How to have great ideas in a deterministic world

PSI Blog 20180523 How to have great ideas in a deterministic world

Thanks to reader joogabah for the comment:

Can linguistic determinants be reduced to the motion of matter, or does human subjectivity create an emergent, superordinate domain of causation?

[GB: Progressive scientists assume the universe has only two phenomena: matter and the motion of matter. Causes are defined by microcosmic collisions per Newton's Second Law of Motion. Human subjectivity involves some of the most infinitely complicated emergent interactions.]

Is this what is confused with "free will" - because it provides a secondary, inherited information system (words rather than DNA) that is absent in all other species?

[GB: Because causality is infinite, almost anything we do can be confused with “free will.” Dawkins called culturally inherited ideas “memes,” which could be passed from generation-to-generation. Words are used to carry those ideas forward. Words and ideas, of course, are emergent—they evolve together (I have had to invent some myself). Without certain words, we can’t have certain ideas (one reason I put a glossary at the end of my scientific consulting reports). We learn of words and ideas through our senses, storing that info in our brains. All this involves matter in motion—nothing magical or mysterious about it.

Animals are not lacking words, just like they are not lacking consciousness. The sounds they make are limited and poorly understood by most of us, but those sounds are clearly useful for communicating with the external world. I bet that robin outside your window is not singing just for you.]   

Everything is still determined, but in this human context it is largely determined by ideas, instead of biological processes, chemical reactions and the physical motion of matter.

[GB: Sorry, but ideas cannot exist without “biological processes, chemical reactions and the physical motion of matter.” Any idea you or I might have will disappear when we no longer display “biological processes, chemical reactions and the physical motion of matter.” Unique ideas of solitary individuals die with them. That is why we communicate them to others. That is why we write books. Good ideas survive, while bad ideas do not. That is why Infinite Universe Theory will survive and Big Bang Theory will not. Of course, there is a time and place for each idea. The BBT survives because it fits the current univironment. Future generations will be amused, wondering: “What were they thinking?”

Ideas are becoming increasingly important for our species, but they will never be divorced from matter and motion of matter (see Ch. 13 on “The Myth of Exceptionalism” in "The Scientific Worldview"). The upshot is that no idea simply pops up out of nowhere. In the Infinite Universe all things, including ideas, evolve from other things. If you wish to have great ideas, you will have to learn complicated words and read or hear about other great ideas. You will have to combine the best parts of those ideas that help you to understand and navigate the external world.]


joogabah said...

I disagree that any other animal has a linguistic consciousness, regardless of its ability to make sounds or communicate in some rigid stereotyped and instinctive way. As evidence for this, I posit human development as a social project. A horse today is the same as a horse from a century ago, whereas a human is radically different. We are linguistically programmed, they are instinctively determined. While still an unbroken chain of causation, to say there is no distinction whatsoever is to miss everything that defines humanity. Behavior we find abhorrent in humans cannot be judged so in animals precisely because this level of consciousness is unavailable to them.

We are not just animals, just like animals are not plants - regardless of the extreme similarities (I read somewhere we share 60% of our DNA with bananas). There is something objectively, qualitatively different about our species that permits it to come to know its environment and change it so that we are able to exist outside of the natural habitats in which our recent ancestry evolved. It is this that they call free will (and I agree it is a confused muddle to consider it as without "cause"). But reducing human intellectual determinants to matter in motion is like reducing a television program to the pixels on a screen flashing on or off. With no more understanding than that, one has no understanding of the program whatsoever.

A computer can react to language sounds but it in no way is listening and reacting in the sense that a human can. That is an example of pure mechanical determinism. Computers cannot and will never replicate human subjectivity, which our current model of the universe hasn't even attempted to explain. Why would it even be necessary? AI can approximate human behavior and even learning (and in many respects exceed it) without any subjectivity at all. What makes awareness necessary in a naturalistic worldview? Why does matter wake up at some point in its evolution? How does DNA come into being if natural selection presupposes DNA? These are unanswered questions within the Scientific Worldview. That isn't to say it can't answer them. It's just the typical reaction is to dismiss them instead of making an attempt to tackle them head on.

Glenn Borchardt said...


Nice to hear from you after such a long time. Unfortunately, your arguments are pretty much the same as the ones I already answered. They are typical of religious folks who think humans are so special that they will escape the divergence common to all other microcosms (a violation of the Sixth Assumption of Science, complementarity (All things are subject to divergence and convergence from other things)). Free will, as you know, is a violation of the Second Assumption of Science, causality (All effects have an infinite number of material causes) as well as the Third Assumption of Science, uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything). Religious folks assume the universe consists of “something more than matter in motion.” That “something more” is purely imaginary. There is no convincing such folks that what they cannot explain is simply the workings of infinitely subdividable matter in an infinite universe.