PHIL: Church vs Turing

John K Clark (
Tue, 14 Jan 1997 20:51:11 -0800 (PST)


Date: Mon, 13 Jan 1997 Eliezer Yudkowsky <>

>>I agree, it has nothing to do with intelligence or Free Will
>>or religion. So what's your point?

>Exactly. Double dissociation. Noncomputable != religious;
>you can have computable souls or noncomputable minds.

Hold on there partner. The "it" in my quote above refers to randomness.
Things either happen because of cause and effect or they don't and if they
don't then they are by definition random, but happenstance is the very
opposite of intelligence and even emotion. That is why I said it had nothing
to do with intelligence or religion.

You're making A HUGE unjustified leap in logic, that If an atom is acting in
a truly random manner that proves there is a Super Turing Machine inside,
engaged in a Noncomputable but logical process telling the atom what to do.
In truth, if a atom is acting in a truly random manner it means that there is
absolutely no reason why the atom does what it does. After all, there is no
logical reason to think that for every event there must be a cause and it
must come before the event in a time sequence. You could even make a case
that logic would prefer some things not have a cause, infinite regression
sometimes makes logic a little queasy.

On the other hand, if there really is a super Turing Machine inside an atom
telling it what to do, it would be very hard for us to distinguish it from
true randomness. Even so, digital information would still be the essence of
what you and I are, because that determines how those super Turing Machines
(atoms) are connected to each other, and if there is one thing we know with
absolute experimental certainty it is that the position of atoms in the brain
can change consciousness. Both drugs and a bullet in the head can change the
arrangement of those atoms in the brain and both can also without a doubt
change consciousness.

One question: If we have all these trillions of little Super Turing Machines
in our brain, how come we can't solve at least one of the many well known
NP complete problems in polynomial time? Seems like it should be easy.

>I don't share your pessimism; you seem to think that anything
>Noncomputable is never going to be explained

If an event does not have a cause there is nothing to explain.

>it seems to me that noncomputable things exerting causal
>influences on our Universe are part of the "laws of physics"
>and can thus be examined by the tools of science.

If an event does not have a cause there is nothing to examine.

>"bits" really aren't well-defined at all.

It gives me fits, it's the pits, when people pick nits in the definition of
bits. Sorry.

Flaws can be found in any definition but bits are as well-defined as anything
in human knowledge, and one hell of a lot better defined than the "The Soul"
or "God". Besides, good definitions are always nice to have but are grossly

>Can you demonstrate that noncomputability has any religious

I will try to be as precise as I can in this rather murky area.
Non-computability in the quantum world has already been demonstrated, at
least to my satisfaction, it has few if any religious implications.
Non-computability has not been demonstrated in the working's of the human
mind but it seems likely to me that at least to some it extent it exists,
but only in the form of randomness so again, it has few if any religious

I would be very surprised if there was something like a Super Turing Machine
in an atom, like something that had more than a countable infinite,
(the number of integers) number of squares on its tape, something that
had a larger infinite number of squares to work with, like the number of
Real numbers. A real brain or computer or Super Turing machine is
not an abstraction but an object made of physical parts. So far nobody has
found a countable infinite number of any physical object, and that is the
smallest infinite number. If nature could find an even larger infinite number
of physical parts, fit them inside an atom, and then organize them into
a sort of machine, that would be incredible, I would be astounded but I don't
think I'd join a monastery because you WOULD still have something complex
doing complex things, logic could still help you figure things out.

What would make me shave my head and put on my saffron robes is if something
simple and had no parts could produce something as complex and glorious as
consciousness or even intelligence. I'm willing to accept the Bit and
Induction as axioms, but I draw the line at consciousness, it would mean that
science could not help us in the one area that was most interesting to every
one of us. Science would be like plumbing, useful at times but dull as

>can you specifically demonstrate that anyone claiming
>noncomputability for the mind does so from religious reasons
>which override rationality to the point that their argument
>need not be considered?

No. I'll consider anything and I do my best to take a person's argument at
face value and not play amateur Sigmund Freud and try to guess why the people
I debate have the views they do. I hope others act the same with me.

>it seems to me that any computational account of the
>Universe requires a God to "breathe fire into the equations
>and make them live" [Hawking].

Hawking is very well known for his uncompromising atheism, I can't help but
think you're taking that quote out of context. By the way, this sounds like a
pyramid scheme to me, who is going to breathe fire into god and make him live?

>Care to explain to me how *one* particular Turing machine,
>and not all the others, can spontaneously come into

I can not explain it, nor can I explain why there is something rather than
nothing and if the God hypothesis could explain it then the only logical
thing for me to do would be to become a holly roller, but it can not. If God
does exist I'm quite sure She's pondering this question too.

John K Clark

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