Re: Intelligence, Aesthetics and Bayesianism: Game over!

From: Tom Caylor <>
Date: Sat, 9 Aug 2008 00:44:02 -0700 (PDT)

I believe that nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily
And this from a theist? Yes! This is actually to the core point of
why I am a theist. I don't blame people for not believing in God if
they think God is about functionality.


On Jul 29, 2:20 am, wrote:
> Two issues I wish to mention, here.
> Firstly, I present a few rapid-fire ideas about objective morality,
> culminating in an integration of aesthetics, intelligence, and
> morality, all in a few brief sentences ;)
> Secondly, I give a mention to computer scientist Randy Pausch, who
> recently died.
> As regards the first issue:
> It’s been said there are clear ways to determine physical and
> mathematical facts, but nothing similar for values. But, in point (2)
> below I point out what appears to be an objectively existing set of
> values which underlies *all* of science.  I present two brief but
> profound points that I what readers to consider and ponder carefully:
> Point (1) there is a clear evolution to the universe. It started from
> a low-entropy-density state, and is moving towards a higher-entropy
> density, which, remarkably, just happens to coincide with an increase
> in physical complexity with time. In the beginning the universe was in
> a state with *the lowest possible* entropy. This is expressed in the
> laws of thermodynamics and big bang cosmology. So it simply isn’t true
> that there is no teleology (purpose) built into the universe. The laws
> of thermodynamics and modern cosmology (big bang theory) clearly
> express the fact that there is.
> Point (2) the whole of science relies on Occam’s razor, the idea that
> the universe is in some sense ‘simple’. It must be emphasized that
> Occam’s razor pervades all of science – it is not simply some sort of
> ‘add on’. As Popper pointed out, an infinite number of theories could
> explain any given set of observations; therefore any inductive
> generalization requires a principle – Occam’s razor – to get any
> useful results at all.
> Here is the point that most haven’t quite grasped - Occam’s razor is
> *a set of aesthetic principles* - the notion of ‘simplicity’ is *a set
> of aesthetic principles*; Why? Because it is simply another way of
> saying that some representations are more *elegant* than others, which
> is the very notion of aesthetics! I repeat: the whole of science only
> works because of a set of *aesthetic principles* - a *set of values*.
> If all values are only subjective preferences, it would follow that
> the whole of science relies on subjective preferences. But subjective
> preferences have only existed as long as sentiments – therefore how
> could physical laws have functioned before sentiments? The idea that
> all values are subjective leads to a direct and blatant logical
> contradiction.
> Both these points are related and simply inexplicable without
> appealing to objective terminal values. At the beginning of time the
> universe was in the simplest possible state (minimal entropy density).
> Why? Occam’s razor is wide-ranging and pervades the whole of science.
> The simple is favored over the complex – that is– Occam’s razor is a
> set of aesthetic value judgments without which not a single Bayesian
> result could be obtained.
> *Every single Bayesian result rests on these implicit value judgments*
> to set priors. It must be repeated that *not one single scientific
> result could be obtained* without these secret (implicit) value
> judgments which set priors, that our defenders of the Bayesian faith
> on these forums are trying to pretend are not part of science!
> The secret to intelligence is aesthetics, not Bayesian math.
> Initially, this statement seems preposterous, but the argument in the
> next paragraph is my whole point, so it merits careful reading (the
> paragraph is marked with a * to show this is the crux of this post):
> *As regards the optimization of science, the leverage obtained from
> setting the priors (Occam’s razor – aesthetics – art) is far greater
> that that obtained from logical manipulations to update probabilities
> based on additional empirical data (math). Remember, the aesthetic
> principles used to set the priors (Occam’s razor) reduce a potentially
> infinite set of possible theories to a manageable (finite) number,
> whereas laborious mathematical probability updates based on incoming
> empirical data (standard Bayesian theory) is only guaranteed to
> converge on the correct theory after an infinite time, and even then
> the reason for the convergence is entirely inexplicable.
> The * paragraph suggests that aesthetics is the real basis of
> intelligence, not Bayesian math, and further that aesthetic terminal
> values are objectively real.
> For those who do initially find these claims preposterous, to help
> overcome your initial disbelief, I point to a superb essay from well-
> respected computer hacker, Paul Graham, who explains why aesthetics
> plays a far greater role in science than many have realized:
> ‘Taste for Makers’:
> As regards the second issue, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to
> computer scientist Randy Pausch. Randy Pausch was a computer scientist
> who developed the famous ‘Alice’ software to teach programming in a
> virtual reality setting. He was a virtual reality expert, a professor
> in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. In
> August, 2007 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 3-6
> months to live. He gave a famous ‘Last Lecture’ which spread virally
> (via ‘YouTube’) and inspired millions (this was followed by a book
> ‘The Last Lecture’). He died on 25th July, 2008 .
> The Randy Pausch Memorial Footbridge connects the Gates Center for
> Computer Science, with an adjacent arts building, symbolizing the
> bridge between art and science.
> Randy Pausch Home Page:
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Received on Sat Aug 09 2008 - 03:44:07 PDT

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