Author Topic: Why We Argue With Religious People  (Read 4818 times)

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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #116 on: August 06, 2013, 08:01:18 AM »
One quick question - re: your brother scaring you, you "taught yourself not to react" - can you expand on what that actually involved?

First, thanks for the response vis-a-vis my choice making process. I'm not good at anything.

As for how I did it. I dunno. That was 50 years ago. My youngest brother was getting off on scaring people, and we were all getting tired of it. Somehow I got enough practice to teach myself to stop reacting. Which drove him absolutely crazy until he outgrew the habit. At age 36.

Just kidding. He grew out of it after a few months but I had a talent for life. Now luckily such things are not a normal day to day event in my life, but close to twenty years ago some friends had a daughter who had discovered the magic of a good loud "boo!" and she was totally perplexed when it didn't cause me to jump. So as of around 1995 I still had it.

Oh, it also works with loud sounds. Like when someone drops something big. I don't jump for those either.

I assume this will get me killed someday.

Edit: Had two posts mixed up and my first try at this made no sense.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 08:07:31 AM by ParkingPlaces »
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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #117 on: August 06, 2013, 08:33:02 AM »
I tried reading the Wikipedia article on free will very slowly, in an effort to absorb the various points of view. I came out more confused than when I went in. Right now I'm just typing away waiting for some part of me to go ahead and click the Post button, because I am only conscious, which means I am not qualified. I'm not free to press it without a little help from everything else in my life.

I'm starting to realise how important bowel bacteria are. Deep down, I think we are all controlled by chemicals that they excrete. Your confusion could well be due to some toxic allergenic chemicals they are pumping into your bloodstream.

Feel free to eat lots of raw potatoes and green bananas, or perhaps, give yourself an enema.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #118 on: August 06, 2013, 09:39:40 AM »
I tried reading the Wikipedia article on free will very slowly, in an effort to absorb the various points of view. I came out more confused than when I went in. Right now I'm just typing away waiting for some part of me to go ahead and click the Post button, because I am only conscious, which means I am not qualified. I'm not free to press it without a little help from everything else in my life.

I'm starting to realise how important bowel bacteria are. Deep down, I think we are all controlled by chemicals that they excrete. Your confusion could well be due to some toxic allergenic chemicals they are pumping into your bloodstream.

Feel free to eat lots of raw potatoes and green bananas, or perhaps, give yourself an enema.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy

Nah, they're probably there for a reason. I don't mess with my innards except as a last resort. Especially if raw potatoes are involved.

Besides, my brain takes total responsibility for my confusion. It is about the size of a dinosaur's. About as big as a golf ball or a marble or something. Obviously, if that is true, I am not able to give more specific answers.
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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #119 on: August 06, 2013, 10:12:06 AM »
It's almost as if I'm talking to your bowel bacteria, directly.
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #120 on: August 06, 2013, 10:52:47 AM »
Get a room, guys. &)
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #121 on: August 06, 2013, 11:25:04 AM »
It's almost as if I'm talking to your bowel bacteria, directly.

Soooooo tempted to take this out of context as a sig...
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Offline Traveler

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #122 on: August 06, 2013, 11:53:38 AM »
I must be getting old. Whenever I see the age-old free will question, no matter how much I hear, I keep thinking that we're asking the wrong question. Not that I know what the right question is, but I've concluded that, for me, the question is irrelevant. If there is only one path, and one path only, for my life, the specifics are so completely and utterly complex that it doesn't matter. And since there is no god to keep score, its sort of like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It becomes mere noise in my head. Like a koan ... it gets you thinking, but ultimately leads nowhere.

I guess that makes me more of a pragmatist than a philosopher.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #123 on: August 06, 2013, 02:39:41 PM »
I guess that makes me more of a pragmatist than a philosopher.

I hate to get my hands dirty in free will debates, but I'll just say this: it matters in how we deal with responsibility.  If there is free will, then, to some degree, there is no way to "program" people.  That is, behavior is something of a random variable.  However, if our decisions are strictly deterministic, then we should, theoretically, be able to adjust someone's inputs and processes to get more desirable output. 

This is relevant in, say, how we address crime.  If we have free will, then punishment makes more sense.  If we are deterministic decision makers, then it makes more sense to understand how to "reprogram" people.

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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #124 on: August 06, 2013, 04:17:54 PM »
When you look at how much crime rates vary from one country to another, it does seem that it is possible to "program" people to be more cooperative and peaceful. Otherwise, we would see people in Japan and all other countries robbing and killing each other at the same rates.

Since human beings have the same basic chemical/biological makeup, the variable has to be the environmental conditions that people encounter. We don't choose our chemical makeup, nor do we choose what environment we are born into. Given these facts, I am leaning toward less free will, at least in the big life decisions.

We probably have some free will in whether to have chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Or maybe not. Taste preferences are established even before birth, based on what the mother eats. Babies in India have preferences for more spicy foods, in Korea for more fish flavors. Again, what your mother ate when you were in her uterus is not something anyone can choose.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #125 on: August 06, 2013, 08:13:35 PM »
^^ Even if taste preferences are established after birth, the very fact that they're established means that they're not free.
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Offline jdawg70

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #126 on: August 07, 2013, 11:48:23 AM »
I'm not terribly qualified to really engage in free will debates and arguments.  At best I have a Wikipedia-level of understanding when it comes to neurology, and probably even less of a background in understanding the various philosophical discourse regarding the subject.  But I'm going to go ahead and throw my take out there...

It seems to me that there is semantic wiggle-room in regards to free will.  'Free' can have several connotations; it could mean that one's will exists independently from (free from) material and/or physical connection, but I find that view to be without evidence.  If, however, we allow for a spectrum between free will and non-free will, I think we can define 'free' in this case to mean degrees of freedom of a system.  I'm just not sure it makes a lot of sense to talk in terms of a hard line distinction between an entity that has free will and an entity that does not have free will.  Does a photon have free will?  Does a fruit fly have free will?  Does a dog have free will?  Does a human have free will?

If we think in terms of degrees of freedom, it may be possible to determine if some entity has free will by evaluating the total number of causal variables are involved in any resultant action.  In terms of a photon, there are a relatively small, limited number of causal variables that dictate what the next state of the entity will be (velocity, spin, location in the universe, etc) from the current state of the entity.  In terms of a fruit fly, the number of causal variables increases dramatically - due to a) the sheer number of discrete entities involved (number of molecules that make up the entity and their various states) and b) the sheer complexity of the system (the configuration of the brain of the fruit fly being substantially more complex than a lump of goo containing the same number of molecules).  By the time you step up to humans, you have an immensely complex system that has a gargantuan number of causal variables involved.  The 'out' in terms of a free will debate, I guess, is to say that an entity has free will when it is of sufficient complexity as to make it practically infeasible to precisely control or accurately predict the response of said entity from some given set of external stimuli.  In a way, it's basically compatibilism without reference to concepts such as motivation or intent.

Of course, there a number of problems with this.  First and foremost, I have neither expertise in neurology, information theory, or organic chemistry so much of the above is simply a 'from the hip' proposition.  Secondly, the implication is that the concept of 'free will' is strictly a label that is attached to certain emergent phenomenon observed, and thus probably does not apply to a lot of free will/no free will debates.  Thirdly, this spectrum of free will suffers from the 'I know it when I see it' problem, insofar as there are objective measurements one can make to determine if free will is present but there is no objective line drawn to make the distinction.

Anyway...just feeding more thoughts into the topic.
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Offline median

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #127 on: August 07, 2013, 04:17:13 PM »
Having the capacity and/or capability to make choices in the way in which we wish to is (I find) more important in regards to a definition for freewill (at least in regards to one that actually pertains, and is important to, human beings). Dan Dennett states something similar to this in his book Freedom Evolves. It doesn't really matter to me whatever that our actions are both acted upon via prior physical circumstances (quantum indeterminacy withstanding), or that they are (in theory) predictable, provided that one knew all the necessary preconditions for such a prediction. What matters to me is that I can make the choices I want (i.e. - without unwanted coersion). If one chooses to define freewill as some spooky ability deriving from the capacitive action of "non-physical" forces, in order to make choices outside of our world (i.e. - our physical corporeal known experienced structure), or if one defines freewill as something similar to the capacity to make choices which are completely 'unhitched' from the world in which we now find ourselves, then I have no use for that definition.

Language is for those who understand it, and in that sense it is for us to use (for one) in an effort to benefit our lives. Why use a definition that is completely useless to our reasoning faculties - especially when there is no consensus on this question. Again, what I think we need is a bit of agnosticism on the subject. If a tree is free to fall when an earthquake occurs, so too we are free to make choices when we wish.

As the great Christopher Hitchens once noted, "We have no choice but to have freewill."
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #128 on: August 07, 2013, 06:29:18 PM »
Median:  I believe in the same sense of "free will" as you do.  Freedom from coercion.  That is not how folks such as PP have defined it, however.
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #129 on: August 07, 2013, 06:58:51 PM »
Median:  I believe in the same sense of "free will" as you do.  Freedom from coercion.  That is not how folks such as PP have defined it, however.

I've decided not to define it for now. I don't have the time to look into the various POV on the subject, and I don't care enough on these hot summer days to get all philosophical. In the past I have listened to others and come to a variety of conclusions on the issue, and I dislike the inconsistency I have shown. Since no one knows for sure, there is little sense in my just guessing. I'm just making it a non-issue. Either because I can or because I must.
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Offline shnozzola

Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #130 on: August 07, 2013, 08:42:05 PM »
This is relevant in, say, how we address crime.  If we have free will, then punishment makes more sense.  If we are deterministic decision makers, then it makes more sense to understand how to "reprogram" people.

- My sister works with some pretty tough cookies.  Angry Muslim men with gold teeth that have been in and out of jail.  But they are trying hard enough that they have been given custody of their elementary school age sons over their incompetent mothers.  At one class, a guy asked why his son bursts into tears whenever he tells him to work on his homework.

   My sister asked if he wanted the truth.  Yes.  It is because he is scared of you.  This guy now bursts into tears because he realizes it, but had never known.  That's the programming that needs reprogrammed, not punished.  Society loves punishment and it is always wrong.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #131 on: August 08, 2013, 03:01:56 AM »
What matters to me is that I can make the choices I want (i.e. - without unwanted coersion). If one chooses to define freewill as some spooky ability deriving from the capacitive action of "non-physical" forces, in order to make choices outside of our world (i.e. - our physical corporeal known experienced structure), or if one defines freewill as something similar to the capacity to make choices which are completely 'unhitched' from the world in which we now find ourselves, then I have no use for that definition.

But that's the thing though: if philosophical free will ISN'T free, then every decision we make may as well be coerced.

it matters in how we deal with responsibility.....This is relevant in, say, how we address crime. 

In a trial, if the defence offers "I had to rob the bank - he was holding my kids hostage" then we grant leniency because his ability to choose was dramatically constrained.  But if my views on free will are correct, then ALL choices are entirely constrained.

At the moment, there are huge sections of the population that look at criminals and say "he chose to do it.  Doesn't matter he came from a broken home and a ghetto estate - he still chose to do the crime".  Which gives them a huge get-out for actually clearing up the ghettos, in making people's lives better.

If the world accepted that the environment and circumstances people exist in make crime inevitable, then maybe there will be more incentive to give everyone a decent environment and circumstances.  As it is now, we can kid ourselves its possible to "will" our way to goodness.

And as Shnoz says: a free-will justice system focusses on punishing.  A no-free-will system would focus on rehabilitation.  Which one leads to lower repeat crime?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline lotanddaughters

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #132 on: August 08, 2013, 08:35:25 PM »
Median:  I believe in the same sense of "free will" as you do.  Freedom from coercion.  That is not how folks such as PP have defined it, however.

I've decided not to define it for now. I don't have the time to look into the various POV on the subject, and I don't care enough on these hot summer days to get all philosophical. In the past I have listened to others and come to a variety of conclusions on the issue, and I dislike the inconsistency I have shown. Since no one knows for sure, there is little sense in my just guessing. I'm just making it a non-issue. Either because I can or because I must.
This one might get through to you better:

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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #133 on: August 08, 2013, 10:00:47 PM »
Thanks, lotsanddaughters. I'm going to be off the Internet for the next ten days, starting tomorrow afternoon, but i will have my computer, so I'm downloading Sam Harris right now. I might look for a few other videos with competing points of view, for the heck of it. Maybe when I get back I'll probably be in a better mood and may be more in the mood to discuss the issue without thinking it is fruitless.

PP
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #134 on: August 08, 2013, 11:01:22 PM »
But that's the thing though: if philosophical free will ISN'T free, then every decision we make may as well be coerced.

Not for all purposes.  To the individual, it makes a great deal of difference whether an action is taken in opposition to his or her will, versus whether an action is taken according to that will.  Both are "coerced" by prior conditions, but in the former case another constraint that actually opposes one's conscious will is at play as well.  That's what people usually mean by "coercion" and I think it's the most useful definition for the word.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #135 on: August 09, 2013, 05:11:22 AM »
But that's the thing though: if philosophical free will ISN'T free, then every decision we make may as well be coerced.

Not for all purposes.  To the individual, it makes a great deal of difference whether an action is taken in opposition to his or her will, versus whether an action is taken according to that will.  Both are "coerced" by prior conditions, but in the former case another constraint that actually opposes one's conscious will is at play as well.  That's what people usually mean by "coercion" and I think it's the most useful definition for the word.

Oh yeah - in the run of the mill daily life, you have "free" and "coerced" decisions.  The ones you "decide" for yourself, and the ones where a gun is to your head.  Talking about contracts, or crimes, or whatever, the justice system assumes that there is a difference between the two and treat people accordingly.  That there are some factors we can "choose to ignore", and some factors that force a particular decision.

And that's my point, really.  All there REALLY is (IMHO) is different levels and numbers of "forcing factors".
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #136 on: August 09, 2013, 08:45:39 AM »
You seemed to be lumping them together as being no different whatsoever.  But some "forcing factors" reflect on the person, while others reflect on circumstance.  There is no reason to lump all forms of "forcing" together as being qualitatively identical.
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #137 on: August 09, 2013, 09:29:56 AM »
screwtape just started a thread on rationality, and the blog he linked to has a lot of interesting stuff. This is out of a monthly "quote" thread they have there:

Quote
In a class I taught at Berkeley, I did an experiment where I wrote a simple little program that would let people type either "f" or "d" and would predict which key they were going to push next. It's actually very easy to write a program that will make the right prediction about 70% of the time. Most people don't really know how to type randomly. They'll have too many alternations and so on. There will be all sorts of patterns, so you just have to build some sort of probabilistic model. Even a very crude one will do well. I couldn't even beat my own program, knowing exactly how it worked. I challenged people to try this and the program was getting between 70% and 80% prediction rates. Then, we found one student that the program predicted exactly 50% of the time. We asked him what his secret was and he responded that he "just used his free will."

If true, maybe a few of us have free will. Not me, I'm sure. But maybe some.
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Offline median

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #138 on: August 09, 2013, 11:15:43 PM »
Median:  I believe in the same sense of "free will" as you do.  Freedom from coercion.  That is not how folks such as PP have defined it, however.

I've decided not to define it for now. I don't have the time to look into the various POV on the subject, and I don't care enough on these hot summer days to get all philosophical. In the past I have listened to others and come to a variety of conclusions on the issue, and I dislike the inconsistency I have shown. Since no one knows for sure, there is little sense in my just guessing. I'm just making it a non-issue. Either because I can or because I must.

Unfortunately for some (but fortunately for me!), long ago I caught the philosophy bug - which means I'm a philosophical nerd. That bug earned me a couple of degrees in philosophy (but I hope to get more) and these discussions are of great interest to me. Yes, I do sacrifice many other things in life in order to pursue philosophical discovery.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #139 on: August 09, 2013, 11:41:34 PM »
screwtape just started a thread on rationality, and the blog he linked to has a lot of interesting stuff. This is out of a monthly "quote" thread they have there:

Quote
In a class I taught at Berkeley, I did an experiment where I wrote a simple little program that would let people type either "f" or "d" and would predict which key they were going to push next. It's actually very easy to write a program that will make the right prediction about 70% of the time. Most people don't really know how to type randomly. They'll have too many alternations and so on. There will be all sorts of patterns, so you just have to build some sort of probabilistic model. Even a very crude one will do well. I couldn't even beat my own program, knowing exactly how it worked. I challenged people to try this and the program was getting between 70% and 80% prediction rates. Then, we found one student that the program predicted exactly 50% of the time. We asked him what his secret was and he responded that he "just used his free will."

If true, maybe a few of us have free will. Not me, I'm sure. But maybe some.

So free will is total randomness, then.  Okay.

By the way, what would be your reaction to the following:

Quote
In a class I taught at Berkeley, I did an experiment where I wrote a simple little program that would let people type either "f" or "d" and would predict which key they were going to push next. It's actually very easy to write a program that will make the right prediction about 70% of the time. Most people don't really know how to type randomly. They'll have too many alternations and so on. There will be all sorts of patterns, so you just have to build some sort of probabilistic model. Even a very crude one will do well. I couldn't even beat my own program, knowing exactly how it worked. I challenged people to try this and the program was getting between 70% and 80% prediction rates. Then, we found one student that the program predicted exactly 50% of the time. We asked him what his secret was and he responded that he "just used his divine soul."

Is that evidence for his divine soul?
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Offline greenmoon

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #140 on: August 29, 2013, 06:47:15 AM »
Does anyone know if satan exists in any bible

Online Mrjason

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Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
« Reply #141 on: August 29, 2013, 06:54:30 AM »
Does anyone know if satan exists in any bible

have a look in the book of job http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+1&version=NIV