The capriciousness of intelligent agency

Scordova at UD asks a question that I find interesting.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/philosophy/the-capriciousness-of-intelligent-agency-makes-it-challenging-to-call-id-science/

By way of contrast, intelligent agencies, particularly those intelligent agencies which we presume have free will, cannot be counted upon to behave in predictable manners in certain domains. Even presuming some intelligent agencies (say machine “intelligence”) are deterministic, they can be an unpredictable black box to outside observers. This makes it difficult to make direct experimental confirmation of certain ID inferences.

It has long been my contention that the defining behavior of science is the search for regularity.

Some regularities can be refined into mathematical equations, which we generally call laws of nature.

Other processes are complex or chaotic, making long range predictions impossible. But chaotic systems can be seen, at small scale, to be following regular rules. Weather develops. It doesn’t simply appear. We can find regularities in its past.

Evolution is a bit like weather. we cannot predict where change is going, but we can find regularities in its past. And these regularities are what distinguishes evolution from intelligent design. They are what allows us to look in a certain place for Tiktaalik. Or hominid fossils. Or predict that genomes will form a nested hierarchy.

So I would answer Scordova that science never looks for capriciousness and always looks for regularity. That is the definition of science.

The reasons are partly historical and partly practical.

Historically, it has been a successful approach. And in practical terms, the search for capriciousness cannot fail. It is the default finding.

There are so many chaotic phenomena in our midst that the world seems to be governed by mysterious forces. The notion that one could find and potentially control these forces is a very new idea. It has little support in art and fiction, and is actively opposed by most religions. So when science started being successful and began to produce practical results, it also found itself in opposition to much of human culture. I do not find it surprising that animosity has developed.

Over to you guys…

262 thoughts on “The capriciousness of intelligent agency

  1. In reference to WJM and Gregory’s recent posts, it seems quite plain that methodological naturalism and materialistic approaches to science are going to remain the reigning champion of rational thought and understanding when it’s opponent’s are reduced to drive-by tantrums and propaganda. It was an interesting challenge while it lasted…

  2. If that’s the case Robin,

    then please show us what materialism has brought to the idea table that trumps theistic conceptualizations of reality.

    Rather it seems the Catholic church’s insistence on countering occultism through a rational and logical approach that kick-started science.

    You would have us think it was the materialist that booted the Church off the scientific stage and the rest was history.

    Rather, in the context of the conversations here, we will find that theistic approaches to understanding reality will continue to pay dividends.

    Take information as an example. You guys can’t wrap your heads around the reality of thought as an immaterial entity that can imprint matter.

    Yet , here we scratch pieces of matter this and that way to make matter move. Can we isolate and study the ideas that prompted the scratches that made matter move?

    At the end of the day, we will only be able to fully understand biology as ideas scratched in matter. And we will ultimately be able to map that hierarchical matrix of scratches to show the logic and rationality of the integration of the ideas that created life.

    No thanks to materialism (ie its physics and chemistry all the way down).

    Robin:
    In reference to WJM and Gregory’s recent posts, it seems quite plain that methodological naturalism and materialistic approaches to science are going to remain the reigning champion of rational thought and understanding when it’s opponent’s are reduced to drive-by tantrums and propaganda. It was an interesting challenge while it lasted…

  3. Steve: then please show us what materialism has brought to the idea table that trumps theistic conceptualizations of reality.

    LOL. It would not take anything at all, to trump the theistic conceptions of reality.

    Rather it seems the Catholic church’s insistence on countering occultism through a rational and logical approach that kick-started science.

    More laughs. The Catholic church does not insist on countering occultism. It only insists on countering forms of occultism other than its own.

  4. Steve:

    Take information as an example.

    That would be the “information” you keep equivocating over and refuse to define because you can’t.

    You guys can’t wrap your heads around the reality of thought as an immaterial entity that can imprint matter.

    Thoughts can’t imprint matter. Neither can any other human mind conceived abstraction like love, hate, the number 3, the color red. Only material entities like energy or other matter can imprint matter. What you can’t wrap your mind around is that human mind created abstractions like “information” don’t exist without a physical substrate to carry them.

    Can we isolate and study the ideas that prompted the scratches that made matter move?

    Yes, we can and do isolate and study the areas of the brain and the physical mechanisms that cause thoughts to exist.

    At the end of the day, we will only be able to fully understand biology as ideas scratched in matter.And we will ultimately be able to map that hierarchical matrix of scratches to show the logic and rationality of the integration of the ideas that created life.

    LOL! Yeah, we know. Any day now we’ll find some positive evidence for the Magic Designer. Any day now. Any day.

    No thanks to materialism (ie its physics and chemistry all the way down).

    Feel free to explain how to do science, any science, without relying 100% on materialism. That’s been a standing challenge to IDers for years but no one ever answers. You won’t either.

  5. If thoughts can’t imprint matter Thorton, then how are IC chips etched? How are molded parts made? How are paintings done?

    Hmmm.

    As to isolating ideas, I think you have it backwards. Thoughts light up the brain, not the other way around.

    But I’ll let Elizabeth weigh in on this, if she will.

  6. Steve: If thoughts can’t imprint matter Thorton, then how are IC chips etched? How are molded parts made? How are paintings done?

    This makes no sense at all to me. But then I think that thoughts are material, they really exist as brain activity. So there is no bridge to cross from some dualist spiritual realm. Thoughts are real.

  7. thorton: Thoughts can’t imprint matter.

    Of course not, if what is meant by thought is brain activity, which is what I mean by it. But thoughts can be acted upon. It’s all in the real world. We have no need of a theory of dualism.

  8. Steve:
    If that’s the case Robin,

    then please show us what materialism has brought to the idea table that trumps theistic conceptualizations of reality

    Well gee…let’s see…

    General Relativity
    Special Relativity
    Space-Time
    Gravity
    An understanding of antibiotic resistance
    String Theory
    Quantum Loop Gravity
    Multiverse Theory
    The Big Bang
    Etc etc, so on and so forth…

    Rather it seems the Catholic church’s insistence on countering occultism through a rational and logical approach that kick-started science.

    I think you need to read a little more history there Steve.

    “The willingness to question previously held truths and search for new answers resulted in a period of major scientific advancements, now known as the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution is traditionally held by most historians to have begun in 1543, when the books De humani corporis fabrica (On the Workings of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius, and also De Revolutionibus, by the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, were first printed. The thesis of Copernicus’ book was that the Earth moved around the Sun. The period culminated with the publication of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687 by Isaac Newton, representative of the unprecedented growth of scientific publications throughout Europe.

    Other significant scientific advances were made during this time by Galileo Galilei, Edmond Halley, Robert Hooke, Christiaan Huygens, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Gottfried Leibniz, and Blaise Pascal. In philosophy, major contributions were made by Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne, René Descartes, and Thomas Hobbes. The scientific method was also better developed as the modern way of thinking emphasized experimentation and reason over traditional considerations.”
    – Wikipedia History of Science

    But more to the point, what does the the concept of the immaterial offer to any sort of understanding of the world around us? Science, as it stands, regardless of whatever roots it may have, is now confined to the exploration of detectable phenomena in order to provide an understanding of how said phenomena work in this universe. Unless someone can demonstrate a way of detecting the immaterial (which makes absolutely no sense) and demonstrate that it adheres to a repeatable, predictable, and consistent effect, I don’t see such a concept ever being embraced by science.

    You would have us think it was the materialist that booted the Church off the scientific stage and the rest was history.

    I would not. The church booted itself off the scientific stage by refusing to adapt its message and mission in the face of evidence for the way things actually are. Any institution that blithely ignores facts and persecutes those who point them out deserves to trod upon with heavy boots and left in the dust of enlightenment and wisdom. I have no pity for the church for its self-imposed ignorance and it’s embrace of “The Truth” that continues to prohibit it from embracing reality.

    Rather, in the context of the conversations here, we will find that theistic approaches to understanding reality will continue to pay dividends.

    Just curious, but can you post even one supposed dividend that this supposed “theistic approach to understanding reality” has provided?

    Take information as an example.You guys can’t wrap your heads around the reality of thought as an immaterial entity that can imprint matter.

    (rolls eyes)

    Steve, Claude Shannon formulated and articulated the concept of information in a qualitative and quantitative model. There was no “theistic approach to understanding reality” used in the development or in the current approach to information. Furthermore, there is nothing immaterial about information; it is a product of the configuration of matter.

    Yet , here we scratch pieces of matter this and that way to make matter move.Can we isolate and study the ideas that prompted the scratches that made matter move?

    Sure. We can even record those ideas:

    http://www.randomhouse.com/book/89414/the-future-of-the-mind-by-michio-kaku

    At the end of the day, we will only be able to fully understand biology as ideas scratched in matter.And we will ultimately be able to map that hierarchical matrix of scratches to show the logic and rationality of the integration of the ideas that created life.

    Steve, you really need to get out more.

    No thanks to materialism (ie its physics and chemistry all the way down).

    Given the advancements from materialism, I think I’ll stick with it.

  9. Steve:
    If thoughts can’t imprint matter Thorton, then how are IC chips etched? How are molded parts made?How are paintings done?

    IC chips are made through a material process of photolithographic and chemical processing. Molder parts are made through a material process of injecting molten plastic into a form. Paintings are usually done with the material process of applying paint to canvas with a brush.

    What is your definition of information? Where and how is the information retained without a physical substrate to carry it?

  10. thorton:
    What is your definition of information?Where and how is the information retained without a physical substrate to carry it?

    I think Steve is confusing, and thus equivocating, the concept of “abstract” with “immaterial”.

  11. Thanks Petruska for highlighting my discussion. What I said at UD got me in the doghouse with some of my associates over there.

    Repeatability is believability, and that is the heart of science. There might be true unrepeatable statements like, “Jodi Arias murdered Travis Alexander”, but does that count as science? If we can’t label such reasonable inferences as science, I don’t know how we can label ID science.

    Some think archaeology and crime scene investigation count as science. I leave to others to argue over such things.

    Thanks again for highlighting my discussion.

    Sal

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