genetic information (was Re: Computation and Human Experience(RRE)

Dace edace at
Wed Jun 21 14:05:36 PDT 2000

Hi James:

>> But why assume a body is a machine in the first
>> place?
>Why not? It takes in energy, it eliminates waste, it
>breaks, it needs repair.

The sun is orange and round-- does that make it a basketball? This just doesn't prove anything, particularly since bodies, unlike machines, heal themselves and only occasionally need "repair."

>It operates according to the
>same physical laws that every other machine does

Yes, but do those laws determine the body's structure and behavior? Finding a material antecendent to an event doesn't prove that this same antecedent couldn't have led to a different outcome. This is the case in protein formation, where the chemical properties of amino acids allow for the emergence of not only the correct protein but many incorrect ones as well. Yet the correct outcome is achieved every time (except where the process goes completely awry, which is surprisingly often.) How do we account for this?

>Does a michine that
>reaches a certain level of complexity somehow cease
>being a machine?

Not at all.

>Your posts on this thread have fascinated me, because
>I've agreed with virtually every fact and disagreed
>with virtually every interpretation. It's almost like
>arguing with a fundamentalist about evolution: it
>doesn't matter what facts are raised, since their
>faith precedes and interprets every fact they

I've never presented any statements on the basis of faith. I argue every point I make logically and empirically. I hope people will point out errors in my reasoning when they arise.

>Your unshakeable, bedrock belief seem to be
>that the extraordinary (consciousness) cannot arise
>from the ordinary (matter): there can therefore by
>definition be no continuum between the human brain and
>a lightswitch, or a human body and a bacterium.

Mind and matter are equally extraordinary and equally causal in relation to each other. The human brain differs from a lightswitch in that the former turns itself on. The human body is indeed on a continuum with bacteria, and I've never suggested otherwise.

>What you seem to be saying, in reference to human
>memory, embronic development, and the like is that
>anything we don't currently understand is by
>definition not understandable.

If biology restricts itself to common-sense notions of matter and time, then we will never understand life. We will continue learning more about its workings, but we will never understand what makes a living thing alive or where it gets its "blueprints."

>Darwinism is fundamentally about the idea that simple algorithmic
>processes can give rise to the extraordinary - that, on a basic level, >you
throw some chemicals in a bottle, shake well and get >Shakespeare.

Right. If you kick it hard enough, it will come to life. If that doesn't work, just shake it. If that doesn't work, strike it with a bolt of lightning. If that doesn't work, change the recipe and repeat steps one through three.


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