Showing posts with label compatibilism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label compatibilism. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Is-Ought Computation


First, let me say that I am not a Secular Humanist (I don't like ISMs in general, I prefer to actually consider my thoughts individually). I personally don't like the connotation of "Human" in that equation. I think humans are petty, evil, nasty, little shitstains on the planet and I think the planet would be better off, on the whole, without us around. I love my family and friends but come on, be honest for about 30 seconds and think about it. However, I don't advocate wiping us all out either because that's exactly the kind of petty, evil, nasty shit I was talking about in the first place. So we're kind of stuck with trying to make the world a better place.

[the above is pretty laden with sarcasm - please do try to read between the lines]

Anyway, I don't hate Secular Humanism and I think it has some good ideas. What I do dislike very much are absurdly irrational diatribes so let's get back to the content of the article that I wanted to comment on.

The article primarily attacks secular humanism on the basis of this bit in the manifesto: In this way there is no impenetrable wall between fact and value, is and ought. Using reason and cognition will better enable us to appraise our values in the light of evidence and by their consequences.

His primary argument is to invoke Hume's Law: you cannot derive a moral "ought" from a factual "is.".

This is an appeal to authority which undermines the entire argument. It MIGHT be true, but all evidence is to the contrary. He doesn't at all address John Searle's 1964 "How to Derive 'Ought' from 'Is'" or other attacks on Hume's assumption, although that isn't necessary to punt Hume out of the drivers seat.

What Hume was unaware of was Quantum Mechanics, Attractors in non-linear nonlinear dynamical systems, and the computational nature of the universe (not that it can be modeled with mathematics but that it fundamentally forms computation).

The absolutely unquestionable fact (and you can do this with sand, tinkertoys, water, just about anything) is that certain arrangements of physical materials allow CHOICES to be made. Choices take input data (either stored or gathered from the environment) and make decisions about it. This is how computers work, this is how brains work. At the lowest level the data and the choices made are so incredibly deeply abstracted from 'reality' it seems difficult to understand how they relate to our experience but by building up millions of bits of data and making trillions of choices we build up ever more complex abstractions. We KNOW this with computers. The exact same 'bits' in the computer make up numbers, letters, words, documents, pictures, sound, movies, AND THE PROGRAMS WHICH OPERATE ON THEM.

It's that last bit I stress because the data IS the program and it's that knowledge that blows Hume's presumption out of the water.

We have 'oughts' built into our individual cells by billions of years of evolution. Oughts that we have absolutely no conscious control over (only at the molecular level are such decisions being made, should I produce more ATP? etc). Oughts that are absolutely fundamental to life existing.

We have 'oughts' that are built into our brains by 10's of millions of years of evolution. These Oughts we have no little or conscious control over either. "Should I contract this muscle? Yes, because CO2 levels are rising"

We have 'oughts' that we do have 'conscious' control over - I say 'conscious' because I don't assume that we have Free Will and indeed, the research is rather strong suggesting that our apparently conscious decisions are made subconsciously.

It is at this level that we begin to consider the consequences of our actions - "should I eat another slice of Pie?" is of absolutely no qualitative difference from "should I attack that person violently?" In BOTH cases our subconscious knowledge and biological factors we are utterly unaware of will drive trillions of choices to be made which will ultimately bubble up into our conscious and result in action or inaction. "Moral" choices aren't somehow magically different from choices that evolved as necessary for survival.

The presumption should be that human beings are (extremely complex) machines, following the laws of nature, performing computation until you can prove otherwise because those are the facts that we KNOW and other than specific details no fact of our existence is unexplained by those assumptions. And in that model there is no place for the magical formation of 'oughts', they form naturally.

And here is the bottom-line, I can write a fairly simple program that learns from its inputs and forms 'oughts' as a result. Not a priori oughts, but oughts that evolve naturally out the consequences of the execution of the program. They will not be 'absolute' oughts except in the sense that are likely to be some cases where there are no viable alternatives (when there is only one possible answer).

I'm sure it will take years to fully develop this such that the majority of people can 'get it' but it's rather obvious to me and I think this is at least a good informal start on communicating (in the ~30 minutes I had to write this) why I find this objection absurd.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's It Like Not Having 'Jesus' In Your Life?

My life is full, with happiness and sadness (and the rest of the gamut of human emotion), and I am free to think and reason, to love and learn, to make mistakes and take responsibility for them (without scapegoating MY failures through a disgusting human sacrifice that Christians profess to believe in, BTW: do you partake of the proper annual cannibalism and blood drinking ceremony or do you follow one of those knock-offs christian-like cults that don't believe in "that part" of Christianity?).

I LOVE my life, even near death (in an accident) I thought of others without fear and only regrets for that which I would not be able to do for them. And I thank Science and the doctors (who truly do sacrifice for others) for my very non-miraculous recovery (minus a few internal organs). Even during hard or emotional painful times I cherish my time here because I know it will end far too soon. And I relish our ability to learn about out universe, every day I follow scientific advances in every field of study I can.

The world may be full of suffering and atrocities but I believe that we must work towards a better future (and I bother to post here in this blog in the hopes of helping towards that end in some small way). In the realization that we do not have true Free Will (at best we have some watered down compatibilist version of "Free Will"), I have sublimated most of my anger though I reserve that which is justified (See also Why Are Atheists So Angry?).

Christians seem to hope mainly for the death of everyone (rapture, apocalypse, etc) so that you can finally be happy in "heaven". This would explain why some Christians unwittingly seem to do almost the maximal damage they possibly can: let's not teach our kids anything truthful about sex, let's preach against using birth control, let's create an environment of sexual repression which leads to rapes and child abuse, let's lie and tell Africans that condoms CAUSE AIDS (note the sexist language there "innocent boys" and "slutty girls", see also this YouTube video) so they will not use the evil condoms - instead they rape women in the hopes that it will cure their AIDS (woo magical cures born of ignorant, superstitious beliefs), let's suppress womens rights (you just let me know when there is a female Catholic priest and Pope), let's push the bullshit creationism in schools, let's fight against the legalization movement because we like abusing civil rights and prohibition has been "sooooooo" effective, etc. It just goes on and on and then on the VERY UNUSUAL OCCASION, when you FINALLY see the TRUE light, you try to take all the credit for every progressive movement ever made. Oh "WE" fought against slavery -- bullshit, you enforced slavery for 2000 years. Oh "WE" fought against racism -- bullshit, you treated Jewish people horribly and consecrated the MASS MURDER of native peoples, Catholic Jesuits were a HUGE force behind the fascism movements (yes, including Hitler). You are a bunch of disgusting, duplicitous snakes. Behind the Dictators - A Factual Analysis of the Relationship of Nazi-Fascism and Roman Catholicism

And consider Christian theology, exactly how happy in "heaven" will you be with a few of your loved ones suffering eternal torment downstairs? Will God remove your pain and tears while your CHILD burns in hell? Is that a doctrine of a "loving god" that ACTUALLY makes sense to you?

So yeah, I feel pretty good about not believing in that. It is a shame that the iron fist of Christianity made it nearly impossible to speak out against it for so long. Thankfully, religion enforced on pain of death is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and more and more people are speaking out.

And no, I really don't feel that the "good deeds" done by religion count because of the history of conversion by intimidation, torture and murder. It seems little more than blood money paid to ensure the silence of detractors. If you want to do good things, try doing them just because, with no promise of eternal bliss behind them. And try doing them without strings attached (strings like: we will build a school here if we can teach our religion in return - because that is no gift at all, it is a Trojan horse).