Introducing Philip Goff and a panpsychic universe (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, November 16, 2023, 18:49 (157 days ago)

He sees purposeful activity:

https://bigthink.com/13-8/panpsychsm-universe-purpose-philosopher-philip-goff/?utm_camp...

"Today, I am hosting the British philosopher Philip Goff, a professor at Durham University in England. He is a strong proponent of panpsychism, which the New Oxford American Dictionary defines as, “The doctrine or belief that everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness.”

"Goff just published a new book this week, Why? The Purpose of the Universe, where he masterfully presents his defense of this worldview, connecting it with a much needed way of addressing not only the challenging nature of consciousness but also our search for meaning beyond a strictly material reality.

***

"Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness goes down to the fundamental building of matter. Fundamental particles or fields have incredibly rudimentary forms of consciousness, and the complex consciousness of the human and animal brain is somehow built up from these more basic forms of consciousness.

***

"For its proponents, it offers an attractive middle way between the extravagant belief in the soul on the one hand, and the reductionist “there’s only brain chemistry” view, which I think ultimately denies the reality of consciousness itself.

***

"Either it’s just an incredible fluke that the numbers in our physics are right for life — an option too improbable to take seriously — or the relevant numbers in our physics are as they are because they are the right numbers for life; in other words, that there is some kind of directedness toward life at the fundamental level. That’s weird, and not how we expected science to turn out. But we should follow the evidence where it leads, without being influenced by our cultural prejudices.

"For many, there is a third option: the multiverse. And for a long time, I thought the multiverse was the best explanation of fine-tuning. But over a long period of time, I was persuaded by philosophers of probability that the inference from fine-tuning to a multiverse commits the inverse gambler’s fallacy.

"...the inverse gambler’s fallacy — as our observational evidence concerns the good fortune of a particular individual, and the number of people elsewhere in the casino has no bearing on how likely it is that this particular person will play well.

"This flawed reasoning is indiscernible from that of the multiverse theorist. Our observational evidence is that this universe is fine-tuned, and the number of other universes that are out there has no bearing on how likely it is that this universe is fine-tuned. Of course, there’s a lot more to say about the anthropic selection effect, and the alleged scientific case for the multiverse, and I go into all this in the book.

***

"Pan-agentialism is the view that not only consciousness but also rational agency goes right down to the fundamental building blocks of reality. Obviously, particles can’t deliberate or do probabilistic reasoning, but I think we can make sense of the idea that they are responding rationally to incredibly basic desires.

"I propose this as a solution to the deep and under-explored challenge of accounting for the evolution of consciousness. Rapid progress in AI and robotics has made it clear that you could have incredibly complex behavior without any kind of inner experience. So why didn’t natural selection make survival mechanisms — that is, extremely complicated biological robots which track features of their environment and respond with behavior conducive to survival without being conscious? I believe we need something like pan-agentialism to address this challenge.

***

"The Universe being conscious is not as extravagant a hypothesis as you might think. Physics is just mathematical structure, and there must be something that underlies that structure, something that “breathes fire into the equations,” as Stephen Hawking put it. I argue that the hypothesis that it’s a conscious mind that “breathes fire into the equations” is as parsimonious as any other proposal, and it has the advantage of explaining fine-tuning. As for why it took so long, this isn’t an omnipotent God but rather an entity that pursues certain goals under significant limitations — those recorded by the laws of physics.

"We need a hypothesis that accounts for both the goal-directedness evidenced in the fine-tuning of physics for life, but also the arbitrariness and gratuitous suffering we find in the world. Cosmopsychism sounds weird, but it accounts for the data.

Comment: Goff's answer with his pan-agentialism view in next entry. Note this interview discuses fine-tuning for life, but nothing about the design in living organisms. This is a GLARING error in his approach. It must be a major part of the discussion.

Introducing Philip Goff and a panpsychic universe II

by David Turell @, Thursday, November 16, 2023, 19:43 (157 days ago) @ David Turell

Goff's own explanation of his theories:

https://aeon.co/essays/why-our-universe-can-have-cosmic-purpose-without-god?utm_source=...

"by the age of 14 I self-identified as an atheist. It never occurred to me that there was a credible option between these identities: the religious and the secular. Of course, I was aware of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ category, but I was socialised to think this option was unserious and essentially ‘fluffy thinking’. And thus I remained a happy atheist for the next 25 years.

***

"The two arguments I was finding compelling – the fine-tuning argument for ‘God’, and the argument from evil and suffering against ‘God’ – were not actually opposed to each other. The argument from evil and suffering targets a very specific kind of God, namely the Omni-God: all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe. Meanwhile, the fine-tuning argument supports something much more generic, some kind of cosmic purpose or goal-directedness towards life that might not be attached to a supernatural designer. So if you go for cosmic purpose but not one rooted in the desires of an Omni-God, then you can have your cake and eat it by accepting both arguments. (my bold)

***

"One of the most fascinating developments in modern science is the surprising discovery of recent decades that the laws of physics are fine tuned for life. This means that, for life to be possible, certain numbers in physics had to fall within an incredibly narrow range. Like Goldilocks’s porridge, these numbers had to be just right, not too big and not too small.

***

"Fundamentally, we face a choice. Either:

"...it’s a coincidence that, of all the possible values that the finely tuned constants of physics may have had, they just happen to have the right values for life;
or:

"the constants have those values because they are right for life.
The former option is wildly improbable; on a conservative estimate, the odds of getting finely tuned constants by chance is less than 1 in 10^136. The latter option amounts to a belief that something at the fundamental level of reality is directed towards the emergence of life. I call this kind of fundamental goal-directedness ‘cosmic purpose’. (my bold)

"Fine-tuning being a fluke is massively more improbable than bank thieves getting a combination right by chance.

***

"I focus on the work of the great philosopher of religion Richard Swinburne in responding to the problem of evil. Swinburne argues that there are goods that exist in our universe that would not exist in one with less suffering. If we just lived in some kind of Disneyland-esque world with no danger or risk, then there would be no opportunities to show real courage in the face of adversity, or to feel deep compassion for those who suffer. The absence of such serious moral choices would be a great cost, according to Swinburne.

"Even if we concede that this is indeed a cost, I don’t believe that God would have the right to cause or allow suffering in order to allow for these goods.

***

"I think a better option is a limited designer who has made the best universe they are able to make. Perhaps the designer of our universe would have loved to create intelligent life in an instant, avoiding all the misery of natural selection, but their only option was to create a universe from a singularity, with the right physics, so that it will eventually evolve intelligent life. Maybe our limited designer feels awful about how messy such a process inevitably is, but it was that or nothing. (my bold)

***

"For these reasons, I think overall the best theory of cosmic purpose is cosmopsychism, the view that the universe is itself a conscious mind with its own goals.

***

"I think human life can be very meaningful even if there is no cosmic purpose, so long as we engage in meaningful activities, such as kindness, creativity and the pursuit of knowledge. But, if there is cosmic purpose, then life is potentially more meaningful. We want our lives to make a difference. If we can contribute, even in some tiny way, to the good purposes of the whole of reality, this is about as big a difference as we can imagine making."

Comment: He proposes a mind (God) with limited ability to explain why we have evil. You will note that is exactly what I have proposed in stating my all-knowing God knows His limits, because He is all-knowing. That means He is all-powerful with limits. I followed Goff's same development in thoughts when I was 53, but I included delving into biochemical complexity. Goff did not. That is a glaring vacuum in his studies. Once you are deeply involved in following Intelligent Design theories there must be a more complex entity than his 'universe being a conscious mind', as a God substitute.

Goff and Dembski

by dhw, Friday, November 17, 2023, 14:18 (156 days ago) @ David Turell

I don’t have time to write a detailed response to all of this, so I’ll just pick on a selection of points:

GOFF: "The two arguments I was finding compelling – the fine-tuning argument for ‘God’, and the argument from evil and suffering against ‘God’ – were not actually opposed to each other. The argument from evil and suffering targets a very specific kind of God, namely the Omni-God: all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe.

Of course evil and suffering are not an argument against the existence of God but against a particular concept of a possible God’s nature. I agree with you, David, that biological complexity is a basic argument for God’s existence (which he omits), and the very concept of an unknown, eternal and sourceless consciousness which creates billions of stars that come and go for no apparent purpose is a basic argument against God, which he also omits.

GOFF: Meanwhile, the fine-tuning argument supports something much more generic, some kind of cosmic purpose or goal-directedness towards life that might not be attached to a supernatural designer.

The only alternative I can see to chance and a supernatural designer (or designers) would be that a bunch of non-living materials consciously decided to organize themselves in such a way that they would produced conditions suitable for life. Panpsychism ad absurdum.

GOFF: "One of the most fascinating developments in modern science is the surprising discovery of recent decades that the laws of physics are fine tuned for life.

I doubt if anyone interested in this field would have been surprised to hear that if conditions hadn’t been suitable for life, we wouldn’t have had life, and we have all been told a thousand times how colossal are the odds against the right combination. So atheists opt for chance, and theists opt for design.

GOFF: The latter option amounts to a belief that something at the fundamental level of reality is directed towards the emergence of life. I call this kind of fundamental goal-directedness ‘cosmic purpose’. (David’s bold)

You can’t detach purpose from whatever has that purpose and acts to fulfil that purpose. And I really don’t see how anything that has a purpose and acts to fulfil that purpose can be anything other than a form of consciousness. He rightly says that “Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness goes down to the fundamental building of matter. Fundamental particles or fields have incredibly rudimentary forms of consciousness…” I suggest it would take more than an incredibly rudimentary form of consciousness to fine-tune inanimate materials in such a way that they are suitable for life. Something” with a “cosmic purpose” is what theists call “God” – a “supernatural designer”. What other name does he want to give it?

Goff goes on to deal with the problem of theodicy, though he never mentions the word, and quotes Richard Swinburne’s argument that evil is necessary for good to take full effect. This is not far removed from Leibniz’s view that this is the best of all possible worlds, but it has nothing to do with God’s existence, and Goff himself disapproves of the idea anyway: “I don’t believe that God would have the right to cause or allow suffering in order to allow for these goods.” I don’t know who grants rights to God, but I have to agree that I too would prefer the notion of a limited God to that of a sadist who wishes to create suffering. Who wouldn't?

GOFF: "I think a better option is a limited designer who has made the best universe they are able to make." (dhw's bold)

Reasonable enough. Exit the all-powerful God of most monotheistic religions.

Goff: "For these reasons, I think overall the best theory of cosmic purpose is cosmopsychism, the view that the universe is itself a conscious mind with its own goals.”

What is a cosmic, conscious mind with its own goals if it's not what some folk call "God"?

GOFF: "I think human life can be very meaningful even if there is no cosmic purpose, so long as we engage in meaningful activities, such as kindness, creativity and the pursuit of knowledge.”

And so say all of us.

DAVID: You will note that is exactly what I have proposed in stating my all-knowing God knows His limits, because He is all-knowing. That means He is all-powerful with limits.

Stop there. How can anything or anyone be all-powerful with limits???

Dembski’s latest book

QUOTE: “Such analyses demonstrate evidence for design that is now so clear and rigorous that, for intellectually honest and sincere seekers of the truth, denying it is no longer feasible."

Why on earth Dembski has to offer all the preceding, complicated analogies I do not know. All he needs to say is what David says in his comments: the complexity of living forms is such that it can only have been designed. Ten times simpler than the rest, and totally to the point!

Goff and Dembski

by David Turell @, Friday, November 17, 2023, 16:25 (156 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I don’t have time to write a detailed response to all of this, so I’ll just pick on a selection of points:

GOFF: "The two arguments I was finding compelling – the fine-tuning argument for ‘God’, and the argument from evil and suffering against ‘God’ – were not actually opposed to each other. The argument from evil and suffering targets a very specific kind of God, namely the Omni-God: all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe.

Of course evil and suffering are not an argument against the existence of God but against a particular concept of a possible God’s nature. I agree with you, David, that biological complexity is a basic argument for God’s existence (which he omits), and the very concept of an unknown, eternal and sourceless consciousness which creates billions of stars that come and go for no apparent purpose is a basic argument against God, which he also omits.

GOFF: Meanwhile, the fine-tuning argument supports something much more generic, some kind of cosmic purpose or goal-directedness towards life that might not be attached to a supernatural designer.

The only alternative I can see to chance and a supernatural designer (or designers) would be that a bunch of non-living materials consciously decided to organize themselves in such a way that they would produced conditions suitable for life. Panpsychism ad absurdum.

GOFF: "One of the most fascinating developments in modern science is the surprising discovery of recent decades that the laws of physics are fine tuned for life.

I doubt if anyone interested in this field would have been surprised to hear that if conditions hadn’t been suitable for life, we wouldn’t have had life, and we have all been told a thousand times how colossal are the odds against the right combination. So atheists opt for chance, and theists opt for design.

GOFF: The latter option amounts to a belief that something at the fundamental level of reality is directed towards the emergence of life. I call this kind of fundamental goal-directedness ‘cosmic purpose’. (David’s bold)

You can’t detach purpose from whatever has that purpose and acts to fulfil that purpose. And I really don’t see how anything that has a purpose and acts to fulfil that purpose can be anything other than a form of consciousness. He rightly says that “Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness goes down to the fundamental building of matter. Fundamental particles or fields have incredibly rudimentary forms of consciousness…” I suggest it would take more than an incredibly rudimentary form of consciousness to fine-tune inanimate materials in such a way that they are suitable for life. Something” with a “cosmic purpose” is what theists call “God” – a “supernatural designer”. What other name does he want to give it?

Goff goes on to deal with the problem of theodicy, though he never mentions the word, and quotes Richard Swinburne’s argument that evil is necessary for good to take full effect. This is not far removed from Leibniz’s view that this is the best of all possible worlds, but it has nothing to do with God’s existence, and Goff himself disapproves of the idea anyway: “I don’t believe that God would have the right to cause or allow suffering in order to allow for these goods.” I don’t know who grants rights to God, but I have to agree that I too would prefer the notion of a limited God to that of a sadist who wishes to create suffering. Who wouldn't?

GOFF: "I think a better option is a limited designer who has made the best universe they are able to make." (dhw's bold)

Reasonable enough. Exit the all-powerful God of most monotheistic religions.

Goff: "For these reasons, I think overall the best theory of cosmic purpose is cosmopsychism, the view that the universe is itself a conscious mind with its own goals.”

What is a cosmic, conscious mind with its own goals if it's not what some folk call "God"?

GOFF: "I think human life can be very meaningful even if there is no cosmic purpose, so long as we engage in meaningful activities, such as kindness, creativity and the pursuit of knowledge.”

And so say all of us.

DAVID: You will note that is exactly what I have proposed in stating my all-knowing God knows His limits, because He is all-knowing. That means He is all-powerful with limits.

dhw: Stop there. How can anything or anyone be all-powerful with limits???

I've been saying it all along: I don't accept the Biblical view of God. My All-powerful God knows exactly the limits of what can be accomplished with the materials in hand, materials He created first. Remember He is all-knowing.


Dembski’s latest book

QUOTE: “Such analyses demonstrate evidence for design that is now so clear and rigorous that, for intellectually honest and sincere seekers of the truth, denying it is no longer feasible."

dhw: Why on earth Dembski has to offer all the preceding, complicated analogies I do not know. All he needs to say is what David says in his comments: the complexity of living forms is such that it can only have been designed. Ten times simpler than the rest, and totally to the point!

Dembski has created mathematical formulas to describe his philosophical theories about proof of design. Many ID folks use his formulas in arguments.

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