Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

TagJeffrey Shallit

Young businesswoman thinking while using a laptop at work

Jeffrey Shallit, a computer scientist, doesn’t know how computers work

Patterns in computers only have meaning when they are caused by humans programming and using them.

Materialism is a kind of intellectual disability that afflicts even the well-educated. To put it simply, machines don’t and can’t think. Dr. Shallit’s wristwatch doesn’t know what time it is. Dr. Shallit’s iPod doesn’t enjoy the music it plays or listen to his phone calls. His television doesn’t like or dislike movies. And his computer doesn’t, and can’t, think.

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two young baboons

Can Animals “Reason”? My Challenge to Jeffrey Shallit

He believes that animals can engage in abstract thinking. What abstractions do they reason about?

Dr. Jeffrey Shallit is an atheist mathematician who holds to the odd belief that animals, like humans, are capable of reason. It would seem that a highly intelligent man who makes his living by doing mathematics would understand that animals don’t, and can’t, do mathematics. But Dr. Shallit remains confused on this point, as he makes clear in his response to my recent post on that inability of animals to think abstractly or to reason (“An atheist argues against reason”). I observed that reason is defined traditionally in a very straightforward manner as the capacity for abstract thought. Shallit comments, Whenever Egnor talks about something being “accepted” or “simple and straightforward”, you can be pretty sure that the opposite is…

MRI Image Of Head Showing Brain

Do either machines—or brains—really learn?

A further response to Jeffrey Shallit: Actually, brains don’t learn either. Only minds learn.
Learning is an ability of human beings, considered as a whole, to acquire new knowledge, not an ability of human organs considered individually. Read More ›