Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What's So "Intelligent" About "Intelligent Design"?


Many of the debates about "intelligent design" (ID) that I have read online have focused on the defintion of "intelligent". This is not necessarily because we all agree what "design" means, but rather because we know even less about that quality we refer to with the term "intelligent". If one cannot define what one means by "intelligent", then any attempt to define or investigate "intelligent design" would seem to me to be a futile exercise.

Some ID supporters have suggested substituting the term "purposeful design" for the term "intelligent design". To me, this sounds almost redundant; after all, design is all about "purpose", isn't it? And if that's the case, then "purposeful design" reduces to "purposeful purpose" or "designed design". Furthermore, it's not clear to me that the terms "intelligent" and "purposeful" are necessarily interchangeable, or mean even similar things.

Many ID supporters seem most upset about the implication that evolutionary theory is "random". That is, the processes by which new characteristics of living organisms come into being are not necessarily the result of intentional design. To many of them, this would eliminate a supernatural force or deity as the causal factor in biological evolution. Ergo, if one is committed to the intervention in nature of a supernatural force or deity, one must deny a priori the possibility that new characteristics of living organisms can come into being without "intention".

However, it is not necessarily the case that "purposeful" (i.e. teleological) objects and processes are necessarily non-random. First of all, it seems to me that "purposeful" is not an antonym for "random". For example, consider a falling rock: its movement as it falls is most definitely not random. Neither its trajectory nor its acceleration are "random" at all. On the contrary, they are predictable to such a degree that we call the mathematical description by which we can predict the movement of falling objects a "law" - the "law of gravity".

Ergo, it seems to me that the best antonym for "random" is "predictable", in the sense of being able to predict successive states in a dynamically changing system.

Given the foregoing, what is the best antonym for "purposeful"? Forgive me, but I think the only reasonable answer is "non-purposeful". This then forces one to define what one means by "purposeful". To me, the best definition of a "purposeful" (or "teleological", if you prefer the more technical term) object or process is "a dynamical process (or component of a dynamical process) in which the dynamical entity's actions are actively and homeotelically regulated by a cybernetic process that functions according to a pre-existing program, the outcome of which is a specified end state.
A homeotelic process is one in which a dynamical entity reacts to external perturbations from its original trajectory in such a way as to regain its original goal orientation. For example, an arrow fired from a bow is not homeotelic, whereas a heat-seeking missile is. By the same logic, a snowflake growing in a supercooled cloud is not homeotelic, whereas a virus replicating in a host cell is.

In my opinion, most of the arguments about "intelligent design" founder, not on the definition of "intelligent" but rather on the definition of "design". If one focuses not on "design" but rather on "purpose" (i.e. teleology), much of the disagreement (like a boojum) vanishes softly and silently away.

Indeed, I think the qualifier "intelligent" is unnecessary, and quite possibly redundant. Why argue over something – that is, "intelligence" – that is indefinable without self-reference?

That is to say, "purpose" is very clearly and unambiguously defined in cybernetics, as Gregory Bateson and Norbert Weiner pointed out a half a century ago. "Purpose" (aka "teleology") are what this argument is really about, and so it would help immensely if all of the participants on both sides of the debate would define it in such a way as to render its presence or absence empirically verifiable.

The same could also be wished about "intelligence", but I see no real hope for this, given that virtually every definition of "intelligence" given in this thread (and all previous threads) is neither empirically verifiable nor applicable to simple systems such as those found in viruses or very simple cells. How "intelligent" is the lambda bacteriophage? Compared to a human, not much; compared to a crystal of sodium chloride, tremendously so. Indeed, what separates crystallized viruses from crystallized salts is precisely the "quality" that separates life from non-life and "purposeful" from "non-purposeful" things.

Termites build termite mounds using a surprisingly simple set of "decision rules". For example, one decision rule (which is clearly "wired in" to the nervous system of worker termites) is the rule to stack particles of sand on top of each other and glue them together using a material like saliva in such a way as to produce an arch (this is beautifully illustrated in E. O. Wilson's masterpiece, The Insect Societies). In Höldobler and Wilson's new book, Superorganism, they explain in detail how insect societies produce astonishingly complex, adaptive, functional dwelling places, "highways" (army and driver ants), "farms" and "pharmacies" (leaf-cutter ants), etc. without anything that remotely resembles what we would call "intelligence" or "consciousness" (remember, their brains are smaller than a poppy seed and their life spans are measured in days).

Furthermore, none of the instructions for doing all of this "design" is encoded directly into the DNA of any given social insect. Rather, the instructions are "compiled" from the individual activities of thousands of individual insects performing very simple, stereotyped actions (mostly coordinated by chemical pheromones). In other words, the "intelligence" that produces the marvelous structures and functions of insect societies is a collective "intelligence" consisting of a small set of "decision rules" hard-wired into the nervous systems of individual insects.

Might it not be the case that this same process is the paradigm for all biological complexity? This would not only explain where the "designer" is (it's all around / inside us) and who the "designer" is (it's everyone, interacting collectively in producing the "superorganism"), it would also present what ID has so far completely lacked: an empirical research program. That is, one could search for the "decision rules" that produce biological complexity, in viruses, cells, insect societies, primate societies, and human societies, and figure out how the interaction of such rules produces biological complexity. And when you did that, you would have recreated the already-existing field of biology known as sociobiology, which is a branch of evolutionary biology.

Termites do not have "goals and foresight". Rather, they are quite literally programmed (i.e. "hard wired") to perform a surprisingly simple set of simple behaviors. They are born with this capability and do not have to learn it. Furthermore, their behaviors are extremely stereotyped and subject to quite a bit of essentially "random" variation. Despite this, and because there are so many of them (literally millions in some large hives), they collectively produce structures and functions that rival the most complex "artificial" factories and dwelling places designed by humans.

The point here is that "intelligence" is not being defined well at all, if it is restricted to humans and higher vertebrates, but not to insect societies. Each insect is definitely not "intelligent" (any more than each of our individual cells is), but collectively both the insect societies and our multicellular selves are intelligent. "Intelligence" is therefore an emergent property, rather than a pre-existing attribute. And evolution, of course, is all about emergent properties.

One of the points I tried to make earlier is that using human "intelligence" as a yardstick for intelligence in general is like using a Cray XMT as your yardstick for evaluating the "intelligence" of an abacus. In virtually every discussion I have read about "intelligence" at ID blogs, there seems to be an unspoken yet universal assumption that "intelligence" is an either/or phenomenon: either something is at least as intelligent as a human (or the Intelligent Designer aka God) or it isn't intelligent at all.

How "intelligent" a virus like the lambda bacteriophage? If "intelligence" is to be a useful (not to mention empirically measurable) phenomenon, it seems to me that it should fall somewhere along a spectrum, from the "intelligence" manifested by simple viruses up through the "intelligence" manifested by complex animal societies such as ours.

The latter point - that "intelligence" must somehow be massively multiplied as the result of social/collective interactions - is also non-trivial. As I pointed out earlier, an individual termite is extraordinarily "stupid", especially by human standards. Indeed, taken out of their social contexts, the behaviors of most social organisms seem pointless and almost random. However, what appear to be pointless and virtually random behaviors when viewed at the individual level become extraordinarily complex and "hyper-intelligent" when one moves up in organizational levels in animal societies.

How "intelligent" would each of us be, if we were forced to live in complete isolation from all other humans? If we were forced to do so from birth, our "intelligence" would be so limited as to result in almost instant death. Ergo, if one uses "able to live independently" as one's criterion for "intelligence", one would have to conclude that oak trees are immensely more intelligent than humans.

In my opinion, until ID theory comes to grips with the concept of "intelligence" in such a way as to make it both empirically verifiable and quantifiable, ID "theory" will continue to be not much more than unsupported speculation.

As a first approach to an operational definition of intelligence, consider whether learning is a necessary component of intelligence. Several commentators have strongly implied that this is the case. That is, the more an entity is capable of "learning", the more intelligent it is.

However, using the ability to learn as a criterion for intelligence is fraught with difficulties. For example, termites do not learn to build termite mounds, yet virtually everyone in this thread has agreed that mound-building behavior in termites indicates that termites (at least as a group) are indeed intelligent. Ergo, it is quite clear that an entity that is utterly incapable of "learning" can still qualify as being highly "intelligent".

This would also apply to some ID supporter's assertion that the Intelligent Designer is the God of the Abrahamic religions. This entity is universally recognized as being a "4-O deity": that is, He is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. However, this last quality also strongly implies that the ID/God does not learn from His actions, as to do so would be directly contradictory with His being forever omniscient (i.e. from the beginning to the end of time, assuming that time does indeed end). Ergo, the ability to learn is quite clearly not a criterion for determining intelligence, if one assumes that the Intelligent Designer of ID theory is the God of the Abrahamic religions.

If one is familiar with so-called "expert systems" in computing, the same would be the case. Expert systems (ESs) do not "learn" to do anything in the sense that animals with "wet" minds do. On the contrary, an ES performs a complex (sometimes recursive) calculation using data embedded in one or more "truth tables", producing a calculated outcome. This outcome is sometimes hedged with statistical error calculations, but it is a calculated (i.e. not learned) outcome nonetheless. While the final calculation produced by an ES can be modified, this happens only when the values in the "truth tables" are modified. Otherwise, the outcome is simply a calculation. Ergo, expert systems do not actually "learn" anything, at least in the same way that animals (and some other living organisms) do.

So, I believe that it is fair to conclude that the ability to "learn" is quite clearly not a necessary criterion for intelligence. Some highly intelligent entities (such as termite colonies and the God of Abraham) are clearly incapable of true "learning". Conversely, some very unintelligent entities, such as bacteria, are nonetheless capable of changing their behavior over time in response to changes in their environment (the standard operational definition of "learning" in the cognitive sciences).
CONCLUSION: Intelligence is fundamentally unrelated to the ability to learn.

Which brings us back once again to the fundamental question: what is "intelligence", how can it be observed, and can it be quantified in any way? If not, then ID is quite literally a "science" without an empirically definable subject, and therefore a pointless exercise in mental masturbation.

One might also be tempted to define "intelligence" as "adaptability". That is, an "intelligent" entity has the ability to adapt its behavior (and, presumably, its underlying cognitive machinery by means of which its behavior is generated and regulated) in response to changes in its environment. However, this presents two serious problems to an ID supporter:

1) "Adaptability" is what natural selection is all about. Why posit the existence of an "intelligent" entity that is capable of "adapting" to changes in the environment, when this is precisely what natural selection is supposed to be able to do?

2) Since ID is supposed to be a theory that explains adaptation, then saying that the Intelligent Designer (i.e. the entity that moulds adaptations) is adaptable is essentially defining "intelligence" via constructing a tautology:

• "intelligence" = "ability to produce adaptations"

• "intelligent design" = the process by which adaptations are created

Ergo, "intelligent design" reduces to "adaptability producing adaptations".


This is what is sometimes referred to in logic as the "dormative principle" argument, from Moliere's "The Imaginary invalid". When asked how or why opium produces sleep, the learned doctor replies "because it contains a 'dormative principle'"; that is, it causes sleep because it contains a material that causes sleep. In the same way, defining "intelligence" as "the ability to adapt to changes in the environment" (including changes that have not yet happened, i.e. foresight) reduces to "design that is 'adaptable' because it is 'adaptable'".

Where does this leave us in a search for an empirically quantifiable definition of "intelligence"? And if the answer is, "nowhere", then where does this leave "intelligent design"?

In the same line of argument, one clearly cannot define "intelligence" as "that principle/process/quality by which complex specified information is produced". To do so would once more be arguing via tautology:

Question: What produces "complex specified information"?

Answer: Intelligence.

Question: What is "intelligence"?

Answer: That principle/process/quality that produces complex specified information.

Ergo, "the principle/process/quality that produces complex specified information" is what produces "complex specified information".


Again, a pointless exercise in semantic gymnastics.

************************************************

As always, comments, criticisms, and suggestions are warmly welcomed!

--Allen

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16 Comments:

At 6/02/2009 06:32:00 PM, Anonymous steve long said...

Aw,geez. This is not a productive direction for arguing with ID for a simple reason. ID proponents know what they mean by intelligence. The evidence of intelligence is very close to what an archaeologist sees when he spots something "man-made"in among non-man-made things. The regularity in which for example stones are laid in a buried foundation is highly unlikely to have happened accidentally. IDists think they see the same pattern of regularity in biological evolution -- and for good reason. What any dog breeder does is trying to "transmorphize" (to use a good old fashioned word for evolution) his dogs in a general or a particular direction.

What IDist mean by intelligent is intentionality. Doing something in expectation of a consequence. When we see certain regularities -- like the stone wall in the jungle -- we assume intentionality. So it is only natural to do the same thing when we see termites at work or evolution at work. In fact, for an animistic religion, it's natural to see intentionality everywhere and in everything that has regularity.

This has only been compounded by the awful use of phrases like "evolution designed the shark"or "the selfish gene"and simply played into creationist hands. The biggest fault has been with the Dawkins types who keep talking as if evolution was an ascent in some sense.

This whole argument will only end when humans start to create life and create species in the lab. That will be the ultimate point of contrast between "natural" evolution and "intentional" evolution. The two should be very different processes.

Up until then, people will keep on getting the impression that evolution has some direction -- even some evolutionists,

Side note -- BF Skinner opened "Science and Human Behavior" by comparing natural selection to learning (specially to what he called operant conditioning -- the paradigm being R > S, not S > R). The crucial difference for the individual organism was that it could mirror natural selection without going through generations of genetic modification. Skinner said that this was something like organisms reaching a point where they could in some ways separate themselves from their genetic endowment. And that seems like a very important idea -- that evolution can somehow ends up ending itself. That's where, I'd submit, intention comes in.

 
At 6/03/2009 12:45:00 AM, Anonymous steve long said...

Allen - I'm wondering if you would mind addressing the classic 747 in the junkyard scenario. I've searched your blog and not found anything and thought that it might be interesting.

Here's Dawkins in his review of Gould's Full House describing it:
"Creationists love Sir Fred Hoyle’s vivid metaphor for his own misunderstanding of natural selection. It is as if a hurricane, blowing though a junkyard, had the good fortune to assemble a Boeing 747. Hoyle’s point is about statistical improbability. Our answer, yours and mine and Stephen Gould’s, is that natural selection is cumulative. There is a ratchet, such that small gains are saved. The hurricane doesn’t spontaneously assemble the airliner in one go. Small improvements are added bit by bit."

Natural selection is cumulative, or at least contrained by pre-existing frameworks. But what about the 747?
And if a hurricane is highly unlikely to construct a 747 in day, how about Boeing?

Just a suggestion.
regards, steve long

 
At 6/05/2009 09:24:00 AM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

Here's another comment I received via email:

Dear Professor MacNeill,
I think a critical point is being missed in this dialogue about adaptation and "purposefulness" in evolution. And this also relates to "the 747 in the junk yard" scenario. Thanks for taking the time to read this in adavance. BTW, this is from a hard-nosed naturalist.

The fact is we DO know what biological evolution looks like when it is purposeful. Animal and plant domestication -- including what's being done in "bio-engineering" -- gives us some picture of how "intentional" evolution works. 

In maybe just 12,000 years, the wolf "evolved" into Chihuahuas and Great Danes and every dog "breed" in between. There's good reason to think that diversity was done intentionally, mainly by way of selective breeding. And that it was "adaptive" -- humans designed canine shepherds to herd and retrievers to retrieve. Domestic plant domestication is even more astonishing in showing intentional adaptation -- compare the histories of the carrot to Queen Anne's Lace.

(That this is not strictly speciation is beside the point. All domestication is morphological "transmutation" -- putting genes aside for the moment. And it's not completely clear that some of this process was not just selective breeding, but rather also accelerated mutation by way of increased domesticated populations and then human selection.)

If adaptations must be intentional, then that's fine. Because they DO exist -- although probably not before humans came along. There's absolutely no evidence that any animal but the human mates with an eye towards what its progeny will be like -- and there's no evidence of intentionally induced mutations or gene splicing before humans came along. BUT it is here now -- so, yes, we now see adaptations.

Going to the 747 that is accidentially created by the storm sweeping through the junkyard -- the ID scenario meant to show the difference between "design" and accident. This is where many evolutionists often hit the rocks. Dawkins made the awful mistake of answering the improbability by saying that "evolution is cummulative" and was justifiably dismissed by the IDists.

The obvious answer is the 747 was developed intentionally. It is adaptive in the strict sense. And in that it is not anything like biological evolution. There is less chance that a 747 would evolve as a biological organism than that it accidentially be constructed by a wind storm in a junk yard, because it is simply not biological.

Until we start differentiating intentional and accidential biological evolution -- and observing how intentional development of any kind -- biological or technological -- is different from natural evolution -- we're going to be constantly contorting to deal with our own poor use of such words as design and adaptation in describing a process that appears to rest solely on accident. Astonishing accidents, but accidents none the less.

Regards,
Steve Long

 
At 6/07/2009 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous Darlene said...

I always figured that Fungi were the most intelligent kingdom of organisms. After all, the smartest way to ensur that you have a continual and long lasting food supply is to eat things that have already died. Decomposing is the way to go! They'll be around long after all other life has died out.

 
At 6/28/2009 12:08:00 AM, Blogger Roy said...

I think that it's a mistake to limit the definition of intelligence to "That principle/process/quality that produces complex specified information." It may be even more of a mistake to state " Intelligence is fundamentally unrelated to the ability to learn."
Numerous biologists feel that cells have a basic ability to learn BECAUSE of a basic ability to compute and remember the results of trial and error computations.
To the organism in question, this is a complex process, even if to to us it doesn't reach the level of abstraction that we might call complex. But in my view, all biologically based calculations are abstract, and where is that line between lower and higher levels of abstraction that denotes enough complexity to qualify as intelligent?
I don't think there's any such line/ Life designs itself by incremental trial and error and that requires calculation, memory, and learning abilities, no matter how basic. And so far the simplest of these biological processes have been too complex for us to fabricate or fully understand.

 
At 6/28/2009 01:00:00 PM, Blogger Roy said...

Last comment: Intelligence being responsible for design doesn't require that the design itself was the goal of the purposeful acts that produced unintended designs as their consequences. The organisms involved had incremental changes to their strategies and the forms by which to satisfy their immediate needs for survival as their goals. Trial and error that leads to change in those who survive the process is the "goal" of all intelligent activity.

 
At 6/28/2009 06:58:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

Roy also posted the following comment via email:

In your argumentation hoping to defeat the intelligent design concept, you seem to feel that any concept of intelligence assisting the adaptive processes would in the end help the ID positions. But clearly we apply that concept to our own ideation functions, so denial that any sort of intelligence, including our own, has facilitated evolution is is a bit silly. And denial that life has in one way or another been responsible for its own designs is the same sort of silliness. ID in the end wants to show that life was designed at some point by a supernatural force or intelligence OUTSIDE of life's own daily survival purposes. To show that the only purposeful entities whose involvement can be demonstrated were the life forms themselves is NOT what IDers want to hear.
You wrote: 'Ergo, "intelligent design" reduces to "adaptability producing adaptations".' But that's NOT the IDers position, because in fact that IS what evolution reduces to.

 
At 6/28/2009 07:08:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

In response to Roy's last comment:

I'm not trying to "destroy" ID theory, I'm trying to analyze it to see if there is anything useful in it, from the standpoint of stimulating and guiding empirical research. After all, that's what science is all about.

Furthermore, it's been my experience that there is no single definition of "intelligence". Indeed, there seem to be almost as many definitions of "intelligence" as there are people trying to define it.

A similar situation existed with regard to the biological concept of "species". Prior to Linnaeus, the concept was extremely loosely defined, and as such couldn't even be used to do classification (i.e. taxonomy), much less any kind of analytical science. By the time Darwin wrote the Origin of Species, the concept had become more closely linked to the idea of "reproductive isolation", but it wasn't until the culmination of the "modern evolutionary synthesis" (and especially Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species and Mayr's Systematics and the Origin of Species that the "biological species concept" (BSC) was formalized.

I have pointed out some of the shortcomings of the BSC in previous posts on this blog. I have also pointed out that evolutionary biology today is about much more than simply the formulation of adaptive "just so stories". Indeed, I have recently argued that it might help to put a temporary moritorium on the whole concept of adaptation, so that we can see if there is something else going on in evolution that our obsessive focus on natural selection has perhaps obscured.

 
At 6/28/2009 07:27:00 PM, Blogger Roy said...

As to whether "there is something else going on in evolution that our obsessive focus on natural selection has perhaps obscured," I offer this clue I was given as to one common feature of life forms:
"Life forms - self-sustaining strategic entities. Their forms and constituent elements are all a part of that strategy."
The implication being that evolution involves a selection for successful strategies as much as for anything else.

 
At 6/30/2009 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

Here's another comment via email:
(some comments seem not to be getting by some kind of spam filter)

As to whether "there is something else going on in evolution that our obsessive focus on natural selection has perhaps obscured," I offer this clue I was given as to one common feature of life forms:
"Life forms - self-sustaining strategic entities. Their forms and constituent elements are all a part of that strategy."
The implication being that evolution involves a selection for successful strategies as much as for anything else.
- Roy Niles

 
At 7/13/2009 07:44:00 PM, Blogger Tor Hershman said...

Them thar ID folk just ain't been payin' close attention.

 
At 7/17/2009 09:09:00 PM, Anonymous Isotelesis said...

Excellent post, instead of ID they should be focusing on symbiotic evolution and cybernetic aspects of design which aren't by virtue necessarily guided by intelligence, but allows the emergence of reflexive functions such as self-configuration or self-processing.

"Its most controversial aspect suggests that life actively participates in shaping the physical and chemical environment on which it depends in a way that optimizes the conditions for life."

-Lynn Margulis (Co-Authored: Symbiosis as a Source of Evolutionary Innovation, Speciation and Morphogenesis. Enviornmental Evolution, Effects of the Origin and Evolution of Life on Planet Earth. Scientists debate Gaia, The Next Century.)

Gaia's Evil Twin: Is Life Its Own Worst Enemy?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227131.400-gaias-evil-twin-is-life-its-own-worst-enemy.html?full=true

 
At 7/18/2009 06:21:00 PM, Blogger Roy said...

"Life is nature's way of giving itself options."
Anonymois

 
At 7/18/2009 07:09:00 PM, Blogger Roy said...

Exercising options is a function of intelligence, but the
Gaia hypothesis fails to consider that intelligence collapses when its options have run out.

 
At 9/17/2009 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Joe G said...

The word "intelligent" in intelkligent design is to differentiate between apparent design on one side and optimal design on the other.

See Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design


IOW it just refers to agency involvement/ activity.

For example we make an observation- X.

Then we try to figure out how X came to be- reducibility- what is required to account for X?

Was agency involvement required or can nature, operating freely account for it.

But anyway Allen, where can I get more information about natural selection being a result of three processes- as you stated?

 
At 10/12/2009 07:05:00 PM, Anonymous ericB said...

"Choice. The problem is choice." --Neo

Science needs to be able to make a distinction between undirected and directed causes. It needs to be able to distinguish artifacts, which are to some degree the result of directed causation, from the results of purely undirected material causes.

Otherwise, we would be in the position of distorting our understanding of undirected material causes to force fit an explanation by insisting they have properties for which there is no empirical basis.

To illustrate, Allen MacNeill has stated:

"As I have pointed out in other threads, biological information is meaningful information, in that biological information (especially that contained in the genetic material) is encoded. That is, it “stands for” something else in the same way that the letters in a phonetic alphabet “stand for” phonemes, or in the way that strings of letters “stand for” words, which of course “stand for” the concepts associated with them."

It is not merely complex and not merely specified (although it is undeniably and observably specified complexity, as Orgel noted). It is information that represents something other than itself.

I would use the term symbolic information. A symbol sequence is encoded information that represents something other than itself. This meaning is extrinsic to the sequence, not inherent or intrinsic. It is a sequence of symbols with meaning because it can be interpreted and translated by an associated convention, e.g. a language implemented by translation machinery, to produce the realized meaning.

Symbolic conventions are neither random nor required. They are not examples of random associations or the products of chemical or physical law. To communicate symbolically requires consistency (not randomness) that is not obligated (not determined by law).

Our consistent empirical experience is that symbolic information and conventions come from choice. Directed causation is the only observed mechanism known to be capable of implementing symbolic translation. And symbolic translation is essential to the information driven assembly at the core of biological life.

Do we want to require scientists to believe by blind faith in non-observed properties of matter and energy that supposedly produce symbolic languages? Must we assert a symbolic language principle of undirected matter, similar to the 'dormative principle' Allen mentioned in his blog?

The alternative is to allow that it is legitimate and reasonable for scientists to infer the activity of choosing agents with the capability of implementing symbolic language and symbolic information using translation machinery.

Of course, if someone ever finds that missing symbolic language principle in undirected matter, science would reassess -- as it should when it finds an empirical basis for such an attribute of mindless matter.

 

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