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Main Discussion Zone => General Religious Discussion => Topic started by: median on July 23, 2013, 10:23:54 AM

Title: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 23, 2013, 10:23:54 AM
Many religious people often ask the question as to why we argue with them. "Why bother?" "Why spend so much time arguing/debating with someone for whom you disagree?" "Isn't it just a waste of time?" "You're not going to change anybody." "Why are you trying to tear down the beliefs of others instead of focusing on your own beliefs?" I wanted to respond to this and perhaps some of you might feel compelled to chime in.

First, there is a distinction between what most people call "arguing" and what I call debating. Rational interchange (even if sometimes passionate) is not the same as arguing (i.e. - verbally fighting) even though they sometimes can look similar to some people. For those religious folks who may be reading this, please understand that it is not our intention to "argue" (most of the time) but to debate, and that most often requires rational "sparring" (which of course requires the use of logic, reason, and evidence). Since the best and virtually only reliable method for separating fact from fiction has been demonstrated as the use of logic, reason, and evidence - and since most of us atheists care about whether or not our beliefs are actually true - it makes sense that we want to debate/argue. In short, we care about truth and that sometimes requires an exchanging of disagreeing concepts in the marketplace of ideas. So don't get all bent out of shape when we want to debate with you. We like it. It's challenging, educational, and fun. And since many of us value education and higher learning we enjoy the activity of debate.

Now, why do I decide to engage you Christians, Muslims, and Jews in debate regarding your religious beliefs? In short, because beliefs have consequences. No one holds their beliefs in a vacuum. Your beliefs effect countless influential decisions you will make; including (but not limited to), who you will vote for (both locally and nationally), what rights you will fight to protect (and what rights you won't defend), what science you will support or oppose, what companies you will support or work for, where you will put your money and how you will use it, how you will treat children, how you will respond to criticism, what justifications you will make for your deeds, and so on and so forth.

So then the main reason I debate with you theists is because your beliefs effect me (both directly and indirectly - and especially when it comes to law, policy, education, and personal rights). Due to the fact that I strongly disagree with most religious belief (it is in fact superstition etc) I would like to see those views either modified or overturned. So there, now you know my motives and intentions when I debate with you on these forums and the question no longer needs to be asked.

median

p.s. - To those who think, "You're never going to change anyone" I say BULLOCKS! I changed my mind (about Christianity and the bible) as a direct result of debating online and with ex-Christian friends, who I am now very grateful to have in my life. Change DOES happen, all the time.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jdawg70 on July 23, 2013, 11:43:48 AM
So then the main reason I debate with you theists is because your beliefs effect me (both directly and indirectly - and especially when it comes to law, policy, education, and personal rights). Due to the fact that I strongly disagree with most religious belief (it is in fact superstition etc) I would like to see those views either modified or overturned. So there, now you know my motives and intentions when I debate with you on these forums and the question no longer needs to be asked.
Very clear explanation of where you are coming from and what your motivations are for the conversations you have on this board.

I confess that I'm more selfish; I think the argumentation for the sake of injecting more rationality into the world, moving society away from superstition, and kicking faith out of the room of virtues are all very laudable goals.  Part of why I question and argue is for the same purpose.  But for me, the main motivator is personal...

I have a set of beliefs about reality.  These sets of beliefs are, of course, in a constant state of flux, ebbing and flowing as I gain more knowledge, learn more life lessons, and interact with other people and their sets of beliefs and viewpoints regarding reality.  In a sense I am testing what it is I have come to understand about reality - I am trying to put myself on the epistemological chopping block and seeing what sticks and what doesn't.  I can go on about how a better understanding of reality helps me to interact better with reality, make better decisions, and generally be better at helping myself and my fellow sentient creatures survive and thrive.  And all of that is certainly true.

But mainly I bum around here because, quite selfishly, I just want to know things.  I want to know if I'm right about something.  I want to know if I'm wrong about something.  There are different viewpoints that pop up around here.  Sometimes those viewpoints run somewhat or entirely contrary to things that I believe to be true.  Finding out why those discrepancies exist is one part of helping me determine the truth-value of my own beliefs.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Nick on July 23, 2013, 02:18:22 PM
When I argue with a theist it is not so much to change minds.  It is more to point out how wrong it is to try and impose their set of beliefs on the rest of us...usually thru laws/politicians.  Also, how hypocritical they often are on many levels.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Tero on July 23, 2013, 03:19:14 PM
I only argue when some physical reality us involved. Occasionally I point out that their book is not CNN reporting but heavily edited oral legend, collected decades after the supposed events.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Energized on July 23, 2013, 03:49:53 PM
If they're being genuine in our discussions, my hope is that the doubt will fester to the point they start to question the rest of the bullshit they believe.

When I argue with a theist it is not so much to change minds.  It is more to point out how wrong it is to try and impose their set of beliefs on the rest of us...usually thru laws/politicians.  Also, how hypocritical they often are on many levels.

Do you get favourable responses? Every time I point out how their religion affects me personally, I am told "majority" rules. Funny how when it goes the other way it's labelled persecution but meh - whatever...

E.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on July 23, 2013, 08:18:51 PM
Majority rules? What is that supposed to mean? You can't force other people to submit to your religious practices--not in the US. Have these people ever read the constitution or the bill of rights? This is not a dictatorship, not Saudi Arabia or the Vatican, thank Durga. &)

Anyway, I argue/debate with religious people because I had to listen to their illogical, bogus, made-up inaccuracies my entire childhood. I had to read, memorize and repeat back stuff that I barely understood (and once I understood it, I did not believe it). Plus I had to proselytize every weekend, telling other people this same stuff.  :(

If there had been blogs like this, more spokespeople like Dawkins, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and even casually but openly atheist comics like Paula Poundstone and Bill Maher when I was a kid, my life would have been very different. We had Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, but they were not even allowed to say the word "atheist".  :P

So, as part of a group of people who are openly voicing atheist ideas in a positive way I am "being the change I want to see in the world", etc. etc.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Mooby on July 23, 2013, 08:57:51 PM
I debate with religious people because it's fun and it messes with atheists' heads.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Bereft_of_Faith on July 24, 2013, 12:09:54 AM
I debate with religious people because it's fun and it messes with atheists' heads.

It's true.  When I read your posts, God seems to materialize before me, then I wonder 'how can I believe GOD doesn't exist?'  You confuse me and make me question reality.  Please stop  ;)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Bereft_of_Faith on July 24, 2013, 12:11:46 AM
So, as part of a group of people who are openly voicing atheist ideas in a positive way I am "being the change I want to see in the world", etc. etc.

 ^^^^^^^ This is my number one reason, far ahead of number two: fun
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on July 24, 2013, 12:21:10 AM
So, as part of a group of people who are openly voicing atheist ideas in a positive way I am "being the change I want to see in the world", etc. etc.

 ^^^^^^^ This is my number one reason, far ahead of number two: fun

Oh yeah, there is that. ;D
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 24, 2013, 01:03:25 AM
I'd like to add that I can anticipate a possible theist response to this OP. One might argue that they debate with atheists because "beliefs have consequences" (hinting at the notion that atheism leads to murderous, totalitarian/communistic regimes such as Stalin's Russia). Should this kind of response materialize on these boards let it be known that there are many countries (currently) which have very low percentages of theistic belief (and which DO NOT have such atrocious totalitarianism). In fact, the opposite is true. They have general freedom, lower crime rates than the US, and wider healthcare. So this argument from theists really fails as a reason for debating with us. Furthermore, Stalin (like Kim Jong Il of North Korea) was worshiped like a god (in fact many people thought he was godlike etc). Had the citizens actually been critically minded atheists, not being so susceptible to credulity and superstition, perhaps Stalin's regime would not have lasted (or better yet never started at all).

It is superstition that we fight against, and particularly religious superstition (of all kinds). For that I am glad to participate.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: LoriPinkAngel on July 24, 2013, 03:05:11 AM
This will be sort of new territory for me.  I not been traditionally religious.  I have witnessed what I never want to do - which is to ridicule anyone's belief or call them stupid or an idiot.  I will try very hard not to respond with sarcasm or bitterness.  I want to never dissect someones post and point out the fault or error in every phrase.  I think I will just do what I did as a theist and show how god does not exist in my life.  Sometimes I currently feel hurt and anger over my situation I'm in.  But I have to take a step back and admit I can't express hurt and anger at an entity that does not exist.  Crap just happens. And I will get out of this crap.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on July 24, 2013, 07:31:47 AM
Every time I point out how their religion affects me personally, I am told "majority" rules.

Shame they didn't abide by "majority rules" in 1st Century Roman Empire.

And I'll bet that when the majority shifts from being "Christian" to "non-Christian" (as its about to do in the UK) they won't be so keen.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on July 24, 2013, 07:39:34 AM
Why do I debate?  In part, because (as I've always said) if there is a god out there, I want to know about it - it is potentially the most important news I would ever hear in my life.  So I'm always up to hear about "gods".  What a lot of believers don't seem to grasp though is that I've had so many possible gods presented to me, that its now nowhere near enough to say "this is god".  Before I can even consider their chosen god as a possibility, they need to have convinced me that there is some evidence behind it, and that their beliefs are coherent.  Sadly, I've yet to even be convinced to the point where I think "hmm - that all makes sense, and I understand exactly what I should do next, and what will happen".

For purposes of full disclosure, I should also go on record as saying that I enjoy the intellectual challenge of trying to piece together the snippets I get told, and to point out and try to reconcile the holes in their beliefs.  In the main, if someone thinks "I believe this", and it is good for them, then good luck to them - in the "real world", I likely wouldn't do more than nod and smile politely.  But this is a debate forum, so I'm here to debate!
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on July 24, 2013, 08:45:38 AM
I'm here mostly for fun. Needless to say this indicates that I don't have much of a life. So while I certainly agree with the lofty ideals of the OP and all, I'm not so naïve as to think that we'll make great strides in the repair of ignorance.

I do enjoy hearing the many excuses of the theists, offered disguised as theology. In the christian case, one book cannot possibly have all those meanings. But billions of wishful-thinking believers somehow conjure up pimped versions daily. It is quite entertaining to be fed a new dollop of crap several times a week. As long as I don't actually have to taste it.

And while some of our conversations with theists do fall to the level of "debate" upon occasion, I see most of them as a free-for-all. I certainly don't give much though to applying the rules of logic, etc. in my discussions with theists. That would be cheating.

Besides, I get to let my imagination run wild about my various atheists friends here as well. I get to picture each and every one of you as not only intelligent, but incredibly good looking. And I get to imagine that each of you is on the verge of winning a Nobel Prize for something. Because that's the kind of crowd I've always wanted to hang with.

See theists, atheists can make stuff up too!  ;D
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jdawg70 on July 24, 2013, 09:56:18 AM
Besides, I get to let my imagination run wild about my various atheists friends here as well. I get to picture each and every one of you as not only intelligent, but incredibly good looking. And I get to imagine that each of you is on the verge of winning a Nobel Prize for something. Because that's the kind of crowd I've always wanted to hang with.
If you put me in that pack I will more than happily support this particular delusion.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Mooby on July 24, 2013, 09:56:31 AM
I debate with religious people because it's fun and it messes with atheists' heads.

It's true.  When I read your posts, God seems to materialize before me, then I wonder 'how can I believe GOD doesn't exist?'  You confuse me and make me question reality.  Please stop  ;)
^^ Missed the point.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Traveler on July 24, 2013, 11:43:00 AM
...Besides, I get to let my imagination run wild about my various atheists friends here as well. I get to picture each and every one of you as not only intelligent, but incredibly good looking. And I get to imagine that each of you is on the verge of winning a Nobel Prize for something. Because that's the kind of crowd I've always wanted to hang with.

See theists, atheists can make stuff up too! ;D

Nonsense! Each and every one of us IS all of that!!!  ;D  In fact, I'm packing my bags right now to go get my latest Nobel Prize.  8)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: earthfreak on July 24, 2013, 05:11:18 PM
Interesting question.    I dont', so much.  Mostly I don't have theists in my life at all.  Or, at least, not ones that believe in a lot of dogma.  Have a fair number of discussions, I guess.    as a liberal quaker, I run up against a "movement" within my branch to bring us "back to Christ" or some such thing.  I argue with THAT because it feels somewhat like a direct attack on me, though mostly we're all pretty civil (I think?)

My ex's brother is a pastor (methodist? I don't even know)  we're friends on facebook.  He used to be quite conservative, and has "come around" quite a bit (to embracing her same sex relationship, to voting for Obama) but is still quite grounded in his christianity, I guess.     Occasionally we will get in a discussion on facebook and he will OFTEN end up coming to me with something like, "see? you're a good, ethical person who cares about the poor and downtrodden.  You're more or less a Christian, why not just admit it?"  - I find it fascinating, and I try to explain.  it's just a wild, neverending (though often paused) exchange.   Feels somewhat worthwhile.

The other day he posted something about gender-specific legos, and one of his other friends essentially responded "God made boys and girls different, so they should have different legos" (ok, it wasn't quite that blatant. ) - I responded with all the reasons that I think he's wrong, and mentioned as an aside that I don't believe in God, so we're obviously coming from different places.   He asked me something like why I would choose death when life is offered.  I have no idea how to even respond to that (hostile, "how can you be such a moron?" type responses aside)  I offered to have that discussion eventually, and he said he was busy for a while, and hasn't gotten back in touch.




Thinking about this forum, though, I was here a while ago, and checking it out again.  I had been active on IGI for a while, mabye a year  ago.  For me over there is too crazy, over here seems like we all almost agree, and what's the point? 
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on July 24, 2013, 07:31:13 PM
He asked me something like why I would choose death when life is offered.

When I am asked this question, I respond this way:

Some say life is offered, but it isn't. There is an illusion offered, and that isn't much. I, for one, do not plan to live this life in preparation for the next one when the next one doesn't exist. If others need to comfort of thinking they get to hang around for infinity, fine. But I'm not one to lie to myself for the sake of artificial comfort. My fear of death is much smaller than my fear of playing make-believe my whole life. Pretending to pour tea stopped being fun when I was around four.

And even if it were true, and an infinity in heaven were an option, I would hope there would be an opt out clause. Because I don't think christians realize how long forever is.

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Hatter23 on July 25, 2013, 02:34:49 PM
I do so here for a rotten stinking reason:

Because I am surrounded by people who spew religious nutzo crap and would find myself an outcast and unable to function well in society without their cooperation.

So I go where people are 'asking for it' by posting to an atheism board where I feel no compuction to coddle their delusional minds.

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: SkyWriting on July 26, 2013, 12:08:22 AM
I do so here for a rotten stinking reason:    Because I am surrounded by people who spew religious nutzo crap and would find myself an outcast and unable to function well in society without their cooperation.   So I go where people are 'asking for it' by posting to an atheism board where I feel no compuction to coddle their delusional minds.

It's quite fair to say us delusional Kooks receive great benefit from non-believers as well.  I think Christianity recognizes that benefit and so created the US where all forms of thought and expression are tolerated as much as is practical.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: SkyWriting on July 26, 2013, 12:15:22 AM
In short, because beliefs have consequences. No one holds their beliefs in a vacuum. Your beliefs effect countless influential decisions you will make; including (but not limited to), who you will vote for (both locally and nationally), what rights you will fight to protect (and what rights you won't defend), what science you will support or oppose, what companies you will support or work for, where you will put your money and how you will use it, how you will treat children, how you will respond to criticism, what justifications you will make for your deeds, and so on and so forth. So then the main reason I debate with you theists is because your beliefs effect me (both directly and indirectly - and especially when it comes to law, policy, education, and personal rights).

That is a Christian mandate as well:
"To be ready to give reason for the faith that is in you". 
http://biblehub.com/1_peter/3-15.htm
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on July 28, 2013, 09:22:31 AM
Your beliefs effect countless influential decisions you will make; including (but not limited to), who you will vote for (both locally and nationally), what rights you will fight to protect (and what rights you won't defend), what science you will support or oppose, what companies you will support or work for, where you will put your money and how you will use it, how you will treat children, how you will respond to criticism, what justifications you will make for your deeds, and so on and so forth.

Bold mine.

Correction - your beliefs affect countless decisions you will apparently make.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: LoriPinkAngel on July 28, 2013, 09:47:26 AM
Your beliefs effect countless influential decisions you will make; including (but not limited to), who you will vote for (both locally and nationally), what rights you will fight to protect (and what rights you won't defend), what science you will support or oppose, what companies you will support or work for, where you will put your money and how you will use it, how you will treat children, how you will respond to criticism, what justifications you will make for your deeds, and so on and so forth.

Bold mine.

Correction - your beliefs affect countless decisions you will apparently make.

I have to say I am the giant exception to that.  Just about a  month, even weeks ago I believed there was a god.  Now I don't.  But nothing else has changed.  The faith I no longer have will not affect who I vote for now any more than it did before.  My vote was always based on what I thought a candidate stood for.  Not whether he/she thought about god the same way I did.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on July 28, 2013, 10:12:10 AM
I have to say I am the giant exception to that.  Just about a  month, even weeks ago I believed there was a god.  Now I don't.  But nothing else has changed.  The faith I no longer have will not affect who I vote for now any more than it did before.  My vote was always based on what I thought a candidate stood for.  Not whether he/she thought about god the same way I did.

OK.   Then correction - people don't make decisions.   They appear to make them.     
 
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 28, 2013, 10:20:50 AM
To respond to both nebula and LoriPinkAngel, in general beliefs inform deeds. That is what was meant by the statement, and it wasn't blanket, and it didn't indicate any specifics or any degree level. However, the overwhelming majority of the time (whether small or large) people's beliefs inform their actions (and by beliefs here I'm talking about worldviews and strongly held convictions). So, please do not misconstrue what I said. If (for you) a fairly insignificant belief changes then it may not be the case that your deeds will change very much. On the contrary, for someone whose entire life is (in general) focused around God belief (Jesus worship, literal interpretation of the NT, etc) a change in those beliefs likely will have a dramatic impact on life choices (albeit perhaps not at first).

So, pointing to a perceived exception to the rule doesn't really effect the general principle. Beliefs inform deeds.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on July 28, 2013, 10:28:38 AM
To respond to both nebula and LoriPinkAngel, in general beliefs inform deeds. That is what was meant by the statement, and it wasn't blanket, and it didn't indicate any specifics or any degree level. However, the overwhelming majority of the time (whether small or large) people's beliefs inform their actions (and by beliefs here I'm talking about worldviews and strongly held convictions). So, please do not misconstrue what I said. If (for you) a fairly insignificant belief changes then it may not be the case that your deeds will change very much. On the contrary, for someone whose entire life is (in general) focused around God belief (Jesus worship, literal interpretation of the NT, etc) a change in those beliefs likely will have a dramatic impact on life choices (albeit perhaps not at first).

So, pointing to a perceived exception to the rule doesn't really effect the general principle. Beliefs inform deeds.

Bold mine.

...on apparent life choices.   You do realize people have no control over their deeds or what they believe, right?     
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 28, 2013, 10:34:01 AM

...on apparent life choices.   You do realize people have no control over their deeds or what they believe, right?   

People have no control over their actions? Is that what you are arguing? If so, I smell an equivocation coming. But please do elaborate.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on July 28, 2013, 10:38:35 AM
People have no control over their actions? Is this what you are arguing? If so, I smell an equivocation coming. But please do elaborate.

Sam Harris will explain it.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf9eGUWGtyo
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 28, 2013, 11:50:24 AM

Sam Harris will explain it.   



No, I want YOUR argument (in YOUR own words). No someone else'.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Bereft_of_Faith on July 29, 2013, 12:12:59 AM
I debate with religious people because it's fun and it messes with atheists' heads.

It's true.  When I read your posts, God seems to materialize before me, then I wonder 'how can I believe GOD doesn't exist?'  You confuse me and make me question reality.  Please stop  ;)
^^ Missed the point.

Missed what now?  Oh.  Finally caught it.  It only took me a week  :)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on July 29, 2013, 02:15:56 AM

Sam Harris will explain it.   


No, I want YOUR argument (in YOUR own words). No someone else'.

Oh no!  Someone mentioned "Free Will"!  I have no choice but to enter this thread!   ;D
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on July 29, 2013, 03:13:42 AM
Likewise, Anfauglir.

Median, what is "free will" to you?  Presumably you believe it exists.  So, what is it and how does it work?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 29, 2013, 12:08:44 PM
Likewise, Anfauglir.

Median, what is "free will" to you?  Presumably you believe it exists.  So, what is it and how does it work?

I would be glad to give my exposition of what freewill is, what it means to me, what it's implications are etc (since this was a subject of great interest to me in undergrad), and I will do so after nebula provides his argument.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on July 30, 2013, 01:54:02 AM
Likewise, Anfauglir.

Median, what is "free will" to you?  Presumably you believe it exists.  So, what is it and how does it work?

I would be glad to give my exposition of what freewill is, what it means to me, what it's implications are etc (since this was a subject of great interest to me in undergrad), and I will do so after nebula provides his argument.

My argument (in a nutshell, which may or may not be the same as nebulas).

The brain functions by means of electrical and chemical changes.  At a given time, a particular synapse will be in a particular state.  For a given specific set of circumstances, a given change in that synapse will occur.  This change will follow specific laws: it is potentially predictable, though we may not posess the technology to do so.  Every synapse will follow the same laws to determine their changes of state, and extrapolating upwards the whole brain is therefore deterministic (albeit possibly not practically predictable).  "Free will" implies that there is some mechanism by which those electro-chemical reactions can be overruled in some way that lies outside the laws of causality. 
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 30, 2013, 09:59:35 AM
As with many things in philosophy, it all depends upon how one defines the term.

http://aphilosopherstake.com/2012/07/29/free-will-why-sam-harris-needs-to-read-more-philosophy/
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on July 30, 2013, 04:17:30 PM
Ready to define the term as you've used it, then?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 31, 2013, 12:14:02 AM

That is a Christian mandate as well:
"To be ready to give reason for the faith that is in you". 
http://biblehub.com/1_peter/3-15.htm (http://biblehub.com/1_peter/3-15.htm)

A reason for not having good reasons. Yes, that certainly seems to make lots of sense.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 31, 2013, 12:16:42 AM
Ready to define the term as you've used it, then?

No, as I stated earlier I'm waiting for nebula to respond regarding his comment that, "people have no control over their deeds."
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on July 31, 2013, 06:48:18 AM
How convenient.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on July 31, 2013, 08:05:07 AM
Ready to define the term as you've used it, then?

No, as I stated earlier I'm waiting for nebula to respond regarding his comment that, "people have no control over their deeds."

Median, you started this thread.  You made the statements that nebula disagreed with.  One would presume that - when you made those statements - you had a specific understanding of what you meant by them.  I don't see any issue with expecting you to define your terms first - its what we would generally expect on this forum, isn't it?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on July 31, 2013, 08:37:48 AM
No, as I stated earlier I'm waiting for nebula to respond regarding his comment that, "people have no control over their deeds."

That's correct.   People have no control over what they think or do.  Most neuroscientists agree with that statement.   There is of course the appearance or perception that we have control of our thoughts and actions but this is simply an illusion.   That concludes my argument.   Neuroscience has proven we aren't in control, case closed.   

Now I will give my wooist, nondualism reason why we aren't in control.   First I will talk about it from the perspective of physicalism, which is not my view, being a metaphysical idealist.   The universe is energy, ~68% dark energy, ~27% dark matter, and ~5% observable energy/matter.   

In physicalism, that is what exists, energy.   Does it make sense to say that energy is in control of what it does or thinks, or that energy has free will, or that energy can make decisions?   The energy/matter that makes up the universe is in various forms of complexity but none it has become anything else.   The appearance of the ability to make plans, avoid danger and stuff like that indicates energy in a highly complex form but it is energy nonetheless.   If the idea of "energy making a decision" doesn't make sense to you then "a person making a decision" shouldn't make sense either.   A person can't make decisions any more than a rock or moon can.   

Let's apply Daniel Dennett style compatabalism to a moon:   "A moon obviously has free will.   Not the metaphysical notion of free will, but the kind of free will that matters to celestial bodies.   A moon demonstrates evitability.   It avoids the danger of flying off into space by choosing to stay in a nice comfortable orbit around its host planet.   This proves that a certain type of free will that matters to celestial objects exists.   It arose from the evolution of gravity." <-- That sounds rather absurd and to me it sounds just as absurd when applied to certain complex forms of energy that we call animals or people.

From the perspective of my own view of nondualist idealism, free will is an illusion because the entire universe and everything in it is an illusion.   Our very existence is an illusion.   An illusory being cannot make real choices, therefore decisions are illusory.   What evidence is there that the universe is an illusion you ask?   We can get into that but it has been discussed in other threads already.   Here again are the articles about it that I'm into:     

The first three chapters of an unfinished book on Virtual Reality Theory:

http://brianwhitworth.com/BW-VRT1.pdf

http://brianwhitworth.com/BW-VRT2.pdf

http://brianwhitworth.com/BW-VRT3.pdf

A summary of those chapters three chapters, plus a preview of an unfinished fourth chapter, plus a Q and A:

http://brianwhitworth.com/VRConjecture.pdf

Another Q and A:

http://brianwhitworth.com/VRTQuestions.pdf

A Podcast:

http://chronicle.com/article/Audio-Imagining-Our-World-as/63403/

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on July 31, 2013, 10:25:07 AM
I have to ask a generic free will question of anyone who says we don't have free will.

Using the above reply from nebula (and nebula, if this sounds a little impersonal, I apologize. I could have used others easily, but yours was the most recent one) as an example, was he required by his biology to write it? Was he unable to choose not to respond? Was his choice of words beyond his control? Were the various options he had when deciding to write it and actually writing it absolutely zero? And if it had to happen the way it did, what intelligent force is playing us like puppets? Because if that is the case, said force has caused me to, beyond my will, to think I am curious and hence led me to ask this question. Which I may not have any actual interest in, except I am being forced by my lack of free will to type this up and post it.

If there is no free will.

Am I being forced by my cellular makeup, my biology and my environment to ask the above questions at this moment in time and space? Was this inevitable the day I was born?

And what about the times I have written posts and then decided not to post them because I decided they were too mean or irrelevant or whatever. Was I forced by my real self at those moments to both write and then not post my responses? What could I learn from such an exercise if I don't have freewill in the first place? Why would I bother doing something I knew ahead of time I wasn't going to post. I couldn't learn anything from it, because I have no free will. And why am I asking if I have no free will?

Now of course I am not responding to what you wrote or linked to, nebula. I may have time to go into the links a little later and read them, but I don't know because, if I lack free will, whatever happens will happen. On the bright side, you can't get mad at me for not reading them if I don't, because a) I'm an illusion b) you're an illusion and c) neither of us have any choice in the matter. Except you might be exasperated because you have no choice but to get exasperated. Something the lack of free will is doing to you for fun because it wants to play around further with idea it injected into your head at the atomic level that we are all an illusion. Which isn't your fault, because you have no free will.

Having no idea whether or not I will continue this conversation or suddenly decide that computers suck and shoot mine, making further participation less likely, I do hope it is the former, even though I have no free will to have that hope, because, well, because, if I don't have free will then these words are just shooting out of my keyboard and heck, this is getting confusing. Except that was probably preordained or something, or it isn't really happening because of the illusion thingy, and I give up.

I have no freewill to do otherwise. Bummer.

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 31, 2013, 11:44:49 AM
I have been trying to access the forum since last night, and most of this morning, and keep getting the error "Error: Resource Limit Has Been Reached" (or something like that). What does this error mean? It's frustrating.

Well, now I have to jet off to work (long day) but let me say this (very shortly) regarding the free-will debate. The professional philosophers today (as well as the not so professional ones) define that term is many different ways, which only adds to the difficulty of the subject. I don't have some staunch/absolutist idea as to how to tackle what is called the problem of free-will (sorry if this disappoints some of you). On the contrary (due to quantum indeterminacy theory, the problem of definitions, and general disagreement among professionals) I say the jury is still out, and would like to advocate a kind of agnosticism on the subject. This of course is not to say that I do not have my philosophical 'leanings' (b/c I do - which I will post when I have more time). All I'm saying for now is that I see no conclusive answer to this problem in the professional philosophical community, and therefore (like many things in philosophy) see no reason to stake a hard claim regarding it (i.e. the claim that there is no free-will, free-choice, etc).


Nebula, what do you mean by "control"? What does it mean (to you) to "have control" over ones actions? Most of the philosophical debate regarding the subject of free-will seems to hinge upon this question.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jaimehlers on July 31, 2013, 01:57:54 PM
Joy, another debate on free will.

Oh well, they're usually at least an enjoyable read, and it's fun to argue.  If annoying to see the same dogmatic positions presented by the usual suspects.

That's correct.   People have no control over what they think or do.  Most neuroscientists agree with that statement.   There is of course the appearance or perception that we have control of our thoughts and actions but this is simply an illusion.   That concludes my argument.   Neuroscience has proven we aren't in control, case closed.
When you say that most neuroscientists agree with your statement above, how many do you mean?  How many have actually given their opinions on the subject?  What's your source for making such a statement?  What experiments are you referring to which measured the amount of control, or lack thereof, people had over their actions?  To be blunt, this is one of the worst arguments I've ever seen on this subject, because you don't support it except with statements so general they can't even be checked.

Quote from: nebula
Let's apply Daniel Dennett style compatabalism to a moon:   "A moon obviously has free will.   Not the metaphysical notion of free will, but the kind of free will that matters to celestial bodies.   A moon demonstrates evitability.   It avoids the danger of flying off into space by choosing to stay in a nice comfortable orbit around its host planet.   This proves that a certain type of free will that matters to celestial objects exists.   It arose from the evolution of gravity." <-- That sounds rather absurd and to me it sounds just as absurd when applied to certain complex forms of energy that we call animals or people.
Of course it sounds absurd - it's almost a strawman.  Your argument is essentially "because saying moons have free will to orbit planets is absurd, saying that life-forms have free will is just as absurd".  It's not even an argument - it's just ridicule.  You find the whole concept so ridiculous that you just try to find ways to make other people think that it's ridiculous, without really stopping to think about it.

For that matter, even if free will didn't actually exist, you couldn't prove it, because you can't prove a negative.  That, I think, is the point that you and many others are failing to see.  If free will exists, it's up to the people who think it does to find evidence of it - because no amount of logic will be able to show that it doesn't exist.  In short, why should your answer to the question of free will be anything but, "show me the evidence and prove it"?

At the moment, I'm leaning towards the idea that something like free will exists within the human psyche.  Not a dice-roller or a coin-flipper that takes deterministic decisions and introduces a random element, or something purely metaphysical that can essentially ignore physical realities.  Something that acts like a joker in the deck - able to override what might seem the most rational choice, but that isn't actually random.  But I'm not knowledgeable enough about neurophysiology and neuroscience to tell what that might be.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jdawg70 on July 31, 2013, 03:52:19 PM
Could someone describe what non-free will (or will that is not free) is?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on July 31, 2013, 04:07:58 PM
It's a physical brain set-up that creates the impression of "will" in the mind that the brain yields.  "Free" will necessarily breaks causality, Jaime's desire for a sense of it that doesn't notwithstanding.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: LoriPinkAngel on July 31, 2013, 04:14:10 PM
Sam Harris will explain it.   

I would really like to watch this but my migraines don't allow me to focus that long.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on July 31, 2013, 05:09:46 PM
Sam Harris will explain it.   

I would really like to watch this but my migraines don't allow me to focus that long.

There's nothing to watch. It's just speech audio.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Doubt on July 31, 2013, 06:36:10 PM
I had to stop listening because it seemed like he was trying to have it both ways.   Why take such a highly unconventional stance if you are just going to hedge?   :?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jaimehlers on July 31, 2013, 10:57:36 PM
"Free" will necessarily breaks causality, Jaime's desire for a sense of it that doesn't notwithstanding.
I think this is a semantics issue.  I don't define free will the same way as you do, and therefore your declaration that it breaks causality is not necessarily true for anyone's definition but your own.

I believe you define free will as a supernatural ability - the ability to make decisions that ignore causality.  I don't define it that way.  I define it as the ability to make a decision between multiple options (as opposed to being constrained so there is only one option).  Whether or not I would make the same choice if someone rewound the universe is irrelevant, since it's pure speculation that nobody can possibly test.  What matters is whether the result of the decision was preordained or not.  And I don't think we understand enough about the brain to be able to say, "yes, it was preordained with no option but the one that actually happened".  Yeah, sure, we can sort of trace neuron activity, but we've only been seriously studying the brain for a couple of decades at most - and it's an incredibly complicated organ.  You guys might be confident that what we've already discovered rules out free will; I am not.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 01, 2013, 12:56:42 AM
^^^ Agreed.

A world without free will wouldn't need hundreds of different car models, thousands of different colors of fingernail polish, many dozens of kinds of cereal, more than one channel on TV or even red AND black licorice.

There is the free will of the physical brain, the free will of the bible, the free will of psychology. And philosophy. Plus probably several dozen other versions. If there is none, there is nothing for any of us to be confused about.

Methinks we need to get some definitions down pat before we start arguing this too deeply. Hopefully we're free to do that.

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on August 01, 2013, 04:59:26 AM
I believe you define free will as a supernatural ability - the ability to make decisions that ignore causality.  I don't define it that way.  I define it as the ability to make a decision between multiple options (as opposed to being constrained so there is only one option).  Whether or not I would make the same choice if someone rewound the universe is irrelevant, since it's pure speculation that nobody can possibly test.  What matters is whether the result of the decision was preordained or not. 

I enirely agree that we can't rewind time.  But the point of my "save game universe" thought experiment has always been this:

The situation is that at a particular moment in time, you have a complete, universe-sized set of variables.  On the personal front, you will have all your memories, all your preferences, the thought that last was in your brain.  Your preferences will be at a particular state, your bodily functions, your needs, your physiology.  In your immediate environment, you will a specifc level of light, heat, gravity, odour, music, and so forth.  In a particular situation, all the variables are - at that moment - fixed.  You could say there are no "variables", just specifics.

The solely causal view of the universe is that in a particular set of circumstances, a particular thing will happen.  All the physical laws that exist say that state A, with input B, will inevitably lead to output C.  In an entirely deterministic universe, that would be the case.  Free will would not exist (though the illusion of it might), it could NOT exist.  A leads to B leads to C, with no opportunity for deviation.

The wrinkle is that there are quantum-type events that add miniscule random factors - a wuantum blip in a neurone firing would lead to a slightly different result - but, crucially, an identical blip would lead to an identical result in the same neuron.  So because of tiny random factors, the result will not be predictable - but is still deterministic once the random effect becomes defined.  Free wil still does not exist (though again, the illusion of it does, and more justifiably), but still there is nothing chosen there.  The result switched from being determined, to being random.

The free will that is being proposed in this situation is that there is some mechanism by which a very specific set of circumstances can be in some way lead to two or more non-random outcomes.  And that's the bit I just can't grok. 

Even moving to the metaphysical level, I can't grasp it.  Even if there is a soul, or a mind, or whatever - some non-causal thing that can in some way make a genuine choice as to how to direct a thought or action, so far as I can tell that simply leads to many more problems than it solves.  How exactly does this mind make those decisions?  That mind has the same data to work from, it has the same preferences, it has the same history and character.....what is it about that mind that enables it to make a genuine non-random choice?  How does that work?  That's the part that I always get stuck on when we hit free will - how that non-random decision can come from a defined set of circumstances.

It's why I do not believe free will exists, in the sence that anyone can REALLY choose what they will do next.  But to tie it back to the OP, there is still a point to arguing with the religious: every time we interact, we change their variables slightly.  We add to their memories, we alter their environment a little.  They will never again experience the exact same set of circumstances, but the next time they are in a similar environment, their internal state will be slightly different - so their (determined) outcome at that point will be slightly different to what it would have been if we had NOT interacted with them.

Of course, the glaring elephant in the room is that without free will, we do not - CAN not - "choose" to interact with them in the first place!  The illusion of free will is so persistent that even though I am convinced of its non-existence, I still still mostly operate as if it were real.

But what I will say is this: when I am able to stop and consider, and examine the world, and look at the "choices" made by the people in it (from the trivial to the huge).....viewing those choices as the inevitable result of their environment and history makes them a whole lot more understandable than viewing them as genuine choices, and trying to understand why people would make such a free choice in those circumstances.  I realise that that is not in any way a conclusive proof, but I have found that the non-free-will hypothesis seems to answer a whole lot more questions about the world than the free-will hypothesis does.

Not least: why this debate keeps on keeping on with the same usual suspects each time!!   ;)  ;D
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Ambassador Pony on August 01, 2013, 09:10:21 AM
A world without free will wouldn't need hundreds of different car models, thousands of different colors of fingernail polish, many dozens of kinds of cereal, more than one channel on TV or even red AND black licorice.

Yes. It would. You just need a fuck-ton of different brains, which we have.

Our "free will" isn't what makes you and I have different tastes. It is our genetics and upbringing.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 01, 2013, 09:19:18 AM
I have to ask a generic free will question of anyone who says we don't have free will.

Using the above reply from nebula (and nebula, if this sounds a little impersonal, I apologize. I could have used others easily, but yours was the most recent one) as an example, was he required by his biology to write it? Was he unable to choose not to respond? Was his choice of words beyond his control?

Yes to those three but for the first one it wasn't just my biology that required me to write it.   It was also my whole personal history and environmental conditioning.   Also, since we are talking about that post, I have to say that I was using the word 'energy' wrong.   For example, in physicalism, the 4.9% observable part of the universe is matter, not 'energy' or 'energy/matter'(<-confusion).   Even though energy can be converted into matter and matter can be converted into energy, you can't just use those words interchangeably as if they are the same thing.  I learned that after writing that post.   

Were the various options he had when deciding to write it and actually writing it absolutely zero?

I will rephrase that question as "was there a 0% chance it could have gone differently?"

No, not 0% due to quantum indeterminacy but pretty close to zero.   The probability that it could have gone differently is probably something like 1/googolplex.   There is also that same probability that you can walk through a wall without damaging it, if all of the atoms in your body were to tunnel through the wall at the same time.     

And if it had to happen the way it did, what intelligent force is playing us like puppets? Because if that is the case, said force has caused me to, beyond my will, to think I am curious and hence led me to ask this question. Which I may not have any actual interest in, except I am being forced by my lack of free will to type this up and post it.

A paper mache asteroid or moon can be put on a string and used in a puppet show.   So what is playing actual asteroids and moons like puppets?   Physics and chemistry.  Likewise that is what is playing us like puppets but with us and other lifeforms there is also biology, genetics etc.   Your lack of free will isn't forcing you to do anything any more than a moon's lack of free will is forcing it to do anything.   

If there is no free will.

Am I being forced by my cellular makeup, my biology and my environment to ask the above questions at this moment in time and space? Was this inevitable the day I was born?

Yeah, it was pretty much inevitable, but like I said not 100%.   There was an infinitesimally small chance it could have gone differently.

And what about the times I have written posts and then decided not to post them because I decided they were too mean or irrelevant or whatever. Was I forced by my real self at those moments to both write and then not post my responses? What could I learn from such an exercise if I don't have freewill in the first place? Why would I bother doing something I knew ahead of time I wasn't going to post. I couldn't learn anything from it, because I have no free will. And why am I asking if I have no free will?

Please define 'real self.'

Now of course I am not responding to what you wrote or linked to, nebula. I may have time to go into the links a little later and read them, but I don't know because, if I lack free will, whatever happens will happen. On the bright side, you can't get mad at me for not reading them if I don't, because a) I'm an illusion b) you're an illusion and c) neither of us have any choice in the matter. Except you might be exasperated because you have no choice but to get exasperated. Something the lack of free will is doing to you for fun because it wants to play around further with idea it injected into your head at the atomic level that we are all an illusion. Which isn't your fault, because you have no free will.

Having no idea whether or not I will continue this conversation or suddenly decide that computers suck and shoot mine, making further participation less likely, I do hope it is the former, even though I have no free will to have that hope, because, well, because, if I don't have free will then these words are just shooting out of my keyboard and heck, this is getting confusing. Except that was probably preordained or something, or it isn't really happening because of the illusion thingy, and I give up.

I have no freewill to do otherwise. Bummer.

Why is it a bummer?   You have pointed out one of the reasons why it isn't a bummer.   I can't get made at you and I also can't get mad at myself.   So it is sort of the key to forgiveness of yourself and others, which is a good thing.   
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 01, 2013, 09:35:36 AM
Nebula, what do you mean by "control"? What does it mean (to you) to "have control" over ones actions? Most of the philosophical debate regarding the subject of free-will seems to hinge upon this question.

I mean it in the most basic, dictionary sense of the word. 
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jaimehlers on August 01, 2013, 01:34:41 PM
I enirely agree that we can't rewind time.  But the point of my "save game universe" thought experiment has always been this:
I'm only quoting this part to save space, but I did read all of it.

I'm not denying that you have a point regarding determinism.  My point is that we simply don't know enough about how quantum randomness and classical determinism interact yet to be able to say, "yes, free will exists" or "no, free will doesn't exist".  There's a reason that scientific methodology requires us to keep an open mind[1] on things, even if they seem cut and dried in a logical sense.

That being said, I also don't think we can say that even if we did have such a save-state, that things would proceed in a linear, deterministic fashion (after accounting for random factors).  What happens if you have a situation where something is approaching a decision gate, and it's equally possible that it will go through either (or any) of the gates?  Say it goes through one gate, then you rewind and predict that it will go through that same gate?  How can you be sure, without actually doing it, that it actually would work that way?  There's a reason that we make predictions, then run experiments and tests to check those predictions, and repeat those experiments and tests to remove as much doubt as possible.

I'm well aware that you're convinced it would work the way you think it would.  Indeed, that's part of the problem.  You're convinced - and so you favor that result, even though it exists only in your mind.

But what I will say is this: when I am able to stop and consider, and examine the world, and look at the "choices" made by the people in it (from the trivial to the huge).....viewing those choices as the inevitable result of their environment and history makes them a whole lot more understandable than viewing them as genuine choices, and trying to understand why people would make such a free choice in those circumstances.
Granted, and that's a good way of looking at things.  But the 800-pound gorilla here is that many people don't make choices based on rationally considering them and picking the best option.  They make choices that are influenced by factors which are deterministic in nature, and so make the decision look deterministic.  A lot of people have very little choice in the decisions they make because of factors outside their control. 
 1. Before anyone jumps on this, I'm not referring to things that have lots of facts supporting or contradicting them.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 01, 2013, 02:34:40 PM
A world without free will wouldn't need hundreds of different car models, thousands of different colors of fingernail polish, many dozens of kinds of cereal, more than one channel on TV or even red AND black licorice.

Yes. It would. You just need a fuck-ton of different brains, which we have.

Our "free will" isn't what makes you and I have different tastes. It is our genetics and upbringing.

This is obviously a highly contentious issue, and I know better than to get in a pissing match with you AP, but I have to ask this. How could our upbringing ever differ if there is no free will? The tiny variations in humans via genetics don't seem adequate to explain all the language, social, structural and economic differences between societies, let alone individuals.  Does the level of melatonin and my blood type and hair and eye color and ability to taste the bitterness in brussels sprouts also enough to cause me to prefer Fords over Chevy's?

And do you have the free will to try convincing me I don't have any, or is it beyond your control?

When I found out my brother had been diagnosed as a diabetic, I stopped eating junk food, lost weight and otherwise improved my lifestyle. Right then and there. Yes that is environmental, but I had the choice to assume I was immune to diabetes and keep on keeping on. My history of taking care of myself prior to that was non-existent. But for whatever reason, my brother's diagnosis scared me enough to change my ways. My other brother got the same information, but still eats poorly. Why is there no free will in either case?

Anyway, I've read both sides of the issue, and obviously fallen on the side the thinks there is at least some free will. Is there anything that you could recommend I read that demonstrates your side of the issue? Something that might be more persuasive?  I ask, hoping that your genetics and upbringing make it possible for you to give me a useful response.

But of course, given my genetics and my upbringing, I don't have the free will to change my mind anyway. But you can try.  :)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 01, 2013, 03:53:44 PM
Sam Harris will explain it.   

I would really like to watch this but my migraines don't allow me to focus that long.

I listened to it twice while doing other things, partly because it was very interesting, and partly because Sam Harris has a pleasant voice. I usually avoid getting into deep philosophical arguments because they never go anywhere. Let me see if I can give you a plain language summary. It will get confusing because I have to say "we" meaning the person, and the brain, and the thoughts, etc.

We believe that we are in charge of what we think and do, but we really are not. There is research on the brain that shows that most of the stuff in there happens and we are completely unaware of it. Some things happen in our brains, creating thoughts and desires before we are even aware that we have the thought or desire. By the time we are conscious of wanting to do something, it is because chemicals in the brain already made the choice.

So, for example, I want some ice cream. Before I thought that, somewhere in my brain, some cells were creating the desire for me to want ice cream. I did not make the cells do that. I was not conscious of the cells doing that. So, I don't know exactly why I want ice cream, but I do want some. So, I go to the store and get some and eat it.

If anyone asked my why I went to the store and got ice cream, I would not say that there were these chemicals in my brain telling my cells to give me the desire for ice cream. I might say, I saw this commercial and the ice cream looked so good, and it's hot, so I went and got some. So it seems like I had free will, but it was my brain cells, not the conscious "me".

He gets into some other stuff about morality and crime that is also interesting, but that is the first basic point.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: meo on August 01, 2013, 04:30:50 PM
What happens if you have a situation where something is approaching a decision gate, and it's equally possible that it will go through either (or any) of the gates? 

I thought what you said was very interesting, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. After a while, I found myself actually hard to imagine such a scenario.

In reality, everything changes by the second, I can not think of a scenario where one situation will remain the same forever making it possible to go through either gates. When we reach a stalemate at decision making, we do not just randomly "go through one of the gates", what happens is we would stuck there, until something influences us to make the decision.

Think of it like a pole standing up on it's own. When everything's balanced(equal), won't it just stand there and not fall? Under what circumstance would it equally fall either left or right, when everything's equal(wind speed from both sides blowing it, flatness of the ground, etc etc)? Won't it just stay equilibrium until the situation's changed?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 01, 2013, 05:46:44 PM
Can someone from the Sam Harris school of thought put the following scenarios in perspective.

Both really happened to me.

I was hiking alone in the woods, off the trail, when I came to an 80 foot high cliff that was between me and where I wanted to go. Straight up. As an experienced rock climber, I looked at it and decided I could scale said cliff. Probably. So I started climbing. I got up about 60 feet and got to a place where I either had to climb back down and try some other way up or lunge off the ledge I was standing on, grab a rock that was otherwise out of reach, and hope that I could continue climbing from that point on. If I lunged that direction and survived, I would not be able to return to where I was standing if I got stuck again. I had a clear choice.

I was in no hurry. It didn't really matter if I got to where I was headed. I had chosen my destination arbitrarily. I was deep in the wilderness, and could go any direction and have a nice hike. The clearly intelligent thing to do would have been, right then and there, to climb back down and go another way, or to another destination if necessary. Instead, I lunged, trusting my instincts (which I know in hindsight weren't worth a hoot) and in spite of my stupidity, succeeded in climbing on up the cliff. I spent the rest of the day kicking myself in the ass for doing something so stupid, and I keep that day in mind whenever I am confronted with serious decisions. I helps me keep things in perspective.

Anyway, would Sam Harris say that the stupid part of me wasn't the me I am aware of, but the rest of me, the non-conscious me? Would he say that I had no choice but to do the stupid thing, because some part of me made the decision to do dumb stuff without consulting that part of me I am most familiar with? Would he say that my genes and upbringing were the only factors in my decision? Would he say I got mad at myself, even though I lack free will, because that was a part of my genes and upbringing?

Another scenario, a brief one. I once, and only once, found myself so angry at another person that had said individual been within reach, I felt for a minute that I would have killed. Then I caught myself, realized what I was contemplating, and burst out laughing. At myself. Because I knew there was no way I could kill another person, no matter how mad I was. So for a minute I wanted to kill, but at no time during the rest of my life have I ever considered that option. And when I did consider it, I recognized it as so unlike me that I laughed.

Either I have the genes and upbringing not to kill, or I have the genes and upbringing to kill. If I don't have the genes and upbringing to kill, why did I contemplate that action for that one minute? If I have no free will and I am not inclined to kill, I shouldn't have the free will to even contemplate such action. Because I'm not really me in the first place.

I fully understand that there are a lot of behind the scenes going on in our brains. I have read extensively on current brain research. But that doesn't mean that the part of us that we identify as us and that we consider our conscious being is not capable of having input. There may be dozens of other factors. But to assume that our conscious selves therefore have no say in any of it seems a bit extreme.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 01, 2013, 06:52:45 PM
^^^^I am not of any "school of thought" on this. I just listened to the piece. But I think Sam Harris would say that everything we become conscious of thinking, and therefore everything we do as a result of that thought, is based on things that we are not aware of.

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: xyzzy on August 01, 2013, 06:59:40 PM
I don't have a dog in this race, but it's interesting none-the-less.

Perhaps this helps. It's from Harris's blog (http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/life-without-free-will) and is along the lines of PP's question. Kinda, sorta, maybe.

Quote
Might free will somehow be required for goodness to be manifest? How, for instance, does one become a pediatric surgeon? Well, you must first be born, with an intact nervous system, and then provided with a proper education. No freedom there, I’m afraid. You must also have the physical talent for the job and avoid smashing your hands at rugby. Needless to say, it won’t do to be someone who faints at the sight of blood. Chalk these achievements up to good luck as well. At some point you must decide to become a surgeon—a result, presumably, of first wanting to become one. Will you be the conscious source of this wanting? Will you be responsible for its prevailing over all the other things you want but that are incompatible with a career in medicine? No. If you succeed at becoming a surgeon, you will simply find yourself standing one day, scalpel in hand, at the confluence of all the genetic and environmental causes that led you to develop along this line. None of these events requires that you, the conscious subject, be the ultimate cause of your aspirations, abilities, and resulting behavior. And, needless to say, you can take no credit for the fact that you weren’t born a psychopath.

Of course, I’m not saying that you can become a surgeon by accident—you must do many things, deliberately and well, and in the appropriate sequence, year after year. Becoming a surgeon requires effort. But can you take credit for your disposition to make that effort? To turn the matter around, am I responsible for the fact that it has never once occurred to me that I might like to be a surgeon? Who gets the blame for my lack of inspiration? And what if the desire to become a surgeon suddenly arises tomorrow and becomes so intense that I jettison my other professional goals and enroll in medical school? Would I—that is, the part of me that is actually experiencing my life—be the true cause of these developments? Every moment of conscious effort—every thought, intention, and decision—will have been caused by events of which I am not conscious. Where is the freedom in this

Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: johnnyb1871 on August 01, 2013, 10:43:06 PM
There is no need to argue with anyone.
Christians do have the right to try and get you to believe in what they say and the truth of GOD.
Many people are wrong on both sides of the debate one is if you chose not to believe in  GOD,then you have a choice not to accept Jesus as well.
Christians do their part in tiring to save a man's soul will each and everyone one of use have.
No other creature on this planet is advance as man.
We are unique creations.
I have noticed that since I was a child that each year they say planet is much older than the thought it went from millions of years to 500 million years old.
I read a story a few months ago I woud like to share with a of you
a man bought some dinosaur bones and sent it to Arizona State University to be carbon dated.
He never told them what kind of bones he had sent them.
when he got the results back they were only 7000 years old.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/carbondating.html


I think man is trig to outsmart itself we all have our opinions and each of us is entitled to have one,but I have learned don't trust what scientist say 99% of the time they are wrong.
Don't buy into the first thing you hear for fools will follow other fools.

One other thing I want to mention GOD never said all men were created equal.
Abraham Lincoln said that right before the civil war and it took another 100 years for African Americans to vote.   

I am a christian man  I will not push my religion on anyone that does not want to here,but if any of you ask I will tell you  what I know.

love thy fellow man that's the words I go by.


 
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: wright on August 02, 2013, 12:24:07 AM
Welcome to the forum, johnnyb.

Rather than stray from the topic of this thread into a debate about carbon dating, I'll create a new thread on that topic in the Evolution & Creationism subforum. See you there if you're interested in continuing this.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 02, 2013, 12:31:41 AM
Welcome johnnyb1871

I apparently don't have the freewill not to welcome you, so hello  ;D

We get into this discussion every once in a while. To nobodies satisfaction. But I'm starting to realize that all the stupid stuff I've done isn't my fault, and now I'm mad. Who would do such a thing to me?

Just kidding. This question of free will is not likely to be solved to everyones satisfaction.

Hey johnnyb, if you're thinking about sticking around for awhile, go to the intro section and tell us a little about yourself. And while I don't think too many of us have questions about christianity, we enjoy discussing various issues/ biblical disagreements, etc. with believers.

Oh, and the dinosaur bone age thingy? Creationists lied to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History when requesting samples of dinosaur fossils. They were provided with very small amounts of fossil chips to test. They were warned that the fossils had shellac preservative and other contaminants, and the creationists said that didn't matter. They then sent the fossil bits and pieces to the University of Arizona. People there told the creationists that they could not get accurate dates because the samples were highly contaminated with various substances, such as the aforementioned shellac. The creationists said that was okay, go ahead and do it. So the university did. And they got their weird dates.

However, they went on to describe the bones that they said were dated, and the bones they described could not have been the fossils given to them by Carnegie. Because they described non-fossilized bones, and Carnegie clearly gave them rock fossils. And they did not publish all of the numbers given them by the the U of A, because some of the numbers were much older and would have been inconvenient to mention. And they refused to release the lab numbers that would have gone along with the results, claiming that they didn't want to release confidential information. But the University of Arizona has said they do not consider the lab numbers confidential, so there is no reason not to release them. Also, a whole bunch on the items sampled showed dates of 39,000 plus years. Which is exactly what all items tested that are over that age show. Because that is the upper limit of carbon dating. Something that is actually 100,000,000 years old will show the same date if carbon tested, because there is no way to measure beyond that age using carbon dating. There are other methods of dating older material that can give accurate ages, but carbon dating isn't one of them.

But if it is important for you to believe that you guys have found the smoking gun and have proof that dinosaurs were alive up until a couple of weeks ago, you go right ahead. Belief does that to a person, and those of us unencumbered by awkward realities understand. You go ahead and keep telling that story, even though it isn't true, because that commandment about not lying doesn't apply when you don't want it to.

Wright posted while I was writing this. If you would like to continue the discussion, one of us will start a thread in the Evolution & Creationism thread for you. Right now I'm not in the mood to cut out what I just wrote, even though it is off topic.

The mods may feel differently. Such is life. Lacking free will, I have no control over the part of me that did this. Admonish it, not me.  ;)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: LoriPinkAngel on August 02, 2013, 12:45:08 AM
So why argue with people & call them stupid if they have no control over what they are thinking?  And how can anyone consider oneself superior since they also have no control over their thinking?  So I'm actually no better than the hate spewing assholes at Westboro Baptist because I don't actually choose not to be like them any more than they choose to be like them?  I will remember this defense if I decide (since I have no choice) to murder somebody.  Bollocks.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: LoriPinkAngel on August 02, 2013, 12:48:05 AM
There is no need to argue with anyone.
Christians do have the right to try and get you to believe in what they say and the truth of GOD.
Many people are wrong on both sides of the debate one is if you chose not to believe in  GOD,then you have a choice not to accept Jesus as well.
Christians do their part in tiring to save a man's soul will each and everyone one of use have.
No other creature on this planet is advance as man.
We are unique creations.
I have noticed that since I was a child that each year they say planet is much older than the thought it went from millions of years to 500 million years old.
I read a story a few months ago I woud like to share with a of you
a man bought some dinosaur bones and sent it to Arizona State University to be carbon dated.
He never told them what kind of bones he had sent them.
when he got the results back they were only 7000 years old.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/carbondating.html


I think man is trig to outsmart itself we all have our opinions and each of us is entitled to have one,but I have learned don't trust what scientist say 99% of the time they are wrong.
Don't buy into the first thing you hear for fools will follow other fools.

One other thing I want to mention GOD never said all men were created equal.
Abraham Lincoln said that right before the civil war and it took another 100 years for African Americans to vote.   

I am a christian man  I will not push my religion on anyone that does not want to here,but if any of you ask I will tell you  what I know.

love thy fellow man that's the words I go by.

So I don't want to see a single attack on this post because he has no choice but to think this way...
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: wright on August 02, 2013, 12:49:33 AM
There is no need to argue with anyone.
Christians do have the right to try and get you to believe in what they say and the truth of GOD.

Actually, in the US at least that depends on the venue. For instance, despite repeated violations by students, administrators and teachers, Christians (or believers in any other religion) have no such right to do so in public schools.

Quote
Many people are wrong on both sides of the debate one is if you chose not to believe in  GOD,then you have a choice not to accept Jesus as well.

Glad you can admit that at least some religious people are wrong. Are you willing to consider you might be one of them?


Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Traveler on August 02, 2013, 01:13:04 AM
...if you chose not to believe in  GOD,then you have a choice not to accept Jesus as well...

Without getting into the free will debate, I have to ask how you think belief is a choice. I can't force myself to believe in your god, or a supernatural jesus, anymore than I can force myself to believe in unicorns. Seriously. There is absolutely nothing in my five decades plus of experience that even begins to suggest your god exists, so how can you say that I can choose not to believe? To me, the existence of the biblical god is an absurd concept. No more than a story. And if I could choose to believe in an invisible being, without any evidence whatsoever, why would I choose yours?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median on August 02, 2013, 01:55:28 AM
Many people are wrong on both sides of the debate one is if you chose not to believe in  GOD,then you have a choice not to accept Jesus as well.

Welcome to the forum. I was a "born again" Christian for nearly 20 years and used to make a lot of your same arguments until I realized they are irrational and inconsistent with the way we think in daily life. Let's take a look at your reasoning here.

You say above that we can choose not to believe in God, but belief doesn't work that way. Can you choose to believe a big flying pink elephant is in your room?? You can't really believe that without being convinced. Belief is not a choice. 

Christians do their part in tiring to save a man's soul will each and everyone one of use have.

How do you know this?

No other creature on this planet is advance as man.
We are unique creations.

Lots of creatures on the planet are 'unique' b/c they can do things we humans cannot. But being unique doesn't say anything about where we came from or how we got here.

I have noticed that since I was a child that each year they say planet is much older than the thought it went from millions of years to 500 million years old.

Did you know that science (and scientific discoveries) are not about absolute truth? That's right. Science is always learning more. That is the point of science - making discoveries, predictions, and demonstrating things. The fact that we could be wrong about certain things doesn't mean science is unreliable (as you seem to be implying). You rely upon science for lots of things - why not just admit when you don't know something and go look for the answer by researching (instead of assuming an old book has the truth)?

I read a story a few months ago I woud like to share with a of you
a man bought some dinosaur bones and sent it to Arizona State University to be carbon dated.
He never told them what kind of bones he had sent them.
when he got the results back they were only 7000 years old.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/carbondating.html (http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/carbondating.html)


Have you talked to real scientists working in the field to get the other side? If you haven't, then you might be practicing something called Confirmation Bias (which is where you assume the bible is true and then ignore any contrary evidence to it because you WANT it to be true). This is bad reasoning and dishonest. You should intensely (with an open mind) study both sides. Maybe start here:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD011.html (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD011.html)


I think man is trig to outsmart itself we all have our opinions and each of us is entitled to have one,but I have learned don't trust what scientist say 99% of the time they are wrong.
Don't buy into the first thing you hear for fools will follow other fools.

This is exactly what we say about religious people who believed the bible's claims without critically researching it first (like you would any other religious text). Regarding science, you think science is wrong 99% of the time? Where did you get this from because it is just plain FALSE. The very computer you are using was made using correct science. Tons of medical science is correct most of the time (otherwise people wouldn't rely upon it). It seems you are just ignorant, sorry.

One other thing I want to mention GOD never said all men were created equal.
Abraham Lincoln said that right before the civil war and it took another 100 years for African Americans to vote.

Are you endorsing racism here?

It would make sense because the God in your bible condones and endorses slavery and inequality. God, in the bible, gives very specific instructions as to how to obtain slaves, how to keep them, and that you can beat them (Exodus 21, Leviticus 25). That's not loving or just or moral at all.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on August 02, 2013, 02:58:59 AM
I'm not denying that you have a point regarding determinism.  My point is that we simply don't know enough about how quantum randomness and classical determinism interact yet to be able to say, "yes, free will exists" or "no, free will doesn't exist".  There's a reason that scientific methodology requires us to keep an open mindon things, even if they seem cut and dried in a logical sense.

Hence this part:

Even moving to the metaphysical level, I can't grasp it.  Even if there is a soul, or a mind, or whatever - some non-causal thing that can in some way make a genuine choice as to how to direct a thought or action, so far as I can tell that simply leads to many more problems than it solves.  How exactly does this mind make those decisions?  That mind has the same data to work from, it has the same preferences, it has the same history and character.....what is it about that mind that enables it to make a genuine non-random choice?  How does that work?  That's the part that I always get stuck on when we hit free will - how that non-random decision can come from a defined set of circumstances.

As I've always said, when I'm talking "free will", I'm looking at it from the definition that it means that something can make an informed and deliberate choice about an action, accessing environment and past experience, but not deterministically fettered by them.  I truly can't understand how that could work, not even in a gross theoretical way.

.....many people don't make choices based on rationally considering them and picking the best option.  They make choices that are influenced by factors which are deterministic in nature, and so make the decision look deterministic. 

How?   ;)

I'm well aware that you're convinced it would work the way you think it would.  Indeed, that's part of the problem.  You're convinced - and so you favor that result, even though it exists only in your mind.

None taken.   ;D 

But consider: my view that there is NO free will is in accordance with what we DO currently know of causality and electro-chemical reactions.  That A ALWAYS follows B, given C, apart from random quantum events D.  I favour a conclusion that all the current evidence supports.  You favour a result that - currently - is unsupported by the vast majority of what we know.

Do you feel that your convictions that there IS free will - despite the evidence against - is a similar problem to the one you believe I have?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on August 02, 2013, 03:23:14 AM
I fully understand that there are a lot of behind the scenes going on in our brains. I have read extensively on current brain research. But that doesn't mean that the part of us that we identify as us and that we consider our conscious being is not capable of having input. There may be dozens of other factors. But to assume that our conscious selves therefore have no say in any of it seems a bit extreme.

I can understand that.  But by what mechanism does your conscious self interact with things?  Leaving aside the electrochemical processes, your "self" has memories, preferences, characteristics.  Is it capable of stepping outside of the self it has become over the last (mumble)-decades to do something entirely undirected by its past?

I have a feeling that people tend to Act, or to React - and that normally, people do the latter.  Things happen, and they react to them - what you might call the basic determinism response.  Reactions that are broadly predictable, in essence throwbacks to our tiny mammalian ancestors Fight or Flight responses.  In a very real sense, most of the time we do "act without thinking", though I would say that would more correctly be that we "REact without thinking".  cf, your momentary desire to kill.

But sometimes (though not too often, I fear) we find outselves consciously weighing the options.  I hope you'll understand what I mean if I talk about the awareness of thinking?  The times when self-awareness creeps in and we can stop and think - as indeed you did when you "realised" you wouldn't kill, and laughed.

Much as I hate to say it, I suspect that if in that moment of reacting you had had a weapon in hand, and been next to the object of your anger, you would indeed have walloped them, despite the rational "you" being a person who would never normally consider such an action.

This self-aware thinking is, I would agree, the level at which free will (should it exist) be in operation.  Certainly it feels, when we are thinking about thinking, that we are weighing options and evaluating.  But I still don't get it.  What is that "self" evaluating against? 

You've said yourself that "I knew there was no way I could kill another person".  Surely if you believed free will existed, you COULD choose to kill - to override everything that had come to make you "you" at that point, to cast aside everything that was and is and make that truly free decision?

If free will really exists, I fear you must accept that those terrible choices ARE always available to us.  If we ARE constrained, if there are decision routes that are indeed forever closed off to "us", that simply could never happen, then free will takes an almighty blow - because you are arguing that a deterministic process is constraining what "choices" you will make, that the past and your enviroment can and do outweigh your "decisions".
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Mrjason on August 02, 2013, 05:13:01 AM
I'm not quite sure I've understood what you are saying Anfauglir,

Do you think that free will does not exist as we have an extensive but finite set of responses to any given situation and that the response (reaction) that we give is already predetermined by other responses we have previously given?

This being the case free will is a paradox as we can not choose a response that is not available to us based on the above?

Following this "non-free will" and sentience are mutually exclusive as we can not be self aware and predetermined at the same time?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on August 02, 2013, 06:50:30 AM
Do you think that free will does not exist as we have an extensive but finite set of responses to any given situation and that the response (reaction) that we give is already predetermined by other responses we have previously given?

Yes.

This being the case free will is a paradox as we can not choose a response that is not available to us based on the above?
Yup.

Following this "non-free will" and sentience are mutually exclusive as we can not be self aware and predetermined at the same time?
Depends what you mean by "sentience".  Self aware, yes, we clealry have that - I'm aware of myself now, and technically "intelligent" since I can do brain-related things others can not.

But I do not believe that makes us in any way more capable of diverging from determinism than a computer, say.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 02, 2013, 06:58:11 AM
Painting the "lack of free will" idea as one where "we have no choice" is misleading, because even without free will we do make choices.  Computer programs make choices, too.  The issue is whether our choices are determined by our physical makeup, are random, are some combination of the two, or are the result of physical input by something that's not bound by physics.  A soul, if you will.

Got another option?  One you can actually define?[1]  Let's hear it.
 1. I'm looking at you, Jaime.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Mrjason on August 02, 2013, 09:10:36 AM
Do you think that free will does not exist as we have an extensive but finite set of responses to any given situation and that the response (reaction) that we give is already predetermined by other responses we have previously given?

Yes.

This being the case free will is a paradox as we can not choose a response that is not available to us based on the above?
Yup.
Ok, I can get on board with that

Following this "non-free will" and sentience are mutually exclusive as we can not be self aware and predetermined at the same time?
Depends what you mean by "sentience".  Self aware, yes, we clealry have that - I'm aware of myself now, and technically "intelligent" since I can do brain-related things others can not.

But I do not believe that makes us in any way more capable of diverging from determinism than a computer, say.

Intelligence; Isn't this merely an indicator of the nature and quality of the predetermined "options" open to us?

Its self awareness in relation to free will (or more particularly the lack thereof) that twists my melon man.
[wiki=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke]John Locke[/wiki] seems to crop up quite often when I've been looking into the nature of self awareness.
The Locke definition of "self aware" seems to be an awareness of being an entity that is separate from others and the world in general[1].
The awareness of being separate from others etc comes from being conscious of a linear sequence of thoughts and acts that make up the "self".
What I don't get is; if our thoughts and acts are predetermined how can we be conscious of them if we play no active part in determining which thought or act to persue?
 
 1. admittedly I haven't read this (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6QYOAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false) but this is what I gather second hand
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 02, 2013, 02:37:37 PM
So why argue with people & call them stupid if they have no control over what they are thinking?  And how can anyone consider oneself superior since they also have no control over their thinking?  So I'm actually no better than the hate spewing assholes at Westboro Baptist because I don't actually choose not to be like them any more than they choose to be like them?  I will remember this defense if I decide (since I have no choice) to murder somebody.  Bollocks.

I don't think that "no responsibility"  follows from the "no free will" argument. Even if we are not completely free to decide a course of action, there are still positive or negative outcomes that have to be dealt with by society. In the piece I listened to, Sam Harris says a lot about crime and punishment and guilt. He says that learning more about the brain has complicated how we see human actions like committing a crime.

In the past, every crime or social misbehavior, no matter who did it or why, was considered by most people to be the result of "sin" and the person was severely punished as a lesson to others. A 15 year old orphan prostitute, a poor man not being able to repay a debt, a hungry child stealing bread and a rich guy stealing from his business partner were all equally "sinful" .

Now we evaluate behavior taking age, mental state, prior experiences and current physical circumstances into account. Suppose someone shoots someone with a gun. We evaluate the situation differently depending on whether the person pulling the trigger was:

a 4-year old playing with a gun they found in a drawer,
a severely abused 12-year old who shot their abuser,
an adult with a mental age of 11,
an adult enraged at an unfaithful spouse,
an adult robbing a bank,
an adult attacked by a mugger,
a soldier in a war,  or
a 17 year old drug addict who says they thought it would be fun to shoot a homeless person.

The outcome could be a 6-month suspended sentence, life in prison, a year in a mental health center, a decade of counseling or a lucrative book contract. In each case, we already take into account how "free" the person was to choose a course of action. We know that different environmental conditions and different things going on in the brain influence the actions people take. And we know that some things are out of our conscious control-- like a loaded gun going off in the hand of a 4-year old and killing another kid.

Who knows what we will find out about the brain in the future? Maybe we will decide to do different things about people's negative actions than we do today. Just like we do different things now than we did 100 years ago. But I don't think we will ever decide that nobody has to accept responsibility for what they do. 



Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 02, 2013, 02:40:37 PM
Painting the "lack of free will" idea as one where "we have no choice" is misleading, because even without free will we do make choices.  Computer programs make choices, too.  The issue is whether our choices are determined by our physical makeup, are random, are some combination of the two, or are the result of physical input by something that's not bound by physics.  A soul, if you will.

I don't think we make choices or that computer programs do either.   If you are playing chess against your computer on the hardest difficulty level, it will always make the best moves possible, with 'best' being defined for any given arrangement of pieces by an algorithm.   On the hardest difficulty level, there is no selection from a number of possibilities (choosing) because the only possibility is the best move as defined by the algorithm. If there are two equally good moves, one or the other will be randomly determined.   So there is no choice with any of the moves, the program just makes the best move for the given arrangement of pieces on the board.

And when it is my turn to make a move, I'm not making a choice.   The way I think of it is that "something happens."  There are processes going on in my brain in which I seem to be trying to figure out if my piece will get taken if I move it to that spot etc.   Eventually, I will move a piece.   My move "happens."   It can be compared to anything else that happens, such as lightning striking a telephone pole, an avalanche, rain collecting in a puddle, an asteroid striking a planet, etc.   
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 02, 2013, 03:47:59 PM
What I mean, nebula, is that a reasoning process that arrives at an outcome can be described as a "choice".  The requirement that there had to have been multiple possible outcomes, looking at it in hindsight, is a silly way to define "choice".  It removes an otherwise useful word from our lexicon.  Why do that?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 02, 2013, 10:34:06 PM
I fully understand that there are a lot of behind the scenes going on in our brains. I have read extensively on current brain research. But that doesn't mean that the part of us that we identify as us and that we consider our conscious being is not capable of having input. There may be dozens of other factors. But to assume that our conscious selves therefore have no say in any of it seems a bit extreme.

I can understand that.  But by what mechanism does your conscious self interact with things?  Leaving aside the electrochemical processes, your "self" has memories, preferences, characteristics.  Is it capable of stepping outside of the self it has become over the last (mumble)-decades to do something entirely undirected by its past?

It gets even weirder when we find out that many of our memories are very inaccurate. In fact, researchers have discovered that the more times you recall a specific event, the less accurate each recollection becomes. In other words, if somethng happened 25 years ago and you never thought about it until today, your memory of that event would be more accurate than your memory of an event a year ago that you've thought about many times. So I have no trouble agreeing that the "self" that most of us think of as "me" is a bit suspect at times. I just want to give it a bit more credit than the ardent "no free will" adherents do.

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I have a feeling that people tend to Act, or to React - and that normally, people do the latter.  Things happen, and they react to them - what you might call the basic determinism response.  Reactions that are broadly predictable, in essence throwbacks to our tiny mammalian ancestors Fight or Flight responses.  In a very real sense, most of the time we do "act without thinking", though I would say that would more correctly be that we "REact without thinking".  cf, your momentary desire to kill.

Well, when I read the above, I thought "Yea, Anfauglir is right. To an extent. But not everything we do is a reaction. Then I started to search for actions that are not reactions and I'll be darned if I can think of any. That doesn't mean they never are, but if someone has an example of an action that is not a reaction, I'd sure like to know about it. I'm drawing a blank.

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But sometimes (though not too often, I fear) we find outselves consciously weighing the options.  I hope you'll understand what I mean if I talk about the awareness of thinking?  The times when self-awareness creeps in and we can stop and think - as indeed you did when you "realised" you wouldn't kill, and laughed.

Yes, we may weigh options. But usually in reaction to some stimuli. If not always in reaction to some stimuli. The argument I have with the "no free will" crowd is that the self that we identify with can't be totally without purpose or the rest of our being wouldn't' bother conjuring one up. We do have the ability to think about choices, and we do have the ability to, in some measurable way, actually make choices. Choices that, if they were able to be repeated like in an scientific experiment, would come out different some of the time. Like coin flips. But  instead of being merely chance, they would be choices that could go either way and in which minor details, rather than subconscious meddling, may have been the deciding factor.

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Much as I hate to say it, I suspect that if in that moment of reacting you had had a weapon in hand, and been next to the object of your anger, you would indeed have walloped them, despite the rational "you" being a person who would never normally consider such an action.


You're probably right, except I'm more careful than that and if I were so inclined, I would take the time to figure out a way to zap the person and get away with it, rather than just flying off the handle and bonking them right then and there. I've only lost my temper once in my life (no coincidence: it was because of this person) and even then I caught myself almost immediately and calmed down. I didn't like it. But that's just me.

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This self-aware thinking is, I would agree, the level at which free will (should it exist) be in operation.  Certainly it feels, when we are thinking about thinking, that we are weighing options and evaluating.  But I still don't get it.  What is that "self" evaluating against? 

Well, there may be several schools of thought on the issue, but as far as I'm concerned nobody has won yet.  I still say that there is no way that simple biology and social conditions could have spawned such a wide variety of people. Something somewhere in us is capable of making decisions that go against the grain, and I like to think that at least part of that process is at the conscious level. Sadly, if I'm wrong I won't be able to be surprised because I won't have the free will to react that way. Bummer.  :)

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You've said yourself that "I knew there was no way I could kill another person".  Surely if you believed free will existed, you COULD choose to kill - to override everything that had come to make you "you" at that point, to cast aside everything that was and is and make that truly free decision?

But I like to think I am exercising my free will be deciding that there is no way I could kill another person. I consciously thought about such things when I was younger and decided (well, some part of me decided) that I did not want to be someone who was capable of killing. I am generally too peaceful. I understand that my view of such things isn't quite the norm. Most people say they would kill if they found someone robbing their house int he middle of the night or something, but I don't think I could. It wouldn't upset me enough. But I've lived such a peaceful life, overall, that I'm not inclined to go all Rambo on anything in life. Maybe it is just a reaction.

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If free will really exists, I fear you must accept that those terrible choices ARE always available to us.  If we ARE constrained, if there are decision routes that are indeed forever closed off to "us", that simply could never happen, then free will takes an almighty blow - because you are arguing that a deterministic process is constraining what "choices" you will make, that the past and your enviroment can and do outweigh your "decisions".

I keep asking myself: Where would religion come from if there were no free will. And where would the rejection of religion come from if there were no free will. To me, both free will and behind the scenes control are taking place. The part of us we don't know (which is probably related to the part of us that automatically stops at stop signs and stop lights even when we are not aware of them consciously) certainly plays a major role in our lives. But if each of us has a little Obie-Wan Kenobi inside of us saying "nothing to see here" at every turn, I'm gonna be pissed. At least if I have that choice I will be.

Hey, at least its fun to think about these things.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 02, 2013, 10:55:21 PM
ParkingPlaces, when you say you have free will, what collection of constraints is it free from?

Because we determinists say that our will is constrained by physical processes.  Do you disagree?  If so, on what grounds?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 02, 2013, 11:23:11 PM
What I mean, nebula, is that a reasoning process that arrives at an outcome can be described as a "choice".  The requirement that there had to have been multiple possible outcomes, looking at it in hindsight, is a silly way to define "choice".  It removes an otherwise useful word from our lexicon.  Why do that?

The words 'choice' and 'decision' are completely dependent on the notion of free will.    If you are speaking in metaphor it is fine to use those words but if you don't believe free will exists and you want to be technical you should always say 'apparent' before either of those.   This would of course annoy people but it is misleading to speak of choices or decisions as if they are real things.

You said  "a reasoning process that arrives at an outcome can be described as a "choice"."   Granted, but it's only a metaphor based on the erroneous notion of free will.   Extending the metaphor just a little bit, we can say a meteorological  process that determines which telephone pole gets struck by lightning is also a "choice."   The atmosphere has the 'ability' to 'choose' which pole gets struck and it 'decides' that that pole is the best one.   

Now I am answering the question "why do that?"  For me, this "no free will" thing is integral to my "spirituality, religion and woo" but it would be less controversial in this forum to just say that it is integral to my psychological method of dealing with life.   

Here is a news story I was following in July: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/01/police-shoot-dog_n_3530990.html

Apparent 'human beings' made some apparent 'choices' that resulted in the apparent grisly 'death' of an apparent, perfectly innocent 'Rottweiler.'   Unfortunately, I signed into youtube and watched that video.   At the time, I was in a period when I had sort of forgotten we don't have free will and became furious and depressed.   I was furious at the owner of the dog for being careless, i.e. antagonizing the police when he had his dog with him and then leaving the windows in his SUV rolled down enough so that the dog could could get out.   And I was furious at the Hawthorne police department for having this "shoot dogs policy."   And I was furious at the officer who shot the dog.   And I was also furious at this comment made by an officer from the Hawthorne Police Department who was not at the scene:

“And I know it’s the dog’s master, and more than likely not going to attack him, (but) we’ve got a guy handcuffed that’s kind of defenseless. We have a duty to defend him, too.”

http://www.webpronews.com/police-kill-dog-video-goes-viral-lawsuit-to-follow-graphic-2013-07

The correct way to look at this whole thing is that it is like a storm or tornado.   In a tornado, perhaps a wall of a house collapses and it crushes a dog.   The dog twitches many times and dies a painful death.   It's something unfortunate that happens.   On June 30, in Hawthorne, CA, the processes that led to the death of an innocent dog weren't atmospheric, they were neurological.   That is the only difference.   

This is how I roll.   It works.  I can dissolve anger instantly with it.   I used to do mindfulness and try to  "flood everything with acceptance" but it never really worked when it came to bad decisions or choices, either those of myself or someone else.   Now I realize that decisions or choices don't even exist.   There are processes that lead to unfortunate outcomes.   That is all.             
   
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 02, 2013, 11:34:11 PM
Nebula, you totally missed the point of my post.  It was a simple post, but maybe I worded things poorly.  You've chosen to define two words in such a way as to make them useless.  I asked why you have chosen to do that.  You did not answer my question and instead answered something else.  Is the question clearer this time?  If you're not sure what I mean, you can just ask instead of typing a long post.

I will address the "correct not to feel emotions" thing, though.  Correct by what standard?  Please elucidate on the reasoning process by which one determines that an emotional response is correct.  Don't hand-wave it away by saying something like "doesn't involve belief in falsehoods" or something.  That's defining how we can tell an emotional response is incorrect, and is not at all what I'm asking.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 03, 2013, 12:55:49 AM
Nebula, you totally missed the point of my post.  It was a simple post, but maybe I worded things poorly.  You've chosen to define two words in such a way as to make them useless.  I asked why you have chosen to do that.  You did not answer my question and instead answered something else.  Is the question clearer this time?  If you're not sure what I mean, you can just ask instead of typing a long post.

I will address the "correct not to feel emotions" thing, though.  Correct by what standard?  Please elucidate on the reasoning process by which one determines that an emotional response is correct.  Don't hand-wave it away by saying something like "doesn't involve belief in falsehoods" or something.  That's defining how we can tell an emotional response is incorrect, and is not at all what I'm asking.

For me personally, thinking in terms of choices and decisions leads to unhappiness.   To me those words imply we have free will.   The idea that we have free will makes me unhappy because it means that I have a basis to regret my own bad decisions and that I have a basis to be angry at other people for their bad decisions that I don't approve of, such as the decision of that officer to follow his police department's policy and shoot the dog.   So I have 'chosen' to define those two words in such a way as to make them useless because they are useless with regard to bringing me peace and they are actually destructive to it.   On the other hand, they are useful with regard to making me miserable.   So I'm against those words.   You said that it is misleading to say we can't make choices and from my perspective the opposite is true.   It seems to me that if you think in terms of us having the ability to make choices you are planting seeds in your own mind that you have free will.   But maybe it doesn't do that for you.   If that is the case, I apologize and I won't complain about it anymore.       

The standard by which it is correct to not be angry is with regard to peace or happiness, for me anyway.   So to rephrase it, "the way for me to not get miserable over that Hawthorne CA incident is to view it in the same way I would a storm or tornado."   
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Ambassador Pony on August 03, 2013, 11:31:10 AM
I read a story a few months ago I woud like to share with a of you
a man bought some dinosaur bones and sent it to Arizona State University to be carbon dated.
He never told them what kind of bones he had sent them.
when he got the results back they were only 7000 years old.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/carbondating.html


I think man is trig to outsmart itself we all have our opinions and each of us is entitled to have one,but I have learned don't trust what scientist say 99% of the time they are wrong.

I read the information on the page linked to. Really, I am dumber for having read it, and less hopeful for our species in general.

Please reciprocate by watching this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APEpwkXatbY (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APEpwkXatbY)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 03, 2013, 05:10:50 PM
For me personally, thinking in terms of choices and decisions leads to unhappiness.   To me those words imply we have free will.

Then perhaps you should move beyond such free-will-believing premises, still with you from before you moved to determinism...?

The idea that we have free will makes me unhappy because it means that I have a basis to regret my own bad decisions and that I have a basis to be angry at other people for their bad decisions that I don't approve of, such as the decision of that officer to follow his police department's policy and shoot the dog.

It doesn't necessarily mean that at all.  That's your own bias talking.  We all have it to some degree, though.

So I have 'chosen' to define those two words in such a way as to make them useless because they are useless with regard to bringing me peace and they are actually destructive to it.

What do "I" and "me" refer to in the above quote?  Apparently they don't refer to an entity.  Entities carry out actions.  If you no longer subjectively see yourself as an entity[1], or anyone else as such, but rather the continuous but varying field of matter and energy that objectively makes up the universe, then it makes no sense to talk about your emotions, your life, your happiness, etc.

On the other hand, they are useful with regard to making me miserable.   So I'm against those words.

Making what miserable?  The region without a consciousness that's just a part of the rest of the universe's matter?  How does it even make sense to talk about your misery outside of a paradigm which includes discrete minds?  You contradict yourself.

You said that it is misleading to say we can't make choices and from my perspective the opposite is true.   It seems to me that if you think in terms of us having the ability to make choices you are planting seeds in your own mind that you have free will.   But maybe it doesn't do that for you.   If that is the case, I apologize and I won't complain about it anymore.

I already stated how I define "choice" and "decision".  They are physical actions taking by a brain or other information-processing machine.  What the hell is wrong with that?  Seriously, what?

The standard by which it is correct to not be angry is with regard to peace or happiness, for me anyway.   So to rephrase it, "the way for me to not get miserable over that Hawthorne CA incident is to view it in the same way I would a storm or tornado."

Okay.  That makes more sense.  But have you considered that dealing with or facing your emotional responses might be healthier than just finding and adopting a paradigm that avoids the emotional response?
 1. Yes, I realize the contradiction inherent in that wording.  Blame the clumsiness of English in discussing this topic.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 03, 2013, 07:31:58 PM
What do "I" and "me" refer to in the above quote?  Apparently they don't refer to an entity.  Entities carry out actions.  If you no longer subjectively see yourself as an entity[1], or anyone else as such, but rather the continuous but varying field of matter and energy that objectively makes up the universe, then it makes no sense to talk about your emotions, your life, your happiness, etc.
 1. Yes, I realize the contradiction inherent in that wording.  Blame the clumsiness of English in discussing this topic.

Making what miserable?  The region without a consciousness that's just a part of the rest of the universe's matter?  How does it even make sense to talk about your misery outside of a paradigm which includes discrete minds?  You contradict yourself.

Just to clarify that, in my worldview, nothing actually exists, all duality is an illusion including every particle, myself, my emotions, meaning, every experience, etc.   However, I can't use adjectives like illusory or apparent in-between every word without annoying people so what I do is "pepper it."   I just throw a little nondualism in here and there.   That's what I did with that sentence:  "Apparent 'human beings' made some apparent 'choices' that resulted in the apparent grisly 'death' of an apparent, perfectly innocent 'Rottweiler.'"   If I use personal pronouns without 'apparent' in front of them it's just because I'm trying to communicate without seeming too obnoxious.   

But you're right, I'm not an actual entity with actual emotions, I'm an illusory entity with illusory emotions.   The apparent me doesn't want to be filled with apparent hatred for that apparent cop who shot the dog, so that's why it's good for me to view everything as 'neuronal weather patterns' <--Just now I heard Sam Harris use that phrase in a lecture.   Very good.   
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 03, 2013, 08:08:35 PM
Illusions that are apparently real...to what?  Another illusion?  And is that fact yet another illusion?

If everything counts as X, then X is no longer a useful distinction.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 03, 2013, 08:47:19 PM
Illusions that are apparently real...to what?  Another illusion?  And is that fact yet another illusion?

If everything counts as X, then X is no longer a useful distinction.

In response to the second paragraph, when I said 'nothing actually exists' I meant nothing in our universe actually exists.   I am convinced there is something outside of our universe that is real by which to make the distinction.  By 'real' I don't mean 'physical.'   

As for the first paragraph, do you believe there is any reason why we shouldn't someday be able to create artificial intelligence, perhaps with quantum computers?   If so, we should be able to give the AI a virtual avatar body and put it in a virtual world.  Wouldn't that be an illusory being that perceives other illusions, such as illusory, virtual trees?   The virtual world would be a local reality to this AI character but from our perspective its reality would unreal or illusory.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 03, 2013, 08:55:14 PM
Those would not be illusions.  Those would be real physical phenomena that it observes with its artificial senses.  The nature of those physical phenomena would be that they are encoded in a quantum computer.  Perhaps virtual scientists would be able to find that out.  That doesn't mean that the effects of the quantum computer aren't real, any more than a holographic universe's projections aren't real.  They're a part of the universe[1].
 1. "Universe" means "all that exists" by the way.  There is no "outside the universe".  If you mean "outside our space-time" then say that.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Ambassador Pony on August 03, 2013, 09:12:21 PM

This is obviously a highly contentious issue, and I know better than to get in a pissing match with you AP,

I think you're pretty bad-ass, too.

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but I have to ask this. How could our upbringing ever differ if there is no free will? The tiny variations in humans via genetics don't seem adequate to explain all the language, social, structural and economic differences between societies, let alone individuals.

The bolded. Seems like the argument from incredulity. Gotta explain the why and how to me here. Because I am coming from the other side, where, with the information I think I have, it DOES SEEM to adequately explain all those differences. The anecdote didn't do it for me.

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Anyway, I've read both sides of the issue, and obviously fallen on the side the thinks there is at least some free will. Is there anything that you could recommend I read that demonstrates your side of the issue? Something that might be more persuasive?

That's fair. But, it'll be six to eight business days.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 03, 2013, 09:21:17 PM
Those would not be illusions.  Those would be real physical phenomena that it observes with its artificial senses.  The nature of those physical phenomena would be that they are encoded in a quantum computer.  Perhaps virtual scientists would be able to find that out.  That doesn't mean that the effects of the quantum computer aren't real, any more than a holographic universe's projections aren't real.  They're a part of the universe[1].
 1. "Universe" means "all that exists" by the way.  There is no "outside the universe".  If you mean "outside our space-time" then say that.

You are saying virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft, are real.   Then why do we need the word 'virtual?'   Why is it called 'virtual reality?'   Why not just 'reality?'
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 03, 2013, 09:24:16 PM
Virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft certainly are real.  They are real virtual worlds, made up of physical components.  We can even look at those components and learn about how they work.

The distinction between "virtual reality" and just "reality" is that "virtual reality" tricks the observer into thinking that reality is one thing when it is really another.  The trick is very real, however, and it is an observation of the components.  It's just a misleading one when one approaches the virtual reality with certain assumptions about it.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Willie on August 03, 2013, 09:25:16 PM
I have noticed that since I was a child that each year they say planet is much older than the thought it went from millions of years to 500 million years old.

Who is this mysterious "they" who has been telling you this? Your mother? Your pastor? Jack Chick comics? Came to you in a dream, perhaps? One thing I can say for sure, it isn't scientists. The generally accepted age of the earth has changed hardly at all since the 1950's. The generally accepted best estimate from the late 1950's was 4.55 billion +/- 1.5%. The current best estimate is 4.54 billion +/- 1%, which is inside the margin of error of the first estimate, so it does not in any way contradict it, but rather confirms and refines it. Even as far back as the 1920's, the consensus has been that the age of the earth is one to several billions of years. You would have to be upwards of 90 years old to have been a child at a time when an age of mere millions was taken at all seriously. And you'd have to have died 60+ years ago for your older every year claim to have had even a vague resemblance to reality, and even then it would not be literally true.

Your claim is obvious bunk. You've either been fed a continuous stream of bogus information since childhood, have misremembered what you've heard, or are just plain making stuff up.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 03, 2013, 09:37:22 PM
Virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft certainly are real.  They are real virtual worlds, made up of physical components.  We can even look at those components and learn about how they work.

The distinction between "virtual reality" and just "reality" is that "virtual reality" tricks the observer into thinking that reality is one thing when it is really another.  The trick is very real, however, and it is an observation of the components.  It's just a misleading one when one approaches the virtual reality with certain assumptions about it.

OK, well I'm convinced I'm being tricked, hence my use of the word 'illusion.'

il·lu·sion
[ih-loo-zhuhn] Show IPA
noun
1.
something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality.
2.
the state or condition of being deceived; misapprehension.
3.
an instance of being deceived.
4.
Psychology . a perception, as of visual stimuli (optical illusion)  that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality.
5.
a very thin, delicate tulle of silk or nylon having a cobwebbed appearance, for trimmings, veilings, and the like.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/illusion?s=t
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 03, 2013, 09:50:06 PM
If you know you're being deceived, then you're not really being deceived.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nebula on August 03, 2013, 09:56:55 PM
If you know you're being deceived, then you're not really being deceived.

That's why nondualism is called the illusion that leads out of the illusion.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 03, 2013, 10:29:03 PM
Fair enough.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 04, 2013, 04:45:12 PM
I don't agree with the argument that biology and environment could not result in all the different kinds of people there are. First of all, biology and environment have clearly  produced millions of different kinds of plants, reptiles, mammals, birds, insects, bacteria, and viruses. There was no conscious choice involved in producing the biodiversity of species. Why would there need to be conscious choice in the diversity of the human species?

If you have had a pet cat or dog or bird or rat, you know that each animal has a different personality. I have lived with all of the above, and not one pet was exactly like any other of the same species. Even though every cat is more like other cats than they are like a dog. I doubt that anyone would argue that a pet dog or cat or rat chooses to be friendly, shy, sneaky, playful, vicious, adventurous, willing to wear costumes, outgoing, goofy, or afraid of loud noises.

I think that we humans are too used to thinking we are all that and a bag of chips. Just because one of us likes pink and another likes red? When the truth is, we are far more alike than we are like any other organism. Do different people's personalities matter that much?  Take two very dissimilar human beings-- say a tiny elderly Armenian woman who lives in an isolated village, and Barack Obama.

Nobody would ever confuse them--they have very little in common in terms of physical appearance, life experiences and environmental possibilities, right? But we also know that they have far more in common with each other than either has with a duck or a lizard or a  horse. Left together on a deserted island, the Finnish grandma and Obama would eventually figure out how to communicate and coexist.

An alien being would probably have as hard a time distinguishing a group of random humans from each other as we do when confronted with a flock of crows.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 04, 2013, 06:59:53 PM
^^^nogods,

As the one who said the above (and this is just observation and my opinion, not some sage insight based on years of education on the subject), I look at it a bit differently.

I live in the woods, and am surrounded with all sorts of wild animals all the time. Birds, deer, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, the occasional moose, the occasional bear, marmots, mice, etc.

Though there are tiny personality differences, all of these critters (on a species by species basis) act pretty much the same. Some birds are braver than others, but they still eat the same seeds or bugs or whatever. Some deer are more nervous, some coyotes are more prone to hanging around humans. But overall, each species acts more or less the same.

And my thinking was that these critters, who, because of what they have to do to survive (act based on their instincts) don't exhibit much variety, if we humans are devoid of free will, there would be no mechanism for us to exhibit such wide variety. We would be stuck on DNA based auto pilot and unable to conjure up such an assortment of responses to the same stimuli. I, for instance, don't jump when someone sneaks up behind me and says boo. I joke that I'm so slow that my brain figures it out before my body can react, but I had a little brother who loved to scare people and i taught myself not to react just to bug the heck out of him, and it still works over half a century later. If I lack free will, I have no idea where my ability to train myself not to react automatically when startled would come from.

I am not denying an any way that we have genetic variations (which appear to me to be much wider than the variations I see in wild animals, but that could be because of inbreeding, breeding outside our group, etc.) not do I deny that we have all sorts of subconscious crap (notice that mine will let me call it crap without responding. Cute.) going on in the background. I just find it difficult to accept that our conscious selves are along for the ride and are unable to influence, consciously, the situations we deal with every day.

To me, it is like the old nature/nurture debate, where each side had its adherents for several decades, then finally people started to agree that both are involved in the development of an individual. I think the no free will/free will argument may well come to a similar conclusion.

I'm not claiming that I am absolutely right. Like I alluded to earlier, if I find out I'm a stupid fuck and it isn't even my fault, I'll be pissed. Or I would be if I were free to be pissed. Which I may not be. Which would explain my calm demeanor at the moment.  ;D
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 04, 2013, 07:21:01 PM
ParkingPlaces, are you under the impression that human beings only have a small amount of physical information in their makeup?  No two humans are physically identical, or even close to it.  Not even "identical" twins.  So why would we expect identical behaviour?

Also, I'm still curious as to your answer to this post:

ParkingPlaces, when you say you have free will, what collection of constraints is it free from?

Because we determinists say that our will is constrained by physical processes.  Do you disagree?  If so, on what grounds?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 04, 2013, 07:43:43 PM
I just happened to hear a (very timely!) public radio program where there were interviews with several cutting edge brain scientists. They were all doing different kinds of research, from brain damage to morality to music to memory to different hemisphere stuff. And they were all pretty anti-free will....

I think the most interesting part was that someone said that the brain protects our conscious selves from knowing what the rest of the brain is doing. That is what has to happen to function normally. When that barrier breaks down, from a birth defect or chemical imbalance, drug use or injury or whatever, that is what makes insanity. Like hearing voices could be "hearing" the different parts of the brain communicating, and autism can be when a person is aware of too much of what the brain is doing and can't deal with it.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Ambassador Pony on August 04, 2013, 07:54:30 PM
^^^nogods,


Animals don't have the same pre-frontal cortices as us. If you found a species with our variety of brain, say, a Neanderthal, and could make such a comparison, then you'd have my attention.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Astreja on August 04, 2013, 09:14:56 PM
I think man is trig to outsmart itself we all have our opinions and each of us is entitled to have one,but I have learned don't trust what scientist say 99% of the time they are wrong.

Ah.  That means that 99% of your personal possessions must therefore be somehow flawed because they were manufactured via bad science.  Pray to your god for the wisdom to identify the wrong bits, and discard them immediately. ;)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 04, 2013, 10:25:09 PM
^^^nogods,


Animals don't have the same pre-frontal cortices as us. If you found a species with our variety of brain, say, a Neanderthal, and could make such a comparison, then you'd have my attention.

You're mucking up my free will by having all the answers, AP.

I think I'll just take comfort in knowing that the subject of free will has an assortment of labeled philosophical stances, and wait around until we have a winner. When the philosophers and scientists and such get it down to two choices, choices as clear as Republican and Democrat, I'll choose. Or I'll have it chosen for me, whichever is actually the case. In the meantime I shall assume that my innate brilliance has me in the right neighborhood, so for now I'll run around with the false opinion that I have a choice. Which I find more appealing than the correct opinion that I don't have one.

I think we have ourselves a win-win situation here. Excuse me while I wait around, as my subconscious self and my genes and my upbringing decide how to celebrate.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 04, 2013, 10:54:02 PM
^^^nogods,


Animals don't have the same pre-frontal cortices as us. If you found a species with our variety of brain, say, a Neanderthal, and could make such a comparison, then you'd have my attention.

You have a point.  My anthropologist friend says that Neanderthals would look pretty much like muscular humans, like Ahhnold or Lou Ferrigno, maybe. He can't wait until we clone some Neanderthals to study. I tell him I will stage a lab break with some PETA folks and help them escape. Free Caesar!  ;)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 04, 2013, 10:54:40 PM
ParkingPlaces, are you under the impression that human beings only have a small amount of physical information in their makeup?  No two humans are physically identical, or even close to it.  Not even "identical" twins.  So why would we expect identical behaviour?

Also, I'm still curious as to your answer to this post:

ParkingPlaces, when you say you have free will, what collection of constraints is it free from?

Because we determinists say that our will is constrained by physical processes.  Do you disagree?  If so, on what grounds?

I guess I extrapolate the lack of free will to mean that we should have very little difference from person to person because there is no agent of change available. The prior conditions and the laws of nature, both biggies for determinists, would seem to limit the options available to not choose from, so to speak.

A few tens of thousands of years ago our forefathers were presumably running around in animal skins. What set of predetermined events and laws of nature would start a person to think about weaving, or a people to finally invent early forms of cloth or woven wool? What sort of predetermined factor can change the future?

That is the sort of question I ask when I think about these things.

Is our will constrained by physical processes, or only our choices? I think it is the latter. Right now (an actual choice I am trying to make right now) I can choose to go to the store and get milk so I can have cereal for breakfast in the morning, or I can choose to have scrambled eggs. And while I think that what I do is weigh things like the cost of gas to make the six mile round trip to the store and whether or not I have ketchup to put on my eggs and if I'm going to be in the mood to cook in the morning and other factors, determinists seems to want to assume that whatever i choose was actually my only choice, whether I knew it or not. At least that is my understanding. And yet I know that there have been times when, under these circumstances, I've jumped in my truck and went to the store, and other times I decided on the eggs. So historically is feels like I have exercised choice, and right now it feels like I have a choice. And I've no idea how you're going to talk me out of it.

I guess it boils down to expecting that determinism, hard or otherwise, would necessarily narrow options of all of humankind and that the assortment of choices we have would never have been created because there would never have been a need for them. What would cause a caveman getting up in the morning to look at the half an antelope hanging from the ceiling and the three yams in the basket but then decide "Hey, maybe I'll just eat one of those funny looking mushrooms growing in the back of the cave for breakfast. I've never done that before..."?

I'm thinking (and I realize that, without sound research, etc. I sound as silly as a christian speaking about god) that it takes some level of actual free will to create the variety that humans are able to experience when they live in societies that value said variety. Not all humans experience variety, not all humans value variety, not all societies allow variety, but I see those instances where it exists as an example of free will trumping theories that we are the product of predetermined factors.

Does that answer your question? I'm asking because I'm wondering if I was predetermined to provide a satisfactory answer, or to fail.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 04, 2013, 11:53:19 PM
I guess I extrapolate the lack of free will to mean that we should have very little difference from person to person because there is no agent of change available. The prior conditions and the laws of nature, both biggies for determinists, would seem to limit the options available to not choose from, so to speak.

A few tens of thousands of years ago our forefathers were presumably running around in animal skins. What set of predetermined events and laws of nature would start a person to think about weaving, or a people to finally invent early forms of cloth or woven wool? What sort of predetermined factor can change the future?

That's not what determinism means, at least not as I (and others who actually believe it on here, who've written about it) mean.  Prior conditions include everything, including what's on our minds.  What are you thinking about at time X?  That's a prior condition determining your next action.  Unless what you're thinking about has no state of being in the real world, which I will get to below...

Is our will constrained by physical processes, or only our choices? I think it is the latter.

So you believe in a non-physical will.  A supernatural soul, as it were.  A mind (or brain?) that is not bound to the same laws of physics and chemistry that describe the behaviour of all other matter in the universe.

Right now (an actual choice I am trying to make right now) I can choose to go to the store and get milk so I can have cereal for breakfast in the morning, or I can choose to have scrambled eggs.

It's one or the other, and we won't know what it is until you make it.  Incomplete information ensures that.  But after the fact, looking back, what would have had to happen differently, in your brain, for the other choice to have happened?  According to your first statement in this paragraph, nothing would have had to happen differently, because will is non-physical.  How then does it affect our physical brains?

And while I think that what I do is weigh things like the cost of gas to make the six mile round trip to the store and whether or not I have ketchup to put on my eggs and if I'm going to be in the mood to cook in the morning and other factors, determinists seems to want to assume that whatever i choose was actually my only choice, whether I knew it or not. At least that is my understanding. And yet I know that there have been times when, under these circumstances, I've jumped in my truck and went to the store, and other times I decided on the eggs. So historically is feels like I have exercised choice, and right now it feels like I have a choice. And I've no idea how you're going to talk me out of it.

You did exercise choice, as all information-processing machines exercise choice.  And if you indeed believe your will to not be physical, but to belong to a supernatural soul, then there isn't anything I can do to talk you out of your free-will beliefs without first dealing with that.

I guess it boils down to expecting that determinism, hard or otherwise, would necessarily narrow options of all of humankind and that the assortment of choices we have would never have been created because there would never have been a need for them.

That sort of purposefully-created universe is very theistic thinking, akin to "if black holes weren't here for the benefit of humanity, then why would they have been created?!"  I cannot see, as a determinist, why we would not have the perception of being able to select from multiple contemplated actions.  That perception is quite irrelevant to whether determinism is true, just as the perception that the moon is larger on the horizon is quite irrelevant to whether it changes its size.

What would cause a caveman getting up in the morning to look at the half an antelope hanging from the ceiling and the three yams in the basket but then decide "Hey, maybe I'll just eat one of those funny looking mushrooms growing in the back of the cave for breakfast. I've never done that before..."?

Because his physical brain state caused him to.  This question is irrelevant to free will or determinism.

I'm thinking (and I realize that, without sound research, etc. I sound as silly as a christian speaking about god) that it takes some level of actual free will to create the variety that humans are able to experience when they live in societies that value said variety. Not all humans experience variety, not all humans value variety, not all societies allow variety, but I see those instances where it exists as an example of free will trumping theories that we are the product of predetermined factors.

Does that answer your question? I'm asking because I'm wondering if I was predetermined to provide a satisfactory answer, or to fail.

Apparently you were predetermined to fail.  But without knowing that ahead of time, there was no reason for you to have given up.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 05, 2013, 12:09:12 AM
Azdgari

I'd better bow out of this one. My mind can't comprehend the subtleties involved in this discussion. I'm getting old and if I'm going to put energy into something, I think I need to be more interested. As one who obviously doesn't believe in a supernatural soul but also as one who can't figure out why some people think I have no choice, methinks I'm out of my league. I can handle the scoffing at theists, but I guess if deep thought is involved, I am no longer able to comprehend.

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.

Good news. I'm told it's okay to click it now. And that I shouldn't worry about this stuff because it's my bed time.

And I'll be having eggs in the morning. I should have known that.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 05, 2013, 12:21:11 AM
Sooner or later, I give up on philosophical arguments as well. But the brain stuff is really interesting.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 05, 2013, 05:59:47 AM
I do think I'm starting to understand though.

The fellow who got caught by security the other day trying to sneak his pet turtle on board an airplane by disguising it as a hamburger? Free will was not involved. His genes and his upbringing conspired to make it happen. It was frickin' inevitable.

Got it.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari on August 05, 2013, 06:36:21 AM
His brain caused it to happen, PP.  How can you not grasp the idea of a brain being a physical object obeying physical laws?

EDIT:  You have no grounds to mock determinism when you don't even understand the most basic idea underpinning it.  It's no better than a YEC mocking evolution because monkeys are still around.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 05, 2013, 09:11:55 AM
My apologies Azdgari. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep so I went to my computer and said something snide. Something I usually reserve for the religious. I also didn't realize that subjects like this are that important to some people. Which didn't help. Again, my apologies. I'll endeavor to keep my cynicism on topic, religion-wise, and keep in mind that my friends here have important and relevant philosophical stances that are not necessarily open to attack. Especially when I have no expertise on the subject or alternatives to offer.

I am looking for a book to read on the overall subject in hopes of gaining a better understanding of current philosophical/biological etc. stances on the subject.

It will have to be a bit simpler than the wikipedia article, but that's my problem.

Again, I apologize. And I'm damn glad you're not Junebug or I'd be smited daily for all of infinity.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir on August 06, 2013, 06:51:08 AM
Hiya PP - I'm back from Legoland now!

Right now (an actual choice I am trying to make right now) I can choose to go to the store and get milk so I can have cereal for breakfast in the morning, or I can choose to have scrambled eggs. And while I think that what I do is weigh things like the cost of gas to make the six mile round trip to the store and whether or not I have ketchup to put on my eggs and if I'm going to be in the mood to cook in the morning and other factors, determinists seems to want to assume that whatever i choose was actually my only choice, whether I knew it or not. At least that is my understanding. And yet I know that there have been times when, under these circumstances, I've jumped in my truck and went to the store, and other times I decided on the eggs. So historically is feels like I have exercised choice, and right now it feels like I have a choice. And I've no idea how you're going to talk me out of it.

The point I would make here is that you haven't experienced the same circumstances before.  Similar, sure - but not the same.  Some of the factors that might be different include:

1) Your level of hunger at the time.  It's weel known that you should "not shop on an empty stomach", because you buy impulse food that you wouldn't normally do.  That, to me, is a huge indicator against free will, because it makes clear that our physical status will have a marked and noticeable effect on our "choices".
2) Your level of tiredness at the time.  Ditto the above - when we are tired, we make "bad decisions".  This isn't as clear, because one could say "because I was tired, I was unable to come to the right choice", but still - a physical effect alters the decision we (believe we would) otherwise have made.  Ditto alcohol and drugs, things that apparently remove free will.

There would be other factors as well.  Have you driven a lot that week?  When did you last have cereal?  When did you last have eggs?  Does your body need a particular nutrient and that is why you eventually "decided" for eggs or cereal.

On that subject, prgnant women experience cravings, anecdotally for weird stuff like coal, sometimes.  Lump in with that anything for which there is a physiological dependancy - smoking, say.  Can we simply "choose" not to smoke?  For the vast majority, no - and this is usually explained as having "weak or strong" free will....which, to me, does not answer the question.  Far more realistic to say that the "choice" of picking up a ciggie or not is far more dependent on whether our physiology is pushing us to it - especially when most of the solutions touted for avoiding that cigarette is to divert the body with food or a game or whatever, rather than generally explaining how to strengthen one's will.

One quick question - re: your brother scaring you, you "taught yourself not to react" - can you expand on what that actually involved?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Add Homonym 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
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Add Homonym on August 06, 2013, 10:12:06 AM
It's almost as if I'm talking to your bowel bacteria, directly.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme on August 06, 2013, 10:52:47 AM
Get a room, guys. &)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari 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...
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Traveler 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: screwtape 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.

And... I'm outta here.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: nogodsforme 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: jdawg70 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median 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."
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: shnozzola 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir 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?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: lotanddaughters 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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

If you don't care to watch it or don't have the time to, I understand. We all live our lives as if we do have free will, even if we don't have free will.  :)
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Anfauglir 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".
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: median 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.
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Azdgari 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?
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: greenmoon on August 29, 2013, 06:47:15 AM
Does anyone know if satan exists in any bible
Title: Re: Why We Argue With Religious People
Post by: Mrjason 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 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+1&version=NIV)