Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis



Why Should We Believe Atheists on the Subject of God?

Logic and evidence both point to the existence of God, whatever atheists may think

Noting a recent article by philosopher Steve Meyer at The Federalist, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor comments, The public square is replete with books and articles written by atheist scientists claiming that cosmology or genetics or evolution properly understood disproves the existence of God. These atheist scientists profoundly misunderstand the implications of their science; they couldn’t be more wrong. As in his new book, The Return of the God Hypothesis, Dr. Meyer points to three particularly clear advances in modern science. Michael Egnor, “The God Hypothesis Versus Atheist Science Denial” at Evolution News and Science Today (April 5, 2021) The three arguments he addresses are ● The Big Bang: “The existence of a moment of beginning of our universe in an almost…

Flying Car, Future Air Car 3d Concept, Futuristic Vehicle In The City,  Car Concept - 3D Rendering

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Futurism Doesn’t Mean Smarter People?

Comic scenes would dot the aerial landscape, dispelling the usual earnestness of sci-fi films

“Floaters” at DUST by Karl Poyzer and Joseph Roberts (March 25, 2021, 4:03 min) “High in the sky of a sci-fi metropolis a lone spaceship is confronted by a much larger and more intimidating vessel. When the bigger ship asks the small one why they share the same identification number a strange quandary forms and a mile-high debate ensues.” This comic short (4 min) makes clear that a futurist landscape need not be inhabited by evolved superheroes or philosophical aliens. It could be inhabited by the same sort of people the traffic cop stops every day. Or denser. This animated film uses architectural rather than cartoon style. It also uses a technique too often neglected these days*: We hear the…

3d render dinosaur.

Neuralink Cofounder: We Can Bring “Exotic” Dinosaurs To Life Now

Whether Max Hodak can do that or not, many scientists ponder, when SHOULD we try to bring back extinct species?

Neuralink is currently best known for brain-computer interfaces, including a test monkey playing pong ball with his mind. But Elon Musk’s co-founder Max Hodak has a bigger idea: Breed and engineer “super exotic novel species”of dinosaurs: “We could probably build Jurassic Park if we wanted to,” Hodak tweeted on Saturday. “Wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs but [shrugging emoji]. Maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get super exotic novel species.” Dan Robitzski, “Neuralink Co-founder Says We Have the Tech to Build An Actual Jurassic Park” at Futurism Any life forms that resulted from dino DNA studies would not be “genetically authentic” dinosaurs because we don’t have living dinosaur sexual cells to work with. They might, however, be more or…

Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is exploring surface of Mars. Perseverance rover Mission Mars exploration of red planet. Space exploration, science concept. .Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Why Some Experts Hope We DON’T Find Life on Mars

Many thinkers worry about what will happen if the extraterrestrials land. But will they feel worse if we never find ET?

Recently, prominent theoretical physicist Michio Kaku (pictured) told media that reaching out to extraterrestrials is a “terrible idea.” Kaku, author of The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything (2021). So long SETI, after all these years? Well, not quite. He explains, Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago.…

Mars terraforming step (Elements of this image furnished by NASA). 3D rendering
Mars terraforming step (Elements of this image furnished by NASA). 3D rendering

Sci-fi Saturday: When Terraforming Mars Means Mars-forming People

In this award-winner, the underground humans must, according to the terraforming colony's rules, deny emotion, which pretty much guarantees a story

“New Mars” at DUST by Susie Jones (March 30, 2021, 19:14 min) Earth is no more. A new generation lives underground on Mars preparing to begin a new life as the colonists of a planet which is being terraformed into a new habitable world. ‘New Mars’ is a society driven by science and logic to ensure humans will not make the same destructive decisions this time round. But two young hopefuls struggle with the intensity of their feelings – which inadvertently propels them towards an unexpected truth about their existence. (IMDB) “New Mars” premiered in 2019 and has won a number of awards. It conveys the claustrophobia of an underground world where death rules the planet’s surface. Life on a…

Young girl playing with dolphin in Xel-ha park, Rivera Maya, Mexico

The Surprising Role Dolphins Have Played in the Search for ET

Dolphins, with their apparent alien intelligence, have been seen by scientists interested in ET as a stand-in

In a recent essay, Thomas Moynihan, a researcher with Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, puts the explosion of interest in dolphin intelligence in context: It began during the Space Race (1957–1998) — which helped fuel and fund the search for extraterrestrial intelligences. Its development also coincided withe Cold War (1946–1991) between the US and the USSR. In 1961, amid the growing tensions, neuroscientist John C. Lilly claimed that he had made contact with the first “alien” intelligence. But, as Moynihan says, Lilly “wasn’t talking about little green men from Tau Ceti, he was talking of minds much closer to home: bottlenose dolphins.” Why dolphins? As Moynihan recounts, from ancient times, mariners knew that dolphins were intelligent and modern zoologists like…

saturn and moon in the sky of a barren landscape

Sci-fi Saturday: “The Big Nothing” melds sci-fi and whodunit

The combination of the sci-fi and detective genres takes some skill to pull off but this Australian crew succeeds

“The Big Nothing” at DUST by Sharptooth Pictures (March 4, 2021, 37.54) “When the captain of an isolated mining station near Saturn is murdered, Detective Lennox is sent to investigate the three remaining crew members. Centered around a series of interrogations and flashback, Lennox discovers that everyone has a motive to kill. With otherworldly threats approaching and the killer amongst them, will everybody make it off the station?” “The Big Nothing,” a sci-fi detective drama, actually premiered in 2018 as a TV miniseries. The combination of the sci-fi and detective genres takes some skill to pull off. Both genres feature conventions that producers ignore at the story’s peril. For example, sci-fi should feature science. Of course the story can be…

alien world, exoplanet in the habitable zone, planet with moon, water and plant life

Could the Universe Be Swimming in Watery Planets?

A new hypothesis of planet formation means that watery worlds may be common rather than rare

As the Mars Rover Perseverance motors around looking for evidence of past life on a now- mostly dry planet, some researchers are asking, can we be sure that most planets in our galaxy are dry? A common assumption among exoplanet experts is that most planets got their water via a chance hit early on from an icy asteroid. But researchers from the GLOBE Institute at the University of Copenhagen offer an alternative scenario, based on the millimetre-sized particles of ice and carbon that orbit all the young stars in our Milky Way galaxy. If masses of these particles are incorporated into a planet from its beginning, it isn’t a matter of chance whether the planet has water. It is a…

Chimpanzee with a hand in its mouth

Bonobo Chimpanzees Adopt Orphans, a First for Great Apes

But this story is not what it seems. Let’s cut through some pop science assumptions. The real story is an argument that humans are not just animals

There’s been a stir recently among primate zoologists around two female bonobos who adopted infants from outside their group: During observations at the Luo Scientific Reserve in Wamba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the scientists saw the mother bonobos (Pan paniscus) carrying, grooming, nursing, and sharing food with their adoptees, who were in excellent health and treated well by their new social groups. The team’s analysis of DNA extracted from the infants’ faeces confirmed that the youngsters were genetically unrelated to the groups they lived in. “Bonobo mums open their arms to outsider orphans” at Nature Why do they do it? Various explanations are offered: The researchers suggest, “In both cases, adoptees had no maternal kin-relationship with their adoptive mothers.…

Castaway in bureaucracy

Gregory Chaitin on How Bureaucracy Chokes Science Today

He complains, They’re managing to make it impossible for anybody to do any real research. You have to say in advance what you’re going to accomplish. You have to have milestones, reports

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on how Stephen Wolfram’s software has taken much of the drudgery out of math. At the same time, in Chaitin’s view, a threat looms: A new, more bureaucratic, mindset threatens to take the creativity out of science, technology, and math: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 19:45 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: I was sitting down tallying, I think, the intellectual giants that have introduced new mathematical ideas, brand new. I was thinking of people like Claude Shannon, Lotfi Zadeh, yourself… I don’t know if we…

DNA Computing - Abstract Illustration

Is Computing With DNA the Wave of the Future?

We are running out of conventional space to store information and life forms’ DNA stores it much more efficiently

Why would we want to compute with DNA? Well, first, we are fast approaching the limit of how small we can make computers. So some scientists are turning to the designs in nature for help: The issue with transistors is that they now exist at the scale of a few nanometers in size—only a few silicon atoms thick. They can’t practically be made any smaller than they are now. If they get any smaller, the electrical current flowing through the transistor easily leaks out into other components nearby or deforms the transistor due to heat, rendering it useless. You need a minimum number of atoms to make the transistor work and we’ve functionally reached that limit. John Loeffler, “What is…

Futuristic Mars Space Scene with Large Moon

The Aurora Hypothesis: ET Could Risk Only Rare Contact With Us

Given the difficulties and risks of space travel, extraterrestrials with advanced technology may have visited Earth only one in a million years, researchers say

In recent months we’ve been looking at science writer Matt Williams’s coverage of the many reasons (links below) that have been advanced as to why we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Last Saturday, we considered the Percolation Hypothesis, whose beauty is its common-sense simplicity: The aliens can’t overcome the laws of physics, any more than we can. In the real world, barriers like years between communications even at the speed of light would take a toll on adventurousness. Another hypothesis that Williams has examined is our focus today, the Aurora Hypothesis, “just because planets are habitable doesn’t mean that intelligent life can colonize there.” (Williams) The thesis has had a busy life in science media. Its earliest…

Intestinal villi, mucosa intestinal. Bacteria and microbes in intestines. Microscopic villi and capillary. Human intestine, chronic disease. Hepatitis viruses, influenza, cell infections, 3D Rendering

Surprisingly, Many “Alien” Cells Live Inside Us

One zoologist thinks that they create our sense of self

At New Scientist, Graham Lawton asks us to think about them: For starters, we are chimeras: some parts of us are human, but genetically not “us”. Most, if not all, of us contain a few cells from our mother, our grandmothers and even elder siblings that infiltrated our bodies in the uterus. Women who have carried children host such cells too. “Something like 65 per cent of women, even in their 70s, when autopsies were performed, had cells in their brains that were not theirs,” says David Linden at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Chimeric cells have been found to contribute to both good and bad health, for example promoting wound healing but also triggering autoimmune disease. Graham Lawton, “Why…

Slime molds

Slime Mold: An Earthbound “Alien” That Thinks Without a Brain

Researchers are beginning to learn just how giant molds can remember things without a nervous system. What, exactly, is doing the computations?

Turns out, it’s all in the tubes. The slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a single cell, often very large. The way Physarum gets to be so large is that when it divides, the many single cells merge into one giant cell — with no nervous system: “Its body is a giant single cell made up of interconnected tubes that form intricate networks. This single amoeba-like cell may stretch several centimeters or even meters, featuring as the largest cell on earth in the Guinness Book of World Records. Technical University of Munich (TUM), “A memory without a brain” at ScienceDaily (February 23, 2021) The paper is closed access. But how does the giant Physarum cell, with no brain, mouth, limbs, or…

Asian woman is wearing facial mask during virus epidemic

Was the WHO Investigation of COVID-19’s Origin Thwarted by China?

The World Health Organization team was not really allowed to conduct a proper investigation in China

On January 14, 2021, an international team from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Wuhan in Hubei province in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. From the outset, the investigation was plagued with three issues: 1) It ‘s been a year since the outbreak in Wuhan, which makes an investigation into the origins of the outbreak difficult. 2) WHO has catered to the Chinese government since the beginning of the pandemic, and 3) the scientists involved in the investigation had to be approved by Beijing. Two of them had conflicts of interest. When the WHO team arrived, they faced additional barriers to a thorough investigation. They were quarantined for two weeks so they…

Program development concept. Young man working with computer

Why Software Cannot Just Evolve — a Demonstration

The claims for Avida — a software program that is supposed to “evolve” solutions via neo-Darwinian evolution — fail the most basic test

A Michigan State University publication headlined a media release declaring: “Evolution of learning is key to better artificial intelligence” (September 19, 2019). Reportedly, researchers used the computer simulation software, Avida, to show the “evolution of learning.” On that view, artificial intelligence arises via neo-Darwinian evolution. Really? The “Sound Bites” Were Exciting… The university’s team “composed of biologists and computer scientists used a digital evolution program that allowed them to observe tens of thousands of generations of evolution in just a few hours, a feat unachievable with living systems.” According to the release: • “The results are the first demonstration that shows the evolution of associative learning in an artificial organism without a brain.” • “While the environment was simulated, the…

Blue glowing multiverse in space

We Don’t Live in a Multiverse Because the Concept Makes No Sense

Neurologist Steven Novella and philosopher Philip Goff, both atheists, agree that there are many universes besides the one we live in

Cosmic fine-tuning is the observation that many of the values of the variables in the fundamental laws of physics specifically permit the existence of sentient life (life like us) within a very narrow margin of error. The likelihood of this happening by chance seems vanishingly small. It seems as if Someone expected us. How can we explain this? The fact that God created the universe explains fine-tuning. But for atheists, it’s a real conundrum. As a result, at Neurologica blog, neurologist Steven Novella (pictured) and philosopher Philip Goff have been discussing the most popular atheist explanation for fine-tuning, the “multiverse.” That is, there are countless universes out there, each with its own parameters, and ours just happens to be one…

Jupiter's moon Europa in front of the planet Jupiter

Is Intelligent Life Found in Oceans Inside Planets and Moons?

The Ocean Planets Hypothesis is that intelligent beings may flourish in the interior oceans of the moons of gas giant planets — or within exoplanets — but they are trapped there

Readers will recall that last year, we were looking at science writer Matt Williams’s analysis of the various reasons that we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. (See the links below.) Last time out in November, we looked at the Transcension Hypothesis: The extraterrestrial intelligences exist—but after a Singularity, they became virtual intelligences, exploring inner space at an undetectably small scale. Williams has reported since then on some additional hypotheses so this week we look at a more conventional approach — the “Ocean Worlds” Hypothesis, that icy planets may have interior oceans that harbor life: To illustrate, there’s the search for life that is going on right now in the Solar System, which is almost entirely focused on…

Oumuamua is a mildly active comet, and the first interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System.

Astrobiologist Cautions Against Jumping the Gun in Spotting ET

Scientists he says, are cautious with good reason. There are many weird natural phenomena like Oumuamua out there.

At Nautilus, astrophysicist (and astrobiologist) Caleb A. Scharf offers some sobering reflections on the diligent search for extraterrestrial intelligences (ET) in recent decades: Despite this effort, there has been no evidence to date of extraterrestrial life. But that lack of evidence is not because the scientific enterprise is uniformly conservative, rigid, and close-minded, as implied by [astronomer Avi] Loeb and uncritically echoed by some columnists. It’s because no discovery or event has risen to the level where it is inexplicable in any other way. Could greater funding and support change that story? Perhaps, but the same could be said for almost any other ambitious scientific enterprise, and the answer cannot be known beforehand. Caleb Scharf, “The Alien-Haunted World” at Nautilus…

A Group Of Large Radio Telescopes

Astrophysicist Warns: Aliens May Be Boring or Unreachable

Researchers are taking the emissions from the vicinity of exoplanet Proxima B seriously. But if it is truly a technological signal, what would follow?

Boring? How very un-Star Trek of them! But it’s possible, says Caleb A. Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University (pictured). He worries that, “Perhaps other life in the universe is, in the end, utterly dull.” Why might he think so? He is reflecting on the recent report of what may be a technological signal at roughly 982.002 MHz, coinciding with the direction of Proxima Centauri. If it is, what might the aliens turn out to be like? There’ll be some initial oddities, some curiosities that aren’t quite the things we planned for. A dull carrier wave signal for instance. Over time more evidence will show up, until eventually it’s clear that there are lots of species out there, puttering…