Free Will
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05-08-2011, 07:45 PM
Free Will
Illusion, delusion, or deception? What is the evolutionary advantage of making me think I'm piloting the ship when I'm actually not?

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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05-08-2011, 08:33 PM
RE: Free Will
(05-08-2011 07:45 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Illusion, delusion, or deception? What is the evolutionary advantage of making me think I'm piloting the ship when I'm actually not?

Interesting and neat. I wouldn't think to believe it was some form of false thought developed due to evolution, even if this were proven in anyway true. I'd put it amongst anything associated with humans reasoning to explain unknown aspects that the advanced mindset developed.

From the start I was thinking, does the movement of one finger onto a set spot spontaneously really constitute as a conscious act anyway? They say the hand is faster than the eye, maybe the finger is faster than the conscious brain.

Reading downward on that I got relinked to a wiki page on the whole field of study, Neuroscience of Free Will There is some criticism of it and examples of other more recent tests trying to judge by making people make the choice of which hand to move instead of a singular finger but even that has disbelieve.
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05-08-2011, 09:39 PM
RE: Free Will
Thanks for the links. I was unaware of Libet's work.

As an answer to GM's question about evolutionary advantage, what about this:

If free will is an illusion, it's a necessary illusion if you're going to have a functioning society. Every society needs rules of behavior for its members and some means of punishment for those who violate the rules--otherwise the society falls apart. But if there's no free will, then people are not responsible for the choices they make. Take away that responsibility and there's no justification for enforcing the rules and punishing rule-breakers. The result is anarchy. (I'm assuming here that the development of society was adaptive for humans, but that doesn't seem to be in question.)

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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05-08-2011, 10:20 PM (This post was last modified: 06-08-2011 04:29 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Free Will
(05-08-2011 09:39 PM)cufflink Wrote:  If free will is an illusion, it's a necessary illusion if you're going to have a functioning society.

That's a reasonable hypothesis. But we see social structures everywhere in the animal kingdom from ant colonies to elephant herds and dolphin pods. Are we imposing a social structure where there is none, or do they also think they are piloting their own ship?

(05-08-2011 08:33 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  From the start I was thinking, does the movement of one finger onto a set spot spontaneously really constitute as a conscious act anyway? They say the hand is faster than the eye, maybe the finger is faster than the conscious brain.

That's essentially Dennett's objection. But I think Libet's own interpretation is more likely. We don't have free-will, we have free-won't and just serve as a check ready to course correct as necessary. And we have to think we're the pilot in order to feel we have the authority to course correct.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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06-08-2011, 06:59 AM (This post was last modified: 06-08-2011 07:42 AM by Peterkin.)
RE: Free Will
But if the brain is able to produce illusion, why can't it also produce free will? I mean, isn't that just another way or saying "We haven't figured out how that organ does all that it does"?

Couple of observations by an ignorant layman who doesn't understand half the words:

Experiments in psycho-somatic response rely heavily on equipment that didn't exist until last week and could have played no part in neural evolution. I wonder whether they're measuring something relevant, or something incidental, or something iatrogenic, or feedback incited by the equipment itself.

Free will is not philosophically applied to twitches and flashes, but to complex actions that require planning, chronology, locomotion, communication, co-ordination - a whole long, interconnected series of mental and physical activity that would be very difficult (I'd say, at this stage of science, impossible) to measure or evaluate.

The evolutionary advantages of intelligent choice are obvious - at least, to me. The evolutionary advantages of mechanical predetermination are not.... in fact, i can't help wondering whether a mechanical human - or anything beyond ants - could have evolved at all. The advantages of illusion and delusion are difficult to imagine. I can't see the need to be deluded into believing you made a conscious correction to a course you had no reason to think was wrong, until you thought your own decision had steered it wrong.... and so on, in a futile loop that gets nobody any mating opportunities. I'm inclined to consider illusion and delusion the untoward side-effect and free will the winning trait of big brain evolution.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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06-08-2011, 08:19 AM
RE: Free Will
Hey, GirlyMan.

Well it was my understanding that the idea that you don't have free will was only one interpretation of the data from this experiment. So (and please correct me if I'm wrong) it's not that you don't pilot the ship, it's that some people think you don't.

I don't understand what you mean by your question though. Who or what is making you think that?

I enjoy the topic of free will but I admit that I don't really understand what is being discussed here. Throw me a bone?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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06-08-2011, 04:35 PM
RE: Free Will
(06-08-2011 08:19 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, GirlyMan.

Well it was my understanding that the idea that you don't have free will was only one interpretation of the data from this experiment. So (and please correct me if I'm wrong) it's not that you don't pilot the ship, it's that some people think you don't.

Yes. It's all about intepretation of the evidence. Libet's own interpretation just sits right with me. But it doesn't sit right with everyone (Dennett for example).

(06-08-2011 08:19 AM)Ghost Wrote:  I enjoy the topic of free will but I admit that I don't really understand what is being discussed here. Throw me a bone?

Libet's experiments draw into question whether any debate about freewill is merely academic. It might be moot.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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06-08-2011, 04:44 PM
RE: Free Will
(05-08-2011 10:20 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  [W]e see social structures everywhere in the animal kingdom from ant colonies to elephant herds and dolphin pods. Are we imposing a social structure where there is none, or do they also think they are piloting their own ship?

Well, I'm no sociobiologist, but it seems clear that many other species besides us have social structures, including rules of behavior--e.g., the alpha male eats first. Violate the rule and you get slapped (or bitten or looked at askance or whatever the particular species does to express social disapproval). Whether this behavior is innate or cultural, however, I don't imagine too many wolves or elephants or dolphins or bonobos are having philosophical discussions about free will. Smile But hey, I'm ready to stand corrected!

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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06-08-2011, 05:51 PM (This post was last modified: 06-08-2011 06:21 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Free Will
(06-08-2011 04:44 PM)cufflink Wrote:  ... I don't imagine too many wolves or elephants or dolphins or bonobos are having philosophical discussions about free will. Smile But hey, I'm ready to stand corrected!

Yeah, I myself am not so sure about that. Wink

(06-08-2011 06:59 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  Free will is not philosophically applied to twitches and flashes, but to complex actions that require planning, chronology, locomotion, communication, co-ordination - a whole long, interconnected series of mental and physical activity that would be very difficult (I'd say, at this stage of science, impossible) to measure or evaluate.

But if you can't even control whether or not to twitch your own finger ...?

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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06-08-2011, 06:57 PM
RE: Free Will
(06-08-2011 05:51 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  But if you can't even control whether or not to twitch your own finger ...?

"even" is the misleading term
You can't control your heartbeat, the peristalsis of your bowels, the rate of toxin excretion of the common bile ducts, and a host of other autonomous body functions. (maybe if you're a top-level yogi, some of them, some of the time) It would take up the whole frontal cortex just to keep track - and would be extremely wasteful, when the tiny brain of a dinosaur can do it quite adequately, leaving upper function available for invention and food recognition, poetry and bridge construction. Consciousness isn't built, like a brick wall, on top of primitive functions; it's far more complex and indirect than that; it compartmentalizes, delegates sub-routines, zig-zags and networks.
One problem with this kind of experiment is the reporting protocol. The subject is asked to put into words, or symbols or signals, information that the human brain doesn't have to process, read or describe in normal life situations.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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