from the donor.)

The bottom line is that you have no reason to believe that change in environment caused any mutation or that the new strain shared anything with the old.  The conventional explanation for both the mutation and the fixation of the new mutation is by far the simplest.  Mutations arise by themselves, and the mutation in question is just a few point mutations iirc, easily accessible by drift.  Without evidence that changes in environment create mutations, it’s just a needless complication.  And regardless of how the mutations arose, natural selection is the simplest explanation for why the new strain supplanted the old.  It’s not impossible that the new strain conferred its genes to the old, but since fixation would have occurred anyway, there’s no reason to suppose any such gene transfer occurred.

You are right, Malthusian natural selection is artificial, but it has not be repalced by any alternative Darwinian mechanism.  Your discusion as bout separation is about two populations adapting to different niches, an ecological concept, whereby the adaptations and separation cause them to become different species.  

This quote is wrong from start to finish.  Malthusian selection is exactly what occurred with Lenski’s bacteria, your baseless assertions to the contrary notwithstanding.  Furthermore, you are mistaken that Malthusian competition is the primary driver of speciation under evolutionary theory.  

Not only that, speciation can occur without any difference in niche.  Put a wall between two sides of the same valley for long enough, and the animals on either side will differentiate to the point of speciation merely by random drift without any difference in selection pressures.  Reproductive isolation is sufficient for speciation.  It so happens that reproducitve isolation doesn’t often occur without the two populations living in environments that offer different niches, but reproductive isolation is enough by itself.  It’s possible for speciation to occur without reproductive isolation, but it’s much harder in sexual species because they exchange genes, inhibiting the division of two populations.

Wikipedia explains this all well enough.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation  


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62040

June 3rd 2011

Without evidence that changes in environment create mutations, it’s just a needless complication. And regardless of how the mutations arose, natural selection is the simplest explanation for why the new strain supplanted the old. It’s not impossible that the new strain conferred its genes to the old, but since fixation would have occurred anyway, there’s no reason to suppose any such gene transfer occurred.

I do not think that I said that environmental conditions create the change in the e. coli, however it is hard to see how this would have taken place if the need for it would not have been present the citrate oxonic niche.  I am not arguing for ecological variation, but for ecological natural selection. 

In nature as opposed to this experiment it would seem that e. coli would avoid a harsh environment like this.  You are right, if trapped in a hostile niche it would have to adapt or disappear or limp along as best it could.  One strain was able to find a way to use the citrate and so it evolved according to ecological natural selection through adaptation.  End of story.  

P.S.  I think you said above that there is evidence that bacteria under ecological stress can evolve more quickly that normally.  I cannot say that this happened in the Lenski experiment, but it does seem that the e. coli were under definite stress as the result of being in a hostile environment.

You and John seem to feel that it is very important to assert that speciation can take place based solely on genetic drift independent of natural selection, even though you admit that this rarely if ever takes place.

This goes against what Dawkins calls the Darwinian imperative where Darwin stated that natural selection is continually inspecting and analyzing any and all genetic changes, “rejecting all that is bad ... and adding up all that is good  ...  at the improvement of each organic being.”  If that is true and Dawkins and E. O. Wilson say it is basic to their understanding of what Darwinian evolution is, then how can genetic drift be independent of natural selection?  N s must approve of every genetic change or it is selected out.  
 
Again I am not arguing the aspect of evolution called variation, only about HOW natural selection takes place and not whether it takes place.

Please tell me more about “generic evolutionary theory.”  Who has determined what is standard and what is not and where can I find a statement of it.  I have been looking everywhere for it.  Is it in the Wiki?

I have a problem with some people saying that the public does not understand evolutionary theory like natural selection, when there is no scientific consensus that I can determine concerning what it is and how it works.  


glocke01 - #61999

June 2nd 2011

If this important event in the history of evolution is outside Darwinian Theory and well within a ecolgical understanding of how evolution actually took place, how can the genetic driven Darwinian theory be preferable.

Did I not just say that this sort of thing is indeed a part of standard evolutionary theory?  

Generic [standard issue] evolutionary theory predicts that a changing environment will alter the selection pressures on populations

This is quite enough to explain the rise of mammals.  When environments change such that previously dominant strategies cease to work and species employing new strategies flourish, what do you call that if not natural selection?

Are you aware that symbiotic lichens have been instrumental in regulating the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere so animals can develop and grow? How is that explained by genetic mutation?  

This is news to me.  I imagine it would be very difficult to show that changes in atmospheric oxygen levels wouldn’t cause changes in animal requirements rather than oxygen levels responding to animal requirements via the action of a third party, lichens.  How could lichens even detect animal requirements??

Evidence indicates that diversity of life forms, plants and animals has developed in response to changes in the environment, the opening of new niches for diverse life forms.

Are you saying that ecosystem will deliberately create new niches?  How in the world could that happen?

Interdependence between plants, herbivores, carnivores, scavengers, insects, bacteria, etc. is basic, not an after thought as Darwinian thought would have it. 

“Basic” meaning what?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62057

June 3rd 2011

Generic [standard issue] evolutionary theory predicts that a changing environment will alter the selection pressures on populations

I am afraid that this statement is so general and vague to be almost meaningless.  It might be a step in the right direction, but my experience with you and others is that Darwinists are not really interested evaluating how “a changing environment will alter the selection pressures on populations.”

Roger: Are you aware that symbiotic lichens have been instrumental in regulating the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere so animals can develop and grow? How is that explained by genetic mutation?

George:  This is news to me. I imagine it would be very difficult to show that changes in atmospheric oxygen levels wouldn’t cause changes in animal requirements rather than oxygen levels responding to animal requirements via the action of a third party, lichens. How could lichens even detect animal requirements?

Please see the article in the New Scientist magazine #2779, dated 9/22/2010.
Cosmic Accidents: The Age of the Heroic Lichen  This a part of a series describing 10 “lucky breaks” that made human life on earth possible.  Please look at other articles in the series.  If you believe in unbelievable luck, then you don’t have to believe in God.  

Other interesting studies can be found at www.nsf.gov/news/special-reports/fibr/team.jsp and www.phsorg.com/news197815556.html 

 


glocke01 - #62114

June 4th 2011

I am afraid that this statement is so general and vague to be almost meaningless. 

Like any scientific theory, it’s a general statement with a very specific meaning.  A population of species X lives in environment Y.  Selection pressures in Y promote phenotype Q, which means that individuals exhibiting Q breed more effectively than those that do not.

This population expands into neighboring environment Z.  Z is colder/hotter/drier/wetter/etc than Y, so phenotype Q’ is more effective than Q.  Thus, mutants whose phenotype approaches Q’ will out-compete the parent population and eventually these mutants will achieve fixation provided that they are reproductively isolated from the population in Y.

This discussion omits some complications (e.g. why all species in Y don’t exhibit Q), but the prediction that changing environments change the selection pressures on populations is not meaningless.

Please see the article in the New Scientist magazine…

Again, you’re not addressing my arguments.

I imagine it would be very difficult to show that changes in
atmospheric oxygen levels wouldn’t cause changes in animal requirements
rather than oxygen levels responding to animal requirements via the
action of a third party, lichens.

The article provides no evidence that atmospheric
conditions responded to human requirements rather than the other way around.  Why did you fail to answer this objection?

The idea that lichens regulated the Earth’s atmosphere for the express
purpose of allowing human development is ridiculous.  You’re suggesting
that lichens or something else predicted that humans might appear,
understood human requirements, regulated lichen metabolism, and
monitored the atmosphere until the preconditions for humanity were met. 
(Otherwise the statement that lichens regulated the environment so that humans could arise or whatever couldn’t be true.)  That’s a very bold suggestion to say the least, and without
facts to back it up, it’s utterly incredible.  My version is a lot
simpler:  Whatever species develop under certain atmospheric conditions,
their metabolic requirements will be sustained by that atmosphere simply
because they couldn’t survive otherwise.

I am reminded of Douglas Adams’ puddle.  This puddle suddenly realizes that the sidewalk it sits in matches its surface perfectly.  The puddle infers that the sidewalk must have been designed so as to match its every little nook and cranny!  Obviously, this is backwards.  It rained, and water collected into a puddle on the sidewalk, and the shape of the puddle matches the sidewalk because natural forces compel it to do so. 

The puddle supposes that its shape is pre-ordained rather than a consequence of its environment.  If one had a particular puddle shape in mind, and then went and found a sidewalk that matched that shape, it would indeed be an unbelievable coincidence.  However, any sidewalk will produce a unique puddle, and there’s nothing remarkable about that. 

Roll a die with a million sides, and the probability of any given number will be 10-6.  But you shouldn’t be surprised if 482945 comes up.  If the number that comes up is special in some way that we can identify before rolling, e.g. it comes up with 1, then that might rouse our suspicions. 

This is what you’re doing.  You’re assuming that since we’re humans, we’re special, so the fact that we exist is really remarkable.  I mean, we could’ve had 8 toes instead of 10!  Think of all the coincidences that came together to give us 10 toes.  There must be a designer.  See the problem?

I’d guess you’re thinking of intelligence or moral sense or something besides toe count.  But it’s pure egotism on your part to imagine that intelligence or whatever is special.  It’s an assumption; it’s a premise that you have to prove.

www.nsf.gov/news/special-reports/fibr/team.jsp


The language in this article is deceptive.  It talks about altruism and group selection, but group selection within a clonal population like the slime mold is identical to ordinary selfish gene selection.  Cells kill themselves all the time in multicellular organisms, and this is no problem for evolution because they all share the same genes.  The spore is analogous to a multicellular organism.  If I sacrifice myself to save a clone of myself, it’s not exactly altruistic, is it?  Your second link is broken.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62121

June 4th 2011

George wrote:

The idea that lichens regulated the Earth’s atmosphere for the express
purpose of allowing human development is ridiculous.

No one, not the magazine nor myself said that lichens planned to make make human life possible, but looking back on history, we see that events have consequences.  If you do not think that one of the consequences of this event was human life, then that is your call.  The scientific magazine disagrees.  

Yes, probablity has its place, and as I said there is probabity of 1 in 10 to the 500th billion power that our universe would have intelligent life.  Before you said that our universe could only have one form, which seems to indicate a determined universe, which of course is the opposite of a random universe, so which is it?

But it’s pure egotism on your part to imagine that intelligence or whatever is special. It’s an assumption; it’s a premise that you have to prove.

If everything is material and the mental does not exist, then it would be every hard to have an ego, much less be egotistical.  Are humans special because they can think?  Can humans think and understand a irrational universe?  Yes, these are assumptions that cannot be proven, but if you are questioning the rationallity of the universe and humanity, it seems to me that you have lost the argument.  
         


glocke01 - #62195

June 5th 2011

No one, not the magazine nor myself said that lichens planned to make
make human life possible, but looking back on history, we see that
events have consequences.


Here’s what you said:

Are you aware that symbiotic lichens have been instrumental in
regulating the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere so animals can
develop and grow? How is that explained by genetic mutation?

The word “so” indicates intentionality.  Without intentionality, undirected evolution is left, and this is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts. 

If you do not think that one of the consequences of this event was
human life, then that is your call.  The scientific magazine
disagrees. 


If New Scientist says so, I believe that lichens are largely responsible for the atmospheric conditions under which humans evolved, conditions without which we would not have evolved.

Yes, probablity has its place, and as I said there is probabity of 1 in
10 to the 500th billion power that our universe would have
intelligent life.  Before you said that our universe could only have
one form, which seems to indicate a determined universe, which of
course is the opposite of a random universe, so which is it?


What I said was that if our natural laws were the only possible natural laws, then it would be no coincidence that those are the laws we’ve got.  If you want to show that God exists by claiming that it’s the only solution to a design problem, then you have to disprove that possibility because it could also solve that problem.

I can’t imagine how the unnamed scientist you mentioned arrived at that number.  I sincerely doubt that there is any way to make such a calculation without making the sort of assumptions bitbutter identified.

I don’t really know what you mean about random universes versus determined ones.  What’s that got to do with anything?

If everything is material and the mental does not exist, then it would be every hard to have an ego, much less be egotistical.

How many times do I have to repeat that materialism doesn’t mean that the mental does not exist?  Materialism means the mental is physical.  Mental processes are physical processes.  Mental existents are emergent properties of the brain just as clouds are emergent properties of the atmosphere.

Are humans special because they can think?  Can humans think and
understand a irrational universe?  Yes, these are assumptions that
cannot be proven, but if you are questioning the rationallity of the
universe and humanity, it seems to me that you have lost the argument.


Before you said that “rational order” means “apprehensible order”.  If that’s what you mean by “the rationality of the universe”, that the universe is apprehensible, then I don’t question it. 

I don’t question the rationality of humanity either.  Why would you think otherwise?


I’m losing sight of the big picture here.  Why does it matter if humans are special?  Are you making an argument for god from design?

PS I replied to you on the previous page.  I think it’d be easier to follow if I just post at the bottom every time, sorry.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62198

June 5th 2011

Materialism means the mental is physical. Mental processes are physical processes. Mental existents are emergent properties of the brain just as clouds are emergent properties of the atmosphere.

This is the real, basic issue.  You say thinking is physical and I say that it is not.  

Is thinking physical work?  We know that walking is physical work measured in foot/pounds or meter/kilograms.  How much physical work is performed by a manager each day?  I am sitting at my keyboard typing this paragraph.  The only physical work I am doing is pressing the keys of the keyboard.  Is that the only activity or work that I am doing, or does the mental activity that goes into this writing count as mental work as opposed to physical work?  

Clouds and the atmosphere are two forms of the same thing.  Matter/energy and the natural laws that control matter/energy are not two forms of the same thing.  Thinking about some thing is not the same thing as that some thing as you ably said.  One is physical and the other is mental.  One has mass while the other does not.  

Before you said that “rational order” means “apprehensible order”. If that’s what you mean by “the rationality of the universe”, that the universe is apprehensible, then I don’t question it.

I don’t question the rationality of humanity either. Why would you think otherwise?

Darwinism and materialism basically denies the rationality of the universe.  They say that the role of science is not to understand the universe, but to describe it.  That is why people such as Dawkins, Dennett, Michael Schermer, and Jacques Monad say that life has no purpose.  Their argument is that the universe cannot think and therefore cannot be rational and since it is not rational, it has no purpose or meaning.

I agree that the universe cannot think, but I also agree with you that is is rational or apprehensible in more than a superficial way.  Now if the rational order that makes the universe apprehensible does not come from nature because it cannot think, from where does it come?  Magic?  


glocke01 - #62260

June 6th 2011

Replying to Roger A. Sawtelle - #62198

Is
thinking physical work?  We know that walking is physical work measured
in foot/pounds or meter/kilograms.  How much physical work is performed
by a manager each day?  I am sitting at my keyboard typing this
paragraph.  The only physical work I am doing is pressing the keys of
the keyboard.  Is that the only activity or work that I am doing, or
does the mental activity that goes into this writing count as mental
work as opposed to physical work?


Yes,
thinking is work (measured in Joules/ergs/whatever).  Every time a
neuron fires, it has to do work to recalibrate its ion balance, and it
has to do a little work to maintain that balance in between (like
holding back a slingshot).  It has to do other things like produce
neurotransmitters.

I’d
be surprised if “not thinking” were significantly less work than
“thinking hard”.  My guess is that most of what the brain does is
unconscious, and that stopping thoughts probably probably doesn’t mean
stopping the neurons responsible for creating thoughts, it may just mean
they’re doing something else.  I’d also be surprised if brain activity
cost as much energy as moving your limbs because there would be less
friction/dissipation in the brain.

Clouds
and the atmosphere are two forms of the same thing… Thinking about
some thing is not the same thing as that some thing as you ably said.
 One is physical and the other is mental.  One has mass while the other
does not.


A thought is the action of physical objects.  A memory is an arrangement of neurons, and the neurons have mass.

It
seems to me that distinguishing the mental from the physical is like
saying the atmosphere is physical but clouds are special non-physical
properties of the atmosphere.  You acknowledge that there’s nothing
about clouds to justify that assertion, but why is it justified for
ideas?  You have said little on this point.  You repeatedly assert your
opinion and express your incredulity as to the alternative.  I’m asking
you to show me what makes the mental special.  Why is the brain is
insufficient to explain mental phenomena?

Darwinism
and materialism basically denies the rationality of the universe.  They
say that the role of science is not to understand the universe, but to
describe it.  That is why people such as Dawkins, Dennett, Michael
Schermer, and Jacques Monad say that life has no purpose.  Their
argument is that the universe cannot think and therefore cannot be
rational and since it is not rational, it has no purpose or meaning.


You
didn’t deny that “the rationality of the universe” refers to the claim
that the universe is apprehensible, but here you’re using the phrase to
mean something else.  The claim that the universe is apprehensible is
apparently unrelated to claims that the universe thinks, that life has
purpose, and materialism.   So what do you mean when you say “the
rationality of the universe”?  How is an apprehensible universe
inconsistent with materialism?  Also, what distinction are you drawing
between “description” and “understanding”?

Now
if the rational order that makes the universe apprehensible does not
come from nature because it cannot think, from where does it come?
 Magic?


I’m
not sure why we have the natural laws we do, or why we have natural
laws at all for that matter, but I don’t see why they should have to
come from something that thinks.


glocke01 - #62261

June 6th 2011

cont’d

Matter/energy and the natural laws that control matter/energy are not two forms of the same thing.

Is
there a distinction between matter/energy and natural laws?  It’s an
interesting question.  Forces are transmitted by particles that carry
energy and sometimes mass, so natural forces
are energy.  The question of why certain particles transmit certain
forces is a question about the properties of those particles, and it
seems as though the properties which determine one object’s interaction
with another are physical properties.  I mean, the mass of the electron
is a physical property, so why shouldn’t the electron’s coupling to the
electroweak force also be a physical property?

Why
do these properties generalize into laws?  Electrons, like all
fundamental particles, are in a very real sense indistinguishable (if
they weren’t there would be no chemistry), so it doesn’t really make
sense to ask why all electrons have the same properties: it’s like
asking why can’t there be an electron that’s not an electron.  All
electrons behave the same way because they’re all electrons.  This
doesn’t explain why electrons have the properties they do, or why there
aren’t more flavors of electron, but that’s a separate issue.  The
question isn’t why these laws and not others, but what is a law, and
here I argue that a law is nothing but a similarity between the physical
properties of physical objects.

I
think this is an interesting question that has bearing on materialism
but not whether ideas are physical.  Our natural laws are all
deterministic in a way that doesn’t allow any consciousness to
intervene.  If you have reason to believe otherwise, I’m all ears.
 (Quantum mechanics is stochastic and not deterministic, but the
randomness is subject to strict constraints that admit no room for the
intervention of a third party.)  They are mindless regardless of their
ontological status.  Maybe you weren’t heading in this direction, but
you can’t conflate thoughts with natural laws.  Even if the electron’s
coupling to the electroweak force is property that transcends the
physical, it’s certainly not a transcendent mental property.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62264

June 6th 2011

George wrote: 

A memory is an arrangement of neurons, and the neurons have mass. 

Brain cells (neurons) have mass, but an arrangement does not have mass.  In my understanding of how the brain works, and it is not a simple process by any means, is that the way that the brain cells interact with each other is what produces or records a memory or a fact.  The memory is the arrangement as you said or the connections between the brain cells, not the brain cells themselves, so the memory is a non-material arrangement or interaction. 

Do not confuse the medium with the message.  The medium is the brain and the brain cells, but the message, the intellectual content is the connections between the nerve cells which enable us to recognize and understand our environment, to think, and to act. 

Words in all their forms are also arrangments of letters or sounds.  They are non-material in that they are arrangments, which have no mass.  

Nerve cells of course are life forms, which makes them complex organic cells rather than mechanical things, which are controlled by natural forces.  If thinking were a mechanical process controlled by natural forces, then humans would be determined by our environment, which we are not.  In fact humans and other life forms are able to control their own environment to a remarkable degree.  Look how bees build their hives.  

The brain is our mental, thinking organ interdependent with the rest of the body.  There are two definitions of human death, heart or physical death and brain or mental death, but once the brain is flat lined, not functioning, a human is dead, reguardless of how well the rest of him or her is functioning. 


The claim that the universe is apprehensible is
apparently unrelated to claims that the universe thinks, that life has
purpose, and materialism. 

You say apparently which seems to mean that you do not know what the basis is for that claim.  Perhaps you have not read the widely quoted statement by Albert Einstein:  “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is its comprehensibility,” which is a paraphrase of his actual statement, “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility. . . . The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.”  Thus according to this great scientist there is no scientific basis for expalining the apprehensibility of the universe, only mystery and miracle.  


I’m
not sure why we have the natural laws we do, or why we have natural
laws at all for that matter, but I don’t see why they should have to
come from something that thinks.<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>

Then you do believe in magic, that things just happen without rhyme or reason.
 


glocke01 - #62296

June 7th 2011

Brain cells (neurons) have mass, but an arrangement does not have mass.

If
arrangement were a non-physical property of the brain, then two brains
could be physically identical but be arranged differently.  Otherwise,
non-physical arrangement is contingent on physical arrangement - not
independent from the physical but a direct consequence of it.  Two
brains arranged differently are in fact physically different;
difference in arrangement is a physical difference.  If you rearrange
the brain, that means you’re moving neurons from one place to another:
you’re doing something physical to it.

Arrangement
is a physical property just like mass or electric charge.  It means as
much to say that “the arrangement of these objects has no mass” as to
say that “the electric charge of these objects has no mass” or even “the
mass of these objects has no mass”.

If
this non-physical “arrangement” exists, it is entirely determined by
the physical arrangement of neurons (I will put quotes around your
proposed non-physical entity and leave them off when referring to
arrangements as a physical property of a system of objects).  Whatever
work you suppose it does could only be done by the physical brain.  The
non-physical “arrangement” you speak of isn’t what does the thinking or
stores ideas.  It’s an abstraction that humans invent to describe
something physical.  It’s an idea.  It can’t push or pull anything.  As
you are fond of mentioning, ideas do shape our actions, so if ideas are
non-physical entities, something somewhere is translating non-physical
information into physical motion of our limbs and brains.

If
abstractions like “arrangements” stored ideas, then you could retrieve
information out of it, but how do you get information from an
abstraction?  I know roughly how the brain stores and retrieves
information, but how could the brain retrieve information out of an
“arrangement”?  Where is the abstraction-hook that it uses to touch and
prod this “arrangement”?  If there is no such hook, then how exactly is
the brain supposed to interact with this “arrangement”?

The
answer of course is that it doesn’t except insofar as neurons establish
new pathways and rearrange themselves.  The brain interacts with itself
and with the outside world via sensory neurons.  Whatever non-physical
stuff there might be is purely peripheral.  I think you can see why I
doubt the meaningfulness of its existence or lack thereof.

Do
not confuse the medium with the message.  The medium is the brain and
the brain cells, but the message, the intellectual content is the
connections between the nerve cells which enable us to recognize and
understand our environment, to think, and to act.


Your contention that “the message” is what enables us to think and act demands support.  Why is the brain insufficient?  Where is the need for non-physical entities in our thought and action?

My
contention is that “the message” is an abstraction that refers to
physical things and events.  Your confusion is that you reify
abstractions and models.  When the brain represents some fact in memory,
it creates a model.  You say that the model exists independently of its
representation.  Even if that were true, the abstract model does no
work and isn’t involved in anything except your description.

Perhaps you have not read the widely quoted statement by Albert Einstein…

Still
avoiding the question, eh?  What is “rational ordering”?  What does the
phrase “the rationality of the universe” mean?  Your recent use of
these words shows that you mean them to refer to something more than
apprehensibility.

Your
quotation does nothing to support a connection between the
apprehensibility of the world with teleology (unless you take Einstein
literally when he says “miracle”, which you should know could not have
been his intention).  If Einstein is right and the apprehensibility is
an unsolved mystery, you are still left with the task of showing not
only that divine teleology could solve it in principle, but showing that
divine teleology is the actual solution.

Then you do believe in magic, that things just happen without rhyme or reason.

Not
knowing the solution to a problem is not the same thing as making a
positive assertion that no solution exists.  One of the pervasive
ailments of theism is its discomfort with unanswered questions, tending
to add “goddidit” when they arise.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62303

June 7th 2011

Arrangement
is a physical property just like mass or electric charge. It means as
much to say that “the arrangement of these objects has no mass” as to
say that “the electric charge of these objects has no mass” or even “the
mass of these objects has no mass”.

How doe you determine the mass of arrangment?  If you take the page of a book and weigh it on a very delicate scales, what makes you think that it will have more or less mass than a page of the same book which contains the same amount of ink and paper, but a different arrangement of words and punctuation?  The electric charge of of a thing is part of thatr thing, because things are composed of electrons, but arrangement is not a part of a thing and is not material.  

 
What makes you think that arrangement or form is a physical property?  What physical property does a circle have?  What physical property does a line have?  None.  You are a prisoner of your world view that insists that all reality be material and it isn’t, because form is not material. 

I am not trying to answer the questions about the source of form and comprehensibility, but to show that they does not come from the materiality of the universe.  Matter does not create form and order.  If anything form and order create matter from trillions of microparticles.  Chaos is “physical.” but cosmos is matter with form and order.   

I am not trying to prove anything, but to show you the severe limitations of the world view that you profess.  I know that I cannot prove the existence of God, because God is not a separate thing, but the Source of all.  If you are content to dwell on the superficial aspects of physical nature, that is you choice.  

I am more concerned about understanding the whys and wherefores of life and how people live and act.   


glocke01 - #62326

June 8th 2011

How do you determine the mass of arrangement?  If you take the page of a book and weigh it on a very delicate scales, what makes you think that it will have more or less mass than a page of the same book which contains the same amount of ink and paper, but a different arrangement of words and punctuation?  The electric charge of of a thing is part of that thing, because things are composed of electrons, but arrangement is not a part of a thing and is not material. 

You’ve said often enough that two things arranged differently may weigh the same, but you fail to explain why this is germane.  Two things with different electric charge may also weigh the same, but electric charge is a physical property.  If the composition of an object is a physical property, then why are the distances between its components non-physical?

You don’t dispute that if two things are arranged differently they are physically different by necessity; in particular two brains arranged differently are physically different.  Whether you’re talking about ink on a page, paint on a canvas, branches in a tree, or grains of sand on the beach, differences in arrangement are physical differences.

Consider crystal structure.  The patterned arrangement of a atoms in a solid determines many of its physical properties, including thermal and electric conductivity, Young’s modulus, etc.  Graphite and diamond are two arrangements of carbon: are you saying that the differences between them are caused by something non-physical?

What makes you think that arrangement or form is a physical property?

Simply put, the arrangement of a group of objects is exactly determined by the physical locations of those objects and nothing else.  If arrangement is entirely determined by physical properties, then how can it be non-physical itself?  (The fact that two objects may be arranged identically is insufficient for your case since two objects may also weigh the same though the weight of both objects is an independent physical property of those objects.)

I am not trying to answer the questions about the source of form and comprehensibility, but to show that they does not come from the materiality of the universe.

Perhaps your argument doesn’t name a source, but you are arguing about what the source can and can’t be.  It’s unclear to me why “form and comprehensibility” need a source.  That is, it could be that their absence is just not possible.  On the other hand, if form and comprehension are essentially physical, as I claim, then there’s no reason to think that they couldn’t “come from” matter. 

Coming back to where this thread broke off, I now understand your contention that materialism denies the comprehensibility of the universe as following from your central claim that the notion of comprehension within materialism is wrong.  I would be interested to know if you find that this notion is incoherent as well as inaccurate.

Now that this issue is clarified somewhat, I still fail to see how Darwinism denies the comprehensibility of the universe (unless you contend that Darwinism entails materialism).


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62341

June 8th 2011


George wrote:

Simply put, the arrangement of a group of objects is exactly determined by the physical locations of those objects and nothing else

This may come as shock to you, but location like arrangement is not physical. 

This part of what Einstein’s Theory of Relativity means.  Everything is relational and nothing is absolute, not even “physical” location.  Arrangement or location is based on relatiuonal order, such first and last, up and down, close and far, round and straight, left and right.    

BAC are three letters in our alphabet.  Language is non-material.  It does not have mass. Electrons are material and do have mass.  A fully charged battery is heavier, has more mass the a drained battery has.  Energy has mass, which is another aspect of Einstein’s Theory.   

CAB is short for a taxi cab, which is a car and driver for hire.  ABC is short for the American Broadcasting Company, which is a large communcations company.  They are very different entties, but they are represented by the same three letters in a different order or form.  The letters which are composed of lines have no mass.  Their arrangement has no mass.  The two words are immaterial mental forms, but the realities that they represent are physical. 

On the other hand, if form and comprehension are essentially physical, as I claim, then there’s no reason to think that they couldn’t “come from” matter. 

If form and comprehension were essentially physical, then nature would think.  Since nature, which is physical cannot think and humans who transcend nature can, then form and comprehension are not essentially physical.  They are non-material relational mental aspects of reality.  


glocke01 - #62371

June 9th 2011

This may come as shock to you, but location like arrangement is not physical.  This part of what Einstein’s Theory of Relativity means.  Everything is
relational and nothing is absolute, not even “physical” location.


If you think relativity means location non-physical, then time in also, and acceleration (distance/time2), ergo force (mass times acceleration), energy (force times distance), momentum, etc.  Even the speed of light is non-physical for you.  Any quantity that depends on distance, duration, or frequency is now non-physical.  In short, you’ve practically defined the physical out of existence rather than explain anything about the difference between non-physical and physical entities.


The fact that durations and distances vary according to the observer
doesn’t make them “non-physical”.  You’re basically drawing an arbitrary
line in the sand and saying that anything that’s Lorentz invariant
(e.g. mass, rest energy, electric charge) is physical and anything that
isn’t (distance, duration, frequency, velocity, momentum) is non-physical.  What makes these covariant/contravariant quantities non-physical, exactly?

You continue to rely on words like “relational” as though relational quantities/properties were necessarily non-physical without support for this position.  I fail to see how anything could be less physical than the Coulomb force, which depends on “relational” distance. 

Explain to me how these Lorentz variant quantities are non-physical in a sense comparable to the Pythagorean theorem.

...They are very different entities, but they are represented by the same three letters in a different order or form.

I believe you already know my response to this.  The tools we use to encode and decode language are physical, and language ultimately exists only in physical representations and these mechanisms.  The “language” you’re talking about is an abstraction describing these physical existents and processes, an idea that exists in the brain distinct from actual language in use. 

If form and comprehension were essentially physical, then nature would think.

“Could” not “would”.  If form and comprehension were physical, then physical entities could (not would) comprehend form.  I’m not claiming that everything physical can think, clearly.

Since nature, which is physical cannot think and humans who transcend
nature can, then form and comprehension are not essentially physical.


Again, this only works if physical things necessarily think, which is obviously not my claim.  (Needless to say, you have to show that humans transcend nature before you can use it to prove anything.)


glocke01 - #62372

June 9th 2011

The fact that durations and distances vary according to the observer doesn’t make them “non-physical”.

Please don’t get hung up on what makes an “observer” in special relativity.  It has nothing to do with being conscious and everything to do with distance and relative velocity (i.e. how that distance changes with time).   The speed at which a star moves away from a cloud of hydrogen determines the frequency of the radiation coming off that star as “observed” by the hydrogen, thus determining how much is absorbed, reflected, etc.  That’s what constitutes an “observer”.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62442

June 10th 2011

George wrote:

In short, you’ve practically defined the physical out of existence rather than explain anything about the difference between non-physical and physical entities.

E = mcEnergy is physical, right?  Matter is physical, right?  c, the speed of light is not material or physical.  = equals is a mathematical term for is which is also non-material. 

Obviously Einstein’s Theory does not define the physical out of existence, except maybe in your mind.  This is a scientific theory.  Since you claim to understand science better then I, why don’t you tell me why all material things are not absolute, but relative as Einstein says?  

You’re basically drawing an arbitrary
line in the sand and saying that anything that’s Lorentz invariant
(e.g. mass, rest energy, electric charge) is physical and anything that
isn’t (distance, duration, frequency, velocity, momentum) is non-physical. What makes these covariant/contravariant quantities non-physical, exactly?

You are right, mass and energy are physical.  Nothing else is.  As far as I know, this is the standard or generic definition is what is physical.  The physical is matter and energy, nothing else, and materialists claim that the universe is composed solely of matter and energy. 

These qualitities are not composed of matter and energy, which makes
non-physical. 

Roger: If form and comprehension were essentially physical, then nature would think.

“Could” not “would”. If form and comprehension were physical, then physical entities could (not would) comprehend form. I’m not claiming that everything physical can think, clearly.

I had it right.  You asked why I think that comprehension is not essentially physical.  Nature is essentially physical, but nature as a whole cannot think.  Humans are essentially thinking beings.  Since essentially physical entities do not think, then clearly comprehension is not physical.  

(Needless to say, you have to show that humans transcend nature before you can use it to prove anything.)

Do not be ridiculous.  Humans transcend nature because they can understand it and can control and manipulate it. 


glocke01 - #62545

June 12th 2011

Obviously Einstein’s Theory does not define the physical out of
existence, except maybe in your mind.  This is a scientific theory. 
Since you claim to understand science better then I, why don’t you tell
me why all material things are not absolute, but relative as Einstein
says? 


I’m not saying Einstein defines the physical out of existence, I’m saying you do with how you interpret his work.

E=mc2 is the equation for rest energy.  More generally, E2 = p2c2 + m2c4.  ‘p’ is momentum, and it is Lorentz covariant.  In other words, energy depends on speed (and on where you’re standing).  If energy is physical but speed isn’t, then there’s something very strange about this. 

Given all the physical quantities and interactions that depend on speed ( kinetic energy, as above, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biot-Savart_law ), acceleration ( F=ma, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bremstrahlung ), distance (all four fundamental forces), angle (crystal structure, Cherenkov radiation), frequency (energy of EM radiation is proportional to frequency), duration (half-life), etc, your position that distance and time are non-physical is highly specious.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Broglie_wavelength for relations that make distance (wavelength), energy, frequency, and momentum essentially interchangeable descriptions of matter.

I had it right.  You asked why I think that comprehension is
not essentially physical.  Nature is essentially physical, but nature as
a whole cannot think.  Humans are essentially thinking beings. 
Since essentially physical entities do not think, then clearly
comprehension is not physical.
 

Your syllogism makes about as much sense as Woody Allen’s quip, “Men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore all men are Socrates.”  You start by asserting an irrelevancy, that nature in itself is not conscious.  Then you assume that humans are essentially thinking and that they’re not essentially physical, establishing neither premise.  Then you make another baseless assertion, that there are no physical entities that think, begging the entire question. 

I can’t even see how any of this is even an attempt to explain your statement, “If form and comprehension were essentially physical, then nature
would think.”  This statement makes no sense.  If bananas were essentially physical, then nature would be a banana, right?

Do not be ridiculous.  Humans transcend nature because they can
understand it and can control and manipulate it.


Can you establish that understanding and controlling nature are transcendent in the sense of transcending physicality?  You haven’t yet, so you can’t use transcendence to help your case.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62585

June 13th 2011

Okay, let’s get the syllogism down right.

Since all rational beings think, and nature does not think, therefore nature is not rational.  That is the syllogism YOU are making.  I just filled in the logical conclusion.

Just as all rational beings think.  Humans think, therefore humans are rational.  

Now I would say that nature is rational, not because it can think, but because it is the product of a rational mind of a rational Being that does think..  If you exclude the existence of such as Being, then you are stuck with the conclusion that the universe is irrational since it neither thinks nor is the product of a rational, thinking Being.

Speed is one measurement of energy.  Speed and other measurements are not the energy themselves, but how we measure energy, just as our bank book is not the the money we have in the bank, but we use it to determine how much money we have in the bank.  It is a calculation that represents energy or money, but is not physical, nor does it not have mass or energy.  Measurements are relational, not physical.

Brother, you have lost the argument.  You have failed to prove that reality is entirely physical.  Monism is a mistake.  You put up a good fight, but you chose a losing cause.  Thank you for the argument.          


Roger A. Sawtelle - #62443

June 10th 2011

The fact that durations and distances vary according to the observer doesn’t make them “non-physical”.

Distance and time are measurements.  Measurements are essentially relational in that they are based on a standard.  All individual measurements are based on that standard, so they can be compared with others. 

Time and space are not composed of matter and/or energy and they are not absolute.  A human observer has nothing to do with it. 


Page 2 of 2   « 1 2