Author Topic: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...  (Read 7663 times)

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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #116 on: January 04, 2013, 01:23:04 PM »
That doesn't really answer my question... You are different then me, but I am claiming that if you honestly run that simulation in your head you will arrive at the same answer as me... If not please tell me what answer you arrive at and why you arrived at it.
What, rerun a day in my head and see if I would do everything the same?  The problem with that is that I already lived that day.  By living it, I've established a causal chain running backwards through those experiences and thus biased any 'reliving' I would do in my mind.  For this to be workable, you have to have a way to eliminate my memories of living that day so that it's as if it's a completely new day.  That's the only way you can actually test whether someone would go through those same activities.  Otherwise it's simply more or less biased based on what we already know happened.
Worldviews:  Everyone has one, everyone believes them to be an accurate view of the world, and everyone ends up at least partially wrong.  However, some worldviews are stronger and well-supported, while others are so bizarre that they make no sense to anyone else.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #117 on: January 04, 2013, 01:28:00 PM »
Will all the action potentials of every neuron be re-set?  No?
Will the time of day be re-set?  No?
Will the ATP energy present in every cell of the person's body be re-set?  No?
Will the cells that have progressed in their state of mitosis be re-set?  No?

Jaimehlers, "the same situation" is absolutely physically impossible.  And given the magnitude nature of the claim in question, about physical determinism and what might violate it, these often-subtle differences are hugely significant.

Yes, someone under replicated circumstances might act differently.  This is true no matter how close we manage to get a test.  But the same is true when testing non-conscious machines.  Their actions might be slightly different.  A computer's state of heat-melting of each micro-wire on its motherboard, the number and arrangement of dust particles inside the case, the state of the ambient magnetic field, etc., are things that cannot be precisely replicated during each test and which have the ability to alter the behaviour of the machine.  Does that mean that a computer has free will?  Because that's basically the standard you're applying to humans in saying that we have metaphysically free will.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2013, 01:31:29 PM by Azdgari »
Unless you are Scarlett Johansason or something.  lol  i'd like to punish her with  my baby.  lol

Offline Graybeard

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #118 on: January 04, 2013, 03:01:01 PM »
But your consciousness is really just a ongoing series of chemical reactions...
Yes, that's right.

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Each reaction is caused by the one before it.
Exactly.

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Let me put it this way, you have a magic window in which you can see your own childhood and a magic remote that can reverse time. If you kept  restarting time at your birth over and over again, would the outcome ever be any different,

No, how could it be? you have already explained that "your consciousness is really just a ongoing series of chemical reactions. ]Each reaction is caused by the one before it."

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do you really believe that you may have done something different in the exact same situation with the exact same knowledge you had...

No, you have already explained that this is impossible.

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If so then you have free will, if not then your thoughts are predetermined,
You have missed something here. Yesterday, my thoughts were predetermined in one way, today, because things have happened, they are predetermined in another, and tomorrow, again because things have happened, they will be predetermined in a third way - and so on.

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the pattern recognizer in your brain will always act the same way and you don't really have a choice in the matter.

It will happen one way at any one time.

E.g. If you have gone through life trying every food, then one day you will try something you truly do not like; after this you will refuse that food. You really had no free will to reject the food when it was given you, but afterwards, you will always reject it.

RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Offline shnozzola

Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #119 on: January 04, 2013, 05:48:22 PM »
  I think we are at about that point in the thread where everyone wanders away, shaking their heads, until, six months from now, a newcomer asks, "So, do we have free will?"   :)
The irony is with freewill.  Atheism realizes we don't have it, while the fundamentals of theism demand it but don't want it.

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #120 on: January 04, 2013, 06:59:16 PM »
And just what makes you think I'm talking about metaphysical free will?  You, Anfauglir, and the others are all assuming that's what I mean when it's not, and so you're reacting to things I'm not saying and ignoring what I am.  I really don't appreciate being treated like that, getting hit with knee-jerk reactions based on what you're arguing against rather than what I'm arguing for.  Frankly, it feels like I'm arguing against Dominic and those like him, having to deal with deceptive reasoning and sophistric arguments.  I'm pretty sure none of you are intentionally doing so, but that's really how it feels to me.

To answer your latest post, no, it won't be absolutely identical, but it can be compensated for.  When they test medicines, they have to account for various little differences like that in order to tell whether a reaction was caused by the medicine or whether it was caused by something unrelated.  It's a standard thing for testing procedures, and that means it could work in the situation I refer to.

And as for your belief that you already know how it would work out...that's exactly what it is, a belief.  You haven't tested it in reality, you're just going based on what you think would happen.  That's not how I feel about an experiment like this.  I want to know what would actually happen, whether or not it was what I thought would happen.  Because that's how we discover new things.  I'm sure you feel that way too, so why are you so set on saying that it's impossible to test in any way?
Worldviews:  Everyone has one, everyone believes them to be an accurate view of the world, and everyone ends up at least partially wrong.  However, some worldviews are stronger and well-supported, while others are so bizarre that they make no sense to anyone else.

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #121 on: January 04, 2013, 07:12:13 PM »
  I really don't appreciate being treated like that, getting hit with knee-jerk reactions based on what you're arguing...

jaimehlers, i'm noticing more and more knee-jerks in here..

Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #122 on: January 04, 2013, 07:22:24 PM »
So in other words, your definition of "free will" relates to the appearance of being able to make a decsion, rather than the actuality of whether different choices can actually be made?  Fair enough, I'm not going to argue with that - I quite agree that everyone (myself included) tends to operate and function as if actual choice can exist.

And my point is that the appearance of being able to make a decision is what we call free will regardless of the fact that at the quantum level each neuron’s firing is either caused or random[1], just as the appearance of being solid is what we call solid regardless of the fact that atoms are mostly empty space. I think our disagreement here is mostly about the definition of the term ‘free will’. I probably didn’t make this point clearly enough earlier in the thread because I was objecting mainly to mhaberling’s claim that randomness doesn’t occur in nature.


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But I note that you did NOT actually offer an answer to my question, as to how the third option to causality and randomess actually operates.

Call it what you like - and I think that's an accurate description of reality.  But nothing there explains how it is possible for an alternate "decision" to be made given a particular pattern of those 100 trillion neurons.  THAT is what I'm asking you to explain - how, for one particular pattern of those neurons, the following split-second's pattener was NOT inevitable through causality, nor a random result.

I was trying to, but perhaps I didn’t emphasise the point strongly enough to make it clear. There is another problem here in that you are excluding (I think innocently) the very thing I think gives us free will: randomness due to quantum indeterminacy.

I think of it this way. In the process of making a decision such as which word to use in a sentence, there are millions of neurons firing in various patterns that represent the different choices you have at that point and those choices are presented to the thousands or millions of neurons selecting between them as nerve impulses on millions of excitatory and inhibitory connections. The sum of those nerve impulses determines the selection, but I think that sum is influenced in part by quantum indeterminacy in the form of noise. Because of the quantum indeterminacy, if you went back in time to the same decision point and ran time forward again, the selection could be different. Look at your two paragraphs in the quote above. Do you notice anything inconsistent? See the typos in “randomess” in the first paragraph and “pattener” at the end of the second paragraph. I’m pretty sure you know how to spell randomness and pattern so those typos are probably the result of noise somewhere in the process of typing them. I’m sure you’ve caught yourself making typos before this—we all do it—so that noise could be within your nervous system rather than some fault in the communications infrastructure.

So, the ability to select between different choices coupled with the influence of randomness on the selection process is, I think, what gives us free will.


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Very simply.  Did the person take the actions that they were legally obliged to take - yes or no?  And there is your "negligence" right there.  As a result of what a person did, something happened, which affected others.  Ultimately, THAT is the question asked of negligence cases - the reason WHY they did what they did is considered mitigation.

It’s more than mitigation. If people are deemed not responsible for their actions or not in control of their actions, which would be the case if we said they had no free will then there is no crime. We usually don’t prosecute people who are not responsible for their actions (for example, mental incompetents) and we don’t convict people who are not in control of their actions. We place those not in control of their actions under psychiatric care.

The thing is, we do consider people to be responsible for their actions and in control of their actions (normally) because we consider people to be able to act at their own discretion and the law takes that same stance so arguing that at the quantum level we don’t actually have free will[2] is really rather moot. It has no practical effect on how we behave in everyday life.


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You seem to want to place blame.  MY point is that although, sure, the person did not have "choice" in what they did, there still need to be steps taken to ensure that they will not repeat the poor action - which may be retraining, or removal from the job (both of which already happen).

I think you are reading too much into my responses. I’m not concentrating on blame or punishment, but on legal liability. If people are deemed not responsible for their actions because they have no free will then there is no legal liability after the fact. For example, take the recent ruling against Transocean for its negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If no one in Transocean could be deemed responsible for his or her actions then there would be no case for Transocean to answer. If the authorised signatories for Transocean, BP, Haliburton and others were deemed not to have signed the various contracts of their own free will then those contracts would be null and void and again those corporations would have no legal liability. Now, yes, all of that is silly, but that’s because we do consider people to be responsible for their actions because we do consider them to have free will in everyday life.
 1. more on this below
 2. and I even disagree on that point as well
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline shnozzola

Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #123 on: January 04, 2013, 08:55:06 PM »
jaimehlers, i'm noticing more and more knee-jerks in here..

   If you are referring to me as a knee-jerk, perhaps you don't understand my comment above.  The free will debate gets everyone with an open mind shaking their heads, agreeing to disagree at some point because the debate is a rough one with no definite answers IMO - heck, you guys on the side of free-will have the intellect of Immanual Kant on your side as this wiki page shows.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

I was just saying this debate comes up over and over, your arguments are as good or better than anyone's.  It's tough to think that we can go from the believer's idea of, "THY will be done," but then still remain with an atheist idea of no free will.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2013, 09:08:44 PM by shnozzola »
The irony is with freewill.  Atheism realizes we don't have it, while the fundamentals of theism demand it but don't want it.

Offline JeffPT

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #124 on: January 04, 2013, 09:10:32 PM »
I think of it this way. In the process of making a decision such as which word to use in a sentence, there are millions of neurons firing in various patterns that represent the different choices you have at that point and those choices are presented to the thousands or millions of neurons selecting between them as nerve impulses on millions of excitatory and inhibitory connections.

Yes, that sounds about right.  Except that it's billions of neurons and literally trillions and trillions of connections. 

The sum of those nerve impulses determines the selection, but I think that sum is influenced in part by quantum indeterminacy in the form of noise.

If that is true, how does that change the notion that we don't have free will?  Quantum indeterminacy isn't 'choice', its a natural phenomena that is out of our control. 

Because of the quantum indeterminacy, if you went back in time to the same decision point and ran time forward again, the selection could be different.

Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that it's not free will you're choosing with. 

So, the ability to select between different choices coupled with the influence of randomness on the selection process is, I think, what gives us free will.

We are saying that we don't actually have the ability to select between different choices and you haven't moved an inch on that point with this argument.  The influence of randomness doesn't lead to free choice, it just leads to another factor influencing the decision before it's made. 

If people are deemed not responsible for their actions or not in control of their actions, which would be the case if we said they had no free will then there is no crime.

No.  Crime is breaking the law.  Laws are made by people.  There can be crime if people break the laws.  The people may not be in control of their actions, but the crime is a crime because people say it is. 

We usually don’t prosecute people who are not responsible for their actions (for example, mental incompetents) and we don’t convict people who are not in control of their actions. We place those not in control of their actions under psychiatric care.

Actually, if we're right, then we constantly prosecute people who are not responsible for their actions.  We just act as if they are because it makes more sense to our limited mind to think that way.

The thing is, we do consider people to be responsible for their actions and in control of their actions (normally) because we consider people to be able to act at their own discretion and the law takes that same stance so arguing that at the quantum level we don’t actually have free will[1] is really rather moot. It has no practical effect on how we behave in everyday life.
 1. and I even disagree on that point as well

The potential applications of realizing that we aren't truly in control of our actions are many.  From the type of punishment we meet out to the ways we approach children from the beginning, we can impact future actions favorably. 

I think you are reading too much into my responses. I’m not concentrating on blame or punishment, but on legal liability. If people are deemed not responsible for their actions because they have no free will then there is no legal liability after the fact.

I think we all understand that and accept it, even if we don't like it.  Just because we'd like to consider people liable for their actions is no reason to deny the notion that they aren't. 
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #125 on: January 04, 2013, 10:34:28 PM »
Oh, so you're a determinist just like the rest of us here.  You don't believe in free will in the sense that Anfauglir, dloubet, and I have been objecting to.

No, I’m not a hard determinist in the sense that every thought can be traced back through some cosmic chain of deterministic causes to the big bang. I think quantum indeterminacy plays a role in our choices as I explained above in my posts to Anfauglir.


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You are wrong.  This really is what I meant from the outset.  Then again, I have no way to present evidence of that to you.  Aside, of course, from my having called free-will a religious belief in the past to others whom I also knew were atheists beforehand.  A link to which I am PM'ing you.

So you really meant I believe we cannot be good without my religious beliefs? I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t true. Even if you want to mischaracterise my belief that we have free will as a religious belief, I don’t believe we can’t be good without it.


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Well if it really was belief in metaphysically-free will, then it would be a religious belief.  As an atheist who doesn't want to hold religious beliefs, I figured you might benefit from recognizing this one.

As it is, you don't believe in that kind of free will in the first place.  A massive miscommunication has taken place between us all in this thread.

I’ve explained several times what I mean by free will. It is the ability to act at our own discretion. I’m not dogmatically claiming we have free will simply because I read it in some storybook; I’ve given what I think is a reasonable explanation of the possible mechanism underlying it.


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That is what the law means.  And what you mean.  But that's not the concept of free will that people are objecting to, here.  Obviously people do act at their own discretion.  How anyone could deny that that happens, boggles the mind to the extreme.  Is that the position you thought you were arguing against?

Yes, it does boggle the mind. However, acting at one’s own discretion is part of the definition of free will so if that isn’t what you are talking about then it is you who has misunderstood the argument. What is your definition of free will if it isn’t acting at one’s own discretion, without the constraint of necessity or fate?
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #126 on: January 04, 2013, 10:36:06 PM »
Yes, that sounds about right.  Except that it's billions of neurons and literally trillions and trillions of connections. 

If that is true, how does that change the notion that we don't have free will?  Quantum indeterminacy isn't 'choice', its a natural phenomena that is out of our control. 

Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that it's not free will you're choosing with. 

We are saying that we don't actually have the ability to select between different choices and you haven't moved an inch on that point with this argument.  The influence of randomness doesn't lead to free choice, it just leads to another factor influencing the decision before it's made.

Free will is defined as the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate. I’m saying our choice isn’t constrained by necessity or fate. By necessity or fate, I mean some chain of causes extending back to the big bang that would constrain us to the same choice no matter how many times we replayed the decision. Our choice is free to be different each time the same circumstances arise. This apparent ability to act at our own discretion is what we call free will.


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Actually, if we're right, then we constantly prosecute people who are not responsible for their actions.  We just act as if they are because it makes more sense to our limited mind to think that way.

The potential applications of realizing that we aren't truly in control of our actions are many.  From the type of punishment we meet out to the ways we approach children from the beginning, we can impact future actions favorably. 

I think we all understand that and accept it, even if we don't like it.  Just because we'd like to consider people liable for their actions is no reason to deny the notion that they aren't.

I’m not trying to use the legal system as an argument for free will. All I’m saying is if you abandon the concept of free will then much of the legal system will need to change.
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #127 on: January 04, 2013, 10:50:55 PM »
No, I’m not a hard determinist in the sense that every thought can be traced back through some cosmic chain of deterministic causes to the big bang. I think quantum indeterminacy plays a role in our choices as I explained above in my posts to Anfauglir.

I'm not one either, it's just a much less awkard word than "stochasticist" or whatever.  So you believe that our actions are the result of physics and chemistry without being affected in some other way by consciousness?

So you really meant I believe we cannot be good without my religious beliefs? I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t true. Even if you want to mischaracterise my belief that we have free will as a religious belief, I don’t believe we can’t be good without it.

Well if you don't believe that our actions are decided at all by agency rather than just physical processes, then it's not a religious belief.  Or even "magical thinking", as Screwtape suggests would be a better term.

The "good without free will" thing was a response to your legal/blame angle.  The angle you took on it initially was that we couldn't hold people responsible for their actions without the concept of free will.  Keep in mind that I was interpreting this to mean metaphysically-free agency at the time, not just the perception of having free will.  Under that misunderstanding, your position was very much like a "can't be good without God" position.

I’ve explained several times what I mean by free will. It is the ability to act at our own discretion. I’m not dogmatically claiming we have free will simply because I read it in some storybook; I’ve given what I think is a reasonable explanation of the possible mechanism underlying it.

The problem was that you also held this out - or seemed to do so - in contradiction to the idea that all our actions are the result of physics and chemistry, determined but for some random variables.  Contradict that, and you're bringing in supernaturalism.

Yes, it does boggle the mind. However, acting at one’s own discretion is part of the definition of free will so if that isn’t what you are talking about then it is you who has misunderstood the argument. What is your definition of free will if it isn’t acting at one’s own discretion, without the constraint of necessity or fate?

Acting at one's discretion without some measure of the constraint of physical determinism or randomness.  Those are not chosen by us, and we are a slave to those processes.
Unless you are Scarlett Johansason or something.  lol  i'd like to punish her with  my baby.  lol

Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #128 on: January 04, 2013, 11:01:28 PM »
So you believe that our actions are the result of physics and chemistry without being affected in some other way by consciousness?

Consciousness is the result of physics and chemistry so whichever way you look at it our actions are the result of physics and chemistry.


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Well if you don't believe that our actions are decided at all by agency rather than just physical processes, then it's not a religious belief.

I apologise for the misunderstandings. I’m trying to learn to express myself more clearly, but I struggle to see how others will interpret or misinterpret what I write. What I mean seems so clear to me as I write and read it, but obviously something is lost in the translation. I can only hope I might improve with practice.
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline JeffPT

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #129 on: January 04, 2013, 11:06:07 PM »
Free will is defined as the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate. I’m saying our choice isn’t constrained by necessity or fate. 

Yes, but what you're saying is that quantum indeterminacy means we are not constrained by causality.  Maybe that is true.  I could accept that if it was.  But even if I accept that, that still doesn't mean you're 'choice' is a free one, and I think that's the whole point we're getting at, isn't it?  Quantum fluctuations are just factors that might or might not add to the decision you will eventually make.  If you rewind time, quantum fluctuations might allow for different outcomes, but they still aren't free will choices in the sense that we're talking about here. 

By necessity or fate, I mean some chain of causes extending back to the big bang that would constrain us to the same choice no matter how many times we replayed the decision. Our choice is free to be different each time the same circumstances arise.

This wording here of what I bolded is interesting.  I don't quite agree with it.  What I might agree with is if you had said "Our 'choice' could be different each time the circumstances arise".  Free to be different, for me, implies that its under our control.  Perhaps that's just my impression on it and I'm misreading what you're saying.  But yes, if what you're saying is true, actually is true, then the outcomes really could be different.  But it's still not 'under our control'. I think most of us here in the 'no free will camp' are trying to put forth that inevitably, the choices we make are NOT under our control, but under the booted heel of causality (and possibly at the random mercy of quantum fluctuations) 

If you are arguing that our choices are somehow under our control because quantum fluctuations exist, then I don't see that connection being relevant.  Maybe you could take me through your logical processes if that's what your putting forward.  If not, then I apologize for misunderstanding your position. 

I’m not trying to use the legal system as an argument for free will. All I’m saying is if you abandon the concept of free will then much of the legal system will need to change.

Now see, this here seems to say that we have free will in the sense that our decisions are under our complete control.  Quantum fluctuations doesn't take you that far 3sigma.  If it's true, then it's just another factor added in to every decision, but still completely out of our personal control. 

As an example, lets say you go to type the word 'father' on your keyboard, but a quantum fluctuation comes along and disturbs a nerve in just the right way to make it fire, thus changing it to the word 'dad'.  Was that a 'free choice'?  I don't think so.  Not at all.  It was a different choice, but it wasn't under your personal control any more than if the fluctuation hadn't happened at all. 

Do you think quantum fluctuations suddenly put our decisions under our control?  Again, I don't see the connection. 
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #130 on: January 05, 2013, 12:15:09 AM »
I think most of us here in the 'no free will camp' are trying to put forth that inevitably, the choices we make are NOT under our control, but under the booted heel of causality (and possibly at the random mercy of quantum fluctuations) 

If you are arguing that our choices are somehow under our control because quantum fluctuations exist, then I don't see that connection being relevant.  Maybe you could take me through your logical processes if that's what your putting forward.  If not, then I apologize for misunderstanding your position. 

Now see, this here seems to say that we have free will in the sense that our decisions are under our complete control.  Quantum fluctuations doesn't take you that far 3sigma.  If it's true, then it's just another factor added in to every decision, but still completely out of our personal control. 

As an example, lets say you go to type the word 'father' on your keyboard, but a quantum fluctuation comes along and disturbs a nerve in just the right way to make it fire, thus changing it to the word 'dad'.  Was that a 'free choice'?  I don't think so.  Not at all.  It was a different choice, but it wasn't under your personal control any more than if the fluctuation hadn't happened at all. 

Do you think quantum fluctuations suddenly put our decisions under our control?  Again, I don't see the connection.

I can see what you are saying. Again, I think this is due to my failure to elucidate my position and our differing interpretations of the definition of free will. There appear to be two points of view here. I think of them as the classical and quantum or the macroscopic and microscopic. I (and a few others here, it seems) hold the classical point of view and it appears that Anfauglir, Azdgari and you hold the quantum view.

The classical point of view is that free will means the ability to act at our own discretion or, better still, the apparent ability to act at our own discretion. That point of view is confirmed every day by our ability to make decisions and choose from several alternatives. I think we all recognise that.

I see your quantum point of view where you say that, at the lowest level, every neuron fires either through some deterministic cause or some random quantum fluctuation, but either way, we had no control over it. I accept that as true, but I have some reservations about its effect on our ability to make decisions because I don’t think we know enough about how those billions of neurons involved in making a decision actually interact. There may be some natural mechanism by which we can control the decision. It depends on what you call control.

However, while the quantum point of view may be true in the strictly theoretical sense, it makes no sense to behave as though it were true in the classical, practical sense in everyday life. I think that trying to impose the quantum view on everyday life would be overly pedantic and counterproductive. Again, it would be like insisting that nothing is actually solid because, at the quantum level, the atom is mostly empty space. It may be true in the strictly theoretical sense, but it makes no sense to behave as though it were true in everyday life.

I’m guessing none of you who hold the quantum point of view behave as though it is true in your everyday lives so why even bother arguing over what is not much more than a purely philosophical question. In fact, I saw Anfauglir say in another post today, “If I CHOOSE something, I don't then sit there all sad because I know the other choice was better - I'd have chosen the better side in the first place”. We all behave as though free will exists in our everyday lives. We all accept it as effectively true.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #131 on: January 05, 2013, 04:04:31 AM »
 
Quote from: Anfauglir
So again I ask - can you even begin to describe why or how it is that the brain is not subject to all the physical laws we know exist, and which govern every other aspect of the universe?  Its all just electrical switches, after all, so what makes a "switch" in a brain be able to forego the laws of physics in a way that the "switches" in your television, or your PC, can not?
A computer is just a series of electrical switches, but it doesn't work at all like the human brain, does it?  If you run your "rewind" thought experiment on a computer, it'll act as you described in that experiment; no matter how many times you make it repeat itself, it'll put out the same results.  But a computer is tremendously limited compared to the human brain.  I don't think we can reasonably conclude at this point that the brain is just a more complicated computer.

Why not?  What makes it different?
I’m sorry, Jaime, but you haven’t actually tried to address the point I’m making.  You agree that the brain, that neurons, follow the physical laws of the universe…..but somehow that does NOT mean that a particular initial state will then follow those laws to the next possible state.

You’ve several times mentioned “irrational”, but haven’t tried to explain what that actually means.  If the result of  smallest electrochemical neuron change is inevitable (which is MUST be, if it follows specific physical laws), then no matter HOW many additional levels or numbers you put in, the overall response will likewise be the same.  If not, you are saying that at SOME stage in the aggregation, some combination does NOT follow a strict rule, and can somehow make a different response.  I’m trying to establish HOW you think that is possible.

Finally, “predictability”.  NOT in any way relevant other than in the assertion that every reaction is causal and follows universal rules.  There is very little we can predict due to the immense number of variables that needs to be tracked.  However, my assertion is that if we can predict how one small neuron will fire (in that we can say that this action potential will lead to this result), then we can extrapolate upwards for a complex system.

Example.
One neuron, in a particular state, with a particular input, will yield the result “1”.
Another neuron, in a particular state, with a particular input, will yield the result “3”.
Those two neurons combined, will therefor always yield the result “4”.
First question: do you agree with this?

(NB – I am ignoring random quantum fluctuations at this point, because IF they alter an individual or a combined total, I do not regard “random” events as being relevant to “will”).

Add a third neuron, as above, that gives result “5”, and he combined total  will always give the result “9”.
Do you agree with this result?

Repeat for billions of neurons – which, all following the same rules, will likewise yield the same combined result.
It seems that – for some critical mass of neurons – you are saying that all of a sudden this will NOT hold?  If that is the case, at what level does that happen, and WHY does it happen?

I quite agree that - if your point is that quantum events will, given the billions of accumulations, effectively make the overall result random, then okay - I can agree with that, if that is that case.  But I absolutely fail to see how "lots of randomness" equals "will": all it would mean is that instead of being 100% deterministic, our brains are instead completely random, and I can't see how random=will. 

Though I grant that it would appear as if we had the ability to "choose", there would not be annything there that (to me) is worthy of the word "decision".
« Last Edit: January 06, 2013, 02:47:00 AM by Anfauglir »
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Offline Dominic

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #132 on: January 05, 2013, 04:07:16 AM »

Let me know if I am understanding this right -

It seems that those arguing against free will are offering two possible causes for what occurs - a mixture of determinism (necessity) and randomness (chance).

If you look at this thread and your computer (as examples) you will have to admit that it shows very little randomness.  That would then indicate that this thread was chiefly pre-determined (by the laws of nature, big bang, underlying conditions of reality...).

What does that say about the underlying conditions of reality ?  Those conditions have given rise (by necessity) to what we call intelligence, purpose, thought, logic, language, conversation, brains, consiousness and lots more besides just evidenced by the existence of this thread alone. 

Now, those seem to be some very remarkable underlying conditions.   Or else there have been some very remarkable random fluctuations along the way.  But be that as it may...

Were the underlying conditions random ?   Could the underlying conditions be pre-determined ?  Logically I suggest they cannot be pre-determined because otherwise they would not be underlying conditions (ie uncaused).

There is at least one more option.  The third option is that there was always purpose within the underlying conditions of reality.

I suggest that the only viable options we have available to choose from are that this thread is completely random or that purpose is part of the underlying conditions of reality.

And if it turns out that free will exists then that is just more evidence for the latter option.


[Note, no mention of the G word]


Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #133 on: January 05, 2013, 04:16:31 AM »
So in other words, your definition of "free will" relates to the appearance of being able to make a decsion, rather than the actuality of whether different choices can actually be made?  Fair enough, I'm not going to argue with that - I quite agree that everyone (myself included) tends to operate and function as if actual choice can exist.

And my point is that the appearance of being able to make a decision is what we call free will regardless of the fact that at the quantum level each neuron’s firing is either caused or random[1], just as the appearance of being solid is what we call solid regardless of the fact that atoms are mostly empty space. I think our disagreement here is mostly about the definition of the term ‘free will’. I probably didn’t make this point clearly enough earlier in the thread because I was objecting mainly to mhaberling’s claim that randomness doesn’t occur in nature.
 1. more on this below

Possibly the same crossed wired I have with Jaime - that your use of the term "free will" is intended to describe the appearance of the ability to choose, rather than the actuality.  I'm not arguing at all that we appear to have free will, just that - ultimately - what we do is either determined, or random.  Neither option is one I can dignify with the term "will".

Quote
But I note that you did NOT actually offer an answer to my question, as to how the third option to causality and randomess actually operates.

Call it what you like - and I think that's an accurate description of reality.  But nothing there explains how it is possible for an alternate "decision" to be made given a particular pattern of those 100 trillion neurons.  THAT is what I'm asking you to explain - how, for one particular pattern of those neurons, the following split-second's pattener was NOT inevitable through causality, nor a random result.

So, the ability to select between different choices coupled with the influence of randomness on the selection process is, I think, what gives us free will.

Its the language, I think.  That bolded part.....if what we do is indeed a mix of random and determined, then there is no "ability to select" being displayed.  "A different selection may end up being made", but there is no conscious ability being exercised.  Pretty sure you meant the latter, but wanted to be sure.

Quote
You seem to want to place blame.  MY point is that although, sure, the person did not have "choice" in what they did, there still need to be steps taken to ensure that they will not repeat the poor action - which may be retraining, or removal from the job (both of which already happen).

I think you are reading too much into my responses. I’m not concentrating on blame or punishment, but on legal liability. If people are deemed not responsible for their actions because they have no free will then there is no legal liability after the fact. For example, take the recent ruling against Transocean for its negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If no one in Transocean could be deemed responsible for his or her actions then there would be no case for Transocean to answer.

Agreed.  Under our current terms of law.  But as I'VE said, several times now, the realisation that there IS no free will would lead to a shift in the law.  Sure - the person or persons whose actions led to the disaster would not be subject to sanctions as punishment for what they did.  But they WOULD be subject to sanctions to examine WHY they did what they did, and to experience rehabilitation or remedial action to eliminate (or dramatically reduce) the chance of it happening again. 

I'm in no way suggesting that someone who does something that negatively affects others gets just  shrug of the shoulders - if that happened, they would likely just do it again, and again.  To prevent that repetition, action would be taken.

No - its not their FAULT they did whatever they did, but there still needs to be action to prevent its reoccurrence.  THAT is where I see the function of law.
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Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #134 on: January 05, 2013, 07:19:57 AM »
Possibly the same crossed wired I have with Jaime - that your use of the term "free will" is intended to describe the appearance of the ability to choose, rather than the actuality.  I'm not arguing at all that we appear to have free will, just that - ultimately - what we do is either determined, or random.  Neither option is one I can dignify with the term "will".

Did you mean to say “free” instead of “will” in that last sentence of yours? Otherwise it makes no sense. “Will” is the faculty by which a person decides on or initiates action. Surely you can’t be saying that we can’t make decisions or initiate actions. We obviously do those things.

Please read my post to JeffPT (#130) above for answers to the rest of the above.


Quote
Its the language, I think.  That bolded part.....if what we do is indeed a mix of random and determined, then there is no "ability to select" being displayed.  "A different selection may end up being made", but there is no conscious ability being exercised.  Pretty sure you meant the latter, but wanted to be sure.

The firing of individual neurons may have only deterministic or random causes. However, I don’t think we know enough about how the millions of neurons potentially involved in making a decision actually perform that task to say with certainty that it isn’t controlled in some way. We apparently have the ability to select between different alternatives. Does anyone know how that selection process actually occurs?


Quote
No - its not their FAULT they did whatever they did, but there still needs to be action to prevent its reoccurrence.  THAT is where I see the function of law.

What about the liability arising from the first occurrence of negligence? Should Transocean just be given a free pass and it’s too bad for everyone affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline Add Homonym

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #135 on: January 05, 2013, 09:16:33 AM »

Now, those seem to be some very remarkable underlying conditions.   Or else there have been some very remarkable random fluctuations along the way.  But be that as it may...


Quantum mechanics comparison table:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretations_of_quantum_mechanics#Comparison_of_interpretations

I showed this to a penpal once, and she said " I like the pink ".

4 interpretations are deterministic, and as far as I'm aware, there is still no provable reason to believe any one is more correct. You are just throwing darts.

I have difficulty conceiving of the underlying substrate being anything random. All we really know, is that it's impossibly parallel and complicated.

I strive for clarity, but aim for confusion.

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #136 on: January 05, 2013, 09:52:39 AM »
We have the illusion of free will, which is good enough.
An atheist being satisfied with an illusion, Well I never thought I'd see the day....

The wording may be a little questionable, but it is IMO true that we do have free will because we don't know every variable, every rule/formula in which "reality" is based on. It's not about being satisfied with an illusion, it's acknowledging that we (currently) don't know everything to understand how our actions are predetermined in the past, in the present and in the future. And because of that, we do have free will, even though I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't exist on the "absolute level".

The confusing part for me is that this is not related to whether the universe is godless or not, btw. Nothing changes even if there was a god. And if there was a god, it wouldn't have free will, either.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 10:15:25 AM by CutePuppy »

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #137 on: January 05, 2013, 01:01:23 PM »
Quote
Its the language, I think.  That bolded part.....if what we do is indeed a mix of random and determined, then there is no "ability to select" being displayed.  "A different selection may end up being made", but there is no conscious ability being exercised.  Pretty sure you meant the latter, but wanted to be sure.

The firing of individual neurons may have only deterministic or random causes. However, I don’t think we know enough about how the millions of neurons potentially involved in making a decision actually perform that task to say with certainty that it isn’t controlled in some way. We apparently have the ability to select between different alternatives. Does anyone know how that selection process actually occurs?

OK - would you like to take a stab at the questions I asked Jaime a couple posts up?

Quote
No - its not their FAULT they did whatever they did, but there still needs to be action to prevent its reoccurrence.  THAT is where I see the function of law.

What about the liability arising from the first occurrence of negligence? Should Transocean just be given a free pass and it’s too bad for everyone affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?

Sorry - I wasn't clear.  Yes, there should be sanctions insofar as an attempt to placethe affected parties in the state they were beforehand - there should NOT be sanctions as punishment over and above that.  Apologies, I thought I'd made that clear before.

So, for example: thief steals your wallet, and is later caught.  In every scenario below, rehabilitation occurs, as well as:
1) Your wallet is returned as it was - he had no time to go through it.  No further sanction required.
2) Your wallet is returned, missing £10.  Thief is made to pay you £10.
In either case is he fined any additional money, nor is he given any additional "jail time" over the time required for rehabilitation.
The victim does not receive any compensation for being victim of crime.  However, they receive counselling as required to return them to the same mental state they were in before.  Incidentally, since everyone has agreed that there is no such thing as free will, there would be a lot more acceptance of "things that just happen" - people would likely feel a lot less "targetted", a lot less like a victim.....at least, I think so.  Case in point: whenever I call to mind the lack of free will, I get a LOT less bothered by people cutting me up or otherwise being "inconsiderate".
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Offline 3sigma

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #138 on: January 05, 2013, 05:07:24 PM »
OK - would you like to take a stab at the questions I asked Jaime a couple posts up?

I presume you mean these:


Quote
Example.
One neuron, in a particular state, with a particular input, will yield the result “1”.
Another neuron, in a particular state, with a particular input, will yield the result “3”.
Those two neurons combined, will therefor always yield the result “4”.
First question: do you agree with this?

In such a simple case, it would be difficult not to agree so, yes, I can see how it would yield that result.


Quote
Add a third neuron, as above, that gives result “5”, and he combined total  will always give the result “7”.
Do you agree with this result?

No. I think 5 + 4 would normally give the result 9 so why did you write 7? What caused you to do that? How did you make that decision? In fact, how do you arrive at decisions in general? Do you know how you do that because I’d really like to know exactly how billions of neurons with trillions of interconnections forming uncountable numbers of firing pattern combinations actually cause decisions to be made? If it is as simple as you seem to think it is then you would always have written 9 above instead of 7.


Quote
Repeat for billions of neurons – which, all following the same rules, will likewise yield the same combined result.
It seems that – for some critical mass of neurons – you are saying that all of a sudden this will NOT hold?  If that is the case, at what level does that happen, and WHY does it happen?

I don’t know. I’m hoping you can explain it to me. Can you explain why you wrote 7 instead of 9 above?


Quote
I quite agree that - if your point is that quantum events will, given the billions of accumulations, effectively make the overall result random, then okay - I can agree with that, if that is that case.  But I absolutely fail to see how "lots of randomness" equals "will": all it would mean is that instead of being 100% deterministic, our brains are instead completely random, and I can't see how random=will.

I know this is in response to jaimehlers, but I did say something similar. I said that the outcomes are a mix of deterministic and random. I said our decisions are influenced by randomness. I didn’t mean they are completely random. I’m guessing that most of the time you would say 5 + 4 = 9, but apparently you sometimes write 7 instead. What caused that?


Quote
Sorry - I wasn't clear.  Yes, there should be sanctions insofar as an attempt to placethe affected parties in the state they were beforehand - there should NOT be sanctions as punishment over and above that.  Apologies, I thought I'd made that clear before.

What you haven’t made clear is how a case against Transocean could be brought in the first place if no one can be held responsible for his or her actions. If people cannot control their decisions, which is what you are arguing, then they cannot be held responsible for them. They were compelled (supposedly) to make the decisions they made, through no fault of their own. No fault means no case. If you abandon the concept of free will then the legal system would fall apart. Again, I’m not using this as an argument for free will. I’m just wondering how you would solve that problem.
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. – David Hume 1711–1776

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #139 on: January 05, 2013, 08:45:29 PM »
Why not?  What makes it different?
I’m sorry, Jaime, but you haven’t actually tried to address the point I’m making.  You agree that the brain, that neurons, follow the physical laws of the universe…..but somehow that does NOT mean that a particular initial state will then follow those laws to the next possible state.
I did, actually.  You seem to think that the fact that a single neuron doesn't have a choice means that the product of billions of neurons and trillions of connections (the brain) also has no choices and that everything is thus completely inevitable (barring random 'noise').  That's the point I've been addressing.  The thing is, you keep missing the gist of my arguments because you're arguing against metaphysical free will, which I'm not arguing for.

What I'm saying, what I've been saying, is that you shouldn't decide that since neurons act in a certain fashion, and the brain is made up of connected neurons, that the brain is therefore essentially limited in the same way that neurons are.  Because we've already discovered that this isn't the case, as I'll detail below.

Quote from: Anfauglir
You’ve several times mentioned “irrational”, but haven’t tried to explain what that actually means.  If the result of  smallest electrochemical neuron change is inevitable (which is MUST be, if it follows specific physical laws), then no matter HOW many additional levels or numbers you put in, the overall response will likewise be the same.  If not, you are saying that at SOME stage in the aggregation, some combination does NOT follow a strict rule, and can somehow make a different response.  I’m trying to establish HOW you think that is possible.
I had to get some help with this because I haven't studied the relevant fields (describing through analogy, which is where 'irrational' came from).  But basically, large groupings of neurons have emergent properties that don't exist with individual or even small groups of neurons.  A single neuron is binary - it's either on or off.  But when you have connected groups of neurons, each neuron is part of thousands of connections, and the neurotransmitters which tell the neurons to fire can cause different effects (different neurons, even different numbers of neurons) depending on the situation.  Furthermore, neuron paths (and highways, collections of paths) are influenced by their neighbors. 

Here's another point.  Someone arguing the same way as you (I think it was JeffPT, but I'm not sure) said that we can only be influenced by our environment, that we can't influence ourselves.  But aren't we part of the environment that we live in?  It's been documented that the decisions we make influence how nerve pathways develop.  For example, someone with anxiety issues tends to react more strongly to problems that cause anxiety and thus reinforce the nerve pathways that caused the anxiety in the first place.  Yet, they aren't deterministically locked into acting that way.  If they consciously decide to stop letting their anxiety get the better of them, then those nerve pathways atrophy and new ones develop that don't lead to increased anxiety.  We can change what we think about in the same general manner.  Naturally, other people giving that kind of feedback helps too.  But it's wrong to say that a person is locked into what their environment imposes on them.

Quote from: Anfauglir
Finally, “predictability”.  NOT in any way relevant other than in the assertion that every reaction is causal and follows universal rules.  There is very little we can predict due to the immense number of variables that needs to be tracked.  However, my assertion is that if we can predict how one small neuron will fire (in that we can say that this action potential will lead to this result), then we can extrapolate upwards for a complex system.

Example.
One neuron, in a particular state, with a particular input, will yield the result “1”.
Another neuron, in a particular state, with a particular input, will yield the result “3”.
Those two neurons combined, will therefor always yield the result “4”.
First question: do you agree with this?
No, I do not, because that isn't how neuron connectivity works.  Neurons are not computer variables that you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide in order to get answers.  They are binary switches - off and on.  You're acting as if the math rules that we use for combining numbers are implicit in the connections between neurons, but they aren't.  In fact, trying to use math to represent neurons is already fatally flawed.  Leaving aside the issue of using numbers in the first place, a connection between one neuron and another is not at all like a math operation.  You can't say that you have a neuron that means three and a neuron that means one, and therefore making a connection between them results in a total of four.  A connection between neurons simply means a pathway down which an impulse can travel.

These pathways interfere with each other - not through randomness, but simply by being interconnected with each other.  You can't isolate a couple of neurons, point to them, and say "this neuron leads to this neuron, which is deterministic, therefore the brain is deterministic, choice is an illusion, there's no such thing as a decision, and a person's life simply progresses down one predetermined line that can only be affected by random chance".  That is essentially what you're arguing, and it fails once you start seriously looking at the way the brain actually works and how large groups of neurons connect to each other.

Quote from: Anfauglir
Repeat for billions of neurons – which, all following the same rules, will likewise yield the same combined result.
It seems that – for some critical mass of neurons – you are saying that all of a sudden this will NOT hold?  If that is the case, at what level does that happen, and WHY does it happen?
You can't take ten billion neurons, assign them all arbitrary values, and then say "these neurons will always add up to this combined result with these values", because neurons don't combine to begin with, they connect.  The brain is more like a spiderweb than a chain, but a spiderweb that's constantly creating more connections within itself, constantly reinforcing and weakening those connections based on what happens to it, and that can provide feedback to itself, allowing it to change based on its own actions.  That's self-determination; the ability to make choices instead of simply going down a single path that's already set.

Now, are you going to tell me that any of that is incorrect?  Or that despite all of those things, that the brain is still stuck on one path and one path only, unable to make choices and go elsewhere besides what's predestined for it?
Worldviews:  Everyone has one, everyone believes them to be an accurate view of the world, and everyone ends up at least partially wrong.  However, some worldviews are stronger and well-supported, while others are so bizarre that they make no sense to anyone else.

Offline JeffPT

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #140 on: January 06, 2013, 12:05:19 AM »
But basically, large groupings of neurons have emergent properties that don't exist with individual or even small groups of neurons.

Emergent properties are not free will choices.  They are simply the end result of large numbers of like 'things' all following the same simple local rules.  Neurons in the brain seem to be exactly that. 

But when you have connected groups of neurons, each neuron is part of thousands of connections, and the neurotransmitters which tell the neurons to fire can cause different effects (different neurons, even different numbers of neurons) depending on the situation.
A neurotransmitter released at a synapse can cause the propagation of the action potential to the next nerve in line. That's it.  Nothing else. It can't cause 'different effects'.  It's fire or no fire.

Furthermore, neuron paths (and highways, collections of paths) are influenced by their neighbors. 
All of which are either firing, or not firing based on thousands of other nerves also firing and not firing.   

Here's another point.  Someone arguing the same way as you (I think it was JeffPT, but I'm not sure) said that we can only be influenced by our environment, that we can't influence ourselves.
That wasn't me, but I understand that statement in a certain context.  The reason we can't influence ourselves is because we ARE ourselves.  It's not me and my brain.  My brain IS me. 

It's been documented that the decisions we make influence how nerve pathways develop. 
But the decisions we make are based on the environment we are put in, the advice we're given, the experiences we have, etc, etc.  All of which we experience through the natural processes of nerves firing or not firing from various types of receptors that tie (first and foremost) directly to our senses.   

For example, someone with anxiety issues tends to react more strongly to problems that cause anxiety and thus reinforce the nerve pathways that caused the anxiety in the first place. 
Which can be explained in terms of slightly different neural development among different people. 

I don't think anyone is arguing that our neural pathways can't be changed.  I think that's a fact we can all agree upon.  But the factors that change the pathways are all naturally occurring and due to nerve firing patterns.   

Yet, they aren't deterministically locked into acting that way.  If they consciously decide to stop letting their anxiety get the better of them, then those nerve pathways atrophy and new ones develop that don't lead to increased anxiety.
But the new pathways that develop are still nerves, right? They aren't special nerves that fire differently.  Just new nerves, with a new framework, attaching to new areas. 

I'm also not so sure that it's as simple as you make it out to be to stop letting anxiety get the better of people.  I have an 11 year old son with a touch of social anxiety and I've told him about a million times to stop being so anxious, but I think I'd be better off praying for it at this rate. I'm sure he tells himself to stop being anxious and it's not doing anything.  I highly doubt you can tell yourself to stop being anxious and have that actually work.   If it were that simple, nobody would let anxiety get the better of them.  And even if it did work, it would take a long time to change that pattern, as it's probably been strengthened heavily in the past. 

We can change what we think about in the same general manner.  Naturally, other people giving that kind of feedback helps too.  But it's wrong to say that a person is locked into what their environment imposes on them.
What we are trying to say is that every thought we have, even the thought, "I'm not going to think about this anymore", or "I'm going to think about something else right now" is based on nerves firing in the brain in a complex fashion, which were the results of previous stimulus.  And those nerves were firing due to a stimulus previous to that.  And so on, and so on. 

If I suddenly tell myself to start thinking about something else, a bunch of things come into my mind.  All of those new things that enter my mind, however, are being put there by the same mind-numbingly complex web of nerves that told me to start thinking about something else in the first place.  Could something else have popped into my mind?  If our brains are anything like all the other matter in the universe, then no, not right then.  Just like water flowing down the hill had no choice but to flow the way it did.  Now can I think something else? Yes.  But not back then.  Whatever came into my mind was the only thing that could have popped into my mind at that time, given the universe as it currently is (barring quantum fluctuation that is).  I can't prove that, but it seems reasonable given the fact from all we can tell, the entire universe is a really long chain of cause and effect.   

These pathways interfere with each other - not through randomness, but simply by being interconnected with each other.  You can't isolate a couple of neurons, point to them, and say "this neuron leads to this neuron, which is deterministic, therefore the brain is deterministic, choice is an illusion, there's no such thing as a decision, and a person's life simply progresses down one predetermined line that can only be affected by random chance". 
But the reason we do that is because everything else in the universe behaves exactly like that.  You are saying that there is something special about us that makes us able to break from what all other matter does, and that 'something special' is emergent complexity.  That doesn't work though.  There is nothing about emergent complexity that leads to the notion that we somehow have free choice.  It COULD however, lead to the possibility that we have the illusion of free choice.  See my bee example below for clarification on what I mean by that. 

That is essentially what you're arguing, and it fails once you start seriously looking at the way the brain actually works and how large groups of neurons connect to each other.
I think your understanding of emergent properties might be a bit flawed here.  As an example with bee colonies, large groups of bees appear to make intelligent decisions about where to find the best flowers, but all it is is a lot of relatively unintelligent bees following the same local rules.  There is no intelligence there.  One or 2 bees don't know shit.  A few hundred thousand give the illusion that they're making intelligent decisions, but they're not.  They just appear to be.  The nerves within our brain could be much the same.  If that is the case, then 'decision making' and 'choice' could simply be the same type of illusion that intelligence in bee colonies is. 

You can't take ten billion neurons, assign them all arbitrary values, and then say "these neurons will always add up to this combined result with these values", because neurons don't combine to begin with, they connect.  The brain is more like a spiderweb than a chain, but a spiderweb that's constantly creating more connections within itself, constantly reinforcing and weakening those connections based on what happens to it, and that can provide feedback to itself, allowing it to change based on its own actions. 
Why can't you do that jaime?  Let me ask you... Does nerve 1 do anything but fire or not fire?  Does nerve 5?  Does nerve 523,423?  What about nerve 4,532,221?  They either fire or they don't.  And what makes them fire?  Stimulus makes them fire.  That stimulus can come from anywhere, but it all starts somewhere.  The nerves react to the stimulus.  When the brain makes more connections and lets others atrophy, they are doing so because they are following simple local rules.  Something to the effect of 'If this nerve never fires, let it atrophy.  If it fires a lot, strengthen connection'.  The new connections that form also follow the same simple rules.  They also fire or they don't fire.  They atrophy and strengthen just like the rest.  It can provide feedback to itself, but how does it do that?  By firing nerves.  And what makes nerves fire? Stimulus.  It's a cycle.   

Now, are you going to tell me that any of that is incorrect?  Or that despite all of those things, that the brain is still stuck on one path and one path only, unable to make choices and go elsewhere besides what's predestined for it?

Not all of it is incorrect, but the conclusion that we have free will is probably, unfortunately wrong.  Unless you can come up with how it breaks free of the same limitations as all other matter in the universe, then it seems the more realistic choice to say we don't have free will.  High numbers of nerves and complexity doesn't lead to free choice.  It leads to the illusion of free choice, but it is still all just matter and chemicals following simple rules.  Just like high numbers and complexity doesn't lead to intelligence in bees.  It leads to the illusion that the bees are intelligent, when they are really just following simple rules. 

Again I'm going to say that I don't want this to be true.  It's not what I 'feel' is true.  But it is what I think is true based on the fact that the stuff that makes me up is the same stuff that makes up everything else in the universe.  Just because I'm more complex and arranged this way, that doesn't mean that my matter is different.  My nerves fire or they don't.  And when they do, stuff happens.  When they don't, nothing happens.  When they fire a certain way, I bring food to my mouth.  Another way and I'm typing on a computer. Another way and I'm petting a stray cat.  All the result of nerves firing, not choices made beyond what my brain says to do. 
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #141 on: January 06, 2013, 02:46:10 AM »
A connection between neurons simply means a pathway down which an impulse can travel.  These pathways interfere with each other - not through randomness, but simply by being interconnected with each other. 

Are there rules that govern that interference?  You've said its not random, so presumably there ARE rules?

So for a collection of neurons, HOW does the interference produce one result one time, and another result another time? 
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #142 on: January 06, 2013, 02:54:05 AM »
I don’t know. I’m hoping you can explain it to me. Can you explain why you wrote 7 instead of 9 above? 

Because I was changing the numbers on the fly and I did not proof read before final post.  Is this seriously your response to that set of questions?  Because I've never suggested at any point that "predetermined" equals "infallibly correct".  Still, it gave you an easy dodge to avoid the thrust of my point, I guess.


What you haven’t made clear is how a case against Transocean could be brought in the first place if no one can be held responsible for his or her actions. If people cannot control their decisions, which is what you are arguing, then they cannot be held responsible for them. They were compelled (supposedly) to make the decisions they made, through no fault of their own. No fault means no case. If you abandon the concept of free will then the legal system would fall apart. Again, I’m not using this as an argument for free will. I’m just wondering how you would solve that problem.

Because you are insting that the exact same consequences of "responsibility" apply following a complete change in the understanding of how "decisions" are made. 

The enitity took actions.  Other entities suffered detriment.  The initial entity makes recompense.  There are several reasons for this, not least because the general     knowledge that recompense be made will be an environmental factor that will be an influence on the "decisions" that will get made.  If you "know" there is a penalty for an action, you will be less likely to take that action.

Under my model, do you also feel that no rehabilitation is necessary?  I guess not, since it wasn't their "fault" in  the first place, so how can we say they must suffer ANY change to their position as a result?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #143 on: January 06, 2013, 03:04:43 AM »
The brain is more like a spiderweb than a chain, but a spiderweb that's constantly creating more connections within itself, constantly reinforcing and weakening those connections based on what happens to it, and that can provide feedback to itself, allowing it to change based on its own actions.  That's self-determination; the ability to make choices instead of simply going down a single path that's already set.

HOW?  You seem to be suggesting here that the "brain" somehow looks at what it is producing, decides that isn't right, and somehow changes the way it operates.

If your position, as you appear to be saying, is that we have illusion of free will but not actuality, then we are indeed arguing at cross-purposes and we can stop.  But if you are indeed saying that there IS a way to "choose" in a meaningful way outside of deterministic mechanisms and randomness, then I am STILL asking for you to explain how that happens.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline screwtape

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #144 on: January 06, 2013, 10:27:18 AM »
I hate being involved in free will discussions.  Dialing my own level of pain...But let me add this anyway. 

The universe seems to have rules which govern causality.  Each action, whether it be an atom bonding with another or a photon bouncing off an electron, or the workings of an internal combustion engine, or the firing of a neuron in your brain, are all determined by boundary conditions and these rules and nothing else.  And the rules are not fuzzy.  They have been measured and do not fluctuate from one moment to the next.

Some actions may be impossible for us to predict, but that does not mean that given enough information and computing power accurate predictions couldn't be made.  The velocity of the photon is determined by its previous velocity, the position and velocity of the electron and the laws that govern the universe.  There is no will involved.

I cannot see how there can be free will without something in the mix that does not follow the rules.  Free will would mean that there are things in the universe which are governed by no laws.  Has that been observed?

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