The Parable of the Corn Ear Picture

Part of an ongoing conversation, or, rather, part of my penance for past sins.

The local village materialist says, as he has said so often before:

I am trying to take things step by step. Let us ignore Mechaspeare for a moment and concentrate on Shakespeare.

1. Collect his atomic information, making a list of numbers. Call it list A.
2. Perform classical-mechanics calculations upon list A. This creates a new list, list B.
3. Collect his atomic information again, making list C.
4. Compare lists B and C.

Do you disagree that list B is unique, that there is only one possible set of numbers we can get from classical mechanics and a starting position?

Do you agree that list B must either agree or disagree with list C?

Do you agree that if it disagrees, then Shakespeare’s atoms are not described by classical mechanics? (Please observe, I say nothing about the case when the two lists agree, that is a separate question.)

Please do not jump ahead into interpretations about what it all means. Just answer the questions.

Jump ahead? I am aghast at your chutzpah, sir. You want me to answer the questions without interpreting the questions. You should ask me whether or not I have stopped beating my wife. Or at least ask unambiguous questions.

We have discussed this many, many, many times. Your most recent question is more clever at hiding the hidden assumption which makes it a circular argument, but, no, list B is not unique, for the simple reason that the assumption at step 1 deliberately disregards the crucial information needed to perform the calculation at step 2.

Perhaps an analogy would help.

Let us assume a physical system much simpler than a human being. Assume we are looking at a grid of colored tiles, like a checkerboard, or like the pixels of a gif image. The grid is composed of tiles.

Each tile has two variables: it is a certain degree of brightness along the black to gray to white spectrum, and it is a certain shade of greenness from yellow to green to blue.

Got it? Two variables, the degree of brightness and the degree of greenness. Two, not one. Two.

The grid contains a duotone picture of some green and yellow object, let us say a leafy ear of corn on a dappled blue background.

Let us also assume the color picture is in motion, according to the rules of a game. There are two rules.

The first rule states that when a dark tile is surrounded by four bright tiles, it flips the tile from dark to bright and moves to the west one position and north two positions, a knight’s move. This is called the dark-bright rule.

The second rule says that when a yellow tile is surrounded one four sides by blue tiles, it flips the tile from yellow to blue and moves east two positions and south one position, also a knight’s move. This is called the yellow-blue rule.

Now let us take two trials of this game step by step, using your same method. The starting picture is the same in both trials, the ear of corn. Each tile is in the same location on the grid.

In the first trial, we use both sets of rules, the dark-bright rule on odd moves and the yellow-blue rule on even moves.

1. Collect the tile information, including position of each tile, its brightness, and its hue. Call this list A.

2. Perform a calculation of the game for both sets of rules on it in your imagination for a given number of game moves. Call this list B.

3. Perform the same number of game moves using both set of rules by moving and flipping tiles with your finger on the grid. This is list C.

4. Compare list C and B.

You should get the same result on C and B.

Second trial:

1. Collect part of the tile information, including position of each tile, its brightness, but NOT its hue. Call this list D.

2. Perform a calculation of the game rules for the dark-bright game ONLY in your imagination for a given number of game moves. You are performing the odd numbered moves only. Call this list E.

3. Perform the same number of game moves using BOTH set of rules by moving and flipping tiles with your finger on the grid. You are performing both odd and even numbered moves. This is list F

4. Compare list E and F.

You cannot get the same result on E and F, except by odd coincidence.

Now, let us further suppose we are talking to an oddball character who is, or pretends to be, colorblind, such that when you point out to him that tiles have yellow or blue color, he insists that yellow and blue can be deduced from the shades of gray of the brightness of the tile. He says blue is a shade of gray. He says there is not two variables, but only one.

He asks you persistently to run the trials of the game, all the while insisting that the first trial MUST be the same as the second trial, because brightness is the same as color. He insists that there are not two variables to the tiles, grayness and greenness, but only one, grayness.

When you ask him why he thinks so, he does not answer, but merely repeats the assertion.

He talks to you for three years, and in that time, you cannot get him to admit that yellow and blue and green exist at all. He says it is all gray, and that only gray is real.

Is my analogy too deep for you? You are the colorblind oddball. The yellow-green-blue variable of the tile is the mental information. The dark-gray-white variable of the tile is the physical information.

Your thought experiment asks me to collect all the ‘information’ about Shakespeare without telling me whether or not I am collecting information about the color variable, mind information, or not. If I am not collecting that information, then no, obviously no, physical mechanics will not predict his bodily motions. If the information includes the color variable, and if my mechanics somehow also contains rules for predicting future mental states from past mental states, then yes obviously yes, the mental-physical combined mechanics will predict his bodily motions.

So do not give me any nonsense about merely writing up columns of numbers, asking me not to anticipate your argument. Your question as it stands makes no sense, because you are not saying what the numbers represent. You are not saying if the atomic information includes mental information. You are not saying whether the classical mechanics can predict mental states as well as physical states.

Because you cannot and will not control your variables, because you cannot and will not ask an unambiguous question, the only answer that can be given is a conditional. Namely:  IF panphysicalism is a correct model of the universe, THEN all information, mental and physical, is inside your numbers and all future states, mental and physical, could be predicted from a sufficiently accurate model of the universe.  But IF not THEN not.

You are not controlling your variables. You are not defining your terms.

Your thought experiment about writing up columns of numbers means exactly nothing because you are once again making a circular argument, assuming what you what to prove.



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