What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

This offers the simplest “neutral” colloquial mixture of “design” and “evolution” that I’ve seen in a long time. The site is no longer maintained, but the language persists.

“As a designer it is important to understand where design came from, how it developed, and who shaped its evolution. The more exposure you have to past, current and future design trends, styles and designers, the larger your problem-solving toolkit. The larger your toolkit, the more effective of a designer you can be.” http://www.designishistory.com/this-site/

Here, the term “evolution” as used just meant “history”. The author was not indicating “design theory evolution”, but rather instead the “history of designs” themselves, which have been already instantiated.

The topic “design is history” nevertheless enables an obvious point of contact between “evolution” and “design”. They both have histories that can be studied. Present in the above meaning of “design” are the origin, processes and agent(s) involved in the “designing”. This differs significantly from the Discovery Institute’s version of “design theory”, when it comes to history, aim, structure and agency, since the DI’s version flat out avoids discussion of design processes and agent(s). The primary purpose of the DI’s “design theory”, meanwhile, is USAmerican religious apologetics and “theistic science”.

The quotation above likely didn’t come from an IDist, and it isn’t referencing “Intelligent Design” theory as a supposed “scientific theory”. The “designer” in the quotation above is a (more or less intelligent) human designer, not a Divine Designer. This fact distinguishes it “in principle” from the Discovery Institute’s ID theory, which is supposed to be (depends on who you’re speaking with in the IDM) about first biology, then informatics, and statistics. The DI’s ID theory is not actually focused on “designing by real designers”, but rather on apologetics using “design” and informational probabilism.

The Discovery Institute’s failure to distinguish or even highlight the differences and similarities between human design and Divine Design, and instead their engagement in active distortion, equivocation, double-talking, and obfuscation between them, are marks of its eventual downward trend to collapse.

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1,486 thoughts on “What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

  1. Corneel:

    CharlieM: If we let our passions dictate our lives then we cannot be free.

    Then you’d better stop wanting to be free.

    Why? Don’t you have some measure of control over your passions? There may be a passionate spark between you and your partner but you know there is a time and place for everything. This does not mean you should be less passionate, it just means that you have control over the time and place. Do you think our pet dogs have the same control? Does attempting to copulate whenever they get the urge makes them more or less free?

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  2. Corneel:

    OMagain: CharlieM: If we let our passions dictate our lives then we cannot be free.

    OMagain: What, even the birds with their passion for flying?

    Birds would only have been free if they had first filtered their passion for flying through their rational thinking activity. Now they are slaves to their passion for flying, the wretched creatures.

    As birds do not have anywhere near the rational thinking level of humans and so they have less control over their activities. This does not make them wretched. We do not call toddlers wretched just because they have little control over their passions. Adult humans have greater individual responsibility. It is one of the paradoxes of life that self-restraint leads to greater freedom.

    This does not mean we have to suppress our feelings and will. But we do need to have them under our control and this requires a high level of self-knowledge.

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  3. CharlieM: Living organisms are not just matter. They are intrinsically active, self-governing bodies. Living activity is the primal state of matter and ‘dead’ matter is the product and residue of this activity.

    Then why did flightless birds get caught in a “non-plastic form” and how did their bodies force them into restricted niches? Are organisms self-governing or are they restricted by their own bodies? Are they forced into restricted niches by their current form or do their passions allow them to escape to new ones?

    And that is the problem of “making up stories as you go along”. Eventually you end up lacking consistency.

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  4. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Allan: Not really. A gene, these days, is generally considered to be the nucleic acid sequence associated with a particular trait

    Charlie: So a gene is information waiting to be used.

    No. Allan said that a gene is a nucleic acid sequence . You can’t wish the physical stuff away!

    CharlieM: What gets passed on are living processes.

    What gets passed on is DNA.

    Hershey-Chase experiment

    Avery–MacLeod–McCarty experiment

    Charlie. Why don’t you just deal with it? The vast majority of heritable information is carried by the DNA.

    I don’t dispute that. What is more important, the information or the carrier of the information?

    What gets passed on is not just the information, it is also the means by which the information is used and arranged. And it is adaptable to specific circumstances.

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  5. CharlieM: Me: My guess is that you are confusing yourself by mentally grouping all bacteria again.

    Charlie: It is a mutually dependent, well-balanced, symbiotic relationship. Disease and death comes when the balance is disrupted. If it were not for the bacteria and such like we would be wading through a layer of corpses. Nature is finely balanced at all levels. The whole reflected in the parts.

    Yep, you are still grouping ALL bacteria.

    CharlieM: Me: Then why are random mutations a problem?

    Charlie: They aren’t a problem when they are kept under control. It’s a matter of maintaining balance.

    Good, then can we finally agree that genetic variation gets replenished by chance mutations?

    CharlieM: Don’t you have some measure of control over your passions?

    KN explained it a lot better than I did. Since he couldn’t convince you I fear that I won’t fare better. What is the goal of taking control over your passions, if not to satisfy some other passions? You perceiving your own passions as a threat to your freedom is completely incoherent.

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  6. Gregory,

    I can understand why the popularity of evolutionary psychology is of interest to you as a sociologist of science. I can certainly agree that it’s an interesting problem as to why it persists as a field of inquiry, and what sociological factors cause an area of inquiry to persist or fade. On the face of it, I’m less persuaded that religion or lack thereof plays a determining role. But maybe?

    As a philosophers, the conceptual problems with evolutionary psychology were far too evident to me from the beginning, so I was never able to take it seriously, and I was quickly persuaded that it’s just sociobiology in a cheap tuxedo.

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  7. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: What gets passed on are living processes. There are many external influences which can disrupt these processes.

    Bolides. Droughts. Floods. Forest fires. Sure. What’s the point you are making?

    Mutations are disruptions from external sources, they are not creative forces.

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  8. CharlieM: What is more important, the information or the carrier of the information?

    How blatantly reductionist of you. Aren’t they a unity?

    CharlieM: What gets passed on is not just the information, it is also the means by which the information is used and arranged. And it is adaptable to specific circumstances.

    So how do novel adaptations get transmitted to the offspring and how do they spread to the group? I can’t see how one answers that without dealing with heritability and genetics.

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  9. CharlieM: Why should that entail conceiving of the passions as external to the self? A man may contenplate suicide and so be a threat to himself. This does not mean that he is somehow separate from himself. As well as external dangers we face dangers from within.

    Passions are a good thing as long as we have self-control.

    The problem is that are conceiving of the passions as possible threats to freedom, which is why you conceive of freedom as requiring that the passions be controlled. This is a problem because this entails conceiving of the self as something that has psychological states, and thus separate from those states.

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  10. CharlieM: Mutations are disruptions from external sources, they are not creative forces.

    Mutations are changes in DNA sequences. They can happen spontaneously or can be triggered by mutagens or high energy IR and also occur in processes such as recombination. They are not forces. Whether they are creative depends on selection and the niche.

    Who are you arguing with, BTW? Has anyone ever claimed convincingly that mutations are creative forces?

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  11. CharlieM:
    Mutations are disruptions from external sources, they are not creative forces.

    And yet ‘wise design’ has, you claim, left some mutational headroom short of 100% fidelity such that they can happen.

    You can’t back every horse, you know!

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  12. CharlieM:
    What gets passed on is not just the information, it is also the means by which the information is used and arranged. And it is adaptable to specific circumstances.

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the ‘means by which the information is used and arranged’ are also genetically transmitted. The perennial stumbling block appears to be that, at any one moment, a genome may be bathed not only in its own direct products (or their products), but in the products of precursor DNA. You see this as somehow contradictory to the gene-protein information flow. But it isn’t.

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  13. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: Positing a magic, disembodied Mind is the result of dualistic thinking. Mind and body are two sides of the same coin.

    You can say that, or you can say that Mind precedes and gives rise to Matter, but you can’t say both.

    Or can you? It all depends on whether or not you equate the body with material substance. Form can be more enduring than substance. My skin is under constant renewal but my fingerprints remain recognisable throughout this complete turnover of the physical substance. The physical body can be understood as being informed by a higher principle which sometimes gets the name, the etheric body or life body.

    And as St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, ‘There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body’. The physical body can be seen as the spiritual body condensed to corporeality.

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  14. newton:

    CharlieM: That is a question for a dualist to answer. Its a bit like asking, “What are emotions made of?”

    It is bit the same if someone said emotions created the physical universe

    Emotions cannot be separated from the beings that produce them, they do not have independent existence.

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  15. Entropy:

    CharlieM to Alan Fox:
    Do you believe that matter is condensed energy?

    I don’t now about Alan, but I don’t “believe it.” What I know is that such is what Einstein’s most famous equation states, besides some experiments and nuclear bombs confirm. Thus it seems so.

    There is also the zero-point energy of the vacuum. Space may be void of matter but it is not empty nothingness.

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  16. Alan Fox: to Kantian Naturalist,

    I’m not sure. Phase changes, solid to liquid to gas to plasma, are all temperature-dependent

    Phase changes require an exchange of energy without a change in temperature.

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  17. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM,

    Well you made several comments (that I picked up on but this is the first time you responded) that I took to mean minds preceded matter. Hence my question.

    And it was a good question to think about.

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  18. Kantian Naturalist:
    “On the face of it, I’m less persuaded that religion or lack thereof plays a determining role. But maybe?”

    BioLogos attempted to promote an eVopsych project via Justin Barrett. It got crushed in discussion on their site & afaik wasn’t published in the results of their Templeton project, which, if any evangelical organisation out there might try to promote eVopsych, BioLogos would likely be the place.

    Can you name a single “evolutionary psychologist” that is an Abrahamic monotheist? Frankly, I can’t name a single one. Every single work of eVopsych I have come across either explicitly or implicitly promotes atheism or agnosticism. Have you found otherwise?

    “the conceptual problems with evolutionary psychology were far too evident to me from the beginning, so I was never able to take it seriously, and I was quickly persuaded that it’s just sociobiology in a cheap tuxedo.”

    Ok, good. This is something we agree on, though “conceptual” is far from the only problems with it. So then, I’m curious if you think others at this venue agree with you in rejecting eVopsych? It is currently much more widely presented than you seem to realize, as demonstrated by your questions above.

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  19. Gregory:

    Can you name a single “evolutionary psychologist” that is an Abrahamic monotheist? Frankly, I can’t name a single one. Every single work of eVopsych I have come across either explicitly or implicitly promotes atheism or agnosticism. Have you found otherwise?

    I haven’t even read any evolutionary psychology since I got disillusioned with it in grad school, so I couldn’t even name any prominent works or authors.

    Ok, good. This is something we agree on, though “conceptual” is far from the only problems with it. So then, I’m curious if you think others at this venue agree with you in rejecting eVopsych? It is currently much more widely presented than you seem to realize, as demonstrated by your questions above.

    I’m sure it is. I never pretended to have any extensive familiarity with it. Like I said, I quickly gave up on it and haven’t paid it any attention since.

    You might enjoy Smith’s “Is Evolutionary Psychology Possible?“. Smith argues that evolutionary psychology is committed to a host of assumptions that are in principle unverifiable, and so it consists entirely of circular reasoning. That seems exactly right to me.

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  20. Kantian Naturalist,
    Yes, I was aware of this paper & agree with her. Thankful for her contribution.

    The major problem, again, is that quite a number of atheists & agnostics LOVE eVopsych. And they use it as a (pseudo-)”scientific” weapon against religious belief and activity. Are you unaware of that, or is that also not on your radar?

    Not so dissimilar to IDism, eVopsych excludes those who do not accept its worldview at the outset. ID theory simply CANNOT be embraced by an atheist. Likewise, eVopsych, which claims a “natural” origin for spirituality and the human soul, simply is incompatible with the historical teachings and beliefs of the Abrahamic monotheistic faiths.

    “I quickly gave up on it and haven’t paid it any attention since.”

    As a non-religious Jew, KN, embracing eVopsych is theoretically possible for you. No doubt many ideas from eVopsych are present in your multiple-ideologies worldview, and I haven’t seen you identify a clear “boundary” for evolutionary thinking. Have you? Indeed, one of your intellectual heroes, Karl Marx, and more so his money man Friedrich Engels, promoted a kind of proto-eVopsych in his anti-religious naturalism.

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  21. Gregory: eVopsych, which claims a “natural” origin for spirituality and the human soul, simply is incompatible with the historical teachings and beliefs of the Abrahamic monotheistic faiths.

    Well, perhaps someone needs to lose the preconditions. But is that the evolutionary psychologist or the religious dogmatist? If evolutionary psychology bears no useful fruit it will wither away. On the other hand, attempts to understand ourselves by any means are doomed to failure as no sentient organism can understand an organism as complex as itself. 🙂

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  22. Gregory to KN:
    The major problem, again, is that quite a number of atheists & agnostics LOVE eVopsych.

    I don’t love it. I suspect Larry Moran doesn’t love it either. That’s a sample of two, so you might be right about “quite a number.”

    Gregory to KN:
    And they use it as a (pseudo-)”scientific” weapon against religious belief and activity.

    That sounds interesting. I doubt anybody would change their religious stance because evolutionary studies indicated, for example, that religious beliefs could come in part from an exaggerated tendency to imagine “agency” where there’s just happenstance. (That would not be pseudoscientific though.) Maybe I misunderstand what you mean by “weapon against.”

    Gregory to KN:
    Are you unaware of that, or is that also not on your radar?

    I don’t know about KN, but I’d think that’s mostly something academics might talk about when trying to explain why so many are inclined to believe in magical beings, not just the subclasses called “gods.”

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  23. Gregory:
    Kantian Naturalist,

    The major problem, again, is that quite a number of atheists & agnostics LOVE eVopsych. And they use it as a (pseudo-)”scientific” weapon against religious belief and activity. Are you unaware of that, or is that also not on your radar?

    I don’t pay any more regard to evolutionary psychology than I do to any other pseudo-science, sorry. And I do think it satisfies the criteria of being a pseudo-science!

    Not so dissimilar to IDism, eVopsych excludes those who do not accept its worldview at the outset. ID theory simply CANNOT be embraced by an atheist. Likewise, eVopsych, which claims a “natural” origin for spirituality and the human soul, simply is incompatible with the historical teachings and beliefs of the Abrahamic monotheistic faiths.

    There’s a difference between claiming that some general feature of human beings — say, culture or language — is a result of natural selection and saying that we can specify which traits of modern humans were the result of long-past selective pressures.

    As a non-religious Jew, KN, embracing eVopsych is theoretically possible for you. No doubt many ideas from eVopsych are present in your multiple-ideologies worldview, and I haven’t seen you identify a clear “boundary” for evolutionary thinking. Have you? Indeed, one of your intellectual heroes, Karl Marx, and more so his money man Friedrich Engels, promoted a kind of proto-eVopsych in his anti-religious naturalism.

    There’s nothing at all like evolutionary psychology in Marx and Engels. Be that as it may, what I get out of Marx isn’t the philosophy of history (which is far too Hegelian for my taste) but his analysis of the contradictions of capitalism.

    I wouldn’t use the term “boundary” at all in this context. Instead I would say that evolutionary explanations are good for inquiries and not good for others.

    Generally speaking, I would say that one would first need to determine if some cultural practice is a genuine human universal before it even makes sense to look for an evolutionary explanation for it — otherwise one risks the danger of inflating the contingent and particularity of some specific practice into a deep truth of human biology, and we’ve had quite enough of that, thank you very much.

    So, it makes sense to inquire into the evolution of language or culture, because those are found in all human societies, past and present. But it wouldn’t make sense to look to evolution if we want to understand why some societies invented money or marriage and others didn’t.

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  24. Stick me on the ‘atheists disinterested in evolutionary psychology’ pile. There are, I think, areas of our behavioural repertoire shaped by evolution, but that’s a long way from presuming to say which they are.

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  25. Allan Miller:
    Stick me on the ‘atheists disinterested in evolutionary psychology’ pile. There are, I think, areas of our behavioural repertoire shaped by evolution, but that’s a long way from presuming to say which they are.

    I agree. There really IS such a thing as human nature, all religions have certain themes in common, as do most social structures. But the details matter — all major political tracts, from Hobbes to Rousseau to Mills to Locke to Marx, essentially begin by saying “because human nature is like THAT, proper social and political structure must be like THIS, otherwise it won’t work.”
    Looking broadly across social and political structures globally from small groups to large nations, the most common and stable structures (as opposed to individuals) have been strongman-and-peons structures. Power consolidated into a few people who defend their positions ruthlessly. What this says about human nature is a bit depressing.

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  26. Flint,

    I tend to feel that any generalisation one can make about an entire species, such that one might stick it in a field guide, is a good candidate for supposing a genetic basis, and hence the potential to be shaped by selection. But both of these claims would require some rigour to establish more firmly. The point is well taken that much of EP is simply ‘story-telling’, lacking that rigour. But the point is made by evolutionists, as well as IDists.

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  27. Allan Miller: There are, I think, areas of our behavioural repertoire shaped by evolution, but that’s a long way from presuming to say which they are.

    Right, But also evolutionary psychology is committed to a whole bunch of additional assumptions besides just “some aspects of our behavior are shaped by evolution.”

    To my mind the most significant theoretical commitment, and to my mind the most problematic claim, is Tooby and Cosmides’s argument in The Adapted Mind that the mind is a collection of domain-specific mechanisms. At some level of generality, that’s not too objectionable — but it becomes objectionable when these domain-specific mechanisms are conceptualized as Fodor-style modules. Modularity is highly contentious in philosophy of cognitive science — there are important criticisms by Churchland, Prinz, Andy Clark, Anthony Chemero, and many others. So one problem with evolutionary psychology is that it depends on massive modularity about the mind, which is a contentious claim about cognitive architecture. (It could be true, for all I know — though as a card-carrying enactivist, I’m very skeptical!)

    Another problem, related to this one, is that domain-specific modules are not sufficiently plastic to be affected by the few hundred thousand years of cultural history that run from the upper Pleistocene to WEIRD (Western, Education, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) modernity. Evolutionary psychology has, so far as I know, completely ignored the WEIRD problem as if history and culture don’t matter.

    None of this is sufficient to cast doubt on the plausibility of very generic claims about the biological evolution of human nature — only that evolutionary psychology, as a specific strategy for carrying out that project, cannot succeed.

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  28. This is surprisingly helpful discussion about eVopsych. It deserves it’s own thread (coming soon). Nevertheless, to steer it back to this one, there are curious parallels.

    Some things are suitable to be described as ‘designed’ and some things aren’t. Some things are suitable to be described as ‘evolved’ and some things aren’t. What are those things in both cases?

    Look again at the OP and the language used including both ‘evolution’ and ‘design’. This is not ID theory, of course. “As a designer it is important to understand where design came from, how it developed, and who shaped its evolution.” To me it is quite clear where to reject this usage of language, but it does not seem anyone else at TSZ can speak clearly and unequivocally about ‘design’ and ‘evolution’.

    Corneel noted: “Every single one of them [IDists] seems to be reluctant to address the when, how, where and why, what Gregory call ‘design history’.”

    Yes, though I’m sure they all accept ‘design history’ when/as it is shown. They just double-talk in their typically duplicitous way about ‘human design’ and ‘Divine Design’ under the same ‘design universalist’ ideology. IDism is then basically a “banana-spin pirouette and collapse”, as McLuhan once wrote.

    Most people here are instead against ‘Divine Design’, rather than ‘design thinking,’ ‘design theory’ or ‘design history’. They reject IDism, just as do most Abrahamic monotheists, who refuse to concede to the DI’s language claiming that “ID theory is strictly scientific”.

    OMagain: “Did we ever get an answer to the question posed in the OP? What mixture of ‘design’ and ‘evolution’ is possible as the IDM collapses?

    Corneel: “No, we did not receive an answer.”

    Why not?

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  29. Gregory: Corneel: “No, we did not receive an answer.”

    Why not?

    Only IDers have the answer to that question. My guess is that they think it is disrespectful to, if you permit the expression, chuck God into a test tube.

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  30. Corneel,

    “Only IDers have the answer to that question.”

    That’s not implied in the question. I have no problem using both terms. Do you? If not, then you too can contribute to the combination by explaining your personal “mixture”. “What mixture?” is the question asked in the title.

    The question thus involves “where” and “when” to use both terms properly. The IDM has stained the term “design”, by turning it into a kind of weaponized evangelical apologetics. Most Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and mainline Protestants, reject the DI’s uses of “design” as ideological “design universalism”, and continue the standard usage. That no leading IDist has actually faced the reality of “design theory”, “design thinking” and “design history” speaks loudly. That atheists & agnostics sometimes exaggerate evolutionary biology into ideological evolutionism, should likewise be warned about, as it’s just the opposite of what the IDM does with “design”, instead with “everything evolves” ideology.

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  31. Gregory: I have no problem using both terms. Do you? If not, then you too can contribute to the combination by explaining your personal “mixture”. “What mixture?” is the question asked in the title.

    There is plenty of crossfertilization like that already. Biologists often adopt useful approaches from other disciplines and engineering is no exception. Biomechanics springs to mind as an example.

    Gregory: That atheists & agnostics sometimes exaggerate evolutionary biology into ideological evolutionism, should likewise be warned about, as it’s just the opposite of what the IDM does with “design”, instead with “everything evolves” ideology.

    So you keep insisting, but I am just not seeing it. How does the possible use of evolutionary approaches in sociology or psychology in any way threaten theism, even if it was successful? As far as I can tell, the only casualty of the success of evolutionary theory is creationism.

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  32. Corneel:

    Alan Fox: It links to the idea some have that “minds” can exist without any physical medium to exist in.

    The same people tend to assume that pretty much anything not-matter springs forth from some non-descript parallel realm. I note with some glee that’s a form of non-material reductionism.

    If one insists that all minds require a physical medium then it will be necessary to say what is meant by ‘physical medium’. If what is meant is the substances covered by physics then it becomes problematic. Physics is a continuously evolving science and so our understanding of material substances evolves. What is meant by non-matter? Is energy matter or non-matter?

    I have a memory of running home in a thunderstorm when I was three or four years old. If none of the molecules that compose my brain are the same now as then what does that say about my mind? My senses provide me with experiences of a transient reality and through my mind I begin to experience a more lasting reality of which the physical reality of my senses is but one small part.

    The realm of the mind is not separate and parallel, it is a higher completion of the physical.

    Our senses do not depict an objective external world, they give us subjective experiences. And we cannot escape the fact that any so-called objective processes that we describe are given in terms of our sense experiences. Particles, waves, bodies in motion are all understood in terms of our everyday experiences.

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  33. Flint: As I understand it, at the time of the big bang and shortly thereafter (perhaps 10^ -12 seconds)

    Bible literalists rightly come under criticism for applying the term days of creation from before the term had any meaning relating to heavenly bodies. But cosmologists rarely get criticised for doing the same thing.

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  34. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Pleasure is a good thing but in my opinion when we become addicted to it or over dependent on it then it rules us instead of us ruling it. Both Christ and Buddha taught that renunciation and self discipline is the only true way to happiness.

    Happiness is a good thing but when we become dependent on it for our well being then it rules us instead of us ruling it. Therefore I usually aim for distress and complete misery. It is the only true way to freedom

    Whatever it is you are aiming for here it concerns your feelings. Whether it is pleasure or misery, you are aiming for something for yourself. If you forget about yourself and aim for the good of all, for the good of the world then you may find you become content with your lot regardless of your circumstances. We are all selfish in our own way but the world would be a better place if there was less selfishness and more cooperation. It is generally the case that those who seek the most pleasure for themselves are the least content.

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  35. Corneel:

    CharlieM: In my opinion three of the most notable novelties that have appeared during the evolution of life are, motility, internal thermal regulation and consciousness. These are not just variations on a theme such as the spikelet example.

    LOL! “internal thermal regulation” is in your top three of most notable evolutionary novelties? Why didn’t you add opposable thumbs?

    No, Charlie. Evolutionary novelties outside of the human lineage count as well, regardless of whether Charlie deems them worthy enough to take note of.

    I didn’t say these were my top three. What would you consider as some of the most notable movelties?

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  36. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Their are individuals who claim to have personal knowledge of mind transcending time.

    I’d ask for details but what you are offering is not evidence. You might call it hearsay. Indulge me by contemplating the interface between the physical universe we bump up against and the non-physical minds you say (you are saying this?) exist. How do these interact with the physical universe. How can we tell true stories from vivid imagination?

    ETA and mescaline, LSD etc

    The physical is just the more gross part of reality that we experience through our senses.This gives us limited access to reality.

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  37. CharlieM:

    If one insists that all minds require a physical medium then it will be necessary to say what is meant by ‘physical medium’. If what is meant is the substances covered by physics then it becomes problematic. Physics is a continuously evolving science and so our understanding of material substances evolves. What is meant by non-matter? Is energy matter or non-matter?

    This is a bit misleading, since “physical” doesn’t mean “material” to begin with. In any event, the idea that mental processes require some physical instantiation or implementation doesn’t depend on whatever the science of the future tells us the ultimate nature of the physical is. The claim that minds depend on brains, or more precisely, on brain-body-environment interactions, does not stand or fall with whether physicists tell us that bosons and fermions are not quite what we thought they were.

    I have a memory of running home in a thunderstorm when I was three or four years old. If none of the molecules that compose my brain are the same now as then what does that say about my mind? My senses provide me with experiences of a transient reality and through my mind I begin to experience a more lasting reality of which the physical reality of my senses is but one small part.

    The memory is a pattern of activity that can remain more or less the same even when the constituents change. This should be perfectly obvious from consideration of natural phenomena such as tides: one can see that there is a higher-order regularity to the tides even though individual wave is comprised of distinct molecules.

    Our senses do not depict an objective external world, they give us subjective experiences. And we cannot escape the fact that any so-called objective processes that we describe are given in terms of our sense experiences. Particles, waves, bodies in motion are all understood in terms of our everyday experiences.

    First, I think it’s pretty much false that “our senses do not depict an objective external world” and it’s completely false that “if our senses do not depict an objective external world, then they must give us subjective experiences.” But you’ve refused to acknowledge criticism on this point before so I don’t see why you’d start now.

    Second, there is nothing more anti-scientific then “particles, waves, bodies in motion are all understood in terms of our everyday experiences.” We have a scientific understanding of these phenomena to the extent that we have learned how to question our “everyday experiences.” If we never learned to distrust our everyday experiences we’d all still believe that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones.

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  38. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM,

    My list would be different:
    DNA, protein, sex, multicellularity, photosynthesis, eukaryotes, flowers, seeds, placentas, did I mention sex? I’m sure I’ve missed some.

    Yes I could have made a more extensive list and your examples would be included. I notice that you give eight examples, six of which apply to us.

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  39. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: Minds need not be made of anything.

    Agreed.

    Minds don’t actually exist, so they don’t need to be made of anything.

    The term “mind” is a metaphor. It’s a useful metaphor, which is why it is part of our language. But we take it too far when we ask what are minds made of.

    I would say they exist as attributes of beings.

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  40. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: I know because I have one.

    I don’t think (heh) this is a reliable way of coming to any conclusion about how human brains work.

    The only reason we know that we have brains is because we have thinking minds.

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  41. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: A mind is a lived experience.

    Poetical but what are you saying that gets us further to understanding how brains work?

    How do we understand anything? We learn through experience. And we gain experience through the senses, the brain and our thinking. And figuring out the relationship between these three originates in thinking.

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  42. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: If you think about the migration of monarch butterflies. No individual makes the whole journey, this is only achieved by the group.

    Um? All those individuals that succeed in making the migration make the whole journey. I would imagine a significant number who start out don’t make it. Your “No individual makes the whole journey” seems incorrect. Can you clarify?

    The migration has two legs, from north to south and from south to north. No individual makes the entire journey north. They mate, lay eggs and die on route. The next generation then continues the journey northwards.

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  43. CharlieM: I have a memory of running home in a thunderstorm when I was three or four years old. If none of the molecules that compose my brain are the same now as then what does that say about my mind?

    I have a memory of listening to the “Bohemian Rhapsody” played from vinyl. Recently I played it from CD. It was the same song. What does that tell us about the “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

    CharlieM: The realm of the mind is not separate and parallel, it is a higher completion of the physical.

    You can keep it in the glovebox of your car if you like. It is beyond the reach of empirical investigation all the same.

    CharlieM: What would you consider as some of the most notable [n]ovelties?

    Oooh, so many choices. But my list should definitely include:

    1) Photosynthesis
    2) Nitrogen fixation
    3) Bioluminescence

    Alan produced a decent list as well. Your list could have included major landmarks like the evolution of template replicators (RNA and DNA), translation, sex or multicellularity. All would have beat “internal thermal regulation” hands down. The latter betrayed you were just summing up characteristics that distinguish humans from (some) other organisms.

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  44. CharlieM: Whether it is pleasure or misery, you are aiming for something for yourself. If you forget about yourself and aim for the good of all, for the good of the world then you may find you become content with your lot regardless of your circumstances.

    Nonono, I don’t want to become dependent on feeling content. Then I become a slave to feeling content. I want to be free from my passions!

    CharlieM: We are all selfish in our own way but the world would be a better place if there was less selfishness and more cooperation.

    Good point! I shouldn’t keep my misery to myself but spread it to others to liberate them from their addiction to feelings of pleasure and content.

    This is certainly lots of fun, but it appears you still do not understand why your position makes no sense.

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  45. CharlieM:
    I have a memory of running home in a thunderstorm when I was three or four years old. If none of the molecules that compose my brain are the same now as then what does that say about my mind?

    One could ask the same about DNA, or the supervening ‘system’ you see it as serving. No atom of the DNA/phenotype remains from your 4 year old self, yet the genome is (broadly) the same, as are many (but not all) aspects of phenotype. There’s a physical constancy, whose broad reasons are well established. In memory less so, but your sensation of continuity of memory from that day is not, on the face of it, evidence for its non-physicality, if your reason for proposing that is a lack of atomic continuity.

    1+
  46. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: I think of it as a collective mind. Instinctive knowledge and abilities that are shared by the group

    That’s a model you have created. Does it fit the facts and give us any explanatory insight? Herding, shoaling, flocking and other group behaviours can be modeled without postulating a hive mind.

    It is an observation that reveals a direction to evolution. A trajectory from the collective to the individual. Plants of the same type show no signs of inherent individual behaviour. The behaviour of lower animals is close to being totally instinctive. As animals advance individual learning comes to the fore. As creatures become more individually responsible they lose the innate, instinctive behaviour and have to rely on what they have learned as individuals.

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