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iNow
Post  Post subject: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:25 am
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An interesting article in Psychology Today suggesting that belief and disbelief are not really choices. It's more of a thought provoking essay than a scientific study, but provoke thoughts it did.

A summary of the argument might be that our beliefs or lack of beliefs are due to a combination of our genetics and our environmental experiences, and the way those each shape our brain structure. In short, we don't choose what to believe or not to believe, we just "do believe" or "don't believe" as a result of that dynamic combination of learning and genetics.


Here are a few interesting comments from the article:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our ... not-choice
Quote:
When the contemporary secular movement is compared to the gay rights movement, objections are sometimes raised by those who distinguish between the two on biological grounds. Whereas sexual orientation is not a choice, the argument goes, one's religious outlook is.

The great weight of science indicates that the first part of that argument is correct (i.e., one's sexual orientation is determined by biology), but the latter part is somewhat misleading and merits scrutiny. After all, though we can choose our religious affiliation, none of us can ultimately choose what we truly believe or don't believe. I disbelieve in unicorns and I could not choose otherwise, just as I also could not believe, absent new evidence that changes my understanding of geography, that New York is south of Florida.

The difference between sexual orientation and personal secularity is not that one is biological and the other is a choice, because both have causal factors that eliminate choice. The difference is that sexual orientation is determined entirely by biology, whereas religious disbelief is a combination of biology and environment.

If Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world's best-known atheist, had been born in the thirteenth century, chances are he would have been theistic, believing in one kind of god or another. But, having been born in the twentieth century, having experienced his life as he has, can it really be said that Dawkins chooses to be an atheist? His status as a nonbeliever is a result of his biological composition (particularly his brain function) combined with the knowledge he has gained through his life experiences. It really is not a choice at all.

<...>

Thus, although causation is always complex and the specifics are going to vary from one individual to the next, in general we find two interesting patterns with regard to the formation of religious belief and disbelief. That is, the major environmental factor that promotes disbelief (and discourages belief) tends to be accumulated knowledge, whereas the most significant environmental factor in promoting belief (and discouraging disbelief) tends to be family and social indoctrination.

<...>

Thus, while sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, we should realize that neither are one's sincerely held beliefs about divinities. One can hide or misrepresent one's real beliefs, but one cannot change those beliefs on command. Still, we should also recognize that the biological aspects of secularity are not directly analogous to the biological nature of sexual orientation. Whereas a thirteenth-century Dawkins would most likely have been a theist, a thirteenth-century Elton John no doubt still would have been gay.



What do you think? Is nonbelief a choice? Is belief a choice? Or, are they just an emergent phenomenon stemming from the unique structure of our brains, a structure which itself results from that ever dynamic dance between nature and nurture?

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:37 am
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i've always been convinced that believing or not believing has a lot to do with emotional satisfaction
since you don't chose your emotions, your "choice" of belief or non-belief may also not be much of a choice

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:02 am
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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.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:50 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
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.

<...>

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.

Most of the recent work in neuroscience suggests that free will is simply not there. The choice is made by our nervous system well before it enters our conscious awareness.


Sam Harris writes very informatively and articulately on this topic.


http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free ... t-have-it/
Quote:
Your “self” seems to stand at the intersection of these lines of input and output. From this point of view, you tend to feel that you are the source of your own thoughts and actions. You decide what to do and not to do. You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain. All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion.

The physiologist Benjamin Libet famously demonstrated that activity in the brain’s motor regions can be detected some 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move. Another lab recently used fMRI data to show that some “conscious” decisions can be predicted up to 10 seconds before they enter awareness (long before the preparatory motor activity detected by Libet). Clearly, findings of this kind are difficult to reconcile with the sense that one is the conscious source of one’s actions.

And the distinction between “higher” and “lower” systems in the brain offers no relief: for I no more initiate events in executive regions of my prefrontal cortex than I cause the creaturely outbursts of my limbic system. The truth seems inescapable: I, as the subject of my experience, cannot know what I will next think or do until a thought or intention arises; and thoughts and intentions are caused by physical events and mental stirrings of which I am not aware.

<...>

All the relevant features of a person’s inner life could be conserved—thoughts, moods, and intentions would still arise and beget actions—and yet, once we imagine a hypothetical mad scientist dispensing the appropriate cocktail of randomness and natural law, we are left with the undeniable fact that the conscious mind is not the source of its own thoughts and intentions. This discloses the real mystery of free will: if our moment to moment experience is compatible with its utter absence, how can we say that we see any evidence for it in the first place?




And a short video here from a question on this topic:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qX_d4TDmz0&t=4m43s[/youtube]

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:17 pm
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Even without the recent neurological evidence, it is still pretty obvious to me that we don't have free will and this idea that we don't actively make choices to become atheist or not naturally flows from that.

It is just fairly obvious that our personalities are the product of genetics and then the influence of the environment on that genetics. Our personalities are very much phenotypical.

So the fact that I am an atheist and am fairly rational is the result of blind luck more than anything else.

Quote:
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.
Yeah, we do want it to be like that, but, for me, the fact that it isn't is kind of liberating. Not that I can now do what I want and reject responsibility for it, but that we can now have a better understanding of why people do and feel like they do.

For instance, my father, while I was going up, was sometimes fairly physically abusive to the point where I was very scared of him. I had my head slammed into tables or physically beaten and I remember my dad once climbing into the car with his pistol claiming that he was going to commit suicide, while both he and my mother were screaming at each other and me, being like 5 or 6 years old begging him not to do it, only to see him drive away (he came back later). BUT, understanding how these things happen and the emotional turmoil he was going through (something I had to deal with at one point as well), absolves him from his actions. I dearly love my father and don't hold him accountable for it for one second. I have absolutely no feelings of blame or malice towards him for anything. Being in his early 60s he has mellowed a lot and I know that those things are painful to think about. I once challenged him about the physical abuse and immediately saw that it was painful for him to talk about and I have never brought it up since. He is now the kind of person anyone would do well to emulate.

So, when it comes to belief and absence of it and the kind of experiences people have had, it is more informative than anything else. It is liberating to know that what separates people mostly from each other is the environment they have developed in more than anything else. It makes it difficult to condemn anyone for doing what they do, even the worst of the worst. This is also why the concept of a hell is so incredibly naive and preposterous to me.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:43 pm
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KALSTER wrote:
So the fact that I am an atheist and am fairly rational is the result of blind luck more than anything else.


don't forget the environment of a society that in many western countries has become far more tolerant of atheism - a less tolerant society can be quite a constraining factor

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:22 pm
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marnixR wrote:
KALSTER wrote:
So the fact that I am an atheist and am fairly rational is the result of blind luck more than anything else.


don't forget the environment of a society that in many western countries has become far more tolerant of atheism - a less tolerant society can be quite a constraining factor

Well, not around here. I am the only atheist I know about and I still remember how I felt about celebrities that confessed to atheism, which was not good. My best friend, while being a very intelligent guy, can't understand my atheism. He thinks something specific happened that made me reject god and that I'll come around eventually.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:20 am
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@KALSTER; Thank you for so courageously sharing your experiences. Well, obviously I can't claim that adhering to a concept of choice engenders a moral superiority. In your case your adherence to a concept of cognitive determinism has led to a result of forgiveness, very morally praiseworthy. For myself however, I will for now continue to assume choice as a true condition.

@Inow; How does brain activity independent of consciousness decisively negate the concept of choice?
Cardiale and pulmonary activities occur independently of consciousness, but are not even indicators of the truth value of choice.
With the studies you've cited, the participant's were still made aware, prior to any trials, of a necessary procedure. This foreknowledge could be the source of subconscious brain activity.
I would be very interested to see any similar studies involving stimulus-response.

What seem's to me as a plausible model of choice is, that given a set of data our brain processes that data according to at least two different algorithm's.
One algorithm is a greedy algorithm, immediate gratification, probably centered in the limbic region(Just guessing now though).
The other algorithm would be an optimization algorithm, planning for the future, probably centered in the frontal cortex(A little more sure of this). See; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage
And; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontal_cortex

I will agree with Mr. Harris that our "self" does seem to stand at the intersection of input and output, and it would be this intersection where the independent conclusions of the two algorithms are presented to that "self".
Now if the conclusions are weighed against each other through a simple ratio of action potential and the greater ratio always chosen, then free will shoots out the window and deterministic behavior is almost certainly established. But if it can be shown that sometimes an action is taken contrary to the ratio of action potentials, then it is left to begin investigating that profound mystery.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:44 am
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GiantEvil wrote:
But if it can be shown that sometimes an action is taken contrary to the ratio of action potentials, then it is left to begin investigating that profound mystery.

How would an action be contrary to the ratio of action potentials when action potentials themselves decided the action?



Ditto on the gratitude to Kalster for the coolness, maturity and candor shown here. This is an awesome community. :mrgreen:

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:28 am
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Inow wrote:
How would an action be contrary to the ratio of action potentials when action potentials themselves decided the action?

Well, action potential specifically references single neurons. I'm attempting to talk about Neural networks, or it would seem more specifically "Cognitive models". Sorry, I'm still learning this stuff.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_modeling
I'm not even sure about the validity of my competing algorithm model, it would be nice for someone to come along and support it, or shoot it down.
Apparently PET is better for intensity data, and fMRI is better for location data. I don't know if they can be used simultaneously.
I would be interested in seeing data from both methods in the context of recovering addicts being offered their relevant substances, and the subsequent actions of the addicts, abstinence or indulgence.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:07 am
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It's been a few years since I've been close to this, but the simple point is that the firing pattern and neural cascade has initiated before the conscious choice. There is no choice, there is merely the unconscious signal being brought into awareness. This is measurable, and the perception of choice appears to be little more than a contrived retroactive judgment as opposed to an accurate description.

It turns out, there's a wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will


I would, however, suggest that we're venturing away from the core thread. There is a bit of a distinction between immediate choice/action and living life with or without belief in deities. While both are a result of every accumulated experience built upon a foundation of genetics, one is rather subtle and dynamic and a bit separate from the discussion here.

I'm glad to split the thread and have two discussions. Alternatively, we can keep it together. We could also simply move it in its current state to either the Philosophy or Cognitive subforum. I could do nothing at all, and am curious what the community would prefer. What is your special combination of genetics and experience telling you we should do here? There's a lot of meat on this bone.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:47 am
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iNow wrote:
It's been a few years since I've been close to this, but the simple point is that the firing pattern and neural cascade has initiated before the conscious choice. There is no choice, there is merely the unconscious signal being brought into awareness. This is measurable, and the perception of choice appears to be little more than a contrived retroactive judgment as opposed to an accurate description.

Wiki; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will

The general view I receive from the Wiki article is that free will is still very much an open question.

Wiki wrote:
One significant finding of modern studies is that a person's brain seems to commit to certain decisions before the person becomes aware of having made them. Researchers have found delays of about half a second. With contemporary brain scanning technology, scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice.


Wiki wrote:
A study conducted by Jeff Miller and Judy Trevena (2009) suggests that the readiness potential (RP) signal in Libet's experiments doesn't represent a decision to move, but that it's merely a sign that the brain is paying attention. In this experiment the classical Libet experiment was modified by playing an audio tone indicating to volunteers to decide whether to tap a key or not. The researchers found that there was the same RP signal in both cases, regardless of whether or not volunteers actually elected to tap, which suggests that the RP signal doesn't indicate that a decision has been made. In a second experiment, researchers asked volunteers to decide on the spot whether to use left hand or right to tap the key while monitoring their brain signals, and they found no correlation among the signals and the chosen hand.


It's an interesting article. I plan on carefully reading the whole thing.

As far as this thread goes, my own attention seem's to be drawing towards the nitty gritty of the neurology involved in the question of free will, but I am happy to for a moment ruminate on the nature of faith or un-faith as either a determinant or a choice.

More than once I have ruminated that "Life would be easier if I were honestly religious".
Why so? Well I would belong to a church and have a large communal support network.
I could avoid a large amount of existential angst through the device of prayer.
I could freely engage a set of talents ideal to the vocation of preacher, thereby enjoying greater economic and social status than I currently do.
I could moralize my actions and the conditions of my existence as the will of God, thereby ameliorating any angst of personal responsibility.

Is it possible for me to reprogram myself to be honestly religious?
The easiest person in the world for anyone to fool is themselves.
See; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome
Considering all this, the question isn't "Why would I do this?", but "Why wouldn't I do this?".
Quite frankly, I'm not really sure.
Hell, I'm not sure of the nature of "I", or whether that "I" picks objects from the flowing stream of being, or is just struck by whatever object is passing in the stream.
I do know, that when I say "I don't know", I am putting forward my best truth.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:47 am
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GiantEvil wrote:
Is it possible for me to reprogram myself to be honestly religious?


if i had to answer that question for myself, the knee-jerk reaction would have to a resounding "no"
why ? because from a young age religion never sat comfortably with me, and all i did was go through the motions of going to church on sundays and go to confession when it was expected of you at school
all that time my mind was trying to make sense of the world around me + the concept of god and the supernatural just didn't seem to fit

in the end - and only when it became socially acceptable to do so - i dropped the pretense

as for Kalster's experience, i had a similar one when working in South Africa : a good work colleague of mine one day asked me what church i attended
when i replied "i don't", he looked at me in confusion, as if someone who he considered to be a normal human being had just sprouted horns or something

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:13 am
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Quote:
Life would be easier if I were honestly religious
Oh yes, I think so, but I'd have to banish all critical thinking related to my belief. I wouldn't entrench myself into the church and community as such, since my experience with them has been one of pretentiousness, lack of tolerance and ignorance. But the experience of belief in a higher being that cares deeply for you and loves you can be very profound indeed.

Would I want to do it now or could I? Definitely not. Apart from the fact that no such being exists in the first place, that level of surrender doesn't sit quite right with me. That and a multitude of other reasons that would deviate even further from the OP.



PS: I am glad to share my experiences with my father here. I have been reluctant in the past, because I don't want a family member to accidentally see what I have written.

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:42 pm
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iNow wrote:
An interesting article in Psychology Today suggesting that belief and disbelief are not really choices. It's more of a thought provoking essay than a scientific study, but provoke thoughts it did.

A summary of the argument might be that our beliefs or lack of beliefs are due to a combination of our genetics and our environmental experiences, and the way those each shape our brain structure. In short, we don't choose what to believe or not to believe, we just "do believe" or "don't believe" as a result of that dynamic combination of learning and genetics.


Here are a few interesting comments from the article:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our ... not-choice


That article seems to dismiss choice and free will on the basis that they arise from measurable physical phenomena in the brain -- detectable neural activity significantly prior to action or recognition of a decision.

But it misses two critical points: 1) physics appears to be stochastic, not deterministic at the most fundamental levels and 2) there is no iknowledge of what initiates that early neural activity.

Bottom line: free will or lack thereof is still a complete mystery.

Secondly the article fails to provide any useful definition for "choice". Apparently it is the complement of compulsion, but that doesn't help much.

I have a very hard time accepting that religious belief is anything other than a choice, albeit a choice that can be strongly influenced by peer pressure. In my area the pressure to conform to the local dominant superstition is extremely strong. The church controls much of the social life and determines which laws will and will not be passed or enforced, and even enforces a tax under the cover of a tithe. Yet I know many people who have left the church in what I think most would agree is an act of choice.

Rejection of free will has major implications -- no one is personally responsible for anything. Criminals are not responsible for their crimes, but the people who operate the justice system will dispense punishment anyway because they too are simply going through the motions.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:30 am
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GiantEvil wrote:
The general view I receive from the Wiki article is that free will is still very much an open question.

Fair enough. I wonder... Are you choosing to feel that way, or is it just the result of your genetics and experience? ;)

Another concise exploration here: http://neuroscientificallychallenged.bl ... exist.html

Quote:
Quote:
From a neuroscience standpoint, the answer might be a little more complex. As the food you ate for lunch became completely digested, the glucose and insulin levels in your blood began to fall. The lower blood insulin level was detected by your hypothalamus, which sent signals to various cortical areas (a vaguely understood process) providing the impetus to obtain food. The cortex then activated the basal ganglia, leading to the initiation of a motor movement (through the corticospinal tract), which carried you to your refrigerator.

A glaring difference between the two explanations for your behavior is that one involves choice, while the other consists of the perfunctory satisfaction of a biological drive. Do you decide it is time to eat, or do you feel a biological urge to consume food since your blood glucose levels have fallen and your body is in need of replenishment? Deciding to eat is reminiscent of a human action motivated by free will, while being biologically driven to replenish energy stores is suggestive of automatic, reflexive behavior we are usually more comfortable ascribing to drosophila or lab rats.

Of course in this situation the truth seems to lie somewhere in between. You didn’t have to get up to eat at that second (you weren’t starving), you chose to. At the same time it was due in part to your need to satisfy a biological drive. Other questions about neuroscience and choice, however, can get a little more difficult. <continue reading>




GiantEvil wrote:
I do know, that when I say "I don't know", I am putting forward my best truth.

Right on. Nicely said.

------------------------------

marnixR wrote:
GiantEvil wrote:
Is it possible for me to reprogram myself to be honestly religious?


if i had to answer that question for myself, the knee-jerk reaction would have to a resounding "no"

Ahh... You'd be amazed at the power of self-deception and delusion. Where the split becomes important is with intentionality... whether your intention is to deceive yourself or if it's happening unconsciously as some sort of defense mechanism or response to the influence of drugs (like we see in [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociation_%28psychology%29dissociative disorders[/url]).

I tend to agree with you overall, though, as I too would struggle greatly and would need to find a way to overcome the internal cognitive dissonance such a position would create for me mentally. The double standards and hypocrisy would cause me a fair bit of duress and emotional strife.

------------------------------

KALSTER wrote:
I'd have to banish all critical thinking related to my belief. I wouldn't entrench myself into the church and community as such, since my experience with them has been one of pretentiousness, lack of tolerance and ignorance. But the experience of belief in a higher being that cares deeply for you and loves you can be very profound indeed.

Would I want to do it now or could I? Definitely not. Apart from the fact that no such being exists in the first place, that level of surrender doesn't sit quite right with me. That and a multitude of other reasons that would deviate even further from the OP.

I've rethought my previous position, and am pretty comfortable just letting this ride. It's turning into a pretty cool discussion all on its own, and I don't want to screw it up by manually compartmentalizing it. :)

------------------------------

DrRocket wrote:
That article seems to dismiss choice and free will on the basis that they arise from measurable physical phenomena in the brain -- detectable neural activity significantly prior to action or recognition of a decision.

Not entirely. It's more than just "signal on" or "signal off." The type of signal seems to predict the response, and the signal type changes given what the "choice" will be. The choice can be determined with a high degree of accuracy before the participant makes it consciously.


DrRocket wrote:
there is no knowledge of what initiates that early neural activity.

Well, there is, but it's at the level of the how (i.e. science) and not at the level of the why (i.e. philosophy or metaphysics). It's simple chemistry... a flooding of potassium and sodium ions causing a depolarization and triggering the release of neurochemicals into the synaptic gate, which in turn triggers the dendrites of its synaptic neighbors and the neural cascade proceeds. Generally, a stimulus will cause that first depolarization, but not always.

I agree, though, the full mystery is hardly solved and much work remains to be done, but I think when I distill down your question to its barest essence, you're asking a why question instead of a how question.


DrRocket wrote:
Secondly the article fails to provide any useful definition for "choice". Apparently it is the complement of compulsion, but that doesn't help much.

I disagree with you here. It's implicitly defined by the nature of the experimental setup. The subject must either press key 1 or key 2 when some stimulus is presented (like a blinking light, or a sound or something similar), and when brain imaging technology is in place they can tell which key will be "chosen" roughly 300ms before higher executive function and awareness become a factor.

The choice is defined by the experimental conditions... The key press. They can determine which key will be pressed a good bit before any conscious choice is real. The perception of choice appears to be retroactive and contrived.


DrRocket wrote:
I have a very hard time accepting that religious belief is anything other than a choice, albeit a choice that can be strongly influenced by peer pressure. In my area the pressure to conform to the local dominant superstition is extremely strong. The church controls much of the social life and determines which laws will and will not be passed or enforced, and even enforces a tax under the cover of a tithe. Yet I know many people who have left the church in what I think most would agree is an act of choice.

I know exactly what you're saying, and see the same thing here in Texas rather often, but I don't think this conflicts with the central point of the OP at all.

Sure, we call that action a "choice," and it comes with a lot of semantic baggage, but it's ultimately little more than an action informed by an individuals unique combination of genetics and experience, and how both have shaped their neurocortical structures. Is it not?

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padren
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:16 am

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I think it is possible to think things through to a point that leaves you with no choice but to conclude a position on disbelief/belief.

That is not to say it's inevitable (different people will have different experiences), or that such an answer is inherently better because it resulted from thinking things through. I am not saying religious belief is a result of not thinking things through... but there are types of conclusions that "feel" hard to ignore when you add them all up. Once you arrive at them you do have a choice to act on them, but barring new information you have about as much chance of changing "your choice" as you do in changing what you "believe" 32 + 32 adds up to.


Does a physicist really have a choice in whether they believe in any given theory? They may have a choice as long as they haven't had a chance to go through the research, but once they dig into it and get past the surface it either leans towards adding up or it doesn't.

Belief in whether a model helps describe the universe only applies when there isn't enough information to draw a conclusion. Once made, conclusions can only really change when new information (including new ways of modeling old information) enters the equation.


For instance, I don't bother to believe or disbelieve in god because I can't honestly see any way either possibility (god/no god) would impact how I live my life or what I experience in any way. I have come to the conclusion however, that it is literally impossible to know whether or not god exists.


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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:05 am
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DrRocket wrote:
Rejection of free will has major implications -- no one is personally responsible for anything. Criminals are not responsible for their crimes, but the people who operate the justice system will dispense punishment anyway because they too are simply going through the motions.

I've brought this very point up in several other threads and nobody seem's to be able to understand it. Blatantly obvious to me.
DrRocket wrote:
Secondly the article fails to provide any useful definition for "choice". Apparently it is the complement of compulsion, but that doesn't help much.

I have in the past offered this definition of choice; Given a set of predicates A(Neurophysiology, data set, situation, etc) then B or C as consequent. Of course I've placed an "OR" operator in the consequent, and I'm not sure that's allowed.
DrRocket wrote:
1) physics appears to be stochastic, not deterministic at the most fundamental levels

I've also brought this point up on other "free will" threads. Sometimes people just refuse to believe it.
Sometimes people counter that the scale of QM is so small as to not have an appreciable effect at macroscopic levels, go figure.
Or people say that if it were true, then behavior, or reality in general, would be "chaotic". At which point I counter with the law of large numbers and chaos theory. That statistical processes have a tendency to mathematically converge, while purely deterministic systems tend to mathematically diverge. It would be nice to receive some legitimate input regarding this.

I love good "Free Will" thread's, and this one is awesome, cause' of the people in it.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:56 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
DrRocket wrote:
Rejection of free will has major implications -- no one is personally responsible for anything. Criminals are not responsible for their crimes, but the people who operate the justice system will dispense punishment anyway because they too are simply going through the motions.

I've brought this very point up in several other threads and nobody seem's to be able to understand it. Blatantly obvious to me.

In my mind, I sort of respond with, "So what?" The potential downstream outcomes are irrelevant when discussing the way stuff works with accuracy and validity. It's sort of like blaming evolution for some animals going extinct. Evolution is still true even though there's often a negative outcome of this valid process.

The problem seems to reside squarely within our concept of fault, and not so much within our concept of choice, but we're venturing into ever more subtle realms at this point.


GiantEvil wrote:
I've also brought this point up on other "free will" threads. Sometimes people just refuse to believe it.
Sometimes people counter that the scale of QM is so small as to not have an appreciable effect at macroscopic levels, go figure.

At some level, of course probabilities and randomness play a role, I agree. The challenge to your point is likely about the fact that macro events in the human mind are nearly always the result of some large grouping (or singularly intense) stimulus, in which case they're not stochastic. It's clear cause/effect, not "where the hell did that come from!?!" I find this similar to evolution, wherein selection is not so much driven by random gene mutations, but instead by generation upon generation of successful strategies... The past builds on the present. That's almost exactly what is being described with choice in the OP.

I'll probably need to rework what I'm trying to convey here at a later time to improve clarity. It's a bit garbled at the moment I haven't had any coffee yet and I'm in a bit of a hurry (strangely oxymoronic, I know).

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:57 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
DrRocket wrote:
Rejection of free will has major implications -- no one is personally responsible for anything. Criminals are not responsible for their crimes, but the people who operate the justice system will dispense punishment anyway because they too are simply going through the motions.

I've brought this very point up in several other threads and nobody seem's to be able to understand it. Blatantly obvious to me.
I completely agree with iNow here. That is not an argument against the absence of free will. If the notion of free will turns out to be false, then it is false objectively and we have to start to talk about what that means for our view of the world, our relationships with others and how we process feelings of hate, blame, etc.

Just because blame can not be proportioned as before, does not mean we have to stop detaining those that are guilty of anti-social behaviour. Whatever the cause of that behaviour may be, it is still that person that committed it. They can't be blamed in the same way as before, but they sure as hell need to be taken out of society or punished in a way that can act as a deterrent to others. Understanding the nature of our minds is only the first step towards a better society. Until we know enough about the human condition and at least it's qualitative nature is widely understood, we have virtually no option but to carry on in much the same way we have been doing.

Quote:
I've also brought this point up on other "free will" threads. Sometimes people just refuse to believe it.
Sometimes people counter that the scale of QM is so small as to not have an appreciable effect at macroscopic levels, go figure.
To me, it doesn't matter whether QM effects or macro-scale effects, deterministic (chaotic) or random or any combination of effects are at work, there is still no room for true free will.

Simply put, we are born with our genetics and the environment we grow up in determines what person develops out of that. The end product is a regress of cause and effect all the way back to the fertilizing of the egg. The mind is not separate from the environment and the genetics, it is defined by it. It is a dynamic interplay, but there is no separate decision making mechanism. There is no such thing as a soul, but even there was, I see no way the decision making process can be separated from the influences of environment, which includes brain chemistry and such. The very idea of something removed from the influences creates yet another problem: what does it now use to make the decision? If nothing influences the mind and it can make a free choice, then the choice is akin to flipping a coin, which removes free will again. I have not seen any argument even come close to dislodging this.

Just because we don't like what the implications are, does not mean we can reject what should be plain.

PS: I had a long conversation with MitchelMccain on the .com forum a while back about this. For those who do not know him, he has a masters degree in physics and is well versed in QFT and such, as well as having a degree in theology of some kind AFAIK. He made the argument that our minds act on the inherent randomness of QM and in that way both provides a mechanism for free will and an answer to the destiny problem due to god's omniscience. An approach I was unable to find plausible.

PPS: I have to say, although Sam Harris talks loads of sense, he is kind of a boring speaker IMO.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:21 pm
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Whether choice is deterministic or willed, of course any prevalent consequence will be part of the data set that effects that choice. So, even if deterministic choice is true, punishment has value to the orderly operation of a society.
However, deterministic choice precludes any concept of moral responsibility. And regardless of the truth value of deterministic choice, as an element of the data set it will have a subsequent effect in determination of action.

I understand that to even entertain any notion of free will requires the abandonment of absolute causality.
But such is hinted at by the big bang theory.
And such is empirically verified by quantum randomness.

My "sense" of "choosing" is one of the elements of the data set by which I assign a greater probability to the non-existence of deity. As most theologies posit the absoluteness of god's will, and such is incompatible with a concept of choice, then that theology is logically inconsistent.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:51 pm
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is it possible to introduce a fuzzy notion of free will here, where within the constraints of allowed actions there's still sufficient options available to allow for (limited) individual choice ?

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:01 pm
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marnixR wrote:
is it possible to introduce a fuzzy notion of free will here, where within the constraints of allowed actions there's still sufficient options available to allow for (limited) individual choice ?

Sure. In fact I feel that "free will" is a bit of a misnomer. While will is limited only by imagination, action is wholly limited by physics.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:46 am
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KALSTER wrote:
Just because blame can not be proportioned as before, does not mean we have to stop detaining those that are guilty of anti-social behaviour. Whatever the cause of that behaviour may be, it is still that person that committed it. They can't be blamed in the same way as before, but they sure as hell need to be taken out of society or punished in a way that can act as a deterrent to others.

I'd even go a bit further and suggest that this provides a much better foundation against which to rehabilitate. Punishment teaches people to avoid getting caught, wherein rehabilitation teaches people to stop engaging in the behavior itself.

I think the fact that our actions are a result of genetics and experience gives us a much higher probability of success when seeking to rehabilitate and change the behaviors of criminals since we'd ultimately be providing them with little more than a specific set of new experiences which would ultimately change their brain structure and thinking.


GiantEvil wrote:
So, even if deterministic choice is true, punishment has value to the orderly operation of a society.

Okay. I think a new thread is about to get created on this topic. I'll summarize by saying that the aforementioned value is rather tiny, and outweighed by the overall costs.


[EDIT] It is done: post1851.html#p1851 [/EDIT]


marnixR wrote:
is it possible to introduce a fuzzy notion of free will here, where within the constraints of allowed actions there's still sufficient options available to allow for (limited) individual choice ?

Given the premise that we're not yet aware of our decision when the "choice" gets made neurobiologically, I'd say no. The introduction of such fuzziness has no basis given the data. I understand that others hold a different perspective, though.



KALSTER wrote:
I have to say, although Sam Harris talks loads of sense, he is kind of a boring speaker IMO.

That's why it's better to read his essays instead of listen to them. ;)

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

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iceaura
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:00 am
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Most of the recent work in neuroscience suggests that free will is simply not there. The choice is made by our nervous system well before it enters our conscious awareness.
The argument is bogus. There is no requirement that the making of a choice be conscious as it is made to be freely willed - with some degree of freedom, anyway - and the timestamp on the event of "conscious awareness" is dubious at best. If you like Harris, you may appreciate Daniel Dennett's treatment of that entire investigation.

Meanwhile, the dismissal of any degree of freedom in willed action rests on a long discredited (in the harder sciences) conception of cause and effect, in which everything is to be caused by quarks or something in deterministic interaction, contrasted with a strawman version of the will in which its freedom is held to be supernatural.

Substrate does not determine pattern. It can constrain pattern, influence pattern, etc, but pattern has some degree of independence from substrate. That is, the molecules in your neurons have less influence on your dreams than the memories of the events of your past - which are themselves patterns made up of firing patterns of neurons, patterns of patterns, chaotically sensitive to impinging information. If you want to know where those molecules are going to be in ten weeks, you would do well to orient the cause and effect arrow from larger to smaller, and pay attention to the larger patterns as causes - such as the desire to visit Disneyland.

As a matter of verifiable, hard core, lab-repeatable fact, drug addicts have less freedom of will than non-addicts. Just to point to one example. How can you have less of something that does not exist?


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:28 am
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iceaura wrote:
There is no requirement that the making of a choice be conscious as it is made to be freely willed - with some degree of freedom, anyway - and the timestamp on the event of "conscious awareness" is dubious at best.

I'm not following. How is it even remotely possible to engage in an intentional act like "choice" without having conscious awareness to drive that intention? It's like you're arguing you have exercised free will by doing nothing, which seems rather counter intuitive, so I assume I'm misunderstanding your point.


iceaura wrote:
As a matter of verifiable, hard core, lab-repeatable fact, drug addicts have less freedom of will than non-addicts.

This is a very useful point for participants to remember. Within that verification lies further evidence that we lack choice.


If we place a strong magnet perpendicular to your motor cortex, it can cause your left arm to move, and if we move that magnet to a different spot, it can move your right arm instead because a different brain region is activated.

I trust that nobody would argue that choice is being exercised in these movements. I suspect they'd rightly agree that the activations in those brain regions are what prompted the movement, and the location of the activation is what dictated which arm moved.

Why should it be any different if activation in those brain regions was not caused by a magnet? The movement and which arm moves are still dictated by brain activation.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 5:08 am
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iNow wrote:
If I place a strong magnet perpendicular to your motor cortex, it can cause your left arm to move, and if we move that magnet to a different spot, it can move your other arm. You would not argue that choice is being exercised in these movements. It's merely that those brain regions became activated and those actions took place. Why should it be any different if activation in those brain regions caused your arms to move in the absence of the magnet?

At this point I am going to engage a "Vehicle and Driver" metaphor. While highly conjectural, it could be the basis of a model that is at least falsifiable according to existing data.
For now, let's let those parts of the brain active outside experiential consciousness be the "Vehicle".
And those parts of the brain active during experiential consciousness be the "Driver".

A vehicle has many functions autonomous of the driver, such as the cooling fan. The cooling fan may kick on or off, without any driver input required. Although the driver might be able to hear when the cooling fan is running.
There is the rapid micropulsing provided by an antilock braking system when the vehicle senses tire lock conditions.
The engine possesses dozens of autonomously controlled parameters.

There is of course driver input into the vehicle, primarily steering and throttle.
Some of the results of driver input are directly sensed by the driver, the linear and lateral G's of acceleration and steering.
And there is some feedback through the vehicle systems to the driver. The force of the road on the tires can be felt through the steering wheel.
And of course, the throttle may be manipulated from under the hood without any driver present.

Oh yeah, the vehicle came without a manual. If you want to change the radio station, you need to play with the buttons and figure it out for yourself.

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 2:18 am
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KALSTER wrote:
That is not an argument against the absence of free will. If the notion of free will turns out to be false, then it is false objectively and we have to start to talk about what that means for our view of the world, our relationships with others and how we process feelings of hate, blame, etc.

Just because blame can not be proportioned as before, does not mean we have to stop detaining those that are guilty of anti-social behaviour. Whatever the cause of that behaviour may be, it is still that person that committed it. They can't be blamed in the same way as before, but they sure as hell need to be taken out of society or punished in a way that can act as a deterrent to others. Understanding the nature of our minds is only the first step towards a better society. Until we know enough about the human condition and at least it's qualitative nature is widely understood, we have virtually no option but to carry on in much the same way we have been doing.



If the universe is really deterministic then there is no need to discuss anything, or even for me to write this. The clock is simply winding down and ALL of our thoughts and actions were preordained at the moment of the big bang.

This makes things rather boring. If I have free will then I reject this viewpoint on the basis that I can sense my free will and find the alternative absurd. If I do not have free will then I reject it because I have no choice in the matter.

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:06 am
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Well, the true randomness of QM effects means the universe is not fully deterministic, but I don't need to tell you this. Even with this though, free will is still an untenable position. Free will requires some agency to act free and unaffected by influence, for which no evidence exists.

But the implications of this is not that troubling to me. It is similar in nature to when I started to realise that no god exists and the absence of objective morality that goes with it. It is not that the nature of our existence has changed, merely that I now understand it better. Subjectively emotion is still as real and as important as it always was, the same goes for the morals I adhere to. Understanding the relative nature of morals simply enables me to better understand and empathise with others. I still believe that a set of morals can be worked out that best benefits humanity as a subjective entity where human dignity, freedom and empathy is important. In fact, I now value this approach more than ever.

When it comes to the absence of free will, I am similarly not very perturbed by it. Again, the nature of our individuality has not changed, we are merely understanding it better. Even if the illusion of free will has now been exposed, it is still a very effective illusion and still remains. I don't think we will get rid of it any time soon. It is part of who we are. Because of this, I don't see why things have to become boring. Nothing has changed as far as how you experience your existence is concerned.

But I still think it is important to recognise that it is an illusion. Rejecting it gains one nothing, but recognising it as an illusion give us the ability to understand each other in ways not possible before and, for me, is a very important piece of the puzzle towards a future "enlightened" existence.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:30 pm
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DrRocket wrote:
If the universe is really deterministic ...


the question has to be asked whether the universe can be fully deterministic in all its aspects and at all levels, which makes proof that a certain aspect of the universe is deterministic (should such proof exist) rather a moot point when discussing another of its aspects

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:32 am
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KALSTER wrote:
Free will requires some agency to act free and unaffected by influence, for which no evidence exists.

Invoking the term "some agency" is a straw man tactic, or should I say "straw ghost" tactic.
For my argument it may be assumed that agency is in fact the biological human brain. There is no need to invoke anything supernatural, or even a structuralized, exotic yet natural, matter.

It is also a bit of a straw man tactic to say "free and unaffected by influence".
Our normal biological agency in all reality, never makes any choice free of influence. However, it might make choices despite influence.

Choice can be summed as placing an "or" operator within the consequent. Given a set of influences(A), then reaction(B) or reaction(C).
Now while the science of AI has yet to successfully model this, it has only been trying for less than half a century. Nature has been evolving choice for millions of years now.

What is the evidence for choice? The evidence for choices made contrary to the dictates of the antecedent set of influences?
How about every time a junkie has chosen to forgo a fix.
Every time a child from a dysfunctional family or background of poverty has risen above their situation.
Every soldier who covered a grenade with their body.
Every time someone has risked their life for strangers.

Perhaps now someone would like to provide a model or thesis whereby the evolution of a delusion of choice as part of a deterministic algorithm provides some sort of survival mechanism.

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:26 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
Invoking the term "some agency" is a straw man tactic, or should I say "straw ghost" tactic.
For my argument it may be assumed that agency is in fact the biological human brain. There is no need to invoke anything supernatural, or even a structuralized, exotic yet natural, matter.
I have no need for straw man tactics and I have no intention of using them. "Some agency to act free and unaffected by influence" is exactly what I meant, i.e. something, whatever it's nature might be, free from influence and I stand by that. Explanation to follow.

Quote:
It is also a bit of a straw man tactic to say "free and unaffected by influence".
Our normal biological agency in all reality, never makes any choice free of influence. However, it might make choices despite influence.
It is my specific contention that free will is not possible without something acting free from influence. The emboldened part of the quote is the thing I see no evidence or even a good reasonable argument in support of.

Quote:
Choice can be summed as placing an "or" operator within the consequent. Given a set of influences(A), then reaction(B) or reaction(C).
Now while the science of AI has yet to successfully model this, it has only been trying for less than half a century. Nature has been evolving choice for millions of years now.

What is the evidence for choice? The evidence for choices made contrary to the dictates of the antecedent set of influences?
How about every time a junkie has chosen to forgo a fix.
Every time a child from a dysfunctional family or background of poverty has risen above their situation.
Every soldier who covered a grenade with their body.
Every time someone has risked their life for strangers.
You don't seem to understand what I have been saying and you are conflating "choice" or "will" with "free will".

Of course we exercise choice every day, but so do ants. All we have extra is the added faculty of being able to weigh up different options, to think. That does not automatically equate to free will.

You advocate for the ability of the human mind to be able to make decisions despite the pressure of influence, but seem to be operating under a superficial and vague definition of "influence" or "environment" in this context.

It is a simple matter really and one of cause and effect. If you induce a current in a wire, the current flows according to predictable parameters. When you push a ball down a hill, it rolls down it. If you heat up a mixture of O2 and H2 under standard air pressure, it combusts. In short, we are ruled by physics. So, when I talk about "influences", I mean all the underlying influences. Frankly, I would have thought this much should be obvious.

When you have a set of elements interact deterministically in a given scenario, they produce the exact same result every time. Where does free will fit into this? 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.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:59 pm
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KALSTER wrote:
When it comes to the absence of free will, I am similarly not very perturbed by it. Again, the nature of our individuality has not changed, we are merely understanding it better. Even if the illusion of free will has now been exposed, it is still a very effective illusion and still remains. I don't think we will get rid of it any time soon. It is part of who we are. Because of this, I don't see why things have to become boring. Nothing has changed as far as how you experience your existence is concerned.

But I still think it is important to recognise that it is an illusion. Rejecting it gains one nothing, but recognising it as an illusion give us the ability to understand each other in ways not possible before and, for me, is a very important piece of the puzzle towards a future "enlightened" existence.

Very well said. Nicely writ, indeed.


KALSTER wrote:
In short, we are ruled by physics. So, when I talk about "influences", I mean all the underlying influences.

<...>

You have the genetics and the impact of the environment on its development, full stop.

I agree almost entirely, but would perhaps add that the current environment be treated separately from the previous environments effect on development. So, in essence you have genetics, the effect of environment on development, and the circumstances being experienced in the present moment (essentially, a sub-category of environment, just distinct from development).

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:29 pm
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iNow wrote:
I agree almost entirely, but would perhaps add that the current environment be treated separately from the previous environments effect on development. So, in essence you have genetics, the effect of environment on development, and the circumstances being experienced in the present moment (essentially, a sub-category of environment, just distinct from development).
Good point.

Quote:
I'd even go a bit further and suggest that this provides a much better foundation against which to rehabilitate. Punishment teaches people to avoid getting caught, wherein rehabilitation teaches people to stop engaging in the behavior itself.

I think the fact that our actions are a result of genetics and experience gives us a much higher probability of success when seeking to rehabilitate and change the behaviors of criminals since we'd ultimately be providing them with little more than a specific set of new experiences which would ultimately change their brain structure and thinking.
I agree 100%. I only meant punishment in the sense of as a deterrent to would-be offenders and also to appease those who refuse to believe in the absence of free will.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 5:02 pm
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Okay, I see where the statement's "free of influence" and "despite influence" share a congruence, and their difference is merely semantic.
And here we come to the fact that we wholly disagree, which is okay. At least we do see each others point.
Obviously, and as I've stated before, the view of human behavior as deterministic does not cause one to be immoral or inhuman. I hope that none see my view of choice as an aspect of human behavior causing immorality or inhumanity on my part.
It is my concept of choice which drives my intent to leave a better world than I entered, and also provides a necessary element of doubt to temper the hubris of certainty.

My concept of choice also involves a strong element of "I", which is apparently inconsistent with Buddhist philosophy. So I can't go be one of those either. Oh well, I'll still read the literature, and pick out and abide by the parts I like. Apparently this is okay according to the Buddha;

“Do not be satisfied with hearsay or with tradition or with legendary lore or with what has come down in scriptures or with conjecture or with logical inference or with weighing evidence or with liking for a view after pondering over it or with someone else’s ability or with the thought, ‘This monk is our teacher.’ When you know in yourselves: ‘These things are wholesome, blameless, commended by the wise, and being adopted and put into effect they lead to welfare and happiness,’ then you should practice and abide in them.” [From the Kalama Sutta (trans. Nanamoli Thera)]

The fact remains though, that one view is indeed true and consequently the other view not true.
At least this hold's for mathematics;
Wiki wrote:
The axiom of determinacy is inconsistent with the axiom of choice (AC); the axiom of determinacy implies that all subsets of the real numbers are Lebesgue measurable, have the property of Baire, and the perfect set property. The last implies a weak form of the continuum hypothesis (namely, that every uncountable set of reals has the same cardinality as the full set of reals).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_choice
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_determinacy
Of course I make no absolute claims of my view as correct, but that is otherwise my guess.

Let me present to exhibition the "sensation" of choosing. I am assuming that we have all felt this.
If this sensation of choosing is a delusion, then what is the evolutionary value of such?

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:29 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
Let me present to exhibition the "sensation" of choosing. I am assuming that we have all felt this.
If this sensation of choosing is a delusion, then what is the evolutionary value of such?

It doesn't necessarily require one. It could just be an emergent property from other systems which evolved separately (such as basic proprioception and sensation).

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:54 am
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iNow wrote:
GiantEvil wrote:
Let me present to exhibition the "sensation" of choosing. I am assuming that we have all felt this.
If this sensation of choosing is a delusion, then what is the evolutionary value of such?

It doesn't necessarily require one. It could just be an emergent property from other systems which evolved separately (such as basic proprioception and sensation).

Hmmm, good answer. Doesn't prove anything, but it neutralizes the question.

Anyhow, I still pick free will as the most likely answer to an open question.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:11 am
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The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the sense of free will is not really much different than the sense of touch, taste, smell, vision, or hearing.

Like those other senses which are generally accepted and understood to be a reaction to some neural activity or stimulus, I propose that the "sense" of free will is likewise a reaction to some neural activity which itself occurred prior to conscious awareness.

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Prometheus
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:59 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
DrRocket wrote:
1) physics appears to be stochastic, not deterministic at the most fundamental levels

I've also brought this point up on other "free will" threads. Sometimes people just refuse to believe it.
Sometimes people counter that the scale of QM is so small as to not have an appreciable effect at macroscopic levels, go figure.
Or people say that if it were true, then behavior, or reality in general, would be "chaotic". At which point I counter with the law of large numbers and chaos theory. That statistical processes have a tendency to mathematically converge, while purely deterministic systems tend to mathematically diverge. It would be nice to receive some legitimate input regarding this.


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.

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

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.

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?


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Prometheus
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:05 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
My concept of choice also involves a strong element of "I", which is apparently inconsistent with Buddhist philosophy. So I can't go be one of those either. Oh well, I'll still read the literature, and pick out and abide by the parts I like. Apparently this is okay according to the Buddha;


You might be interested to know that free-will is very important to the concept of karma in Buddhism. Without free-will there would only be cause and effect according to Buddhist scripture - which i have no problem with. Also, have you tried meditation. Sometimes it's actually possible to eliminate the sense of self - i don't submit this as any kind of evidence, just an interesting experience. I might open a buddhism thread here since my last one was over run by a character of bovine persuasions.


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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:13 pm
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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?
If you read emboldened part again, I mean it gives the same results each time the random event resolves the same way, i.e. when the random event has passed and its actions are known, its effects will be the same given that particular way it turned out every time. It is just another way of saying, as you seem to realise, that nothing affects the way a scenario plays out apart from the physics governing it, i.e. there is no place for free will in any known physical process.

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Last edited by KALSTER on Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Prometheus
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:23 pm
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Cool, it was just a misreading on my part then.


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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:02 pm
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No probs. ;)

Incidentally, I have been dealing with another user named Prometheus on a South African forum who is simply devoid of any rationality and it is quite weird to read your entirely reasonable responses here and on the .com site. :)

GiantEvil wrote:
And here we come to the fact that we wholly disagree, which is okay. At least we do see each others point.
I'm afraid I don't see your point or how it is an argument against my views?

Quote:
I understand that to even entertain any notion of free will requires the abandonment of absolute causality.
But such is hinted at by the big bang theory.
And such is empirically verified by quantum randomness.
How exactly does quantum randomness open the door for true free will?

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padren
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:39 am

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Free will question: Isn't time itself relative anyway thereby removing the possibility of objective freewill?


You exist right now, and you are observing this text printed on your screen. The universe exists in a specific configuration at this moment in time to create this sense of the present moment.
A number of seconds have past and now the time you read the first sentence is just a memory - but has anything changed at that point in space and time?

If there is no reason to believe that the past has been "altered" in some way (not even sure what dimension you'd have to look at to change time after some time) then isn't it safe to assume that most probably, that "you" exists in that moment in the exact configuration where you are certain that that moment is the present?

Don't we just suffer the illusion that time passes, when time is simply a dimension and at any given point along that axis where our consciousness exists we have a collection of moments we consider to be "the present" from that point of view?


I always thought that the idea that a certain moment in time is "special" because we exist there is about as silly as the idea that a location is "special" in the universe because we live there (or, if not us, the Pope, etc).


Now, if the present isn't special - past, present and future all simply exist - then how could we have free will at all? The only free will I can conceive of is subjective freewill, which IMO is no less important than objective free will would be because from our perspective within the system, the differences are pretty much moot. Building a computer to predict our actions and allow us to change what we would do wouldn't even violate this - such a computer would naturally be incapable of accounting for it's own existence within the system and only show you what you would have done had the computer not existed.

No system can truly "know itself" as any knowledge a system is aware of (including us) depends on underlying systems to present that knowledge - and would require yet more sub-sub-systems to be aware of those. As such it's impossible to have consciousness without unconscious factors and no way for us to force a theoretical paradox between subjective freewill and objective strong determinism.


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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:09 am
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KALSTER wrote:
i.e. there is no place for free will in any known physical process.


Deterministic physics obviates free will.

Stochastic physics is silent on the subject. Quantum physics is stochastic.

NOBODY understands the mind or free will. For some informed speculation try reading The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose. Pay attention to his thoughts regarding quantum processes.

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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:16 am
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padren wrote:
Free will question: Isn't time itself relative anyway thereby removing the possibility of objective freewill?


no


padren wrote:
You exist right now, and you are observing this text printed on your screen. The universe exists in a specific configuration at this moment in time to create this sense of the present moment.
A number of seconds have past and now the time you read the first sentence is just a memory - but has anything changed at that point in space and time?


yes. You have read the sentence and the state of your brain has changed.

padren wrote:
Don't we just suffer the illusion that time passes, when time is simply a dimension and at any given point along that axis where our consciousness exists we have a collection of moments we consider to be "the present" from that point of view?


no You apparently do not understand the meaning of "dimension" or the relationship to time. Try studying some general relativity. Then try studying some quantum mechanics. Observe that they are contradictory.


padren wrote:
I always thought that the idea that a certain moment in time is "special" because we exist there is about as silly as the idea that a location is "special" in the universe because we live there (or, if not us, the Pope, etc).


That is not silly at all.


padren wrote:
Now, if the present isn't special - past, present and future all simply exist - then how could we have free will at all? The only free will I can conceive of is subjective freewill, which IMO is no less important than objective free will would be because from our perspective within the system, the differences are pretty much moot. Building a computer to predict our actions and allow us to change what we would do wouldn't even violate this - such a computer would naturally be incapable of accounting for it's own existence within the system and only show you what you would have done had the computer not existed.


Now, THAT is silly.

padren wrote:
No system can truly "know itself" as any knowledge a system is aware of (including us) depends on underlying systems to present that knowledge - and would require yet more sub-sub-systems to be aware of those. As such it's impossible to have consciousness without unconscious factors and no way for us to force a theoretical paradox between subjective freewill and objective strong determinism.


This is not silly. It is incoherent.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:50 am
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DrRocket wrote:
For some informed speculation try reading The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose. Pay attention to his thoughts regarding quantum processes.

Penrose is crazy brilliant, and has done amazing things in physics, but his speculations on consciousness and free will have been shown untenable.


http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9907009

Quote:
Based on a calculation of neural decoherence rates, we argue that that the degrees of freedom of the human brain that relate to cognitive processes should be thought of as a classical rather than quantum system, i.e., that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the current classical approach to neural network simulations. We find that the decoherence timescales ~10^{-13}-10^{-20} seconds are typically much shorter than the relevant dynamical timescales (~0.001-0.1 seconds), both for regular neuron firing and for kink-like polarization excitations in microtubules. This conclusion disagrees with suggestions by Penrose and others that the brain acts as a quantum computer, and that quantum coherence is related to consciousness in a fundamental way.


As unfortunate and as counter to his normal excellence it is, his quantum mind arguments are little more than mumbo jumbo on the order of what we see from Kaku. I also find it noteworthy that he put forth these speculations in book form instead of via peer-reviewed scientific journal. Perhaps even he knew the weakness of his position and the holes contained throughout.


http://math.stanford.edu/~feferman/papers/penrose.pdf
Quote:
What Penrose aims to do is substitute one “nothing but” theory for another: in place of “the conscious mind is nothing but the manifestation of sub-atomic physics”. Can we really ever expect a completely reductive theory of one sort or another of human cognition? Surely, no one theory will serve to “explain” the myriad aspects of this phenomenon. As with any other scientific study of human beings – inside and out – such an enterprise will continue to need to bring to bear psychology, psycho-physics, physiology (neuro- and otherwise), biochemistry, molecular biology, physics (macro- and micro-) and lots of stuff in between (including computational models of all kinds). In my opinion Penrose’s “missing science of consciousness” is a mirage. <read why>





DrRocket wrote:
no You apparently do not understand the meaning of "dimension" or the relationship to time. Try studying some general relativity. Then try studying some quantum mechanics. Observe that they are contradictory.
<...>
That is not silly at all.
<...>
Now, THAT is silly.
<...>
This is not silly. It is incoherent.

Rocket man! :o That wasn't very nice. :shock:


Padren - I, too struggled to understand the point you're trying to convey here. Can you clarify? Maybe take another swing at that one? Like you, I'm no relativity expert, so maybe it's just an issue of using well-defined terms incorrectly.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:53 am
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KALSTER wrote:
I'm afraid I don't see your point or how it is an argument against my views?

My apologies for being decent. Your view sucks. I don't like it. Of course, you cant blame me at all for that because it was destined to be that way. Like astrology and tarot and stuff, woo-oo destiny!

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KALSTER
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:00 am
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GiantEvil wrote:
KALSTER wrote:
I'm afraid I don't see your point or how it is an argument against my views?

My apologies for being decent. Your view sucks. I don't like it. Of course, you cant blame me at all for that because it was destined to be that way. Like astrology and tarot and stuff, woo-oo destiny!
Cognitive dissonance then? Of course, you are free to dislike whatever you choose (or think you choose :) ).

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Prometheus
Post  Post subject: Re: Disbelief is not a choice  |  Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:15 pm
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KALSTER wrote:
Incidentally, I have been dealing with another user named Prometheus on a South African forum who is simply devoid of any rationality.


You should rename him Epimetheus.


Can anyone answer my question regarding Heisenberg? I realise it won't change how the uncertainty principle is currently understood, i'm just curious to know.


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