The problem of minds as a scientific field of study


#1

Minds are not directly observable. If science needs to be open to direct public observability, then studying minds will always be problematic for science. We will always depend upon second-hand reports about what is going on in the mind in order to study it.

Philosophically, this is known as the problem of other minds. How is it we know that other minds exist? We do not observe minds directly. So it seems that either we intuit them through some sort of psychic or spiritual process, or we infer them. But the only mind that we can directly observe is our own. Therefore, we can only infer other minds by analogy: “That other person is saying or doing what I would say when I consciously mean to say or do something. Therefore, that other person has a mind.”

But an argument from analogy is a weak argument. There may be other causes why the other person is saying or doing something that is similar to what I do or say in that situation.

Likewise, there cannot be an inductive inference, since I only have one example of a mind: my own.

That is why the science of minds will never be a “hard” science, such as physics or chemistry.

This is why it is a problem to say that ID is a science. It is an argument that something (e.g., the origin of life), was caused by a mind. But if minds are not directly observable, then it is difficult to argue that something was caused by a mind. What ID can try to do is argue that similar things to the origin of life are attributed to having been caused by minds, therefore it is reasonable to attribute something like the origin of life to a mind. And I think that works, but then, I’m not sure we would call these other fields of study “hard” sciences.

Let’s take the case of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Right now, SETI is focused on looking for a narrow-band radio signal from outer space. Why? Because the only known cause of narrow-band radio signals is from radio transmitters, which have been designed by human agents. Presumably, if we found such a signal from outer space, it would have been produced by a radio transmitter, which was designed by an extraterrestrial intelligence.

Of course, this assumes that radio transmitters can only be produced by intelligent agents. Has anyone demonstrated that is the only way transmitters can be produced? What if there is an unknown natural process to produce radio transmitters? Certainly all the materials needed to make a transmitter already exist. Are we sure this couldn’t have happened through some unknown natural process? What if we indeed live in an infinite universe? Wouldn’t that mean that sooner or later a radio transmitter could be produced through a non-intelligent process?

It seems to me that the same sort of objections to ID can be raised against SETI. And again, it goes to the heart of the difficulty of trying to make the mind a hard science.


(George Brooks) #2

@Bilbo,

I think there is a clear difference in the SETI context. SETI scientists are not trying to prove that aliens are conscious. They are only trying to prove their bodies exist.

This approach is not available to the devoted who characterize the God of the universe as a mind without a physical body!


#3

How would finding a narrow-band radio signal prove that aliens have bodies?


(George Brooks) #4

@Bilbo

I would define “alien bodies” as any population of aggregated matter that can support a society or culture that makes devices that generate coherent radio signals.

So, this matter could be silicone+, or iron+ or carbon+ or what have you. Notice I didn’t even have to use the generic term “itelligence”.


(Qe Dlin Saltum) #5

With respect, your first paragraphs are viable until you propose that ID is not valid as a science because it is caused by a mind. Obviously, when we are talking about the creation of the universe and life we are not talking about the average human mind, rather the mind of a transcendent creator with omniscience and omnipotence. The inadequacy of science to fully resolve what is beyond physical reality does not conclude it does not exist, only that science has application in many areas, can be expanded with serious consideration to expand its full scope and domain of applicability, but is sufficiently limited to consider issues outside the physical universe.

Since SETi is the search for ID, as is anthropology, archaeology, bimemetics, psychology, which are sciences, it is ID driven and properly has determined that radio transmitters are likewise. Thus, the objections to ID also apply to the above.

There may ultimately be limitations to making the mind a hard science, but the dominant ideological position of science today is that the mind is a mere extension of the materialistic properties of its construction, thus it will be many years before the full limits are finally accepted.

Arguing SETI is a waste of time because it is ID is a non-starter because the SETI conforms with the naturalist ideology that contends that life is purely abiogenetic and finding it would establish that life does not need God as there are other examples (not valid, but will be broadcast as valid).