The Argument From Computer Programming

P1   Conscious entities are currently the only entities we know of that can write a series of intelligent statements in a specific language;

P2   Human DNA contains a series of intelligent statements written in a specific language;

P3   A conscious entity is currently the only entity we know of that could have possibly created humans.

10 Comments

  1. “we know of”
    Programmer of the gaps? ;-)

  2. Sung Jun says:

    This is just a certain restatement of the watchmaker analogy, the argument from design. I expect a lot of responses “refuting” it. |3

  3. cl says:

    Mike aka Monolith TMA,
    You are kidding, right?
    Sung Jun

    This is just a certain restatement of the watchmaker analogy, the argument from design.

    Not exactly, but I agree – I do expect at least somebody who will think Dawkins’ answer to the Argument from Design also “refutes” mine, for example. I don’t think it does. I’ve seem compelling evidence for complexity arising from non-conscious conscious entities; but intelligent statements coded in a specific language, not as much so.

  4. Sung Jun says:

    Heh, it is funny you should formulate this argument at this moment. One of my good friends whom I’m making reparations with is a programmer. I find the coincidence somewhat hilarious.

  5. Dominic Saltarelli says:

    Well, this argument does assume that the theory of evolution by natural selection is false from the outset. Defining DNA as a series of intelligent statements written in a specific language, TENS provides an alternative to “conscious entities” for formulating said statements.
    Mind you, evolution says nothing about the origin of the language itself, that’s abiogenesis, but it does provide an unconscious means for formulating the statements in said language.
    Now all you have to do is disprove evolution and you’ll have a solid position.
    Ummm, good luck with that.

  6. Lifeguard says:

    This is one of the more interesting arguments, and Antony Flew makes the same case based on intelligent design in “There is A God.”
    But there are a few things that still get in the way:
    1) I think the most you could say is that the universe exhibits signs of being a consciousness entity (pantheism)– mind you so do insects, dogs, viruses, et cetera (although admittedly less consciousness than we exhibit).
    2) It ignores that physical, corporeal entities are currently the only entities we know of the exhibit consciousness (God is purportedly a non-corporeal, right?)
    This argument reminds me of what Carl Sagan said– “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
    I’m not saying I’ve refuted it, but it’s a long way from convincing for me.

  7. D says:

    I can program a computer to respond to me in syntactically complete, grammatically correct, English sentences. It’s easy: I just type the command, “What is two plus two?” and the computer is programmed to answer, “Two plus two equals four.” It’s not programmed to give this specific answer to this specific question, it’s actually programmed to interpret the question and give a complete answer. Computers are not conscious. Therefore, computers are capable of generating intelligent statements in specific languages. (Insofar as they give outputs, they already produce intelligent statements in programming languages and in machine code languages.)
    DNA is not a series of intelligent statements. The four nucleobases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine) are only metaphorically an alphabet, they do not spell out intelligent statements. DNA sequences do not have truth value, they cannot sensibly be responded to with endorsements of “true” or recriminations of “false.” These are mere chemical replicators which, although rather complex thanks to billions of years of competitive refinement, are not communicative language. Though DNA is also like a blueprint and like a recipe, it is not actually any of those things; the metaphor is simply language of convenience.
    Finally, allow me to propose an unconscious DNA sequencer which assembles all possible combinations of DNA in order. Each human’s genome is only one of many possible ways for DNA to be assembled, and so this sequencer would, in the fullness of time, assemble not only every possible human, but every possible DNA-based organism. Even if there were another designer behind my sequencer, this does not indicate that the sequencer-designer “created” humans; the sequencer simply performed its function and humans came out as an inevitable consequence. As it happens, our “sequencer” in reality is not quite so methodical or thorough, it is simply the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators.
    Your thoughts?

  8. cl says:

    [computers] already produce intelligent statements in programming languages and in machine code languages.

    I disagree: humans produced these intelligent statements, then informed computers.

    DNA is not a series of intelligent statements. The four nucleobases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine) are only metaphorically an alphabet, they do not spell out intelligent statements.

    I disagree that DNA is not a series of intelligent statements, and I’m not claiming them to be intelligent on the basis of their metaphorically alphabetical nature.

    Even if there were another designer behind my sequencer, this does not indicate that the sequencer-designer “created” humans; the sequencer simply performed its function and humans came out as an inevitable consequence.

    That just seems like a tautology to me. It’s like me saying I didn’t create a cake; I just put all the necessary components in their place, turned the oven to 450, and the cake just came out as the inevitable result.
    I think we’d do better to stick with the syllogism.

  9. D says:

    I’m confused as to why you think that’s a valuable distinction, with computers. Please explain why, when I basically ask a question of a computer and get a response, I’m simply hearing back what some other human said and not a factually valuable intelligent statement from the computer? Granted, this is a matter of perspective, I just think that the perspective of, “Testing reality is a way of asking it questions,” is a mighty damned useful perspective to adopt whenever you want to figure something out. The answers are sometimes just hard to understand, as I think you’ll wholeheartedly agree.
    If you think that DNA is a series of intelligent statements, then by all means, please translate for me! Show me a DNA sequence, and translate it into another language while keeping it an intelligent statement (and not a mere list of proteins which you yourself would be creating on the spot – that merely explains what DNA does, not what it supposedly says). In other words, if you think DNA is a language, then explain to me how you know so that I can learn to speak it. Otherwise, any understanding you think you have merely arises from contemplating the metaphor by which DNA “kinda sorta metaphorically” is a language, but isn’t really. In other words, you’ve still got a mere metaphor and nothing more if you can’t show your work and explain how the metaphor corresponds.
    As for the cake… umm… people have babies, and that’s pretty much the same principle. If you put a sperm into a woman’s ovary and leave it in her uterus for nine months, a baby comes out. You didn’t “make” what the baby then grows up to do and become, any more than you created the taste sensations of those who eat the cake you bake, or any more than the sequencer-designer “made” the sequences which the sequencer kicks out strictly due to its programming. In other words, and the cake does happen on its own; bakers merely create environments conducive to “cakes happening of their own accord;” if you want to tell me that God created humans, you’ll have to prove to me that God completely understands everything he’s doing, otherwise he’s not creating in any way different than people do. In short, your “syllogism” is a neat rhetorical device, designed to convince me with logic; OK, so I’m willing to be convinced. Now show me how it corresponds to reality, because I think it completely breaks down on a rather cursory analysis instead.
    Again, a lot of this is a matter of perspective, but sticking with my perspective here yields the interesting result: nature, to be commanded, must first be obeyed. We can see this principle everywhere, we can test it as much as we like, and it always comes out “true.” Any variant of theism could go a long way towards convincing me simply by showing something I can repeatedly do whereby I command nature not by first understanding and obeying it (and then bringing about the causes necessary for my desired end to happen on its own), but by instead flagrantly defying it, rather than obeying complex underlying principles of reality itself (to the best of our ability to tell so far, of course). And if it doesn’t work that way, then please explain just how it does in fact work, and how you know that.
    Does that better explain what I’m getting at? Bottom line: there’s a gap between the language you use here, and the world to which you seem to think it corresponds, and I don’t think that you adequately bridge it (for comparison, I’d say that chemistry does a much better job in proving that hydrogen is H2O, or that biology does a much better job of explaining just how “the blood is life” works as a metaphor without any magical shenanigans, or what-have-you).

  10. Zeta says:

    I don’t understand P2. Do you mean to use something like “doable instructions” in place of “statements”? If no, then you have completely lost me, about two miles before we even started, and I request you elaborate on the nature of these statements (what kind of intellectual topics are DNA interested in? can you offer any one of the statements in English?) and how you or someone else has come to discover them. However, if yes, you do mean something more akin to “doable instructions”, then I argue P1 is false:
    If DNA is composed of instructions, then cells copy, alter, and rewrite instructions all the time. Am I to assume that cells are consciously aware of these actions, or are even intelligently deliberate in them?

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