Question about free will??
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13-02-2012, 10:42 PM
Question about free will??
I was watching a video with Sam Harris on YT. He says that we really don't have free will. What we think is a conscience decision most of the time is really our subconscience that already decided it. I am kind of confused. Can anyone elaborate on this. I do believe whatever we are at this moment is a accumulation of our life experiences that we had no control over. For example, who your parents are, where you were born, are you raped, rich, poor,IQ.... the list is long. All of those things are out of your control. The people you meet throughout your life are out of your control.Everyone and everything shaped you, but he takes that philosophy to a very literal moment as what hand I decide to move.
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13-02-2012, 11:13 PM
RE: Question about free will??
The thinking is (or maybe just my thinking is) that "free will" is a model.
At the genetic / molecular level and also at higher holistic levels (I use the word holistic as in "holon") it would be possible to predict our next actions (outputs) if we have an uber-sophisticated computer and could identify the myriad of social / cultural / genetic / environmental factors in us and around as "inputs".
We don't have such a computer and it's too much cost and effort to create one so it's just called "free will".

This is not to say that we have a destiny (or destination) that is pre-determined (if you haven't already, look up "determinism" and you'll find various schools of thought) but that our nature/nurture programming leads to predictable responses to stimuli.
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13-02-2012, 11:22 PM
RE: Question about free will??
(13-02-2012 10:42 PM)satan69 Wrote:  I was watching a video with Sam Harris on YT. He says that we really don't have free will.

It would appear unlikely that we have free will, given what we now know about the brain and how it makes choices. And Sam Harris knows a lot about neuropsychology like this --- I haven't seen this video, and you didn't cite it, so I'm sorry if Harris already covers the article I linked to... it was a very huge discovery in this field.

Another expert on this unlikelihood of free will and how it relates to theology...



My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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14-02-2012, 06:33 AM
RE: Question about free will??
I have yet to see a persuasive case against free will. Maybe that's not surprising since it can be difficult to prove a negative, but using the idea that a proposition cannot be both true and not true, it seems to me that someone needs to show what our will is, if it isn't free.

Using DLJ's case of a supercomputer that knows everything about us, I don't doubt that if you have enough information about me, you can predict what choices I'll make based on what I think is in my self-interest. That's just understanding me, albeit really well. But if you want to show that my will is something other than free, you'd need to tell me what choice I am going to make, and then see if knowing your prediction, I can choose otherwise. I'm pretty sure that I can.

Likewise for the button-pushing experiment linked above - being able to sense my decision before I'm conscious of it. I'm not surprised that in an experiment where one has to make quick "choose button A or B" decisions that we can electronically sense what simplistic decision will be made before the person is conscious of it. We're still learning about the brain, and also learning that other parts of our bodies have brain-like functions (see here). Perhaps the brain quickly sets up a near autonomous function when encountering the button-pushing situation. But I still don't see how that defines my free will. In the button pushing setup, if you sense my decision before I press the button, and then stop me and tell me my "decision", can I change it? I believe I can. I think that demonstrates free will.
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14-02-2012, 06:38 AM
RE: Question about free will??
(14-02-2012 06:33 AM)Jeff Wrote:  Using DLJ's case of a supercomputer that knows everything about us, I don't doubt that if you have enough information about me, you can predict what choices I'll make based on what I think is in my self-interest. That's just understanding me, albeit really well. But if you want to show that my will is something other than free, you'd need to tell me what choice I am going to make, and then see if knowing your prediction, I can choose otherwise. I'm pretty sure that I can.

The computer could also predict your reaction to seeing its prediction. You are made of atoms, and subatomic particles, just like everything else in the universe. There's nothing special about your particles that exempts them from the laws of the physical universe.
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14-02-2012, 07:32 AM
RE: Question about free will??
Oh God. Someone mentioned Sam Harris... oh... oh... oh God.

What The Grand Douche seems to be arguing is simple causality. The Merovingian talks about that and is like totally way cooler when he does it. It's possible. Some molecule hit another molecule 12 billion years ago and that's why I had Raisin Bran for breakfast. Could be true. Could have something to do with chaos theory. But if it's true, then humans have zero responsibility for their actions. I could blow up a school and it wouldn't be my fault, it'd be the fault of some condition during the Big Bang. A possibility I must consider, but a very counterintuitive one and a very unsatisfying one.

We're still learning about the brain. One of the more interesting notions that's surfaced as of late is that there is no you. We all have this sense that there's some centre in us, its location varies but for many it's directly behind the eyes, that is US. The CPU of our essence. But there's no structure in the brain organ that houses this central you. The brain is more like a bunch of parallel processors that come into dominance and or recess based on what task is most important. That's why if you've ever driven a stretch of familiar highway and realised at the end that you haven't been paying attention to driving but rather, who knows, thinking about your taxes or that cutie you like, it's because the spatial awareness processor was like, "I got this one, feel free to think about something else, I'll be in the back if, y'know, like a deer jumps onto the highway or something." So can we have free will if there is no central us? Is that a no or does it just mean that it functions differently than we think? I don't know.

And even if it is the unconscious mind making our decisions, how is that not free will? Our brain is making an independent choice, is it not? Do we yet understand the relationship between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind? I don’t think so.

Then you look at how easy it is to fool the mind. Learned helplessness for example, convinces us that we are incapable of certain things. The famous experiment is tying wild elephant infants to a tree with a rope. By the time they're adults, they could rip the tree out of the ground if they wanted, but a lifetime of not being able to (cuz kidz iz weak) means that they aren't even going to try; learned helplessness. The same phenomenon applies to humans. So can one be said to have free will if one is constrained by powerful psychologies? Or perhaps these things just place limits on our free will and we make free choices within the constraints of learned helplessness and that phobia and our fear of commitment and the scars from being molested as a child. We don't know.

Then there's memes. Memes tell us what sort of clothes to wear and when to worship and what songs to sing and any and all behaviours shared by a culture. So if we're constantly expressing these shared behaviours, how can we have free will? Or is deciding to go to church on Sunday the act of will? Everyone does it, but will I?

Then there's involuntary reactions, like pulling your hand away from a heat source. Is that free will, or just our reptile brain doing the zombie?

I think that it's a little premature for Douchey McBaggerton to be making wild pronouncements about how exactly will functions because the jury is still out. Still, facts never stopped him before. Hi-yoooooooo! I agree with Jeff. If we don't have free will, someone better explain to me what it is we do have before I'll buy what it is they're selling.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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14-02-2012, 07:47 AM
RE: Question about free will??
Ghost,
you seem to be talking about a pre-defined destiny. I thought Harris was a Consequentialist, no?
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14-02-2012, 08:02 AM
RE: Question about free will??
What it comes down to is the fact that we don't know completely how things behave on the quantum level yet, so nobody can for sure say to what level the universe can mathematically predict itself.

HOWEVER, so far it appears that there is nothing external exerting force on the universe, and so since the very start, no matter how exactly it started, it has been one big giant self-contained pool game where the balls are subatomic structures bouncing off each other with mathematically predictable angles, energies, and properties.

Because you are made up of those same particles and because you are not exempt, that would mean that you do not have free will, and that nothing in the universe does. All of your electrons and atoms and things that make up your biology and neural circuits could never have ended up in any other place or have done anything else because they will always behave predictably.

I find it sort of ironic that so many atheists on this board find this concept hard to accept. Frankly, with all due respect, it is just wishful thinking. The evidence points to a predictable universe. If you reject that, you are doing the same thing as other people do with religion: believing something contrary to evidence because it makes you feel good.

Now, that being said, it isn't quite to that point yet. There certainly may be properties in the quantum realm we don't quite understand. Also, there are pairs of charged particles that constantly pop into existence and annihilate each other, but in some places they survive. It is as yet unclear how much chaos they insert into the universe. There are also phenomena such as quantum entanglement, dark matter, dark energy, and theorized extra dimensions that may account for such strange things as quarks having an inverse relationship between size and mass. At BEST however, even if ALL of these things are inserting discontinuity, that would simply mean your will was slightly random, not that it was yours to control necessarily.
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14-02-2012, 08:54 AM
RE: Question about free will??
(14-02-2012 08:02 AM)Superluminal Wrote:  I find it sort of ironic that so many atheists on this board find this concept hard to accept. Frankly, with all due respect, it is just wishful thinking. The evidence points to a predictable universe. If you reject that, you are doing the same thing as other people do with religion: believing something contrary to evidence because it makes you feel good.

Agreed. Predictable, yes but predestined? I think not and certainly not by an omnipotent deity.
Prof Hawking: "I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road"
So it could be argued that our pre-programming of us crossing the road and the pre-programming of the driver that might hit us or swerve and hit someone else, is all predictable but not predestined.
But I go with a "quantum" thought... multiple possible histories and multiple possible futures.

Now let me just decide what to do next.... argh!... I rubbed my nose... I knew that would happen.
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14-02-2012, 09:50 AM (This post was last modified: 14-02-2012 10:49 AM by Jeff.)
RE: Question about free will??
(14-02-2012 08:54 AM)SuperLuminal Wrote:  The evidence points to a predictable universe.

What is the evidence?

Also, what evidence would disprove your assertion?
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