Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Intelligent Design Links Epistemology to Ontology (Part 2)

Part 1 pointed out that while Dr. Searle's Chinese Room Argument may successfully preserve a non-mechanical intuition of intelligence, it does so at the cost of eliminating our ability to detect other intelligences.  The argument saves our mind by beheading us, to put the problem figuratively.

Intelligent Design provides a way for us to sew our heads back onto our bodies.  While the Chinese room shows there is a logical difference between syntax and semantics, there may be more to the story. While semantics cannot be embedded within syntax, syntax may embed the signs of semantics.  In other words, certain syntactical sentences may possess properties that show they contain meaning, even if the signs do not display what the meaning is that is contained.

As an analogy, consider buildings and occupants.  Many different types of occupants can be contained by many different types of buildings, and the building exterior in itself may not tell you anything about its occupants.  This is why we have signs.  The signs tell us that something of interest is contained within the building, even if we might not understand what that something is.

ID makes this very same claim about syntax.  Certain syntactical configurations exhibit a property known as complex specified information.  This property is only exhibited when the configuration is the product of an intelligent agent.  This property cannot tell us, by itself, whether the configuration possesses meaning.  However, since we know only intelligent agents create meaning, it tells us that the configuration may possess meaning.  While we might interpret some product of natural forces to be meaningful, it is not actually intentionally communicating meaning to us.  The communication of meaning is only something that intelligent agents do.

This is how ID sews our heads back on.  Even though it does not give us access to the semantics, it at least is a definitive signpost telling us that minds other than our own exist, and based on introspection, we know that these other minds are capable of and possibly interested in communicating.  Thus, when we perceive meaning in an identified product of intelligent agency, we have good reason to believe that the meaning is real.  And that is how ID allows us to use the exterior syntax of the Chinese room to access interior semantics of the translator's mind.

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