All of Ghazzali's Comments + Replies

The Wonder of Evolution

Biology textbooks reflect the belief that "The world is purely physical/material in nature" by not even entertaining the possibility that there could be a super natural cause for anything. Any natural activity is assumed to have a physical/material cause. This is philosophy, so it may not be physically written out that way in the biology textbooks, but everything in the textbooks points to this major world assumption.

Same with the issue of free will. Any act by a species is seen in a way that needs to be explained in chemical/biological/mech... (read more)

Sure, that is possible. Then, in the absence of overwhelming evidence for a designer, we have at least two possible explanations for the evidence that we do possess: 1). Cellular replication in general and DNA in particular is a result of natural processes, specifically {insert long explanation here}. 2). Cellular replication in general and DNA in particular is a result of both natural processes, as well as supernatural intervention by an intelligent designer for whose existence we have no evidence. Which explanation is more likely to be true, Bayesically speaking (yes I know that's not a word) ?
Then you think that God coming down from heaven and telling us he exists is rational evidence that he does not exist or is not the designer of the universe? See Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence [].
The Wonder of Evolution

My point is that you can argue rationally about whether there is design in the universe, but you cannot argue whether the design is good or bad. The later is incoherent. Maybe the Grand Designer does want to make things confusing? Maybe he has put evidence of design in the universe, but not absolute evidence for whatever reason He wants? You can make the point that the design is good or bad, but that point has no real consequence to the question about whether there is design in the first place. Thats my point.

Another interesting point;

Do you agree t... (read more)

I'm not arguing about whether design is "good" or "bad"- reuse for example isn't an aspect of good or bad design. It is an aspect of design, period. Sure, and maybe the Grand Designer deliberately made all the evidence look like there was no designer, and then the designer is going to reward people in the afterlife who looked at it logically and came to that conclusion. Or maybe this entire discussion is actually occurring in a simulation in some future transhumanist utopia, after Ghazzali made a bet with a friend that he'd be logical enough that even if placed in the benighted 21st century he'd still reach correct conclusions about the nonsense that is religion. (Apparently you were wrong.) Or maybe this entire conversation hasn't occurred, and this message is the last fraction of coherent apparent input to you before your Boltzmann brain dissolves back into chaos. Etc. Etc. Do you see why this isn't a useful game to play? It does though. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence []. That you can construct other hypothetical deities that are more and more convoluted in their behavior says more about your imagination than the likelyhood of their existence. This is especially the case because the deities as described in most classical religions (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism) are explicitly highly interventionist. I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you asking how humans come up with new ideas? There's ongoing research by psychologists and cognitive scientists on this, but it isn't an area I know much about. My understanding is that the current hypotheses suggest that some of it is random borderline nonsense bubbling at a barely conscious level, and that part of the difficulty is recognizing the good ideas and bringing them out to full attention. But again, not my area. You didn't address whether there's any amount of evidence that would convince you that evolution was
The Wonder of Evolution

Not quite what I am saying.

I do believe in the truth of empirically reproducible results. However, other than stating facts I do not see how these results force me to believe in anything. It is my belief system or personal philosophy that makes me conclude a interpretation of those facts.

For example:

Evolution is seen by many people through the lens of materialism/atheism. That means that while studying evolution these people ASSUME the world has no creator and and is purely physical and closed system, free from anything super-natural....and so on.

In... (read more)

Let's imagine that there exist two universes, M and E. Universe M is purely material. Universe E contains etherial things in addition to material ones. However, the material things that E contains are exactly identical to the material things that M contains, down to each individual quark or cosmic string or whatever everything material is made of. The material objects in two universes are perfectly synchronized; for example, whenever a drop of water falls into a pond in universe M, and identical drop falls into an identical pond in E, etc. If you were accidentally transported into one of these universes, is there any way you could tell which of them you ended up in ?
If we found in every single mammal a long conserved sequence in its genome which had its own extra code to help conserve it and it spelled out in easy substitution code the entire text of some religious text, you can be very sure that every biologist would stand up and take notice. Moreover, your claim doesn't really follow since there are many religious biologists (like Ken Miller, a very religious Catholic) who are perfectly ok with evolution and the entire standard understanding of biological history.
The consistent downvoting of your posts should give you some indication that your arguments are not going to be well received here. I don't intend to continue this discussion further for the following reasons: * I don't believe you're here to genuinely arrive at truer beliefs []. I think you're here to try and convert us. * You did not answer the one direct question I asked you to answer (which, among other things, leads me to conclude the above.) * Other people on this site are far more willing to refute your arguments and will do a better job, and have been doing so. * I don't think you have enough background (have read enough of the sequences) in why I (or LW in general) believes what we believe for you and I to be able to have a conversation productive enough to be enjoyable to me. Most of the ensuing discussion would probably consist of me spending 15 minutes looking up exactly which of Eliezer's posts refuted the point you made in your most recent post, and linking you to it, at which point, you probably wouldn't read what I linked to anyway.
At this point, your argument really doesn't amount to anything other than apologetics. In this context, we've looked at every single thing that we know for sure is designed, and we can see simple common patterns (which moreover are patterns that make sense for designers to use). It is possible that you are missing part of the point so lets make it clear: most of what I've talked about above has nothing to do with "good" or "bad" design. Products that really suck (e.g. Windows ME) show the same basic patterns. The only one of the above that hits on the quality of the design is efficiency. Things like reuse are simply habits of design. At this point, you are claiming that something is a philosophical presupposition, but even without that class of presupposition, we get the same result by simply looking at the designed objects around us. To then claim that no matter what we see it may or may not be designed makes the claim unfalsifiable. They aren't sporadic examples, they are the entire tree of life. To use just one example from my list- we see essentially no examples of reuse of the same designs or parts of designs. And this is true not just for examples in specific body parts (such as the panda's thumb, or the mammalian eye) but for whole species. In isolated areas like Australia and Madagascar, species have filled nearly identical niches to the niches filled in much of the rest of the world, exactly as you'd expect from evolution, and not what we see human desigers do. At that point, you have a deity who is not only making things not as a designer would be likely to make them, but you have a deity that is making things in a way that is actively deceptive. The deity has made life which down to the last detail looks old and evolved. It may help to ask yourself what it would take for you to accept evolution. Is there any evidence that would do so? If not, the problems of philosophical presuppositions would seem to be if anything an issue of projection.

So there's some seed of a potentially valid point here. Phrased in a Bayesian fashion, if one assigns low enough priors to certain hypotheses, one isn't going to practically consider those hypotheses unless one has ridiculous levels of evidence. So is something like that happening here?

I think the conclusion is "no". There are many religious individuals who have no objection to evolution. The objections stand essentially from religions which have creation stories which are important to the theology. For example, in Christianity, the Fall is very ... (read more)

First of all, what are you defining as a "world view" and why is that a useful definition to have? It seems like you're trying to say "You believe things, beliefs are dogmas, you're being dogmatic". That is whole manners of cheating. Secondly, you're right. It is possible [] that the universe was intelligently designed. But the Kolmogorov complexity [] formulation of Occam's Razor [] necessarily requires I assign that a very small probability prior. In order to simulate a universe designed by God, a computer must first simulate God, including why ey would create the universe the way that it is, then simulate that universe, as opposed to just simulating the universe.

No, let's not just say that, let's discuss the actual pieces of evidence, it's much more likely to be productive.

That is a factual claim which most here will think incorrect, by default. It should be backed up by evidence and argument rather than simply asserted.

For what it's worth, I used to draw a distinction between macro and micro evolution. I always argued that it made little to no sense for species to evolve sexual reproduction - and how would that work anyway?

But I remember exactly when I changed my mind. I was in a genetics class, and we were learning about sex pili - they're basically channels that bacteria can form to pass DNA between themselves. I realized that life (and evolution) are a whole hell of a lot more complicated than I gave them credit for, and that perhaps evolution is the tiniest bit more creative than I am.

I think that is where we differ, it is in the macro-micro evolutionary distinction. That mathematical model does not hold any water if you distinguish between species.

Speciation is a well-established result. See for example this not at all exhaustive list. Simply noting that species is a term that exists doesn't break the models. Moreover, the lines between many species are quite blurry, exactly as one would expect if evolution were correct. This has gotten to the point where the evidence for speciation is so overwhelming that Answers in Genesis, one of... (read more)

I'd be curious where you can point to these being used as evidence for evolution. You won't see them in any major biology textbook. Note that even if they are used that way that doesn't become a problem with evolution by itself. This statement is probably true. But why is it true? It doesn't have anything to do with evolution as an issue and primarily has to do with the fact that most classical religions have creation stories and other aspects which make evolution uncomfortable for them, and people who are religious form a substantial overlap with people who make claims about non-physical or non-material existence. Similar remarks apply to your other bits. These are people who are unhappy with evolution not because of evidence but because it goes against their theological predilections.

Can you explain how the view that there is purpose, meaning, agency or design in the universe helps us address any anomalies better? With examples?

The Wonder of Evolution

Lets focus on the chance vs. design conversation here first.

For all 3 of those examples you gave you would have to pick a conclusion of chance or design. Can you explain how any of those 3 could be conceived of as both chance and design at the same time? The only third option is to simply say I dont know.

All three of those options involve structures determined by "chance" (which is itself a more complicated idea than the simple word suggests, but that doesn't really matter at the level we're operating on right now), operating within a designed structure that constrains the possible range that chance can operate on. The end result is in fact determined by both design and chance, operating at the same time. A different design would create different results, even if "chance" operated the same way. The same design might create different results, if "chance" operated differently.
No, not at all. Evolution is one aspect of one field of one discipline. One can argue that existence came about by chance (and I'm not comfortable with that term) without referring to evolution at all; there are many other reasons to reject the idea of a designer. See Desrtopa's reply, below, regarding chance and design and whether a designer helps here. S/he said it better than I could!
Well, we don't know the exact cause of the Cambrian explosion, but there are a large number of plausible hypotheses, so I'd be hesitant to describe it even as A. I'd be more likely to put it in the same category as the lineage of bats, not known, but not particularly confusing either. As to whether the laws of nature and so forth come about by chance or design, why would design resolve anything? Did the designer come about by chance or design? It just inserts another complex entity and pushes the question back a step.

There have been anomolies found in the fossil record that don't seem to make sense, but they are not deemed extreme enough by the scientific community to warrant any damage to evolution. The hypotheticals you have suggested are very extreme, do they have to be that extreme to warrant a hit on evolution or can less extreme finds also warrant questioning?

This seems to indicate a very confused thought process about how scientific theories work and are tested. A scientific theory that is wrong shouldn't have data that almost but doesn't quite fit. If evolu... (read more)

I think we do this for evolution as much as any other part of science. In any, the judgment of the severity of a "hit" is possible if you understand the relevant concepts. An understanding of the concepts lets one see what separates minor issues from fossil rabbits in the Precambrian; what's a detail, and what's central to the theory - some things would necessitate a modification, and some would cast the entire theory into question. Think of what it took to overturn any other well-established theory in history, or what it would take to overturn relativistic physics. More generally, if you have a whole bunch of evidence that points to one conclusion, it should take something fairly extreme to substantially sway you away from belief in that conclusion and make you re-evaluate all the accumulated evidence. (And there's a lot of evidence [] for evolution [].)

Can you name any of these anomalies which "don't seem to make sense?"

There have been various evolutionary quandaries, where it's not clear how this or that organism evolved, but many of these have been resolved by further discoveries, which clarified the line of descent. There are some lineages that are still hazy, the evolution of bats for example, where our record of their lineage is poor because their bones are delicate and do not fossilize readily, but cases like these are not a source of confusion.

All the allegations I've heard of anomalie... (read more)

Either existence happened by chance, or by design. There seems to be no third or fourth way. We are limited to these two conclusions and nothing else.

Does the structure of a crystal come about by chance, or by design?
Does the demographic distribution of visibly identifiable subcultures within a diverse population come about by chance, or by design?
If I reroll stats for my D&D character until I get one I like, does the resulting set of numbers come about by chance, or by design?

Which is to say: I reject your assertion that the middle is excluded here... (read more)

Do we? Could you show this for 3 other fields?
I addressed this here [], but I missed a few things. For one, I address the extremity of the hypotheticals in the linked post, but I didn't point out, also, that these things seem extreme because we're used to seeing things work out as if evolution were true. These things wouldn't seem extreme if we had been seeing them all along; it's precisely because evolution fits what we do find so well that evolution-falsifying examples seem so extreme. Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian would probably not seem so extreme to a creationist; it's what they'd expect to find (since all species supposedly lived alongside one another, AFAIK). For two: I don't think that follows. A hit on a chance-favoring theory could be a "hit" in such a way as to support a different chance-favoring theory, rather than any favoring design. Can you point out some ways that scientists view evolution as a belief system rather than science?
He goes on to tell you exactly what systems: any with random heritable changes that can selectively help or hinder reproduction. This would mean both all life on earth that fits within that definition, and any particular species also under that umbrella. It seems to me like you're trying to make a distinction between "microevolution" and "macroevolution" here, but I may be misreading you. If you are, however, notice that thomblake's process makes no distinction between them; to suppose one but not the other could occur, you'd need a specific mechanism or reason. No, it necessitates that it is happening and has happened in any such system. The process, that is. You're correct if you're just saying that the process may not have resulted in any differentiation at any given time.
The Wonder of Evolution

If all science must be in theory falsifiable, and evolution is good science, can you give me some parameters or predictions that if they were found to be true would hurt the theory of evolution?

What would scientists need to find in the future that would seriously do damage to the theory?

There is at least some sense in which the general pattern of evolution is not falsifiable - but to precisely that extent, it's not science. There is a mathematical certainty that an evolution-like process would occur in a system with random heritable changes that can selectively help or hinder reproduction. For a theist to deny evolution exists in general, they would have to insist God actively stops it from happening every day (or deny that random heritable mutations occur, or deny that they can help or hinder reproduction).

Any number of things. One example would be traits appearing in advance of conditions that would make them favorable e.g. a deep ocean fish developing legs or a reptile developing wings while it is too heavy for the wings to increase the length of its jumps. Another would be one species adopting traits of another through direct transfer of genes, rather than through separate evolutionary lines e.g. a snake using a variety of venom that was previously only in spiders. I could probably come up with several hundred examples, if you really needed that many. None of them are particularly likely though: there is a huge weight of evidence behind modern evolutionary theory, which means it is almost certainly true.

The standard snappy answer to this one is "fossil rabbits in the precambrian".

More generally, if we found fossils of organisms with complex adaptations which reliably dated to a time before those adaptations could plausibly have occurred (because the necessary precursors didn't exist,) then that would be a strong indication that our understanding of the development of species is wrong.

Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

Our brain is physical, no doubt, but as you can imagine I am making a claim that mind (consciousness, spirit, whatever you want to call it) is not the same as brain. There is a connection between the two, but my argument using rational judgment is that consciousness does not seem to be physical because there is no way to understand it rationally. Your point against me is what I use against you. You say I am mistaken because I cannot even define what is consciousness, I say that is precisely the point! The only way you can reply is to hold out for the v... (read more)

Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

I will make a point about the progress of science in this subject and then use that to step towards a more general argument for the innate mystery of consciousness with regards to reason.

Ever since the time of the enlightenment there has been a real movement in the west to view the world as purely mechanical/physical so that a conclusion of reason as a universal tool could be accepted. That meant the elimination from society of not just God but also the soul and other things.

Ironically it was a particular invention of science and reason that made ration... (read more)

Evidence-based Citation needed. ( From a neurologist or computer scientist. Nothing about how our own massively parallel architecture differs from the Von Neumann architecture [].) The more we understand of the workings of the brain, the more we can mimic it on a computer. ("Ha, but these are simple tasks! Not difficult tasks like consciousness." How convenient of you to have chosen a metric you can't even define to judge progress towards full understanding of the human brain) And there was no such model before the development of computers either. Your unstated assumption seems to be that it is rational to expect a quick development of a "model of consciousness" (whatever that is) after the invention of the computer. If that were so, you might have a point, but, again : evidence needed. Evidence-based Citation needed. Our brain runs on physics. Although there may be various as-of-yet unknown algorithms running in our brain, there is no reason to assume anything non-computational is going on. Will you change your mind if/when whole brain emulation [] becomes feasible ?
Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

Sorry for the allegorical language if it offended you.

There is a difference between not finding a solution for a problem, and not even understanding what a solution may look like even in the abstract form.

It is also not a good sign when the problem gets to be more of a mystery the more science we discover.

The concern here is that we have an irrational view that rationalism is a universal tool. The fact that we have unsolved scientific and intellectual problems is not a proof of that. The fact that there seem to be problems that in their very nature seem to be unsolvable by reason is.

I am not offended Certainly. And further on that scale, there is "understanding so little of the problem that you're nor even sure there's a problem in the first place". Progress on the the P vs NP problem has been largely limited to determining what the solution doesn't look like [] , and few if any people have any idea what it does look like, or if it (a solution) even exists (might be undecidable). So, this scale goes * Solved problems * Unsolved problems where we have a pretty good idea what the solution looks like * Unsolved problems where we have no idea what the solution looks like : subjective experience is not here * problems we suspect exist, but can't even define properly in the first place : subjective experience is here! Consciousness and the subjective experience of pain have not gotten more mysterious the more science we discover. At worst, we understand exactly as much now as we did when we started, i.e. nothing (and neurologists would certainly argue we do understand more now). It is. Have a look at Solomonoff induction [] It's not proof, but it is evidence. What makes you think that these problems are "in their very nature unsolvable by reason" ? Is it because you think they are inherently mysterious [] ?
Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

The fact that the problem cannot be explained is because of the limitations of language/logic/reason....the tools that we rely on to explain mechanical phenomenon. Things that require equal signs.

The fact that this subject is not easilly explainable is not a hit against our side, it is a hit against your side. It is the non-rational aspect of consciousness that makes it seemingly impossible to explain in the first place.

The reaction of reductionists and some rationalists (I argue that it is quite rational to conlude that this is indeed a mystery as of present time) that because we cannot explain what that sensation of 'pain' is then it may not exist to begin with is dubious at best.

"You can't explain the precession of the perihelion of Mercury" is a hit against Newton's theory of gravity. "You can't explain "zoink", and I can't tell you what "zoink" is, nor what an explanation of "zoink" would look like" is not a hit against anything. Also, arguments are not soldiers [], and talking about "hits" and "sides" is unwise. There have, in history, been many occasions where something was not understood. When temperature was not understood, it was still possible to explain to someone what this ill-understood "temperature" was. Specifically, it is simple to make sure that your notion of "colour" or "temperature" is similar to my notion of "colour" or "temperature" even if I don't understand what "colour" and "temperature" are. I predict that there has never been a concept that * was not understood at some point in time * was "not easily explicable" in the sense that "the subjective experience of pain" is not easily explicable * later turned out to be well-defined and to "cut reality at its joints" [] If you can come up with an example of such a concept, I will start taking arguments from vague not-easily-explicable concepts far more seriously. On the other hand, there are at least some concepts that * were not understood at some point in time * were "not easily explicable" in the sense that "the subjective experience of pain" is not easily explicable * turned out to be completely bogus namely, the concepts of "soul", "god", etc...
Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

What we know is that reason is extremely useful when applied to mechanical/material subjects. We should continue to use it in that way.

We know that it has extreme difficulty in explaining and analyzing some key issues, including consciousness and all of its manifestations; pain/pleasure, emotions, imagination, and meaning in general as well as others. Once again, this seems to be the case because consciousness itself is extremely difficult to put into mechanical/material terms. Therefore reason has a problem with it.

If a tool is proficient in explainin... (read more)

Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

Up to this point in human history no rational or scientific model has been presented that would explain how matter could be put together to feel pain. Or feel anything for that matter. Whether it is possible or impossible to do is another conversation.

Sure, no one does or has ever really had a clue where consciousness comes from. What's your point? The way you're saying "no rational or scientific model" rather than "no model whatsoever" implies you think these are poor tools - do you have some alternative in mind?
Human consciousness as a tractable scientific problem

Is there a scientific/mechanical model that would enable a machine to feel pain? Not react to pain as if it did feel pain, but to actually feel pain in the same sense as a human does? The answer is no, there is nothing in science or philosophy that can come up with such a model even in theory, much less using current technology.

And that is only a small part of consciousness. Our abilities to understand and appreciate 'meaning', our vision, imagination, sense of free will....our general human experience of ourselves and our environment cannot be mathema... (read more)

Do you know how to distinguish "actually feeling pain" from "acting as if" it feels pain? If so, do tell. If not, would you perhaps also claim that a machine which passes the Turing test is not "actually" conscious, but merely "acts as if" it is conscious ? Anti-reductionists are always quick to point at "qualia", "subjective experience", "consciousness" (or the subjective experience of pain, in this case) as examples of Great Big Unexplained Mysteries which have not been/can not be solved by science, but they can never quite explain what exactly the problem is, or what a solution would look like.
It is essentially certain that it is possible in principle to construct out of matter a thing which can feel pain, have an experience of self, etc., to the extent that these are meaningful concepts. The proof is very simple.