my favorite logician is the Big Bang

scott adams ("the dilbert guy") posts on his blog today about the notion of "intelligence" and using it to identify an intelligent creator. basically his point is that "something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence," like writing a great novel, and then he applies a somewhat dubious reductio to say, basically, that if something created something that performs tasks that require intelligence, then that creator is intelligent. reductio reductio reductio until suddenly he says we do have an intelligent creator, and that creator is the Big Bang.

against my better instincts i posted a comment, but there are like nine billion comments on the post and i'm pretty sure mine will get lost in the morass. and i only addressed half the issue:

i think the problem here is that we're lacking a definition of "intelligent." the components of intelligence that you cite independently of one another - intentional communication, analytical reasoning, strategy, creativity - all together comprise what we think of as "intelligence," plus a whole bunch of other stuff: emotional intuition, ethical practice, on and on and on.

the problem isn't identifying an intelligent creator. the problem is identifying "intelligence."

and i think, just like words like "mind" and "soul" and "essence," "intelligence" is a red herring - something we can fall back on to separate ourselves from others, lessers, and unknowns.

besides the lack of a definition for "intelligence," i think scott's backpedal to the Big Bang being "intelligent" is just silly.

but then, the more i think that this is so illogical and so wrong, the more that i worry that his post was typed with tongue solidly in cheek, and i'm just not picking up on it. which makes me question my own intelligence.


-j. said...

I can only assume it's tongue-in-cheek. He also commits the nominal fallacy, and contradicts himself at least once.

One such egregiousness: why can we ascribe "intelligence" to Melville for writing Moby Dick when we supposedly can't ascribe it to the Martian blob for writing something else?

The entire argument is faulty to say the least, and I can't really imagine it's to be taken seriously.

Marcin said...

I can't tell whether or not you're joking about knowing that he's joking. Also, you have rejected my rsgaberry, and I hate you for it.