From: "Phil Roberts, Jr." 
Subject: Re: Robot Evolution
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2006 13:23:10 -0500 (EST) wrote:

> Phil Roberts, Jr. wrote:
>>I have always thought the Godel argument constitutes a pretty
>>good ARGUMENT against a computational view of the mind.
> How?

Godel demonstrated (1931) that for any formal (logical, mathematical, 
rule driven, etc.) system capable of simple arithmetic, there is at 
least one well-formed sentence or theorem, usually referred to as the 
Godel or G sentence, that cannot be proven in the system. 
Interestingly enough, because of our ability to attach meaning to the 
symbols employed in such a proof, the G sentence is one that we humans 
can quite easily "see" to be true in that its semantic interpretation 
is simply: 'This sentence can not be proven in this system'.  Since 
machines (computers) can prove theorems, but cannot prove the Godel 
sentence without a logical contradiction, Godel's theorem has served 
as the basis for an argument, originally championed by J. R. Lucas 
(1961) and more recently by the physicist, Roger Penrose (1989, 
1994), that "minds are different from machines" (Lucas). 
Interestingly enough, one of the most lucid statements of the 
Lucas/Penrose perspective comes from Douglas Hofstadter (1979), who 
himself is perhaps one of its most vocal critics:

  Looked at this way, Godel's proof suggests -- though by no means does 
  it prove! -- that there could be some high-level way of viewing the 
  mind/brain, involving concepts which do not appear on lower levels, 
  and that this level might have explanatory power that does not exist 
  -- not even in principle -- on lower levels.  It would mean that some 
  facts could be explained on the high level quite easily, but not on 
  lower levels at all.  No matter how long and cumbersome a low-level 
  statement were made, it would not explain the phenomena in question. 
  It is analogous to the fact that, if you make derivation after 
  derivation in [Peano arithmetic], no matter how long and cumbersome 
  you make them, you will never come up with one for G -- despite the 
  fact that on a higher level, you can see that [the Godel sentence] is 

  What might such high-level concepts be?  It has been proposed for 
  eons, by various holistically or "soulistically" inclined scientists 
  and humanists that consciousness is a phenomenon that escapes 
  explanation in terms of brain components; so here is a candidate at 
  least.  There is also the ever-puzzling notion of free will.  So 
  perhaps these qualities could be "emergent" in the sense of requiring 
  explanations which cannot be furnished by the physiology alone
  ('Godel, Escher, Bach', p. 708).

> [moderator's note: And how does this relate to evolutionary
> biology? Keep it on topic, people. - JAH]

Because if one assumes, as I do, that 'feelings of worthlessness'
are a maladaptive byproduct of the evolution of rationality,
then they can be construed as an empirical vindication of the
Lucas/Penrose perspective on Godel's theorem, i.e., the assertion
that Godel constitutes an argument that rationality can not be
constrained (captured in its entirety) within a formal (e.g.,
mechanical) system and therefore that "minds are different
from machines" (Lucas).  Another way of saying this, is that
they can be construed as evidence that Dawkins was right in
maintaining that:

  Darwinism is too big a theory to be confined to the
      narrow context of the gene....

As presented in my paper, 'Feelings of Worthlessness' (see URL
below), my assertion that 'feelings of worthlessness' constitute
an empirical vindication of Lucas/Penrose is based on the
following assumptions:

1. That human beings have been programmed by natural selection to survive.
2. That human beings do not survive by blindly responding to stimuli 
   with no understanding of the overall objective such mechanisms have 
   been "designed" to achieve, as is likely the case with most other 
   species, but as the result of a conscious intention to survive often 
   involving long range planning.
3. That the basis of the conscious intention to survive, at least when 
   not under the influence of fear, anger, pain, etc., is the value the 
   organism places on its own existence, i.e., its self-value.
4. That 'feelings of worthlessness' constitute evidence that humans 
   are beginning to question the value of their existence and therefore 
   are beginning to question the objective of nature's most basic program.
5. That the same capacity for "standing outside the system" (Lucas) 
   that allows us to "see" that the Godel sentence is "true" is what is 
   responsible for our ability to stand outside of nature's program and 
   question (in the guise of 'feelings of worthlessness') whether it is 
   one worth completing.
6. That rationality cannot be constrained (captured in its entirety) 
   within a formal system, not even by Mother Nature herself.

  So even if mathematicians are superb cognizers of mathematical truth, 
  and even if there is no algorithm, practical or otherwise, for 
  cognizing mathematical truth, it does not follow that the power of 
  mathematicians to cognize mathematical truth is not entirely 
  explicable in terms of their brain's executing an algorithm.  Not an 
  algorithm for intuiting mathematical truth - we can suppose that 
  Penrose has proved that there could be no such thing.  What would the 
  algorithm be for, then?  Most plausibly it would be an algorithm -- 
  one of very many - for trying to stay alive...  (Dennett, 1989)

Oops!  Sorry!  Wrong program, old bean!  [My response to Dennett's 
failure to notice that, in man, self-worth maximization often trumps 
the program "for trying to stay alive".]

  I have often felt as though I had inherited all the defiance and all 
  the passions with which our ancestors defended their Temple and could 
  gladly sacrifice my life for one great moment in history  (Sigmund 


                   Phil Roberts, Jr.

              Feelings of Worthlessness
An Annotated Outline of a Theory of Emotional Instability