1. As we all know, theism -belief in a specific, present god- is unjustified and silly.
    Yet, arguments against theistic positions or religions don't necessarily apply to deism.

    Deism relies on evidence drawn from nature - its creation by god, as opposed to supernatural revelations typical of religions. Furthermore, deists tend to believe that god does not currently interfere with what happens in the world.

    Of course this different position also opens itself to a different set of potential supporting and opposing arguments.

    So, is deism a reasonable position to hold?
  2. In my study of theology, particularly shamanism, there are many times where tribal shamans or priests will commune with nature or animal spirits and have a unifying belief that nature and existence itself is created by an superintelligent mind. There are already many elements of deism in eastern religion and native american religion. I even implement some deistic belief in my own faith. Even though it isn't provable, the idea that the Earth is placed at a specific and important position away from the sun where life can thrive and evolve is a fascinating and incredible phenomenon. The fact that organic lifeforms could spawn from the primordial conditions of early Earth is another good one. Even though i believe in intervention and miracles, i think there are vast periods of time where god doesn't interfere and just lets nature run its course.

    It's a mixed bag for me but I don't find deistic beliefs to be ridiculous at all.
  3. First you'd have to somehow show that the diety in question was sitting back and watching as opposed to actively interfering and just hiding its actions or that we simply aren't or can't properly interpret its actions in order to distinguish it from the "silly" theism. As far as I've seen (at least on these particular boards), there's no real argument against theism - just against particular religions.

    The real question to me is, "is any position other than agnosticism a reasonable position to hold?"
  4. The problem with that is, the claim was first and foremost presented by theists, who believe that god(in a multiple variety of ways) controls every aspect of your life, if not reality all together, and that nothing "is" without the will of god. In that sense they have very ingeniously encased the entire argument within a bubble that can always be argued in anyway they choose thanks to those set parameters. Because god is all encompassing, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent etc, nothing happens, nothing exists that is no preordained, ergo there is only ever one answer to all of life's riddles and mysteries:God.

    Thus the belief that god interferes with every facet of reality is in a perpetual state of assertion(with those who subscribe to the particular religions that espouse it). So the burden of proof is really not on the deists. But even if it was, where they promote reason, ration, logic, their religious cousins dismiss it without a "reasonable" thought.

    And lets be honest here, proving "inaction" especially "Mystical inaction" of a powerful deity is just outright silly. I'm sure you would reply" The absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence" and how very true you are. But how do you prove, or even try to argue something doesnt exist, or has not happened when there are no indicators eitherway? What tangible evidence are you examining? Its pointless to try and prove that something doesnt exist, or does not happen, when you can only logically invalidate it.
  5. I don't think that deism is a reasonable position to hold.

    Deism is still a claim of the existence of God. It infers through reason and observation that God exists, but like all theological claims, has no proof to substantiate these claims. What reason? What observations? Many deists are former theists, so I can pretty much tell you where their religious views really come from.

    It is a weaker stance, and a half compromise. Deists often say that God is unknowable or does not interfere in our lives, which is fine, but begs the question of what benefit there is to believe in something that you know nothing about and you cannot be sure impacts your life in any meaningful way. Just because you are not inferring anything about the nature of God does not make your leap of faith suddenly rational, it actually makes it somewhat pointless. Additionally, Deists that claim that God does not interfere in our lives are inferring something about his nature, which is another contradiction to their stance.

    It's true that we cannot prove a negative hypothesis, but at the same time, we reject ideas on a daily basis based on a lack of evidence. If there is no evidence whatsoever for a claim, and no reasonable way to test it through some experiment, then what point is there in entertaining the idea? Why not tentatively put it on the back burner while remaining open minded should actual evidence present itself?

    I think the mistake that Deists make is assuming that their argument is a stronger stance because inaction cannot be proven. They make a claim (without evidence) that God exists, then use that lack of evidence regarding his nature as a strength of their position. It's a bit contradictory to only use an absence of evidence when it suites your argument, which is what many Deists do. Not only is it irrational and inconsistent, but it is just another thinly disguised appeal to ignorance and/or special pleading...aka God works in mysterious ways.
  6. @Vigilante
    Deism is a word that's usually used as a distinction from theism. Inherent part of it is a rejection of tenets of holy books. I can see how you'd say that there are similarities between what a deist might base his beliefs on and a theist though.

    Cane's answer makes important points - you cannot claim free will with an interfering god, and that the burden of proof is on a person who claims god interferes, not on the person who says god doesn't. The evidence suggests that the universe is functioning self-sufficiently and there's no convincing evidence of specific godly interventions.

    An argument against god's existence then, particularly one that is actively involved in the world, is the argument from the problem of evil - that an all powerful, all knowing and all good god would not create a world where people, particularly innocent children suffer, as argued by Ivan in Brothers Karamazov.
    It simply assumes that god is all knowing, all powerful and all good based on the definition of god being perfect, with which you may disagree with, but you then must propose characteristics of a theistic god because otherwise there's not much that can be said about a god that's not described by a specific religion.

    Yeah, you're cutting to the chase. It's kinda off topic but oh well, I'll say yes. For example, it's reasonable to be an atheist toward gods like Zeus or god of the Bible, because we have evidence against their existence - like knowing where lightning comes from or having evidence that the great flood of the Bible didn't happen. If specific characteristics are assigned to some god like the two I mentioned, they open up to reasonable arguments against such a god's existence.
    You can say that it is no proof of such god's nonexistence, since as a god, he could just... make it seem like he's not throwing lightning or haven't flooded the whole earth, but then at best such arguments make it impossible to claim absolute proof of god's nonexistence based on these facts.
    Nonetheless, it's an unfalsifiable hypothesis, since you can't show evidence that god made it seem like he's not throwing lightning, so the only rational conclusion is to say that the evidence suggests such and such god doesn't exist, it doesn't prove it.
    That's enough to hold an atheistic position toward a specific god.
  7. Likewise atheists also infer through reason and observation the propositional standpoint that god does not exist, in any form(depending on the atheist i guess), and are just devoid of actual, "literal" "Tangible" (however you would phrase it) "Proof". They are governed by reason just as deists are, however they take divergent paths on the ideas they promote. Both dismiss all forms of holy teachings, challenge the existence of miracles and or divine intervention(a founding deist principle), and are adverse to organized religion in general(again depending on the atheist). In fact, to a deist their "God" can appear in the grand scheme of things quite irrelevant. Indeed despite the fact that he set everything in motion, he takes no further action, either by choice or inability...in effect his existence reflects upon the nature of "Reality" itself. Deists do not worship a god, it would be pointless to do so when you assert the position that he takes no interest interest in your life to begin with. Many deists like myself could perhaps be better described as pantheists in all reality, i tend to think of god as less of a intellectual entity, and more of the power of nature itself.

    I'm also somewhat surprised at the implication that because many deists are former theists, that you can draw easy conclusions as to why they are inclined take on that type of thought process, as if they are still attempting subconsciously to reconcile their former beliefs within a new (supposedly comparable) medium out some lingering sense of attachment to it. Many atheist were former theists, would you make the same conclusions for them? Many of the same reasons that turned them away from mainstream organized religions centered around the antiquated adherence to Ideology, also soured the tongues of many modern day deists. If you compare my reasoning for leaving the catholic church, with that of tony's, i'm willing to bet they would be strikingly similar...yet he is a staunch atheist, and i am...well something else entirely.
    If Mr Spock were here, i believe he would find that most "Fascinating" wouldn't you agree? I would only ask that you be a dear and not make fallacious assumptions about the reasoning behind former theists becoming deists, for its just as fallacious to do so for atheists. A theist could harp all day long, on the position that they uphold that theist turned atheists, are cynical immoral infidels who carry only pessimistic feelings for the world around them, and are acting out against the god that wouldnt listen to them. A theist would say that such individuals were improperly practicing their faith, and thus were turned into vindictive whiners.

    That of course is bollocks, as is what you implied.

    Don't confuse "Belief" and "Worship". A deist believes in god or "A god", a theist believes and worships a god. The latter does so because according to his faith there is something in it for him, god is watching out for him, god is preserving his immortal place within the upper plane of heaven, if he lives his life through his subscribed and divine teachings. A deist may believe in god, or the possibility of a god, but lives his life on his terms, not constricted by the supernatural, only intrigued by the idea of a higher state of existence. An atheist is quite dismissive, perhaps a little too dismissive. A deist may not be that far behind, but he accepts the unknown(in my opinion) in a better way than that of a atheist. Agnostics i would say are the champions of indifference to the unknown(that is until it becomes known), but as this is not a debate on whether agnosticism is more reasonable, I'll leave it at that.

    The deist god does not "Work" let alone in a mysterious manner, his "Work" is autonomous and self contained, apart from needing regulation by its creator.(This is Deism 101) You're argument seems to be careening towards the idea that deists are closet theists, instead delving into the real substance of what this debate is about. Deism does not magically become immune to the logic it uses, however deists like atheist target specific and documented religious texts and teachings, to create logical refutations of the aforementioned detailed, and assumed to be true beliefs.
  8. For your reference, I am more aptly described as an agnostic atheist. I require at least some rational or falsifiable evidence for a belief system in deities. As such, I would not declaratively claim validation of a negative hypothesis, but I would tentatively reject any untestable hypothesis. In layman’s terms, if someone asked me if God existed I would say “I do not know” and depending on my mood I might add “but there’s no evidence to suggest that he does.” I do not go around thinking that God does not exist; I simply do not entertain religious beliefs in my head, so I lead an atheist lifestyle by default, as a large majority of agnostics do.
    There is a difference, because no matter how guided by reason, deists are already making a concession against rationality. The hallmark of faith/belief in a God is that it occurs without evidence. So while both parties may value reason, one has already made a leap of faith against rationality. Not to say that deists cannot be rational, but at least on a superficial level, it appears that they apply it less consistently. I would not claim a slippery slope argument here, but it certainly brings into question consistency of argument and deduction.
    To me, it seems kind of pointless to believe in something that is irrelevant to your life, especially if it conflicts with your concept of rational thought. Why make some leaps of faith but not others? I suppose that you could do it just for the hell of being open-minded, but you can be agnostic and do that too. But if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that your belief has no impact on your life aside from being a supposition that you accept but cannot prove? I can sympathize with a feeling of connectivity and the power of nature, and I believe that spirituality can be independent of theistic beliefs, but I wonder why you would believe in God especially when you can articulate why it has little bearing on your life. Perhaps you could clarify for me? I’m genuinely interested to know why.
    I do believe that some deists may have a lingering attachment, but I'm more interested in delving into why deists are supposedly independent entities and not derivatives of theism.

    Agreed that theism can influence both atheists and deists. But deism is more a modification of existing dogma or religious ideas, whereas atheism is more of a separation from it. As to your question, I would not make such sweeping generalizations, but there are certainly some atheists who are really just bitter and disillusioned theists in disguise. But it is really hard to be a deist who was not heavily influenced from theism. If that’s the case, then I think that makes it hard to discern if religious sentiment is actually a product of reason and observation versus a derivative of theism for whatever reason. Most salient question here is, why believe in God? What is the rationale, and where is the evidence?
    I think that Spock would be fascinated with the 21st century human in general, especially the inconsistency by which we debunk irrational beliefs with rational thought, but then embrace another irrational belief system just as quickly.

    As for the point in question, I think it’s very undeniable that deism in general is heavily influenced by existing theistic religions. It’s rather inescapable.

    I think I will use you as an example. Over time, you went from Catholic to theist to deist to pantheist? The remaining element here is that your family and cultural upbringing has pervaded and highly influenced your religious views. One parent was highly religious, the other more open minded and liberal. Both influenced you. I don’t think that you would deny that. Now you are reconciling your own independent ideas with that of what was given to you. You became disillusioned with your religion, at least that’s what I gathered. In line with my earlier question, what reason do you have to believe in God?
    Declarative atheists are too dismissive I agree. But what you are describing sounds more like an agnostic. Actually, from what I gather of your posts, you sound like an agnostic who leans theistic, perhaps because he wishes to remain open-minded, or maybe you do have some lingering loyalty :p
  9. Is there any particular reason why your response is in black text?
  10. I c/p'd it from MS Word. I won't do it again, it was a hassle. Just switch your skin to the lighter purple one and it will be easy to read for now.
  11. To believe something, one does not need absolute proof. If such were the case, it would be extremely difficult for any one person to store in mind all of the reasoning that backs up most of modern knowledge and thus most people would be unable to believe anything. I believe that humans extract oxygen from air that they breathe not because it has been proven to me, but because in my estimation the likelihood that my teachers were lying to me about what modern science has discovered up to this point is low. And that is not even to speak of things that most of us believe for which no human being has absolute proof (theory of evolution, theory of relativity, etc.). They are just things that we deem sufficiently likely to say we believe them.

    In that vein, it is not unreasonable for someone to have deist beliefs. There are numerous beliefs attributed to individuals who ascribe to Deism, but the only tenet which is central to Deism itself is the idea that there was a consciousness, and it was by its will that the universe was created.

    Analyzing the likelihood of this statement requires us to examine what consciousness is. In strict terms, nobody knows at what point consciousness arises, all we know is that we have it, and most of us believe that it is a result of some information processing which most of us believe occurs in the brain. Since this is generally considered a reasonable belief, let us assume that is true.

    Now if this computation has the necessary qualities to be consider conscious, then if the same exact computation occured in some other medium, say a computer, would it still be consciousness? There's no logical reason to assume that consciousness requires the physical components of an organic brain; since consciousness is an informational concept it is reasonable to believe that all that matters is that the same informational states be represented and sequentially computed. Need it even be a computer? Any physical construction which can be interpreted to represent those informational states, and as a consequence of its own operation and consistent interpretation would produce the same results could be the same consciousness. In fact, it would not be unreasonable to believe that the consciousness does not even need a physical representation to exist, much in the manner that 2+2=4 whether or not you have two sets of two beans to put together and obtain four.

    So we have that some computation occurs in the brain, and some property of this computation is 'sufficient' to be labelled conscious. Prior to the creation of the universe, there was some sequence that led up to said creation. As a result of this sequence, we have the universe as we know it today. Clearly there was a computational process that can be represented by this system, and clearly this process's output was to create a universe. So the only question is, was their consciousness, and therefore will, in this process? Basic information theory dictates that you cannot compute a greater amount of complexity and information from a smaller. This "computer" then, is by necessity far more complex than anything in the universe at any point in the future, including several conscious beings.

    Seeing as we don't know what exactly results in consciousness, it is not unreasonable to believe a computation that is more complex by far than those which we know as conscious, is itself also conscious. This would lend itself towards a Pandeist interpretation (a subset of Deism which espouses the belief that the universe itself IS god).
    Cane_The9lives likes this.
  12. We don't have absolute proof for practically anything, therefore it's reasonable to believe everything?

    1. I agree that if the same processes were replicated in a computer, it would count as a parallel consciousness. At the same time, consciousness has certain parameters and attributes that most people assign to it. You can use a definition of consciousness that is more inclusive, and that's fine, but at some point it stops being a discussion and becomes a monologue. It's sort of a bait and switch: argue that information processing is consciousness, then secretly have a tingly feeling that you might go to heaven after all.
    2. In an equal way, a godless universe must exist too, if such concept can be conceived.

    Assuming your premises are correct, this simply suggests there was an equal or greater amount of information before big bang. Maybe there was, I'm not a physicist, assuming they'd know.
    Complexity as far as my experience with consciousness goes, only sets a minimal limit - you have to be this tall to be conscious. Throwing a trillionth CPU at a Pacman arcade sounds like a poor argument for the arcade's consciousness.
    In a nutshell, your argument seems to be: there is some weird stuff going on, and since a vague idea of universal consciousness hasn't been hasn't been disproven, it's reasonable to believe in it.

    Reason implies justification. Ignorance is not a justification, this is simply an argument from ignorance. A reasonable conclusion would be to admit ignorance, and refuse to pick sides until we observe the parameters of consciousness of the universe - assuming that's the definition of a deistic god one is arguing about.

    So far, we've only observed it in the part of universe that are some of the living things on earth.
  13. That's a bit of a misinterpretation. The purpose of this portion of my post is to establish that proof is not required for belief. Whether or not this particular belief is reasonable is the subject of the remainder of my post.

    Heaven's not part of the discussion, that's not a fundamental deist belief. And I'm not arguing that all information processing is consciousness. I'm assuming that some type of information processing is consciousness, which we don't currently understand. And arguing that the likelihood that this type of processing being included in the information process that governed the creation of the universe is high enough that believing it is not an unreasonable stance for people to take.

    I'm not sure what you mean by this statement.

    It's not about physics, it's about information theory. To try to summarize in simple terms, the information that exists after a computation is never more complex than what existed before it. All that any computation can do is discard information, or rearrange its representation. I.e. when you "compute" something new from something old, all you are doing is rearranging the information that was already there into a form that is (hopefully) more understandable to human reasoning. But the 'new' information was already implicit from the old.

    Thus, if the computation of the universe was able to produce several conscious beings, then it must have had the components of consciousness already in it at all times prior. Therefore it is not unreasonable to believe it was conscious. It is not only that the informational process of the universe is complex enough, it is also that it had the components of consciousness in it from the beginning, otherwise it would not be able to spawn conscious informational processes.
  14. Since we don't know basically anything of what was before big bang, then I find it interesting that you would be able to come up with probabilities.

    I'm just saying that if a consciousness exists the way math exists, then so should a consciousness-less universe.

    The problem is that it's still all one big assumption. Even if the premises are correct, it doesn't justify the conclusion. The only type of consciousness we know originated from natural selection. This complexity came about without a need for consciousness to produce it, but instead from selective pressures based on laws of nature. Even though consciousness was possible to be arranged, it didn't appear on earth, until there was a selective pressure for it. There was a specific reason why consciousness was obtained. To infer from the evolved consciousness that this justifies the positive belief that all the universe has a unified consciousness is simply completely arbitrary. Why not 3/4 of the universe? Why not assume that the near infinite amount of components arranged in any near infinite amount of combinations that don't include consciousness? The probabilities are against you.

    This at best sounds like an argument for the probability of existence for other consciousness in the world, like another evolved species somewhere in the universe, since with selective pressures and knowing that consciousness is possible, with so many planets, it could come about somewhere else.
  15. I'm not claiming to be able to compute exact probabilities, only that given what we know, a person considering this particular probability to be believably high is not unreasonable. Much in the same way you probably believe in the theory of relativity. There is no proof of it, but it explains a lot of things and is consistent with things that we do know, so most people believe it is true. Can you assign an exact probability to its truth value? No, but it is generally considered high.

    I don't see how this follows. The claim I made was that consciousness can exist from the informational concept alone, how does this lead to a conclusion that there should be a universe without consciousness?

    You are taking as fact the idea that the informational system which comprises that environment which created consciousness is not itself conscious, thus making an assumption that your overall stance is correct. You are then using this assumption to make an example that justifies your argument, which is circular. Pandeist belief would say that those selective pressures and laws of nature are part of a conscious system.

    Are you as a complete body conscious? Is your brain alone conscious? Is half your brain conscious? Would any of the latter questions being true prevent the earlier ones from being true?


    Split brain patients in many studies have demonstrated independent behavior from the two halves of their brain. There have even been studies where the two separated halves of the brain have worked against each other trying to accomplish contrary tasks. And yet, most split brain patients initially believe themselves to be of one consciousness, until it is demonstrated to them that their brain hemispheres are not communicating information to each other correctly. If a split brain patient were to be 'healed', the two halves would likely go back to functioning the way they were before seamlessly, indicating that a complete consciousness can still be comprised of smaller consciousnesses that interact with each other in either cooperative or contradictory ways.

    It is thus less reasonable to say "this is a consciousness, now what portion of this system does it occupy?", than it is to say "this is a system, is it conscious or not?" If 3/4 of the universe is conscious, that does not prevent 100% of the universe from being conscious.
  16. What are you talking about? Theory of Relativity is considered true, because it describes the world in a way that is confirmed by our experiences, and that makes certain predictions about how the world behaves which consistently prove to be accurate.

    Which is exactly the difference from pantheism - whether a deistic god exists or not, there's no testable predictions. There's no difference you can experiment on and see, therefore you have no justification to say that a probability is high.

    Consciousness for evolution is a superfluous hypothesis, therefore occam's razor suggests it shouldn't be included. Of course there COULD be a consciousness involved, but the system works with or without consciousness, which serves as evidence that consciousness isn't required for consciousness to arrive. Pandeistic belief could say that, but it has no evidence to base that claim. If we have a system like evolution that is self sufficient, then it's irrational to subscribe an intelligent force to it, without evidence - exactly what your proposed system lacks.

    In a nutshell, you have no justification for pantheism, and counter my argument with a claim that pantheism could also explain evolution. Cool story, but it still requires a leap of faith, and an agnostic position does not.

    This touches on borders of what most people consider conscious. A complete consciousness can be compromised of smaller components? Sure - the human consciousness is comprised of specialized components. Nonetheless, there needs to be cooperation, or else how is it meaningful to call it a single consciousness? Split brains allow for having contradictory conclusions, but the halves are still connected to each other, even if the main link is severed, producing a single decision. There's still a system.
    It seems unlikely that such a system exists throughout the universe, if only because it takes light years for light to travel between galaxies - god must have a pretty slow reaction time! Most of the universe could not even receive any information about human civilization. Yet, wherever we managed to look and observe, we didn't notice any hints of intelligence. How would we test it? Would we know if we saw it? What does it mean to believe in something we are incapable of observing?

    Speculations aside, again, it's arbitrary to say if any of the universe other than humans is conscious, and if yes, which parts.We don't know.
    The problem with you implying that a fragment of the universe being conscious means the universe is conscious, is that if any fragment is required to satisfy your criteria, then we already know that the universe is conscious - because we are. Sure it's a minuscule fragment, but it counts. If that's good enough for your definition, then I concede that with such a definition, the universe is conscious. :p
    What if a whole galaxy that is unrelated to the Milky Way is conscious. Is the universe conscious? Is that what more than 1% of pantheists/deists would consider the god?
  17. Have you personally experimented with the theory of relativity? Supposedly others have, and you 'believe' that they have, but does that belief in them allow for making testable predictions? Yet you believe in that theory, because you believe that those people ran those experiments, and you believe that they interpreted everything correctly. Most of these beliefs are completely untested. There are many reasons to believe something, experimentation being but one of those. I argue that the belief in the consciousness of the information process that governs the universe is something that can flow naturally and logically from other things we have observed, which is a valid reason to believe something. That's the goal in contention being discussed in the latter parts of both of our posts..

    Whether or not such a system is conscious is precisely what is being debated, again you are assuming these things don't need to be conscious, a point I disagree on, then using that idea to create examples and invoke logical principles. I am not considering a system of natural selection, and then making an assumption there is an additional consciousness directing it. I am saying that the particular usage of the system we are discussing itself implies consciousness. Thus whether or not "the system works without consciousness" is precisely what we are debating.

    Arguing that it is too slow to be conscious seems quite arbitrary. If there were consciousnesses of types besides our own, why should our speed of operation be any more "correct" than theirs?

    A fragment of the material makeup of the universe does not constitute a fragment of the universe, given that our usage of the word "universe" includes the informational system that comprises it. The most important component of an informational system is its logic, not its data. In this analogy, the current physical state of the universe is its data, the physical rules that operate it are its logic. To draw a parallel, your decision making process would correspond to the rules of the universe, your memory centers to the matter in the universe, and the data stored in those memory centers to the particular configuration of the matter in the universe. If you lost half of your memory, would you consider half of your consciousness gone? No, in fact I'm pretty sure I can only access a miniscule fraction of my total memory right now anyway.

    What I am saying is that the complete set of rules governing the universe, which themselves include components that allow a system of natural selection to work, are operating on certain data on the planet earth, and through doing so were capable of creating conscious informational systems. Let's think about what exactly natural selection is doing. It's a system. It's given an environmental setting as input. And it manages to compute genetic programs that 'handle' that environment, in a very effective manner. It sounds rather intelligent to me. You would no doubt argue that it is not conscious, all it is doing is brute forcing countless possibilities and letting the bad ones die out through simulation. And I ask: are you so sure that's not what you are doing when you make any decision?

    Let's say you saw a mysterious program on your computer. You try to run it, but your computer isn't powerful enough. You go out and find a huge cloud server willing to run it for you. Once given enough memory, it starts running some simulation. To what end, you have no idea. But then you see a "debug mode" that let's you view contents of that simulation. To your surprise, you find that the program can create at will new simulated but fully conscious human beings, that can actually talk to you, and convince you they are fully conscious people. Is it really irrational then for someone to believe this program can validly be called an artificial intelligence if it can create new intelligences? Especially given that those intelligences are only capable of being intelligent by being run by that program itself?
  18. I've been wanting to comment for a while now, but I really haven't had time and for that I apologize to everyone who is enjoying the discussion. Perhaps after this weekend I might have some time. I did want Muken to elaborate on this point though:

    In this scenario, is the 'mysterious program' intelligent, or is the person who created the 'mysterious program' the intelligence behind the creation of the new people? Does the program itself do the creating, or does the program read each instruction (perhaps intelligently given to it) and the result is an intelligent creation?

    From what I understand of your argument, you would say the scenario we see oh-too-many-times in anime and comics where intelligence develops in a computer system on its own once its computational power expands to some giant network (that it then proceeds to subtley take over) is impossible? Or is it possible because we, as intelligent beings, created the network that allowed it to arise?

    I guess the point I'm really asking is, "is necessarily true that our consciousness can only have been created by something with a higher consciousness?" And that begs the question of course, "does that mean then that a significant amount of monkies with a significant amount of time really not produce Shakespeare?"
  19. I have to disagree. For every piece of knowledge about the natural world, empirical testing has to be part of it. While I may not be able to verify every piece of evidence, a necessary element of a valid belief is that it has been verified at some point. What I'm saying, is that while I can go and study theory of relativity in detail, and either confirm or disconfirm its validity, I do not agree that you have such a capability - you don't have the means to tell me, even via a proxy, as to what created the universe, and whether it was conscious or not.

    If you disagree that evolution doesn't need consciousness, then what is it about evolution that makes you infer consciousness?
    If I wrote one a game of life in one line, and let it evolve, does that imply that this logic must be conscious?

    I think it's relevant in a sense, that if a system is very slow, it is in a very significant sense meaningless to say it is conscious, since it's impossible for us to interact with it.
    Not only it may make it untestable, but it also falls out of parameters most people consider as conscious. I'm fine with extending our definition in this discussion, but these points are important to point out as it is a public discussion. It's not a deistic god that we could theoretically talk to, and we don't because it chooses to be detatched.

    I don't see how the laws of the universe can be counted as the decision making process that results in consciousness. In a sense, the four fundamental forces are a simple set of rules parallel to the game of life. Those rules themselves are not an instruction for consciousness.
    In humans, consciousness comes to existence as a result of a patterns which produce patterns and so on - the fundamental laws -> physics -> chemistry ->biology->psychology kind of way.
    Just like in the game of life, if the initial physical state is different, so is the result. The original rules by themselves cannot then, store the recipe for consciousness.
    And so in that sense, if you get a lobotomy (cutting off the physical connections to a part of the brain), that part of the brain stops being a part of consciousness as it no longer performs its processing function. I would consider it the same thing in a universal brain. If part of my memory became inaccessible, then I would say that this physical part of my brain that served as storage of information, is no longer a part of my consciousness. If my body was sliced into tiny pieces, and a small part of my brain still worked handicapped, I would not count the severed parts as conscious.

    As to your second paragraph quoted here, I also don't find it very persuasive to anthropomorphise evolution, and then claim it's intelligent or conscious. Evolution is by definition senseless. It doesn't produce solutions to problems at all. A cheetah doesn't get faster each generation, because evolution thought that it would be beneficial for it. It's fast, because if it wasn't it wouldn't survive - just like most species that ever existed, and just like how eventually all living creatures will fail to survive. Evolution in a sense is playing out everywhere in the universe, and almost everywhere it fails to even get going with something we count as a living creature, let alone conscious one. I see no grand consciousness here.

    As to your third paragraph, yes it is irrational. Consciousness while hard to explain fully is just a characteristic. The program producing output does not contain all characteristics of the output. For example, if the program simulated a gay guy and a straight guy, it's not rational to assume the program prefers men and that it prefers women.
  20. Well the question stems from another question: if you see a program exhibit something that is qualified as intelligence, does it matter how it got it? Whether by design by another intelligent entity or not? My argument is that possessing the ability to create intelligence implies intelligence, so whether that ability came from a program springing out of the ether, or by being written by a really good programmer I think is irrelevant.

    The oft-mentioned monkey shakespeare scenario is really a misunderstanding of what information actually is. Yes, a bunch of monkeys given enough time, or a coin being flipped generating bits, or any other random information generator will eventually make Shakespeare. But that is only a consequence of having generated all possible, or a large portion of all possible texts first. That shakespearean work would occupy one fragment out of a huge mass of garbage. It would take as much effort and artistic ability to identify which fragment should be called a Shakespearean play as it would to write one in the first place. The monkeys have not actually helped produce information by enumerating all possible texts, because the choice of which to use is as significant as the text itself.

    Evolution is an effective program not just because it goes through a large number of potential genetic codes, but because it has a good mechanism for picking better and better choices from amongst them.

    My point was that since you didn't do the testing yourself, by your standards, you can't actually 'believe' it was actually done at all. You have no way to "test" that belief, and if you do you likely haven't actually done it. All you know is someone told you that it was done, and I'll bet that person is pretty far removed from the doing too.

    It would imply the game is conscious if the evolution led to consciousness. But it won't, and that exemplifies my point. The reason that the type of evolving that occurs in the game of life can't lead to consciousness is that the game itself is not complex enough to make it do so; the game doesn't have consciousness.

    This I think is where the problem arises. You are considering consciousness to be inherently human. You only think of consciousnesses that are very anthropomorphized, and thus the idea of the universe being conscious seems very unlikely. Because the universe, obviously, is very unlike a human being. All I can say to that is if the definition of consciousness has to imply specifically human traits, then yes, the universe is most likely not conscious. But that's not the common definition.

    But those are not the entirety of the universe's laws, just one part of them. Just as there are very many simple rules that are a part of your consciousness which by themselves would not be sufficient to be called conscious.

    But there is no physical portion of the universe that is necessary to the functioning of its logic, so to make the analogy accurate you would have to guarantee that the lobotomy only affects memory. My claim is that the rules that dictate the logic of the universe correspond to the reasoning centers (arguably the most important part of consciousness), with the physical state being its memory. So if a piece were separated from the rest, but still operated under the same logic, I'd say that the universal consciousness has just spawned a new consciousness with a separate memory. Just as if with your lobotomy, we took that piece and attached it to a perfect copy of the reasoning centers of your brain, we'd have a new consciousness.

    Why isn't it producing solutions? That is a solution to a problem: a faster cheetah is a better 'solution' to the environment (the problem) that was posed this computational process. You only don't want to see 'thought' behind it because you are able to understand the basic workings of the program and that has ruined the 'magic' of it for you. My claim was that in all likelihood, the functioning of your brain is just as mechanical. Somebody could say you don't walk because you wanted to, you do because a bunch of neurons and chemicals fired synapses and so forth.

    I'm not claiming that any and all characteristics of any output is shared by the program. Only a characteristic that describes a level of programmatic functionality. Gayness is not a matter of having so and so level of ability. You can have the ability to do what gay people do (in fact you do), and still not be gay. But if you have the ability to do what conscious people do, then you are conscious.

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