Author Topic: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...  (Read 11406 times)

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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #203 on: January 12, 2013, 01:11:07 PM »
MokusatsuWiki
And I note that you dodged the entire content of my post.

I didn't.  I addressed every point you made, I think.

Yet you chose to respond to PD, and not to me.

Now to ME, that suggests that what is important to you is not a response to your post, but a fight with PD?

That's the trouble with having no free will - it makes it super-hard to veer away from a particular course once you've started down it.   ;)
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 jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #204 on: January 12, 2013, 03:48:06 PM »
Ultimately, the biggest influence in people's lives is not their own thoughts, but who they just happen to bump into, and what happens to them. The biggest cause of criminality is a person falling in with some other people who find it acceptable.
I won't argue with that, but the fact remains that they didn't have to decide to fall in with those people, to choose to act like them and to internalize their value system.  Thus, at the very least, they're responsible for that much, even though you could make an argument that the desire was there whether they liked it or not.

Why can they not be influenced by the same quantum complexity that you say can influence thoughts?  They run through the same neural connections, don't they?
Because reflexes are for when the speed of reacting is the most important.  Complexity complicates matters, so reflexes are by nature very simple.  They're outside the loop, so to speak, and it would defeat the point of having them for them to be complicated and slow.

Quote from: Anfauglir
No.  No joke at all.
Really?  You used it in the way that you'd use a joke - as a witty parting comment, presumably to lighten the mood.  Though it isn't really very funny to the people you address it to; indeed, it's a little grating.

Quote from: Anfauglir
Should it not then be that case that damage to the neural pathways would have little or no effect on the decisions that are made?  That altering levels of particular chemicals in the brain would have no effect on the decisions that the person takes?
It seems like you're still trying to treat this as some magical supernatural thing.  That's means you're effectively dismissing what I say except in how you can try to rebut it.  Though, I suppose I shouldn't blame you - I've fallen into that particular mental trap before, and it's often very difficult to extricate yourself without having it pointed out to you.  Anyway, this is frankly a pretty pointless rebuttal.  Assuming there is such a thing as the quantum mind, it would have a different function than the ones performed by neural pathways and chemicals.  That means it wouldn't magically "override" damage to those neural pathways or alterations to the levels of those chemicals.  Imagine someone asking why we still teach classical physics now that we have quantum physics, why we don't just use quantum physics for everything.

Quote from: Anfauglir
While I quite agree with everything you've said there, in this instance it appears to be a plea for agnosticism on the entire subject.  Of course we should not stop looking for the next level of answers, and I would be supremely happy to one day read an explanation that details how we can have free will (as I've defined it).  But at the moment, the vast majority of the evidence seems to point to events being a causal/random cross, with no defined means of being able to overrule those processes - hence I subscribe to the view that (as far as I've seen) carries the most evidence.
I suppose it could be seen that way.  And I'm not trying to say that you're wrong, or that you shouldn't ask questions, or that you shouldn't criticize.  But a lot of the time, you come across as if you've already made up your mind and are only arguing to try to bring others around to your way of thinking.  If nothing else, it's kind of irritating to be the focus of that sort of attitude.

Quote from: Anfauglir
To take the discussion away from neurons and the immediately physical though, and stick in the realms of thought and experience.....can I ask a question at that level?

At any particular point in time, you will be the sum of your experiences.  You will have a specific amount of information to make a "decision", in a very specific set of circumstances.  You will "consider" your memories, your knowledge, your moral code, your politcal ideas, and so forth, and will come to a conclusion.

My question is: with the same information and the same character, on what basis are you able to come to different conclusions?  With no new information, no changes to how you feel and look at the world, how could you come to different conclusions about a situation?
Going back to the "I could have done it differently than I already did" question?  If I knew how to answer it scientifically, I suspect I would already have won the Nobel Prize.

The way I see it, we use a kind of symbolism to manage the way we look at things.  Basically, we don't think of the individual elements of things, we think of the things themselves in a symbolic manner, and then base our decisions on the symbols we thus come up with.  If we change the symbolism we use, we change how we think about things and thus the basis for our decisions.  And I think we can consciously change the symbolism that we use in thinking about things and thus change the decisions we would have made about them.  It doesn't require anything special (outside the system) to do so, either, thus why I think this makes sense.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #205 on: January 12, 2013, 03:52:08 PM »
It seems like you're still trying to treat this as some magical supernatural thing.  That's means you're effectively dismissing what I say except in how you can try to rebut it. ...

That's because while describing your position as naturalistic, you're still treating it as though it functions magically.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #206 on: January 12, 2013, 05:22:52 PM »
If you announce to me, in public, that you are ignoring me with silent contempt, you're not actually ignoring me silently, are you? But you are expressing your contempt, which no doubt was your intention.
to be fair, silent contempt is tough to get across on an internet forum.  It looks exactly like when a member is logged off and having a nap or having a go at the wife or digging a hole in his back yard.  Explicit verbal contempt is what this medium excels at.

Actually Screwtape, having just read the National Security Agency article which Penfold linked to, and having then re-read the Wiki article more closely, I realize that I have jumped to a possibly erroneous conclusion as to what PD meant.

Which is somewhat ironic, as that is exactly what the Allies did in1945 when reading Premier Suzuki's words.

To quote Wiki again (my emphasis):
Quote
Mokusatsu is a Japanese word meaning "to ignore" OR "to treat with silent contempt". <snip> The expression can also mean to just let a topic or subject die by refusing to follow up on it. The reasons for the "mokusatsu" response could as easily be contempt as embarrassment, discomfort, or even simply not knowing what else to do in response.

So who knows what PD meant? Was he implying contempt, or embarrassment, or discomfort, or mere speechlessness? Or something else? I don't know. As PD said, " subtlety is lost" on me. 

All I know for sure is that PD dodged my post, and that he's going to ignore me from now on.

Screwtape, perhaps you should suggest to your Mods that they communicate a little less gnomically, preferably avoiding ambiguous single-word posts in a foreign language? Just a thought.

So your post is self-refuting, PD. ...
I guess it was self-refuting when the Japanese said it about the Americans, too.  As it was self-refuting every single other time it was used. The same standard applies.
It's only self-refuting when said to someone; it's not self-refuting when said about someone. If you make a post, "Gnu, I am not responding to you", you are refuting yourself, because that is itself a response; whereas if you PM Screwtape to say, "I am not responding to Gnu", you're not refuting yourself.

As regards what Premier Suzuki actually meant, Wiki suggests that his use of the word was actually directed at his own military:
Quote
Suzuki's choice of the term was dictated more by the need to appease the military, which was hostile to the idea of "unconditional surrender", than to signal anything to the Allies.

« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 05:26:13 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #207 on: January 12, 2013, 05:39:36 PM »
He looked to be saying it about your post, rather than to you.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #208 on: January 12, 2013, 06:43:53 PM »
To clarify my position.  When I first saw your post, I focussed on the argument about "going round in circles", which I thought was the point.  When you made clear that it was the insult that was important, I continued to deal with it as a person involved in the thread - which, frankly, was all I was interested in.
OK. And what I was interested in was getting you to put your Moderator hat on and respond in that capacity, so I pointed out that I was breaking the Rules, and I then Reported myself and told you that I'd done so. Obviously that was a faux-report, not intended to involve any Mods not already involved in the discussion. So there was no need to for you to react as if it was a real report and recuse yourself because of a possible conflict of interest.

In retrospect, it would have been better if I had chosen some other way of breaking the Rules rather than posting insults. I could have posted pornography, for example; and then you'd have had no reason to recuse yourself. 


Quote
I understand your desire for an experiment to:

....reproduce a microcosm of a deterministic justice and prison system here in the forum, with Anf and GB as the Judges, the ER as prison, Screwtape as the Appeal Judge, banning as the death penalty and me as the hapless fallguy. One goal was to get a better idea of what Anf meant by rehabilitation.

...but it isn't practical.  I can't run you through a system as if it were MY system, if that system doesn't work my way.

You could have done so, as an experiment, using my faux-report and Greybeard and Screwtape as fellow deterministic mods.

But you raise another interesting question: how does the WWGHA system work? Does it assume Free Will and moral responsibility? If so, how do you personally operate as a Mod within that system, given that you disagree with those concepts? Furthermore, if enough Mods did become believers in meat puppetry and the Forum adopted their principles, what would change? How would that system work?
« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 06:45:37 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #209 on: January 12, 2013, 07:04:46 PM »
And I note that you dodged the entire content of my post.

I didn't.  I addressed every point you made, I think.

Yet you chose to respond to PD, and not to me.
He's the Mod who's confronting me. So his post took precedence over yours.

Quote
Now to ME, that suggests that what is important to you is not a response to your post, but a fight with PD?
Then you are highly suggestible. I responded to PD's first intervention thus:
Hi, PD. Thanks for responding to my Report so promptly. I'm impressed.

There's a slight problem though; I'd like to be judged by a Mod who believes that I'm a meat robot (for the obvious reason that they will understand and accept my defense), and I'm not sure whether you do.

So, if you don't object too much, I'm going to pretend that your post came from Anf or Graybeard (or Screwtape), and continue the conversation. I don't want to waste your time on this.

Quote
Gnu, you've been here long enough to know better than that.  Dial it down.
I don't think I can, Anf. As you said:
Quote
I realise that you didn't "choose" to call me that, it was just inevitable given your life so far.
Well, quite. As you say, I'm a meat robot. I'm not responsible for my words or actions. 

Part of me wants this thing to stop; but another much stronger part wants to... wants to... oh god... say you're a stupid c**t again.

Oh dear. Now I'm in more trouble...

I need your help, Anf. Please don't punish me; I don't deserve it, you know that.

Can you rehabilitate me?  I certainly hope so.
There's no aggression towards PD there, Anf. No indication that I wanted to fight him. Whereas his next mod intervention was aggressive, condescending and insulting. So who's picking the fight here?
« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 07:07:20 PM by Gnu Ordure »

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #210 on: January 12, 2013, 09:40:15 PM »
You could have done so, as an experiment, using my faux-report and Greybeard and Screwtape as fellow deterministic mods.

He did behave as a deterministic mod.  Your expectation of different reactions is a by-product of your lack of understanding of the paradigm to which you object.

It's like a Christian arguing that we're all behaving as if there's a god by having morality, but that if we're honest to ourselves in our beliefs, then we won't act morally.  The Christian isn't getting outside of his or her own paradigm to understand what it's actually like to think differently.

That's what you're like, here.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #211 on: January 13, 2013, 03:23:31 AM »
That's because while describing your position as naturalistic, you're still treating it as though it functions magically.
Okay, explain to me how I'm treating it as though it functions magically.  Because as it stands, you're acting exactly like the Christians you just got done criticizing for not getting outside their own paradigms.  You aren't giving me any information to work with, you're simply acting as if it's something I should already know.  Effectively, you're saying that I'm not being honest in my argument (that no matter what I'm saying, I'm acting like it's magical), and I resent that.  I doubly resent that attitude considering that you just got done talking about how other people should get out of their paradigms in order to properly address what you say and think.

That argument cuts both ways.  If you're going to criticize other people for not making the effort to get out of their own paradigms, then you have to do it yourself.  And you're not in this case.  You're acting much like those you criticize, making presumptions about how I think based on the paradigm you accept as true, and writing your posts thusly.  It works about as well as a Christian lecturing an atheist about "divine morality" does.

So, please.  Don't just tell me how you think I'm treating it.  Tell me why you think that[1].
 1. And please, don't just tell me that I can't fully explain it.  I've acknowledged that, but that doesn't mean I'm relying on magic, anymore than the scientific hypotheses which attempt to address this very same problem rely on magic.

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #212 on: January 13, 2013, 04:41:00 AM »
Why can they not be influenced by the same quantum complexity that you say can influence thoughts?  They run through the same neural connections, don't they?
Because reflexes are for when the speed of reacting is the most important.  Complexity complicates matters, so reflexes are by nature very simple.  They're outside the loop, so to speak, and it would defeat the point of having them for them to be complicated and slow.

So.....quantum events happen slowly?

Anyhoo...an analogy I have been thinking about.  In the Western world, we regard a jury as the fairest way to get to a verdict on a particular person.  But here's the thing: with free will, are we really being fair?  For a particular case that an individual juror hears, they will hear one particular set of evidence.  They will know these facts, and no others, and should reach a conclusion based on those facts.  And the deterministic juror will indeed always come to the same conclusion based on those facts.

But the "free will" juror will not.  Given ONE particular set of evidence, he or she can reach the verdict of guilty, or not guilty.  In what way is that fair?  SHOULD juries be allowed, while we regard free will as existing?

...but it isn't practical.  I can't run you through a system as if it were MY system, if that system doesn't work my way.

You could have done so, as an experiment, using my faux-report and Greybeard and Screwtape as fellow deterministic mods.
But you raise another interesting question: how does the WWGHA system work? Does it assume Free Will and moral responsibility? If so, how do you personally operate as a Mod within that system, given that you disagree with those concepts? Furthermore, if enough Mods did become believers in meat puppetry and the Forum adopted their principles, what would change? How would that system work?

I could pretend to run through the procedures.  But if that was all you wanted, then there was no need to make the insult in the first place - you could have just asked the question you ask above, and we culd have set up an experiment.  We either run with WWGHAs rules all the way, or we don't.

To my mind, the WWGHA fulfills most of the requirements of adeterminisic system, in that there is no "punishment".  It spots transgressions, and it takes steps to ensure they will not reoccur.  The ER sytem focusses on rehabilitation and a return to the community.  So I wouldn't expect the system to have to change very much.



<<fixed quotes>>
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 04:28:35 AM by Anfauglir »
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 Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #213 on: January 13, 2013, 05:37:19 AM »
Jaime, all I meant is that while you object to the idea of "metaphysical free will" as described earlier, the position you ended up holding to functioned in precisely the same way, for all practical purposes.

Your use of emergence is precisely the same as someone's use of supernaturalism.  It works in mysterious ways.  Here's an example:

Quote
... Frankly, I find that to be a singularly useless way of looking at the world.  A person might not be able to choose which desires they have, but they can choose how to express them; they can choose whether to emphasize a desire, or alternately to de-emphasize it.  They don't have to act on the desire, even if they possess it.  Now, I suppose you could argue that them not acting on a desire simply means that some other desire has taken its place, but that's basically sophistry.  I'll grant that it's based on the logical premise that as the small goes (neurons), so goes the large (the brain), that the large is nothing more than the small writ large. ...

So, there are two classes of things happening in the brain.  Reaction to desires, and the action of those desires.  The latter is mechanistic, as you acknowledge.  But as for the former...what?  Non-mechanistic?  Apparently it is not tied to pre-existing states, as it can escape them.  It is supernatural.  You don't use the word, you don't like the word applied to your approach, but you still use its meaning.

Going further...
Quote
The problem is that this premise depends on there not being anything other than what we already know to be the case.  That the rules as we understand them are the sum and total of the way the universe works.  I don't think we can afford to say that at this point.  We've made discoveries about things just within the past century that changed the established model of the way things are understood.  If we try to explain away the ability to make decisions as an algorithm that just creates the illusion of decision-making, then we're making the presumption that this is the only case that matters, as opposed to considering alternatives that might be true.

Therefore, God.  No, I know that's not your intention here.  But it works just as well as an argument for a deity as it does for anything else.  What The Bleep Do We Know, right?  We don't know what we don't know, and we can't expect reality to match what we know.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #214 on: January 13, 2013, 08:25:05 AM »
<<fixed quotes>>
The second one's still wrong.

Offline Anfauglir

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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 plethora

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #216 on: January 14, 2013, 05:09:41 AM »
EDIT: Crap! I modified this post instead of creating a new one ... losing everything I had posted previously.

I will re-post my reply again in a subsequent post.  :-[
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 07:06:13 AM by plethora »
The truth doesn't give a shit about our feelings.

Offline Strawman

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #217 on: January 14, 2013, 05:59:04 AM »
I totally agree with you and also believe there is no such thing as free will: "Free from what?" I ask.
We certainly DO have will, no one can argue against that, whether or not we can influence our chances of success we must still have the will to succeed or we simply wont -- of course I believe that this will is not a choice you make but it is forced upon you by cause and effect.
We are part of the universe, we are bound by it and defined by it, we are at it's mercy; many people struggle to accept this.

Why if it is impossible for me to become the first black President of the United States (I'm very white and very English, regardless of Barrack Obama) do I think I'm capable of altering my future in any other way? What is this supernatural power that we humans think we posses that can alter the course of events to come? Why do we believe that "thinking makes it so", it doesn't.

Sorry to link to my own thread but I just posted something on there that I think helps explain the idea of free will and why we still cling onto this belief: it's part of our irrationality and what happens when we project our own irrational biases onto the universe. The Importance of Irrationality
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 06:00:48 AM by Strawman »
If God exists at all he clearly wishes to reside exclusively in the imagination.

Offline plethora

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #218 on: January 14, 2013, 08:38:41 AM »

There you go. Your brain state is fluctuating as time goes by. As your level of anger wanes, your desires change and so your decisions are influenced by that.
Sorry, but I didn't buy a similar argument from Anfauglir and I'm not going to buy yours either.  People are not simply slaves to competing desires, with whichever desire happens to be strongest determining what people happen to do.  Ultimately, that line of reasoning pretty much results in absolving people of responsibility for the things they do. As Anfauglir has said several times (jokingly, I hope), he didn't have any choice but to write what he wrote, and thus I shouldn't blame him for it.

Frankly, I find that to be a singularly useless way of looking at the world.

Merely claiming that we are not slaves to our desires doesn’t make it so. Can you demonstrate that this is not the case?

You follow this up with an ‘appeal to consequences’ fallacy. We can have a discussion if you want about how society should act morally and ethically where is it universally understood that people act the only way they can act ... but that has no bearing on whether we actually have free will or not.

Question for you ... does a mentally ill person have free will? Are they not acting the only way they can act given their brain configuration?

Quote
A person might not be able to choose which desires they have, but they can choose how to express them; they can choose whether to emphasize a desire, or alternately to de-emphasize it.  They don't have to act on the desire, even if they possess it.  Now, I suppose you could argue that them not acting on a desire simply means that some other desire has taken its place, but that's basically sophistry. 

Please give me an example of taking action, or avoiding taking action, on a desire without making reference to another underlying desire. Go on ...

Where does the desire to suppress or enhance another desire come from exactly?

Quote
I'll grant that it's based on the logical premise that as the small goes (neurons), so goes the large (the brain), that the large is nothing more than the small writ large. The problem is that this premise depends on there not being anything other than what we already know to be the case.  That the rules as we understand them are the sum and total of the way the universe works.   
I don't think we can afford to say that at this point.  We've made discoveries about things just within the past century that changed the established model of the way things are understood.

So it’s the “free will of the gaps” then?

Are we going to claim that we have “free will” and assume it exists hidden somewhere in the gaps within our knowledge about how the brain and the universe works?

If we try to explain away the ability to make decisions as an algorithm that just creates the illusion of decision-making, then we're making the presumption that this is the only case that matters, as opposed to considering alternatives that might be true.

First let me just clarify that there is no illusion of decision-making. We make decisions all the time. We make choices all the time. That is fact. However, our decision-making process is entirely dependent on our physical brain state, external stimuli, underlying desires and circumstance all of which we have no hand in.

Secondly ... we should go where the evidence leads us. Neuroscience has been demonstrating via scientific experimentation that, within our decision-making process, choices are made in our brains before they even enter our consciousness. Here's one source of this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=N6S9OidmNZM

Is science open to new evidence as we discover more and more about how our brains work? Of course! But until evidence surfaces to support the notion that we somehow author our choices freely, I will not accept it as true.
The truth doesn't give a shit about our feelings.

Offline 12 Monkeys

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Offline Bagheera

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #220 on: January 15, 2013, 04:16:47 PM »
an interesting article on science and free will

http://io9.com/5975778/scientific-evidence-that-you-probably-dont-have-free-will?utm_source=jalopnik.com&utm_medium=recirculation&utm_campaign=recirculation

Isn't the whole point of interaction an extension of the notion that free will does not exist? Its something that we intrinsically believe; that everything is caused by other things, so if you can figure out all the factors involved in producing X, you can produce X 100% of the time.

We do this ALL. THE. TIME. Whether its spanking your kids for breaking the window, showering before you get ready for a date, or smiling at your boss even though you can't stand him, we are all operating on the assumption that you can influence the universe to get certain results if you apply certain forces. The fact that we then turn around and say "Well but I always make my own decisions independent of these forces" just seems. . . mindbogglingly naive.

We do make our decisions based on forces and events beyond our immediate awareness. The fact that we cannot determine what all those factors may be at any given time doesn't mean we have free will, any more than not knowing what direction the dice will bounce when it hits the floor means that the dice is consciously choosing its path.

When you roll a 6 on your dice, does the dice say that it meant to do that? Or does it say that it wanted to be a 4, but there were pressing reasons it had to be a 6 and one day, when its done laying there, it'll be a 4 again?

The problem with the realization of "no free will" is that it changes the relationship on the forces acting on a person. If, because of the other forces that have shaped him, a person believes that (for example) "free will" = personal responsibility, and other forces act on him sufficient to alter or override that belief, then that person may believe that he cannot be held personally responsible for his actions.

However, the other forces acting on him are still in existence. Choosing to go on a raping and pillaging spree brings other who believe safety = killing rapists. Either the other forces acting on the subject are sufficient for him to realize "no free will" =/= no consequences, or he eventually is interdicted by the other forces acting on him as a result.

(It's quite possible that the person could live a comfortable life as a sociopath with the notion that he can't be held personally responsible for whatever he chooses to do. Dictators do this all the time. So do people whose existence has them in a place where they have reached a place of equilibrium; what they want to do coincides nicely with what they are permitted to do, so they have no need or desire to test their belief that they cannot be held personally responsible for their actions).

Its not quite very flowery and technical, but it does match the evidence at hand nicely.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 04:18:30 PM by Bagheera »

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #221 on: January 16, 2013, 01:14:15 PM »
I don't actually like arguing about this subject.  It isn't that I'm ignoring the replies to me, it's that it feels like fighting a hydra, and I'm fresh out of torches.  I get frustrated, exasperated, and annoyed, and I have to spend more and more time excising my emotions from my responses.  That means that I'm more and more likely to say something I would regret later on.  I don't want to do that and you guys don't deserve it.  The argument is basically going nowhere, anyway; I could rebut your points, but it would basically be by restating my arguments, which is pointless.

The irony of this discussion is that efforts to put the functions of the brain into a coherent theory can be used to support a purely deterministic explanation for things; yet that deterministic explanation is simply not very useful for trying to explain human behavior.  Let's say for the sake of argument that you could predict someone's future actions exactly with 100% knowledge of their past actions.  The problem is, getting that 100% knowledge is effectively impossible.  That means that the deterministic explanation is just not that useful, no matter how accurate it might be.

Furthermore, that argument leads to problems down the line.  Take Anfaulgir's statement that we shouldn't blame people for their own actions because they had no choice in the matter.  The problem with that argument is that a person who does not believe they are in control of their own actions can do truly terrible things because they don't feel responsible.  (It's similar to the problem of psychopathy)  That's probably why we evolved the sense of responsibility, because a group of people who do not feel responsibility for what they do to others are less likely to survive than a group of people who do feel responsibility towards others.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #222 on: January 16, 2013, 04:02:09 PM »
The irony of this discussion is that efforts to put the functions of the brain into a coherent theory can be used to support a purely deterministic explanation for things; yet that deterministic explanation is simply not very useful for trying to explain human behavior.  Let's say for the sake of argument that you could predict someone's future actions exactly with 100% knowledge of their past actions.  The problem is, getting that 100% knowledge is effectively impossible.  That means that the deterministic explanation is just not that useful, no matter how accurate it might be.

Agreed.  That's because it's too fine-scale (particle interactions and such).  We don't have information to work with on that scale, and even if we did, we wouldn't have the processing power to use that information to make human-scale predictions.

The same is true of sociology vs psychology.  Socialogical predictions could in principle be made based on knowledge of the exact psychology of every human being on the planet.  But that's not remotely practical.  We don't have that information/processing power, so we rely on statistics that don't describe the fine components of society but instead describe its overall tendencies/attributes.  This leads to imperfect yet useful predictions - exactly like psychology allows us to make imperfect yet useful predictions about individual human beings, while cell neurology would fail at doing so due to lack of info/processing.

This is all a matter of practicality, though.  Do sociological processes actually happen as a result of something other than the combined states of all members of society and their environment?  Of course not.  It's still determined by the state of its components, and while that scale may not be useful to analyze, that doesn't require us to hold the belief that society's behaviour is somehow "free" from those components' states.

The same is true in my own field, geology.  A magma's behaviour depends on the states (temperature, oxidation, velocity, pressure, etc.) of every atom/molecule within it, as well as its host rock and all the similar states of its particles.  Yet that is not a useful way of modelling how a magma behaves.  We must gloss over those details, generalizing its chemistry and physical properties, and make an imperfect but useful prediction of how it will act.  And there's not even any 'will' involved, there.

That's all that's going on with "free will", Jaime.  It's just a function of which scale we choose to analyze.  It's not an objectively real phenomenon.
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Offline Bagheera

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #223 on: January 16, 2013, 04:15:04 PM »
The irony of this discussion is that efforts to put the functions of the brain into a coherent theory can be used to support a purely deterministic explanation for things; yet that deterministic explanation is simply not very useful for trying to explain human behavior.  Let's say for the sake of argument that you could predict someone's future actions exactly with 100% knowledge of their past actions.  The problem is, getting that 100% knowledge is effectively impossible.  That means that the deterministic explanation is just not that useful, no matter how accurate it might be.

Which of these statements can you assert with a high degree of certainty?

If I cut of John's head, he will die.
If I show John video of someone he loves about being bloodily murdered, he will feel horror.
John will disrobe in a doctor's office but not in an elementary school.
If I tell John, "That woman's top just fell off", he'll immediately look.
If I tell John that there is an invisible man in the sky who will throw him into a lake of fire forever if he eats prawns, he will not eat the prawns.

On the surface, these statements seem to be arranged in descending order of certainty. But then you get to the last one and it is unclear where that should statement should rank. Then it becomes clear that ranking these statements is based upon a series of assumptions about the nature of John, John's past, and what forces are acting on John.  Is John human (could be a name for my robot). If he is, is he a sociopath? On drugs? Being threatened with a gun to his daughter's head? 

But it is still useful. The usefulness is already understood in the notion that you can predict someone's future actions. The limitations are real, you are correct; in real life,being unable to determine 100% of a person's past is incredibly daunting, and even if we did we'd need exacting information about their environment as well as their physical state. At the same time can be allowed for and mitigated. After all, the same limitations are present in every endeavor. We don't know 100% of anything, except those things we've made up[1].

Yet even with those limitations we have  developed disciplines that seek to express cause and effect because it is vital to our survival; if this, then that. And we apply it to everything, and then when it comes to ourselves, we say "Whoa! Whoa! That's not right! I'm SPECIAL!"

Interestingly enough, we do the same thing when it comes to death. Also, when it comes to estimating our abilities in things that we haven't actually tried[2]. It seems to be a human thing, and it may even be a necessary human thing, to have so little self-awareness that things that apply to [everything else in our observed existence] don't actually apply to us.

Don't get me wrong. There is apparently a degree of unpredictability in the universe. As I understand how decay works (and if I don't people will correct me), you can't  tell exactly when a particular atom of a radioactive element will decay, only that half of the atoms in a particular element will have decayed by a certain time. Human behavior covers a much larger range of options beyond "decay" and not decay", and is subject to a large variety of forces, including the forces that come from being able to manipulate its environment.

This lends a huge degree of uncertainty to complex issues, but like Newton's laws are sufficient to describe the way we interact with the observable universe on a day to day level, studies of human behavior can explain and predict on a certain scale. For the variables and unknowns, one can feel free to insert "free will" in the same way that one inserts "god" until we have  better understanding of human behavior.

God and free will appear to be our go-to bookmarks for things we don't want to acknowledge about place in the universe.
 1. There's a philosophy discussion for you; god invents the idea of man that thinks he has free will even though he can't because he's an invention of god who knows everything
 2. Dunning-Krueger effect

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #224 on: January 17, 2013, 05:39:22 AM »
The irony of this discussion is that efforts to put the functions of the brain into a coherent theory can be used to support a purely deterministic explanation for things; yet that deterministic explanation is simply not very useful for trying to explain human behavior. 

I'm not sure this argument holds though - surely a deterministic model, even if unable to be modelled 100% accurately, would give better results than a system where there isn't the causal relationships?

Furthermore, that argument leads to problems down the line.  Take Anfaulgir's statement that we shouldn't blame people for their own actions because they had no choice in the matter.  The problem with that argument is that a person who does not believe they are in control of their own actions can do truly terrible things because they don't feel responsible.  (It's similar to the problem of psychopathy)  That's probably why we evolved the sense of responsibility, because a group of people who do not feel responsibility for what they do to others are less likely to survive than a group of people who do feel responsibility towards others.

True.  But as Bagheera has questioned in another thread, do we want to ignore what's true, for what happens to give the best results?   Its argument from consequences, which I'm not too keen on - it's all too easy to stifle debate: I could put forward the opposite view and say that since religion (which we all oppose, right guys?) is usually centred around the concept of free will, surely proving free will does not exist would be a Good Thing as it would prove most religions moot?   ;D

What did you think about my "jury" analogy, BTW?  Would you prefer a deterministic juror to judge your case, or a juror with free will?  Ack - that's argument by consequences, sorry, scratch that!  Rephrase to: who do you think would be more likely to give the correct verdict in a case, a deterministic jury or a free willed jury?

By the by.....I'm sure I've got heated myself in this discussion, for which I'm sorry (but hey - I couldn't help it, after all.....!  ;) )   Still fun to discuss though.
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Offline Bagheera

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #225 on: January 18, 2013, 06:00:40 PM »
Something that occurred to me over a period of time, that touches on free will:

I have said "If you can convince someone that an invisible man in the sky is going to burn him forever for masturbating, you can convince him of anything".

I also acknowledge that many religious people have the same take with a mirrored perspective: "If you can convince someone that he's just a clever ape that's going to die, you can convince him of anything."

The first is said in an assessment of credulity; that once you have replaced someone's worldview with one that is apparently utterly ridiculous and unsupported by their own experience, that person can no longer exercise judgement.

The second is said in an assessment of morality; that once you have reduced someone's personal worldview to that of being utterly inconsequential, they no longer have any moral compass to dissuade them from committing grievous ills.

I am coming slowly to the realization that both proposals are just the same statement with an unnecessary qualifier added as a prefix. Starkly stated, the truth is:

You can convince people of anything.

If you can manipulate a person's environment, both external (culture, mostly) and internal (drugs, mostly)  there is literally nothing that they will not believe. Slavery is good; slavery is bad. Homosexuality is good; homosexuality is bad. Stars are gods; stars are huge balls of nuclear reactions. The world is flat; the world is a globe. The sun moves and the earth is still; the earth spins like a top as it moves round the sun. Killing civilians in war should never be done; killing civilians in war is the best way to conduct war. We're real; we're not real.

Again, where in all this does free will live? Solely in impulse control. What most people call free will is simply a creature reacting to conflicting impulses by choosing the one that most closely mirrors intellectual logic over the one that is driven by a more immediate emotional impulse. That's what we consider free will.

But in deciding to smile at your boss instead of murdering him, one brain function is overriding another part based on a different set of criteria, but the need goal of both brain functions is survival and procreation. Change the criteria necessary to achieve those goals, and the decision changes fluidly. Cement the belief that you will never be caught, and strengthen the belief that you will can forever if only the boss dies, and you can accurately predict the murder.

The exercise of impulse control  to rein in reaction to immediate emotional responses. That I believe is the only useful definition of free will.

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #226 on: January 18, 2013, 06:24:06 PM »
if one doesn't believe in god, heaven, hell, or sin...isn't everything they do of their own free will?

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #227 on: January 18, 2013, 06:52:59 PM »
That depends, keeta.  What do you mean by free will?

I recommend reading the thread.
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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #228 on: January 18, 2013, 07:16:40 PM »
yup i've read it azdgari, however i do have a brain injury that prevents me from recalling details..so soon as i read it and onto the next one, i've forgotten the last one..
so, what i mean by free will, is choosing your actions yourself without the influence of a higher power. if you don't believe in a higher power, then it's all free will in that respect.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #229 on: January 18, 2013, 09:19:30 PM »
So, free from coersion.  In that sense I think we all agree that humans have free will.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Dominic

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #230 on: January 19, 2013, 01:46:13 AM »
if one doesn't believe in god, heaven, hell, or sin...isn't everything they do of their own free will?

Keeta,  if I am understanding the thread, a number of people are arguing that all our actions are pre-determined from the beginning of time by the laws of nature but with some random fluctuations thrown in along the way ie zero freedom.

Those people claim or imply that the complexity of all the factors at work make it appear as if we have free choice.

It's not my view, but that is what you are up against if you want to argue an alternative.

My own impression is that their belief is not falsifiable because it involves irreducible complexity.  However that doesn't mean it cannot be true, it just means that it is an unscientific belief.


Offline Azdgari

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Re: A thought on a Godless universe and its implications on free will...
« Reply #231 on: January 19, 2013, 08:25:54 AM »
Dominic, it merely follows from the belief that the universe has a definite way of functioning.

All evidence so far shows that it does.
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