Is Free Will a Mirage?

Is Free Will a Mirage?

Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

September 23rd, 2010, 8:54 pm #1

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Irreligiosity - Is Free Will a Mirage?

From the September 11, 2010 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times:

Free will is the popular belief that human behavior is something more than the unavoidable consequences of a person's genetics and environment. Most of us like to believe that we have free will - we assume that we can freely choose between different flavors of ice cream, which television channel to watch and which newspaper columns to read. By "freely choose", I mean that the decision has not already been predetermined for us by factors outside our control. The notion that a person can freely choose between good and evil lies at the heart of many religions.

Many philosophers and scientists contend that free will is a mirage. Why? Because every supposedly "free" choice we make appears to be the product of causes that determine the choice. While you may think that you have the freedom to buy a one-way ticket to Timbuktu, the reality is you are likely no more free to make that decision than a monarch butterfly is free to decide whether it will migrate south this fall or not. The only difference between you and the monarch is that you are higher functioning and have the ability to buy the ticket or not.

This is not meant to suggest that all human decisions are predictable - decisions are likely affected by subatomic particles subject to quantum indeterminacy. A person might also decide to flip a coin. However, the suggestion that we make decisions free from causal factors that entirely determine those decisions appears to conflict with the best scientific evidence available. Brain researchers have recently found evidence to suggest that certain decisions can be made up to 10 seconds before a decision enters human awareness (see Unconscious Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain, Nature Neuroscience 11, 543 - 545 (2008)). Simply put, if someone watching your brain scan can tell that you are going to choose chocolate ice cream while you are still mulling between chocolate and vanilla, it is hard to understand how your choice of chocolate was made freely.

If you accept this reasoning, it has some unsettling implications. For example, should criminals be held morally responsible for their crimes if they could not have acted otherwise? If there is no such thing as contra-causal free will (i.e. decisions that are not fully caused), punishing criminals for the sake of retribution is a waste of time. Punishing people for bad behavior because you think they should be punished for making the wrong choice is just as useless as heaping praise on them for doing something good when they supposedly could have chosen to do something bad. The only justifiable reason for punishment should be to deter the offender and others from committing the crime in the future.

Similarly, should a spouse hold their partner morally blameworthy for infidelity? The answer to this question, I believe, is no - not in the sense that a person who decides to cheat on their spouse could have made a different decision. If the spurned spouse's desire is to save the relationship, there may be plenty to be gained by trying to impose moral blame on the cheater but only insofar as that blame might cause the actor to act differently in the future. If the spurned spouse has decided that the marriage has been irreparably harmed, there is truly no point in blaming the actor for something which they did not have the free will to change.

University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution is True and a blog of the same name) has summed up the prevailing view as follows:
"We simply don't like to think that we're molecular automatons, and so we adopt a definition of free will that makes us think we're free. But as far as I can see, I, like everyone else, am just a molecular puppet. I don't like that much, but that's how it is. I don't like the fact that I'm going to die, either, but you don't see me redefining the notion of "death" to pretend I'm immortal."
None of this is intended to suggest that behavior cannot be influenced. We can exert causes on our own future behavior and that of others. However, once a deed is done it is futile to believe an actor could have freely chosen to act otherwise.

The amusing upshot of this is that I likely had no more free will to write this column than you did to read it!
Quote
Like
Share

JVH
Joined: July 20th, 2009, 1:33 pm

September 23rd, 2010, 9:55 pm #2


Freedom might be though.
<p align="center">0
/\
1 2


So-called ecclesial books tale about cosmology, anthropology, ontology - so, what's all the commotion about then?


As the great philosopher P pointed out:

--oOo--


Isn't life wonderful B? Just think
we started out as lab mice forced to
spend the whole day working our way
through frustrating mazes that went
absolutely nowhere. Now we get to do
what humans do!


--oOo--






New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

September 23rd, 2010, 10:02 pm #3

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Irreligiosity - Is Free Will a Mirage?

From the September 11, 2010 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times:

Free will is the popular belief that human behavior is something more than the unavoidable consequences of a person's genetics and environment. Most of us like to believe that we have free will - we assume that we can freely choose between different flavors of ice cream, which television channel to watch and which newspaper columns to read. By "freely choose", I mean that the decision has not already been predetermined for us by factors outside our control. The notion that a person can freely choose between good and evil lies at the heart of many religions.

Many philosophers and scientists contend that free will is a mirage. Why? Because every supposedly "free" choice we make appears to be the product of causes that determine the choice. While you may think that you have the freedom to buy a one-way ticket to Timbuktu, the reality is you are likely no more free to make that decision than a monarch butterfly is free to decide whether it will migrate south this fall or not. The only difference between you and the monarch is that you are higher functioning and have the ability to buy the ticket or not.

This is not meant to suggest that all human decisions are predictable - decisions are likely affected by subatomic particles subject to quantum indeterminacy. A person might also decide to flip a coin. However, the suggestion that we make decisions free from causal factors that entirely determine those decisions appears to conflict with the best scientific evidence available. Brain researchers have recently found evidence to suggest that certain decisions can be made up to 10 seconds before a decision enters human awareness (see Unconscious Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain, Nature Neuroscience 11, 543 - 545 (2008)). Simply put, if someone watching your brain scan can tell that you are going to choose chocolate ice cream while you are still mulling between chocolate and vanilla, it is hard to understand how your choice of chocolate was made freely.

If you accept this reasoning, it has some unsettling implications. For example, should criminals be held morally responsible for their crimes if they could not have acted otherwise? If there is no such thing as contra-causal free will (i.e. decisions that are not fully caused), punishing criminals for the sake of retribution is a waste of time. Punishing people for bad behavior because you think they should be punished for making the wrong choice is just as useless as heaping praise on them for doing something good when they supposedly could have chosen to do something bad. The only justifiable reason for punishment should be to deter the offender and others from committing the crime in the future.

Similarly, should a spouse hold their partner morally blameworthy for infidelity? The answer to this question, I believe, is no - not in the sense that a person who decides to cheat on their spouse could have made a different decision. If the spurned spouse's desire is to save the relationship, there may be plenty to be gained by trying to impose moral blame on the cheater but only insofar as that blame might cause the actor to act differently in the future. If the spurned spouse has decided that the marriage has been irreparably harmed, there is truly no point in blaming the actor for something which they did not have the free will to change.

University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution is True and a blog of the same name) has summed up the prevailing view as follows:
"We simply don't like to think that we're molecular automatons, and so we adopt a definition of free will that makes us think we're free. But as far as I can see, I, like everyone else, am just a molecular puppet. I don't like that much, but that's how it is. I don't like the fact that I'm going to die, either, but you don't see me redefining the notion of "death" to pretend I'm immortal."
None of this is intended to suggest that behavior cannot be influenced. We can exert causes on our own future behavior and that of others. However, once a deed is done it is futile to believe an actor could have freely chosen to act otherwise.

The amusing upshot of this is that I likely had no more free will to write this column than you did to read it!
Free will is overriding "Instant Karma" and forcing me to post... or not post... or post... or not post... errr... God made me to it.

You silly meta-sock-puppet-master.
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: February 16th, 2010, 8:01 pm

September 23rd, 2010, 10:06 pm #4

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Irreligiosity - Is Free Will a Mirage?

From the September 11, 2010 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times:

Free will is the popular belief that human behavior is something more than the unavoidable consequences of a person's genetics and environment. Most of us like to believe that we have free will - we assume that we can freely choose between different flavors of ice cream, which television channel to watch and which newspaper columns to read. By "freely choose", I mean that the decision has not already been predetermined for us by factors outside our control. The notion that a person can freely choose between good and evil lies at the heart of many religions.

Many philosophers and scientists contend that free will is a mirage. Why? Because every supposedly "free" choice we make appears to be the product of causes that determine the choice. While you may think that you have the freedom to buy a one-way ticket to Timbuktu, the reality is you are likely no more free to make that decision than a monarch butterfly is free to decide whether it will migrate south this fall or not. The only difference between you and the monarch is that you are higher functioning and have the ability to buy the ticket or not.

This is not meant to suggest that all human decisions are predictable - decisions are likely affected by subatomic particles subject to quantum indeterminacy. A person might also decide to flip a coin. However, the suggestion that we make decisions free from causal factors that entirely determine those decisions appears to conflict with the best scientific evidence available. Brain researchers have recently found evidence to suggest that certain decisions can be made up to 10 seconds before a decision enters human awareness (see Unconscious Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain, Nature Neuroscience 11, 543 - 545 (2008)). Simply put, if someone watching your brain scan can tell that you are going to choose chocolate ice cream while you are still mulling between chocolate and vanilla, it is hard to understand how your choice of chocolate was made freely.

If you accept this reasoning, it has some unsettling implications. For example, should criminals be held morally responsible for their crimes if they could not have acted otherwise? If there is no such thing as contra-causal free will (i.e. decisions that are not fully caused), punishing criminals for the sake of retribution is a waste of time. Punishing people for bad behavior because you think they should be punished for making the wrong choice is just as useless as heaping praise on them for doing something good when they supposedly could have chosen to do something bad. The only justifiable reason for punishment should be to deter the offender and others from committing the crime in the future.

Similarly, should a spouse hold their partner morally blameworthy for infidelity? The answer to this question, I believe, is no - not in the sense that a person who decides to cheat on their spouse could have made a different decision. If the spurned spouse's desire is to save the relationship, there may be plenty to be gained by trying to impose moral blame on the cheater but only insofar as that blame might cause the actor to act differently in the future. If the spurned spouse has decided that the marriage has been irreparably harmed, there is truly no point in blaming the actor for something which they did not have the free will to change.

University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution is True and a blog of the same name) has summed up the prevailing view as follows:
"We simply don't like to think that we're molecular automatons, and so we adopt a definition of free will that makes us think we're free. But as far as I can see, I, like everyone else, am just a molecular puppet. I don't like that much, but that's how it is. I don't like the fact that I'm going to die, either, but you don't see me redefining the notion of "death" to pretend I'm immortal."
None of this is intended to suggest that behavior cannot be influenced. We can exert causes on our own future behavior and that of others. However, once a deed is done it is futile to believe an actor could have freely chosen to act otherwise.

The amusing upshot of this is that I likely had no more free will to write this column than you did to read it!
Free will, in a religious context, simply means that God does not control the actions of men.
Man has complete free will to do anything within the natural laws of physics.
If God does control the actions of men, then God is responsible for all the atrocities ever perpetrated.

"I don't speak for God, but somebody has to speak for the bible story."
Quote
Like
Share

JVH
Joined: July 20th, 2009, 1:33 pm

September 23rd, 2010, 11:35 pm #5


 

So, "a god", they insist, "wrote a book commanding those given free will must adhere and conform to a wish list." Sure, of course, why not.

<p align="center"> 
<p align="center">so-called apologists, actually concede being self-refutationists
<p align="center">0
/\
1 2


So-called ecclesial books tale about cosmology, anthropology, ontology - so, what's all the commotion about then?


As the great philosopher P pointed out:

--oOo--


Isn't life wonderful B? Just think
we started out as lab mice forced to
spend the whole day working our way
through frustrating mazes that went
absolutely nowhere. Now we get to do
what humans do!


--oOo--



<img alt="[linked image]" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... kysaid.jpg">


New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!
<img alt="[linked image]" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... tworks.gif">
Last edited by JVH on September 23rd, 2010, 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quote
Like
Share

Seoc Colla
Seoc Colla

September 24th, 2010, 6:41 am #6

Free will really has to be indulged so as not to infringe the free will and Rights of another and of course, is restricted by the individual's World view.
E.G. The more enlightened the more limited the scope of free will.
Quote
Share

JVH
Joined: July 20th, 2009, 1:33 pm

September 24th, 2010, 7:13 am #7

<p align="left">

 

Free will should logically end where it is about to infringe/impinge upon the same of another.

Free speech should logically end where the act begins.

For some reason humans diplay this tendency to be unable to handle free speech, free will; freedom.
<p align="center">
<p align="center">0
/\
1 2


So-called ecclesial books tale about cosmology, anthropology, ontology - so, what's all the commotion about then?


As the great philosopher P pointed out:

--oOo--


Isn't life wonderful B? Just think
we started out as lab mice forced to
spend the whole day working our way
through frustrating mazes that went
absolutely nowhere. Now we get to do
what humans do!


--oOo--






New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: September 30th, 2009, 7:55 pm

September 24th, 2010, 2:56 pm #8

 

So, "a god", they insist, "wrote a book commanding those given free will must adhere and conform to a wish list." Sure, of course, why not.

<p align="center"> 
<p align="center">so-called apologists, actually concede being self-refutationists
<p align="center">0
/\
1 2


So-called ecclesial books tale about cosmology, anthropology, ontology - so, what's all the commotion about then?


As the great philosopher P pointed out:

--oOo--


Isn't life wonderful B? Just think
we started out as lab mice forced to
spend the whole day working our way
through frustrating mazes that went
absolutely nowhere. Now we get to do
what humans do!


--oOo--



<img alt="[linked image]" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... kysaid.jpg">


New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!
<img alt="[linked image]" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... tworks.gif">
"Do what I say or burn in hell, is not free will. It's coercion, not freedom." -- Duane Alan Hahn

-----------------------------------------------
"Forget Jesus! Stars died so we all could exist!" -- Lawrence Krauss, astrophysicist
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

September 24th, 2010, 5:53 pm #9

Free will, in a religious context, simply means that God does not control the actions of men.
Man has complete free will to do anything within the natural laws of physics.
If God does control the actions of men, then God is responsible for all the atrocities ever perpetrated.

"I don't speak for God, but somebody has to speak for the bible story."
You may be correct, although some Calvinists would disagree with you.

But from a scientific perspective, it looks like there is a ghost in the machine. Decisions that appear to be conscious, often are unconscious. Synapses are firing prior to the individual choosing (seemingly) an action ..

Quote
Like
Share

Joined: December 8th, 2003, 1:16 am

September 25th, 2010, 1:28 am #10

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Irreligiosity - Is Free Will a Mirage?

From the September 11, 2010 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times:

Free will is the popular belief that human behavior is something more than the unavoidable consequences of a person's genetics and environment. Most of us like to believe that we have free will - we assume that we can freely choose between different flavors of ice cream, which television channel to watch and which newspaper columns to read. By "freely choose", I mean that the decision has not already been predetermined for us by factors outside our control. The notion that a person can freely choose between good and evil lies at the heart of many religions.

Many philosophers and scientists contend that free will is a mirage. Why? Because every supposedly "free" choice we make appears to be the product of causes that determine the choice. While you may think that you have the freedom to buy a one-way ticket to Timbuktu, the reality is you are likely no more free to make that decision than a monarch butterfly is free to decide whether it will migrate south this fall or not. The only difference between you and the monarch is that you are higher functioning and have the ability to buy the ticket or not.

This is not meant to suggest that all human decisions are predictable - decisions are likely affected by subatomic particles subject to quantum indeterminacy. A person might also decide to flip a coin. However, the suggestion that we make decisions free from causal factors that entirely determine those decisions appears to conflict with the best scientific evidence available. Brain researchers have recently found evidence to suggest that certain decisions can be made up to 10 seconds before a decision enters human awareness (see Unconscious Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain, Nature Neuroscience 11, 543 - 545 (2008)). Simply put, if someone watching your brain scan can tell that you are going to choose chocolate ice cream while you are still mulling between chocolate and vanilla, it is hard to understand how your choice of chocolate was made freely.

If you accept this reasoning, it has some unsettling implications. For example, should criminals be held morally responsible for their crimes if they could not have acted otherwise? If there is no such thing as contra-causal free will (i.e. decisions that are not fully caused), punishing criminals for the sake of retribution is a waste of time. Punishing people for bad behavior because you think they should be punished for making the wrong choice is just as useless as heaping praise on them for doing something good when they supposedly could have chosen to do something bad. The only justifiable reason for punishment should be to deter the offender and others from committing the crime in the future.

Similarly, should a spouse hold their partner morally blameworthy for infidelity? The answer to this question, I believe, is no - not in the sense that a person who decides to cheat on their spouse could have made a different decision. If the spurned spouse's desire is to save the relationship, there may be plenty to be gained by trying to impose moral blame on the cheater but only insofar as that blame might cause the actor to act differently in the future. If the spurned spouse has decided that the marriage has been irreparably harmed, there is truly no point in blaming the actor for something which they did not have the free will to change.

University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution is True and a blog of the same name) has summed up the prevailing view as follows:
"We simply don't like to think that we're molecular automatons, and so we adopt a definition of free will that makes us think we're free. But as far as I can see, I, like everyone else, am just a molecular puppet. I don't like that much, but that's how it is. I don't like the fact that I'm going to die, either, but you don't see me redefining the notion of "death" to pretend I'm immortal."
None of this is intended to suggest that behavior cannot be influenced. We can exert causes on our own future behavior and that of others. However, once a deed is done it is futile to believe an actor could have freely chosen to act otherwise.

The amusing upshot of this is that I likely had no more free will to write this column than you did to read it!
had the experience where you're sleeping and get woken by some noise ... but in your dream, there's a long prologue to that noise and you just gotta wonder HOW could you have dreamt about stuff leading up to and CAUSING that noise?!

That's baffled me forever. I mean, if a sledgehammer drops onto the floor above your head, it's a NOW event which you couldn't have anticipated before it happened. Yet, in the dream leading up to that noise, there were events leading up to it "explaining" why it occurred.~

-Vince
Quote
Like
Share