Dembski vs. Kurzweil

Dembski (as you may know from reading previous posts here) is one of the wing-nuts working at the Discovery Institute (the Intelligent Design / 'Wedge' strategy wing-nuts), but in this article he takes issue with Kurzweil - a proponent of Artificial Intelligence, who has written about 'Spiritual Machines'.

Here's a quote from the always hilarious to read Dembski;

"How well have natural processes been able to account for intelligent agency? Cognitive scientists have achieved nothing like a full reduction. The French Enlightenment thinker Pierre Cabanis remarked: “Les nerfs—voilĂ  tout l’homme” (the nerves—that’s all there is to man). A full reduction of intelligent agency to natural causes would give a complete account of human behavior, intention, and emotion in terms of neural processes. Nothing like this has been achieved. No doubt, neural processes are correlated with behavior, intention, and emotion. But correlation is not causation."

Dembski isn't really going after Kurzweil till much later in his article (I wonder if Dembski counts this letter as a 'peer reviewed study'? snark), what he is really after is a take-down of philosophical materialism. Hence we get his strawman 'cognitive scientists have achieved nothing like full reduction'.

Well, no they haven't - cognitive neuroscience doesn't have to acheive 'full-reduction' to be succesful - it is a process of uncovering the natural processes, not the achievement of 'complete reduction' that is the hallmark of success. I doubt that 'full' or 'complete' reduction is even possible given the complexity of influences, the millions of neurons, and the infinitely complex ways they might be connected in a human brain.

For Dembski, every success of neuroscience is one more nail in the Cartesian coffin he has locked himself into. When he says 'correlation' not 'causation' it is because Dembski is wed to the notion that somehow, somewhere there exists a 'mind' - an intangible thing that 'directs' the agency of the person, something that is 'affected by the physica', but isn't 'natural processes'. So long as neuroscience continues its steady progress in explaining things without resorting to these invisible attributes (the mind, the soul, etc.) he will be against it.

In any case, the article is good for a chortle or two. But more interesting is the website that Kurtyzweil has setup.

Search for 'Transhuman', 'Cyborgs', or 'immortality'. Lots of good stuff.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

per your comment on my site: you actually have to speak to someone with some measure of regularity in order to complain that you can't get a word in edgewise.