Re: You can't prove a negative!

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 09:03:07 -0700 (PDT)

> I am getting really concerned by what passes for "logic" in these recent
> discussions. Most of the arguments here lately seem to boil down to random
> theories with no supporting evidence. When someone objects, the defense is
> "you can't prove I'm not right." This is not logical, not scientific, and
> not Extropian.

There is also a place for boundless speculation, and I don't think this list is inapropriate for that. Certainly it's true that the tendency of humans to apply less scientific rigor to things we want to be true infects Extropians too, and where that manifests itself it should be pointed out. But not to the exclusion of the idle dreamers that give us something to think about.

It's also unclear sometimes which side of an issue Occam's razor falls on. Take, for example, the question of whether a computer of human-equivalent intelligence would be conscious. On one side there is the camp that says we've never seen anything like consciousness from a machine or any other artifact, so we have no reason to assume that it's possible. I fall on the other side, but also for what I believe is Occam's razor: in hundreds of years of study, we've never found anything special or unique about the human mind, so why assume that there is anything special about consciousness? Of course my dog is conscious, and why wouldn't an equivalently complex computer be?

I am wary of the fact that I would indeed /like/ the latter to be true (many religious thinkers, I suspect, would prefer that there be something unique and precious about humanity--a desire that no doubt motivates creationists and other crackpots). This makes me suspicious of my motives for believing it is true, but I honestly believe that I have applied reason correctly in this case, just as some of those on the other side honestly believe they have as well. More data will make things clearer, but until then, I am loathe to condemn even the wildest speculations on the issue.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
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