Re: more, briefly

Massimo Pigliucci (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 16:51:01 -0400


> The evidence for the existence of the ocean is based on other
> assumptions

I stand corrected on that one! I guess I consider non-sensical to doubt
the existence of sensorial perception... ;-)

However, as Gerry pointed out, the existence of either a god or a
creator is *still* not self-evident according to the rules of logic
(BTW, that nothing comes out of nothing is an inference based on
experience, not a deep philosophical conclusion...).

> You are confusing making decisions with changing your mind. Do you
> really
> have a choice before you act? I say you do. Otherwise you had no
> choice but
> to marry your lovely Melissa :)

First of all, if you knew Melissa, you would *know* that I had no
choice... ;-)

> Unless you want to admit that humans are
> programmed like commuters

Of course we are! And the programmer is natural selection. I think you
are confusing programmability with unpredictability. Just because human
behavior may be unpredictable it doesn't mean that it is not programmed.
There are two ways in which you can make a program the output of which
is unpredictable: a) you can simply infuse a random number generator to
make decisions; or b) more interestingly, you can write a complex
program with feedback loops and context-dependent decision making
processes. These programs fall into the category of "undecidable",
meaning that not even the programmer can tell you what's going to
happen. You just have to run the machine.

> I am sure Big Blue did not know that it was playing chess.

Big Blue probably didn't, but there is absolutely nothing in principle
that precludes a thinking computer. For one thing, to the best of our
knowledge, that's exactly what every animal is. Second, our current
computers are still infinitely simple compared to most animal brains, so
the comparison is not yet fair.

> Where does wetness reside in the liquid? Clearly the notion of
> wetness is
> foreign to individual atoms/molecules. It may be that our
> consciousness and
> its actions are of this sort. But I am more inclined to think that
> human
> consciousness goes beyond the physical.

The "wetness" is an emerging property of, say, hydrogen and oxygen when
properly combined. Similarly, consciousness is clearly an epiphenomenon
of neuronal connections in the brain. So? In both cases you have a clear
*physical* basis. I was talking about free will, which is by no means
the same as consciousness...ciao,

Massimo Pigliucci, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolution
Society for the Study of Evolution "Dobzhansky" Awardee
Dept. of Botany, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1100
phone 423-974-6221 fax 0978

Lab page Science & Society Darwin Day Rationalists of East Tennessee

"I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this." -- Emo Phillips ******************************************************************