Monday, July 05, 2010

Is free will becoming extinct?

Have you noticed an uptick in studies that seem to say you have no or little free will? It seems that as more and more liberals desire to regulate behavior, the academic world is focusing more intently on studies that show free will to be an illusion. For example, in Time, there is a recent article entitled "Think You're Operating on Free Will? Think Again" (via Instapundit):

There may be few things more fundamental to human identity than the belief that people are rational individuals whose behavior is determined by conscious choices. But recently psychologists have compiled an impressive body of research that shows how deeply our decisions and behavior are influenced by unconscious thought, and how greatly those thoughts are swayed by stimuli beyond our immediate comprehension.


Glenn and I interviewed Cass Sunstein, the author of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness two years ago. Sunstein is now Obama administration's regulatory czar. I remember as I listened to him talk about "libertarian paternalism" (isn't that an oxymoron?) that I felt sick to my stomach. In Sunstein's opinion, it seems that justifying the notion that people do not have free will gives license to bureaucrats and politicians to "nudge" people in the direction that they desire them to go. A nudge is often not noticed until it becomes a shove and by then, it is often too late.

Beware of studies that show free will to be more and more of an illusion, for as Glenn says, "This kind of thing is often pitched as a reason for regulation, since your free will is portrayed as illusory."

Perhaps the free will of academics who do so many of these studies is really the illusion. Maybe it is they who unconsciously want to give more ammunition to the current administration to proceed with policies that usurp free will and take more and more of our freedoms away. Free will and personal responsibility are the epitome of freedom. Let us not allow them to become extinct.

170 Comments:

Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

The claim that free will is an illusion is non-falsifiable; therefore, it's an article of faith rather than a position that can be critically examined by reason. Equally non-falsifiable is the claim that free will is not an illusion. This is simply a matter where one cannot be certain, any more than we can be certain that ours is the "real world," rather than a simulation running in some unimaginably huge computer.

However, the assumption that our wills are free is essential to the operation of a civilization composed of individuals with individual consciousnesses, motivations, and consciences. Without that assumption, we cannot decide anything -- whether Smith really wants corn flakes for breakfast; whether Jones really has to go to work this morning, or what to do about Davis, who's just been apprehended after committing mass murder with a string-fed weed trimmer. We can't make reasonable projections about these things because we have no way of knowing the motivations, intentions, and probable responses of whoever is "pulling our strings."

Any assault on the assumption of free will is inherently an assertion of superior insight on the part of the assailant. At the best, he hopes you'll defer to his guidance; at the worst, he intends to "guide" you whether you like it or not. And thus be it ever, where persons with exaggerated opinions of their own intelligence, who hold the rest of us in contempt for not venerating them, shall opine.

3:16 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger smitty1e said...

Coming at what I perceive is Mr. Porretto's point from a theological view, there are those who'd reach a Calvinist conclusion. This is based upon cherry-picking of passages in the Bible, which, as a whole, takes on a creepy cast when you assert a fully Calvinist worldview--Jesus was a sick joker.
But no serious Christian doubts God's sovereignty and omniscience, so whaddaya do?
Live your life humbly, in the Armenian moment, and take a relaxed view toward whatever Calvinist revelation will come later, AFAICT, YMMV, NTTAWWT, HAND.

3:25 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Helen, an example would be helpful.

3:51 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger David said...

The obvious philosophical problem with this is, of course, the implicit assumption that the regulators themselves--and their gurus, such as Sunstein--do have free will, while other people don't. This is clearly not possible under strict determinism, which would imply that *nobody* has free will, so Sunstein et al would presumably argue that their *education* makes their behavior less determined.

ie, just more credentialism in thin disguise.

3:53 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Vox said...

"But no serious Christian doubts God's sovereignty and omniscience, so whaddaya do?"

This is not true. No serious Christian doubts God's sovereignty, omniscience is another matter. See Open Theism for details. But that is a tangential matter.

To return to the subject at hand, the attack on free will is mostly driven by atheists who are looking for a way out of the dead-end in which their Enlightenment attack on Christian morality ended. They haven't been able to concoct a coherent substitute for "God's Game, God's Rules" that comes with a similarly universal warrant in more than 200 years, so they're attempting to build a bypass around the problem by negating the entire concept of self-willed choice.

And, as Dr. Helen noted, these atheist intellectuals usually come up with a rational justification that is utilized by their more ambitious brethren for eliminating individual freedom. Even worse, it will also provide a justification for the slaughter of great quantities of people who are handicapped by a false consciousness that prevents them from going along with the Brave New Godless (now New and Improved with No Free Will) Order. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

3:59 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

All the secience cited is trying to show is what science has come to view as to how we act, unconsciously, and what drives our actions.Now it seems that to switch to a political or religious perception is simply to deny what science now seems to be showing simply because, well, we would like to believe otherwise. Fortunately, we have the entire ad industry wasting money trying to nudge us, or polical parties and thinkers trying to nudge us, but we remain with our free will and we do it, as Frankie once said: our way. Not.

4:14 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

I'm kind of amazed at how everything is turned into a battle between liberals vs. conservatives, and Christians vs. atheists.

It's a sticky philosophical (or metaphysical) issue, but the forced readings into one's particular political belief or religion are a bit silly.

On a side note, I was raised a Christian but am getting more and more disenchanted with hard-core Christians in America. They know EXACTLY what is going to happen when you die and the answers to all metaphysical questions. People who wonder about truth and reality are going to burn in hell.

4:21 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

I've had incidents occur that make me wonder how the whole process of decision-making works.

Quite often, I've lain in bed in the morning thinking I've got to get up. I just lay there and all of a sudden the decision is made to get up and my body carries it out. What triggered it at precisely that moment?

All I am trying to get across with these thoughts is that it really is a sticky question.

4:24 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

There have been right brain - left brain experiments in people with a severed corpus callosum, and something that became evident was that people will rationalize - and truly believe their rationalization - of why an action was taken by them when it was the other half of the brain acting.

In other words, there is a very strong belief in free will that is covered by retroactive rationalization.

4:31 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Kurt Richard Todoroff said...

"In Sunstein's opinion, it seems that justifying the notion that people do not have free will gives license to bureaucrats and politicians to "nudge" people in the direction that they desire them to go. A nudge is often not noticed until it becomes a shove and by then, it is often too late."

With respect, I take exception to the dialog and debate in this blog posting. The singular salient issue is: Are government servants intellectually and morally superior to you and I? I contend that not only are they not, but that these moronic demagogues are sufficiently unintelligent and possess no robust moral value set in the core of their personality that they are demonstrably inferior to you and me. Are they cut from different (superior) DNA than are you and I?

If they are no different that you and I, then they too have no "free will". Therefore, mister Sunstein is neither intellectually nor morally equipped to "nudge" me and you. If they are inferior to you and I, then they have neither the moral nor the constitutional authority to "nudge" you and I and, in fact, we should be nudging them. If they are superior to you and I, then "prove it". They can't and won't.

Government, especially since the 1964 explosive expansion of both the U.S. Code and the Code Of Federal Regulations, has been controlling our lives for over two centuries with their legislative mandates and their regulatory promulgated law (read as "unconstitutional"). They don't, and never have, possessed a superior intellect and a superior moral value set to us. Empirically, they are inferior to us. The best and the brightest don't go into civil government service. Their core presumption is that since fifty percent plus one vote of the voting electorate chose them to be their boy (or girl), this suddenly confers omnipotence and omniscience on them. How pathetic.

Here is the solution. Fire them. Term limits by way of personal responsibility. Vote against the incumbent or against the incumbent party every election. Even if this means voting for the party that you despise. If we do this for five consecutive elections, then this will send an absolute message to every elected legislative representative, judge, and executive member that they are subservient to us. We are not subservient to them. When they discover "we" have chosen them to be one term elected officials, then the "bottom of the barrel" citizenry will stop running for election and the cream will start running.

5:15 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Kurt Richard Todoroff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:18 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Kurt Richard Todoroff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:20 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Doom said...

The Protestant revolution meets secularization and the wedding vows are already known. We have been here before. While, many, Protestant churches have backed away from such notions, it is no wonder that the children of that revolution are grasping at it more and more as their dreams are dashed as well. It seems to be a common excuse for those who have nothing else. It is, and easily, related to the notion that people cannot be guilty for their crimes (sins) because they have no choice.

To be honest, I think this is a death knell for the "liberal" industry. After this, when that is proved false, there can be no shadows in which to hide, no doubts to cast, no credibility to be had by useful idiot or demagogic leader alike. It is one of the last refuges, and a weak short lived one.

Either all out war will be had, or there will be a major retreat of this sort of thinking. Perhaps both, nothing likes to die. That which is unprepared to die likes to die least. It is odd that as wealth recedes, so does the strength of nonsense, foolishness, excess, and such. Well, not really odd, but you may know what I mean?

The funny thing is, these same people only decades ago, and into distant foggy memories of the past, absolutely disavowed such notions. If memory serves. It was anathema, like religion, law and order, real economics, history, and the rest of which they have tried so desperately to deconstruct.

5:42 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

Perhaps the free will of academics who do so many of these studies is really the illusion. Maybe it is they who unconsciously want to give more ammunition to the current administration to proceed with policies that usurp free will and take more and more of our freedoms away.

Quite likely those academics who produce these studies see the opportunity for continued funding by giving the government types the information they want to hear. Follow the money.

7:42 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger ZZ said...

I've heard a couple of stories on NPR recently about people doing MRI scans of violent offender's brains. Apparently their brains are structurally different and they have no inhibitions against violence, etc. etc. (As if this was news. John Steinbeck knew this, heck SHAKESPEARE knew this 400 years ago).

Anyway, their DNA is messed up, they can't help themselves, why punish them for something they couldn't control, yada yada.

Then a prosecutor rebutted and said "Well what about alcoholics? They have brain differences too that predispose them to addiction. But we don't excuse THEM when they get into a car and drink."

As a recovering alcoholic, I think the prosecutor is right on. Once somebody realizes they have a disease, it's up to them to get treatment. And yes deterrence DOES help. One of the reasons I got help was the fear of eventually landing in jail.

9:17 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

the belief that people are rational individuals

I don't fully embrace this. I believe people are capable for being rational but choose to follow the emotional path quite often. Why else would we choose certain types of impractical cars or styles of clothes?

Another thing that flies in the face of no free will are the outliers. These are the people that land outside the predictable patterns. This is not to say they have more free will than others but their behavior can't be explained as easily or at all. And, I've yet to see the behavioral study with 100% validity and 100% reliability.

9:33 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Angela said...

Helen, we need more episodes of the Glenn and Helen show. I mean it. I love listening to those interviews.

9:54 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

Here's the $65,000 question...

If people are so irrational and undependable that they can't be trusted to make their own decisions, how is it that people like President Obama and his left-wing czars are so rational and dependable that they can be trusted to make the decisions for everyone?

10:00 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger BT said...

Unfortunately for those of us who love freedom and liberty, over 50 million of our fellow citizens exercised their free will in electing Sunstein's employer in the last presidential election. Those of us who did not vote for Obama, along with those who now have "buyers remorse" are currently being "nudged" towards the Obama regime's agenda. Soon the option of choosing will be taken away and we will be "dragged" as Bill Maher so gently put it.

To JG: As a "hard core" christian I do not claim to know everything or have all of the answers. I only know what Jesus said and what his word says. But you are right, everything is a battle. It is a battle of ideas. If they are opposing ideas, there is no middle ground, so one side must triumph. Light cannot compromise with darkness, just as truth cannot be watered down to find common ground with falsehood. As a christian, Jesus is my standard. He is truth. He did not leave his identity up for speculation and left no room for compromise. We can choose to agree with Him or not. Ahhh, choice, free will. I guess this post has come full circle. Peace to you, all.

10:17 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Peano said...

It's the same basic argument that B.F. Skinner put forward 40 years ago in Beyond Freedom & Dignity.

10:40 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Hucbald said...

The idea that human beings don't have free will isn't science, it's propaganda.

10:51 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Toren said...

Cogito, ergo sum.
The rest is opinion.
If I feel I have free will, not all the grant-sucking researchers on Earth can convince me otherwise.

11:07 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Aaron said...

"But recently psychologists have compiled an impressive body of research that shows how deeply our decisions and behavior are influenced by unconscious thought, and how greatly those thoughts are swayed by stimuli beyond our immediate comprehension."

But this can be discovered introspectively, and was so discovered by quite a few people, most famously David Hume.

The major problem here is a failure to define what exactly we mean by "free will". The most obviously definition is simply, "doing what one desires to do". Unfortunately, people have a vague feeling that if an action was caused in any sense, it was unfree, from which it would follow that the fact of your desires causing you to act a certain way, and even more so the fact that your desires are themselves caused by still earlier things, is an unfree will. So we go hunting for something that isn't doing what you want and also isn't acting randomly. Even if we found it, how exactly does it make decisions? This is hopeless.

There's a better way: just keep the original definition. Free will is doing what you want. This is known as "compatibilism"; the view that free will and determinism (of a kind) are actually compatible.

(You can, of course, reflect on your own motives and deliberately try to change them; but you had to have had a reason for doing that. Since you can't go back an infinite number of steps, at some point you're just doing what you want.)

smitty1e;

Calvinists do believe in free will, in a compatibilist sense. See, for the best worked-out example, Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will.

JG;

But the side of the brain which did make the decision had a reason -- if I recall it correctly, a researcher had whispered a request in the appropriate ear. Since participation in the study and continued cooperation once involved were voluntary, there was free will right there on the surface. The only thing left to find is a quirk of people with abnormal brains.

You can readily imagine my answer to the other famous study alleged to prove the nonexistence of free will, about the timing of when the subject had decided to press a button.

11:10 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Whiskey Jim said...

The question of free will makes Oprah Winfrey, other day time TV hosts, and most pop psychologists liars. They've made their fortunes by pushing the whole 'take control of your life and feel good about it' for decades.

You can't have it both ways. Besides, visualization does work. The mind is a wonderful thing if one nurtures its ability to achieve.

11:20 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Metamorf said...

As Kurt above points out (3 x), if we don't have free will and need to be nudged, then neither do those doing the nudging -- so who nudges the nudgers?

By the way, people commonly think that free will and determinism -- that is, the notion that our mental phenomena are all a product of our neural physiology -- are in conflict, but actually they needn't be. There's a branch of moral philosophy called "compatibalism", for example, that looks at their coexistence. This post looks at a particular strand of that branch, which posits two distinct orientations or "stances" toward our encounter with the world, one of which is "agency". Agency is the basis for what we think of as free will and moral responsibility, and it's inescapable.

11:34 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger ic said...

Admit it, our Dearest Leader knows best what's best for us. We're not up to his intelligence to know what's best, and always do the bad things, like having children whom we're not supposed to have, smoking (grass excepted), driving gas guzzlers, eating sugary food, creating carbon footprints, going to doctors for a cure not knowing that we would compromise our quality of life,... Our Dearest Leader who sees the BIG picture, is uniquely capable to arrange things for us zombies.

11:42 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger blake said...

Nihlicious!

Talk about a dead-end philosophy.

"We have no free will!"
"Yeah!"
"Now, let's...let's..."
"Waitaminute..."

Yes, the whole thing works rather neatly if you start it slightly different:

"They have no free will!"

Same as it ever was. Justification to do bad things to others.

11:49 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Sandy said...

So President Barack Obama is doing what he is doing because he has free will, or because he does not?

11:55 PM, July 05, 2010  
Blogger Eric Blair said...

Honestly, this is nothing new. "It takes a village" was the approved mantra, that somehow a group of people knew what was best for you better than you did!

They can---what's the expression?---put lipstick on this pig, but the statists want control. And they will use anything justification that they can.

12:10 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger M. Report said...

The author of the Article in Time
demonstrates 'unconscious thought'
in his grammar and vocabulary. :)

Sunstein cannot say what he means:
'Humoral Man' is a slave to animal
impulse, and rational men must rule;
Totally -PC.

It is certainly true that knowledge
will forever rule ignorance, though
the Master of the Mob may control
events until the Mob turns on him.

Free Will, like Objective Reality,
is a fun topic for debate, but even
if neither exists, the appearance
is real enough; The Will, through
Reason, can recognize and override
emotional motivations.

12:15 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JAMES said...

Most of us Libertarian types are in love with the idea of free will but the evidence is piling up that we have little if any of the stuff. We're no different than those "conniving academics" whose ulterior motive is to "nudge" us in the direction they think best. We also do our best to nudge everyone in the direction we "think" best; or perhaps I should say we "feel" is best. Why? Because we happened to be born that way.

12:19 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Becky said...

Wouldn't the best environment to experiment nudging be a prison?
If we have no free will, then criminals cannot be blamed for their actions; also law abiding citizens cannot be credited with making society a more pleasant, safe place.

For many of us of the Christian faith, the subject of free will goes back to the first man and woman and the temptation.

What Sunstien seems to be suggesting to me is a suzerainty treaty between government and its citizens, with government as the suzerain.

12:20 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger j said...

Just for fun, try the assumption that some people have more free will than others.

And, for real fun, try thinking about the notion that the more intelligent a person is the greater their capacity for free will.

You will be in trouble in no time.

12:23 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Eric said...

Great post.

I only hope that leftist secularists who negate free will never join forces with religious fatalists. An unholy alliance between believers in determinism and believers in predestination might prove unbearable.

Common sense suggests to me that there is free will, but there's a lot of power that says there isn't. (Obviously, it's a lot easier to rule people who don't think they have free will, because if they don't think they have it, pretty soon they won't!)

12:27 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger highlander said...

I think the idea that we do not have free will is marvelous. For if I do not have free will, then I'm cannot be held responsible for anything I do. It'll always be the fault of something or someone else -- most likely Bush.

12:41 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

On the strict question of free will, there's ample reason to doubt its existence. Recall the consistent results from the Minnesota Twin Studies, wherein twins who were separated at birth - then reunited as adults - were found to be remarkably similar; in habits (and pathologies), occupations, entertainment preferences, mates, and so on. In short, many were virtual carbon copies of each other, and certainly way beyond chance.

From my own experience as a certified handwriting analyst, I can say with confidence that individual personality and character are predictable - which tends to fly in the face of free will. In fact, you can test this proposition - by attempting to "change" yourself. For example, will yourself to love someone, or to stop loving someone. Or becoming gregarious instead of reticent. Even changing one's favorite color is next to impossible.

Not to suggest that I have the answers. It's simply empirical. In fact, after 30 years of work I'm still amazed that one's handwriting is [almost] like an open book - that is, barring my own analytical deficiencies, and the limitations of the science - limitations that a mind like Stephen Hawking might solve.

1:12 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Analyst_for_Life said...

Sunstein and his like-minded nudgecrats are reasonable facsimiles of the emerging creatures C.S. Lewis describes in the conclusion to his dystopian essay "The Abolition of Man".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Abolition_of_Man

"The final chapter describes the ultimate consequences of this debunking: a distant future in which the values and morals of the majority are controlled by a small group who rule by a perfect understanding of psychology, and who in turn, being able to "see through" any system of morality that might induce them to act in a certain way, are ruled only by their own unreflected whims. The controllers will no longer be recognizably human, the controlled will be robot-like, and the Abolition of Man will have been completed."

I guess they are persuaded that they have to destroy humanity to save it, and are thus worthy inheritors of the bureaucratic mentality echoed in that thought.

1:36 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmmm.

Frankly I love the academic arguments that I don't have free will.

I suggest the basic "bitchslap test".

1. If I do have free will when I bitchslap the academic then I am guilty but the academic is an ignorant ass.

2. If I do NOT have free will when I bitchslap the academic then I am innocent but the academic is right.

Line on up academics!

1:45 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

JG, you shouldn't be amazed at all. There are dipshits on both sides of the fence that really believe anyone not sharing their views are inferior in many ways.

The fringes always yell the loudest and most caustic and hence get heard the most. We need to ignore them and purge their influence. Theism and atheism are both views held by intelligent and moral people - and unfortunately, morons and bastards as well.

1:50 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Vox said...

"All the secience cited is trying to show is what science has come to view as to how we act, unconsciously, and what drives our actions."

There is a big difference between the various scientific observations and the non sequitur of the conclusion that free will is an illusion. The proposed nonexistence of free will is quite clearly a philosophical argument in search of a scientific basis; the conclusion preceded the science.

2:06 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Pixy Misa said...

JG - Correct. Libet's experiments that showed that conscious awareness of a decision followed the neuronal activity for acting upon that decision are another key finding in this area. And since these experiments define free will operationally, Francis Poretto's objections are rendered false.

So yes, there's very sound scientific reason for considering free will an illusion.

That's no excuse for the nonsense Sunstein is proposing, of couse. People are still people, we still make decisions, even if we don't make those decisions the way we thought we did.

What Sunstein is proposing is not libertarian in any sense. Call it sleight-of-hand statism; call it good old-fashioned marketing; call it disingenuous elitist claptrap. Just don't try to attach it to the L word.

2:22 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Anthony said...

Maybe it is the Catholic in me. Or maybe it is the fact that for a brief time in college I was into Rush.

But I choose free will.

3:31 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger S said...

Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law...

More later

...Love is the law, love under will.

4:43 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Vox said...

"All the secience cited is trying to show is what science has come to view as to how we act, unconsciously, and what drives our actions."

There is a big difference between the various scientific observations and the non sequitur of the conclusion that free will is an illusion. The proposed nonexistence of free will is quite clearly a philosophical argument in search of a scientific basis; the conclusion preceded the science.

4:54 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen, et al.
RE: Free Will Is Only Extinct....

....in those who wish to give it up.

This, along with that correlating report from Althouse about 'choice', wherein she states....

Liberals worry about constitutional rights getting in the way of legislation....

....reminds me of a professor of Constitutional Law at Denver University who said there are no such things as Constitutional Rights. There are only 'textual rights'. Change the text and you change the right.

She's probably one of the writers of these academic papers.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[In the end more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free. -- Edward Gibbon ]

5:29 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

Really creepy. As with those who promulgate a scientific "consensus" on AGW, the free will of academics who do these studies is wilfully sacrificed to the God of Grantsmanship.

5:35 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Penn said...

Misc comments: (1) the science is overwhelming -- humans and other beings do not have the physical capability to make a conscious, rational choice; (2) this has nothing to do with political or religious ideology, it's just the way the world works (to the best of our current knowledge); (3) current knowledge comes from persistent testing of falsifiable ideas (the first commenter is flat wrong -- free will is easily testable); (4) the point everyone tends to miss is that our minds make choices in highly predictable ways, which is the current focus of research to figure out just how that happens; (5) the regulation czars haven't figured out that they're subject to the same constraints (philosopher kings exist only in the imagination); and (6) the built in choice biases that make rational choices impossible make perfect evolutionary sense...

I'll supply abundant references if anyone wants to look at the evidence.

6:59 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger aberman said...

Questions about the existence and nature of Free Will are simply not solvable in the biological realm-- you have to get into at least physics, computational mathematics, and philosophy. One major issue is that most people's understanding of the world is that it is divided into the deterministic (mechanical, predictable) and random (unpredictable but not based on any rationale). Free will, if it exists, can not be explained by either-- if it is mechanical, then it is not free, and if it is random, then it is purposeless and thus not free.
However, it was only at the start of the 20th Century that we learned that the universe had a random component at all (quantum physics). Before that, scientists believed that the universe was entirely deterministic. Furthermore, the 20th century spawned a new branch of mathematics (related to computational complexity) that Penrose and others believe supports the notion of free will. Furthermore, this mathematics, if understood correctly, calls into doubt whether or not we can ever answer the question definitively, i.e., it would be impossible for us to measure a difference between free will and randomness, anyway. So it's probably not answerable given any logical system. But in any case, the biologists and neurologists can't come close to answering it.

7:16 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Christy said...

I reluctantly came to the conclusion, after reading James Gleick's Chaos years ago, that free will is an illusion. The good news is that the law of unintended consequences will always work to thwart the will of those compelled to control the rest of us. Which is only another way of saying that what might nudge you to avoid the demon alcohol, will compel another to make it freely available and others to indulge more frequently than before.

Rebellion is "determined" too, don't you think?

7:54 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

You've inspired me to blog about it with some additional thoughts:

Cass Sunstein's "libertarian paternalism": Czar is "crazy" without the "y"

8:01 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Vox,

I am an atheist and I don't believe any of the things you attribute to atheists.

I think that you need to understand something about atheism. It's not an ideology despite the fact that the word ends with "ism". It is in fact a grouping of people on a shared disbelief.

I also do not believe in leprechauns. You cannot use someones disbelief in either God or leprechauns, to deduce whether they will believe in free will or not, nor whether they desire to eliminate personal freedom.

A counterexample should be enough to falsify your theory about atheists. Ayn Rand believed in both free will and personal freedom, and was a atheist.

Now that I have corrected your beliefs on this subject I expect that you will no longer make such bigoted and prejudiced claims. I say that because you are lumping people into groups then attempting to deduce their individual behavior based on a gross over-generalization unrelated to the criteria used for lumping. Like lumping people based on skin color to deduce intelligence.

There is not necessarily any connection between a belief in free will and whether we should eliminate personal freedom in the first place. It all depends on what you believe the nature of free will is, and your understanding of the world.

I in fact believe that the free will you believe could very well be an "illusion", but I also believe it has no bearing on whether people should have personal freedom.

I believe that Ayn Rand, the atheists you complain about, and you all share a belief in the same common error. You all believe in the same conception of free will. A conception that is actually in error. For example, your conception of free will has it incompatible with a deterministic world.

I don't share your beliefs and therefore am not restricted by your common errors.

8:08 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Kurt Richard Todoroff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:11 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Francis W. Porretto,

If the concept of free will as conceived by Christianity is non-falsifiable then in fact it can make no predictions about the world. That's the whole reason why I reject the Christian conception.

You see a non-falsifiable hypothesis makes no real world predictions that can be tested. Which means it has no informational content about the real world, and no ability to predict. If it could make predictions about the real world then we could test those predictions and if they were not true the theory would be falsified.

"Any assault on the assumption of free will is inherently an assertion of superior insight on the part of the assailant."

I don't believe in your conception of free will and I am not asserting any general superior insight on my part. So I reject your claim in that regard. I am not motivated by what you claim I am, and am instead motivated by my desire to properly understand the world.

8:20 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger TK said...

Just wanted to point something out: If free will is an illusion, than liberals are acting just as deterministically as the rest of us. They are simply doing whatever the closed-system brain tells them to do, which apparently is crave power and try to tell the rest of us what to do. But they can't help it -- it's in their wiring.

And as a joking aside, I wonder if Smith and Jones know just how much Fran P. talks about them behind their backs :) It reminds me of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Theoretical Animals, like that poor cat tortured eternally by Schroedinger, not to mention that worm that gets stuck in the wormhole. I think we need to regulate the behavior not only of real people, but of theoretical people, too.

8:25 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Helen,

You need to inform yourself a little better on the issue of free will and determinism in philosophical thinking. Vox, Ayn Rand, the people you complain about, many of the commenters here, and you are all incompatibalists.

None of these issues are a problem for compatibilists like Daniel Dennett or myself.

Vox might be well served looking into the issue also because it properly resolves the issue of incompatibility between an all-knowing God and free will.'

Vox, your claims about the inability of atheists to "concoct a coherent substitute for 'God's Game, God's Rules'" is wrong, and is based on your ignorance more than anything else. The enlightenment was not a dead end and has improved our lives immensely. Stop living in the dark ages.

8:42 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger S said...

The philosophical and theological arguments are interesting, but I just find it hard to believe that people will buy into any notion that they lack free will. I don't care how many academics jump on the bandwagon. It's like those brain studies Derbyshire used to write about over in National Review's Corner, to the effect that maybe you don't even have a conscious "self," just brain patterns or something. Interesting, unprovable and ultimately irrelevant. People may not have a conscious self or free will, but they sure think they do, and that's what counts.

9:09 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Kurt Richard Todoroff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:10 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Angela, I loved those for listening to on trips. They made the miles go by faster than music.

Concerning free will, it is a Christian belief that we have the right to choose, and that our choices have eternal consequences.

Scripture also shows the importance of limited government, like the story of Ahab the the vineyard he stole using "immenient domain."

From my perspective, if the Supreme Being of the Universe deems to give His creatures (that would be us) free will then our government should do the same seeing as how they are our peers and not our Maker.

Trey

9:35 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Mark said...

From the quote you give, I'm not sure how making decisions on other-than conscious choices means we're not free? Our consciousness and sub-consciousness are all part of what make us, well, us. We can no more split our persona in half, ignoring half of it, than we can cut our body in half lengthwise and remain whole.

To offer a trivial example, if I lean against something hot, I don't need to stand there and say "I'm experiencing a sensation of excessive heat, sufficient to cause damage to my flesh, so perhaps I should move away? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so? ..." I'll just away by reflex, generally before I'm even consciously aware of being burned, and as a result I'll probably experience a minor injury as opposed to the major one I'd sustain had I awaited a "conscious" decision.

9:37 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen, et al.
RE: Free Will Is ONLY Extinct....

....in those who give it up.

Like their rights. And, indeed, I suspect the process is much the same in both venues.

In conjunction with that associated article from Althouse, I'm reminded of a professor of Constitutional Law from Denver University, who talked to the Denver Mensa monthly general meeting. During her presentation she said, "There are no such things as Constitutional Rights. There are only textual rights. If you change the text, you change the right." Or words to that effect.

Seems to me that she's likely one of the people writing these articles.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[In the end more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free. -- Edward Gibbon ]

9:39 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Vox
RE: Heh

....it will also provide a justification for the slaughter of great quantities of people who are handicapped by a false consciousness that prevents them from going along with the Brave New Godless (now New and Improved with No Free Will) Order. -- Vox

True. True. And things are going to get rather 'interesting'. But don't worry....

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And....

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

After all, I see it as the fulfillment of all that was written in that Old Book so long ago. Especially that last part....which has been tracking well since that incident in the Ukraine back in 1986.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Don't worry.....Be Happy....It's all coming true, as promised.]

P.S. Have you seen this new sim, Making History II?

9:47 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger BT said...

Unfortunately for those of us who love freedom and liberty, over 50 million of our fellow citizens exercised their free will in electing Sunstein's employer in the last presidential election. Those of us who did not vote for Obama, along with those who now have "buyers remorse" are currently being "nudged" towards the Obama regime's agenda. Soon the option of choosing will be taken away and we will be "dragged" as Bill Maher so gently put it.

9:51 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: fred
RE: Yeah....Right....

All the secience cited is trying to show is what science has come to view as to how we act, unconsciously, and what drives our actions. -- fred

So. Then all those years of claiming there is no such think as 'instinct' in human beings has all been so much 'hogwash', eh?

And my disagreement with you is just 'instinct' and has nothing whatsoever to do with 'free will'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Yesterday's truth is tomorrow's lie. -- Typical Progressive 'reality']

9:55 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Tertium Quid said...

G.K. Chesterton had much to say about Determinism in its many forms, none of it complimentary:

'Some Determinists fancy that Christianity invented a dogma like free will for fun -a mere contradiction. This is absurd. You have the contradiction whatever you are. Determinists tell me, with a degree of truth, that Determinism makes no difference to daily life. That means - that although the Determinist knows men have no free will, yet he goes on treating them as if they had.

'The difference then is very simple. The Christian puts the contradiction into his philosophy. The Determinist puts it into his daily habits. The Christian states as an avowed mystery what the Determinist calls nonsense. The Determinist has the same nonsense for breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper every day of his life.'


Whatever the Determinism- economic, social, biological, sociological, etc.- in the end, to embrace Determinism as dogma is to deny our own humanity.

10:17 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"You all believe in the same conception of free will. A conception that is actually in error. For example, your conception of free will has it incompatible with a deterministic world."

---

Who said it's a deterministic world?

I know that's what Isaac Newton thought, but his view is getting a bit outdated with with double-slit experiments and experiments showing the non-locality of Bell.

-----

Frankly, in my opinion, the only thing you can be sure about with regard to free will, the existence of God, what consciousness really is and other questions like that is: I dunno.

I'm very interested in approaches towards a solution, like the consciousness work of Susan Blackmore.

As for the rest, I really am getting sick of pushy Christians and pretty much anyone else who claims that he is 100% sure of the answers to all this stuff.

10:26 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Think how strict Christians were 500 or so years ago:

Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for saying (among other things) that the stars were suns just like our own sun.

Galileo was effectively shut up by that, or he may have been next.

They routinely tortured and killed people (Inquisition) who believed things that most people would take for granted today.

There are still fundamental Christians today who don't debate evolution (and it's worth a debate, with the gaps in the fossil record and many other issues), they poke their meaty finger in your chest and tell you HOW IT IS and you are going to burn in hell with your kooky "liberal" idea of evolution.

10:32 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Bill Peschel said...

1. Dilbert's Scott Adams has been talking about this for years, so it's hardly a "new thing."

2. Society had been "nudging" people toward making the right decisions about health and safety for decades. Think about adding safety features to cars (seat belts, brake lights, center brake lights), and warning lights if your belt is not being used. Think about tobacco taxes, and the disappearance of vending machines. These show that nudges work.

But only up to a point. What the bureaucrats will miss is that as the restrictions tighten, those people will be inclined to break the law to get what they want. See: Prohibition.

So I doubt they'll need free will studies to justify their actions. They've been doing this all along.

10:38 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Severely Ltd. said...

JG says:
"It's a sticky philosophical (or metaphysical) issue, but the forced readings into one's particular political belief or religion are a bit silly."
It's not only not forced or silly, it's fundamental to both politics and religion.
The very smart Scientist E.O.Wilson writes in his book Consilience:
"The choice between transcendentalism and empiricism will be the coming century's [21st] version of the struggle for men's souls."
I think Mr. Wilson is on the wrong side of this debate, but he frames the coming focus on the question correctly.
Because transcendentalism encompasses free-will and an objective basis for morality, most trancendentalist are conservative or libertarian.

I'd be curious to know where Dr. Helen (and her husband) come down on this issue. I think I can predict the good Dr.'s position. Glenn's? Not so much.

10:39 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Something that appears to be true is that you have MULTIPLE threads of consciousness running at a particular time.

You may have noticed this if you were reading something but were then able to recall something - even quite a bit beforehand - that was being said on the radio when your focal consciousness was directed away from the reading. There are questions of identity the real essence of consciousness there.

Another issue: When you make your free-will decisions, what part of you actually makes the decision and why? Your particular mood at the moment - entirely brought about by external factors - may lead the decision to be the complete opposite of a decision made in a different mood.

10:40 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Severely Ltd. said...

My statement that most transcendentalists are conservative or libertarian is arguable, but I do think that most transcendentalists who have followed the logic out do fall into one of the two camps(or somewhere between).

10:59 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Thor's Dad said...

First, can those who deny or affirm free will really do anything but...aren't they destined to do so? So how can you try to convince people they don't have free will - they can't help themselves.

Also when will we those in power start making the choices for us about how many children can be born and how long we can live? This is the scary part about "healthcare" reform - once it becomes solely about fiscal issues - the costliness of those who stress the system for the healthy and productive and the privileged, will be the first to go.

10:59 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:05 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

My posts were shown on this board (when I am logged in), but only one shows when I am logged out.

Another one says "deleted by author" (immediately under Brian Macker), but I didn't delete it.

I have no idea why my posts are not making it through, but they will appear disjointed if they are out of context.

11:06 AM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

On the strict question of free will, there's ample reason to doubt its existence. Recall the consistent results from the Minnesota Twin Studies, wherein twins who were separated at birth - then reunited as adults - were found to be remarkably similar; in habits (and pathologies), occupations, entertainment preferences, mates, and so on. In short, many were virtual carbon copies of each other, and certainly way beyond chance.

From my own experience as a certified handwriting analyst, I can say with confidence that individual personality and character are predictable - which tends to fly in the face of free will. In fact, you can test this proposition - by attempting to "change" yourself. For example, will yourself to love someone, or to stop loving someone. Or becoming gregarious instead of reticent. Even changing one's favorite color is next to impossible.

Not to suggest that I have the answers. It's simply empirical. In fact, after 30 years of work I'm still amazed that one's handwriting is [almost] like an open book - that is, barring my own analytical deficiencies, and the limitations of the science - limitations that a mind like Stephen Hawking might solve.

12:02 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Mrs. Kissell said...

John Cage, in his stage shows, recalled a saying of his father's: "Measurements measure measuring means."

Another way to express this phenomenon is: every statement participates in that which it expresses.

Or this: every statement is valid in the sense of expressing reality accurately so long as a form of this caveat follows it: and there is more to it.

12:12 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Rich said...

In general it is not so much about free will as "OUR BETTERS" knowing what is best for us. See they are intellectually smarter and morally superior so they should be making the decisions. The O and his minions spend lots of time telling us how much smarter he is than the rest of us so he should know. Only problem is that I have seen little if any proof of that proposition therefore tend to disagree with it.
If interested read Thomas Sowell's book "A conflict of Visions". He does a terrific job of explaining where this all comes from.

12:42 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

David Baker --

"On the strict question of free will, there's ample reason to doubt its existence. Recall the consistent results from the Minnesota Twin Studies, ... were found to be remarkably similar... many were virtual carbon copies of each other, and certainly way beyond chance."

It shows many things in our personalities are driven by genetics.

"many were virtual carbon copies"

Others weren't. Those would show that there is indeed a component that doesn't rely on genetics. For this study to show that free will doesn't exist (via genetics), *all* twins would need to be clones. The occurrence of free will is not a maybe kind of thing.

12:59 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: [OT] Funny Goings On

My posts were shown on this board (when I am logged in), but only one shows when I am logged out. -- JG

Same thing was happening to me earlier today on this thread.

I think there's something odd with blogspot. I say this because if you look at the thread from the main level it says there are 45 posts on the thread.

BUT if you look at it from the Post a Comment window, it says there are 77 comments....as this comment.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Good user interface is the hobgoblin of blogging.]

1:09 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. After posting that comment, which shows up on the Post a Comment window....

....it does not appear in the comments of the specific thread.

1:10 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger sol said...

I saw a TV show about migrating animals in Africa. It seems that when a herd of 1000 Wildebeest come to a river the first thing the Wildebeest see is that there are lots of 18 ft long Alligators waiting to eat them.

Fully 99% of the Wildebeest refuse to go near the river. 10 wildebeest (1%) exercise their free will. They decide alligators are misunderstood. All jaw and no bite. They enter the river and proceed to cross. They are attacked by all the alligators. Then they are eaten. This takes `10-15 minutes.

While the alligators are distracted, the rest of the herd crosses unmolested. However, there is always one alligator who exercises his free will and ignores the first 10 wildebeest and attacks when the rest of the herd crosses.

As you can see free will must exist because it is essential to the survival of the herd. Because 10 Wildebeest exercises free will, 990 wildebeest can cross the river. Otherwise the 990 would not cross and they would starve to death or die trying to get a drink. Similarly 99 alligators have to share 10 wildebeest and one alligator gets his pick of the remaining 990 wildebeest.

Or as your mother asked "if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump in too?" The herd cannot survive without free will. Neither can the pack. That’s why free will exists.

1:29 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Sol
RE: I Think....

.....you've got the wildebeest vs. [and they're] crocodiles analogy bass-ackward.

The ones driven by 'deterministics' are the ones that 'drive on' into the croc infested river.

The ones with 'free will' are the ones who, despite their instinct to 'drive on' across the river, stand away. Because of their better sense of reality.

Hope that helps....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
P.S. However, you are right in one respect, albeit bass-akward, again....

....the dull-witted 'determinists' are useful in a number of different ways.

[Look upon it as evolution in action. -- Niven & Pournelle, Oath of Fealty]

1:49 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

Oligonicella said...
It shows many things in our personalities are driven by genetics.

I agree, and also consider this regarding my reference to the Minnesota Twin Studies; cells, human cells, are always in transit. Like embryos spinning about reaching for the brass ring. Actually, innumerable brass rings. I liken it to attempting to pinpoint an electron as it darts around an atom. But on this merry-go-round, all the electrons are connected, meaning that even the smallest ring affects all the riders. Which to me explains the resulting personality variations.

Beyond theory, however, the question of free will remains. In my experience it doesn't exist. And when I started out this is not what I was expecting. After all, even I would like to believe that my choice for lunch is my own, rather than the expression of some inner directive. Fact is, however, "my" conscious choice of menu has infinitely more to do with what my body needs, even when these inner directives are faulty (unhealthy).

History also demonstrates, proves, that we humans are far from rational beings. Individually, we are often totally irrational, this despite the so-called lessons of history. Which brings us to the madness of crowds - where we, like the embryos, are indelibly connected.

Not to wander too far afield, but did you ever wonder why we, as a group, make the same mistakes over and over?

I think we need to put our embryos on a different merry-go-round.

1:56 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: David Baker
RE: Speak....

Individually, we are often totally irrational, this despite the so-called lessons of history. -- David Baker

....for yourself, David.

Stop projecting your behavior on the rest of US.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[In unanimity there is cowardice and uncritical thinking.]

2:10 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

Chuck Pelto said...
Stop projecting your behavior on the rest of US

If anything, I believe I'm projecting the behavior of humanity.

Meanwhile, why is it that "your" handwriting is so angular?

2:26 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Demonspawn said...

I cannot subscribe to the idea of free will.

As I've gone through life and studied human behavior I've gone from "people to crazy thing" to "I understand why he did that" and looked to a person's past to discover what events of learning went towards the decision that he made at the time given the knowledge he likely had. I've become very proficient in this art of predicting human behavior. Anytime I'm surprised by a decision someone makes, I can often track it back to a lack of knowledge about them that I had (of course, once knowing that about the person their decision makes sense).

Even if you don't have this experience, all you needs to do is pick up a good book on Cognitive Therapy and you will get the basis of how decisions are made, sometimes almost automatically, and how they relate to past events:

It's really as simple as asking yourself a question... "why?".

Why did you come to this blog today? What motivated you to do so? Where did those motivations come from? What events caused those motivations to form in your life? As you dig deeper and deeper, you'll find much of what made up even the simple decision to view this blog today was predestined.

But now comes the tricky part ;)
Even though I understand humans (and therefore I) don't have free will, I have to trick myself into believing that I do and that I can change. Without at least the illusion of free will, what is the point of existence?

Now, Re: responsibility. I don't believe that a lack of free-will removes the aspect of responsibility. Without responsibility, everything breaks. The reason why is that part of the decision making process is calculating the risk. You can take the same person (same pre-determination) and place them in front of two similar decisions and watch them make different decisions based on the expected outcomes of those decisions. Part of it has to do with the risk-aversion that the decider has, and the other with the actual risks themselves. e.g. a person who would accept the risk of a paper-cut shuffling cards wouldn't risk a severed finger from shuffling razor blades due to the risk. Now, if we removed the risk of the criminal system punishment, we'd watch lots of people make other decisions than they are currently making.

But even when we change the risk/expected outcomes slightly, we can watch behaviors change. If 90/100 people would have no problem speeding under the current rules and we increased the fines, perhaps we'd now find 70/100 speeding. Let's say that we removed all fines and we find 99/100 speeding. those 20 people (9 in the second change) are what's called boundary cases. As we change the environment, we change the behavior of those boundary cases.

Bell curves and boundary cases... that's what "free-will" comes down to.

2:42 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: David Baker
RE: Projection

If anything, I believe I'm projecting the behavior of humanity. -- David Baker

Believe what you like. And considering your choice, it looks to me like you're behaving like one of the 'deterministics'.

I chose another 'way'. Something to do with 'free will', I suspect.

Additionally, I joined the Army when the Army wasn't 'cool'. I became a REAL christian and that still isn't 'cool'.

RE: Handwriting

Meanwhile, why is it that "your" handwriting is so angular? -- David Baker

It's probably the font you're using in your browser.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson]

2:48 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger blake said...

Even though I understand humans (and therefore I) don't have free will, I have to trick myself into believing that I do and that I can change. Without at least the illusion of free will, what is the point of existence?

Paradox. You've assigned free will (cause) to you tricking yourself. But if there's no free will, you're destined to fool yourself, and even if you weren't, it wouldn't matter if there was any point to existing, since you'd have no say in the matter.

All of that without addressing the elephant in the parlor: You who?

If you don't believe in the existence of consciousness, none of this presents a problem, since we're all just chemical reactions and no different from fusion or what-have-you. (This ignores the elephant in the parlor again but ducking responsibility does seem to be a specialty of the human race.)

If there is an "I", a consciousness, an awareness, predestination reduces that awareness to a deluded spectator.

3:09 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Demonspawn said...

No, not paradox. Even without free will, that doesn't exclude the ability to change. It also doesn't exclude the ability to determine what makes up your own decisions and re-evaluating the truth of those biases (that is the basis behind cognitive therapy).

When you gain new information, your perspective will change and therefore the decisions you make will be influenced by the new information.

For example, this conversation. Both of us were brought to this blog today by whatever "why" brought us here, which exposed you to my views on the lack of free will (and exposed me to your views on it's existence).

Sadly enough, what we will both take from this exchange of ideas is already predestined as well.

If there is an "I", a consciousness, an awareness, predestination reduces that awareness to a deluded spectator.

So you telling me you've never in your life done something and then wondered why you did it?

3:26 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger blake said...

No, not paradox. Even without free will, that doesn't exclude the ability to change.

Through what agency. Who or what does the changing?

It also doesn't exclude the ability to determine what makes up your own decisions and re-evaluating the truth of those biases (that is the basis behind cognitive therapy).

And you call this what, if not free will?

When you gain new information, your perspective will change and therefore the decisions you make will be influenced by the new information.

Effect, effect, effect, in other words. Never cause. All of us are effect of the Primal Cause.

Congratulations, you're a Calvinist.

Sadly enough, what we will both take from this exchange of ideas is already predestined as well.

What happened to new information and reevaluating and all that other stuff that isn't, in your philosophy, "free will"?

So you telling me you've never in your life done something and then wondered why you did it?

Are you telling me you've never made up your mind to do something, and then done it?

3:35 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Heh

Here's an insight into this 'determanist' philosophy....

It's to give them the classic 'excuse' for not being responsible for their own acts....

The Devil made me do it.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Hell is empty and all the devils are here. -- mandatory corporate Diversity Training Attendee]

4:01 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Demonspawn
RE: Heh

How does water flow downhill? -- Demonspawn

Are you suggesting that water is sentient?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[You must take drugs very seriously at your house.]

4:52 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Demonspawn said...

Well how did water flow downhill before the discovery/understanding of fluid dynamics and gravity?

I mean, it must have had free will... how else would water have picked to flow from the lake to the ocean via the river?

Just as much free will as we do, both following the path of least resistance. It's just that we came to understand how water picks it's path of least resistance, and with more understanding we will come to discover how humans behavior also takes the path of least resistance.

5:03 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Vox said...

Vox might be well served looking into the issue also because it properly resolves the issue of incompatibility between an all-knowing God and free will.'

You must have missed the reference to Open Theism or not understood it. There is no direct claim to an "all-knowing" God in the Bible, Calvinism and conventional Sunday School theology notwithstanding. Ergo no incompatibility.

Vox, your claims about the inability of atheists to "concoct a coherent substitute for 'God's Game, God's Rules'" is wrong, and is based on your ignorance more than anything else. The enlightenment was not a dead end and has improved our lives immensely. Stop living in the dark ages.

You are ignorant and wildly incorrect. There were no Dark Ages and this has been a matter of encyclopedic fact for more than 70 years. Your incorrect assertion is also contra Daniel Dennett, who readily admits in his most recent book that all attempts to establish rational moral systems have failed. He also admits that the Enlightenment failed, nor is he alone. Hence the numerous calls for Enlightenment 2.0 as per Jonathan Haidt, et al.

You really should attempt to correct the better informed when you're not even up to date on the current views of your own side.

5:14 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

Chuck said...
The Devil made me do it.

To sustain itself, society must assign individual responsibility, therefore negating the legal standing of devils.

There's also a distinct difference between the group and the individual. Not to mention the differences between groups, such as the Tim Geithner tax-evasion defense - which works for he but not for thee, or them but not us.

Clinically, are psychological evaluations/profiles predictive? And if so, why? How can we determine and/or quantify free will? Much less get the morbidly obese to stop eating? Or a schizophrenic from hallucinating, aside from drugs?

Are "hyper-active" kids a modern phenomena, or have the societal norms changed as human density and complexity increased? Still, I'm "will-ing" to concede the existence of free will, provided you can prove its existence. Because all the evidence points in the opposite direction, that free-will is an illusion, and/or a rationalization.

5:15 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"Clinically, are psychological evaluations/profiles predictive? And if so, why?"

---

Actually, although I have a bit of contempt for people in psychology and other soft sciences (except for Helen Smith, of course) ... there are a few objectively studied tests.

A weird one is a simple statistical test of a bunch of random questions. The questions are asked of people with known mental defects in the original situation. The results are then categorized, and new people coming in are evaluated according to how closely they fit the patterns of certain mental illnesses. (I think the approach is called "Minnesota Multiphasic" or the like, but I'm not a psychologist).

This was expanded to the hiring of sales people, for instance. Successful salespeople tend to answer a certain way (for whatever reason) to "Do you like cooked carrots or raw carrots?", and over 100 or 200 questions, deception can be rooted out and super-duper salesmen can be found. Or according to the theory anyway.

5:32 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Damn liberals believing in evolution.

The world is only 6000 years old.

5:34 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

I second Cham's call for examples and also call for Vox to provide any examples of this supposed atheist conspiracy.

While it's nice that Helen still has the presence of mind to be able to question what she sees, hears, and reads, it's kind of sad to see that she is resorting to attacking what she disagrees with in such a reflexive and shallow manner.

"Beware of studies that show free will to be more and more of an illusion", but only because we say so, and not because we've provided you with any kind of logical reason for doing so, studies that disprove the studies that we're reflexively opposed to, or even a simple example of why they're wrong. Such an argument is no different than religious people who insist on telling others to believe in their ridiculous fairy tales just because they say so and not because what they're saying makes any sense at all or because what others are saying is wrong.

While it's true that "free will" is non-falsifiable because "free will", like ghosts, souls, gods, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and so on, is not measurable or observable (as of yet) and therefore ought not be the subject of scientific inquiry (as of yet), it's not true that the idea that people make subconscious choices that can be altered via regulation or probably will make conscious choices that ought to be prevented via regulation is a bad idea - because people do make subconscious choices that can and probably should be altered via regulation (or by some other means) and probably will make conscious choices that ought to be prevented via regulation.

For example, the default position for most people, as for most, if not all, animals, is to do less work, not more work to achieve whatever it is that they're trying to achieve. Most people - even inner-city dwellers - could easily grow some of their own foodstuffs and cook their own food, but they don't. They could grow (or pick) and preserve many of their own fruits, herbs, and vegetables and make their own breads, cheeses, butter, and other foods that they eat on a regular basis. Why don't they? Because getting these things by way of trading has been made easier because of the market economy that we live in. The downside to all of this is that people are less-connected with where their food comes from, how it's produced and how it's prepared and are increasingly becoming more and more helpless around the kitchen, thus causing them to turn to processed foods more often (or entirely) - which is one major cause of obesity, which is causing a huge number of problems.

We could easily ignore any studies that show a causal link between eating more processed foods, obesity, and obesity's externalities (like increased fuel usage by airlines, buses, and automobiles (all that extra fat is causing the fuel economy of plains, buses, and automobiles to decrease), increased food consumption (while heavy exercisers do eat much more than the average person, so, too, do the fatties), pollution, and more) and the subconscious choices that lead to such behavior and results and ignore those who call for regulations intended to affect the kind of behavioral changes in individuals needed to prevent such behaviors, and thus prevent such behaviors' results; we could do that on the grounds that the idea of large numbers of people responding to incentives in a predictable manner is stupid just because we don't like the fact that we live in a political world where everything we do affects someone else in some way. We could do that...but why would we? Simply because we don't like reality? Such a blind reaction deserves the same ridicule that so many of us atheists heap upon people who would attempt to base laws upon religion (which, over the past couple thousand years, have produced cynically-hilarious results).

6:04 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger blake said...

Case in point: J. Bowen

6:08 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

It occurs to me that the idea of "free will" is bound up with the idea of "I'm so damned important".

Frankly, everyone is born, he or she does stuff in life, and then he or she dies.

A few names have survived over a couple of thousand years (and so what - the guy's friggin' dust), but no one's name on this board will probably even last a 100 years after he/she dies.

Basta.

6:15 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

If you chose vanilla ice cream over chocolate (and it was probably your subconscious doing the choosing) ... who cares.

6:16 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

If you chose vanilla ice cream over chocolate (and it was probably your subconscious doing the choosing) ... who cares.

How many people choose vanilla over chocolate ice cream because of how they were raised?

I know people who did not like to eat certain foods because their parents were terrible cooks, they were terrible cooks, and they never ventured out of their safe zone when dining out. By preparing the foods that they didn't like in a different way than what they were accustomed to, I convinced them that their own hatred of [pick your food: Brussel sprouts, asparagus, egg plant, wheat bread, scallops, pie (yes, pie)] was based upon their own bad experiences that they had little control over, whether because they actually had no control or because they were too ignorant to know that they had control.

Also, how many people choose vanilla over chocolate because of their biology (your taste buds are replaced every seven years or so)?

On top of that, how many people choose vanilla over chocolate because of their biological reaction to their parents' or their own poor cooking skills?

6:26 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Aaron said...

Pixy Misa;

"JG - Correct. Libet's experiments that showed that conscious awareness of a decision followed the neuronal activity for acting upon that decision are another key finding in this area. And since these experiments define free will operationally, Francis Poretto's objections are rendered false.

So yes, there's very sound scientific reason for considering free will an illusion."


And there it is.

The participants were there voluntarily, and whenever it happened to be that they began wanting the press the button, they pressed it because they wanted to. That is free will. Choosing to instead define free will "operationally" means testing for something we don't actually have any reason to care about. We care about free will because our ideas of moral responsibility and political/social freedom depends upon it, e.g. if there is no free will then either all sexual intercourse is rape, or none is. But all of these purposes are served quite well if we consider that free will is simply the liberty of doing as one chooses, regardless of what may lie behind that choice.

Penn;

"Misc comments: (1) the science is overwhelming -- humans and other beings do not have the physical capability to make a conscious, rational choice;"

Obviously false.

When people created such terms as "conscious", "rational", and "choice", they were picking out stuff they could observe in others and experience in themselves. If those observations were simply wrong, then human perception is too warped to trust any of our observations including experimental ones, and all of science is overturned at once, including the science allegedly proving your point. If not, then you're using some unusual definitions and then applying the results back to the ordinary usages, a garden variety fallacy of equivocation.

"(2) this has nothing to do with political or religious ideology, it's just the way the world works (to the best of our current knowledge);"

Simply not true: if a political ideology appeals to some field of inquiry for support, and if a religious doctrine takes a position on it, then the results are, quite obviously, relevant to those political and religious questions.

"(3) current knowledge comes from persistent testing of falsifiable ideas (the first commenter is flat wrong -- free will is easily testable);"

I know of the studies that allegedly demonstrate that free will does not exist (or at least, the ones hard determinists keep citing) To a one, they test for incompatibilist libertarian free will. That is, they went looking for something which isn't determined, nor is it non-determined (because that would be random and hence not free), nor yet in some liminal space between the two (because that would just be determinism with the occasional random and hence still unfree input) -- yes, they spent time, effort, and taxpayer money looking for something with a contradictory definition and then acted as if they had added to the sum of human knowledge by not finding it.

6:27 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Aaron said...

Pt. 2

"(4) the point everyone tends to miss is that our minds make choices in highly predictable ways, which is the current focus of research to figure out just how that happens;"

Quite the contrary, anyone willing to be honest with himself can see it for himself by introspection.

"(5) the regulation czars haven't figured out that they're subject to the same constraints (philosopher kings exist only in the imagination);"

Well, if you want a philosopher-king, what you want is someone who will reliably make wise and good decisions. And for that you need someone with robust reasons why he would make those choices and not others.

Of course, in the real world the mere fact of setting someone apart from others as the philosopher-king (or any kind of king) gives him interests which are different from those of people, who are the ones his rule was intended to benefit in the first place. Therefore there are actually robust reasons he would refuse to make only wise and good decisions, so philosopher-kings are fantasies after all.

"(6) the built in choice biases that make rational choices impossible make perfect evolutionary sense..."

1) If you know which biases they are, and can spot them in yourself, you can correct for them.

2) But if they make perfect evolutionary sense, perhaps they aren't so irrational after all? Like the traveler's dilemma; if the "rational" (i.e., Nash) strategy consistently loses as compared to an "irrational" strategy, perhaps rationality in this case lies with an expected value perspective rather than the Nash equilibrium perspective?

Brian Macker;

"You see a non-falsifiable hypothesis makes no real world predictions that can be tested. Which means it has no informational content about the real world, and no ability to predict. If it could make predictions about the real world then we could test those predictions and if they were not true the theory would be falsified."

So, does compatibilism make any predictions about the world? Yes, that the interior mental life determines at least some of what happens, that the causes of our actions are at least in part psychological. For example, a person who has a phobia of spiders will run from the room, but a therapist can gradually introduce him to more spidery things in a safe way until he loses his fear of spiders. This change is a change to precisely his mental life. By contrast, no amount of therapy can make two magnets do anything but push each other apart (or pull together, as the case may be), because those are truly mechanistic.

Someone may try to refute me by saying that what really changed for the patient was something about his physical brain. But if you follow that line of thought you would also say that the mental itself reducible to the brain; but this means you have failed even to contradict me, let alone refute me, since the part of the brain to be altered is one of those parts which is or causes psychology.

(Of course I know that you personally are a compatibilist.)

"Vox, your claims about the inability of atheists to "concoct a coherent substitute for 'God's Game, God's Rules'" is wrong, and is based on your ignorance more than anything else."

Well?

6:29 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Aaron said...

Pt. 3

Chuck Pelto;

"The ones driven by 'deterministics' are the ones that 'drive on' into the croc infested river.

The ones with 'free will' are the ones who, despite their instinct to 'drive on' across the river, stand away. Because of their better sense of reality."


But having a better sense of reality is still a cause, just as much as a drive to cross the river. They're free in exacty the same sense, of doing what they want.

David Baker:

"After all, even I would like to believe that my choice for lunch is my own, rather than the expression of some inner directive."

But a choice that is your own in any real sense is the same thing as an inner directive. This is the essential incoherence of incompatibilism; you want to make a choice, yet have it be free of your own pre-existing personality and desires (which you know to have been formed by circumstances outside of your control, e.g., being born where and when you were rather than, say, early medieval Central Asia). But if is not caused by your personality, etc, how is it your own?nse is the same thing as an inner directive. This is the essential incoherence of incompatibilism; you want to make a choice, yet have it be free of your own pre-existing personality and desires (which you know to have been formed by circumstances outside of your control, e.g., being born where and when you were rather than, say, early medieval Central Asia). But if is not caused by your personality, etc, how is it your own?

"You must have missed the reference to Open Theism or not understood it. There is no direct claim to an "all-knowing" God in the Bible, Calvinism and conventional Sunday School theology notwithstanding."

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." One of the Proverbs, forgot the chapter and verse numbers.

Not to mention Romans 9, where Paul directly asserts almost everything that would later be called Calvinism. Sorry, if Christianity is true then predestination is too.

JG;

The people around you may not be able to care a hundred years from now, but I suspect they care right now.

6:34 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"The people around you may not be able to care a hundred years from now, but I suspect they care right now."

----

Yeah, but they'll be dead too in a hundred years.

But for some reason, I do try to do good things for people around me. Why not.

6:40 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Demonspawn said...

Someone may try to refute me by saying that what really changed for the patient was something about his physical brain. But if you follow that line of thought you would also say that the mental itself reducible to the brain; but this means you have failed even to contradict me, let alone refute me, since the part of the brain to be altered is one of those parts which is or causes psychology.

Actually, cognitive therapy has demonstrated changes in brain chemistry the same as psychotropic drugs which make the same changes in decision-making.

So if we were to examine the brain chemistry of 100 people which we made unafraid of spiders via therapy, and found a way to make that same change in brain chemistry via a drug, then we could simply give a drug rather than go through the process of having the mind reprogram itself.

But that further demonstrates that it is the chemical switches in your brain making the decision, rather than the imagined free will.

Like we have done with the flow of water, it won't surprise me if down the road we can come up with equations for human behavior as well. It's just that human behavior will have much more variables than slope of surface, viscosity, and gravity.

6:42 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

And something for the Bible-Thumpers:

Fundamentalist Christians claim they get their morality from God or, more specifically, from the Bible.

But it is undisputed that many of the positive figures in the Bible did some pretty horrid things, including God in the Old Testament.

My question is: If you don't have a morality independent of the Bible and Christianity, how do you instinctively KNOW to make an obvious distinction between certain types of morality in the Bible?

Why not stone a woman for adultery if it's in the Bible? There's lots of terrible stuff. But this very act of picking and choosing involves a morality that is above the Bible or Christianity.

Just wanted to mention that to the Fundamental Christians who think that agnostics or atheists are without any morals.

6:44 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Aaron
RE: Try....

But having a better sense of reality is still a cause, just as much as a drive to cross the river. They're free in exacty the same sense, of doing what they want. -- Aaron

....not to be too deluded.

[1] Reality is what we perceive.
[2] What we do with it is 'free will'. At least for sentient beings.
[3] The wildebeest that dive into the river, in that crummy analogy which equated wildebeest with humans, don't have any sense at all, except their instincts. And maybe their 'uneducated' to boot. If they'd seen their comrades eaten alive by crocs, they MIGHT have better sense, like the ones that don't dive into the river immediately upon reaching it.

Sooooo....

....are you saying:

[1] That humans are driven purely by instinct?
[2] Or that humans are poorly educated?
[3] Or both?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Education replaces an empty mind with an open one.]

7:22 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:22 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: Your Ignorance....

....is showing.

But it is undisputed that many of the positive figures in the Bible did some pretty horrid things, including God in the Old Testament. -- JG

What gives you the idea that Christians are driven by the Old Testament?

My question is: If you don't have a morality independent of the Bible and Christianity, how do you instinctively KNOW to make an obvious distinction between certain types of morality in the Bible? -- JG

It's called 'free will'. I read. I observe. I consider. I decide.

And 'instinct' has NOTHING to do with it.

Why not stone a woman for adultery if it's in the Bible? There's lots of terrible stuff. But this very act of picking and choosing involves a morality that is above the Bible or Christianity. -- JG

Are you arguing FOR or AGAINST 'free will' here?

Just wanted to mention that to the Fundamental
Christians who think that agnostics or atheists are without any morals.
-- JG

Who said they didn't have 'morals'?

It's not that they do or don't have morals. EVERYONE has 'morals'.

It's just that many of them are pretty crummy. And, as so oft seen around these days, (1) they make them up as they go along and (2) what they believed was bad yesterday, they consider good today. And they'll go back to yesterday in a heart-beat. If they're of a mind to.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.]

7:33 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

Although the concept of free will remains inherently compelling, and persists as an effective maintainer of sanity - in order to exist in fact, it must oppose the personality. Thus, what we call "free-will," or choice, is in reality the need to adapt. We are programmed to adapt, although we're not always successful.

I liked especially the example above of the spider, a dangerous creature - until it's proven otherwise. But even with such proof, few would venture into a "benign" cave blindfolded.

I also liked the example of the salesman, that testing may determine who will be successful. But, can you train the person to be successful? Ultimately, I say no. Anymore than you can train great writers. Or artists. Or great scientists.

In my own work, there's one factor, or trait, that determines the successful salesman. Without it, the "salesman" falters, and dies. This is true in all fields of endeavor, that each demands a certain intrinsic ability or talent to rise above the mundane.

Of the many possible examples, the consistent "salesman" is the easiest to isolate - because it comes down to a single, immutable trait. Which can be described in one, single word. Any guesses?

7:36 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Vox,

"There were no Dark Ages and this has been a matter of encyclopedic fact for more than 70 years."

Tell that to Encyclopedia Britannica. Just because historians do not like to use this pejorative term for the entire Middle Ages doesn't mean they aren't willing to do so for part of it.

The dark ages was a period after the fall of the Roman Empire during which much ancient knowledge was lost and little intellectual or other progress was made. The entire period of the Middle ages used to be called the dark ages but historians have dropped that practice.

There was none-the-less a period called the dark ages, and based on your comments you are both an apologist for it, and against the Enlightenment which put the final nail in it's coffin. You only confirmed my original remark.

I very much doubt that Daniel Dennett would be so careless as to state that, as you claim, that "the enlightenment was a failure". You sound like a creationist putting words into peoples mouths and twisting the meanings of things. Care to state the book and page on which Dennett claimed the Enlightment failed?

Success is relative and it's clear that there was a great leap forward during the Enlightenment away from the dogma of the Middle Ages. Do I have to list all the achievements and embarrass you further?

The enlightenment did not consist of a single goal that failed. That's ignorant and simplistic garbage. Do think the American Revolution was a failure? Sometimes I stand in awe at such gross ignorance, and twisted thinking.

"You really should attempt to correct the better informed when you're not even up to date on the current views of your own side."

The only thing I'm not up to date with is your warped interpretation of others views. I find it laughable that you think Enlightenment 2.0 is about a failure of the original Enlightenment. I betcha also think that continued scientific inquiry means that science is currently a failure. Have you ever made the argument that because we haven't found every single transitional fossil that the theory of natural selection is a failure?

Furthermore, you are mistaken to think there are only two sides to these issues. Daniel Dennett is not on "my side". The only person on my side is me.

8:25 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Aaron said...

Demonspawn:

"Actually"...

You failed to understand what I wrote.

9:05 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

"So, does compatibilism make any predictions about the world?"

I'm assuming you are not really asking a question since your next sentence is: "Yes, that the interior mental life determines at least some of what happens, that the causes of our actions are at least in part psychological."

No, this is wrong, compatibalism isn't some single hypothesis about the world. In fact it isn't even a hypothesis about the world. It's a classification that fits many different philosophies, some rational and others not. One is a compatibalist if one does not see any contradiction between free will and a deterministic world. That's all.

"Well?"

Well, what? Are you expecting me to write a book in a comments section.

The first thing I would point out is that "Gods game/Gods rules" is not itself not a proper basis for morality. It is a attempt at foundationalism and flounders upon the question of how we can tell if God is good, and whether one is speaking for god. We either do or do not have some independent metric upon which to judge whether the claimed "rules of god" are good or even have a god as their source. If we do not then theistic claims to moral authority are vacuous, and if we do then we have an independent understanding of what is good and can discard god.

This problem is inherent in moral systems based on revealed religion because that is their basis, foundationalism. Action A is considered good because "god says so". To which the question can be asked and what if god tells you do something bad [as is quite prevalent in the bible]?

I lead a moral life. I don't go around murdering people. My moral beliefs are quite coherent, and I'm an atheist. I know many other atheists who can give coherent reasons for acting morally in the absence of the existence of a god.

You'll notice that atheists are under represented in jail, and are not likely to stone mothers to death for adultery, nor fly planes into buildings.

I know of many incoherent atheist moralities, like communism, but they tend to be faith based like most religions, not rational. This is to be expected. I also know of many incoherent moralities which don't have a belief in leprechauns.

So what exactly is your question here other than "well?"

How about you ask me a moral question that you think I would be "incoherent" about and we'll see if I can answer it. I'll begin with a warning, my morality is not foundationalist.

9:23 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Demonspawn said...

Perhaps you failed to follow the conclusions of what I wrote.

In the course of determining which neurons need the right chemical balance in order to remove fear of spiders, then we can reach a point where we can determine if a person has a fear of spiders just by looking at their brain. If we can remove fear of spiders through drugs, then we can add it through drugs as well.

The conclusion is that fear of spiders, or any other trait, is controlled by brain chemistry. So how is that free will?

When it really comes down to it, given enough knowledge of how neuron mappings and chemical levels influence decisions, then, if given a proper brain scanning device, I can determine what decisions that someone is going to make in the near future.

Now, this is not deterministic for the rest of time as that person will come into contact with other people and other experiences which will change that mapping and chemistry.

But the end point is that (given enough knowledge of human behavior and human brains) I can figure out what decisions you're going to make just by looking at your brain. And, given absolute power, I could open up yer head, switch a neuron here or there, add a little more dopamine to this part, remove some serotonin from that part, and get you to do whatever I want you to do.

You have as much free will as a computer, as, ultimately, our brains our just big electrochemical computers themselves.

9:35 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Demonspawn

You have as much free will as a computer, as, ultimately, our brains our just big electrochemical computers themselves. -- Demonspawn

Well, I guess in his case....

Artificial intelligence is better than no intelligence at all.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[A closed mind gathers no intelligence.]

P.S. I guess that's really a good way to describe that sort of 'mentality'.

9:59 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Demonspawn
RE: You Only Wish

....I could open up yer head, switch a neuron here or there, add a little more dopamine to this part, remove some serotonin from that part, and get you to do whatever I want you to do. -- Demonspawn

You'd have to catch me first. And that would be rather difficult with a clip of ACP opening 'up yer head'. Indeed, it would make for an interesting 'education' for you.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Education replaces an empty mind with an 'open' one.]

10:04 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Aaron said...

Brian Macker;

Normally, when a person calls himself a compatibilist he believes both that free will and determinism are compatible with each other, and that they exist. That's the motive for asking the question in the first place: we experience ourselves having free will, and also discover that we are determined. Happily, upon examination there turns out not to be a problem. It could conceivably have been the case that there was determinism but no free will, e.g., no higher organisms, zombie world, or the like.

As far as "Well?" I see I struck a chord. I take your touchiness as proof of my point: ethics is not a solved problem. Not only could you not write a book because of time and length limits on what can be said, you can't gesture in the direction of the answer with any real conclusiveness. I am, however, glad to hear your assurances that you personally refrain from unlawful killings.

"You'll notice that atheists are under represented in jail"

Two experiments. First, stock a parole board with people who are convinced the surest sign that an inmate has abandoned the kind of thinking that leads to crime is that he has embraced rationalism and atheism, and see that the inmates get word of this. Second, compare the percent of regular churchgoers who end up in prison to the percent for non-churchgoers.

"and are not likely to stone mothers to death for adultery, nor fly planes into buildings."

Most of the theists I know aren't Muslims. Why link them in, but refuse the link with Communism for yourself?

Demonspawn;

"The conclusion is that fear of spiders, or any other trait, is controlled by brain chemistry. So how is that free will?"

What do you suppose my answer would be?

10:48 PM, July 06, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

"Normally, when a person calls himself a compatibilist he believes both that free will and determinism are compatible with each other, and that they exist."

Wrong. It's merely the belief that they are compatible. I believe that Islam is compatible with terrorism. I don't believe in either.


"As far as "Well?" I see I struck a chord. I take your touchiness as proof of my point: ethics is not a solved problem."

You didn't make a point. You were just being lazy, which is irritating. At least now you have made a statement that is addressable.

It's clear that you are confused. Ethics is a category like science. Do you think it would make sense to state "science is not a solved problem"?

Your expectations are strange, as are your questions. What's your criteria for determining when "science" or "ethics" are solved problems? Also what does this have to do with the original claim that about coherence?

Coherence is a different criteria that "solved". In fact, something can be coherent and false. I readily admit that my ethical beliefs may be false in any particular or as a whole, just like scientists admit that their theories may be false on any particular.

I wouldn't get too excited about my irritation with both Vox and your ignorance. It is not evidence that you are correct. I get irritated with Muslims, Wiccans, Scientologists, and objectivists too.

Let's start with some philosophical background upon which I base my ethics. To begin with I'm a pan-critical rationalist. Which is a coherent philosophical tradition.

"Two experiments. First, stock a parole board with people who are convinced the surest sign that an inmate has abandoned the kind of thinking that leads to crime is that he has embraced rationalism and atheism, and see that the inmates get word of this."

They don't gather the statistics at the parole board hearings. Also it's against the law to release prisoners based on religious affiliation. Are you claiming that atheists are being unjustly detained for longer periods in jail. Wouldn't this prejudice of parole boards also play out during trial and sentencing, and wouldn't that tend to cause more atheists to be thrown in jail? Are you telling me that being an open atheist like I am is likely to result in my unjust incarceration, due to the religious bigotry of judicial institutions?

Why the large conversion rate to Islam if you think that inmates try to sway predominately Christian parole boards?

"Second, compare the percent of regular churchgoers who end up in prison to the percent for non-churchgoers."

Why is church attendance inside prison at the same rate as outside prison? It's not like all the prisoners are flocking to church on the inside. If there really were some expectation that church gets you out then one would expect attendance to be very high. It isn't.

Your response is the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. The fact is that people who believe that god exists commit crimes all the time.

7:24 PM, July 07, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Aaron,

Most of the theists I know aren't Muslims. Why link them in, but refuse the link with Communism for yourself?

I thought you were aware of what's in the bible. It does call for stoning, and there are Christian sects that advocate such. Christian reconstructionists coming to mind. Aren't you aware of the long history of Christian atrocities justified by the bible, like witch burning and slave holding?

The reason I connect Christianity to these things is because there is a connection. Also Christians like to think that belief in a deity is a grounds for ethics. However there are multitudes of theistic religions that have sanctioned clearly unethical practices, all while claiming to be inerrant truths and enforcing blaspheme laws.

The reason why I don't connect my own beliefs with communism is because there is no connection. There is no more connection with my beliefs and communism than yours and communism. Do you feel a connection with communism just because you both fail to believe in Allah, Zeus, Thor, Mithra, or Leprechauns? I certainly don't. I also feel no connection with them just because I fail to believe in Yahweh, your deity.

This doesn't mean that I think you are in favor of stoning. It just puts to bed certain claims of moral superiority and authority that are made by the religious, including Christians.

7:25 PM, July 07, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Brian Macker
RE: Heh

Just because someone calls themselves a 'Christian' doesn't mean they ARE a 'Christian'.

All too many people rationalize away their bad behavior. We see that every day in places like Plymouth-Canton Community Schools in Michigan. Wherein they say, "Because of our SPECIAL situation, we can be racists."

But, as some Wag put it, 2000 years ago....

A tree is known by its fruit.

Or, to look at the obverse of what Bush the Elder said....

If it doesn't look like and duck and doesn't quack like a duck, it isn't a duck.

What's my point? It should be obvious. If someone doesn't do as Christ said to do: (1) love God with all their heart, mind, strength and spirit and (2) love their neighbor as they love themselves....well....YOU know.... Albeit you apparently don't appreciate it. At least by your comments about christians burning witches and owning slaves.

By the way. Where did you find that in the NEW portion of that Old Book?

People who claim to be christians and don't do what is called of them to do are either (1) liars or (2) having difficulty in their 'walk of faith'. Maybe even both, if they're lying to themselves.

Someone should 'help' them.

So tell US....

....how is loving thy neighbor—whom you may not necessarily know as a 'friend—as you love yourself 'evil'?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.]

2:51 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:13 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Chuck,

I get the same nonsense from Marxists. "Oh, no, Stalin wasn't really a Marxist. Not a true Marxist. Pol Pot? No. Mao? No."

Your claims just don't hold water. You can't just pull one quote out of the bible and claim that is the entirety of Christianity. Christianity consists of not only the bible, but other religious texts, institutions, and the living religion.

Vox opened himself up to all sorts of criticism when he said:
"You must have missed the reference to Open Theism or not understood it. There is no direct claim to an "all-knowing" God in the Bible, Calvinism and conventional Sunday School theology notwithstanding. Ergo no incompatibility."

His statement is a denial of the living religion. Which means that Christianity should get zero credit for any moral advances beyond what is in the bible.

So do you Chuck think Vox is a Christian or not? Apparently Vox doesn't think the Amish are Christians since their entire community is based on living traditions invented well after the bible was written. Who else aren't Christian?

Are you the arbiter of who is Christian and who is not.

Do you or do you not believe that the bible is inerrant?

Seems to me that the bible is like an instruction manual that contradicts itself. It's like instructions on a hair dry that says not to use near water but also claims to be waterproof and suggests that it be used in the shower.

I would hold the manufacturer and seller of such a dryer responsible for any accidents that result from following such instructions. Even more so if they claimed the instructions were inerrant and that they have god working in the technical writing department.

The reason why Christianity is responsible for some of the atrocities committed in it's name is that it is easy to interpret the instructions given by the bible and the living religion as sanctioning those atrocities.

The belief in "love thy neighbor" is only one component of Christianity. You have to look at the whole machine. Sure it might act as a brake on human behavior if it was installed in the correct location in the machine. However the bible doesn't say where to install the brake. The living tradition of the Amish quite apparently have it installed in the correct location to have an effect.

Which Vox would not give them credit for if it wasn't exactly spelled out in the bible. Otherwise Vox would have to either be Amish or disavow them as being Christian (given his statement).

Other components of Christianity in the bible tend to act as accelerators towards violence, and some of them are at the heart of Christianity (via the bible or the living traditions).

Many of the atrocities of the Inquisition and Spanish conquest of the Americas were sanctioned on the belief in the existence of hell. The idea being that someone who is not on the right path to Christ, like you, was in danger of an eternity in hell. Not only that belief, but that your heresies would endangering others who might also end up in hell. It is quite clear that any punishment that the inquisitor could met out is minor compared to the danger you are putting your soul in. The bible is inerrant so therefore, we true Christians have carte blanche to torture you to the point of redemption.

So the brake of "love thy neighbor" can be improperly installed, and it can also be over powered by the accelerator of "fear of hell".

The reason for this is that the bible is not the word of some infallible all loving deity but the work of a committee of ethical primitives. The quality is so low that I've seen better instruction manuals translated from Chinese non-English speakers.

8:14 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Here's a great video that uses the theme of "religious text as instruction manual".
Instruction Manual of Life by Qualia Soup & Theramin Trees

8:30 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Brian Macker
RE: Yeah...Right....

I get the same nonsense from Marxists. "Oh, no, Stalin wasn't really a Marxist. Not a true Marxist. Pol Pot? No. Mao? No." -- Brian Macker

...and Christ isn't a Christian.

So tell US, Brian, how many millions did Christ kill? How has His command to "love thy neighbor as yourself" damned humanity to hatred and bloodshed?

I can't help it if you insist on being either totally ignorant or worse. That's completely in YOUR head.

I know lots of people have done evil in the name of Christ. But as I attempted to point out to you, and you obviously refused to understand—for whatever reason—just because someone calls themselves a christian, doesn't make them one.

On the other hand, people like you, who refuse to understand, do seem to do pretty good business telling lies.

Hope that helps....

RE: Vox

So do you Chuck think Vox is a Christian or not? Apparently Vox doesn't think the Amish are Christians since their entire community is based on living traditions invented well after the bible was written. Who else aren't Christian? -- Brian Macker

Vox 'killed' me on his blog because I came to the defense of a woman he was, in my honestly held opinion, 'assaulting'.

I think he, as much as anyone else, even myself, need 'help' in our respective 'walks'.

Come to your own conclusion.

RE: The Bible

Do you or do you not believe that the bible is inerrant?

Seems to me that the bible is like an instruction manual that contradicts itself.
-- Brian Macker

I felt the same way, up to the point I became a REAL christian. And even for a while shortly thereafter, too.

Lots of what I read in there—on a nightly basis—didn't make much sense to me. However, a short while after that life-changing event, I noticed that passages that I'd read that didn't make sense, started making sense. And, I could correlate one passage with another and between them, they made a LOT of sense. Or at least a LOT more than they had separately when I didn't understand either of them in the first place.

I expressed this phenomenon to a certified Muslim friend of mine, i.e., a non-Arabic fellow Mensan who had 'taken the oath' while stationed by the US Air Force in Iran. He described it, very effectively, as "Believing IS 'seeing'."

It's like Paul in Damascus, having the scales removed from his eyes so that he could see.

So, as for 'contradictions', please point them out to US. [Note: I keep asking people who say there are contradictions, and I hardly get ANY answers back. I have to wonder about that.]

Now there are some that I'm aware of, but they are hardly a matter of consequence. For example, in one gospel the group that came to seize Christ in the garden is described as a "company". In another gospel as a "crowd". Hardly significant. But if you know of something that IS significant, I'd like to see it. Please cite book/chapter/verse and give your explanation as to why you think it is contradictory. And PUHLEASE, don't compare Old to New. It's comparing apples to oranges.

RE: The Whole Think

The belief in "love thy neighbor" is only one component of Christianity. You have to look at the whole machine. -- Brian Macker

I'll wager MY dollars against YOUR donuts that I've a better grasp of "the whole machine" than YOU do.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[There is none so blind as he who will not see.]

10:11 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. And your point with the YouTube thing is........

10:21 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"But as I attempted to point out to you, and you obviously refused to understand—for whatever reason—just because someone calls themselves a christian, doesn't make them one."

----

Popes have done things like ordering entire villages to be burned down (because the people apparently weren't pious enough).

According to your line of reasoning then, the Pope is not Christian. And most of the Bible is not Christian (just the few chapters at the end).

On a side note, Chuck, why are you so absolutely convinced that you known the true nature of things (i.e. about the universe, religion and all of those meta-questions)? I've always wondered why some Christians, and some Islamists, think that way. And why they are so judgmental of others.

10:32 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.S. By the way....

....we're drifting WAAAAAY off-topic.

What does any of your hatred of christianity have to do with the concept of 'free will'?

10:37 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: Still At It?

Popes have done things like ordering entire villages to be burned down (because the people apparently weren't pious enough). -- JG

Still refusing to recognize that people who do not follow Christ's commands are not behaving as Christians are supposed to?

How very typical of the so-called 'progressives'.

And, as I asked Brian....

....what does your hatred of christians have to do with the thread's topic of 'free will'?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Ignorance can be cured -- but stupid is forever.]

10:41 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

A lot of nonsense has ben spouted here, a great part of it off-topic. The slanders against Christianity are both inappropriate and ill-founded.

Christianity is not any of its members, or any subgroup of its members; it's what Christ taught.

Christian theology is summarized in the Nicene Creed. Christian ethics are expressed in the Ten Commandments of Mount Sinai and the Two Great Commandments to which they owe their foundation.

Regardless of his elevation in the Church hierarchy, one who contravenes the teachings of Christ is not a Christian. That applies to several popes; have a look at the history of the Renaissance papacy for some particularly lurid examples.

Finally, no man can alter Christianity by his own authority, not even a pope. Christ's teachings are above human alteration; one who promulgates something that contradicts them is founding a new faith -- a non-Christian faith.

Now, would the militant atheists among us please allow us who believe a little peace and quiet? This was supposed to be a discussion of the reality of free will, wasn't it?

10:44 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:44 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"....what does your hatred of christians have to do with the thread's topic of 'free will'?"

--

Free will, consciousness and religion are all intertwined.

If we were all like robots - with absolutely no control over our actions - the idea of God (in the sense that Christians think of him) would be superfluous. If we had no consciousness, it would be obvious that we would have no free will, and it wouldn't MATTER what else existed in terms of a God.

It's all intertwined in some way.

---

Why do you think it's hatred if I ask questions about why a lot of Christians are a certain way?

10:45 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Chucks argument - that anyone who does something bad is not a Christian, so Christians are above reproach - is startlingly similar to the feminists argument along those lines.

If you point out something absurd or unfair in common feminist thought, a feminist will simply say, "that's not my brand of feminism".

10:49 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: [OT] Side Notes

On a side note, Chuck, why are you so absolutely convinced that you known the true nature of things (i.e. about the universe, religion and all of those meta-questions)? I've always wondered why some Christians, and some Islamists, think that way. And why they are so judgmental of others. -- JG

In the first place, it's not my job description to judge people. It's His.

So kindly disabuse yourself of that idea.

As for my knowledge of the Life, the Universe and Everything.....it just might be that the answer is 42.

On the other hand it might not. It might be 1,230,123,923.234212.

On the third hand, it might be some Good Book handed down through the millennia, wherein there are found numerous examples of prophecy that have come true and are still coming true in our own lifetime.

I may not know it all. But I'll wager I know more about it than YOU.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.]

P.S. One has to be REALLY 'sick'—in the head—not to want to be healed.

I think it has something to do with over-weened pride. Like Sanjays or the subject's parents in that YouTube thing.

10:49 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"In the first place, it's not my job description to judge people. It's His."

---

So why are YOU so heavy into judgment? Are you God's self-appointed deputy?

10:51 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Is this woman a Christian?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3mDLsyn6ns

She's for real, she was on a show called Trading Spouses, and was apparently not entirely happy with her placement family.

10:54 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: Sooooo.....

Free will, consciousness and religion are all intertwined.

If we were all like robots - with absolutely no control over our actions - the idea of God (in the sense that Christians think of him) would be superfluous.
-- JG

Am I to understand that you believe in 'free will'?

Good on you.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The truth will set people free, but first it will piss them off.]

Or, as Michael Card put it in his song...

He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
Scandalon

10:58 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"Am I to understand that you believe in 'free will'?"

----

You asked me that above, Chuckles.

I don't know. I don't claim to know the ultimate reality. I am interested in approaches to finding answers, ways of thinking about it and details about life that point to possible answers.

Just to be clear: I'm not acting as a lawyer who is presenting my "side". I am discussing the issue.

11:01 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. Here's the song up on YouTube.

Reciprocity for Brian....

11:03 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Here's something I've always wondered about - and it also involves free will - if any of the Christians here want to take a shot at it:

If you had been born into a family that was heavily into Buddhism, in a country that was predominantly Buddhist, do you think that you would be a Christian today?

That also has to do with free will, why exactly you *chose* to be a Christian. And I think you have to admit that you didn't *choose* beforehand to be born into a certain family or a certain country.

11:12 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: Well Then....

Just to be clear: I'm not acting as a lawyer who is presenting my "side". I am discussing the issue. -- JG

....with that argument about 'robots' you seem to me to have the behavior of someone who is seeking the truth of a matter.

Are you a 'robot'? Robots don't 'seek' the truth. They know the truth, THEIR truth because it has been programmed into them. Therefore, you don't seem to me to be a robot. Ergo, you—with your seeking—seem to me to be evidence of the existence of God, in the Christian sense. Whether you like it or not.

Why?

Because it is written....

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men...

And....

yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end..

You fit the description most excellently. And that description was written by Solomon.

Hope that helps....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[And all you come this way must be offended. -- Michael Card, Scandalon]

11:36 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: If

If you had been born into a family that was heavily into Buddhism, in a country that was predominantly Buddhist, do you think that you would be a Christian today? -- JG

Let me answer your question with a question. It's the socratic method....

Where do people raised in Muslim households who convert to Christ come from? How does that happen?

The answer, to your question, you now have. Whether you like it or not.

Additionally, in keeping with this thread's topic, it's evidence of 'free will'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[All theory is against freedom of the will; all experience is for it. -- Samuel Johnson]

11:40 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Brian Macker
RE: AHA!!!!

While looking for a passage to cite to JG, I came across a passage in keeping with my earlier comment about "Believing is 'seeing'."

I wanted to share it with you....

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is....

Hope that helps....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[I am a better believer, and all serious souls are better believers, in immortality than we can give grounds for. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson]

11:44 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Chuckles,

You don't have to look around for Bible passages to cite to me. I don't find it compelling or convincing.

What you are trying to do is prove the correctness of your religion with the religion's own pronouncements.

11:48 AM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: JG
RE: [OT]

You don't have to look around for Bible passages to cite to me. I don't find it compelling or convincing.

Having hears, they hear but do not understand. Having eyes, they see but do not perceive. Eh?

For their hearts have waxed gross.

What you are trying to do is prove the correctness of your religion with the religion's own pronouncements. -- JG

No. I'm using YOU as an example of the accuracy of what is written in there.

And, truth to tell, it is like that YouTube thing that Brian Macker linked to. You in the position of the young women kicking the subjects 'cabinet' because they don't agree with it/him. When all he wanted to do was share his ideas with others. And those others hated him for it. Just like they hated Christ for sharing ideas with them.

Thanks for that demonstration.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The Truth will out....]

P.S. Thanks Brian. That link IS coming in handy.....

12:53 PM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

"
And, as I asked Brian....

....what does your hatred of christians have to do with the thread's topic of 'free will'?"


I'm married to a Christian and most of my friends are Christian. Well, maybe not Christian according to you. Are Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, and Protestants of the Christian faith?

Do you believe that any Christian ever committed murder?

I believe the topic got on the issue of Christianity because a Christian here was voicing his hatred of atheists, and you were cheering him on.

One actual ideology which is anti-free will and pro determinism is behaviorism. Some of the claims being made against atheists in general might apply to them.

I think however that you guys should start naming names. Who exactly are these people you claim that want to take away your freedom with the excuse that you have no free will? Name the individuals and then we can determine what their ideology is and whether they have ulterior motives.

9:17 PM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Brian Macker
RE: [OT] Again....

I'm married to a Christian and most of my friends are Christian. Well, maybe not Christian according to you. -- Brian Macker

....with the off-topic

As for your claim of marriage to and friends of Christians. How can you tell? Just because they told you so?

Heck Bill Clinton and Barack Obama claim to be 'centerists'. And maybe they aren't outright liars. Maybe they really THINK they're such.

Are Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, and Protestants of the Christian faith? -- Brian Macker

I'm certain that there are. But I'm not their judge. He is.

Do you believe that any Christian ever committed murder? -- Brian Macker

I'm certain there are. And maybe they became Christians AFTER the fact. I'm not a big fan of the death penalty and a long time in prison gives one time to reflect on past misdeeds.

RE: Your Approach to Debate....

....reminds me of typical 'progressive' mentality. All questions and not much in the way answers to questions given.

RE: Getting Off-Topic

I believe the topic got on the issue of Christianity because a Christian here was voicing his hatred of atheists, and you were cheering him on. -- Brian Macker

Someone in that instance needs some 'help'. Or maybe you're overly sensitive and/or projecting. Based on your previous comportment, I'd suspect the latter.

If it's Vox you're thinking of, I've already addressed that.

RE: On-Topic

One actual ideology which is anti-free will and pro determinism is behaviorism. Some of the claims being made against atheists in general might apply to them.

I think however that you guys should start naming names. Who exactly are these people you claim that want to take away your freedom with the excuse that you have no free will? Name the individuals and then we can determine what their ideology is and whether they have ulterior motives.
-- Brian Macker

I don't think we need to look very far with the searching for names. I think if you peruse the comments above you'll find some good examples. One that springs to mind is our friend Demonspawn.

But I would like to see the names of the authors of such pieces. And see their cirriculum vitae.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.]

8:55 AM, July 09, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: More Evidence

Oddly enough, it seems that the BlogVader deemed it worthy of notice that if someone changes the way they 'think', they might reduce the 'stress' in their 'life'.

This seems to me to require a specific act of {HORROR!!!!} 'free will' in order to think 'differently' than which we are 'natural [manly]' inclined.

What do YOU think?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[To stand still on the summit of reflection is difficult, and in the natural course of things, who cannot go forward steps back. -- Gaius Velleius Paterculus]

7:04 PM, July 09, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Chuck,

I get it. No true Scotsman.

You must be totally bat shit crazy if you think only God decides who is a Christian.

-Brian

10:41 PM, July 09, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Brian Macker
RE: Yeah....

You must be totally bat shit crazy if you think only God decides who is a Christian. -- Brian Macker

....but I was dropped on my head as a small child.

I guess that's why I took up jumping out of perfectly good aircraft in flight.

What's your excuse? For being totally 'stupid'. As in my working definition of the term, e.g., 'Ignorant and proud of it.'

Regards,

Chuck(le)
P.S. What was that business I read so long ago in that Old Book?????

Oh Yeah....here it is....

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

2:51 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.S. Thanks for confirming my stated understanding of your modus operandi, as in never REALLY engaging in honest 'debate', i.e., never really answering questions, e.g., how do you know your 'wife' and 'friends' are 'Christians'.

2:58 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.P.S. From the late Rich Mullins....

Remember, you did not choose me;
No. I have chosen you.
Remember, you did not choose me;
No. I have chosen you.
The world will show you hatred.
The Spirit show you truth;
That where I am you may also be. -- That Where I Am on YouTube.

The song starts at 2:20 into the 5:21.

3:29 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Chuck,

"Thanks for confirming my stated understanding of your modus operandi, as in never REALLY engaging in honest 'debate', i.e., never really answering questions, e.g., how do you know your 'wife' and 'friends' are 'Christians'."

LOL, do you ask yourself how you know that the Pope is Catholic, or that Hitler was a Nazi? I can see you staying up at night pondering whether Pope Benedict XVI is truly a Catholic.

One think I do know and that is that Christ wasn't a christian, but a Jew.

"Honest'debate'" doesn't involve answering ever stupid question the other person has to offer.

You'll notice that I've moved out of the "trying to reason with you" stage of this conversation, because you are quite unreasonable.

9:17 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

Chuck, Brian:

The two of you are both becoming tediously repetitious. Why not agree to disagree and leave it at that? There are some questions we can't answer, you know:

-- Is there a God?
-- What preceded the Big Bang?
-- Why on Earth did the Red Sox trade Babe Ruth?

Attempts to demonstrate that you "know more" about one of these subjects than those around you simply make you look like a conversational boor.

9:26 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Chuck,

One parting thought. If you don't know who is really a Christian then perhaps all the good things that are done in Christianity are done by non-Christians and all the bad by the true Christians.

11:15 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

"Attempts to demonstrate that you "know more" about one of these subjects than those around you simply make you look like a conversational boor."

What? Like injecting your superior knowledge of what constitutes the boring? Also take a look in the mirror at your first comment here.

Plus you are wrong in your comment. There are plenty of notions of god that we can know don't exist. I don't ask the question in the ignorant way you phrased it. "Does god exist" is ambiguous.

Can you answer the question "Does Chuckie exist?" I say it depends on what you are referring to when you say "Chuckie". Are you talking about a specific person, a fictional character, a fictional character as a fictional character?

Sorry you find such subjects boring. Perhaps you should do something else with your time. I found church boring because they would spew endless nonsense without any questioning. So I don't go there.

11:26 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Penn,

Re your comment: "Misc comments: (1) the science is overwhelming -- humans and other beings do not have the physical capability to make a conscious, rational choice; (2) this has nothing to do with political or religious ideology, it's just the way the world works (to the best of our current knowledge); (3) current knowledge comes from persistent testing of falsifiable ideas (the first commenter is flat wrong -- free will is easily testable); (4) the point everyone tends to miss is that our minds make choices in highly predictable ways, which is the current focus of research to figure out just how that happens; (5) the regulation czars haven't figured out that they're subject to the same constraints (philosopher kings exist only in the imagination); and (6) the built in choice biases that make rational choices impossible make perfect evolutionary sense...

I'll supply abundant references if anyone wants to look at the evidence."


What you mistake for evidence is actually interpretation of evidence. You too are suffering from assumptions and theories that make your conclusions incorrect. I actually find this kind of thinking silly.

For example, you are implicitly assuming that in order to make rational choice that one must be omniscient. Our brains cannot monitor themselves in an infinite regress, and that seems to be your criteria for deciding whether they can make rational choices.

You assume that the existence of bias is disproof of choice when in fact it's just the opposite. Your expectation are that brains reflect reality perfectly without interpretation. This is an impossible standard to meet. Our brains are information processing systems, not omni-transparent and omni-modeling systems.

The fact that we have biases is exactly how we make choices. A bigots biases are what makes him choose the things he does. The fact that others are not biased in the same direction shows that this bias is not hard wired and in fact reflects a part of the decision process.

I would also point out that some who are anti-free will (I don't know if this includes you) criticize the concept based on causation. The claim being that every aspect of your choice was cause by prior events. This too is a ridiculous criticism. Do you know why.

I leave it to people like Francis who find those of superior knowledge to be boring to figure that last one out.

Science is NOT discovering that free will doesn't exist. That is just an improper interpretation of the discoveries.

These "new" discoveries are obvious based on what we already know about the brain thirty years ago. Of course our final decisions are based on the fact that brain cells fire. Of course, we do not perceive the world as a bunch of brain cells firing. There is no need for our brains to monitor the activity of each brain cell, and it would be impossible anyway.

The fact remains that we do make choices. That we consist of a mechanism to do so doesn't alter that fact.

11:46 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Penn,

Re your comment: "Misc comments: (1) the science is overwhelming -- humans and other beings do not have the physical capability to make a conscious, rational choice; (2) this has nothing to do with political or religious ideology, it's just the way the world works (to the best of our current knowledge); (3) current knowledge comes from persistent testing of falsifiable ideas (the first commenter is flat wrong -- free will is easily testable); (4) the point everyone tends to miss is that our minds make choices in highly predictable ways, which is the current focus of research to figure out just how that happens; (5) the regulation czars haven't figured out that they're subject to the same constraints (philosopher kings exist only in the imagination); and (6) the built in choice biases that make rational choices impossible make perfect evolutionary sense...

I'll supply abundant references if anyone wants to look at the evidence."

What you mistake for evidence is actually interpretation of evidence. You too are suffering from assumptions and theories that make your conclusions incorrect. I actually find this kind of thinking silly.

For example, you are implicitly assuming that in order to make rational choice that one must be omniscient. Our brains cannot monitor themselves in an infinite regress, and that seems to be your criteria for deciding whether they can make rational choices.

You assume that the existence of bias is disproof of choice when in fact it's just the opposite. Your expectation are that brains reflect reality perfectly without interpretation. This is an impossible standard to meet. Our brains are information processing systems, not omni-transparent and omni-modeling systems.

The fact that we have biases is exactly how we make choices. A bigots biases are what makes him choose the things he does. The fact that others are not biased in the same direction shows that this bias is not hard wired and in fact reflects a part of the decision process.

I would also point out that some who are anti-free will (I don't know if this includes you) criticize the concept based on causation. The claim being that every aspect of your choice was cause by prior events. This too is a ridiculous criticism. Do you know why.

I leave it to people like Francis who find those of superior knowledge to be boring to figure that last one out.

Science is NOT discovering that free will doesn't exist. That is just an improper interpretation of the discoveries.

These "new" discoveries are obvious based on what we already know about the brain thirty years ago. Of course our final decisions are based on the fact that brain cells fire. Of course, we do not perceive the world as a bunch of brain cells firing. There is no need for our brains to monitor the activity of each brain cell, and it would be impossible anyway.

The fact remains that we do make choices. That we consist of a mechanism to do so doesn't alter that fact.

11:49 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Penn,

Re your comment: "Misc comments: (1) the science is overwhelming -- humans and other beings do not have the physical capability to make a conscious, rational choice;...
I'll supply abundant references if anyone wants to look at the evidence."

What you mistake for evidence is actually interpretation of evidence. You too are suffering from assumptions and theories that make your conclusions incorrect. I actually find this kind of thinking silly.

For example, you are implicitly assuming that in order to make rational choice that one must be omniscient. Our brains cannot monitor themselves in an infinite regress, and that seems to be your criteria for deciding whether they can make rational choices.

You assume that the existence of bias is disproof of choice when in fact it's just the opposite. Your expectation are that brains reflect reality perfectly without interpretation. This is an impossible standard to meet. Our brains are information processing systems, not omni-transparent and omni-modeling systems.

The fact that we have biases is exactly how we make choices. A bigots biases are what makes him choose the things he does. The fact that others are not biased in the same direction shows that this bias is not hard wired and in fact reflects a part of the decision process.

I would also point out that some who are anti-free will (I don't know if this includes you) criticize the concept based on causation. The claim being that every aspect of your choice was cause by prior events. This too is a ridiculous criticism. Do you know why.

I leave it to people like Francis who find those of superior knowledge to be boring to figure that last one out.

Science is NOT discovering that free will doesn't exist. That is just an improper interpretation of the discoveries.

These "new" discoveries are obvious based on what we already know about the brain thirty years ago. Of course our final decisions are based on the fact that brain cells fire. Of course, we do not perceive the world as a bunch of brain cells firing. There is no need for our brains to monitor the activity of each brain cell, and it would be impossible anyway.

The fact remains that we do make choices. That we consist of a mechanism to do so doesn't alter that fact.

11:50 AM, July 10, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Brian Macker
RE: We've....

LOL, do you ask yourself how you know that the Pope is Catholic, or that Hitler was a Nazi? I can see you staying up at night pondering whether Pope Benedict XVI is truly a Catholic. -- Brian Macker

....been down this path before. You either don't understand, or you don't care to understand, or you're more dense than the usual 'progressive'. And, it's likely to be all of the above.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[For more information, please re-read this message.]

6:28 AM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Francis W. Porretto
RE: The 'Unanswerable'

-- Is there a God?
-- What preceded the Big Bang?
-- Why on Earth did the Red Sox trade Babe Ruth?

Attempts to demonstrate that you "know more" about one of these subjects than those around you simply make you look like a conversational boor.
-- Francis W. Porretto

So. I guess that every theologian and every scientist and every die-hard baseball fan are 'conversational boors'. Is that it?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.]

6:32 AM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. In my 'opinion'....

- Yes.
- A previous Big-Bang/Universe.
- I have no idea, as I deplore the sport.

6:33 AM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

"....been down this path before. You either don't understand, or you don't care to understand, or you're more dense than the usual 'progressive'."

I'm not a progressive, and I do understand. You are an apologist that likes to use the no true Scotsman fallacy. There are all these good Christian friends I have and a Christian wife, and you claim they are non-Christian because that is where your twisted apologetic got you. You have to deny the Christianity of everybody lest the commit some crime that might get pinned on the faith.

Christian Inqusition, no problem since they were not Christians. Christian crusades, well no problem as they were Christians.

No wonder you are so bigoted against atheists. By your reasoning all these people were atheists, and not true believers in the Christian faith.

I know exactly how you would argue it because I've heard it all before and it's childish. Christ says to do X. They didn't do X therefore they are not Christians.

The problem with that reasoning is the actual reality of how Christianity arose, how it spreads it's message, etc. Christ didn't create the religion, Christians did. Christ was a Jew and he said that he came not to replace Jewish law but to support it. Jewish religious law is in the old testament.

Christ didn't provide an unambiguous message, and Christianity is full of contradictions.

Christ never came out against the institution of slavery. There are anti-slavery themes such as the story of exodus but that is easily seen as god wanting his chosen people not to be slaves, and is contradicted by all the old testament arguments.

These were Jewish teachings and they did not hold that slavery was wrong. So mere stories of individual slaves or groups of slaves getting free does not count as a ban on slavery. They are merely stories that show that particular people or groups are worthy of freedom, while allowing for the possibility that others deserve slavery.

There is no contradiction between following Christ and being a slave holder.

The very first Christian teachers Peter, and Paul, exhort slave to be obedient to their masters. Are you going to claim they are not Christians.

Your entire argument is laughable.

8:13 AM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Nothing REALLY Ever Changes

Take for example Brian Macker's 'argument'....

Your entire argument is laughable. -- Brian Macker

I just finished a series of classes on becoming a parliamentarian. And at the last class, the instructor, a professionally registered parliamentarian, passed out this little tidbit.

It is impossible, apparently, for some people to imagine an opponent ever operating out of good faith.

Thomas Babington Macaulay provided a perfect assessment of this mindset more that 150 years ago, ina critique of British poet laureate Robert Southey:

"He does not seem to know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of an opponent. It has never occurred to him that a man ought to be able to give some better account of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him....that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with something better than 'scoundrel' or 'blockhead'."


And his obvious hatred of Christians is self-evident. He keeps going on and on in this off-topic bash-fest.

So much so I have serious doubts as to his veracity regarding his claims of a 'christian' wife. If he is married and she were an 'honest-to-God' christian, I suspect there'd have been a divorce by now.

RE: Back On-Topic....a Modest Proposal

Earlier, our friend Demonspawn suggested an interesting experiment about opening up somoene's brain and tweeking things in it.

Not that this is an example of 'free will'. Rather, it is a method of elimination of 'free will'.

However, it might be an interesting test to apply that sort of technique to homosexuals. Many of them claim they were 'born that way'. Maybe such a 'tweeking' of a neuron here and there might prove that theory correct.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Out of my mind. Back in 15 minutes.]

10:15 AM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Tether said...

Chuck,

From my point of view Brian Macker is raising some good questions and seems to be sincere.

You on the other hand, are writing loads of bullshit, signed with some arrogant signature.

You aren't answering him at all, in fact you are bordering on sounding mentally ill to me.

If you can't give coherent answers, you can still be an arrogant prick, of course, but do it with your wife or others who tolerate you - quit writing nonsense here. Adults want to discuss things.

2:40 PM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Tether
RE: [OT] Well....

....you can't help being you. And your usual projection is duly noted.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[There's no known cure for 'stupid'.]

5:50 PM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. Thanks for demonstrating what I suggested was 'just around the corner' in the good doctor's thread earlier this morning.

Are you a psychologist-wannabe or something?

5:59 PM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.S. For your information....

....Brian's comments about slavery have been answered time and time again. Not necessarily by me, but by many others. I'm sure he's seen and/or heard the answers. I even touched on them earlier in this thread. Maybe you have enough synapses to see them.

[For more information, please re-read this thread.]

6:03 PM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Paul said...

Even if I am not truly free (in a metaphysical sense), I still do not want to be told what to do. I am enjoying the illusion of free will.

9:53 PM, July 11, 2010  
Blogger Brian Macker said...

Chuck,

This does not consist of "covering it":

At least by your comments about christians burning witches and owning slaves.

Nor does you comments on the new testament which was countered on the tread buy someone else and me becuase Christ says in the bible that he did not come to overthrow the old rules. Apparently you are not a Christian using your own criteria.

Also you claim that Christians might have been murderers back when they were not Christians. You also seem to want to claim as Christians those who have not yet murdered. Also that somehow they all of the sudden change from Christian to non-Christian the minute they commit murder.

Seems that someone can believe exactly as you do but then the moment they murder they are converted to atheism, and then ten minutes later they are back to being former murderers and Christians again.

8:28 AM, July 12, 2010  

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