Bruno Marchal wrote:
To avoid to much posts in your mail box, I send all my comments in this post,

Hi Brent,

1a) Brent meeker wrote (quoting Jim Heldberg) :

    Atheism is not a religion, just as a vacant lot is not a type of
    building, and health is not a form of sickness. Atheism is not a
    --- Jim Heldberg

It seems to me that Jim Heldberg confuse the scientist (indeed) attitude of agnosticism and atheism.
Let D = the proposition "God exists", "~" = NOT, B = believes.

An agnostic is someone for which the proposition "~BD" is true. (And "~B~D" could be true as well)
An atheist is someone for which "B~D" is true.

But what does "true" mean?  Does it mean provable? and on what basis?  Does it mean 
"our best guess"

The atheist is a believer. As John M often says, an atheist already has some notion of God such as to be able to believe it does not exist. Now most atheist are already "believer" in believing "religiously" in Primary Matter (a metaphysical entity).

I'am agnostic in both sense. I do not believe in God, nor do I believe in Matter. Those terms are not enough well defined. I do neither believe in the inexistence of God, nor in the inexistence of Matter. I wait for more data.

Right.  "God exists" is not well enough defined to believe or disbelieve - both "God" and "exists" being ill defined.  
But I think "theism" is well enough defined.  Theism is the belief in an immortal, supernaturally powerful person, who is concerned with 
the welfare and behavior of human beings.  I believe this god of theism does not exist.  As to other gods, such as the god of deism or pantheism, I'm 
agnostic - I don't believe they exist and I don't believe they don't exist.  In all the above "believe" means my considered opinion - not 
something mathematically provable, but something I think is provable in the legal sense of "preponderance of the evidence" or in the 
scientific sense of "in accordance with our best model".

So atheism is not a religion - it's the belief that a particular class of 
religion is mistaken.  To reject a belief that is contrary to the evidence is 
not a matter of faith.  It doesn't take faith to believe there is no Santa 

But assuming comp, I must confess that I have *reason* to put some more credo on Plotinus, and other platonist approaches, on "mind/god/matter" and fundamental principle, than on the aristotelian primitive matter theory. Actually, I infer the same belief from the empirical quantum data.

1b) Brent wrote to John M:

    Values existed longer before humans.

So you are a bit Platonist too .... :)

Yes, I'm willing to contemplate different kinds of existence - so  that mathematical structures 
made be said to exist and statements like "Sherlock Holmes was a detective." are in some 
sense true while "Sherlock Holmes was a Russian." are false.

But whether arithmetic is more fundamental than matter - I'm agnostic.

> 1c) Brent wrote (to Stathis):

    How is this infinite regress avoided in our world? By consciousness
    not representing the rest of the world.

That is an interesting idea. You could elaborate a bit perhaps? I do agree with your most of your recent replies to Stathis about the question "does a rock think?". But perhaps not entirely for the same reason as you. We will see.

It's a half-baked idea, so I'm not sure I can fill it out.  But it is similar 
to Stathis's point that language (and all symbolic representation) must be 
grounded in ostentive definition.  In Stathis example the conscious computer is 
conscious by virtue of reference to a real world - which has now been replaced 
by a simulator.  But in a closed system, with no outside reference, the 
ostensive definition itself must be represented computationally.  And in what 
sense is it a representation of an ostensive definition?  Only in virtue of 
some meta-dictionary that defines it as such in terms of still other 

    The world is what it is and representation is not essential. I
    suppose this is somewhat like Peter's "primitive substance" whose
    only function is to distinguish things that exist from their

yes, but then the question is "what are you assuming to exist?"

Our best model seems to be the quantum fields of the standard model.  But I think it is the wrong question to 
ask "what do you assume to exist".  You don't start with assuming something to exist, that's a 
mathematician's axiomatic approach; you start with what you observe, with appearances.  You may be able to 
model them with different ontologies and then the question is, "How can you test them."  As Thales 
said, "The question is not what exists, but how can we know."  It may be that different ontologies 
produce the same empirical results - as quantum fields and elementary particle theories seem to - and there 
is nothing to choose between them.

1d) Brent wrote to Mark Peaty (in Jason's thread about "irreversibility):

    I think there is a confusion creeping in here. I don't think
    "logically reversible" is misleading. It is only physical processes
    that can be termed reversible or irreversible. Logic lives in a
    timeless Platonia. Computers operated irreversibly, they dissipate
    heat when they they erase data. Feynman pointed out that this was
    not necessary and a computer that did not erase data could operate
    without dissipating heat (no increase in entropy).

The logician Hao Wang, is, as far as I know, the first to prove that a universal machine can operate without ever erasing information, and this is enough for developping notion of logical reversibility (quite useful in quantum computing). I say more in term of "combinators" in my Elsevier paper. The one which is not yet on my web page. People interested can ask me a preprint.

If it's in English I'm interested.

Grosso modo you lose universality if both "eliminating info" is prohibited and "duplicating info".

2a) John wrote to Jamie:

    Sponging the 'gedanken..' - the falling treebranch reflects in your
    version the omniscient arrogant reductionist position. I go with
    Popper: no evidence, because we cannot encompass 'totality'  (my

Cute. And admitting to represent "totality" by the set of codes of total (everywhere defined) computable functions, this can be made very precise in term of the Wi and the Fi, as I try to explain from time to time in the list.

I would'nt go to the primitive mechanistic AI-levels to learn about
    mentality unlimited. Bits (and pieces) for unrestricted relations.
    AI simulates (mechanically?) certain aspects of human mentality - up
    to a limited fashion.

You seem quite sure about that. How do you know? Why couldn'it be that *you* find this "limited" due to your own prejudice about numbers and machines?

2b) John wrote to Brent:

    So noted. (However: in my feeble English 'bias' means
    '~prejudice' and I have yet to learn about prejudicial
    instruments. Unless we accept the "conscious
    instrument e.g. a thinking yardstick). I, as a
    Loebian machine, may well be prejudicial).

That is true!!! Are you serious about being a lobian machine? As a matter of fact, lobian machine can know and prove that they are lobian. To prove being a *consistent* lobian machine is quite another matter, though .... It is not impossible. *Inconsistent* lobian machine *can* prove that they are consistent lobian machine, but then they can prove the existence of Santa Klaus, and also, to be sure, of 0 = 1.

3a) Stathis wrote (to me):

    Regarding consciousness being generated by physical activity, would
    it help if
    I said that if a conventional computer is conscious, then, to be
    consistent, a
    rock would also have to be conscious?

I think you could be right ... It is difficult because terms like "conventional" and "physical" are quite fuzzy. I do think that if a conventional (material in the mundane sense) is conscious, most probably anything *is* conscious, and that is related to the fact that I think (assuming the comp hypothesis) that a conventional computer is *not* conscious. Consciousness is a first person attribute, and the UDA shows that it has to be associated with an (infinity) of (mathematical) computations.

Why isn't the computer (or rock) associated with an infinity of computations?  
I'm assuming you mean a potential countable infinity in the future.

This 1-person has no shape, and can even be considered as not being a machine. I guess we will have to discuss this with more details.

    It's difficult to find the right words here. I think we can all
    agree on the appearance
    of a physical reality as a starting point.


    The common sense view is that there is an
    underlying primitive physical reality generating this appearance,
    without which the
    appearance would vanish and relative to which dream and illusion can
    be defined.
    If this is so, it is not a scientifically testable theory.

I think it is testable indirectly. Recall that although I disagree with Penrose godelian argument, I do arrive at similar conclusion: you cannot have both "computationalism" and "materialism".

    We can't just switch off the
    physical reality to see whether it changes the appearance, and the
    further we delve
    into matter all we see is more appearance (and stranger and stranger
    appearance at
    that). Moreover, dream and illusion are defined relative to the
    appearance of regular
    physical reality, not relative to the postulated primitive physical

I would say "relative to a theory explaining the appearances", not just to the appearances.

3b) Stathis wrote to John M:

    Not really: the people who claim they saw Elvis after his alleged
    death are more
    numerous and more credible than the second-hand (at best) Biblical
    accounts of
    Jesus being sighted after his crucifixion. When I have put this to
    Christians they
    answer that Elvis did not claim to be God etc. Well, if he had done,
    would that
    make a difference?

I'm afraid it would have!
Reciprocally, would Jesus have been only a musician, things would have been different, I guess :)

3c) Stathis wrote to John in another post:

    The constraint on meaning and
    syntax would then go, and the vibration of atoms in a rock could be
    any computation, including any conscious computation, if such there

    John Searle, among others, believes this is absurd, and that
    therefore it disproves
    computationalism. Another approach is that it shows that it is
    absurd that consciousness
    supervenes on physical activity of any sort, but we can keep
    computationalism and
    drop the physical supervenience criterion, as Bruno has.


3d) Stathis wrote to Brent:

    Any serial computation can be made up of multiple parallel
    computations, and vice versa. You can't say, aha, we've used that
    string for "dog" so we can't now use it for "cat", because who is
    going to patrol the universe to enforce this rule? This is what you
    are left with if you eliminate the constraint that the computation
    has to interact with an external observer.
    I am aware that this is a very strange idea, perhaps even an absurd
    idea, but I don't see any way out of it without ruining
    computationalism, as by saying that it's all bunk, or only
    computations that can interact with the environment at the level of
    their implementation can be conscious. Because if you insist on the
    latter, it implies something like ESP: the computer will know the
    difference between a false sensory stimulus and one emanating from
    the environment... possible, but not very Turing-emulable.

I agree with Brent's remark on that: "I find that doubtful - do you have a reference? Isn't it the definition of "incompressible" computation that there is no way faster than executing each step in sequence (Brent Meeker).

3e) Stathis' answer to Brent:

    I'm not referring to speed, just to doing it. For example, a serial
    stream of consciousness can be emulated by multiple shorter parallel
    streams; there is no way of knowing whether you're being run in
    serial, parallel, how fast the real world clock is running, etc.

I agree there is no way to know whether you are being run in serial, parallel, etc. But mathematically multiple shorter parallel streams have to be able to be glued, at least mathematically, for constituting a proper computation. If not literally anything can be described as a computation.

That's a reductio argument and when you've reached an absurdity it can be 
anyone of your premises that is wrong - including comp.

That is why I explicitly use a mathematical definition of computation, and then(and only then) try to figure out what is a rock, for example.

4) Mark Peaty wrote (to Brent):

    As I say, the essence of evil is the act of treating other persons
    as things.

I so agree with you. And then, with Church thesis (less than comp, thus) you can understand the reason why even some (relative) machine and some (relative) numbers should not be confused with any of their third person description.

    On another tack: it seems to me the extent and scope of suffering in
    the world is one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the
    total irrelevance of the concept of G/god/s. However it is not for
    me to go around telling those who believe in some G/god/s that they
    are deluded.

Do you agree that those who believe in a primitive physical universe could be deluded in the same manner than those who believe in some notion of God. Perhaps even in a worse manner, because many people believe that the existence of a primitive material universe is a "scientific fact". Of course not. At least in many theological text, the word "God" is used in a more axiomatic way than "Matter" is by some scientist (at lunch or during the week-end). Most religious people will never say that the existence of God is a scientific fact, and in that sense are less deluded than many materialist.

They say the existence of God is a matter of faith and that is a more certain 
kind of knowledge than scientific knowledge.  Because faith is independent of 
evidence religion is a much more resistant delusion than erroneous science.

Brent Meeker

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