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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:43 pm
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Prometheus wrote:
As i understand stochasticism it is a manifestation of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, right?

<...>

Also, i was wondering whether Heisenberg actually meant for the uncertainty principle to be taken as an inherent property of QM.

<...>

Even given QM randomness, how does this translate to free-will. If it is truly random then there is no free-will, our thought processes could just be altered by some random QM effects.

<...>

I thought a truly stochastic process could play out differently even given the exact same antecedents. Is this not their defining feature?

These are great questions. I think this is an area where Dr.Rocket is ideally suited to educate and elucidate.

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 9:18 pm
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Prometheus wrote:
If i may, i'd like to bring the discussion back to this point, as it's something i don't understand. As i understand stochasticism it is a manifestation of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, right? But it isn't random in the sense that there is equal probability of all outcomes, after all we can still place the probability of an electron being within a particular space, its cloud. So we can place the electron with 95% certainty within a small location, and the randomness occurs only within this parameter.


It is more the other way around.

Quantum mechanics is inherently stochastic in that it only predicts probabilities. The time-dependent Schrödinger equation, for instance, really describes the evolution of probability distributions over time.

What the Heisenberg uncertainty principle really states is that the variances of two complimentary observables depends on the order in which they are measured. The uncertainty principle is not what makes quantum theory stochastic.

Prometheus wrote:
Also, i was wondering whether Heisenberg actually meant for the uncertainty principle to be taken as an inherent property of QM. I have seen arguments state that Heisenberg did not like to speculate about those things which are unknowable to mankind, and so if there were elements in QM were in reality determined, but never predictable to us, he would classify them for all purposes as stochastic. How true is this of Heisenberg's views? I've read arguments for both sides, but this is the only place i could find both arguments presented together: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-uncertainty/#IntHeiRel


I have no idea what Heisenberg's philosophical views on the subject might have been. But the uncertainty principle is a necessary ingredient of quantum mechanics. In its basic form it is simply the statement that certain operators do not commute, and that is just a fact.

In the case of position and momentum the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, in one dimension is simply the statement that in general

$ \displaystyle \frac {d}{dx) xf(x) \ne x \frac {d}{dx} f(x)$


Prometheus wrote:
Even given QM randomness, how does this translate to free-will. If it is truly random then there is no free-will, our thought processes could just be altered by some random QM effects.


It doesn't.

As I said, deterministic physics obviates free will.

Stochastic physics is silent on the matter, but at least leaves the door open.

You misunderstand "random". Random does not mean unpredictable. One can predict the statistics of the outcomes of a large number of random events very accurately, if you know something about the probability distributions. The law of large numbers can in essence provide determinism (very loosely speaking) in a stochastic environment.

Quantum mechanics applies to the macroscopic world, but deterministic Newtonian mechanics is still a very good approximation. Exactly how determinism arises from QM is the subject of research.

Prometheus wrote:
KALSTER wrote:
Even if a truly random element enters the scenario, it will still play out the exact same way each time the random element resolves itself the same way and, given that it is truly random, nothing can influence it's outcome by definition. So again, where does free will enter into it? Even if you scale it up to any complexity, given the exact same set of elements, you will get the exact same result every time. You have the genetics and the impact of the environment on its development, full stop.


I thought a truly stochastic process could play out differently even given the exact same antecedents. Is this not their defining feature?


You are correct, though as noted above the law of large numbers can result in practical determinism. At the atomic level individual experiments, with the same initial conditions result in different outcomes -- but the statistics of many such experiments are predictable. I have no idea what Kalster thinks he is talking about.

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 9:44 pm
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Think about the implications of truly deterministic physics, and the lack of free will necessitated by it:

Everything, for all time, including the position of every quark, electron, photon, etc. was determined at the moment of the big bang. Your birth, death, every action, every thought, and every emotion were pre-ordained. You are just going through of the motions of a mechanism that has been winding down for nearly 14 billion years.

There is no essential difference between the inanimate and the living, just quarks and electrons doing their pre-ordained dance. You have no independent thoughts, no desires, no aspirations other than that which results from that dance of sub-atomic particles.

If this is correct, then it is the most dismal possible scenario. All is pointless, and you have no say in the matter. But who cares anyway?.

Consider the alternatives:

As stochastic universe without free will is little different than the deterministic case without free will. You still are just going through the motions, though they may be described by probabilities. You are still just a machine, though perhaps a slot machine.

The only attractive alternative is fundamentally stochastic physics with free will. The truly inspiring thing is the way that a predictable macroscopic iniverse can arise from a fundamentally stochastic sub-atomic world. We could not handle an unpredictable, chaotic macroscopic universe. But a purely deterministic picture is even worse.

Very little of this can be shown scientifically -- only the purely deterministic case. There is a lot that we don't know. But if one accepts a lack of free will then things are pretty meaningless.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:11 pm
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DrRocket wrote:
Everything, for all time, including the position of every quark, electron, photon, etc. was determined at the moment of the big bang. Your birth, death, every action, every thought, and every emotion were pre-ordained. You are just going through of the motions of a mechanism that has been winding down for nearly 14 billion years.

There is no essential difference between the inanimate and the living, just quarks and electrons doing their pre-ordained dance. You have no independent thoughts, no desires, no aspirations other than that which results from that dance of sub-atomic particles.

If this is correct, then it is the most dismal possible scenario. All is pointless, and you have no say in the matter. But who cares anyway?

<...>

But if one accepts a lack of free will then things are pretty meaningless.

We would we even know the difference, or would we simply carry on exactly as we are right now? Who cares, indeed.

Nice set of posts, Dr.R. Thanks for expanding like that.

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 1:22 am
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Quote:
You are correct, though as noted above the law of large numbers can result in practical determinism. At the atomic level individual experiments, with the same initial conditions result in different outcomes -- but the statistics of many such experiments are predictable. I have no idea what Kalster thinks he is talking about.
I am basically saying what you are. If the result of a random event can be either A or B, then the effects of either will always be the same given the same scenario and outcome of the random event, in essence rendering a purely deterministic and a stochastic universe on pretty much equal footing in terms of a cause and effect sequence, in the sense that given a certain resolution of a random event, you'll always have the same result (which I guess is obvious and needlessly overstated).

Quote:
The only attractive alternative is fundamentally stochastic physics with free will. The truly inspiring thing is the way that a predictable macroscopic iniverse can arise from a fundamentally stochastic sub-atomic world. We could not handle an unpredictable, chaotic macroscopic universe. But a purely deterministic picture is even worse.

Very little of this can be shown scientifically -- only the purely deterministic case. There is a lot that we don't know. But if one accepts a lack of free will then things are pretty meaningless.
I guess I don't understand how a stochastic universe (which I believe is the favoured view atm) could leave the door open for free will. I would be very interested in an explanation on this point. From my understanding, and despite some religious claims, it is an incorrect statement to say conciousness affects the results of QM processes directly. It is only the act of observation in a physical sense, i.e. receiving information from a particle or other physical phenomenon, one that necessarily affects the observed process, that alters the QM process. I guess I don't see how free will fits into this and I am not aware of experiments where mere thought has changed the outcome of QM events without direct observation. Even with entanglement no information can be passed and the action of free will cannot be explained in that way either. I am really interested in your thoughts in this.

Secondly, and I guess an independently valid criticism of the concept of free will, is just how free will could be possible in the first place, since any scenario I can think of necessarily involves the actuator of the choice being influenced by accumulated effects of causes and the environment present during the decision making process. Given this, I don't see how any choice can be truly free. If the actuator is somehow isolated from influencing factors (maybe an immutable soul of some sort), then it can't be free either, since the choice would be necessarily essentially random in itself. I don't see any way around this. If you have any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.

Lastly, I again disagree that the lack of free will needs to remove meaning. I not only think the illusion of free will is very strong, I am pretty sure it is basically impossible to completely divorce ourselves from it. Our sense of self is surely real even in an objective sense and so are our experiences in our lives and so are the meaning, be it emotional or whatever, in a purely existential way. Surely what we make of it all subjectively is what matters and have always mattered. Just as the objectively nihilistic nature of a godless universe does not bother me, so does the truth of a lack of free will not bother me. I don't believe our knowledge of this takes away something from our existence, because it is something which we never had in the first place and in my mind, cannot exist in the first place. It informs us and empowers us more than anything else IMO.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:10 am
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KALSTER wrote:
I not only think the illusion of free will is very strong, I am pretty sure it is basically impossible to completely divorce ourselves from it.


which leads us to an interesting conundrum : if there is no free will, where does the very strong illusion of free will come from ?

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:08 pm
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marnixR wrote:
KALSTER wrote:
I not only think the illusion of free will is very strong, I am pretty sure it is basically impossible to completely divorce ourselves from it.


which leads us to an interesting conundrum : if there is no free will, where does the very strong illusion of free will come from ?
By virtue of the fact that we are not aware of all the influences on our decisions and do not understand generally the true consequences of those we are aware of. I don't think it is even physically possible to be aware of everything. We have also developed a strong sense of self as well, which means we have a sense of "me" doing things, as well as a fairly developed theory of mind, meaning we are able to evaluate our thoughts and those of others to a certain extent. Whether this sense of self and theory of mind was specifically selected for or simply developed as a side consequence of our increased intellects, I am not sure.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:17 pm
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A great short article:


http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/science ... will/11622

Quote:
One of the surprising effects of the increasing availability of tools for peering inside the brain as thoughts occur has been a gradual mainstreaming of the idea that free will is an illusion. Briefly, as articulated my materialists and determinists, the idea is that if everything we think and do is a product of our physical substrate — indeed, if all we are is that physical substrate — it’s self-evident that our choices are pre-determined.

There are multiple lines of evidence to suggest this is true. We initiate actions before we are conscious of them. Many physicists argue that there is no such thing as time, i.e., that everything that has ever happened exists already, in what is actually a completely static universe. So we are merely moving along the dimension of time in what appears to be only one direction, playing out “the future” as surely as a player piano reels through a punched tape.

So why then do we believe in free will?

It’s simple: if we didn’t, we’d all die a lot sooner. There are countless other examples of this phenomenon. They are powerful cognitive illusions that have survival value, such as patternicity and agenticity, which have been eloquently described in Scientific American by Michael Shermer. His core argument is that we believe in bearded sky dudes and intercessory prayer and all that because the same underlying cognitive processes that enable those beliefs kept us from being eaten by predators...<continue reading>

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:28 am
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you know why, at the gut feel level, we feel free will MUST exist ? because the recent findings from neuroscience feel as counterintuitive as a lot of quantum physics - one more limitation of our species that prevents us from seeing the world as it really is ...

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:08 pm
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marnixR wrote:
the recent findings from neuroscience feel as counterintuitive as a lot of quantum physics - one more limitation of our species that prevents us from seeing the world as it really is ...

An apt comparison. Nice point.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:44 pm
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I found this to be an interesting entry on the topic today from Jerry Coyne:


http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/fo ... 52317624/1
Quote:
True "free will," then, would require us to somehow step outside of our brain's structure and modify how it works. Science hasn't shown any way we can do this because "we" are simply constructs of our brain. We can't impose a nebulous "will" on the inputs to our brain that can affect its output of decisions and actions, any more than a programmed computer can somehow reach inside itself and change its program.

And that's what neurobiology is telling us: Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output. Recent experiments involving brain scans show that when a subject "decides" to push a button on the left or right side of a computer, the choice can be predicted by brain activity at least seven seconds before the subject is consciously aware of having made it. (These studies use crude imaging techniques based on blood flow, and I suspect that future understanding of the brain will allow us to predict many of our decisions far earlier than seven seconds in advance.) "Decisions" made like that aren't conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we've made them, then we don't have free will in any meaningful sense.

Psychologists and neuroscientists are also showing that the experience of will itself could be an illusion that evolution has given us to connect our thoughts, which stem from unconscious processes, and our actions, which also stem from unconscious process. We think this because our sense of "willing" an act can be changed, created, or even eliminated through brain stimulation, mental illness, or psychological experiments. The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we're characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we're puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics.

Most people find that idea intolerable, so powerful is our illusion that we really do make choices.... <continue reading>

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:34 am
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iNow wrote:
I found this to be an interesting entry on the topic today from Jerry Coyne:


http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/fo ... 52317624/1
Quote:
True "free will," then, would require us to somehow step outside of our brain's structure and modify how it works. Science hasn't shown any way we can do this because "we" are simply constructs of our brain. We can't impose a nebulous "will" on the inputs to our brain that can affect its output of decisions and actions, any more than a programmed computer can somehow reach inside itself and change its program.

And that's what neurobiology is telling us: Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output. Recent experiments involving brain scans show that when a subject "decides" to push a button on the left or right side of a computer, the choice can be predicted by brain activity at least seven seconds before the subject is consciously aware of having made it. (These studies use crude imaging techniques based on blood flow, and I suspect that future understanding of the brain will allow us to predict many of our decisions far earlier than seven seconds in advance.) "Decisions" made like that aren't conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we've made them, then we don't have free will in any meaningful sense.

Psychologists and neuroscientists are also showing that the experience of will itself could be an illusion that evolution has given us to connect our thoughts, which stem from unconscious processes, and our actions, which also stem from unconscious process. We think this because our sense of "willing" an act can be changed, created, or even eliminated through brain stimulation, mental illness, or psychological experiments. The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we're characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we're puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics.

Most people find that idea intolerable, so powerful is our illusion that we really do make choices.... <continue reading>


Let us suppose that all of that is correct. Then the "neuro scientiests" who purportedly did that research and reported on it in reality were simply going throught pre-ordaned mechanical steps and did not really create experiments, analyze data, reach conclusions through logic or formuate their repport based on anything other than whatever initial conditions set the stage for their entire lives -- the content of the "report" on their "research" was determined prior to their birth.

That strikes me (who does have free will and the ability to analyze data logically) as a rather flimsy basis on which to accept their statement.

In short, if the "neouroscience" is correct then there is no logical reason to believe it. And if it is incorrect then there is no logical reason to believe it.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 7:51 am
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So what happens if there's a study where FMRI scans are performed on subjects playing video games, a clear stimulus-response scenario?

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:00 pm
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I'm not sure I follow your objection, Dr.R. Can you show a little patience for me and elaborate?



In the meantime, I liked a quote I read in this paper that addresses one of the most common replies people have to these assertions.


http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/Gre ... ans-04.pdf

Quote:
Finally, there is the worry that to reject free will is to render all of life pointless: why would you bother with anything if it has all long since been determined? The answer is that you will bother because you are a human, and that is what humans do. Even if you decide, as part of a little intellectual exercise, that you are going to sit around and do nothing because you have concluded that you have no free will, you are eventually going to get up and make yourself a sandwich. And if you do not, you have got bigger problems than philosophy can fix.

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Prometheus
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:20 am
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Have to agree with inow on this one. Either free-will exists or it doesn't, preferences be damned.

DrRocket wrote:
In short, if the "neouroscience" is correct then there is no logical reason to believe it. And if it is incorrect then there is no logical reason to believe it.


I don't follow this reasoning. If the 'neuroscience' is correct, and so the results of the experiment pre-determined from the inception of time, then the results are arbitrary, not a true reflection of reality, simply a link in a long chain of causation. And, if true, the same could be said of every experiment ever conducted. Therefore, free-will is an absolute necessity to determine truth, for without it experiments are simply mechanical constructions with predetermined results?

But then if a certain aspect of our reality is true, then would not a suitably designed experiment be pre-determined to find this truth?


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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:00 am
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Prometheus wrote:
Have to agree with inow on this one. Either free-will exists or it doesn't, preferences be damned.

DrRocket wrote:
In short, if the "neouroscience" is correct then there is no logical reason to believe it. And if it is incorrect then there is no logical reason to believe it.


I don't follow this reasoning. If the 'neuroscience' is correct, and so the results of the experiment pre-determined from the inception of time, then the results are arbitrary, not a true reflection of reality, simply a link in a long chain of causation. And, if true, the same could be said of every experiment ever conducted. Therefore, free-will is an absolute necessity to determine truth, for without it experiments are simply mechanical constructions with predetermined results?


Of course

Prometheus wrote:
But then if a certain aspect of our reality is true, then would not a suitably designed experiment be pre-determined to find this truth?


In that case, since we are all just going through the motions of what is pre-determined there is no way to know what is predetermined. In fact in this situation there is not much meaning to "knowing" or "truth" since it is all just the inevitable consequece of the machinations of the pre-determined clockwork.

Moreover there is not much meaning to "suitably designed" since it is all just the clock winding down.

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:01 am
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DrRocket wrote:
Prometheus wrote:
Have to agree with inow on this one. Either free-will exists or it doesn't, preferences be damned.

DrRocket wrote:
In short, if the "neouroscience" is correct then there is no logical reason to believe it. And if it is incorrect then there is no logical reason to believe it.


I don't follow this reasoning. If the 'neuroscience' is correct, and so the results of the experiment pre-determined from the inception of time, then the results are arbitrary, not a true reflection of reality, simply a link in a long chain of causation. And, if true, the same could be said of every experiment ever conducted. Therefore, free-will is an absolute necessity to determine truth, for without it experiments are simply mechanical constructions with predetermined results?


Of course

Prometheus wrote:
But then if a certain aspect of our reality is true, then would not a suitably designed experiment be pre-determined to find this truth?


In that case, since we are all just going through the motions of what is pre-determined there is no way to know what is predetermined. In fact in this situation there is not much meaning to "knowing" or "truth" since it is all just the inevitable consequece of the machinations of the pre-determined clockwork.

Moreover there is not much meaning to "suitably designed" since it is all just the clock winding down

Nor is there much meaning to this discussion, but it is unavoidable since it was all determined at the moment of the big bang (or creation or whatever).

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iceaura
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:09 am
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There is no need for an illusion of free will to connect thought to action - we very often think and act unconsciously right now, with complete success.

Meanwhile, this is wrong:
Quote:
The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we're characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we're puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics.
The laws of physics determine only probabilities for even very simple events, let alone the nonlinear feedback loop ridden complexity of human thought. They don't write scripts, they throw dice.

The notion that substrate determines pattern clearly errs when stated plainly - there is no reason to think that the patterns of neurons firing are determined by those neurons, especially when we know they are affected by incoming patterns - events on their logical level - directly and measurably. It would be like claiming ink molecules determine the effects of letters being read in books.

Even less, then, are the patterns of those patterns - the still more inclusive and logically "higher" levels of thought and imagination - determined by substrates so many levels below.

We see, then, that some people have freer wills than others - drug addicts famously have less free will, certain mental disorders, etc.

We also see that dreams can originate responsibilities, affect thought. So can letters from far places, noises both imagined and real, etc. In a world in which very simple physical sequences are not determined (quantum) nor completely specifiable (Heisenberg), nor completely predictable (chaos theory), physics has no chance (even in theory) of determining the every detail of the reaction of somebody's dreams to the memory of the day's events - except to note that at the level of thought, thought is causative.

The patterns at a given level are causal at that level. Thoughts, not "the laws of physics", cause the next thoughts - and the causation from incoming patterns at this level ripples out, incorporates radio waves from far away and starlight from even farther.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:00 pm
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The evidence is mounting that we really don't have free will. A nice piece pulling together several fronts of this discussion from Victor Stenger.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-st ... 62533.html
Quote:
Research in neuroscience has revealed a startling fact that revolutionizes much of what we humans have previously taken for granted about our interactions with the world outside our heads: Our consciousness is really not in charge of our behavior.
<...>
And that's what it all boils down to. Who cares whether we call an action "free will" or not? Calling it "free will" (as compatibilists do) is too confusing, since it suggests some form of dualism, supernatural or not; so let's call it "autonomy." The issue is: what is the moral and legal responsibility of an autonomous person, and how should society deal with wrongdoing? ... <continue reading>

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:28 pm
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An interesting piece on free will today:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/life ... -free-will

Quote:
One of the most common objections to my position on free will is that accepting it could have terrible consequences, psychologically or socially. This is a strange rejoinder, analogous to what many religious people allege against atheism: Without a belief in God, human beings will cease to be good to one another. Both responses abandon any pretense of caring about what is true and merely change the subject. But that does not mean we should never worry about the practical effects of holding specific beliefs.

I can well imagine that some people might use the nonexistence of free will as a pretext for doing whatever they want, assuming that it’s pointless to resist temptation or that there’s no difference between good and evil. This is a misunderstanding of the situation, but, I admit, a possible one. There is also the question of how we should raise children in light of what science tells us about the nature of the human mind. It seems doubtful that a lecture on the illusoriness of free will should be part of an elementary school curriculum. <continue reading>

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:52 pm
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Another fascinating exploration of the "no free will" issue.


http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com ... free-will/

Quote:
In the last few years, neuroscience experiments have shown that some “conscious decisions” are actually made in the brain before the actor is conscious of them: brain-scanning techniques can predict not only when a binary decision will be made, but what it will be (with accuracy between 55-70%)—several seconds before the actor reports being conscious of having made a decision. The implications of this research are obvious: by the time we’re conscious of having made a “choice”, that choice has already been made for us—by our genes and our environments—and the consciousness is merely reporting something determined beforehand in the brain. And that, in turn, suggests (as I’ve mentioned many times here) that all of our “choices” are really determined in advance, though some choices (e.g., whether to duck when a baseball is thrown at your head) can’t be made very far in advance!

Most readers here accept that our actions are determined by our physical conditions—that there’s no “ghost in the machine”. Nevertheless, a large segment of those determinists also insist that we nevertheless have free will, with “free will” defined in various and contradictory ways.

Nevertheless, the neuroscience experiments are beginning to refute the classic notion of dualism: the idea that there is some non-physical part of our brain that can “freely choose” among different alternatives. And dispelling dualism has real implications for society—implications for religious dogma (much of rests on the idea that we can choose to accept or reject Jesus or God) and for the judicial system (if we can’t freely choose between right and wrong, the notion of how people are to be punished must be rethought).


Continue reading at the link above...

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:57 pm
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I think Libet made this discovery quite some time ago in the 1970s, so it's a bit odd to claim that this has been shown "in the past few years". Still, the one thing that has always bothered me about it is that a lapse of several seconds just doesn't seem to fit with everyday experience. The baseball example is one instance but perhaps in that sort of life-threatening situation there are other instincts that take over. One would have to positively decide NOT to dodge the ball and suffer the consequences, and that might be virtually impossible to do given innate hard wiring for self-preservation.

But in less dangerous situations it still seems that a lapse of several seconds cannot be involved. Normal conversation, or playing a musical instrument, or certain card games would all seem to be more or less impossible if a 2 second waiting period were required between deciding and acting.

The false notion of free will is so ingrained that the implications for society and the judicial system are likely to be less than the writer imagines. With certain political philosophies and most religious philosophies based on faith in the idea of free will, science notwithstanding, we are stuck with it and will have to get along with Dennett's unsatisfying non-explanation of free will "as if" we actually have it.


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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:03 am
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bunbury wrote:
The false notion of free will is so ingrained that the implications for society and the judicial system are likely to be less than the writer imagines.

This question came up earlier in the thread with Dr. Rocket a while back. If the criminal did not choose to act that way, isn't it wrong to punish them for their actions? If their decision to act in a specific way was not their choice, perhaps it's not appropriate to imprison them as a result of that action.

On a larger scale, I tend to argue that punishment is the wrong approach overall and that we should instead focus on rehabilitation, and this couples well (I think) with the idea that our actions are not engaged in by choice. With this approach we're changing/influencing future behavior, not punishing past actions.

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Nehushtan
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:38 pm
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I think punishment should be used as a deterrent rather than revenge. If someone knows that they will suffer certain legal consequences if they commit certain acts such as murder, then they will be less likely to commit those acts than if there were no consequences from the law.

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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:54 pm
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It sounds logical, but that's not what the psychological literature really shows. Essentially, punishment is not effective unless there is a very strong (and closely related in time) connection between the act and the punishment itself... Like within seconds of the act if you receive a shock you may stop doing it, but if it's 4 months after act and you're sent to trial with a judge or something similar even a week later, the connect is much weaker and behavior is likely to continue.

Let's consider taking this discussion over here where I created a thread to discuss exactly that, since this topic is related more to free will and belief: topic187.html

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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:02 pm
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Quote:
Free Will is an illusion

An interview with Susan Blackmore about free will in humans. Does free will exist? If not, then why? What are the greatest fears of most humans who begin to consider that free will is only an illusion?

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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:32 am
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I think that most people have algorithms that they hard wire themselves to act on subconsciously. "If there's an object coming toward me that could harm me, dodge unless instructed otherwise." Probably the conscious mind only intervenes when it has determined that a previous standing instruction is wrong?

I know I've been driving down long stretches of road for a hours in a car sometimes, with no specific memory of the 100 or 200 decisions I probably made over the last hour about where to adjust the wheel. I suspect that probably they were just based on habit, and never even came to my conscious attention.

iNow wrote:
It sounds logical, but that's not what the psychological literature really shows. Essentially, punishment is not effective unless there is a very strong (and closely related in time) connection between the act and the punishment itself... Like within seconds of the act if you receive a shock you may stop doing it, but if it's 4 months after act and you're sent to trial with a judge or something similar even a week later, the connect is much weaker and behavior is likely to continue.

Let's consider taking this discussion over here where I created a thread to discuss exactly that, since this topic is related more to free will and belief: topic187.html


I think that's more true of animals. However humans have varying degree of ability to plan ahead. A human who doesn't plan ahead very well would be proportionately less likely to respond to a distant threat.

Since that trait corresponds strongly with financial success, and successful people are more likely to be making the rules - do you think that maybe those people are projecting too much about how others will respond based on their own likely responses? A good fore planner would be terrified at the prospect of a punishment that was months or even years away.

Of course.... good fore planners rarely have any reason to become criminals anyway.

Nehushtan wrote:
I think punishment should be used as a deterrent rather than revenge. If someone knows that they will suffer certain legal consequences if they commit certain acts such as murder, then they will be less likely to commit those acts than if there were no consequences from the law.


I'm not sure what the difference is. Although I think there is truth to the saying that "Revenge is a dish best served cold."


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:23 pm
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kojax wrote:
I think that most people have algorithms that they hard wire themselves to act on subconsciously. "If there's an object coming toward me that could harm me, dodge unless instructed otherwise." Probably the conscious mind only intervenes when it has determined that a previous standing instruction is wrong?

From what I understand, it doesn't matter how right or wrong the instruction was. No matter what we do or what we think or what action we take, it always starts before conscious awareness. Our consciousness may try to rationalize it after the signal is sent, and we seem consistently biased to assume that our consciousness had anything whatsoever to do with the thought or action, but it is an illusion. It happened without involvement from the conscious mind.

kojax wrote:
I know I've been driving down long stretches of road for a hours in a car sometimes, with no specific memory of the 100 or 200 decisions I probably made over the last hour about where to adjust the wheel. I suspect that probably they were just based on habit, and never even came to my conscious attention.

Habit is certainly part of it, but this issue you reference is more related to long-term potentiation and the conversion of working memory into short and long-term memory. Those micro-decisions made while driving for 100 miles aren't potentiated into long-term storage. An interesting phenomenon, but separate and largely unrelated to the issue of free will, IMO.

kojax wrote:
iNow wrote:
It sounds logical, but that's not what the psychological literature really shows. Essentially, punishment is not effective unless there is a very strong (and closely related in time) connection between the act and the punishment itself... Like within seconds of the act if you receive a shock you may stop doing it, but if it's 4 months after act and you're sent to trial with a judge or something similar even a week later, the connect is much weaker and behavior is likely to continue.

Let's consider taking this discussion over here where I created a thread to discuss exactly that, since this topic is related more to free will and belief: topic187.html


I think that's more true of animals. However humans have varying degree of ability to plan ahead. A human who doesn't plan ahead very well would be proportionately less likely to respond to a distant threat.

Since that trait corresponds strongly with financial success, and successful people are more likely to be making the rules - do you think that maybe those people are projecting too much about how others will respond based on their own likely responses? A good fore planner would be terrified at the prospect of a punishment that was months or even years away.

No, I don't think so. That's not what the literature shows. It goes back to basic conditioning and reinforcement mechanisms. A punishment applied more than a few seconds after the action does not cause the behavior to extinguish. Our whole penal system seems to ignore the way humans actually learn, and appears to be more about taking people out of society and segregating them (taking revenge on them, even) than it is about correcting behaviors or rehabilitation. As I said, there's another thread for this discussion though (you even quoted the link :) ).

I would also challenge the assumption that people who plan ahead are financially successful. Again, that's not what the data shows. While there are always exceptions and sometimes hard work and grit are all that it takes to be financially successful, in most cases it's actually people who are born into well-off families or who are given opportunities for better education and networking connections that do better overall. Kim Kardashian or Warren Buffet's kids will have far more potential to be successful than you or I will ever have, and that's regardless of how smart we are, how hard we work, or how good we are at planning ahead. Sure, some people manage to do well through forward thinking and planning alone, but that is not something all people experience... not by any stretch of the imagination... and it's generally not enough to break the institutional inequality that is so common and rampant in our economic system right now.

Again, though... This thread is about free will. These other discussions about punishment or future planning leading to financial success need to go somewhere else if they continue. Let's please keep this thread specific to the topic of free will.

EDIT: I just now saw that you also posted to the other thread about punishment. Thanks, kojax!

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gottspieler
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:18 am
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I feel that I have more free will than religious cult members at least. :)

Think about this...how much of what we do in life is due to conscious choice? Eating, drinking, sleeping, using the restroom...working. We spend the majority of our time as humans doing things we need to do in order to survive and provide for ourselves and our families. What perplexes me is why people spend hour upon hour watching television and or using the internet...it would make sense if they were using both for educational purposes but the majority of people apparently do not...perhaps it is to make up for the lost social interaction in a technical age? But that is for another thread.

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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue May 03, 2016 1:36 am
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The evidence continues to mount.

http://neurosciencenews.com/decision-ma ... logy-4148/
Quote:
Sometimes, decisions we believe we make consciously, such as clicking on a link on a webpage or reaching for a cup of coffee, have already been made — a trick of the mind that may happen more than we think, new research by Yale University psychologists suggest.

“Our minds may be rewriting history,” said Adam Bear, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the paper published April 28 in the journal Psychological Science.
(snip)
Bear and Bloom’s research builds on past work suggesting that many decisions seem to be under more conscious control than they actually are. In many cases, consciousness may simply be window dressing, note the researchers.

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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:31 am
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Two super thoughtful super bright guys discussing free will.

Sam Harris and Dan Dennett sit down at a pub to chat. Published yesterday.

Listen here: https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/ ... -revisited

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Pong
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:54 am
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iNow wrote:
The evidence continues to mount...

I'm wondering if paradoxically this might explain how a "leap of faith" operates. That is where the individual makes up his mind to believe something (not necessarily religious), and go on believing it no matter what. The decision to renounce free will. :?

It seems some people have that capacity/failing, some don't. I do, yet I was raised without religion and rather taught to maintain an open mind. So in my case it's not nurture. It seems innate.

A lack of free will is no good for the individual. But when you consider the needs of the group, maybe free will is overrated? Since we've been social animals our traits were also selected by what helped the group thrive, even at the expense of individuals. Imagine a society where people keep promises because they can't consider alternatives.


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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 12:13 pm
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We definitely tend to take mental shortcuts and appear predisposed to stick with preconceptions. It simply takes more energy to reject a claim than to accept it, and we tend to prioritize our existing model of the world over novel (and sometimes contrary) information. This may be a bit of a separate topic/phenomenon than the free will issues being discussed here, though.

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Pong
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 12:53 pm
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iNow wrote:
It simply takes more energy to reject a claim than to accept it, and we tend to prioritize our existing model of the world over novel (and sometimes contrary) information.

I think you meant to say "more energy to accept a claim than to reject it"... else the second part does not follow.


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Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:01 pm
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Nope. Meant it how I said it. The idea is this: The cognitive load of rejecting a claim is higher than the cognitive load of accepting it. We also in parallel tend to prioritize and prefer our existing mental models over any new data and ideas that may "reject" or contradict it. You feel these ideas are mutually exclusive somehow, though?

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shlunka
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:13 pm

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GiantEvil wrote:
Ah, we've come to the great philosophical question of free will. Are an individuals actions wholly dependent on neurophysiology and the available data set, or can we consider the brain and experiences to be the antecedent to a consequent which may be A or B?
If *free will is in fact a true condition, then well and good. The sensation of choosing is not a delusion and let's all try to make good choices.
If however all human action is condition dependent, then that knowledge of condition dependence, or delusion of choice, will enter the data set and affect the conclusions reached. At which point we are dealing with Pascal's wager.
I definitely prefer the concept of choice, and consider it to carry a moral impetus of personal responsibility. But I can't honestly claim that it is indeed the truth.

*Note; I consider the term "Free will" a bit of a misnomer, as will is only limited by imagination, but action is limited by physics.

The last sentence is pretty groovy.

As a tangent,(Clooney, Swayze, Dudikoff, Jeff Cooper, etc). Done listing tan gents. Now, I would posit that free will cannot be entirely separated from physics, as the threat of a physical beating for being an outspoken atheist (a very real reality where I reside, in small pockets of the community). You could possibly be conditioned into theism as a theistic Stockholm syndrome.

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Pong
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 1:19 pm
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@Inow. Seemed out of place in the paragraph.

However it solves for me if "cognitive load" or "takes more energy" is not really a bad thing, in the case of our brains - that must always be working working on something.


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