Behe Tangles with Two Philosophers

Over at “ID The Future” there are three discussions I think are worth listening to. Hopefully it should stimulate some civilized discussion among critics and sympathizers of Behe and ID in general.

They can be accessed herehere, and here.

183 thoughts on “Behe Tangles with Two Philosophers

  1. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: It is usual for believers in the conventional understanding of evolution claim that this aspect of the theory just happens in an accidental, unguided fashion. What is their justification for this claim? Do we have enough knowledge about past genetic activities and changes to make claims such as this?

    Kantian Naturalist: We know that there aren’t any empirically confirmed mechanisms that are able to first anticipate what traits will be adaptive in the future and then cause the genetic changes necessary for that trait if any are.

    But we do know that changes in the environment can cause epigenetic changes which can then be stabilized by subsequent genetic changes.

    When we observe populations that have acquired adaptations to a particular lifestyle we are looking at an ever narrowing path. Organisms that maintain generalist attributes are better positioned to survive significant future changes to their environment.

    CharlieM: Believing that chemistry and physics is sufficient to produce sentience and rational minds, now that is to believe in magic.

    Kantian Naturalist: Everything here depends on what one takes “chemistry and physics” to mean. If you have in mind the chemistry and physics that is taught in middle schools and high schools, then sure. But the physics and chemistry of complex self-organizing systems allow for a very different account.

    I don’t think it is ‘magic’ to believe that an autocatalytic set can realize organizational closure if it is enclosed within a semipermeable membrane, and thereby become a biologically autonomous individual with rudimentary sensitivity and reactivity to its environment.

    I believe that self-organizing processes leading to functional complexity are beyond the capabilities of pure chemistry and physics. Apart from living systems can you give us any examples of semipermeable membranes as part of a system which is self-reproducing?

  2. OMagain:
    We don’t understand it, therefore it must have been magic.

    It might be magic but out of interest Charlie, out of all the things that were previously ascribed to such how many actually turned out to be magic?

    We have Arthur C. Clarke’s dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. To that, I guess we can add that for Charlie, any aspect of life sufficiently complex is also indistinguishable from magic, and must therefore be magic. What other “explanation” for consciousness could there possibly be?

  3. CharlieM: It’s my belief that we should not be looking for a missing piece, we should be looking for missing dimensions.

    “We” includes “You”. What are you doing to look for what is missing?

    What is stopping you doing what you think “we” should be doing? If you find something then “we” are much more likely to join in.

  4. OMagain:
    What is stopping you doing what you think “we” should be doing?

    I suspect the problem is that “missing dimensions” is undefined even as a concept. In other words, it’s meaningless. Would Charlie even recognize a “missing dimension” if he found one? Where would he look?

  5. Are chemistry and physics insufficient to account for any behavioural process? Or just ours? For example, I’m currently zipped in a tent due to midges. They can sense the CO2 gradient, and home in on me. If they get close they indulge a distinctive flight pattern, land on me and start harvesting my blood. Every midge acts in a similar manner. But only the females. And there are some 400 distinct species, I understand . Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the thing that isn’t physics or chemistry that determines these broadly consistent behaviours – that ‘knows’ it is operating a female, has a food source nearby, and can somehow seize control of the midge guidance system, hook up to wings and biting equipment and produce the necessary result: a fed female. And, why is it necessary? What does the Wisdom of Nature get out of the midge line continuing?

  6. graham2:
    Allan, Nature doesnt ‘get’ anything because it doesnt ‘want’ anything.

    I think that’s exactly the point Allan was making – and challenging Charlie for evidence to the contrary.

  7. OMagain:
    CharlieM: Believing that chemistry and physics is sufficient to produce sentience and rational minds, now that is to believe in magic.

    OMagain: Now, that all rather depends on your understanding of chemistry and physics, does it not Charlie?

    Perhaps you can take that sneer and instead point out to me the killer flaw in that paper that makes it the equivalent of “magic”?

    http://www.englandlab.com/uploads/7/8/0/3/7803054/2013jcpsrep.pdf

    Feel free to take your time. I’ll wait.

    From your link, Statistical physics of self-replication, by Jeremy L. England:

    Self-replication is a capacity common to every species of living thing, and simple physical intuition dictates that such a process must invariably be fueled by the production of entropy. Here, we undertake to make this intuition rigorous and quantitative by deriving a lower bound for the amount of heat that is produced during a process of self-replication in a system coupled to a thermal bath. We find that the minimum value for the physically allowed rate of heat production is determined by the growth rate, internal entropy, and durability of the replicator, and we discuss the implications of this finding for bacterial cell division, as well as for the pre-biotic emergence of self-replicating nucleic acids

    I disagree with his very first sentence. Self-replicating life is not fuelled by the production of entropy. It is fuelled by the living system capturing energy internally at the expense of the overall increase in entropy. The system is alive and active due to the fact that it maintains an entropy differential between itself and its environment. Overall entropy production is the consequence of this, not the fuel.

    England has said that a great way for a replicator to dissipate more energy is to make more copies of itself. Even better, it could dissipate all of its energy by dying. Problem solved.

    England writes:

    Thus, in a competition among self-replicators to dominate the population of the future, one strategy for “success” is to be simpler in construction and more prone to spontaneous degradation…, in a race between competitors of similar form and construction, it is worthwhile to note that one strategy for reducing the minimal “metabolic” costs of growth for a replicator is to substitute in new components that are likely to “wear out” sooner.

    Firstly, why would one particular conglomerate of matter wish to develop strategies of any kind? Secondly, as I said above metabolic costs can be reduced all the way to zero by dying without replicating.

    Living systems do not break any legitimate laws of physics or chemistry, they work within these laws. Likewise, the manufacture of a paper clip breaks no laws of physics or chemistry, but its production cannot be wholly explained by these laws. We have to include conscious minds in the explanation.

    We endotherms do not flaunt the laws of thermodynamics, we use them to our advantage whether consciously or not. Why do we go to so much effort to build up such an energy differential if the object of the exercise is to get rid of it? Why not remain as relatively simple as bacteria?

    Terrence McKenna may have had a point when he said:

    We are not pushed from behind by some causal unfolding of historical necessity, but we are in the grip of an attractor of some sort which lies ahead of us in time. So we are not as it were following what the statisticians call a random walk across the temporal landscape. In fact the temporal landscape is a canyon with incredibly steep walls and we are only free to move within very narrow confines.

    Perhaps a canyon with even narrower side paths branching off it, many of them cul-de-sacs.

  8. Flint:
    CharlieM: Believing that chemistry and physics is sufficient to produce sentience and rational minds, now that is to believe in magic.

    Flint: Chemistry and physics ARE the components of sentient minds. So I guess what you’re doubting is that there is any process that could marshal the properties of atoms and the laws of physics and in time produce sentience.

    No, chemistry and physics are the means by which we gain understanding of physical brains. When you say, “chemistry and physics ARE the components of sentient minds”, you are stating your belief, not a fact.

    We would not be sentient creatures without physical matter and the associated chemistry and physics. I don’t doubt that.

    Flint: Your doubt is an example of the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy – that it’s inconceivable that the bullet just happened to hit the precise spot it did, and not be a nanometer off! Nobody could possibly aim that well. Clearly, there MUST have been some external, powerful force that guided that bullet to that EXACT spot and no other. Must be your god, QED.

    To believe otherwise would require a profound understanding of certain feedback processes at work over deep time. AKA “magic”.

    If I believed in an external guiding force, that would make me a dualist, which I do not consider myself to be. Our senses provide us with an understanding of the physical nature of living entities, but this is an incomplete representation of their full reality.

  9. OMagain:
    We don’t understand it, therefore it must have been magic.

    It might be magic but out of interest Charlie, out of all the things that were previously ascribed to such how many actually turned out to be magic?

    It is interesting to think of the ancient knowledge which was held exclusively and carefully guarded by the wise men and elders of those times, only taught to those who were initiated into their circles.

    Much of this knowledge is freely taught in schools these days, commonly known by the average school pupil.

  10. Flint: to OMagain:
    OMagain: We don’t understand it, therefore it must have been magic.

    Flint: It might be magic but out of interest Charlie, out of all the things that were previously ascribed to such how many actually turned out to be magic?

    We have Arthur C. Clarke’s dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. To that, I guess we can add that for Charlie, any aspect of life sufficiently complex is also indistinguishable from magic, and must therefore be magic. What other “explanation” for consciousness could there possibly be?

    I take it you have no knowledge of Steiner’s very complicated account of cosmological evolution. If you consider me to be in any way sympathetic to his views then you would see that I could not consider any aspect of life including the appearance of consciousness on earth to be simple or to come about by magic.

  11. [Jeremy England writes]

    Self-replication is a capacity common to every species of living thing, and simple physical intuition dictates that such a process must invariably be fueled by the production of entropy.

    CharlieM: I disagree with his very first sentence. Self-replicating life is not fuelled by the production of entropy.

    Well, you are wrong and he is right. I will try to explain.

    It is fuelled by the living system capturing energy internally at the expense of the overall increase in entropy.

    This is at least in the vicinity of being correct.

    The system is alive and active due to the fact that it maintains an entropy differential between itself and its environment.

    Ack! That’s incoherent!
    From the way you use the terms “entropy differential” and later “energy differential”, it appears you are confused about the difference between energy and entropy.
    Here’s a way of thinking about it without the math.
    Energy flows downhill
    We have a book-keeping convention, an unreasonably effective one, that allows us to track the different ways that energy flows downhill. This accounting is called “Entropy”. When energy flows downhill, it increases/produces entropy.
    Life works by diverting this flow of energy, helping it to go faster in some places, and slower in other places. It’s all flowing downhill, and producing entropy all the time. No downhill flow, then nothing happens. It is 100% the fact that energy is flowing downhill, producing entropy, that allows living things to do anything.

  12. CharlieM: No, chemistry and physics are the means by which we gain understanding of physical brains. When you say, “chemistry and physics ARE the components of sentient minds”, you are stating your belief, not a fact.

    No, I am stating a fact. Your fantasies do not render facts into beliefs. But I wonder what you think brains are made of, and how they operate. The most detailed and granular examinations I’ve seen find enormous complexity, but all that complexity is chemistry and physics.

    I might guess that you are some sort of vitalist, who believes in some sort of animating force not part of the chemistry or physics (which as far as I have read is what out universe is made of, though perhaps the jury is still out on dark matter and energy). And which of course has never been isolated.

    Or perhaps I should guess that you do not see consciousness as an emergent property of brains, much as a symphony is an emergent property of lots of instruments working in coordination. In other words, maybe you see consciousness as independent of the brain somehow, despite consciousness stopping when the brain stops.

    No question the physics and chemistry of life are bogglingly complex. But consciousness does not require more than this.\

    I believe that self-organizing processes leading to functional complexity are beyond the capabilities of pure chemistry and physics

    Then you have a remarkably stunted notion of what chemistry and physics are, or how incredibly complex chemical and physical processes can be. But perhaps you might consider how this might happen, rather than trying to ring in some unobservable superfluous external organizing force.

  13. OMagain:
    CharlieM: It’s my belief that we should not be looking for a missing piece, we should be looking for missing dimensions.

    OMagain: “We” includes “You”. What are you doing to look for what is missing?

    What is stopping you doing what you think “we” should be doing? If you find something then “we” are much more likely to join in.

    I am trying to follow a path that I think is right for me, personally. Others are on their own path. If you are looking for answers and trying to avoid self-deception then I would say you have joined in. It’s an ongoing search so there is a benefit to having multiple paths.

  14. Allan Miller: Are chemistry and physics insufficient to account for any behavioural process? Or just ours? For example, I’m currently zipped in a tent due to midges. They can sense the CO2 gradient, and home in on me. If they get close they indulge a distinctive flight pattern, land on me and start harvesting my blood. Every midge acts in a similar manner. But only the females. And there are some 400 distinct species, I understand . Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the thing that isn’t physics or chemistry that determines these broadly consistent behaviours – that ‘knows’ it is operating a female, has a food source nearby, and can somehow seize control of the midge guidance system, hook up to wings and biting equipment and produce the necessary result: a fed female. And, why is it necessary? What does the Wisdom of Nature get out of the midge line continuing?

    The entity that is beyond physics and chemistry is the being of the midge. A self-determine whole which persists from egg to adult. The active principle works within the laws of physics and chemistry but is not solely determined by those laws. It is the group wisdom of the midge that is acting, even if the individual midge isn’t aware of this wisdom. CO2 sensing is of no use without the combination of a host of other features which the midge must coordinate and make a decision to act accordingly. There is no external entity involved in making this decision. Whereas we sometimes have to “think on out feet”, they are “thinking on the wing”.

  15. DNA_Jock:
    [Jeremy England writes]: Self-replication is a capacity common to every species of living thing, and simple physical intuition dictates that such a process must invariably be fueled by the production of entropy.

    CharlieM: I disagree with his very first sentence. Self-replicating life is not fuelled by the production of entropy.

    DNA_Jock: Well, you are wrong and he is right. I will try to explain.

    Fair point. But it is worth thinking about what entropy actually is.

    As I see it entropy is a statistical tool to allow measurement of the behaviour of energy. What I was trying to convey was the reality of energy transfer compared to the more abstract concept of entropy.

    It is also worth comparing our individual lives with the life of the universe. We are all heading towards the certain death of our physical bodies in which the differing energy levels within the various aspects of the body flatten out and become randomly distributed. Natural death is not an event, it is a process. The body eventually runs out of usable energy. And here we have a good example of the whole reflected in the parts. This is happening to the universe as a whole. The physical universe is heading towards the point where it has run out of usable energy.

    CharlieM: It is fuelled by the living system capturing energy internally at the expense of the overall increase in entropy.

    DNA_Jock: This is at least in the vicinity of being correct.

    So kind of you to say so 🙂

    CharlieM: The system is alive and active due to the fact that it maintains an entropy differential between itself and its environment.

    DNA_Jock: Ack! That’s incoherent!
    From the way you use the terms “entropy differential” and later “energy differential”, it appears you are confused about the difference between energy and entropy.
    Here’s a way of thinking about it without the math.
    Energy flows downhill
    We have a book-keeping convention, an unreasonably effective one, that allows us to track the different ways that energy flows downhill. This accounting is called “Entropy”. When energy flows downhill, it increases/produces entropy.
    Life works by diverting this flow of energy, helping it to go faster in some places, and slower in other places. It’s all flowing downhill, and producing entropy all the time. No downhill flow, then nothing happens. It is 100% the fact that energy is flowing downhill, producing entropy, that allows living things to do anything.

    So energy is the reality and entropy is an abstract system of measurement?

    I know when I speak of entropy differential I am probably deviating from the technical use of this term. But is it fair to say that the measure of entropy within a living cell is different from the measure within a dead cell?

    Thank you for expending some precious energy in response to my post. 🙂

  16. CharlieM: What I was trying to convey was the reality of energy transfer compared to the more abstract concept of entropy.

    “Energy” is just as much an abstraction as “entropy”. However, I’ll grant that entropy can seem more confusing.

    We are all heading towards the certain death of our physical bodies in which the differing energy levels within the various aspects of the body flatten out and become randomly distributed.

    That oversimplifies it. We do continue to eat, and thereby import energy. So it isn’t just a matter of flattening out.

  17. CharlieM: The entity that is beyond physics and chemistry is the being of the midge. A self-determine whole which persists from egg to adult. The active principle works within the laws of physics and chemistry but is not solely determined by those laws.

    This is because you understand what “the laws of physics and chemistry” are for simple systems, and therefore conclude that complex systems must somehow transcend those laws.

    I hope you can see the error here.

  18. CharlieM: But it is worth thinking about what entropy actually is.

    There have been discussions here and elsewhere. We could have another. What do you think entropy actually is?

  19. Kantian Naturalist: This is because you understand what “the laws of physics and chemistry” are for simple systems, and therefore conclude that complex systems must somehow transcend those laws.

    I hope you can see the error here.

    Yet you were the one who argued that macro patterns transcend micro processes, or did I misunderstand? You seemed to be saying that broadly complex processes were qualitatively different from their granular components.

    I don’t think Charlie is arguing that the laws of physics and chemistry change as things get more complex.

  20. Kantian Naturalist:
    All of the challenges that intelligent design claims to pose to evolution — about the origins of life, or the origin of “body plans”, or the origin of major transitions like consciousness, mindedness, reason, intelligence, etc. are all much better explained in light of complexity theory than in terms of evolution.

    I don’t see why complexity theory and evolution (which I take it here to mean evolutionary theory) would be contrarians, rather than allies. This sounds as if we should reject the possibility of incorporating complexity theory into our understanding of evolutionary phenomena. If population fluctuations are somewhat chaotic, for example, then complexity theory becomes automatically a tool for understanding evolution, right?

  21. Entropy: I don’t see why complexity theory and evolution (which I take it here to mean evolutionary theory) would be contrarians, rather than allies. This sounds as if we should reject the possibility of incorporating complexity theory into our understanding of evolutionary phenomena. If population fluctuations are somewhat chaotic, for example, then complexity theory becomes automatically a tool for understanding evolution, right?

    It would be wonderful to have a new tool for understanding evolution. Is it complexity theory? One issue is, what exactly is complexity theory anyway? I have heard of it before, but all I can make out is
    1) It is put forward by people whose addresses are in Santa Fe,
    2) It is terribly revolutionary,
    3) If you ignore it you are an old geezer who is hopelessly out of it,
    4) We’ve been talking about it for years but so far it cannot be easily explained,
    5) If you are using it, you make a computer model of some system in which a lot of things interact,
    6) you then get complicated behavior, you then say, “gosh, complex systems can do unexpected things!”
    7) So you apply for a grant, not to try to make simple models (which would be unComplex), but to simulate an even bigger and more complicated system to see whether it will do unexpected things (prediction: it will),
    8) Go back to step 6, and continue

    Any minute now, the details of Complexity Theory will be revealed.

  22. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: What I was trying to convey was the reality of energy transfer compared to the more abstract concept of entropy.

    Neil Rickert: “Energy” is just as much an abstraction as “entropy”. However, I’ll grant that entropy can seem more confusing.

    True enough. When we think of energy and entropy in terms of quantities we are entering into abstractions.

    CharlieM: We are all heading towards the certain death of our physical bodies in which the differing energy levels within the various aspects of the body flatten out and become randomly distributed.

    Neil Rickert: That oversimplifies it. We do continue to eat, and thereby import energy. So it isn’t just a matter of flattening out

    And the same thing applies to the universe as a whole. The formation of stars and galaxies are processes which are taking place against the overall direction of flattening out.

  23. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: The entity that is beyond physics and chemistry is the being of the midge. A self-determine whole which persists from egg to adult. The active principle works within the laws of physics and chemistry but is not solely determined by those laws.

    Kantian Naturalist: This is because you understand what “the laws of physics and chemistry” are for simple systems, and therefore conclude that complex systems must somehow transcend those laws.

    I hope you can see the error here.

    The laws of physics and chemistry work the same no matter if the system is simple or complex. It is not because living systems increase in complexity that they transcend the classical laws of physics and chemistry. It is because minds are involved. Human machines do not contradict the known laws of physics and chemistry. They are constructed by means of the manipulation of these laws to produce organization. There may be no evidence of lower organisms having individual minds but this does not rule out mind at the collective level. Instinctive knowledge could be understood as the workings of a mind at the group level.

    The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind. Classical Newtonian physics provides good arguments for matter being primal, but with the advent of quantum physics transcending classical physics the tide is turning.

  24. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: But it is worth thinking about what entropy actually is.

    Alan Fox: There have been discussions here and elsewhere. We could have another. What do you think entropy actually is?

    I heard one description of entropy which I quite like: entropy is a measure of how spread out the probability is.

    I was thinking about starting a thread inspired by OMagain’s link to Jeremy England. I’ll probably get around to it at some point depending on the order of priorities at my end which is governed mainly by my wife. 🙂 It all depends on the energy I put into reducing the entropy in my immediate environment. So far I seem to be losing the battle. I’m very good at rearranging the mess with no noticeable increase of order. 🙁

  25. CharlieM: The laws of physics and chemistry work the same no matter if the system is simple or complex. It is not because living systems increase in complexity that they transcend the classical laws of physics and chemistry. It is because minds are involved.

    The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind.

    I suggest you are making a category error here. Minds ARE a side-effect of brains, just as motion is a side-effect of muscles. Minds are what brains do, just as mobility is what legs do. There is nothing magical about organs evolving for various purposes, nothing more special about minds than about mobility. I can’t buy that kidneys produce urine, but brains produce woo.

  26. CharlieM: The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind.

    The vast, vast majority of the universe in both space and time is devoid of mind. Only the tiniest corner of the tiniest corner of a totally insignificant solar system appears to have ‘mind’ in it.

    Why?

  27. There remains a curious constancy, as detected by the behaviour of Everymidge, if their physical material is not the determinant (albeit complex) of their behaviours. Your account needs fleshing out in that regard. How could Midgematter interact with a nonphysical Midgessence, even in principle? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

  28. OMagain:
    CharlieM: The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind.

    OMagain: The vast, vast majority of the universe in both space and time is devoid of mind. Only the tiniest corner of the tiniest corner of a totally insignificant solar system appears to have ‘mind’ in it.

    Why?

    “Being omniscient, I can see everything throughout time and space and so I declare that mind is confined to an insignificant planet in an insignificant star system in the vastness of the cosmos.”

    And it is me who has been accused of putting humans on a pedestal!

    How did the senses and consciousness of an insignificant conglomeration of matter on this insignificant planet get to be so all-seeing and all-knowing?

  29. Allan Miller:
    There remains a curious constancy, as detected by the behaviour of Everymidge, if their physical material is not the determinant (albeit complex) of their behaviours. Your account needs fleshing out in that regard. How could Midgematter interact with a nonphysical Midgessence, even in principle? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

    It makes no sense to you because you are looking for interactions instead of intra-actions. The separation is a concept of your own making. You might as well ask how lightning interacts with the thunderstorm.

  30. Flint:
    CharlieM: The laws of physics and chemistry work the same no matter if the system is simple or complex. It is not because living systems increase in complexity that they transcend the classical laws of physics and chemistry. It is because minds are involved.

    The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind.

    Flint: I suggest you are making a category error here. Minds ARE a side-effect of brains, just as motion is a side-effect of muscles. Minds are what brains do, just as mobility is what legs do. There is nothing magical about organs evolving for various purposes, nothing more special about minds than about mobility. I can’t buy that kidneys produce urine, but brains produce woo.

    And by declaring that minds are what brains do you have the conveniently ignored the mind/body problem.

  31. Entropy: I don’t see why complexity theory and evolution (which I take it here to mean evolutionary theory) would be contrarians, rather than allies. This sounds as if we should reject the possibility of incorporating complexity theory into our understanding of evolutionary phenomena. If population fluctuations are somewhat chaotic, for example, then complexity theory becomes automatically a tool for understanding evolution, right?

    Oh, yes, absolutely. I wasn’t saying that complexity theory and evolutionary theory are contrary — not at all!

    My point rather was that intelligent design theory made a colossal blunder when it took itself to be opposing evolutionary theory, when the real target of intelligent design should be complexity theory.

    It is at the level of intelligent design vs complexity theory that the real issues are engaged: is order (“complex functional information”) always a consequence of top-down structure imposed by an intelligent agent? Or can order be generated “for free”, from “chaos”, as Ilya Prigogine, Stuart Kaufman, and Susan Oyama have argued?

    In other words, intelligent design theory has, from the very beginning, completely misunderstood itself: it was never about evolution, it was about self-organization.

    This is why the philistines at Uncommon Descent are always complaining that emergence is magic — because if emergence made sense, there would be far less conceptual room for intelligent design as an alternative.

  32. CharlieM: It makes no sense to you because you are looking for interactions instead of intra-actions.

    Haha. Resort to full-on waffle mode.

    The separation is a concept of your own making. You might as well ask how lightning interacts with the thunderstorm.

    You seem incapable of articulating any thought without resort to analogy – which is simply the avoidance of articulation. Midge behaviour is not a thunderstorm.
    I can give a pretty good causal account of thunderstorms and lightning, as it happens. You can’t give any account of this additional level you keep insisting is needed because (you keep insisting) existing understanding is missing something vital when it comes to organisms with nervous systems.

  33. CharlieM: The laws of physics and chemistry work the same no matter if the system is simple or complex. It is not because living systems increase in complexity that they transcend the classical laws of physics and chemistry. It is because minds are involved.

    Not at all. You seem to have conception of “the laws of physics and chemistry” is based on very simplistic systems (or better: systems that can be easily manipulated based on a model that consists of some relatively simple equations).

    Perhaps you believe that physics and chemistry can’t take into account holistic (whole-part) constraints. But that’s your view, it may be because the only physics you know about is the physics of simple systems. But it’s precisely when we start looking at the physics of complex systems that we start getting into whole-part constraints, circular causality, and teleological mechanisms.

    The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind.

    There is certainly a debate which can be characterized that way, but I do not locate myself within it. I don’t regard “matter” as “primal”.

    Classical Newtonian physics provides good arguments for matter being primal, but with the advent of quantum physics transcending classical physics the tide is turning.

    Quantum physics has nothing to do with whether “matter” or “mind” is “primal.”

  34. CharlieM: And by declaring that minds are what brains do you have the conveniently ignored the mind/body problem.

    Or solved it.

  35. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM: The separation is a concept of your own making. You might as well ask how lightning interacts with the thunderstorm.

    Allan Miller: You seem incapable of articulating any thought without resort to analogy – which is simply the avoidance of articulation. Midge behaviour is not a thunderstorm.
    I can give a pretty good causal account of thunderstorms and lightning, as it happens. You can’t give any account of this additional level you keep insisting is needed because (you keep insisting) existing understanding is missing something vital when it comes to organisms with nervous systems.

    Metaphorical language is entrenched in all our communications these days. We can’t escape it. 🙂 Our language is biased toward the physical world of the senses and this limits it.

    I’ve done plenty of articulating here in the past.

    Picture one of the midges swirling round your head. You see its physical body which you take to be particulate in nature. What you don’t see (unless you think like Goethe) is the etheric, life “body” belonging to it which is more field like. It is within the space occupied by the midge and extended beyond it. It is not constrained by it. The midge also has an “astral body” which is constrained by neither space nor time. This is what governs the behaviour of the midge, its nervous energy, its instincts, behaviour and the like.

    We have the pointwise earthly forces, the peripheral cosmic forces and balancing interactions which harmonize these opposites.

    These three principles were represented by Paracelsus in his “three humors: salt (representing stability), sulphur (representing combustibility), and mercury (representing liquidity)”

    Salt representing the laying down of the form of the midge, sulphur representing the dissipation of energy, and mercury the flow of bodily fluids required for both. Mercury is seen as the messenger which communicates between the two.

    This aligns with Steiner’s understanding of the human form which he often described in a threefold way. The aspects as he sees them are metabolic/limb system with its spiritual substance (regenerative) and physical forces (movement); the nerve/head system with its physical substance (does not easily regenerate) and spiritual forces (thinking) and the intermediary rhythmic heart/lung system catering for the needs of both.

    Polarities abound. Dutch waffle, food for the body, my waffle, food for thought. 🙂

  36. CharlieM: “Being omniscient, I can see everything throughout time and space and so I declare that mind is confined to an insignificant planet in an insignificant star system in the vastness of the cosmos.”

    I actually said this:

    OMagain: Only the tiniest corner of the tiniest corner of a totally insignificant solar system appears to have ‘mind’ in it.

    It appears to be the case. Does it appear otherwise to you then? How so?

    When you look out into the vastness of nothingness does it look like there are minds out there to you? They should be everywhere, right? The evidence for them being everywhere would be overwhelming. Radio signals. Dyson spheres.

    And yet, there is nothing. There appears to be no other minds in the universe.

    CharlieM: And it is me who has been accused of putting humans on a pedestal!

    How did the senses and consciousness of an insignificant conglomeration of matter on this insignificant planet get to be so all-seeing and all-knowing?

    Open your eyes and look at the sky. Does I have to be all-seeing and all-knowing to look up at the sky and note that it appears to have no evidence whatsoever of other life?

  37. CharlieM: Metaphorical language is entrenched in all our communications these days. We can’t escape it.

    I’m beginning to think you’re a ‘bot. (Yes, I know that’s a metaphor). You dig that defence out every time I mention it. It’s equivocation. The existence of metaphorical usage in language does not justify referring to everything in terms of everything else. At some point, surely, we have to hit (metaphor alert) bedrock? It can’t be metaphors all the way down? I have to presume you write to get a point across. But it’s not happening. You also retreat too easily behind Zen gobbledegook. Just an observation from a consumer.

    Our language is biased toward the physical world of the senses and this limits it.

    That’s a curious state of affairs, isn’t it, for a product not of the physical but of the ineffable Mind? You’d think if minds were nonphysical they’d have less trouble getting these concepts across!

    Picture one of the midges swirling round your head. You see its physical body which you take to be particulate in nature. What you don’t see (unless you think like Goethe) is the etheric, life “body” belonging to it which is more field like. It is within the space occupied by the midge and extended beyond it.

    At some point, however extensive Midgessence may be, it interacts with the physical world in a manner that we think of as causal. When the wind gets above a certain speed, the midges all drop to the ground. Somehow, the Distributed Astral Midge can tell what the wind speed is and stop flapping those things on its back. There is an interaction (intraaction?) with the physical world, however extensive and etheric the True Midge may be. The nature of this interaction appears to be squeezed through midge-sperm and midge-egg, but is not solely contained within those physical containers – why, that would be madness! 😁 And yet Everymidge grows into an adult that behaves the same way. There is a consistency of action/interaction.

    It is not constrained by it. The midge also has an “astral body” which is constrained by neither space nor time. This is what governs the behaviour of the midge, its nervous energy, its instincts, behaviour and the like.

    And its development? Again, something outside the physical substance of the midge, at a given developmental stage, is being postulated – for no good reason I can see. It solves no problem, is required to explain no observation. It’s just a stepping stone to the really important thing: you.

  38. Allan Miller: Midgessence

    *chuckles*
    I’m plagued this evening by “mouches charbonneuses” Sneaky bastards go for the ankles, taking tiny chunks of flesh. Itches like crazy but a warm shower solves it. We’re just trying to survive.

    Flying ants now attracted to my phone screen. Just going inside now, I may be some time.

  39. Alan Fox,

    Ticks are another of God’s little jokes. I don’t get many, compared to some I know, but discovered one while relieving myself a couple of days back. I was on an apparently deserted beach in Caithness (just hiked Land’s End – John O’Groats); anyone watching from the dunes would have seen me taking an unusually lengthy interest in the trouser area, facing the sea, as I fiddled with the removal tool!

  40. Allan Miller:
    Alan Fox,

    Ticks are another of God’s little jokes. I don’t get many, compared to some I know, but discovered one while relieving myself a couple of days back. I was on an apparently deserted beach in Caithness (just hiked Land’s End – John O’Groats); anyone watching from the dunes would have seen me taking an unusually lengthy interest in the trouser area, facing the sea, as I fiddled with the removal tool!

    In the past two years my family has been treated twice for Lyme disease. The dog nearly died of it and was only saved because my son had pet insurance. The emergency care was thousands of dollars. The lawn service guy was hospitalized for several weeks, and off the job for six weeks.

    Moderna needs to get on this.

  41. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: The laws of physics and chemistry work the same no matter if the system is simple or complex. It is not because living systems increase in complexity that they transcend the classical laws of physics and chemistry. It is because minds are involved.

    Kantian Naturalist: Not at all. You seem to have conception of “the laws of physics and chemistry” is based on very simplistic systems (or better: systems that can be easily manipulated based on a model that consists of some relatively simple equations).

    Perhaps you believe that physics and chemistry can’t take into account holistic (whole-part) constraints. But that’s your view, it may be because the only physics you know about is the physics of simple systems. But it’s precisely when we start looking at the physics of complex systems that we start getting into whole-part constraints, circular causality, and teleological mechanisms.

    I worded that all wrong! What I meant was that increasing complexity does not break the laws of physics and complexity. Processes such as the butterfly effect can be understood and described in terms of physics.

    On the other hand the laws of geometry when applied to anything physical can only be approximations.

    CharlieM: The whole debate rests on which is primal, mind or matter. You believe matter, I believe mind.

    Kantian Naturalist: There is certainly a debate which can be characterized that way, but I do not locate myself within it. I don’t regard “matter” as “primal”.

    Would you say you regard matter/energy as primal? How would you describe the relationship between matter, energy and mind?

    CharlieM: Classical Newtonian physics provides good arguments for matter being primal, but with the advent of quantum physics transcending classical physics the tide is turning.

    Kantian Naturalist: Quantum physics has nothing to do with whether “matter” or “mind” is “primal.”

    But it does change how we should think of the relationship between mind and matter.

  42. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: And by declaring that minds are what brains do you have the conveniently ignored the mind/body problem.

    Kantian Naturalist: Or solved it.

    If only problems could be solved purely by declaring them solved?

  43. CharlieM: I worded that all wrong! What I meant was that increasing complexity does not break the laws of physics and complexity. Processes such as the butterfly effect can be understood and described in terms of physics.

    If you accept that complex systems can be described in terms of physics, then I don’t see what reasons you have for insisting that life somehow transcends physics.

    Would you say you regard matter/energy as primal?

    As Aristotle observes at the beginning of Metaphysics, “what is first” is ambiguous, because there is what is first in relation to us and there is what is first in itself.

    What is first in relation to us, or what we initially describe in setting forth any articulated understanding, is what the phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty described as the pre-theoretic correlative unity of embodied perceptual experience and sensible-and-intelligible things. That is: we first encounter ourselves as embodied amidst things that we perceive sensibly as organized unities that are also replete with significance and value for us.

    By contrast, what is first in relation to itself, or absolutely primary, is what Spinoza would call “God or Nature”: the necessary, infinite, absolutely independent substance that is the Universe.

    But it does change how we should think of the relationship between mind and matter.

    Quantum mechanics is completely irrelevant to “the relationship between mind and matter”.

  44. OMagain:
    CharlieM: “Being omniscient, I can see everything throughout time and space and so I declare that mind is confined to an insignificant planet in an insignificant star system in the vastness of the cosmos.”

    I actually said this:

    OMagain: Only the tiniest corner of the tiniest corner of a totally insignificant solar system appears to have ‘mind’ in it.

    It appears to be the case. Does it appear otherwise to you then? How so?

    How far into the cosmos do you think that evidence of life on earth has reached? Only the tinyest insignificant distance compared to the distances involved in deep space. That’s how far!

    OMagain: When you look out into the vastness of nothingness does it look like there are minds out there to you? They should be everywhere, right? The evidence for them being everywhere would be overwhelming. Radio signals. Dyson spheres.

    And yet, there is nothing. There appears to be no other minds in the universe.

    You do realize that Dyson spheres are a human conjecture. The only thing that we have produced that resembles a Dyson sphere, albeit encompassing the earth rather than the sun, is our contribution to the greenhouse gasses. These encompass the earth trapping the heat as it radiates out. At those scales, we interfere with the natural order of things at our peril.

    You are banking on all minds having to conform to your idea of what minds should be like. Minds that are very similar to human minds.

    CharlieM: And it is me who has been accused of putting humans on a pedestal!

    How did the senses and consciousness of an insignificant conglomeration of matter on this insignificant planet get to be so all-seeing and all-knowing?

    OMagain: Open your eyes and look at the sky. Do I have to be all-seeing and all-knowing to look up at the sky and note that it appears to have no evidence whatsoever of other life?

    Why should the existence of life have to depend on its appearance to you? Scoop up a handful of soil and remove any tiny creatures you can see. There is now no signs of life according to what you see. Does this mean that it is now sterile and there is in reality no life within it?

  45. Allan Miller Land’s End – John O’Groats … bloody hell.
    Im from OZ so I had no idea what this means till I looked it up in Google Earth.

  46. graham2,

    1215 miles, apparently. Someone called Carla Molinari did it in 30 days last year.

    @ Allan.

    Seriously, Sir, this is no mean feat. How are your feet, BTW?

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