[ExI] How not to make a thought experiment

Spencer Campbell lacertilian at gmail.com
Sun Feb 7 22:24:57 UTC 2010

I am now officially arguing with John Clark. Cover your eyes,
everybody, 'cause this is gonna get real ugly, real fast.

John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>:
> Since my last post Gordon Swobe has posted 5 times.
> I consider myself a materialist
> Gordon considers himself a rationalist too, but we all know that is not the
> case.

False. I consider him a rationalist. Therefore, we do not all know
that is not the case.

Rationalism dictates that reason alone is sufficient to produce
knowledge. Gordon trusts absolutely in his powers of reason, even when
the material evidence contradicts him: the very model of a

> But what? If Gordon believes an amoeba acts intelligently (something I will
> not defend) then he has absolutely no reason to believe it is not conscious,
> except perhaps for a mysterious little voice in his head whispering
> otherwise.

Point one: leukocytes, such as the one in the (fantastic) video that's
been floating around here, obviously behave intelligently when it
comes to chasing down and devouring foreign bodies. It does not make
sense to say they don't. And no, I will not repeat my definition of
intelligence again!

Point two: all beliefs are mysterious little voices whispering in
someone's head. If you believe otherwise, clearly you are delusional
and/or have never read the relevant Lewis Carrol story.


Point three: if you really must insist on a logical-sounding reason to
claim that a leukocyte might be intelligent but not conscious, I
suggest you ask Gordon for one directly rather than trying to goad him
into defending his honor. Of course this assumes you're actually
trying to further the discussion, rather than simply shouting libel
into the aether for its own sake (as I am now).

> And let me repeat for the 422 time that Gordon's ideas and Darwin's are 100%
> incompatible.

I take it you've read On the Origin of Species. I have not.

Quote a passage that contradicts Gordon's ideas, please? I have my
doubts that he says much about consciousness directly, but if you can
even come up with something IMPLICITLY incompatible I would be

> If consciousness and intelligence are not linked them science
> has no explanation how consciousness came to be on planet Earth, and yet we
> know with absolute certainty that it did at least once and probably many
> billions of times.

Do we John? Do we know that? With absolute certainty, no less.

> People, this is not a minor point, this is a show stopper
> as far as Gordon's ideas are concerned. Charles Darwin had the single best
> idea that any human being ever had and it is at the center of all the
> biological sciences. Either Gordon Swobe is the greatest genius the human
> race has ever produced or the man is dead wrong.

If you say so, if you say so, and if you say so, respectively.

No one in the history of the universe has ever come anywhere close to
John Clark's astounding mastery of hyperbole. If the loudest
philosopher wins, we're done.

> I must confess to being a little disappointed in Extropians because I seem
> to be the only one who sees how important Evolution is; instead they dispute
> Gordon on some obscure point in his latest ridiculous thought experiment.

It disturbs me on a visceral level that you capitalize the E in
"evolution" like that, but I'll disregard it for the purposes of

Of course evolution is important. In general. However, it isn't the
least bit important for someone concerned with comprehending the logic
of Gordon Swobe well enough to start agreeing with him or to show him
where he went wrong.

It does not matter whether or not a given thought experiment is
ridiculous if the person who came up with it believes it isn't, and
the only way to even THEORETICALLY convince them otherwise is to pick
at the most obscure points in it. You can expect they've already
noticed the least obscure.

> Real experiments take precedence over thought experiments and planet Earth
> has been conducting one for the last 3 billion years. The results of that
> experiment are unambiguous, consciousness and intelligence MUST be linked
> and if you or me or Gordon doesn't understand exactly how that could be it
> doesn't change the fact that it is.

One: life is not an experiment. Two: the earth can not conduct
experiments. Three: I'm sorry but I can't stop myself from using a
stereotypical southern creationist voice when I read that paragraph.

Reel experamints teyk press-a-dents.

Not to a rationalist, they don't.

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