John McLatchie, a celebrity ID-ist according to TSZ, and Alex O’Connor had a debate titled “Theism vs. Naturalism: Which is a Better Account of Reality?”
The actual debate starts at 14:08 with John McLatchie’s opening statement.
McLatchie’s “Evidence for Theism”:
- The Universe had a beginning.
- The fine-tuning of the laws of physics.
- The evidence of biological design.
- The evidence for the truth of Christianity.
McLatchie focuses on biological design in his opening statement first, and second on some scattered remarks on Christianity apparently from some Anglo-American evangelical angle.
This is boring because the title of the debate is “Theism vs. Naturalism” and none of McLatchie’s points are on theism. His first two points are cosmology, the third is biology and the fourth is Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is just one parochial/provincial form of theism, whereas McLatchie seems to care most about ID-ism which does not properly qualify as any sort of theism, even though McLatchie presents it as if it did.
ID-ism – as in McLatchie’s third point, evidence of biological design – is an argument about the nature of biology. The argument has no direct implications on theology, which is why it does not qualify as a theistic argument. Yes, biological organisms and their functions appear designed because they are complicated and purposeful, but this might mean that the designer is even more complicated, so who designed the designer? Richard Dawkins would agree that biology has hallmarks of design all over, but posits that the design is fundamentally derived from non-design. That’s how little connection biological design has to theism.
(As an aside, I recall that according to its advocates ID-ism was supposed to be sheer science, nothing sneakily religious or theological. The truth of course is that ID-ism was always meant as a sneaky way to get God into school textbooks and this is now – openly in a non-sneaky way – manifest in McLatchie’s presentation.)
The topic of theism requires properly a philosophical or theological approach, so luckily we have Alex O’Connor, a student of theology, who starts his opening statement at 34:25.
O’Connor’s first point against theism: “The inescapable God” (Psalm 139) is not a universal experience.
According to O’Connor, naturalism (atheism) would be a better explanation given:
- Hiddenness of God
- Geographical statistical arrangement of religious belief
- Problem of gratuitous suffering
I find the first point the strongest against theism. When a sincere seeker is not rewarded with results, it is a bummer for sure. However, there is a solution to it that O’Connor does not consider. Namely, some self-reflection is in order after a failed quest. You may think you are truly perfect and God should accept you as such, but are you really and should he really? In principle, God doesn’t have to obey your criteria or play according to your rules. Or, if you really are absolutely fabulous and wonderful, then there may be a better God in store for you instead of the geographical statistical average as per your local whereabouts.
O’Connor should really consider some self-reflection along those lines, because philosophy and theology are rather sophisticated pursuits, particularly when your intellectual level is above the average Joe. As for average Joes, O’Connors first two points weigh equally against atheism as against theism: Most interesting science and thoroughly matured atheism are as inscrutable for common folks as philosophically consistent theism and theology are. And you find more atheists in certain places and not in others, if that’s supposed to mean anything.
I leave O’Connor’s third point, the problem of suffering, be. In my opinion, the theists for whom the problem of suffering poses a problem are actually doubters, not believers. For me, the problem of suffering never was any sort of problem. But supposing that suffering is a problem, atheism doesn’t solve it. Atheism only asserts that gratuitous suffering is okay, “natural”. Which far from solves it.
In summary, the debate was more on topic by O’Connor, because his approach was properly philosophical. McLatchie’s ID-ism, as ID-ism in general, is basically off topic when it comes to theism. However, on this website ID-ism is very much the topic, so discuss.
If blenders are machines than what are air conditioners?
I mean, seriously, Robin has been trying to argue for a week now that humans don’t use mechanical power. When I point out how absurd that is, he first posts examples of “some” machines, and says hey, there is no example of a human, as if that means anything. I then show him that in fact humans DO measure their work rate in terms of watts, especially cyclists, and what does he say? You didn’t note the torque of a blender.
With such buffoonery, at what point should I take such atheists seriously?
Of course humans use mechanical power. Every time a human uses a machine they use mechanical power. This is pretty easy to understand. The issue you seem to be having is acknowledging that humans do not generate or apply mechanical power. We generate chemical energy and convert that into bioelectrical energy. This is how all living organisms operate. Even the example you gave above notes FTP in watts! That we can convert an organisms’ active energy output (measured in watts or kilojoules) into a relatively close approximation of HP is fun for the sake of trivial interest and math, but it is just that – merely an analogous approximation since organism are not machines and our “work”, such as it is, is not actually measured in HP. Heck, even the bit you cut n pasted above notes this! Why do you think “engine” is put in quotes above? Well…duh! Because the cyclist is only analogous to an actual mechanical engine.
This is a category error and an equivocation as shown. Blenders fall under the definition of machine because they actually include the categorical characteristics of machines such as generating mechanical power. Checking any number of definitional and/or industry sites and reference materials confirms this. Here:
Go ahead, Phoodoo, find me a biological reference for any organism that includes a reference to the organism being a machine. That you hold this opinion does not make it so. The vast majority of people all agree that organisms are not machines and we differentiate them with distinct and separate terminology.
You’re simply wrong Phoodoo. But let me know when you get around to trying to actually demonstrate that organisms are machines rather than simply repeating your invalidated claim over and over.
It doesn’t hurt my world view; it simply fails the actual category definitional test.
Suck an egg, Phoodoo! 🙂
You don’t even know what watts are.
Machines. Compressors, fans, coils…all mechanical parts.
Technically, I’ve been arguing that humans and other organisms don’t generate or produce or apply mechanical power. We certainly use mechanical power when we use machines.
Well…you haven’t yet, but keep trying…
It does actual demonstrate you’re wrong because most of us can see the category error you’re committing.
Incorrect Phoodoo. I noted that cyclists do not measure their work rate in HP. And I noted that while one can convert chemical to bioelectrical wattage into analogous HP, no one actually measures organism performance or power in HP.
Incorrect again, Phoodoo. You are the one ignoring the category of machine and that blenders fit that category. Their motors are measured in HP and torque – both measurements of mechanical power. So yeah…you wished to argue that blenders not being mentioned in the list of machines is no different than humans not being mentioned in a list of machines, but I called you out on it for simply equivocating the separate categories. That you wish to dismiss that there are separate categories is not valid.
The only one being a buffoon is you.
LOL! It’s not me having this issue. You’re the one trying to equivocate power, and specifically mechanical power, with energy. That won’t work either:
The terms power and energy are closely related but distinct physical quantities. Power is the rate at which energy is generated or consumed and hence is measured in units (e.g. watts) that represent energy per unit time.
The motor’s energy usage is measured in watts. That’s not the same thing as mechanical power. Again, you’re engaging in an equivocation.
“Wow, your argument is getting worse and worse.”
Can you truly not spot that every dictionary definition is clearly written with man-made devices in mind? We have separate words for machines and for organisms and we have a word for machines that were built to resemble organisms, which would be strangely redundant under your terms. Even small children have no trouble whatsoever distinguishing living beings from man-made artifacts. They are conspicuously and fundamentally different!
You seriously believe that you are up against atheists with your ridiculous claim? Everyone who is not a watchmaker-blinded ID creationist will point and laugh at you for claiming that organisms are (not just resemble: ARE) machines.
And to what end? There is nobody here that cannot spot your transparent attempt to force by dictionary the suggestion that organisms are constructed entities. If that is what you want to show, then why not directly advance support for this claim?
It’s fascinating to me how your inability to present an argument for your assumption is reinforced by an insistence that there’s something wrong with anyone who doesn’t see the world exactly as you do.
If I didn’t think you were a conservative before, I certainly do now.
Also, not that it matters, but the insistence that all living things are machines would be a threat to the worldviews of dualists, idealists, and vitalists. Traditionally, it was the atheists and materialists who insisted on the mechanistic basis of life — that the position of radical French materialists such as Baron d’Holbach, La Mettrie, and Helvetius. It is certainly not a threat to materialism or atheism — on the contrary, mechanism has long been the position held by materialists and atheists.
You also don’t understand measuring watts?
Oh, now you are saying that you, and Corneel and Robin stand in oppostion to the atheist/materialist position?
Phoodoo is a logic gate. He sees everything as either true or false. For phoodoo, there are no nuances.
Or, at least, that’s the impression he is leaving.
In other news, if phoodoo is correct and organisms are machines, then the ID argument collapses.
The ID argument:
1) All machines are designed.
2) Organisms are like machines in that they have characteristics X, Y, and Z.
3) Thus, by inference to best explanation, organisms are designed.
If you insist that organisms are in fact machines, then Premise 1 is begging the question.
I am curious though, why do you think all of the atheist-materialists think that living things are machines? Is that just another thing they are wrong about?
Maybe KN can explain why they all think that.
Perhaps it is just another thing that you are wrong about.
Well…you could follow the link he provided…
Maybe…I don’t know…just going out on a limb here…but maybe…there’s some reason he included it.
It amazes me that he has been doing it for years.
Oh really? Well, let’s see:
Robin claims that living things are different from machines because they don’t use mechanical power. he even posts what he thinks is a defintion which negates living things;
Phoodoo responds by saying, of course they use mechanical power. Why he would think this description doesn’t apply to living things is anybody’s guess, by its just plain ridiculous on its face.
Robin doubles down, and says, fine, give me one example of when humans are measured using mechaical power.
Oh, ok, phoodoo says, humans riding bicycles are measured in terms of how many watts they create (mechanical power!). Robin of course is not very clued in, and doesn’t realize that watts are a measurement of horsepower, in fact 1 watt is equal to exactly 0.00134102 horsepower. Again, its not really my problem that Robin doesn’t know anything.
This is called an argument KN, and I have just refuted his argument with definitive proof. That your are a philosophy professor and can’t see this I guess I also shouldn’t be surprised. But alas you still have the gall to claim ” It’s fascinating to me how your inability to present an argument for your assumption .”
So who should I think is dumber, you or Robin?
This is again a category error coupled with an equivocation (and the fallacy of the general rule for good measure). A watt is a standard unit of power – all types of power. As I referenced earlier, not all power is mechanical power and simply showing that some human activities can be measured using power units and are analogous to mechanical operations does not make them either the same thing as mechanical power or machine operation.
So, how about it Phoodoo? You going to explain why there are different categories of power?
Further, are you going to explain why the definition of a robot is a “human-like machine”? Odd that…
Oh…and further, I did provide the reference to Human Power as a category separate from mechanical power, but you haven’t yet explained why there’s separate category.
And while the article describes a variety of human powered devices, it’s pretty clear that the apparati (such as the bicycle) are the machine part of the human-powered system. No where in there is there any assertion that the human is the machine itself. Oddly, you’ve not addressed that either. And I even asked about QBs and sharks getting such mechanical power ratings. So far? Nada from you.
No, all you’ve done is cherry-picked a example that on scrutiny, doesn’t actually address what I asked for and is actually an example of a human being part of a machine system, not actually being a machine, and then you attempted to equivocate it to the base definition of mechanical power. That’s not refuting anything.
Your argument is incoherent, because people have been debating for centuries the idea of a robot-like human that is indistinguishable from humans, and whether or not we can consider these to be living, if they do and say exactly what humans do.
If we were to listen to your gibbersih, then one would just say, Oh no, you could always tell them apart, because living things don’t use mechanical power…oh brother. Since no one who ever thought of the problem believes that, the debate still remains.*
*KN, this is presenting an argument.
And here, Phoodoo, just for fun:
Have a gander at this and let us know if you are confused by the article because you think the authors are simply describing the same thing. Maybe the authors are just jerking our chains…
Sure…we’ve been debating such – as a philosophical exercise. But no one has actually presented anything mechanical that one would currently claim to be indistinguishable from a human or any other organism for that matter.
Don’t put words in my mouth, Phoodoo. I have no problem entertaining the idea that we may someday get to the point where a delineation between organic life and artificial life is unclear. But we’re not there yet…not by a long shot. And to insist that, well…since it may happen, there’s no reason to recognize any such delineations now…is simply a fallacious argument of the beard coupled with the fallacy of the general rule.
I won’t speak for Corneel or Robin. Speaking only for myself, I’m against the mechanistic conception of life that was widely assumed by French materialists following Descartes.
Also, I’m not an atheist. I’m a Jewish religious naturalist in the tradition of Mordecai Kaplan. As Kaplan put it:
Good point. The fact that human energy output can be measured in units that correspond to the units used to measure machine energy output doesn’t show that humans (or any other living things) are machines.
To do that, phoodoo would need an argument against Nicholson’s criticism of the machine conception of life. Maybe he could begin by looking at some background information on Jacques Loeb’s The Mechanistic Conception of Life.
One thing that phoodoo has right: intelligent design depends upon the mechanistic conception of life. (However, it is not the case that the mechanistic conception of life entails intelligent design.)
This is why it is so disingenuous for the commentators at Uncommon Descent to act as if they can make common cause with biologists like J. Scott Turner and philosophers like Stephen Talbott — because Turner and Talbott reject the mechanistic conception of life on which intelligent design depends.
This is confusing. The Turing test is a proposed measure of intelligence, not life. The idea is that if you were conversing (like, over the internet) with an intelligence that could pass the Turing test, you would not be able to tell if the responses on the other end were produced by a person or by a computer. And if it turned out you were conversing with a computer, this does NOT mean the computer is a living organism.
Just personally, I don’t regard the ability to mimic human conversation as the essence of life. Already, we have computers that can beat the very best humans at chess or go. Nobody suspects Deep Blue of being alive. (Interestingly, there have been frauds in the past of chess-playing machines which were actually people in boxes). Expert systems are quite sophisticated.
Science fiction is (and used to be moreso) full of “androids” which, in many cases, are manufactured but indistinguishable from people, being composed of the same organic substances organized the same way. Other stories have as key characters, individuals who are clearly inorganic, but who can be embodied in structures that give every appearance of being living humans – except they don’t necessarily act or feel like humans. In more recent stories these characters don’t try to pretend to be alive, and don’t provoke any social or religious problems. Which doesn’t prevent them from holding informed opinions, nor disallow the ability to change opinions with changing data. And yes, there ARE humans who lack that ability. Maybe what will set artificial intelligences apart in the future is their willingness to learn, since we all know people who WILL not learn.
I’m pretty sure Phoodoo is thinking of things along these lines. Certainly, the concept of androids, synths, replicants, life-like sexbots, and the like have been thought about and I’m sure there are folks working towards the idea outside of fiction. Whether we will ever accomplish creating artificial entities that are indistinguishable from humans is debatable, but that won’t stop people from trying.
As far as the argument goes though, it’s a rather silly argument. To me, it’s like saying that since we can envision and debate about a Star Wars type galaxy far far away…we should allow that The Force is real. Just no…
Currently there’s no reason to consider the argument to the beard that humans and machines are the same things since it’s possible to envision a time when they might be indistinguishable. That time likely will never come. More to the point, it isn’t even close yet.
Oh heavens, and you accuse me of not being able to present an argument.
Robin, not me, specifically brought up the idea that living things don’t use mechanical power. I simply batted this away as utter nonsense- but people like you didn’t seem to get that this was nonsense. So in order to bat this away I first explained that mechanical power was measured in units named after living things! But then I had to listen to ridiculous talk of well, you know hirses leave manure behind, and you can’t replace parts, so obviously they can’t be machine .
Robin’s doubling down came when he said, fine, prove living things are ever measured in terms of mechanical power. Oh ok, so that’s what I did, assuming Robin would be honest enough to then acknowledge, ok, you are right about that, living things do use mechanical power, just as the definition of machines suggests, as well as having multiple functioning parts. Fits the defintion perfectly.
I thought maybe YOU also would be honest enough to admit I was right, and to also see that INDEED I did present a simple and convincing argument that fits the defintion. But no..
But the funniest part is this, why in the world do you think it should matter to anyone if some people call living life machines. The only reason it matters is because its so obvious that life works just as efficiently and purposefully as machines do, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that they appear to be designed precisely like machine are (oh, but what about the manure! Ha).
In a final note to this dishonest nature of trying to debate materialists who are afraid of gods and intelligent design ideas, I now have you jumping back and forth with this idea that no, it doesn’t bother the atheists if livings things are described as machines because they are the ones who first thought of this. Its IDists who must be worried about this, because the idea of living things as machines would destroy their ideas.
And now you jump right back to
And I suppose once again you will accuse me of not presenting an argument to swat away this further game of whack-a-mole you guys play.
Right, its a silly argument, that wouldn’t exist at all, if we believed your notion that it could never happen, because living things obviously don’t use mechanical power, so we would never make that mistake.
I still can’t tell where you are going with this. Even if we grant that some classes of measurements might be applied to organisms and machines both, it’s quite a jump to say that because (for example) vehicles and animals both move, therefore both were Designed in the same way.
And even if we hypothesize that someday in the distant future people will be able to construct machines that grow, breed, suffer irreversible death, evolve, etc. this is a far cry from saying that today living organisms and machines are essentially identical (the essential nature being both are Designed).
Anyway, I’m guessing that you are trying to defend the notion that living creatures are the creations of your god, and therefore just like anvils. You should be patient with posters here who truly believe you CAN tell the difference, and are simply pretending stupidity (and doing it very well).
Well, now it seems you want to change the goalposts. I can understand why you want to do so. But let’s just stick with what was originally discussed, what do you say. Just getting you all to agree to the most obvious things I realize is a difficult proposition, but onward. When Robin claims Living things don’t use mechanical power, that is just pulled out of the blue meaningless talk right? Or are you going to go back and STILL try to defend this unsupported assertion?
Baby steps eh ? You know that idea, it can build machines right. Let’s start there.
Swimming pool example (which, given yesterday’s 42°C, seems appropriate).
One friend has the electrically powered version of a pool cover that extends from and retracts to a roll. Another has a hand powered version.
I’ve no doubt it would be simple to measure the power absorbed by the motor using a loop ammeter and multiplying by the voltage to get power in watts, add in time and you have the energy needed.
I’ve no doubt the hand-cranked version requires similar effort and the energy that the human cranker supplies is also expressible and measurable in watts per second (or calories).
What is the issue, here?
Except, of course, that’s part of the definition of “machine”. And thus far, all you’ve offered to try to satisfy my noting the definition is that one can measure certain aspects of human activity in watts, which is rather irrelevant since any form of power can be measured in watts. You still haven’t addressed why there are different categories of power, nor have you addressed why QBs and sharks aren’t rated in HP (or watts for that matter). So, thus far, your ‘utter nonsense’ bat away is utter nonsense…
Bzzzzt! Wrong again! You tried to claim that such units were named after a living thing (horses). However, even the bit you linked to showed that Watt did that as a marketing/demonstration gimmick. He was specifically showing people unfamiliar with machines at the time how superior to a living animal they were familiar with his steam engine was. So, Watt wasn’t arguing that his steam engines were similar to a living thing; no…he was specifically noting how different (and superior) his machine was.
You’re just being obtuse here, Phoodoo. The manure and replaceable parts points were again regarding the superiority of machines over living things. People started wanting to switch to machines because horse manure WAS becoming a problem. And yeah…alas…when a horse breaks something, it’s done. Actual machines, like the steam engine, not so much. You can replace what breaks on a steam engine.
False again, Phoodoo. You showed only human powered devices. You still haven’t provided anything for QBs or sharks. That bicyclist output can be measured in watts is a function of them being in a human/machine system, as already shown.
That’s ‘cuz you haven’t really done that yet.
No, it’s because they are categorically different and it’s rather ridiculous to claim they are the same when we have perfectly good definitions that detail their abundant differences.
Apparently, you’re not really understanding KN’s point on this either…
My emphasis. You’re being disingenuous Phoodoo. I already noted my actual perspective on this.
To speak of biological entities as machines is on a par with speaking of subatomic particles as billiard balls. It is something that we should have moved on from. As scientific understanding progresses its justification becomes less tenable.
Machines and living systems may both convert energy from one form to another in various ways but that is as far as the comparison goes. We may mimic nature in creating machines but in no way does nature mimic our creations.
I think there’s something important there, in the comparison between the mechanistic conception of life and the “billiard ball” conception of sub-atomic particles — what Ladyman and Ross call the “microbanging” picture, in which we picture quarks and gluons as colliding into each other and forming protons and neutrons as a result.
In both biology and quantum physics, we’re being held back by 17th century assumptions about what cause and effect must be — which in turn are derived from Aristotelian assumptions but without “substantial forms” doing the necessary work of guiding efficient causation.
I think the comparison between machines and living systems can be taken at least the following step further: that machines are unable to resist entropy, which is why they inevitably break down, rust, deteriorate (i.e. tend to move towards thermodynamic equilibrium with their environment) unless work is done to prevent, maintain, or restore them.
Whereas living systems themselves actively resist entropy, by taking in the materials and energy necessary for maintaining themselves in an attractor far from thermodynamic equilibrium with their environment,
I wonder if the ability to evolve isn’t just an aspect of life different from machines, it is an essential part of the definition of life. I wonder if a machine capable of making imperfect copies of itself (which in turn would iterate the process) could be considered a life form. Would there need to be some sort of selection going on?
Yes it’s interesting to think about where reductionism gets us. The interaction of biomolecules forms life at the cellular level; the interaction of basic molecules forms biomolecules; the interaction of elements forms molecules; the interaction of protons, neutrons and electrons forms elements; protons and neutrons are formed by the interaction of quarks and gluons.
And now we have reached a limit of reduction with these elementary particles. But these “particles” are found to have a dual nature. In their nature as particles they are positioned at a point in space. But as a waveform they extend into the furthest reaches of the universe. In the final analysis reduction towards the infinitely small infinitely small leads us to its opposite, the infinite plane.
I was comparing what I regard as a similarity between life forms and machines. You took the next logical step in pointing out a major difference. Another major difference is that living organisms can grow and differentiate while maintaining this overall homeostasis.
In my opinion your self-copying machine would need to grow and maintain its own viability, and the copies it makes would need to do the same, before it came close to emulating living systems.
I’ve just found this video, What is Autopoiesis? by Neil Theise. I think it’s well worth watching.
Then you would say a virus is not alive, since it doesn’t do these things?
It’s decent, though I found the background graphics distracting and a bit silly. I’ve read a lot of autopoiesis theory and it’s shaped my worldview quite profoundly.
I’d say a virus lacks attributes that generally apply to living organisms. Viruses lack metabolism and also lack the ability to reproduce, having ceded these processes to the hosts they infect. What is fascinating is how evolution must have acted to result in viruses now being able to contract all this out now, having adapted away from the free-living organisms their ancestors once would have been. Are viruses a monophyletic clade or has this process of extremely stripped down parasitism occured more than once?
Never an original thought in my head! 🙁
Have to say, I just googled something like “viruses monophyletic” and the above paper was first hit that looked appropriate. It’s written in clear language and covers a lot of ground. I found it very informative.
Couldn’t get Charlie’s link to work. This seems to:
Regarding living systems it is pointless to isolate one period in a life cycle and ask , “is this being alive or dead?”. Many creatures undergo dormancy at certain times, but this is just a phase within an overall living process. Virions are viruses in their dormant phase.
What is the difference between viruses and protozoa endoparasites which use hosts to ensure survival of their kind. In fact what is the difference between viruses which rely on their hosts to ensure survival and heterotrophs which rely on autotrophs to ensure their survival?
Living systems are not “things” they consist of processes in time. The spatial bodies we perceive are nothing but products of our subjectivity if we take them to be real in their isolation. Goethe came to know these beings in time in a way that surpassed perceiving them as forms in space.
I was doing other mundane things most of the time while I was listening to it so I didn’t pay much attention to the background. I’ll watch it a few times as I probably missed some of what he was saying.