Why materialism won’t give us artificial consciousness

Okay, I’m clearly no expert in this field but my geek-oriented mind can read. Also, I believe the topic of consciousness can lend further understanding into our spiritual interactions with God, so it should be of some interest to us as Christians. And while materialists attempt to demonstrate that consciousness comes from physical matter, we have good reason to be skeptical. 

We’ve already looked at the logical incoherence of the materialist’s ontology in my series titled, “The Classical Arguments For God.” And, also, why no materialist can be an empiricist. Now, I would like to show why I believe materialism does not satisfactorily explain consciousness and how that relates to our pursuit of artificial sentience.

I’ve also already talked about the problem with some of the materialist’s explanations for consciousness, like panpsychism, in my post titled, “Christ, the Cosmic Mind, and Consciousness.” That post will serve as an explanatory foundation for what I want to share here.

Computers don’t actually compute…we compute

Some theorists imply that an artificial computer comparable in complexity to the human brain and nervous system could achieve something like our conscious states, but as David Bentley Hart says in The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss:

“Unfortunately, the entire theory is an incorrigible confusion of categories, for a very great number of reasons, foremost among them the absolute dependency of all computational processes upon the prior reality of intentional consciousness. I do not mean this simply in the sense that computers and their programs happen to be designed by human minds, which is an important but ancillary issue….I mean rather that—as John Searle has correctly argued—apart from specific representations produced by intentional consciousness, the operations of a computer are merely physical events devoid of meaning.” (p. 217 *)

The problem is, as Hart points out, we’ve become victims of our own computer metaphors:

We have become so accustomed to speaking of computers as artificial minds and of their operations as thinking that we have forgotten that these are mere figures of speech. We speak of computer memory, for instance, but of course computers recall nothing…. And I do not mean simply that the computers are not aware of the information they contain; I mean that, in themselves, they do not contain any semantic information at all. They are merely the silicon parchment and electrical ink on which we record symbols that possess semantic content only in respect to our intentional representations of their meanings….we have imposed the metaphor of an artificial mind on computers and then reimported the image of a thinking machine and imposed it upon our minds. (ibid, 218 *)

But we may be able to use the computer analogy for consciousness if we have a prior reality of an outside programmer of the algorithms.

We could call this programmer…God.

Our simulation fallacies

Nonetheless, the computer’s ability to simulate brain processes according to pre-programmed algorithms does not create consciousness, as Hart continues:

“The computer, in itself, as an object or a series of physical events, does not contain or produce any symbols at all; its operations are not determined by any semantic content but only by binary sequences that mean nothing in themselves. The visible figures that appear on the computer’s screen are only the electronic traces of sets of binary correlates, and they serve as symbols only when we represent them as such, and assign them intelligible significances….A computer does not even compute. We compute, using it as a tool.  The computer could just as well be programmed so that it would respond to the request for the square root of pi with the result “Rupert Bear”; nor would it be wrong to do so, because an ensemble of merely material components and purely physical events can be neither wrong nor right about anything—in fact, it cannot be about anything at all. Software no more “thinks” than a minute hand knows the time or the printed word “pelican” knows what a pelican is.”  (ibid, 218-219 *)

Or, as Bernardo Kastrup, whose PhD specialization was in AI, says about this simulation fallacy:

“I can simulate the working of kidneys in my computer…but that won’t make the computer pee on my desk! A simulation of kidneys doesn’t create actual urine.”

I’ve cued up the video clip below where Kastrup talks about the simulation fallacy. As he says, it’s a bit embarrassing to have to explain this to people who dream of creating artificial consciousness just by simulating information flow as measured in real living brains. The simulation isn’t the phenomenon. He says this is what you get from the crazy ontology of materialism.

* Emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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101 Responses to Why materialism won’t give us artificial consciousness

  1. john zande says:

    And while materialists attempt to demonstrate that consciousness comes from physical matter, we have good reason to be skeptical.

    “Virtually all contemporary scientists and philosophers expert on the subject agree that the mind, which comprises consciousness and rational process, is the brain at work. They have rejected the mind-brain dualism of René Descartes, who in Meditationes (1642) concluded that ‘by the divine power the mind can exist without the body and the body without the mind.” (Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge” E. O. Wilson,1998)

    Or as cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker said:

    “Cognitive neuroscience has pretty much killed [the soul]…Many kinds of evidence show that the mind is an entity in the physical world, part of a causal chain of physical events. If you send an electric current through the brain, you cause the person to have a vivid experience. If a part of the brain dies because of a blood clot or a burst artery or a bullet wound, a part of the person is gone.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      So says the materialist dogmatists. You are saying nothing new here by appealing to the current popular opinion among cognitive neuroscientists. But it doesn’t mean they’ve actually proven anything, or that they have gotten even remotely close to explaining what consciousness actually is. They speculate based on brain activity, but they don’t know for certain. And for them to say they’ve “pretty much killed the soul” is laughable. Pure hubris.

      • john zande says:

        They speculate based on brain activity, but they don’t know for certain.
        Well, there’s been an awful lot of experimentation, and studies on traumatic brain injury, so the body of evidence is quite solid.

        But of course, if you actually believed what you are saying you should have no problem whatsoever with me performing a lobotomy on your wife, or your kids…. or your wife and kids.

        Would you be perfectly fine with this?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Well, there’s been an awful lot of experimentation, and studies on traumatic brain injury, so the body of evidence is quite solid.

          Not necessarily. It doesn’t prove that consciousness in the brain, only that the condition of brain affects our ability to be fully functional. There is still no evidence whatsoever that consciousness is in matter. And whether the brain can function or not doesn’t change the issue.

        • john zande says:

          only that the condition of brain affects our ability to be fully functional

          Well, you know this is wrong.

          Traumatic brain injury can—and does—dramatically alter a person’s personality. For example, in 2000, a 40-year-old schoolteacher suddenly became a paedophile, trading in child porn and molesting children. After his arrest he complained of imbalance, at which time doctors found an egg-sized tumour. Once it was removed, the man’s uncontrollable urges simply disappeared and he returned to his usual self. But when the tumour regrew in 2001, “its associated nefarious interests returned.”

          Paedophilia is not some minor behavioural change, Mel. We are talking complete changes in temperament, in interests, in likes and dislikes, in anger management, in emotional responses to events, etc. The person’s personality is turned on its head, they become a different person.

          Don’t get me wrong, you’re certainly free to propose something that we might call “spirit” or “soul,” something immaterial, but the problem then falls to you to demonstrate how spirit can “represent” the person if even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely.

        • Mel Wild says:

          These are old arguments that prove nothing. Of course, an injured or impaired brain would affect personality. That’s saying nothing meaningful about sentience and subjective experience.

          Here’s the thing. You have to demonstrate how random bits of matter can produce unified consciousness in an individual. Because there is no brain mapping that indicates why this should happen. Not to mention, there is no evidence whatsoever that consciousness is in matter at all. These are all speculations, at best.

        • john zande says:

          So, how can spirit “represent” the person if even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Consciousness and personality are two different things, even though personality can be subsumed within our particular consciousness. And if the brain is simply the interface in order to express conscious thoughts, it makes sense that damaging it will affect our ability to interpret or express our subjective experience.

        • john zande says:

          No, not different things. That’s the point about brain injury. It’s what we observe. It’s what we can replicate. It brings about complete changes in temperament, in interests, in likes and dislikes, in anger management, in emotional responses to events, etc. The person’s personality is turned on its head, they become a different person.

          If you wish to argue that a person is represented by something you might call “spirit,” then it is up to you to explain how can spirit “represent” the person if even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely.

        • Mel Wild says:

          John Z, this kind of “observational evidence” is the Ptolemaic Geocentrism” of cognitive science. Making conclusions based on very limited understanding because it works in a very limited fashion. Mariners could navigate under the Ptolomaic system in a limited way for centuries (And all cosmologists thought it was true), even though they were totally wrong. So, no, your “evidence” doesn’t prove that consciousness is in matter at all. To say that it does is just your scientistic dogmatic fundamentalism talking.

        • john zande says:

          You still haven’t addressed the question Mel.

          If you believe something like “sprit” or “soul” represents the person, is their personality, then can you explain how even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely.

          Is there something tangible you can point to?

        • Mel Wild says:

          You cannot prove that trauma evicts it so completely. You can only prove that the person has lost the ability to express it. This is not to say that matter and consciousness aren’t tied together. But your “emperor” still has no clothes. There is absolutely no proof that consciousness comes from matter in the first place. And no honest cognitive scientist will say this proves it either. You can only make educated speculations, but as I said, those conclusions could be no better than Ptolemaic Geocentrism was to cosmology. And this is certainly not the most parsimonious explanation because it requires magic thinking to make it work.

          And tangible? The most empirical thing there is, is our subjective experience in consciousness. All reality and all interpretation of reality is perceived through consciousness. Besides that, we feel, we love, we desire, we appreciate beauty, we have intentionality, we do altruistic acts of self-sacrifice, we contemplate our own existence and even argue about the existence of God. These cannot be satisfactorily explained with materialism.

          But believe whatever you want. You are stubbornly stuck in your dogmatic beliefs, so it’s a waste of time talking about this with you. We can just agree to disagree. But you’re not proving anything here.

        • john zande says:

          You cannot prove that trauma evicts it so completely. You can only prove that the person has lost the ability to express it.

          Nonsense. Their personality changes. Their temperament, interests, likes and dislikes, anger management, emotional responses to events, etc. all changes. In many cases, it is a completely different person. This is what friends and family say.

          There is absolutely no proof that consciousness comes from matter in the first place.

          You are kidding, aren’t you?

          Here’s a simply experiment. It requires a gun, a bullet, and a head.

          Shall we perform this experiment, Mel?

          And no honest cognitive scientist will say this proves it either.

          Cognitive scientist, Stephen Pinker:

          “Cognitive neuroscience has pretty much killed [the soul]…Many kinds of evidence show that the mind is an entity in the physical world, part of a causal chain of physical events. If you send an electric current through the brain, you cause the person to have a vivid experience. If a part of the brain dies because of a blood clot or a burst artery or a bullet wound, a part of the person is gone.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Here’s a simply experiment. It requires a gun, a bullet, and a head.
          Shall we perform this experiment, Mel?

          I’ll give you this. You certainly like to ask asinine questions. And it still misses the whole point. It’s a meaningless observation. So,if we’re going to be just copying and pasting unsubstantiated opinions from dogmatic materialists, here’s something on the problematic nature of a materialist explanation for sentience for you from David Bentley Hart:

          “The physicalist reduction of any phenomenon to purely material forces explains nothing if one cannot then reconstruct that phenomenon from its material basis without invoking any higher causes; but this no computational picture of thought can ever do.

          It is an absolute error to imagine that the electrical activity in a computer is itself computation; and, when a believer in artificial intelligence claims that the electrochemical operations of a brain are a kind of computation, and that consciousness arises from that computation, he or she is saying something utterly without meaning.

          All computation is ontologically dependent on consciousness, simply said, and so computation cannot provide the foundation upon which consciousness rests. One might just as well attempt to explain the existence of the sun as the result of the warmth and brightness of summer days.”

          In other words, you cannot make your materialist claim without invoking a higher cause, which is unexplained in any coherent way in your scheme, so you’re really saying nothing meaningful at all. Again, believe whatever you want. You’re just not proving anything about consciousness here.

        • john zande says:

          David Bentley Hart… a Theologian.

          You’re seriously quoting a theologian?

          You’re seriously trying to say a theologian knows more about the brain than a neuroscientist??

          Good. Grief.

          Here’s a “real” expert: Clinical neuropsychologist Karen Postal, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology:

          “Personalities are individual patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. [As an example] The glass-half-full person perceives things optimistically; they are positive. Someone who sees the world as a glass half empty tends to look at the negative and be suspicious of motivation. That’s an example of a constant way of perceiving and interacting with the world, which is really what personality is. Mood is something that’s overlaid on that.

          Stroke has an unpredictable impact on the basic constant personality, and that change can be really devastating and difficult for the survivor, but also for their loved ones because personality is really what we connect with. Personality makes you you. And when something fundamental about that personality changes, it requires loved ones to change fundamentally the way that they act with the survivor. If our relationships are like a dance, when personality changes, when someone fundamentally changes their dance steps, that requires other family members to change their dance steps as well. It can be very disruptive.”

          You see, Mel, strokes that occur in certain parts of the brain affect people’s personalities according to the function of that part of the brain. There are literally tens of thousands of case studies demonstrating this.

          What have you produced to support your claims? A theologian.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You’re quoting a cognitive psychologist who obviously embraces materialism, but who also cannot prove what he is saying. I am quoting someone with specific knowledge in the study of consciousness and philosophy.

          So, no, your asinine questions and quotes from psychologists don’t prove anything. You are wasting my time. Good-bye.

        • john zande says:

          I’m wasting your time?

          LOL!

          You write a post on brains and consciousness and your “expert source” is a THEOLOGIAN.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yes, one who is trained in philosophy of mind. And you are quoting a PSYCHOLOGIST to prove a biological source for generating sentient consciousness for which you have ZERO evidence, and you would admit that if you were honest about it.

          The only thing you’re proving is your obstinate scientistic dogmatism. So, yes, you’re totally wasting my time now. You’ve said your piece and now you’re just repeating yourself. I disagree. It’s not proof. I have a very busy day and weekend. You won’t stop talking so I will. Again, good bye.

        • john zande says:

          LOL! Neuropsychologists are neuroscientists, Mel. Their specialty is brain function and behaviour.

          Now, what’s next for you… a post on quantum entanglement where you cite the feelings of a barista?

        • Mel Wild says:

          And brain function cannot be proven to be the same thing as subjective consciousness. So, here we are going in circles, John. And my barista would have as much luck creating consciousness as your neuroscientist, so there we are.

        • john zande says:

          Let me guess, you didn’t even read the quote.

        • Mel Wild says:

          LOL! Good-bye John. Let it go.

        • john zande says:

          Let what go? The studied position of experts who’ve dedicated their life to the study of the subject at hand?

          And substitute that mountain of empirical evidence with what, the feelings of a theologian who couldn’t even identify what regions of the brain did what?

          Nah. I don’t think so. But do carry on…

        • Mel Wild says:

          Haha
          Correction: you meant NO empirical evidence.

        • john zande says:

          Lobotomy’s, stroke victims, crash victims… Tens of thousands of individual case studies, including split brain experiments.

          Clear enough for you?

        • john zande says:

          And here, split brain experiements, for your continued education:

          [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFJPtVRlI64]

  2. “… Software no more “thinks” than a minute hand knows the time or the printed word “pelican” knows what a pelican is.”” I laughed hard this lol it explains the point perfectly

    I’ve read a great articles about Neural nets, which basically are what most pop science is trying to say will one day become AI. What they explain though is how much more advanced a neuron is to a neural net. Basically a Neuron can be a “node” and a neural net at the same time. So, every neuron can be 1 node in a neural net, a stand a lone neural net by itself, or a combination of both. Taking their findings further just look up how many neurons there are in the brain. Roughly 100 Billion neurons (each which can inhabit at least 3 different states of function). Then, each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections! I don’t even want to try to figure out the math of that but, that is an exponentially massive number of variables.

    This new research only further cements my stance. It is laughable to think we will ever create anything even close to what the brain is. To add to your point of this article, the people making pro-AI arguments barely understand even the simplest building block of the brain (a neuron) let alone the mathematically impossible exponential connections between these simple building blocks. So, for them to think they are having a coherent argument whilst standing on a foundation of knowledge that has barely scratched the surface is just silly at best and foolishly out of touch at worst.

    • john zande says:

      What you seem to be describing here is simply and engineering problem.

      As to actual AI, I don’t know enough about programming to comment with any authority, but I would imagine autonomy (a ‘sentience’ proceeding by its own volition) would simply be a matter of two things: curiosity and reward. ‘Curiosity’ can be programmed, and I suspect ‘reward’ is (for now) also just an engineering problem.

      • Mel Wild says:

        No, it’s more likely a category problem.

        • john zande says:

          Perhaps, but I’m not so sure.

          Consciousness is emergent. We observe it becoming more pronounced with increasing neurological capacity, and we can even reverse it by decreasing neurological capacity.

          What are the ‘categories’ you’re thinking of?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Categories like material and non-material. No amount of brain replication is likely to produce unique personality, subjective experience, and intentionality.

      • Engineering problem that is vastly beyond what we can comprehend yet. I’ll give you that in a few thousand years we might be able to make something “like” a brain. Another problem is that even if we could build one machine that can replicate the circuitry of a brain it would be massive. Probably the size of a city. At that point, we would have circuitry but, we would not have sentience per say. We can replicate a circuit of the brain, a “node”/Neuron, but, as the video above says and Mel kind of points out below, replicating/simulating something similar in action to something does not “make” the replication/simulation system into the thing you are simulating.

        Think of it this way, CPU chips in computers process information via gates, ons, and offs, etc. The signals flow in and out of a CPU… kind of like a brain but, the HUGE difference is that within the CPU (or Neural net for that matter) there is no center place where the CPU itself comprehends all the goings on in itself. It does not have a global coherent awareness of itself. It is not looking in as it looks out simultaneously like we do. There is no point of dissociation from outside of itself and a central “self association” or… consciousness.

        Another point I forgot to mention is that with 100 Billion Neurons X 10,000 connected Neurons via 1000 Trillion connections. Within those connections Neurons communicate with more than one chemical messenger. So, not only do you have all those “connections”, the nodes also have the ability to speak different programing languages (neurochemical messages) through each connection. AND on top of that each chemical “language” “spoken” affects/induces totally different languages across other local connections by proxy.

        The order of magnitude of where we are today compared to where we would have to be to engineer something that even simulates all of that is about as far as a monkey is to fluently reciting Shakespeare in multiple languages.

        • john zande says:

          Yes, I know how the brain works.

          AI doesn’t, however, have to replicate the animal brain, and it doesn’t need to be huge. A field mouse has 70 million neurons, and it’s most certainly conscious.

          But like I said, it seems to me the only two things that are required to create autonomy are curiosity and reward.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And how are you going to prove curiosity and reward is purely a material function? All you are doing is creating an algorithm that “simulates” these things, but there is no actual sentient curiosity going on. It’s still Searle’s Chinese room. Besides, it’s a lot more than that, you also must have intentionality and whole host of other aspects of being subjectively conscious.

        • john zande says:

          Prove it? That’s the easiest thing: by observing the entity pursuing the things it gets pleasure from, and learning (over time) how to increase that pleasure through adaptive behaviour.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And that is not proof that consciousness comes from matter.

        • john zande says:

          Um, yes, it is. That’s exactly the proof.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Even if we have the ability to recreate the human neural net in perfect detail we will still be infinitely far away from creating one single bit of actual consciousness. The reason this is, from what I understand, is because our neural net is in consciousness, but it’s not consciousness itself.

      • Myrtle says:

        Hi Mel, I think you did very well to be so polite as to engage with this person at all. He didn’t want a discussion. He had made up his mind long before he ever replied to you at all and just went on here to attack and ridicule you. Not very nice. There must be some neurological reason for his unreasonable behaviour! Poor thing. Blessings brother.

  3. jim- says:

    Isn’t conscience artificial anyway? The work is not natural if it’s was created, so if it truly is created then so are we, and your artificial conscience Mel already exist with your artificial intelligence. The only way it’s natural is if things just happened by chance. If it can be created once, it can be duplicated. It won’t be, because it’s natural.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I’m not sure I’m following you on the artificial thing. But here’s the point I’m trying to make. From the idealist point of view, matter is in consciousness (mind-at-large), and we participate in it. Kastrup explains the body-brain system more like the image of the process of localization in the stream of consciousness, like a whirlpool is the image of a process of localization in a stream of water. For exactly the same reason that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water, the body-brain doesn’t generate consciousness. A unique inner life (subjective consciousness) could be analogous to an “alter” that’s forms in the human psyche in multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)).

      So, if we’re going to successfully create artificial sentience, or consciousness, we would need to somehow be able to create this “whirlpool” or alter in the stream of consciousness, not by trying to reconstruct every brain cell. But in order to pursue that end, cognitive scientists would have to jettison their materialist ontology, and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon, so I think we’re still infinitely far away from creating actual artificial consciousness. We’ll just end up creating an extremely powerful computer that responds according to its external programming. Like with Searle’s Chinese room, it will have lots of answers, but it won’t exhibit one bit of actual subjective consciousness.

    • jim- says:

      “World” not work. Typo

      • Mel Wild says:

        Okay. Thanks for the clarification. As far as this subject goes, it really doesn’t matter if the world and consciousness is artificial (we would have to define what we mean by artificial), we still will not produce it from matter if it’s not found there.

        • jim- says:

          I was wondering why you didn’t understand a pretty simple comment. Typos are the real devil of discussion. I see the butterflies at my house in Panama. It’s amazingly simple and beautiful, but what strikes me the most is their awareness. You have to see it to grasp how intuitive they are to each other, to me, and to other species. Somehow I feel conscience is being overthought. Great provocative post.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks Jim. “Consciousness being overthought” is an interesting statement considering what consciousness is. 🙂
          The subject is quite a paradox. On the one hand, our consciousness is the most empirical thing we have to observe reality, but on the other hand, it eludes our understanding. I believe we’ll be overthinking this one for decades to come. For me, as I said in the post, it helpful in my understanding of the non-material or “spiritual” world.

        • jim- says:

          You may be right, but the very simple can often exemplify the very complex. Like a perfectly worded poem can express what took volumes to write. We tend to reach beyond the mark and then find the answer right under our noses. Lol. I suspect is conscientious arrives when conditions are met, but not from a gift of some type.

  4. Good stuff, Mel. The human brain is nothing like a computer at all. We have a lot of sci/fi ideas around just downloading ourselves into computers, but they are all fantasies, deeply flawed concepts built on a misunderstanding of how our brains work and an inability to fully define consciousness. We aren’t even close to understanding.

    We people also have a tendency to anthromorphize everything from animals to ships at sea. We even name hurricanes, trying to give them an identity and a personality. What kind of fascinates me is the tribalism at play. We know what a person is on a biological level, but what defines a person psychologically, emotionally? It’s kind of interesting, because while reality may not be subjective, how we subjectively perceive someone or something, tends to really shape our reality and theirs. What we put our faith in really does become substance and evidence. Obviously a dog does not become a human just because we psychologically perceive them as one, but their lifestyle sure does reflect their “human” status. And of course, unfortunately the opposite is true too, we also dehumanize.

    Scientism is kind of caught in a dilemma because if consciousness is only subjectively defined, then there is nothing tangible to create in terms of AI. If people haven’t got actual souls with a substance, then you also have nothing to download into a computer. You can’t recreate consciousness or a soul in a machine so to speak, if you don’t believe in them. And of course,if you do believe in souls, than there has to be a Programmer.

    • IB…I have a good question for you to ponder upon. And yes, I’m being my typical messy self.

      Question: If an atheist is able to create artificial intelligence, will he/she then be the god of that AI? And, if so, will that artificial intelligence then be able to turn around and say, “There is no creator. I evolved from prehistoric hardware found in a dump somewhere?”

      • john zande says:

        Why would you assume the engineer would hide?

        • Nor does God hide. Yet, many choose to not acknowledge Him as their creator.

        • john zande says:

          Small thing called ‘evidence’ is not in your favour here.

          But I am curious as to your comment. Your scenario painted a picture of the AI not knowing its origins. That means one of two things:

          1) The engineer is hiding;

          or

          2) The engineer was not truthful.

          Why would you assume either of these?

        • I have plenty of evidence. You asking me for evidence is the equivalent of me telling you I hate the taste of boudin (pronounced boo-dan) without ever tasting it. How would I know if I had never tried it? You can’t prove disprove my evidence without first going to the source of my evidence.

          By the way, boudin is awesome.

        • john zande says:

          I don’t recall asking you for evidence

        • Okee doke… Enjoy your word games. I’m going to eat some Boudin. Did I mention that it is really good? I made myself hungry.

        • john zande says:

          Word games?

          I believe I’m the only one actually putting down actual evidence here… But hey, think what you like. Enjoy the boudin.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Patrick, your question reminds me of a joke. The atheist scientist tells God, “We don’t need you. We can create beings from the dust.” God responds, “Fine, but use your own dust.” 😊

        You make a good point. Will atheists create AI beings that don’t believe in atheists?

      • Exactly, Patrick. That’s not messy at all, it’s simple and logical.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Good points, IB. Trying to tie consciousness to bits of matter is nothing but magic thinking. This is the blind faith of scientism. And I agree, a materialist view won’t lead to understanding consciousness. It’s the Ptolemaic Geocentrism of cognitive science. The premises must change before any real progress will be made.

  5. Chuckling here. I really do enjoy Patrick’s Boudin. My hubby will not touch the stuff. He’s waiting for evidence that it is good. We have this discussion often, him demanding proof and evidence of some food stuff that really must just be experienced to be known.

    Zande mentioned, “Your scenario painted a picture of the AI not knowing its origins. 1)The engineer is hiding; or 2) The engineer was not truthful.”

    Nah. The third option is that the AI is absolutely terrified it might be vulnerable to a more powerful Source than itself, so it must either slay the Creator, or declare the Creator unworthy, or deny the Creator’s very existence.

  6. Gary says:

    How often has science been forced to revise its laws and theories due to a discovery in biblical studies? How often has traditional Christianity been forced to redefine the interpretation of its holy book due to discoveries by science?

    One of these two belief systems has a proven track record of superior reliability.

    Trust science, folks, not ancient holy books.

    • Trust is, “confidence placed in a person.” One cannot really “trust in science” because science does not have personhood. Trust is a human emotion and state of being that has to do with a relationship. So to “trust in science” is actually anti-science, because you have now anthropomorphized a non sentient entity.

      • Gary says:

        Silly.

        We place our trust in all kinds of non-human entities; our military, for instance.

        You are spinning non-sensical spin.

        • I don’t mean to be impolite, but our military are actual people and not, “non-human entities” at all.

          You should be honest about what you are saying when you speak of the human emotional state of trust.

          What you are actually saying is is that your very human experiences and emotional condition has lead you feel as if science were safe and God were scary.

        • john zande says:

          Do you “trust” the sun will come up tomorrow?

          Scary? LOL. No, not quite, Inanity. Closer to: supported only by untrustworthy ‘evidence,’ faulty logic, failed deductive arguments, and complete historical truancy.

          Conversely, science is trustworthy not because it’s built upon a belief that scientists are particularly wise or noble, or that every new hypothesis is true (most aren’t), rather that the defining practices of science (including open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods) are explicitly designed to circumvent the errors to which scientists, being human, are vulnerable.

  7. Gary says:

    Very well said, John.

    Superstitious fundamentalist religionists have been denigrating science for hundreds of years…only to have science knock down one their superstitions after another.

    Unlike the invisible gods and spirits found in ancient holy books, science is not perfect and doesn’t claim to be. However, it has proven to be a remarkably reliable method of investigating how our world operates. The same cannot be said for those who have follow the “wisdom” of ancient holy books.

    • Like I said, “What you are actually saying is is that your very human experiences and emotional condition has led you feel as if science were safe and God were scary.”

      • Mel Wild says:

        Very well said, IB.

        Magical-thinking materialists and fundamentalist anti-theists have been saying that theists have been denigrating science for decades…only to have actual facts say otherwise. The truth is, only a small percentage of theists have ever been anti-science, mostly extreme fundamentalists. At least we’re starting to come out of the dark ages of dogmatic materialism, Dawkinsian anti-theist mythology, and their straw man fallacies.

        And this is exactly why I would never put my trust in materialists or put my faith in their scientism.

        • Gary says:

          Hi Mel. Let’s see just how “pro” science you are:

          Do you believe in Darwinian evolution and the natural selection of ALL species?

        • john zande says:

          He won’t answer, because he knows he can’t answer. I asked Mel once:

          Do you accept that human beings are an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process, where mutations (and the environment in general) are random, meaning they are not adaptively directed, not goal-oriented?

          He strictly rejected this, arguing humans were intended, and the processes of evolution were NOT random. He believes the Middle Eastern god of the Pentateuch, Yhwh, guides (or perhaps even controls entirely) evolutionary processes; interfering in the biosphere, in mutations, and in selection.

          But hey, apart from his Creationist worldview, he’s completely pro-science 😉

        • Nan says:

          But NOT “scientism.” DEFINITELY not scientism! (In case you hadn’t noticed.)

        • john zande says:

          It is strikingly odd that he tries to use that word as a slur.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Of course I don’t have a problem with the basis tenets of evolutionary theory. I’ve said that before. Neither do most non-Fundamentalist Christians. I just don’t turn it into a worldview like Dawkins et al.

          Anyway, I’m on the road, I’ll leave it at that. I’ll let you guys make up stuff about me while I’m away. Have fun! 😜

        • john zande says:

          Really? That basic tenets, huh?

          Do you accept that human beings are an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process, where mutations (and the environment in general) are random, meaning they are not adaptively directed, not goal-oriented?

  8. It is strikingly odd that Zande does not grasp the actual definition of scientism and what it all means? Just for a bit of trivia, Sara Maitland, British feminist, called scientism a, “myth as pernicious as any sort of fundamentalism.” In 1995 she went on to work with Stanley Kubrick on the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. We are currently in a thread called, “Why materialism won’t give us artificial consciousness,” which expounds on those very same ideas.

    So you got a British feminist and a liberal Hollywood icon exploring some of the problematic issues around scientism, which to the atheist mind is clear evidence that…..Christians are anti-science?

    • john zande says:

      A feminist and a film director… Airtight argument there, Inanity. Airtight.

      • Just trying to point out that the truth is not as simple as your narrow mind always tries to perceive it, Zande.

        • john zande says:

          Oh go ahead, use the word as a slur if you *think* it is some sort of smear.

          Just for future reference, if you’re trying to use a particular word as a smear—designed to bully and hurt another person—then you should probably first make sure that word is not actually viewed positively by the person you’re trying to bully and hurt.

  9. Gary says:

    Evolution and natural selection don’t just apply to fruit flies. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that they apply to humans too. Humans are not special except for our bigger brains. Our ancestors crawled out of the primordial slime as did every other creature on earth.

    You are NOT pro science. You only accept the parts of science that agree with your ancient holy book.

    • Mel Wild says:

      You are NOT pro science. You only accept the parts of science that agree with your ancient holy book.

      See, I knew you would say really stupid things about me while I was gone. You are SO predictable.

      I am not against evolutionary theory, and certainly not against science. I was in engineering before I became a pastor. Christianity is not against evolutionary theory (Fundamentalists are). The former Director of the Human Genome Project is a Christian (Francis Collins). But I am against turning it into a dogmatic secular religion. Evolutionary theory is not an exact science like physics or mathematics. Yes, we DO know a lot, but we should be skeptical whenever people say we know all there is to know. And we should ESPECIALLY be skeptical of anything Dawkins has to say in his pop writings (he makes an awful lot of money saying it though).

      Btw, you should check out Denis Noble. He’s got some great academic papers published on the subject. I believe evolutionary theory is up for a major revision. Here’s an interview with him in the Huffington Post:
      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzan-mazur/replace-the-modern-sythes_b_5284211.html

      • Gary says:

        Do you believe that humans evolved from lower life forms due to natural selection and genetic drift over a period of millions of years as described by Darwinian evolutionary theory?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Let me put it this way. I believe that we have discovered significant genetic connections between humans and lower life forms and have significant discoveries from the Human Genome Project. I applaud all of that. And I have no reason to doubt that there has been significant genetic evolution of species over millions of years, or however long it’s been.

          I am not against evolutionary theory, I really don’t care one way or another. It doesn’t affect my faith or my understanding of God or the Bible. I am not a Fundamentalist Biblicist so you’re barking up the wrong tree here. But I am very skeptical of anti-theist fundamentalists who try to buffalo me with their dogmatic certitudes about evolutionary theory. That’s why I brought up Noble. There’s still a lot we really don’t absolutely know. And when someone tries to replace God with evolution (like Dawkins), that’s where they lose me. It’s a totally incoherent argument that won’t fly.

          Btw, did you know that some of the first people to support Darwin and his theory were Christians?

        • john zande says:

          I am not against evolutionary theory

          So you ABSOLUTELY and COMPLETELY accept then that that human beings are an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process, where mutations (and the environment in general) are random, meaning they are not adaptively directed, not goal-oriented.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Of course not, Zande. And you cannot prove that is absolutely and completely true either. I’m not a dogmatic Neo-Darwinist fundamentalist like you. You should check out the papers by Denis Noble and others, as I mentioned to Gary.

          As I said, it seems evolutionary theory, especially with regard to Neo-Darwinism, is up for a major revision. Here’s an interview with Noble in the Huffington Post:https://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzan-mazur/replace-the-modern-sythes_b_5284211.html

          So, while I don’t have a problem evolutionary theory, I’m very skeptical of your religious dogmatism.

        • john zande says:

          Noble, perhaps the most quote-mined biologist for Creationists presently alive.

          Have you even read The Music of Life, Mel? I’m guessing, no, you haven’t. Do you know he absolutely rejects ID? Do you even understand that enlarging the mechanisms by which characteristics are inherited does NOTHING to alter the general Theory of Evolution? In this regard, Noble is no more your ally than Gould was, who also proposed different mechanisms. He is not anti-Darwin.

          Noble = Random: the most critical word in Evolutionary Theory.

          Of course not, Zande.

          Ah, so you are, in fact, AGAINST Evolutionary Theory, as the fundamental basis of Evolutionary Theory is held in the word “random.”

          That is, of course, unless you can show me where in Evolutionary Theory it says mutations (and the environment in general) are adaptively directed/goal-oriented.

          Honestly Mel, why can’t you just be truthful for once? Why do you insist on this game of make-believe, pretending you accept science when you reject the fundamental tenets of it?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Noble, perhaps the most quote-mined biologist for Creationists presently alive.

          LOL! You do have a knack for saying absolutely meaningless things. Did you know that Dawkins is probably one of the most quote-mined biologists alive for atheists? Even though he’s probably mostly wrong about his “selfish gene” innovation.

          “…. all the central assumptions of the Modern Synthesis (often also called Neo-Darwinism) have been disproved. Moreover, they have been disproved in ways that raise the tantalizing prospect of a totally new synthesis…”
          (Noble, “Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology,” p.1235, emphasis added)

          So, Noble is no Neo-Darwinist advocate.

          Do you know he absolutely rejects ID?

          Yes, of course, but so what? I’m not necessarily in favor of ID either, but some of their writers certainly do a good job exposing a lot of the atheist’s pretensions for what they are…nonsense.

          Noble = Random: the most critical word in Evolutionary Theory.

          Yes, of course, and random has been used many different ways. It doesn’t necessarily follow that it means that it’s “absolutely and completely true that human beings are an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process, where mutations (and the environment in general) are random, meaning they are not adaptively directed, not goal-oriented.”

          That’s just your dogmatic certitudes talking. Sorry, you are not pro-science, you are pro-scientism. If you actually were truly neutral about science you would embrace the change and jettison your materialism.

          But, of course, believe whatever you want. I really don’t care one way of the other. Evolutionary theory is not a religion for me. I have no dog in the fight. This conversation is getting boring. Talk to you later.

        • john zande says:

          For future reference: Quote-mined means deliberately taken out of context.

          And this is why Creationists fail so miserably when trying to shoehorn their beliefs into established science. You don’t actually know what you’re talking about.

          There is no known mechanism by which an adaption acquired in an individual’s lifetime can be imprinted on the genome. Lamarckian inheritance is only valid if it excludes the possibility of natural selection, but this has never been demonstrated in any experiment.

          Epigenetics (which is in-part what Nobel is proposing with his neo- Lamarckism), Mel, is pseudoscience. As Peter Medawar wrote:

          “very few professional biologists believe that anything of the kind occurs—or can occur—but the notion persists for a variety of nonscientific reasons.”

          Yes, gene function can be altered by environmental factors and these changes can be inherited. This not news. Radiate living cells, the DNA changes, that is passed on. Pregnant woman is addicted to heroin, the foetus acquires that addiction.

          Again: this is not news.

          I have no dog in the fight.

          Really? So you’re fine with accepting that human beings are an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process.

          Good to know.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Really? So you’re fine with accepting that human beings are an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process.
          Good to know.

          And you are fine with accepting that human beings may not be an entirely unintended product of an entirely unguided process?
          Probably not.

        • john zande says:

          I go where the evidence leads. Unlike you, I let that arbitrate my beliefs.

          But thank you for demonstrating your Anti-science worldview. In the future, perhaps you could try to show some self-respect and just be honest about your position. You are a Creationist. You believe in Intelligent Design. You believe a god named Yhwh meddles in evolution. Own it, and stop this pathetic charade.

        • john zande says:

          You find your lack of self-respect (dignity) funny?

          How curious.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You will say anything just to get the last word, won’t you. Well, whatever, John, whatever…. You have a nice day.

  10. Gary says:

    There are still those who seek to deny the truth of evolution, and there are disturbing signs that their influence is even growing, at least in local areas of the United States. Insofar as these backwoodsmen have arguments, they mostly centre around the notion of “design”.

    Pretend as they will to scientific credentials, the anti-evolution propagandists are always religiously motivated, even if they try to buy credibility by concealing the fact. In most cases, they know deep down what to believe because their parents recommended an ancient book that tells them what to believe. If the scientific evidence learned in adulthood contradicts the book, there must be something wrong with the scientific evidence. Since all radiometric dating methods agree that the earth is thousands of millions of years old, something obviously has to be wrong with all radiometric dating methods. The holy book of childhood cannot be, must not be, wrong.

    —biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins in the introduction to his 1996 edition of The Blind Watchmaker

  11. Gary says:

    I am not anti-Creator. I am not an atheist. I believe that the existence of a Creator is very plausible. However, I am anti-superstition. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that if there is a Creator, he (she, they, or it) may have created the universe using supernatural powers, but he then determined that the supernatural will not operate in our universe. He created inviolable laws by which the universe and everything in it would operate. Therefore, any claims involving virgin births, water walking, corpse reanimation, and magically instilling humans with an invisible “soul” are superstitions. Educated people should not believe such claims.

    If you are truly “pro-science”, you will abandon your superstitions.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Lol! If you were truly pro-reality you abandon your myopic materialism.

      • Gary says:

        If we adopt your world view, we must accept the reality of invisible goblins, devils and boogeymen. No thanks. I’ll stick to my science based world view which allows for the possibility of the supernatural, but ignores its possible existence due to lack of good evidence.

        When you supernaturalists actually have good evidence for your superstitions, hold a world wide news conference on CNN. We skeptics will be all ears!

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