William Paley’s Excellent Argument

[note: the author formatted this is a way that did not leave space for a page break. So I am inserting the break at the top — NR]

  1. Paley’s teleological argument is: just as the function and complexity of a watch implies a watch-maker, so likewise the function and complexity of the universe implies the existence of a universe-maker. Paley also addressed a number of possible counterarguments:
    1. Objection: We don’t know who the watchmaker is. Paley: Just because we don’t know who the artist might be, it doesn’t follow that we cannot know that there is one.
    2. Objection: The watch (universe) is not perfect. Paley: Perfection is not required.
    3. Objection: Some parts of the watch (universe) seem to have no function. Paley: We just don’t know those functions yet.
    4. Objection: The watch (re universe) is only one possible form of many possible combinations and so is a chance event. Paley: Life is too complex and organized to be a product of chance.
    5. Objection: There is a law or principle that disposed the watch (re universe) to be in that form. Also, the watch (re the universe) came about as a result of the laws of metallic nature. Paley: The existence of a law presupposes a lawgiver with the power to enforce the law.
    6. Objection: One knows nothing at all about the matter. Paley: Certainly, by seeing the parts of the watch (re the universe), one can know the design.
  2. Hume’s arguments against design:
    1. Objection: “We have no experience of world-making”. Counter-objection: We have no direct experience of many things, yet that never stops us from reasoning our way through problems.
    2. Objection: “The analogy is not good enough. The universe could be argued to be more analogous to something more organic such as a vegetable. But both watch and vegetable are ridiculous analogies”. Counter-objection: By definition, no analogy is perfect. The analogy needs only be good enough to prove the point. And Paley’s analogy is great for that limited scope. Hume’s followers are free to pursue the vegetable analogy if they think it is good enough. And some [unconvincingly] do imagine the universe as “organic”.
    3. Objection: “Even if the argument did give evidence for a designer; it’s not the God of traditional Christian theism”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding.
    4. Objection: “The universe could have been created by random chance but still show evidence of design as the universe is eternal and would have an infinite amount of time to be able to form a universe so complex and ordered as our own”. Counter-objection: Not possible. There is nothing random in the universe that looks indubitably designed. That is why we use non-randomness to search for extraterrestrial life and ancient artefacts.
  3. Other arguments against design:
    1. Darwin: “Evolution (natural selection) is a better explanation”. “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.” — The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. Counter-objection: “Natural selection” would be an alternative hypothesis to Paley’s if it worked. But it demonstrably doesn’t, so there is not even a point in comparing the two.
    2. Dawkins: “Who designed the designer?” Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    3. Dawkins: “The watch analogy conflates the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes”. Counter-objection: Paley is aware of the differences between the living and the inert and is not trying to cast life into a watch. Instead he is only demonstrating that they both share the property of being designed. In addition, nothing even “arises”. Instead everything is caused by something else. That’s why we always look for a cause in science.
    4. Objection: “Watches were not created by single inventors, but by people building up their skills in a cumulative fashion over time, each contributing to a watch-making tradition from which any individual watchmaker draws their designs”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    5. Objection: In Dover case, the judge ruled that such an inductive argument is not accepted as science because it is unfalsifiable. Counter-objection: Both inductive and deductive reasoning are used in science. Paley’s argument is not inductive as he had his hypothesis formulated well before his argumentation. Finally, Paley’s hypothesis can absolutely be falsified if a random draw can be found to look designed. This is exactly what the “infinite monkey” theorem has tried and failed to do (see counter-objection to Hume).
    6. Objection: Paley confuses descriptive law with prescriptive law (i.e., the fallacy of equivocation). Prescriptive law does imply a lawgiver, and prescriptive laws can be broken (e.g., speed limits, rules of behavior). Descriptive laws do not imply a law-giver, and descriptive laws cannot be broken (one exception disproves the law, e.g., gravity, f = ma.). Counter-objection: Of all the laws with known origin, all (100%) have a lawgiver at the origin. The distinction between descriptive and prescriptive laws is thus arbitrary and unwarranted.
    7. Objection: It is the nature of mind to see relationship. Where one person sees design, another sees randomness. Counter-objection: This ambiguity is present only for very simple cases. But all humans agree that organisms’ structures are clearly not random.
    8. Dawkins: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Counter-objection: Just a corollary: since organisms indeed appear designed, then they are most likely designed according to Occam’s razor.
  4. In conclusion, Paley is right and his opponents continue to be wrong with not even a plausible alternative hypothesis.

Links:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/paleys-argument-from-design-did-hume-refute-it-and-is-it-an-argument-from-analogy/

https://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/paley.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmaker_analogy

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872 thoughts on “William Paley’s Excellent Argument

  1. That people have to resort to such extreme caricatures is indicative of a deep-seated insecurity.

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  2. Nonlin.org: Don’t you know the fish came on land and became an astronaut, etc? Craziest story ever.

    If you think that’s crazy, you obviously haven’t heard the story about the watchmaker who once designed a fish.

    Just because a story sounds crazy, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Don’t you agree?

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  3. Flint: And I suppose we all get tired of saying that someone coming back 100 million years from now will find that all descendants of today’s fish will STILL be fish, perhaps wildly different in shape or life style but still fish. And the descendants of mammals have ALL been mammals since the line diverged, and will always BE mammals.

    Since fish without tetrapods are a paraphyletic group, one could defend the position that mammals are still fish.

    In strictly cladistic terms, some fish are cats.

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  4. Allan Miller: Alan F: Binary thinking seems endemic in nonlin

    Allan M: In people in general, I feel.

    Some people do, others don’t.

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  5. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    And here I think we are having a problem with what I mean by concept. The concept doesn’t just summarize, it encapsulates the whole. I’ll need to make myself more clear in the way I am talking about concepts, but it’s difficult.
    If you have a mental image of any triangle, say an equilateral triangle, and then imagine it to be morphing into all other triangular shapes from sides going from zero to infinite lengths. Then this gets close to what I mean by the concept. A summary leaves details out, this leaves nothing out. It contains the attributes of every triangle possible.

    In order to summarize and represent, concepts do leave things out.

    The ideal triangle leaves out nothing essential to a triangle.

    Otherwise you’d be unable to apply it to any other instances of things we’d describe as triangles.

    Why?

    The concept only contains the most basic “rules,” while the instances worked out to abstract this concept had dimensions, were drawn on a blackboard and were large enough for the whole class to witness, drawn in our notebooks with a number 2 pencil, or drawn in a computers screen, or were found in the textbook and were very tiny, etc. All those details were left out in order to abstract a minimal thing, a concept, that we can now use as appropriate.

    None of those instances are necessary in the definition of a triangle. They have their own concepts. The concept ‘dimension’ involves measuring an entity against something other than itself. You are giving us relative attributes but the ideal triangle is absolute. We can focus on the triangle to discover what its essential nature is. The students can only recognise the triangle drawn on the board because they understand that its basic form corresponds to the laws of triangularity. They grasp the drawn triangle with their sense of sight and they grasp the ideal triangle with their thinking minds and thus their knowledge becomes complete.

    The concept is that plastic because it leaves loads of details out.

    Chalk and blackboard and measurements are left out because they have nothing to do with the concept/ideal triangle. We don’t need to have any knowledge of those details to understand the essential nature of triangles. This does not stop them from looking further and studying that one particular representation of a triangle drawn on the board in its given context. If the teacher was trying to teach geometry he/she would not think it necessary to give any instructions on the composition of the chalk being used to draw the figures. That would be for another lesson.

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  6. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    Just like we teach the concepts of evolution.

    Yep. Just like that.

    CharlieM:
    We invent names such as ‘triangle’ but what about the reality behind the name? It is descriptive of a figure with three angles and there are plenty of examples from nature that represent this figure. We invented the name but not the form.

    We decided to abstract those forms into that concept. The concept and the decision were ours.

    Was it us who decided on the laws of the double helix? Or the laws of organic growth.

    CharlieM:
    Yes but it doesn’t matter what we call the pattern, it still exists.

    It’s us who think in terms of patterns and who need the abstractions Charlie. Of course we base those concepts on what we experience. That doesn’t mean that what we experience requires the concepts in order to be. No beings who can conceptualize, no concepts to talk about. Concepts are summaries and representations. Concepts do not rule the universe. No universe: no concepts. No concepts: the universe goes on all right.

    You can stare at as many representations of triangles you like but that will not tell you the laws inherent in their nature. It is through the fact that we have senses that we perceive the world around and within us, but it is only by thinking that we can combine these sense impressions into anything meaningful. It is due to our original lack of knowledge that we perceive the entities of the world without their corresponding concepts. By gaining the correct concepts we are just reuniting what we had torn apart in the first place by our very nature. The act of gaining knowledge is this process of reattachment, of experiencing the whole as it should be.

    Without concepts what we experience would be a disconnected chaos. But the disconnected chaos is not reality, it is of our making.

    The universe that goes right along, how do you image it to be? Surely something entirely different from the one experienced through the senses of an insignificant recently evolved organism who can only experience it from a very limited perspective?

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  7. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    No I don’t think that. They do not form an ideal triangle, only a representation of it.

    The other way around Charlie, You project a representation of a triangle into those stars.

    I understand how those stars conform to the laws of a triangle.

    CharlieM:
    If it is shared then it is not dependent on the individual. We can see the objective fact in our mind whereas the actual physical representation we see with our eyes is a subjective image.

    I didn’t say it was dependent on the individual alone. How many times more should I say that we abstract those concept from our experiences? We still have to agree and show each other instances of what we mean by triangle before we can start talking about whether what we see is objective. Once we reach and agreement we can check if we are sharing the same, or similar enough, experience by applying the same concepts to the same features. The rules and laws and whatever are for us, not for the universe. They describe, summarize, represent. The universe goes on all right with or without beings who can conceptualize.

    Yes but what universe? We are looking at the universe from an extremely limited point of view.

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  8. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: Okay, so if you consider an ideal triangle to be an object, then it is objective, right?

    If by “ideal triangle” all you mean is “a triangle as defined by Euclidean geometry”, as distinct from, say, three pieces of wood nailed together, then sure. It’s an object insofar as it is the content of a thought — it’s what phenomenologists would call an “intentional object”. That doesn’t tell us anything about its ontological status, such as whether or not geometric figures have mind-independent existence.

    True. But it is singular in that it is no different no matter how many minds grasp it. It is a unity that unites all triangles.

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  9. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    That’s fine, so long as we agree that the summary is more inclusive than what is essentially triangular in the physical figure or the subsequent mental image brought about by the figure.

    That’s the point of conceptualizing, that we’d have a summary+representation simplified enough to be plastic and thus applicable when confronted with new experiences.

    The triangularity of any physical triangle is no more complex than the ideal triangle. It is the addition of incidentals that have nothing to do with the concept that adds complexity.

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  10. Neil Rickert: CharlieM: So again, do you agree that a triangle is a two dimensional, three sided, straight edged, closed figure?

    That depends on what you mean by “closed figure

    I mean a figure that bounds an area. Any location relative to it can be determined to be either within it or outside it.

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  11. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: I agree with objective idealism in the fact that I believe that there is a higher reality accessed through my mind but not just confined to my mind and thus it can be said to be objective.

    To get to objective idealism, what you need is an argument that the essence of the world, or what the world is in itself, is essentially mental or mind-like,..

    Yes exactly.
    ‘In the beginning was the Word’

    …and that the physical is merely how the world appears.

    We cannot do anything but see the world as it appears to us. But this is not to say that the physical isn’t real. As Steiner said, ‘Matter is condensed thought’.

    My worldly existence gives me the impression that I am an isolated being confined within my skin. But in my opinion reality is much more unified and our isolation is just a necessary step to a higher unity.

    For what it’s worth, my worldly existence most definitely does not give me the impression that I’m an isolated being confined within my own skin.

    Well it’s all relative. Some people can feel that they are limited to their dermal boundary while other feel at one with the universe which is quite an expansion.

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  12. Corneel: Flint:
    Since fish without tetrapods are a paraphyletic group, one could defend the position that mammals are still fish.
    In strictly cladistic terms, some fish are cats.

    My preference is that taxonomic classification not be nearly so broad. Reductio ad absurdum, all life belongs to the same clade.

    Besides, I think nonlin is asserting that evolution requires the crocoduck, and rejects evolution because that’s clearly silly. But then again, there ARE catfish and catbirds and catacombs, so maybe he has reason to be confused.

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  13. newton:

    CharlieM: Yes I can see I was causing some confusion the way I was using the word, ‘concept’ So please think of the entity I am talking about as the ideal triangle.

    That is helpful. When we see the Summer Triangle we are not seeing an Ideal Triangle, we are seeing a pattern which shares aspects of the Ideal.

    Yes, we can recognise its triangularity.

    ETA. Reading your last post , it is more than matching patterns, Something is perceiving a like “substance” or essence , in this case an ideal triangle and the ideal Charlie. More or less.

    I was discussing the triangle because it is a simple geometric figure which is not governed by space or time. Very easy to grasp its laws.

    The concept ‘Charlie’ is entirely different. Any organism encompasses a far more complex entity which is constantly changing not only shape but composition. And the more complex the organism the more difficult it is to even attempt to define. With triangles the essential thing is similarity and no more, with humans it is only similarity in some aspects of our bodily nature, but our essential nature is in our individuality of character.

    There are not enough aspects of the ideal ‘Charlie’ on display in the physical Charlie to be able to get any idea of what the reality is. With physical triangles it is not difficult to fill in the blanks. 🙂

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  14. CharlieM,

    Not worth any more discussion Charlie. We’re way off the point: concepts are our tools. They don’t have a life of their own. The universe doesn’t care one bit if it gets conceptualized or not.

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  15. CharlieM: True. But it is singular in that it is no different no matter how many minds grasp it. It is a unity that unites all triangles.

    You seem terribly impressed by the fact that different people can experience the same outcome as a result of following the same rules. This doesn’t have the implications for metaphysics that you insist it does.

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  16. CharlieM: I understand how those stars conform to the laws of a triangle.

    They conform to part of the definition however the stars lack the line segments connecting the vertices.

    Now a mind might be able to complete the pattern.

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  17. CharlieM: I mean a figure that bounds an area. Any location relative to it can be determined to be either within it or outside it.

    If you take the so-called “Bermuda triangle”, which part of the world is within it, and which part of the world is outside it?

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  18. CharlieM: Yes, we can recognise its triangularity.

    Because it reminds us of one, just as the three stars that form the Belt of Orion reminds us of a line/ belt ,not a triangle , even though three stars of Orion’s Belt fit same requirements as the stars Summer Triangle.

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  19. Entropy:
    CharlieM,

    Not worth any more discussion Charlie. We’re way off the point: concepts are our tools. They don’t have a life of their own. The universe doesn’t care one bit if it gets conceptualized or not.

    Neither does the universe care that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen in a specific ratio but that doesn’t prevent it from being a fact.

    I didn’t intend to spend so much time on this thread especially since I have mostly disregarded poor old Paley, but it has been fun while it lasted.

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  20. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: True. But it is singular in that it is no different no matter how many minds grasp it. It is a unity that unites all triangles.

    You seem terribly impressed by the fact that different people can experience the same outcome as a result of following the same rules. This doesn’t have the implications for metaphysics that you insist it does

    I think it’s just that in my beliefs I come from a more holistic direction than you do. We no doubt have different opinions on what is objective and what is subjective.

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  21. newton:

    CharlieM: I understand how those stars conform to the laws of a triangle.

    They conform to part of the definition however the stars lack the line segments connecting the vertices.

    Now a mind might be able to complete the pattern.

    Every physical triangle you examine will lack something of the ideal triangle.

    The mind is able to make the connections which unify that which our senses perceive in isolation.

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  22. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: I mean a figure that bounds an area. Any location relative to it can be determined to be either within it or outside it.

    If you take the so-called “Bermuda triangle”, which part of the world is within it, and which part of the world is outside it?

    We only ever directly see the so called Bermuda Triangle on a map like the one below, so it’s more a question of what part of the map rather than what part of the world.

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  23. CharlieM: We only ever directly see the so called Bermuda Triangle on a map like the one below, so it’s more a question of what part of the map rather than what part of the world.

    You are missing the point.

    Take three points on the globe, and use them to form a triangle. Which part of the globe is inside, and which part of the globe is outside that triangle?

    Here’s an extreme example. Pick three points on the equator. And use those to form a triangle. The triangle in this case just is the equator.

    Is the northern hemisphere the inside and the southern hemisphere the outside? Or is it the other way around?

    There’s really no fact of the matter as to what is inside and what is outside. That depends on other assumptions, conventions, traditions.

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  24. newton:

    CharlieM: Yes, we can recognise its triangularity.

    Because it reminds us of one, just as the three stars that form the Belt of Orion reminds us of a line/ belt ,not a triangle , even though three stars of Orion’s Belt fit same requirements as the stars Summer Triangle.

    I can see that the stars of Orion’s Belt form a very narrow triangle. It doesn’t just remind me of one, I can see the geometrical shape formed by it. To make any sense of these stars as a belt we need to see them in the context of Orion as representing a human figure. Do we think of the planets as spheres because they remind us of balls or because they closely approximate that geometrical figure?

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  25. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: We only ever directly see the so called Bermuda Triangle on a map like the one below, so it’s more a question of what part of the map rather than what part of the world.

    You are missing the point.

    Take three points on the globe, and use them to form a triangle. Which part of the globe is inside, and which part of the globe is outside that triangle?

    Here’s an extreme example. Pick three points on the equator. And use those to form a triangle. The triangle in this case just is the equator.

    Is the northern hemisphere the inside and the southern hemisphere the outside? Or is it the other way around?

    There’s really no fact of the matter as to what is inside and what is outside. That depends on other assumptions, conventions, traditions.

    If I were to form a triangle using three points on the equator this triangle would enclose an area within the earth on the plane through the equator. Any points whether in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere would be outside the plane, never mind the triangle.

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  26. CharlieM: If I were to form a triangle using three points on the equator this triangle would enclose an area within the earth on the plane through the equator.

    Then you are looking at it differently from how I am looking at it.

    In any case, this well illustrates the point — what you have been discussing is observer-dependent.

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  27. Flint: Once again, as has been mentioned many times, the usual knuckle-dragging creationist seems to think that evolution means some CURRENT species somehow morphing into some other CURRENT species.

    Something MUST be happening today if happening at all. Hint: it ain’t happening. Corneel, can you explain to the uninformed why we see the mountains rise year-to-year-to-year but no “evolution” whatsoever? You do remember that discussion, right?

    Flint: someone coming back 100 million years from now will find that all descendants of today’s fish will STILL be fish,

    Another blank check postdated millions of years(!) from the deadbeat “theory”. Sure, why not?

    Alan Fox: It would be pretty crazy

    It IS crazy. Some guy above and another one down the line thinks the cat is “technically” a fish. Read and laugh.

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  28. Flint: Reductio ad absurdum, all life belongs to the same clade.

    Tota vita una est. What makes you say it’s absurd? 😉

    Flint: Besides, I think nonlin is asserting that evolution requires the crocoduck, and rejects evolution because that’s clearly silly.

    Sure, and he needs evolution to look silly because his lack of understanding leaves him incapable of making cogent arguments.

    But it is important to realize this is all about words. Sure, they say, there is change, but those bacteria are still bacteria, those butterflies are still butterflies and those fish are still fish. Why then shouldn’t we make the words dance too? Given enough change, those fish may still be fish but they sure look like cats.

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  29. Corneel: If you think that’s crazy, you obviously haven’t heard the story about the watchmaker who once designed a fish.

    It’s only on top of this page, but let’s review your mangled story again. Is that what Paley said? No, of course not. He said instead:
    “just as the function and complexity of a watch implies a watch-maker, so likewise the function and complexity of the universe implies the existence of a universe-maker”
    So, as ANY sane person WITH basic reading comprehension can see, not a watch-maker designs the fish, but the ‘universe-maker’ makes the universe including fishes and all else. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Corneel: Just because a story sounds crazy, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Don’t you agree?

    No. Probabilistically it isn’t true. And that can only be reverted with SOLID evidence. And the evidence for ‘fish -> …long time… -> cat’ is NIL. You know it and I know it.

    Corneel: In strictly cladistic terms, some fish are cats.

    Gulp! Purr! Meow! Better claim the catfish as the missing link before someone else steals it from you. Never mind, too late.

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  30. Corneel: Sure, and he needs evolution to look silly because his lack of understanding leaves him incapable of making cogent arguments.

    We’re way past “silly” and into “hilariously retard” territory. Wow, no “cogent arguments”? Like fish>cat>fish cogent? Isn’t that hate speech these days?

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  31. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: If I were to form a triangle using three points on the equator this triangle would enclose an area within the earth on the plane through the equator.

    Then you are looking at it differently from how I am looking at it.

    How else could a triangle be formed from three points on the equator?

    In any case, this well illustrates the point — what you have been discussing is observer-dependent.

    Yes any physical triangle is observer dependent, that is why it is a subjective experience of the person doing the viewing. The attribute of the ideal triangle is that it in independent of any single point of observation and so it is objective.

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  32. Nonlin.org: Corneel, can you explain to the uninformed why we see the mountains rise year-to-year-to-year but no “evolution” whatsoever

    Did you see a mountain rise? Which one?

    Nonlin.org: So, as ANY sane person WITH basic reading comprehension can see, not a watch-maker designs the fish, but the ‘universe-maker’ makes the universe including fishes and all else. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Are you arguing that a “universe-maker” does not sound crazy? Huh! One gets used to stories one hears too often, I suppose.

    Nonlin.org: Gulp! Purr! Meow! Better claim the catfish as the missing link before someone else steals it from you. Never mind, too late.

    First paragraph of the wikipedia lemma fish:

    Fish are gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits. […] Tetrapods emerged within lobe-finned fishes, so cladistically they are fish as well.

    You don’t know what “cladistic” means, do you?

    Nonlin.org: We’re way past “silly” and into “hilariously retard” territory.

    Yes, we passsed that point when you argued that the sum of all allele frequencies will not add up to 100%.

    So far I am not seeing any cogent arguments yet.

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  33. Nonlin.org: And the evidence for ‘fish -> …long time… -> cat’ is NIL. You know it and I know it.

    Well, not sure what you know, but we all know that you are wrong, what with our ability to read an’all. Although, these days, even that is no longer necessary.

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  34. Nonlin.org: Probabilistically it isn’t true.

    Got a hearty laugh out of this one. What is the significance level, I wonder?

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  35. DNA_Jock: Also, I have a question about “straight” edges.

    If you are doing sphericial geometry (geometry on the surface of a sphere), then a great circle counts as a straight line.

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  36. CharlieM: I think it’s just that in my beliefs I come from a more holistic direction than you do. We no doubt have different opinions on what is objective and what is subjective.

    I really don’t think that the key difference has anything to do with holism, since I’m committed to ontological holism (which I came to via Spinoza), epistemological holism (via Peirce) and semantic holism (via Wittgenstein). (Possibly there is a view that could be called “psychological holism” which I would associate first and foremost with William James, maybe Bergson.)

    Rather, the key differences are

    (1) you are a realist about universals, i.e. you regard triangularity as a constituent of reality, whereas I am a nominalist — I think that only concrete particulars are real, though abstracta and universals play important roles in human conceptual schemes. (But why should this be so? How do abstracta and universals facilitate displaced reference and social triangulation? Those are the really interesting questions!) Anyway, the main argument in favor of nominalism is that the alternatives rely on magic.

    (2) you think of concepts as being basically images, so you think of triangularity — the concept of triangle — as something you imagine, as distinct from what you sense. Whereas I treat concepts as the rules that govern inferences; the concept of triangle is what makes “if something is a Euclidean right triangle, then the Pythagorean theorem is true of it” a good inference. One can understand this without any mental imagery of any kind. What matters is whether someone can understand and evaluate a structure of inference, not whether they can see little pictures when they close their eyes.

    Because you believe (1) and (2), you think of abstract universals like “triangularity” are beheld by the intellect in exactly the same way that tables and chairs are beheld by the senses. Since I do not share your commitment to (1) and (2), I don’t share your view of the intellect as “eyes of the soul’. The key difference has nothing to do with holism.

    (3) you are an atomist about sense-impressions: for you the senses are receiving static snap-shots from the world, so it falls to the imagination to bring these static images together into a coherent flow of experience — like photographs being assembled into a movie. Whereas I regard sensings as themselves abstractions from embodied perceivings or sensorimotor activities– sensing is a moment of a whole complex organism-environment interactions. Thus there is no need for the intellect to do any work on atomic sense-impressions, because the very assumption that there are atomic sense-impressions comes out of a failure to properly notice the structure of lived behavior. Again, this comes out of my years of studying James, Bergson, and Merleau-Ponty.

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  37. Corneel,

    Did you see a mountain rise? Which one?

    Even if he names one, ‘it’s still a mountain’.

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  38. In another thread, on the subject of evidence for cladistic relationships, I offered nonlin the ‘fridge-o-matic’ challenge. Give me a shelf between 1 and 9, a choice of front-middle-back and laterally left-middle-right, I’d pull out an organism. Then, also pre-specified, a number from 1 to a hundred which I’d normalise for chromosome number, and one from 1 to 10,000 likewise normalised for gene count.

    The gene chosen (assuming the organism is in a database) would then be subject to a simple BLAST. I guaranteed to recover a close approximation of the morphological Linnaean hierarchy from this completely random gene. Nonlin declined to participate, on 2 grounds:
    1) All genes are involved in the morphological distinction between whichever taxonomic level they vary between. Or at least, I can’t prove they aren’t.
    2) It might be an illusion. ie, This predicted pattern that hadn’t happened yet would, if it happened, be illusory.

    There were ‘hundreds’ of other reasons for the pattern before actual relationship could be considered, but that’s as far as we got. That’s what NIL evidence looks like.

    1+
  39. Nonlin.org: So, as ANY sane person WITH basic reading comprehension can see, not a watch-maker designs the fish, but the ‘universe-maker’ makes the universe including fishes and all else. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Speaking as a sane person with basic reading comprehension, would you agree that the ‘universe-maker’ is itself more complex than the universe it makes?

    If so, and we agree, then from whence cometh your ‘universe-maker’?

    Or is it that all complex things have a designer except some complex things that don’t?

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  40. Nonlin.org: It IS crazy.

    Your strawman misrepresentation is, as I already said.

    Some guy above and another one down the line thinks the cat is “technically” a fish.

    Yes, all life that we know of is related and descends from a common universal ancestor

    Read and laugh.

    Well, I smiled a bit but also find your performance here a bit sad. I’m disappointed we couldn’t persuade you to look in Galileo’s telescope.

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  41. Allan Miller: Even if he names one, ‘it’s still a mountain’.

    Everybody who is not a clueless nincompoop knows that erosion continuously shrinks mountains. They get smaller, not taller.

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  42. Corneel: Everybody who is not a clueless nincompoop knows that erosion continuously shrinks mountains. They get smaller, not taller.

    Regression to the mean, obviously.

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  43. Neil Rickert: If you are doing sphericial geometry (geometry on the surface of a sphere), then a great circle counts as a straight line.

    And with the sphere you have introduced a third dimension.

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  44. CharlieM: Because it reminds us of one, just as the three stars that form the Belt of Orion reminds us of a line/ belt ,not a triangle , even though three stars of Orion’s Belt fit same requirements as the stars Summer Triangle.

    I can see that the stars of Orion’s Belt form a very narrow triangle. It doesn’t just remind me of one,

    Me neither. Though far as a ideal triangle it has a the qualifications. I guess my question what is the connection between the ideal and an what things remind us of?

    I can see the geometrical shape formed by it. To make any sense of these stars as a belt we need to see them in the context of Orion as representing a human figure.

    We see them as a line, the belt is a narrative which uses that pattern. Our mind fills in the pattern as is does for the Summer Triangle.

    Do we think of the planets as spheres because they remind us of balls or because they closely approximate that geometrical figure?

    The moon appears circular, Venus ,with the naked eye , a star. Is it required to known how the calculate the circumference of a circle to see the moon as round. In other words ,what does the ideal add to our pattern recognition? Or is something else?

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  45. Alan Fox: Nonlin: Some guy above and another one down the line thinks the cat is “technically” a fish.

    Alan: Yes, all life that we know of is related and descends from a common universal ancestor

    We are playing, once again, the naming game. As long as something has the same name, it hasn’t changed, see? Cat births cat and fish “births” fish. But what qualifies as a fish, and what qualifies as a cat? We aren’t told. In the past, Nonlin has declined to commit himself to any position whether cats (Felidae) are a single kind or not. My guess is he will decline taking position on fish as well.

    Meanwhile, the evidence tells us that, despite names, guppies (fish) can be grouped with cats (not fish), to the exclusion of whale sharks (fish). So what’s in a name? NIL

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  46. DNA_Jock: Neil Rickert,
    And my question is, “Does Charlie agree?”

    Yes an infinitely large circle would be a straight line, but the equator is not an infinite circle.

    (sorry about the duplicate post. It was in triplicate, I deleted one but it did not give me the option to delete the second.)

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