Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rom 1 reply, 32 f/n: Answering the "but we only know about HUMAN intelligence" objection . . .

As a follow up issue, this hardy perennial talking point popped up.

My response:


>> We have been studying things that are intelligently caused, things that are caused through mechanical necessity and things that are caused through chance, for thousands of years. We have identified certain characteristic signs, and thus can distinguish the three:
1] mechanical necessity, under similar starting conditions, leads to regular outcomes, e.g. a dropped heavy object near earth tends to fall at 9.8 N/kg. Low contingency.
2] chance tends to give rise to stochastic processes that often may be characterised on a statistical distribution and underlying model, e.g. if the above object is a fair die, it will tend to tumble and settle so that its uppermost face is in accord with a flat random distribution.
3] intelligence tends to express purposefulness, and so it tends to give functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, such as the text in this post or the one just above it.
Now, just above, G tried to confine our reasoning on intelligence to humans in action.

That is a mistake.

First, for say a computer or a computer program, it is by no means enough that one is human to be able to design, the correlates are skill, intelligence and purpose, as well as opportunity. Motive, means and opportunity in short as any detective or courtroom drama novel fan can tell you.

Beaver Dams, note the arch and the straight gravity
dams, depending on the stream flow to be addressed
Second, let us consider beavers, which adapt their dam designs to all sorts of circumstances in ways that show intelligence. Derivative and genetically passed along so it is instinctual not learned, doubtless, but intelligence all the same.

For that matter our own intelligence is similarly derived though it is more flexible, i.e. we can learn and carry out new things that go well beyond mere instinct.

The underlying point is, we have no good reason to confine designing intelligence to human intelligence. Being human is neither necessary nor sufficient to be intelligent and designing, whether in limited and built in or more flexible ways.

The implied objection fails.

And, in failing, it points to how we can look at objects that do not come from human manufacture, and if we see similar sins in them, we would easily and uncontroversially identify such as intelligently produced. Our space battle ships on Mars and the Asteroid belt would be good thought exercises for this. There is no way that, were such discovered, there would be an objection that we cannot project the term intelligent beyond the human circle, nor that we cannot understand or recognise artifacts of another intelligence.

That then points to the biggest object we know, the cosmos we observe.

As we know from Sir Fred Hoyle and others since the 1950′s, its physics is sitting at a finely tuned, complex operating point that makes it habitable for the sort of life we have. Relatively small shifts in parameters, or balances of quantities etc, would render the result radically inhospitable to such life, starting with the resonance responsible for the abundance of C and O. 

That sort of apparently co-ordinated pattern strongly seems to point to purpose and renders it seriously arguable that the cosmos we live in is designed, and set up to be a habitat for the sort of life we enjoy.

That is why Sir Fred Hoyle spoke of monkeying with physics and put-up jobs.

He had no difficulties whatsoever pointing to intelligent action beyond the human sphere, and I see no reason why we should.

The humans-only objection is specious . . . >>

 I think that gives a flavour of the sort of issues that come up, live. END