Consider that we begin with a living, biological cell.


Next, we begin to remove systems and elements from the cell, 

and replace them with non-biological alternatives.  For example, 

we replace the genome and nucleic acid production system with 

a nanotechnology systems that yields the same nucleic acids as 

products, in the same amounts over time as occurs in the natural 



At what point does removal of some element yield irrevocable 

loss of state - it no longer lives but instead ceases all behavior, 

and returns to the non-living state?


Whatever is that element that yields such irrevocable loss of 

state, that is a vital element.  It is not a mystical or deistical 





[] On Behalf Of Craig Weinberg
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 8:42 AM
Subject: Re: Two reasons why computers IMHO cannot exhibit intelligence


On Wednesday, August 29, 2012 3:54:49 PM UTC-4, John Clark wrote:

On Tue, Aug 28, 2012  Craig Weinberg <> wrote:


> do not think that accusations of vitalism add anything to the issue. It's
really nothing but an ad hominem attack.

It's not ad hominem if its true. 

No, it doesn't matter what names you call someone, or whether you think they
are true, the point is that name calling is not a logical argument and that
it derails the discussion.

We can't be talking about anything except vitalism and as one of the most
enthusiastic apologists of the idea on this list I'm surprised you consider
the term an insult. 

It is because that you say that I have something to do with defending
vitalism that I know you don't understand my ideas. There is nothing special
about organic matter that makes life possible. There is nothing about matter
that makes anything possible. It is the sense that is made through matter
that makes things possible, and that sense has qualitative potentials which
are represented in particular ways. The way that biological qualities are
represented in space and matter is as living cells, tissues, and living
bodies. Being cell like doesn't make something alive, being alive leaves a
cell like footprint.


> We use certain materials for computer chips and not hamsters 

Because (you think) hamsters have some sort of horseshit vital force that
computer chips lack. 

Um, no. Because you can't control hamsters. I don't care if hamsters were
made of cobalt and zinc, you can't make a computer out of them because they
have their own agenda that you can't effectively control. I don't want to
sink to your level, but if you continue with your false accusations and ad
hominem horseshit, the I'm not going to bother with you.


> organic chemistry, biology, zoology, and anthropology present dramatic
qualitative breakthroughs in elaboration of sense.

That's exactly what I'm talking about, vitalism; a idea that sucked when it
was all the rage in the 18'th century and suckes even more so today.  

Your opinions about what sucks might be interesting to some people. You
should find them. To say that there is a qualitative breakthrough between
biology and zoology is vitalist how? I would say that the qualitative bump
from single cell to animal is even more significant than the bump from
molecule to cell, or atom to molecule. I am talking about a punctuated
equilibrium of scale and history, not a categorization of substances.


> This is not vitalism.

How would your above idea be any different if it were vitalism?? 

Vitalism would be that there are some substances which are used by
biological organisms and others that are not. There would be no bump from
cell to animal to human being, or even from molecule to cell - vitalism
would be that living cells are composed of life-giving molecules which are
fundamentally different from non life-giving molecules. I'm not saying that
at all. I am saying that you can have all the organic chemistry you like and
you still won't get cells unless the molecules themselves figure out how to
make them. I don't say that silicon can't make cells, only that they haven't
so far, and that if we force silicon to act like cells, they won't be the
same as organic cells which generate themselves naturally.


Clearly you believe that organic chemistry has something that computer chips

Clearly you believe that there is nothing that a ham sandwich has that a bag
of sand lacks.

perhaps you don't like the phrase "vital life force" for that difference and
prefer some other euphemism, but it amounts to the same thing.    

No, it is not the same thing in any way. I am specifically saying that there
are no forces or fields in the universe. None. Not literally anyhow. No more
than there is a force which stops my car at a red light. There is only
sense: perception and participation on different levels of qualitative


> Programs can and do produce outcomes that are not directly anticipated by
the programmer



> but that these outcomes are trivial

If they could only do trivial stuff computers would not have become a
multitrillion dollar industry that has revolutionized the modern world.   

That's like saying 'If soft drinks were just carbonated sugar water with
drugs in it, they wouldn't have become a  multibillion dollar industry...".
It's a fallacy and a misrepresentation of my comment. I didn't ever say that
computers can only 'do trivial stuff', only that their capacity to exceed
the constraints of their programming is trivial. Computers have capacities
that far exceed our own, but only in some respects and not others. They are
good at doing boring repetitive shit that we can't stand doing. Why are they
good at it? Because they are unbelievably stupid. They will compute Pi to
the last digit until they corrode just because someone accidentally pressed
the enter key. Dumb. Not sentient. No awareness. They don't care, they don't
feel, they don't understand...anything at all. Those are things that we are
(supposedly) good at.


>Conway's game of life can produce a new kind of glider, but it can't come
up with the invention of Elvis Presley, 

Not true. You can make a Turing Machine out of things other than a long
paper tape, you can make one out of the game of life by using the gliders to
send information; and if you started with the correct initial conditions you
could have a game of life Turing Machine instruct matter how to move so that
the matter was indistinguishable from the flesh and blood king of rock and

You are missing my point entirely. It is no trick to make Elvis from a
machine which has the correct initial conditions to make Elvis. The point is
that no amount of GoL transitions strung together will ever become anything
other than what it is - recursively enumerated digits. There is nothing to
generate any qualities other than that in the machine or the program - any
patterns which we project on this data; 'gliders', 'cells', whatever, are
nothing but simulacra...the projections of our own psyche.


> We only use materials which are subject to absolute control by outside
intervention and behave in an absolutely automatic way to sustain those
introduced controls. Living organisms are very much the opposite of that

The opposite of  "automatic way" is random way.

That is your completely unsupported prejudice. The legal system of every
human group that has ever persisted on Earth would disagree. The opposite of
automatic, according to them, is voluntary or intentional. Welcome to planet
Earth, where there are things we like to call living organisms who are able
to do things 'on purpose' rather than randomly or unconsciously.


  John K Clark

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