Free will is an illusion, biologist says

Free will is an illusion, biologist says
Three different models explain the causal mechanism of free will and the flow of information between unconscious neural activity and conscious thought (GES = genes, environment, stochasticism). In A, the intuitive model, there is no causal component for will. Will influences conscious thought, which in turn influences unconscious neural activity to direct behavior. In B, a causal component of will is introduced: unconscious neural activity and GES. But now will loses its “freedom.” In C, the model that Cashmore advocates, will is dispensed with. Conscious thought is simply a reflection of, rather than an influence on, unconscious neural activity, which directs behavior. The dotted arrow 2 in C indicates a subservient role of conscious thought in directing behavior. Credit: Anthony Cashmore.

(Phys.org)—When biologist Anthony Cashmore claims that the concept of free will is an illusion, he's not breaking any new ground. At least as far back as the ancient Greeks, people have wondered how humans seem to have the ability to make their own personal decisions in a manner lacking any causal component other than their desire to "will" something. But Cashmore, Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, says that many biologists today still cling to the idea of free will, and reject the idea that we are simply conscious machines, completely controlled by a combination of our chemistry and external environmental forces.

In a recent study, Cashmore has argued that a belief in free will is akin to , since neither complies with the laws of the physical world. One of the basic premises of biology and biochemistry is that biological systems are nothing more than a bag of chemicals that obey chemical and physical laws. Generally, we have no problem with the "bag of chemicals" notion when it comes to , plants, and similar entities. So why is it so difficult to say the same about humans or other "higher level" species, when we're all governed by the same laws?

No causal mechanism

As Cashmore explains, the human acts at both the conscious level as well as the unconscious. It's our consciousness that makes us aware of our actions, giving us the sense that we control them, as well. But even without this awareness, our brains can still induce our bodies to act, and studies have indicated that consciousness is something that follows unconscious neural activity. Just because we are often aware of multiple paths to take, that doesn't mean we actually get to choose one of them based on our own free will. As the ancient Greeks asked, by what mechanism would we be choosing? The physical world is made of causes and effects - "nothing comes from nothing" - but free will, by its very definition, has no physical cause. The Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius, in reference to this problem of free will, noted that the Greek philosophers concluded that atoms "randomly swerve" - the likely source of this movement being the numerous Greek gods.

Today, as researchers gain a better understanding of the molecular details underlying consciousness, some people think that we may discover a molecular mechanism responsible for free will - but Cashmore doesn't think so. Such a discovery, he says, would require a new physical law that breaks the causal laws of nature. As it is, the only "wild card" that allows any room for maneuvering outside of genetics and one's environment is the inherent uncertainty of the physical properties of matter, and even this stochastic element is beyond our conscious control. (However, it can help explain why identical twins growing up in the same environment are unique individuals.)

To put it simply, free will just doesn't fit with how the physical world works. Cashmore compares a belief in free will to an earlier belief in vitalism - the belief that there are forces governing the biological world that are distinct from those governing the physical world. Vitalism was discarded more than 100 years ago, being replaced with evidence that biological systems obey the laws of chemistry and physics, not special biological laws for living things.

"I would like to convince biologists that a belief in free will is nothing other than a continuing belief in vitalism (or, as I say, a belief in magic)," Cashmore told PhysOrg.com.

Conscious Deception

It all seems quite rational, so why is our lack of free will so difficult to accept for many people? Cashmore explains that there are several compelling reasons that people have for believing in free will, not the least of which is that we have a constant awareness of making decisions that seem to be driven by our own volition. In addition, free will is a very useful concept when it comes to the justice system; we take responsibility for our criminal actions and accordingly, are eligible for personal punishment, which is deemed to be necessary for protecting society.

However, Cashmore argues that there are deeper explanations for why we think we have free will. He thinks that there must be a genetic basis for consciousness and the associated belief in free will. Consciousness has an evolutionary selective advantage: it provides us with the illusion of responsibility, which is beneficial for society, if not for individuals as well. In this sense, consciousness is our "preview function" that comforts us into thinking that we are in control of what we will (or at least may) do ahead of time. As Cashmore notes, the irony is that the very existence of these "free will genes" is predicated on their ability to con us into believing in free will and responsibility. However, in reality, all behavioral decisions are nothing more than a reflection of our genetic and environmental history.

"Whereas the impressions are that we are making 'free' conscious decisions, the reality is that consciousness is simply a state of awareness that reflects the input signals, and these are an unavoidable consequence of GES [genes, environment, and stochasticism]," Cashmore explained.

"Few neurobiologists would argue with the notion that consciousness influences behavior by acting through unconscious neural activity," he said. "More controversial is the notion that consciousness plays a relatively minor role in governing our behavior. The conscious mind is conceivably more a mechanism of following unconscious than it is one of directing such activity. I find it interesting to compare this line of thinking with that of Freud, who created a controversy by suggesting that the unconscious mind played a role in our behavior. The way of thinking regarding these matters now has moved to the extent that some are questioning what role, if any, the conscious mind plays in directing behavior. Namely, Freud was right to an extent that was much greater than he realized."

To summarize, Cashmore's argument is that free will is an illusion derived from consciousness, but has an evolutionary advantage of conferring the illusion of responsibility. So what is the point of publicizing the fact that we have no free will, and letting everyone off the hook of individual responsibility? Cashmore says that, as researchers deepen their understanding of the molecular basis of human behavior, it will become increasingly difficult to entertain the fallacy of free will.

Can't Be Held Responsible

Perhaps the most obvious impact of this paradigm shift will be on our judicial system, in which the notions of free will and responsibility form an integral component. Currently, in order to be found guilty, a criminal must be considered responsible for his actions; otherwise, he can be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Cashmore disagrees with these rules, noting that psychiatric research is finding its way more and more into the courts and causing time-wasting debates. (For example, is alcoholism a disease? Are sex crimes an addiction?)

"Where is the logic in debating an individual's level of responsibility, when the reality is that none of us are biologically responsible for our actions?" he said.

Cashmore proposes a change, based on "the elimination of the illogical concept that individuals are in control of their behavior in a manner that is something other than a reflection of their genetic makeup and their environmental history."

He says that psychiatrists and other experts on human behavior should not be involved in initial judicial proceedings. The jury should simply determine whether or not a defendant is guilty of committing a crime, and not be concerned with mental issues. Then, if the defendant is found guilty, a court-appointed panel of experts would advise on the most appropriate punishment and treatment. Cashmore argues that, even though individuals are not biologically responsible for their actions, in order to minimize criminal activity, people should still be held accountable, and be punished when necessary. Such punishment is rationalized on the grounds that it will serve as an incentive (an environmental influence) not to participate in criminal behavior.

"Here I introduce the practice of 'I am sorry about this but I am going to have to beat you,'" Cashmore said. "This punishment is rationalized in the sense that it serves as a lesson to individuals not to break the law. So people would be held accountable for their actions, even though they are not 'biologically responsible' for such actions. This punishment may involve fines or placing people in prison. Such punishment should not reflect any sense of retribution, and given this I do not personally see how one could continue to impose the death penalty - the alleged effectiveness of such a penalty presumably being far outweighed by its unfairness. The exact way in which one balances the presumptive requirement for punishment, and the lack of biological responsibility, would indeed be difficult, and would require much discussion within the legal system and society as a whole."

He said that tailoring punishment on an individual basis is presently done, at least to some extent.

"Why is it important to make a change? Because increasingly the legal system is being forced to confront the reality that people's behavior is governed by nothing other than their biological history: their genes, their environment and a degree of stochasticism (if you wish, a degree of chance). The legal system is increasingly seen to be a farce, with lawyers spending endless time and money debating this nonsensical question of how responsible or not their clients are. Why nonsensical? Because no one is biologically responsible for their actions. As Francis Crick said, 'Dream as we may, reality knocks relentlessly at the door.' And as a result of the rapid and ongoing progress in neuroscience, the reality that individual behavior is governed by one's genetic and environmental history is becoming increasingly apparent."


Explore further

Determining responsibility and assigning punishment governed by different brain systems

More information: Anthony R. Cashmore. "The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To be published. Doi:10.1073/pnas.0915161107

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Mar 03, 2010
"This punishment is rationalized in the sense that it serves as a lesson to individuals not to break the law. So people would be held accountable for their actions, even though they are not ‘biologically responsible’ for such actions."

How does this "lesson" deter others from breaking the same law if the other don't have free will?

Mar 03, 2010
"How does this "lesson" deter others from breaking the same law if the other don't have free will?"

Because their decisions are based on cost/reward. If a logic system (computer software or a human brain) determines that action A (robbing a store) seems to be too risky a payoff than action B (not robbing), then action B will be taken. The more data the logic system has that action A costs more, the less likely the logic system will choose A. This works perfectly well with a "no free will" system.

Mar 03, 2010
Cashman lives in a different reality than most of us. What is his definition of "free will". Everyday we make choices. sometimes I put cream in my coffee, sometimes I do not. Am I biologically programed to do this?

His views on the justice system just blow me away. We make choices everyday and I challenge him to prove to me that we are biologically programmed to make these choices.

What is reality? There are people out there that think we are living in a holographic universe. Maybe biology is nothing more than an illusion.

KBK
Mar 03, 2010
Read carefully.

He speaks on the idea of LAWS.

Only incompetent individuals thinks that Theories, which is ALL that we have, are some sort of LAW.

LAW, is a dogmatic statement that can sneak below the conscious level and color one's thinking and make things that are possible - impossible.

It's psychology 101 class, kiddies. Any person who postulates new THEORIES needs to be schooled in psychological discourse, as well.

Otherwise their 'theories' based on 'laws' will only allow the ever changing and ever moving arrow of science to move in one specific direction only, one direction that is somehow predetermined by the past, as an extension of *dogmatism*.

This is brutally dangerous and is the core issue of religion, it allows one to invest the issues of ego into the religion as a form of self control of events and reality.

This is patently absurd on the most fundamental levels possible and I find his musings, based in that sort of psychological anchor- quite offensive.

VOR
Mar 03, 2010
the thinking is carried too far and weighted too heavily. Environmental influence includes the latest concequences of anti-social behavior. In other words you CAN change to a degree.

Mar 03, 2010
You will likely make a decision today and go "ha! I chose to do that! take that free will article!" and you will have done it simply because this article provoked you to.

Mar 03, 2010
A perfect example of disappearing up one's own arse.

Mar 03, 2010
What BS. I know I have free will, I don't let things control me or my decisions. I am aware of biologic and unconscious urges and I choose to act or not act regardless of them. I am where I am today because I chose to be here and I chose to be who I am. I am now choosing to not rant about this anymore.

Did you write that last sentence before or after your unconscious caused you to stop writing?

Mar 03, 2010
“Where is the logic in debating an individual’s level of responsibility, when the reality is that none of us are biologically responsible for our actions?" he said.

Exactly.

What is so controversial here? Of course there is no ghost in the machine. Your "choices" have already been made for you, you simply have to play your part.

Of course this does not mean you should accept fatalism. But it means you are ultimately not responsible for your actions.

Mar 03, 2010
It's a mild conceit to assume that not being responsible for one's actions does not assume some form of fatalism.

This is not truly scientific, if he (as the article puts it) does not accept the possibility of causal mechanism for will without violation of standing laws.

This is just postulation unless we see experiments and results.

LKD
Mar 03, 2010
Maybe I don't agree with his views and research conclusion. But what I do wholly agree with him on is this statement:

"He says that psychiatrists and other experts on human behavior should not be involved in initial judicial proceedings. The jury should simply determine whether or not a defendant is guilty of committing a crime, and not be concerned with mental issues. Then, if the defendant is found guilty, a court-appointed panel of experts would advise on the most appropriate punishment and treatment."

Mar 03, 2010
Chaos and order both demand to dominate everything. Random cannot exist in a fictional box where order surrounds it, as it would undermine the meaning of order, thus forcing the order around it into becoming random, and vice versa with chaos surrounded by order.

Chaos dominates all in any scale. That means gravity could suddenly become repulsive, shooting us all into space. Naturally we don't experience this world, because we don't live in it, we experience a world which is bound by cause and effect. We experience a world where all is dominated by order, and has no room for chaos.

It's fairly simple to exclude the possibility of a "free will". Humans and their silly anthropocentrism.

Mar 03, 2010
See: William James, The Will To Believe. A response to a logical positivist claim that belief in phenomena which can not be empirically verified at the time of the choice of said belief is unethical. Echos of Pascal, yet pertinent to this stream....

Mar 03, 2010
I'm not a physicist or a philosopher, but I always thought that answers to the free will dilemma lay in the mysteries of quantum mechanics/entanglement (because that's where causality breaks down). Is this what he's getting at when he talks about the "wild card" being the "inherent uncertainty of the physical properties of matter"?

Does anyone out there know of a theory that develops this idea fully?

Mar 03, 2010
I have a hard time accepting the notion of Free Will. Since I think that about 95% of my decisions I could easily explain with the simple action/reaction principle.

I tend to believe that the other 5% could also be explained in a way that permits deterministic behaviour. Mainly because I strongly favour the possibility that, after all, everything is detministic.

Mar 03, 2010
What complete idiocy! How about consciousness itself? According to science that, too, is completely impossible. There is no room in the physical universe for consciousness. Perhaps Mr. Cashmore is not a conscious creature himself. If he were he'd need to be figuring out how that happens before he starts worrying about free will.

Mar 03, 2010
According to science that, too, is completely impossible.


Citation, please.

Mar 03, 2010
Sounds like its misunderstood. Free will, is in essence the ability to know that you should chose A based on all given logic and data...but instead you choose B. Or even C.

What seperates man is his ability to do this. And despite Cashman's best attempts, he falls flat at proving that man does not. In fact, the article doesnt even address what he actually studied, only rambles on about his ideals.

How can any punishment, be any sort of a deterent, if such things like murder are not in essence wrong, but just the result of chemical feedback? Cashman cant have his cake and eat it to.

Mar 03, 2010
I too struggle with this notion. As a chemist, I find myself unable to control any reaction. If I drink alcohol, it is not a choice as to whether it affects me. This basic thinking can be readily expanded to a host of other drugs. Then one can face the philosophical question, "Are there chemicals in our brains that control our behavior?"

I tend to argue that it may be so by looking for examples of behavior that is self-destructive, especially knowingly so. Why would anyone do something self-destructive? Could it be similar to mixing two chemical together, one really doesn't have a free choice in the formation of the products?

Granted, biological systems are very complex and in constant flux. Our brains are continually making new connections upon listening, reading, and thinking. I do not feel that I can control how my brain will react to any given stimulus. However, studies do show the statistics of the different ways that people do react. So, does testosterone affect behavior?

Mar 03, 2010
If you would like to observe a real-time battle of consciousness and free-will, ask someone, "What is your next thought going to be?" The ensuing silence and blank look are the result of a conscious mind discovering it is pretty clueless about itself.

For will999999, goog Quantum Consciousness for a big selection of articles. Stuart Hameroff comes up often- he is one of the biggest proponents. The Wikipedia article has a pretty good overview.

Mar 03, 2010
here's the thing: we DONT have free will.
there's a second thing: we are under the ILLUSION of having free will.

its JUST AS GOOD as having it.

Mar 03, 2010
"How does this "lesson" deter others from breaking the same law if the other don't have free will?"

Because their decisions are based on cost/reward.


But wait! Why even write this article at all. Either we Skinner-humans will implement such laws or we won't -- it's not a choice, it's a tautology. Either people will accept his theory or they won't ... no need to argue anything, all is determined.

I actually think this argues for very harsh criminal justice. If you're just an action-response autonoma, we should just kill all the "defective ones". But, what does it matter, we will do this or not since there's no real way to start a different change of causality to lead to "freedom" or "tyranny".


Mar 03, 2010
Cashman lives in a different reality than most of us. What is his definition of "free will". Everyday we make choices. sometimes I put cream in my coffee, sometimes I do not. Am I biologically programed to do this?

Yes, yes you are.

The issue people have with Cashman's line of thought is that we decouple our mind from our body and assume that the concious mind has some master control mechanism.

Think of it this way,

If your mind had complete control in all things, do you think we'd ever have such a thing as physical drug addiction?

Mar 03, 2010
Quantum entanglement allows for freewill. If everything is the product of 0 'zero, stillness, nothing/everything', we can perceive as many fractal questions to that answer as we want; ‘ego’. Although you create you did/can-not create yourself. 1+1 does not always equal two; depending on who’s answering, it could be anything from 0+. This answers why science is constantly evolving. Dr. C theory on freewill is true; the problem is his understanding of freewill is quite narrow. Our guiding subconscious allows us to be aware of this moment; to know the correct path in the flow of reality. Most people only listen to their ‘ego’, what they think they know, which usually contradicts the unconscious. We have the freewill to ‘let go’; to only follow the unconscious thought, you could call that loss of freewill; but we also have the ability to follow our ‘ego’ -again the loss of freewill.
Side-note: what is the placebo effect? LMAO!!

Mar 03, 2010
@OregonWind: Did your dreamcatcher tell you all of that or was that actually a Poe? Are other primates available on that spacetime continuum or just the gibbons?

Mar 03, 2010
They made a great movie about it: The Matrix

I'm wondering when they give a 5 day forecast of human societies like the wheater now.
But if we can predict our actions then we can change it, or should we assume we are too 'stupid' to ever have the ability to forecast our world.
A bit like the the smarter we get to be able to predict it the more complex it get to do it and this way we never catch up.

Mar 03, 2010
I understand that "decisions" don't come randomly from "outside the Universe". I understand that there are many parallel and serial automatic processes that weight our choices but there also exists logic and math that work at various timescales in individual life and in society. I suggest there's something missing in his conception even if it does expose some basic conditions on our reality.

What may be missing in Cashmore's analysis is that determinism make sense with fixed boundary conditions -- but the boundary conditions in our Universe are not fixed. Inventing the iPhone created new affordances that never existed before. This isn't an "answer" to Cashmore, only a possible direction.

Mar 03, 2010
It sure feels like Mr. Cashmore is an undergrad philosophy major and not a biologist.

Mar 03, 2010
There is biology and there is environment. Perhaps differential cravings are sometimes due to damage to parts of the brain or elsewhere. Self-medication is an attempt to mitigate this damage or to reduce subliminal pain.

Or perhaps, like the affects of religion, the chemicals secreted by the triggered interactions provided by drugs cause the user to crave that same chemical interaction.

It's all down to chemistry. That's how magicians make their money.

Mar 03, 2010
I think the actual definition of "free will" is flawed. There is something important missing from the mix but I'm not exactly sure what it is right now. I think the author has chosen (of his own free will :^)) to present this from a certain point of view and he has to 'sell' it. I firmly believe in Naturalism, that we are making our reality up second to second as we go. No fate, no past (except for our memories), no future (except for our imaginations) and no predetermined paths for anyone. I need to read the article again before I firm up my opinions here.

Mar 03, 2010

Or perhaps, like the affects of religion, the chemicals secreted by the triggered interactions provided by drugs cause the user to crave that same chemical interaction.

Emotional conditioning (sooo we can't recondition?)... lol! Just like science (along with religion), people want to know, so they look for answers that make them feel good. Addicted until they become aware of this perpetual search for an answer they will never find. When one stops searching only then will one find the, metaphorical, key. (Trust me, the answer is not found in science or religion -both are drugs)

Mar 03, 2010
If our consciousness has no causal power, how can we talk about it?
Shouldn't it be a one way street?

I'm also interested to see what a molecular basis of consciousness would look like, my guess is Cashmore has no idea either and could only provide a molecular basis of "when" consciousness happens, not how.

Mar 03, 2010
@somnum:
ever see an EEG or an active scan of a thinking brain?

Or better yet, how do you think consciousness happens?

Mar 03, 2010
@OregonWind:
It was an honest question, if somnum can tell that Dr. Cashmore has no idea how consciousness happens from a simple review article like this, then surely he has the knowledge to answer how consciousness does happen, right?

I mean, the idea that potassium and calcium ions are released and inhibited in complex fashions based on neural pathways in over 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses to form a consciousness? Well that's just silly, right?

Mar 03, 2010
Oh, and did I forget to add that the complex mechanisms of how the brain works are observable and have been modeled to various degrees for a long long time?

I'm wondering, though, does somnum actually think that humans are the only primates with consciousness? I didn't really need to limit the question to primates, but I thought I would start simple.

Mar 03, 2010

I mean, the idea that potassium and calcium ions are released and inhibited in complex fashions based on neural pathways in over 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses to form a consciousness? Well that's just silly, right?

Oh wait! the house stands because of its framing.. No-no wait, the house stands because it was nailed together. Wait -no, the house stands because it was built on a foundation.. Wait..... I think you get the point... :-) (When one focuses on a single point one loses the ability to see the whole picture)

Mar 03, 2010
I agree with you, Raygunner, that our Dear Dr. Cashmore is trying to sell us something. Even his name is revealing.
Given all the uncertainties currently inherent in our understanding of even the idea of consciousness, his evidence can only partially support a claim one way or the other.
In my opinion, the Sub-(or Un-)conscious is the part of the organism that is directly responsible for collating all the environmental information, and making the fight/flight decisions for survival. It is truly the "Lizard Brain". Our Conscious mind is emergent, and is there to seek out further benefit, and carry out cost/benefit metaanalysis of our situation. The two interact on a sliding scale- some responses are purely instinctual, some purely Rational. If it were not so, there would be no need for consciousness at all, since we would only be acting instinctively.
No, I'm afraid that Dr. Cashmore is selling the same old justification of Oligarchy, except in this case, it's NO-FAULT.

Mar 03, 2010
Also- this "Study" doesn't even qualify as real science- it's hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and it should therefore be rejected out of hand as pure sophistry.
To my mind, it is obviously pseudoscience aimed at influencing policy. Unfortunately, I know that it will be seized upon and incorporated into endless hours of empty debate publicly, and used by policymaker$$$ as an unacknowledged bolster to back up their policymaking agenda.

I say Dr. Cashmore is a dick for trying to make us believe that we are nothing more than mindless zombie consumers.

Mar 03, 2010
@OregonWind:
It was an honest question, if somnum can tell that Dr. Cashmore has no idea how consciousness happens from a simple review article like this, then surely he has the knowledge to answer how consciousness does happen, right?

I mean, the idea that potassium and calcium ions are released and inhibited in complex fashions based on neural pathways in over 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses to form a consciousness? Well that's just silly, right?


I'd like to see how an explanation like that can explain seeing the color red. I'd also like to know why that then consciousness is only generated in neurons - remember, vitalism is incorrect. Does any transfer of charge denote consciousness? Are lightning bolts conscious?
For what it's worth JayK, of course I don't think we're the only primate that's conscious. What would lead you to believe that? I have gathered though from your statements that you really just have cursory knowledge of this subject.

Mar 03, 2010
So how do you have the knowledge to say that Dr. Cashmore has no idea what conscious is, somnum? As for "seeing the color red", what is wrong with the understanding of receptor cones attached to a nerve bundle that is attached to the optical cortex and that in turn being used by multiple other brain functions to generate the color "red" through matching up with previous memory pathways? A nice active brain scan while showing a person the color red maps it out pretty nicely, if you want something you can compare to, but ultimately unnecessary.

But ultimately, I'm trying to decide which one of you will be the first to mention the "soul" in order to dismiss this PhD's opinions.

Mar 03, 2010
Nice, an appeal to authority, the cornerstone of any logical argument.
Because trying to frame consciousness in currently accepted scientific terms is going to be inherently flawed...take a look at your post for example. You describe the path a photon of light takes, and then you use the statement "generate the color 'red'" to experience...HOW? How exactly does that neural pathway generate the color red. Good luck trying to answer that question while appealing to neural architecture WITHOUT reducing it to pure physics, which is what you're trying to do. You want to say somehow the brain is special, that is vitalism at work JayK. Otherwise you are saying charge creates consciousness or something similar, and you have no way to argue that it doesn't occur elsewhere in other ordered systems with those properties, ie, the entire universe.

Mar 03, 2010
I've said nothing of the sort, and I'm not sure how you're reading that into my posts. A multitude of complex biochemical reactions all happening in the time dimension creates the illusion of a consciousness. The idea of vitalism is ridiculous on its core, which is why I brought up primates, and I'm not sure where in my explanation you got that from. If you can point out another system with as many interconnections that works in the time domain like brains do, then I might think that you had a point.

As for an appeal to authority, sure! The guy has worked long and hard and he has a professional opinion that deserves recognition until such time as it is deemed incorrect. Many here are ready to dismiss his opinion out of hand with nothing more than sniff and a huff, including you, and I'd like to try to figure out why.


Mar 03, 2010
Again, I also go back to the active brain scan in the time dimension, while showing a patient the color red vs. a different color, to determine the differential in how the brain generates the idea of the color red based on previous biochemical pathways. Does this not make sense to you?

Mar 03, 2010
You've said exactly that, you just don't realize it. "complex biochemical reactions", why is the "bio" part important here? That is the idea analogous to vitalism that you aren't seeing. Biology reduces to chemistry reduces to physics, no? If no, then you are a vitalist. The internet has more interconnections than a brain and works in the time domain, so does everything in the universe, if you understand what a system is. Is the internet conscious? Is the universe?

Mar 03, 2010
be the first to mention the "soul" in order to dismiss this PhD's opinions.


Here I'll use the acceptation of the 'soul'. The soul is apart of 'us' just as the ego is. Some call it the 'third-eye' or reptilian mind, you can call it whatever because it both exist and does not exist (Oh my God! Using quantum theory to describe something!). We have the freewill to listen to the 'ego -conscience' or the 'soul -unconscious'. When we choose to listen to our 'ego' we are abandoning freewill for supposed fact and opinions -fractal information (I hope no-one is arrogant enough to say that any science is 'real-fact', to those people I say study some science history), or we can live 'free' and only listen to our 'soul'. The soul is only concerned with the 'here'. What is 'here' is the only true information that one can rely on. This doesn't prove or disprove anything it's just one of an infinite amount of ways to describe our reality..

Mar 03, 2010
The term "biochemical" is used because modelling the brain from the standpoint of pure physics is unrealistic and useless. You may be able to model a small "brain" using a pure physics model, but it wouldn't be useful to model an entire brain that way. "Biochemical" would just be the abstraction in the pathway you've given.

The question of the internet is interesting, however, and I find myself unable to really answer it. What do you think? Then again, the internet really doesn't rely upon the time domain in order to make connections to other objects with every input in order to generate unique outputs. There might be some applications that do that that I'm not aware of, and in fact might make for an interesting experiment.

Thanks for the idea, I might have to play with that.

Mar 03, 2010
The consciousness IS illusion of free will. We are being informed by our subconsciousness, after the choice is made, that we're going to do it. In another words. We always do, what we knew we'll do, but at some times we didn't wanted to. As do I, posting here sometimes.

Mar 03, 2010
@Oregonwind:
Well now that everyone is aware of one of my intentions, it is no longer a valid question, but I never said I expected you to. I've already written off much of your opinion because you've attached a lot of weight to the "magic" of quantum theory in order to try to explain consciousness, with absolutely nothing to prove that that theory would have any validity (hence why I called it "magic").

SmartK8 actually brings up an important point, that most decisions are made without the consciousness and later (very short time) are justified by the more active consciousness. That happens to be a throwback effect of our poorly evolved brains. I'd post a link to a couple of the studies that came to that conclusion, but I just made an unconscious decision to be petulant and lazy about it.

Mar 03, 2010
Afraid you're still missing the point. Explain how consciousness, like seeing the color red, could possibly be EXPERIENCED by physical properties alone. Why do input and output along the time domain generate experience? What qualifies as the time domain? 100ms? What an arbitrary ad hoc decision if so. A million years should be just as valid. Your 'input to unique output' description is flawed, as that is a subjective human interpretation(description) of a property, not a physical law! Explain 'input to unique output' in the language of physics. Do unique outputs interact with kinetic or potential energy, charge, etc? For any physicalist description such as yours, properties of consciousness must reduce to physical events, yours is a subjective (ie, consciousness derived - that description only exists with a consciousness there to witness it) description.
'Neurological' based theories of mind are so narrow in scope with no reason why they should be so, they are ad hoc and arbitrary.

Mar 03, 2010
somnum: best fit analysis across an incredibly complex set of state machines with non-linear outputs to generate a "decision" would be an approximate answer. The time domain is important because what a digital engineer would term a "race condition" can have a huge effect on the results, which can be shown by using neural inhibitors. And that's just the subconscious. As was mentioned above by SmartK8, the justification part happens afterwards (at a statistical average time window) by the slower "conscious" brain, or the portion that has been slapped onto the reptilian portion by biological evolution of the brain.

Mar 03, 2010
I chose not to read the article, but instead just to bask in the warming glow of the comments. Was it of my own free will that this decision was made?

Mar 03, 2010
You're still not understanding. You are modeling how a brain works, and giving evolutionary underpinnings for success. I don't disagree with any of that. But all of that is irrelevant for trying to find some sort of idea as to why anything is experienced. You can dress up your answer in as much technical lingo as you like, it is still totally irrelevant. You are merely answering what consciousness DOES and HOW IT DOES IT. You are not answering why I am aware of anything. My guess is you are defaulting to those types of answers simply because you don't know what to say. If there is no free will, there is no need for consciousness at all, but even that is ancillary to our discussion.

Mar 03, 2010
Also, my will isn't free...only on nights and weekends after 9pm.

Mar 03, 2010
somnum: Just to clarify one point. The colors are just the variables (or the placeholders) to stabilize the visual information, which is inherently unstable. It's calculated (processed) from an area rather then a single detected wavelength. As such, the colors do exist in our mind as the information, but not in a form of directly detected wavelength values. That calculation is performed by chemistry (therefore physics) in our brains.

Mar 03, 2010

Some multidimensional physics, like string theory, could explain many things.


More then a biological explanation, yes.. Though it still lacks totality. It can explain what information is and how it is assimilated.. But not were it comes from. People who believe science will answers their questions are as blind as people who fumble with dogma.

Mar 03, 2010
somnum: Just to clarify one point. The colors are just the variables (or the placeholders) to stabilize the visual information, which is inherently unstable. It's calculated (processed) from an area rather then a single detected wavelength. As such, the colors do exist in our mind as the information, but not in a form of directly detected wavelength values. That calculation is performed by chemistry (therefore physics) in our brains.


Am I following correctly when you are just saying that our perception of reality isn't dead on? If so, I'm not sure where anything I said was in disagreement with that. Basically...what point are you clarifying?

Mar 03, 2010
This article entitled "Intelligent people have 'unnatural' preferences and values that are novel in human evolution" (and here is the link: http://www.physor...13.html) might tend to upset this cart. Maybe folks with below average intelligence could fit Mr. Cashmore's theory more readily than the smarter ones out there. Could it be that "intelligent" evolution has started mankind on another course separate from environmental evolution? About damn time I say. This upward course might include true free will - as opposed to following your pre-programmed animal instincts and environmental/behavioral ruts that guide decisions. This other article makes the case that humans are evolving - that we are making up new rules far outside of natural evolution. If what Mr. Cashmore states is true (and I'm not convinced at all), then this would be a definite break in that theory. My 2 cents.

Mar 03, 2010
This guy is 100% correct. This is nothing at all new. Great thinkers have come to this conclusion repeatedly throughout history. The causal chain goes back unbroken to the beginning. I think it is an emotional attachment to self or fear of annihilation that would cause people not to see this starkly obvious fact.

AJW
Mar 03, 2010
Responsibility and free will are meaningless within justice system, except as justification. If it is proven beyound doubt that there is no free will, punishment under justice system would continue and be justified as preventing repeat behaviour.

Mar 03, 2010
We need to get Cashmore together with Malcolm Gladwell of Blink fame! Lot's of correlations....

Mar 03, 2010
We need to get Cashmore together with Malcolm Gladwell of Blink fame! Lot's of correlations....

Mar 03, 2010
Ah, Quantum Consciousness. After doing a little bit of Googling, I see where you're trying to come from:

Not willing to be left behind the new-ish field of neurobiology, theoretical physicists have latched onto the fact that there are mathematical bases for the reactions of each neuron. Quantum physicists, not content just with that level of involvement, have now come up with the idea of quantum consciousness, which appears to have some following of people that like it because of the religious implications, or because of other implications that they like, but really are just couched in science-y sounding terminology.

I didn't mean to say that all quantum physics is magic, only those that like to act like they understand (not the physicists) do so because of the same kind of attraction as "magic". Demeaning? Yes, intentionally.

Mar 03, 2010
Like biologists know how to mix up some inorganic matter in a lab, apply some power, and voila, life.


I see you're familiar with Craig Venter's work on synthetic biology.

Also: eliminative materialism FTW! http://www.newsci...5780.070

Mar 03, 2010
Thanks thales, I might also note that Daniel Dennett has done fine work on the origin of consciousness:

http://ase.tufts....mers.htm

Of course I'm biased, as he's come to the same conclusion that I have, that the material sciences are quite sufficient to model the brain and consciousness and don't require the added complexity of quantum mechanics or quantum field theory.

Mar 03, 2010
I didn't mean to say that all quantum physics is magic, only those that like to act like they understand (not the physicists) do so because of the same kind of attraction as "magic". Demeaning? Yes, intentionally.


I agree, but for more than just quantum physics. Scientist have to admit that all fields of science are still evolving (some slower than others). This goes for those who fully subscribe to religion for an explanation, also. So for any person trying to describe the whole by using it's parts you are insane. Lol!

Mar 03, 2010
First, I am a physicist with two advanced degrees in the field.


Oh, you went there. You know this means you forfeit, right?

Mar 03, 2010
I HAVE FREE WILL
YOU DONT !!!
contact Neil Farbstein
protn7@att.net

Mar 03, 2010
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Mar 03, 2010
LoL at OregonWind. Do you believe in ghosts too?

I'm not sure. There's a possibilty that all ghosts are really doppegangers.

Mar 03, 2010
...Has anyone ever given "free will" a sufficiently stringent definition that blathering about whether or not it's possible or not makes any sense? My conception of free will, as far as I can tell, is pretty similar to this biologist feller's--and, consequently, I agree with him.

If I am presented with a situation, my response to that situation will be largely based on my previous experiences, the nature of the situation itself, my genes (to what extent, I don't know; I'm a chemistry geek, after all, not a biology geek), and various other factors--perhaps including random neuron misfirings. The closest I can get to free will from there is if I base my actions on none of the above; however, if I do that, I'm acting randomly and am just exhibiting stochastic will, not free will.

...But, again, that's with MY definition of "free will." I imagine a different definition would give a different result as regards its existence or nonexistence.

Mar 03, 2010
Once one accepts the notion that our actions are not under our control, it is pointless to suggest any course of action to take in response. Cashmore suggests changing the way our judicial system works. If he's right, we have no choice but to do things the way we do them, and any adjustment we make is inevitable. I say it's pointless, but that also suggests we have a choice. Yes, I believe in free will, but I don't think it can be boiled down to chemical and mechanical reactions. I see it as a special case of cause & effect, not an exception to it.

Mar 03, 2010
The internet has more interconnections than a brain and works in the time domain, so does everything in the universe, if you understand what a system is. Is the internet conscious?

Not yet!


Mar 03, 2010
"Whereas the impressions are that we are making ‘free’ conscious decisions, the reality is that consciousness is simply a state of awareness that reflects the input signals, and these are an unavoidable consequence of GES [genes, environment, and stochasticism],” Cashmore explained ...

In 1965 Marine L/cpl Thomas Creek threw himself on a grenade to protect his fellow Marines. His last words were,"I've got it." Blatant proof of free will.

Mar 03, 2010
Thought Experiment, Guys!

I wake out of peaceful slumber, every nerve straining to hear a sound- a sound that will allow me to locate the source of an eminent threat.

Question- if the unconscious mind rules all, why do I need to CONSCIOUSLY evaluate the threat, before taking action to resolve it?

Mar 03, 2010
Question- if the unconscious mind rules all, why do I need to CONSCIOUSLY evaluate the threat, before taking action to resolve it?


Because Jesus is in the third quadrant with A-Rod and the secondary rotation axis is left handed.

Mar 03, 2010
"Whereas the impressions are that we are making �free� conscious decisions, the reality is that consciousness is simply a state of awareness that reflects the input signals, and these are an unavoidable consequence of GES [genes, environment, and stochasticism],� Cashmore explained ...

In 1965 Marine L/cpl Thomas Creek threw himself on a grenade to protect his fellow Marines. His last words were,"I've got it." Blatant proof of free will.

How is that evidence for free will? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I just honestly don't follow.

Mar 03, 2010
You don't need biology to know that the concept of free will fails philosophically and physically on several levels.

Mar 03, 2010
Thought Experiment, Guys!

I wake out of peaceful slumber, every nerve straining to hear a sound- a sound that will allow me to locate the source of an eminent threat.

Question- if the unconscious mind rules all, why do I need to CONSCIOUSLY evaluate the threat, before taking action to resolve it?


Conversely, which level of consciousness decided you needed to wake up to evaluate the sound? YOU certainly weren't aware of it. YOU were sleeping. Tsk tsk :)

Mar 03, 2010
@Recovering
Conversely, Determinism fails of insufficient proof at the same tme.

@Ronan
Determinalistically speaking, all human action is based in self interest/self preservation. Therefore, to consciously act in contravention of this principle is, in itself, proof of Free Will.
You've probably heard all the counter arguments: "He did it for Glory, because he was an attention hog.." -and the like. But do those arguments hold water? No. It is, however, possible to split enough hairs to cast superficial doubt.

Mar 03, 2010
paradoxes point out the inadequacy of a favored view. Though the logic appears sound the premise also appears lacking enough information.
free will or not and its implications do have a history. simply because we not find an explanation easily forthcoming does not mean conclusions based in that inadequacy are truth.

Mar 03, 2010

Conversely, which level of consciousness decided you needed to wake up to evaluate the sound? YOU certainly weren't aware of it. YOU were sleeping. Tsk tsk :)

Are you trying to say the your conscious-mind or subconscious-mind is not also YOU? granted your subconscious-mind -soul is more aware than your conscious-mind -ego, but I'm pretty sure both are still a part of you. That's like trying to argue whether or not your eye saw something or your mind allowed your eye to see something.. I'm fairly positive both are required.

Mar 03, 2010
Caliban: "Determinalistically speaking, all human action is based in self interest/self preservation?" Not so! We're puppets of evolution, and evolution's goals are the preservation of our GENES, not ourselves. I don't intend to belittle Thomas Creek's sacrifice--I hope, were I ever to find myself in a similar situation, that I would act in the same manner--but kin and group selection (basically the same thing, by the by... http://www.physor...144.html ) are all that's needed to explain his actions. Humans are social animals, and as a whole we're more likely to survive if some of our number are prone to self-sacrifice and nobility. They die, but their genes live on--and that's all that evolution cares about.

Mar 03, 2010
If we have no free will, then the future is as immutable as the past. Cashmore reveals that he doesn't really believe his own theory when he suggests we change our judicial system. If the future cannot be changed by our choices, then it's utterly pointless to suggest making any changes in the way we behave. What will be will be, and there's nothing anyone can do to alter the inevitable future.

Mar 03, 2010
If we have no free will, then the future is as immutable as the past. Cashmore reveals that he doesn't really believe his own theory when he suggests we change our judicial system. If the future cannot be changed by our choices, then it's utterly pointless to suggest making any changes in the way we behave. What will be will be, and there's nothing anyone can do to alter the inevitable future.

Mar 03, 2010
Ronan-
So you're saying that Evolutionary principles(directly or indirectly) dictated that there should be a war, in order to apply selective pressure to refine humankind's genome, by having a few of the millions involved act in an altruistic fashion? Altruism is a part of Natural Selection?
That's a long leap, my friend!

Mar 03, 2010
@TheWalrus
Cashmore reveals that he doesn't really believe his own theory when he suggests we change our judicial system.
But Cashmore's advocacy, his article, and everything that follows is also part of the same deterministic picture. Cashmore had no real choice: or rather, his choices were shaped not by some magically independent agency, but by the laws and mechanisms of the universe, of which he's but a tiny part.

Mar 03, 2010
I have a tough time distinguishing intelligence from free will. As one becomes more intelligent, you bring in more information regarding the environment, others, and self. This is a continuous scale as can be seen from recent work on corvids. If you have a certain amount of information, you come to decision A vs B or C. If you reconsider with the same information, you will again come to decision A. Do you have free will? Who knows.
Assume Dr. Cashmore is correct. Should our justice system change? I think not. Punishments add to the negative consequences of certain actions for survival of self and propagation of genes. Putting someone away for short or long periods reduces the future propagation of a set of genes that is detrimental to the rest of our collective health. Whether we put them away since they are responsible or just for the benefits of our society leads to the same actions.

Mar 03, 2010
@Caliban, Ronan, RobertKLR,

As an aside, one interesting question: why was it Creek and not any of the others, who consummated the deed?

But let's not get side-tracked by evolution and genes too much. A great deal of human behavior is not inherited; it is LEARNED. But this does not invalidate determinism. Learning shapes the brain, altering the mind. Knowledge, experience, behavioral scripts, etc. subsequently feed into whatever calculations the brain makes (and the mind, respectively, interprets as "choices".)

Mar 03, 2010
More broadly speaking,
This here question of free will vs determinism is as old as dirt, and is still without definitive solution.
I choose to believe in free will. As I said earlier- why would consciousness have even developed if it was entirely superfluous, as it must be if we are devoid of free will. Elsewise, the Un- or Sub- or Preconscious would suffice, yes?

Also no possible use for love, hate, regret, longing, art, music, politics, religion, et c- essentially the things that define HUMAN.

For me, Consciousness=Free Will=Technology. None of them can meaningfully exist independent of the others.

In purely operational terms, I will note that without free will, there really aren't any meaningful consequences to human action or inaction- and you are Always, and Perfectly justified in whatever you do, as is the person who is, in turn, DOING IT TO YOU. PRAISE MAMMON!!!WORLD WITHOUT END!!! So hurry out and buy Dr. Ca$hmore's EXCELLELLENT, IMPERVIOUS SNAKE OIL!

Mar 03, 2010
Ronan-
So you're saying that Evolutionary principles(directly or indirectly) dictated that there should be a war, in order to apply selective pressure to refine humankind's genome, by having a few of the millions involved act in an altruistic fashion? Altruism is a part of Natural Selection?
That's a long leap, my friend!

Well, if I'm jumping off a cliff, I can at least offer the defense that all the cool kids (evolutionary biologists) are doing it. It's not that hard to get altruism and self-sacrifice out of such a heartless process as evolution, and a good deal of work has been done, so I understand, towards figuring out precisely how such (apparently) maladaptive traits can arise. If you really aren't familiar with this, I'd recommend doing a few searches on kin selection, group selection, and game theory; those all should turn up some information on how selfishness can, paradoxically, create a sort of selflessness. Fascinating stuff.

Mar 03, 2010
Pink Elephant: Sounds like you answered your own question to me. Thomas Creek, I should guess, acted as he did due to the influence of his genes and, perhaps even more importantly, through the influence of how he had been raised, the values with which he had been instilled, his interactions with other people, etc. It's possible that if he hadn't done what he had, in the moments before the grenade went off someone else would have thrown themselves on top of it, and we would be having the same conversation about a different person, and wondering what it was that made THEM so unique.

(Edit:) And Caliban...I kinda suspect that we're talking at cross purposes, and using slightly (but significantly) different definitions of "free will." Could you define the term, please? As I stated somewhat earlier, I have trouble imagining a logically consistent situation in which free will (as I define it) could exist, and you don't seem to have that problem--so odds are, I'm misunderstanding you.

Mar 03, 2010
Ronan,
I think I've got a fairly good grip on those concepts, and I understand your argument.
What I'm trying to point out is that the very same information can as easily be cited as evidence FOR free will, and with just as much validity.

Really, though, the defining difference in this argument is that there is no moral dimension to Determinism, whereas the very concept of Morality/Amorality would seem to imply Free Will...

Mar 03, 2010
@Caliban: Not if you were biologically geared towards altruism due to the positive selection for communal behaviors during early human/primate phases. Survival of the species may be the determinate, not so much any feel-good ideologies that come from post-rationalizations.

Mar 03, 2010
Ronan,
I mean the ability to decide in a manner not necessarily consistent with what would be considered self-interest/self-preservation(even when it is defined across a group). As Pink El pointed out above, some would have it that this is no more than the convergence of genome and experience. I disagree- there is an entire, abstract, separate realm of human experience that affects what, when, how, and why we do things on the material plane. That entire part of human experience is, in a Deterministic universe, entirely unecessary, superfluous, and as such, would have been selected out of the human genome as a positive risk to the survival of the species.

Just think back to the Cold War- in a "D" universe- the concept of Total Annihilation of the species would have been entirely at odds with any concept of Determinism being the a priori mechanism of human survival, and by extension, as the basis of individual or group action.

Mar 03, 2010
It's not a matter of determinism vs. free will at all, despite what people so often think. The idea of free will is equally nonsensical in a non-deterministic universe. If a process is deterministic, there's only one possible outcome per situation, making free will meaningless. If it's non-deterministic, then "you" (by your definition of choice) cannot truly choose what your physical self does, since the behaviors of its component particles are random and thus beyond "your" control.

Mar 03, 2010
@Caliban,
why would consciousness have even developed if it was entirely superfluous, as it must be if we are devoid of free will.
A sheer non-sequitur.
Also no possible use for love, hate, regret, longing, art, music, politics, religion, etc
Another screaming non-sequitur.
I will note that without free will, there really aren't any meaningful consequences to human action or inaction.
In a deterministic world, there are ALWAYS consequences for EVERYTHING.
I disagree- there is an entire, abstract, separate realm of human experience that affects what, when, how, and why we do things on the material plane.
...the MATERIAL PLANE? Disagree all you want, but reality ain't fantasy, and you're fantasizing with wild abandon...

Mar 03, 2010
"What I'm trying to point out is that the very same information can as easily be cited as evidence FOR free will, and with just as much validity." And vice versa, from my perspective. I don't think this is true--I still hold some hope for an objective reality that the evidence actually points towards!--but I think as we are, both seeing the question through our different lenses, it's true enough. What looks like free will to you looks like determinism and instincts to me, and yet we're both looking at the same data...

That said, my interpretation of goodness and badness is different than yours; Now, granted, I'm NOT an evolutionary biologist; I'm an undergrad studying chemistry. But to me, "choosing" between good or evil (as defined by...oneself, I guess, although "evil" tends to get kind of hyper-justified by the ne'er do well) is just another unchosen action, influenced by circumstance, personal experience, upbringing, etc. (continued)

Mar 03, 2010
The definitions of good and evil themselves, I'd view as just being the result of a combination of evolution and culture.

And (slow typer, aren't I?) going on your latest post (in re the Cold War and similarly massively non-adaptive behaviors)...well, I never said evolution was perfect. It does make mistakes, and creatures are left with traits that are just plain maladaptive. These tend to get selected out over time. Remember, when we evolved all our armament of instincts and characteristics, we didn't have thermonuclear warheads! We evolved to fit one environment, and we are now, effectively, in a different one--and many of our instincts simply don't match up with it. There would, of course, be "bad" instincts and traits even if we were all still hunter-gatherers, as evolution aims for "good enough" rather than "perfect," but considering how much we've changed the world we live in (as in, the social world, and the abilities we've given ourselves), mismatched traits are expected.

Mar 03, 2010
If free will does not exist, then why are there any opinions above? ...was all above simply random noise and not opinion? In which case the article and all these comments are a waste of time, along with you and my existence.

The reason you bothered to read and comment is because you had an opinion and felt it was worthy to express. That expresses a will to act upon an of your own choosing. If you had no choice in the matter, then the musings are random and cannot be described as an opinion.

So unless your opinion is that free will exists, don't bother to twitch your fingers forming an pseudo comment since it is just random noise.

Mar 03, 2010
.
I will note that without free will, there really aren't any meaningful consequences to human action or inaction.
In a deterministic world, there are ALWAYS consequences for EVERYTHING.


PE-
In a deterministic world, A produces B produces C produces D...ad infinitum. A purely mechanical process. Hair splitting, I know- but hardly consequences- just ongoing process.

Mar 03, 2010
PE-
In a deterministic world, A produces B produces C produces D...ad infinitum. A purely mechanical process. Hair splitting, I know- but hardly consequences.
In a deterministic world, decisions can be made. Your computer makes them at a rate of one billion per second. Given an input I, proceed down path A or B depending on whether I is 'on' or 'off'.

When potential repercussions of an impending action are considered as one of the inputs, the ultimate decision is affected by such considerations. Deterministically. And yet note, we're talking about 'consequences'.

Mar 03, 2010
CWFlink: While that doesn't do much to indicate the validity of free will, I'm afraid I don't exactly have a fitting retort--other than that, if I took your advice to heart and clammed up, that would still have simply been a response to events and situations beyond my control. So why bother betwixt one path or another? Evidently, my mind works in such a way that I enjoy poking interesting ideas ad infinitum, and I'm persistent enough that when the pointless of my poking is pointed out to me, I acknowledge the point but keep on poking regardless.

Mar 03, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Mar 03, 2010

When potential repercussions of an impending action are considered as one of the inputs, the ultimate decision is affected by such considerations. Deterministically. And yet note, we're talking about 'consequences'.

PE-
Should I take this to mean that you don't see any difference between human activity influenced by free will vs that governed by determinism? Are you saying that they are one and the same? Simultaneous? I am, apparently, not understanding. Please to enlighten.

Mar 03, 2010
@Recovering
Conversely, Determinism fails of insufficient proof at the same time.

@Ronan
Determinalistically speaking, all human action is based in self interest/self preservation. Therefore, to consciously act in contravention of this principle is, in itself, proof of Free Will.
You've probably heard all the counter arguments: "He did it for Glory, because he was an attention hog.." -and the like. But do those arguments hold water? No. It is, however, possible to split enough hairs to cast superficial doubt.

No its proof that people can resist biological impulses and do things that are unnatural like enduring extreme heat or cold or sticking pins in themselves. That does not prove free will, it proves something different. And the soldier that jumped onto the grenade to save his friends was doing something against human nature that went against his own personal survival instincts. It seems to take more will power to do that than to sit in a lounge chair drinking gin.

Mar 03, 2010
You have twin 10 year old boys and take them to a corn maze; they run ahead and disappear in 2 directions. You can chose to follow either one because you HAVE FREE WILL. No need to flog Occam with the quantum mechanics.

Mar 03, 2010
I do not understand how 'free will' can be meaningfully understood by way of the scientific method, exclusively. Please argue, sans logical fallacies, with citations...

Mar 04, 2010
Like most things I have read this is hardly "Law"

It's implications on the otherhand are quite heavy.

These findings validate the fact that we are only animals and are mostly maximizing our survival. I find then when we look too closely sometimes *we miss the big picture*.

Free will is all a question of whether a person wants to *defy* it's own reasons for survival. Stochasticism exists amongst people or else "mental illness" and other asymptotic anomolies wouldn't exist.

Mar 04, 2010
@Caliban,
Should I take this to mean that you don't see any difference between human activity influenced by free will vs that governed by determinism?
What I mean is that everything (even quantum mechanics) is deterministic, even though our knowledge of exact state is fundamentally constrained by instrument noise and precision, as well as inability to sample the entire relevant volume of the universe instantaneously. We don't (and in practice, really can't) know all the preconditions of any given complex system, and so we can't make exact predictions of its next state. This stochastic perception of the world isn't a reflection of the world's true nature; it's merely a reflection of our limitations as observers. Fundamentally, the universe is stateful and deterministic, i.e. computational. Either that, or it would have to be purely chaotic, which it obviously isn't.

"Free will" is an illusion, just like it's an illusion that the sun goes around the earth.

Mar 04, 2010
it's interesting how confidently an intelligent person can say human behavior is totally determined by biological processes and that this precludes free will while at the same time admitting that the behavior of the matter that makes up those processes is unpredictable and stochastic at it's most fundamental level. Biology really isn't the field that would equip someone to contemplate the empirical nature of free will.

poi
Mar 04, 2010
so what crime has Cashmore committed that caused him to write all these?

Mar 04, 2010
PE,
I see. It's Newton's "Clockwork Universe". Free Will is illusory. Hope is Hopeless, and, to quote myself from earlier:

"you are Always, and Perfectly justified in whatever you do, as is the person who is, in turn, DOING IT TO YOU. PRAISE MAMMON!!!WORLD WITHOUT END!!! So hurry out and buy Dr. Ca$hmore's EXCELLELLENT, IMPERVIOUS SNAKE OIL!"


Mar 04, 2010
to say human behavior is totally determined by biological processes and that this precludes free will while at the same time admitting that the behavior of the matter that makes up those processes is unpredictable and stochastic at it's most fundamental level is poor logic. Biology really isn't the field that would equip someone to contemplate the empirical nature of free will.

Our present understanding of the fabric of reality fits almost too well into the world view given thousands of years ago through the people of Isreal and Jesus Christ. While one might think that God would create a universe where you must seek God first to find Him and where there is no indication of the mechanism of His interaction with the world, it seems if we seek the fundamental nature of the universe, even in a secular way, His signature is there. At the very smallest levels it seems we see arrows to the biggest truth about which our life centers and without which our lives will be wasted.

Mar 04, 2010
Does freewill exist? Sure, by my personal definition.
Now explain exactly what you mean by "freewill".
Therein is the rub. We all "know" what we mean by "freewill" whatever "it" is (much as we do by the word "spirit"), but I suspect that many of us are talking about something very different to everyone else.

Mar 04, 2010
Lets clear some things up.
Free will is Control.
Do we surround the universe or does the universe surround(control) us? Clearly, the cosmos win. Free will is caveman logic much like the concept of hope. Nothing comes from nothing is rather an interesting concept when it comes to free will because we know that when we make a decision that decision is based on something. In fact it is that something (your value) that determines your decision, not the other way around. In essence, we live in a system of control...if we cannot escape this system then (values or what not).....in other words....every decision is calculated according to something already in our minds(values)....how thenwe cannot have power over it(our destiny).


Mar 04, 2010
Cashmore neglects the important role of socialization in mammal development and maturation, the effect of which is to temper frank biological determinism. The people who regularly find themselves in trouble with the law certainly are deficient in socialized skills, so perhaps there is some scope for the rehabilitation of offenders, rather than just plain 'punishment', however that is defined. The 'eye for an eye' thing is a bit out-of-date. Avoidance/aversive conditioning should do the trick, for most biological determinists, after all Skinner was one of them. So, with rape offenders, for example,wire their genitals up to a distribution board and shock the hell out of them every time they have a sexual thought. LOL Still, people make life choices and while they do so, there must still be a modicum of 'free will', perhaps not as much as some philosophers would like, in the interstices of biological determinism.

Mar 04, 2010
Those who went to a prostitute thought they wanted to. Those who married thought they wanted to. I wouldn't have done either with a free will.

Mar 04, 2010
Lets clear some things up.
Free will is Control.
Do we surround the universe or does the universe surround(control) us? Clearly, the cosmos win. Free will is caveman logic much like the concept of hope. Nothing comes from nothing is rather an interesting concept when it comes to free will because we know that when we make a decision that decision is based on something. In fact it is that something (your value) that determines your decision, not the other way around. In essence, we live in a system of control...if we cannot escape this system then we cannot have power over it(our destiny). Every decision is a predetermined calculation of "what suits you best". Free will is jumping off the bridge when you believe its a bad thing. Suiciders believe its a good thing.

Mar 04, 2010
Atheists have stated that if God is omniscient, then humans have no free will as God sees all and knows all for all time.
A biological argument claiming humans have no free will then contradicts that atheist argument that God cannot exist.

Incorrect. The statement is that free will and god cannot exist at the same time.

The reason god cannot exist is because christians state that the bible is perfect, but since the bible has self contradiction on the topic of free will it cannot be perfect, thusly, god cannot be perfect and therefore cannot exist as you say he does.

Mar 04, 2010
@Caliban,
Hope is Hopeless
Hope is probabilistic. Outcomes can be both unknown in advance (from a human perspective) and predetermined at the same time (from the absolute computational perspective.) Hope can push an individual to behaviors and efforts that, when pitted against competing factors, nevertheless yield a desired outcome. The outcome itself may be predestined, but hope can and does sometimes play a vital role, just like all other inputs to a system.
you are Always, and Perfectly justified in whatever you do, as is the person who is, in turn, DOING IT TO YOU.
Justification implies reasoning; reasoning generates reasons; reasons are the rational inputs that drive your decisions, in conjunction with the subconscious biases. Your actions are always deterministic, but your justifications may be quite flawed in the eyes of others and even in your own eyes -- particularly if they go against socially (mutually) agreed upon moral principles.

Mar 04, 2010
I do have to comment on the statement that "Quantum effects at the electrochemical level create random variations...". That statement is not definitive, and could adequately be restated as "Quantum effects at the electrochemical level create all variations deterministically in various universes according to the most likely model of the world that we can derive from the best experimental evidence that we have".

Mar 04, 2010
About God:

God is the system of control - the universe, God is everywhere. If the universe was imperfect then the stability required to sustain anything (keep matter intact) and life would be impossible. If the universe is perfect then God is perfect(view first line). System of control are laws of physics which interestingly are blended with matter...so God is in everything too. God is the determiner, but the conundrum is that god while being in the position of having free will since there is no system of control above God does not have free will because he can only affect every atom(or smaller) at once...since laws effect all matter. Thus praying god is a foolish endeavor.

Mar 04, 2010
So whats the closest thing to free will? Determining what is truly in your best interest and sticking by it. Otherwise we will do what we believe is best for us.

Mar 04, 2010
I've always felt the concept of free will is implausible, since (a) there is no definition of what the (apparently supernatural) "will" is, and (b) simpler hypotheses suffice to explain human behavior. In this respect it does appear very much like the vitalistic theories in biology, or the quantum-induced consciousness theory of Penrose. Simpler alternative hypotheses exist, with fewer unexplained elements.

Why we have this illusion of "free will" stems I believe from the fact that very little of our decision-making processes are subject to conscious evaluation. Only for a tiny fraction of our decisions do we perceive the true causes of our actions. Given this lack of self-awareness, it is natural that we view these subconscious decisions as arising spontaneously from a "will". I agree with the author, the strength of this illusion will fade as we get a better understanding of the brain.

Mar 04, 2010
The most valuable outcome of this type of work in my view would be a reassessment of how our criminal justice system should work. Rather than focus on retribution and revenge, more rationally justice should focus on minimizing the likelihood of harm to society in the future.

In some ways the retribution-based and rational justice systems coincide, in others they do not. Rationally for example, a criminal's punishment should not depend on whether he is mentally unfit, or a minor, unless these factors somehow have bearing on the likelihood that he will commit additional crimes in the future. And there may be some criminals that we believe are guilty, but through circumstances won't likely have the ability or motive to commit crimes again, and we might rationally let them go without punishment. An example might be a rapist who agrees to castration.

Mar 04, 2010
I think there are two issues here:
1. Free will is NOT a scientific concept yet because it can't be falsified (http://en.wikiped...ability) until we can travel in time.
2. Mr. Cashmore is forgeting the information or entropy (http://en.wikiped...entropy) ... Information is independent of the matter.

Mar 04, 2010
@feOly,
Information is independent of the matter.
Information is just a mathematical abstraction, used to denote the states of matter*, and the transitions between states. Information is expressed by, or encoded in, matter: it has no independent existence outside of matter.

*By "matter", I actually mean matter-energy-space-time, which I understand as being just facets of a single holistic entity. So you can substitute "the realm of the material", or simply just "nature", for "matter".

Mar 04, 2010
@stuntmonkey,
Rather than focus on retribution and revenge, more rationally justice should focus on minimizing the likelihood of harm to society in the future.
Prevention and rehabilitation are one thing (and worthy concepts in their own right), but they do not equate with justice. For victims of a crime, there is indeed no justice without revenge or retribution. It would be nice, of course, if victims could just forgive and move on (assuming they survived the crime): but few people are capable of such magnanimity. Victims will continue to feel wronged until and unless the perpetrator suffers commensurately with the suffering of the victims. You could criticize this as justice on a crude, animalistic, primitively emotional level, but it's very vital to achieving closure and healing.

Mar 04, 2010
@feOly, Information is independent of the matter.
... Information is expressed by, or encoded in, matter:... it has no independent existence outside of matter.


That "coding" is what I could call projection of information in the 4D space-time... but as I said in point 1, still we are in the philosophical arena and since I don't "believe" in practical time travel it will remain at the same status as religion... maybe that's why this discussion is so popular today :)

Mar 04, 2010
Balderdash. Blinded by their own pseudo-science and over-robust terminology the only illusion is the "belief" that free-will does not exist for humans, while it is true free-will does not and never will exist for robots, which by the sounds of it, the "researcher" appears to be one, hence his inability to "find" free-will. See just because your choices may be limited, as in the case of a prisoner of any variety, still does not mean you lack choice, i.e. you always have the choice and the free-will to decide how you feel about your circumstances, and this is precisely where the true power of free-will comes into play to improve or worsen those circumstances. Of course only humans have this ability, while robots do not, hence the need to use robots to enhance our ability to express our free-will even more freely, since they wont mind anyhow, as they do not have any to begin with.
more on this here: http://cli.gs/free-will & here http://RoboEco.co...a-Robots

Mar 04, 2010
i.e. you always have the choice and the free-will to decide how you feel about your circumstances, and this is precisely where the true power of free-will comes into play to improve or worsen those circumstances.

So when you're given a lobotomy and the hardwired part of your brain that decodes and responds to stimuli via genetically built "emotive" mechanisms is missing, you still have the power to "feel" about it?

If you always had the freedom to deny chemistry, then there would be no need for psycological medications as they simply wouldn't work.

Mar 04, 2010
Now the discussion has turned to AI and the implications of such? The knowledge of the interaction of hardware and software along with self-modifying instructions and learning algorithms, in conjunction with genetic algorithms is a fairly new field and the philosophy of what can be done hasn't yet been determined. Do voltage/signal pathways have to be able to change in relations to stimuli in order to meet the specification of consciousness, or could self-modifying software do the same? These questions can go on and on and on, but it does seem to me that a limited consciousness can be generated with computerized systems. Much of whether we call it consciousness will just depend on the tests written for it.

Mar 04, 2010
We are not robots, we are humans. We must see the difference between our bodies and us. It is the interface between us and our bodies where free-will exists. Examining the body one will never find freewill, for it is not us, we are freewill, not our bodies which our free will controls. Once the freewill is expressed the body has no choice but to carry it out, hence the confusion, i.e. you are looking for free-will in the body, but it is not there it is above it, outside of it, delivered to it. We do not have souls, we have bodies. We do not have souls because we are soul. http://cli.gs/free-will http://roboeco.co...a-Robots

Paradoxically, to enhance our choices and opportunities to express our free-will, we must increase the use of robots who have no free-will to abuse.


Mar 04, 2010
Wow. People get pretty testy when you tell them they don't have free will.

Free will is the ability to make the decisions that you want to make. When something/someone prevents you from making the decisions you want to make THEN your free will is being taken away.

The debate doesn't seem to be over free will, but over whether or not we have control over the decisions we make. We do have control in such a way that our decisions are based on what we believe is best (conciously and subconciously)... but the decision is always based on a pre-existing set of conditions and, given the EXACT same set of conditions, a given person would make the same decision every time.

Mar 04, 2010
i.e. you always have the choice and the free-will to decide how you feel about your circumstances, and this is precisely where the true power of free-will comes into play to improve or worsen those circumstances.

So when you're given a lobotomy and the hardwired part of your brain that decodes and responds to stimuli via genetically built "emotive" mechanisms is missing, you still have the power to "feel" about it?

If you always had the freedom to deny chemistry, then there would be no need for psycological medications as they simply wouldn't work.


EXACTLY, of course they do not work. Once one receives a lobotomy it can be argued that only their body exists, and that the interface between their body and their self has been severed. You are making the point yourself, can you see it ?

All bigpharma products are poison based on faulty premise, this is abundantly clear. It is as simple as seeing that the connection between self & body can be restored by self only.

Mar 04, 2010
Atheists have stated that if God is omniscient, then humans have no free will as God sees all and knows all for all time.
A biological argument claiming humans have no free will then contradicts that atheist argument that God cannot exist.


A marjon syllogism:

All ripe bananas are yellow.
Sometimes, sun is yellow.
Therefore, sometimes the sun is a ripe banana.

Mar 04, 2010
Please, sysop, explain more of this fabulous connection that we can't see, touch, explain, measure, treat or even feel.

But wait, how do you know it is there, yourself?

Mar 04, 2010
Absence of proof is not proof of absence JayK, you know that. This very concept is also used to deceive, as you appear to be deceived by it. You are suggesting that just because we cannot prove that you exist that therefore you do not. This is absurd. Your body is not you, yet you do control it via your freewill. You are your freewill, and you have a body to express it, yet you are not your body, anymore than you are what you have been eating for the last 10 years, see ? http://cli.gs/free-will

Mar 04, 2010
No, no, you're just repeating yourself. I want some real honest wharrrblgharbl, and I'm thinking you're just the person to deliver it. What you've given so far is nice, but it just doesn't cross the line into full on crazy.

How can I encourage you to deliver?

Mar 04, 2010
Once one receives a lobotomy it can be argued that only their body exists, and that the interface between their body and their self has been severed. You are making the point yourself, can you see it ?

No you're missing the point. The "self" you refer to is a complex sum of the chemical interactions occuring within your body. You are your body. You are not some esoteric higher plane being with a soul and metaphysical components. Your physical parts are all the parts you have. When you lose them or they break they no longer function.

Since you're bordering on the religious already we'll go to the next point you're going to make and refute it.

Free will cannot exist if the concept of "God" holds true. A being that knows everything and created everything who's sight is irrespective of time predetermines everything within your life simply by creating you.

Free will IS an illusion, especially if you believe in a Judeo-Christian god.

Mar 04, 2010
No, no, you're just repeating yourself. I want some real honest wharrrblgharbl, and I'm thinking you're just the person to deliver it. What you've given so far is nice, but it just doesn't cross the line into full on crazy.

How can I encourage you to deliver?


Yes, yes JayK, Please PayPal $1500 to get us started, then go and read these to sites in their entirety: http://cli.gs/free-will & http://RoboeEco.c...freewill and be prepared to answer questions to demonstrate your comprehension and devotion to the truth that is so true it works for everyone, including YOU.

Please share your current understanding of freewill. Isn't your expression of such, or refusal thereof itself proof of freewill's existence ? Please explain how it isn't JayK, will you please ?

Mar 04, 2010
Just finished reading a couple of books about the theory of consciousness and free will based on Quantum effects that reside in the brain. The principle is based on the Quantum Zeno effect. Must admit I was troubled by the philosophical implications of Quantum Physics when studied it in College. I was just as concern about a deterministic universe that would imply that free will is an illusion. The author seems to accept a deterministic Universe based on Newtonian physics. As I have gotten older I am more willing to accept a non-deterministic universe with the strangeness of Quantum Physics and its implications.

Mar 04, 2010
A good way to test the validity of concepts and theories is to try to see whether they still work at 'breakdown'. I have never read about this subject so here's my, possibly flawed or overstated, opinion.

Mental disorder -> neurons malfunction -> brain is practically 'rewired' : neuo-chemical activity changes.. etc.
Result: you're suddenly doing/thinking/saying what you would have NOT normally do. Nor can you 'control' it.
Will is no longer so 'free' now is he?

Free will is a perfectly justified concept if we look at the macroscopic of things. We are decision making machines, our decisions are affected but not IMPOSED by external events, thus relatively - free.
On the microscopic scale, everything, every thought, every idea, decision, and reaction, could be well documented in logical sequences without loopholes.
Except that, the infinite amount of possible inputs/outputs per decision make it look 'free'. in my opinion.


Mar 04, 2010
Skeptic - sum of the parts is the sum of the parts.

You are not your car are you ? If you are not your car, how are you your body ? Your body is an earth suit, that you drive with freewill. You are freewill. If your interface with your body is clear and unimpeded, we call that healthy. Remember your body is composed of what you eat, yet it is not you. Just because you have a hard time understanding that you are not your body, only in control of it to a greater or lesser extent, does NOT mean that you ARE your body. You HAVE a body, and will continue to especially if your free-will decisions are good ones. You do NOT however HAVE a soul, since you ARE SOUL. ARE and HAVE are two different words. Follow ? Please explain your opinion. This may help too: http://cli.gs/free-will

Complexity is the illusion, and where you see complexity is where you are confused. Recall that in a healthy individual the free-will instantly manifests in proper action.

Mar 04, 2010
@ Lennox: You're not objective when determining you're own actions.

@sysop:
Complexity is the illusion, and where you see complexity is where you are confused. Recall that in a healthy individual the free-will instantly manifests in proper action.

Care to prove that?

You simply don't understand what your body does, this much is plain as day. It's very simple, if I chemically alter your brain, your personality and attitude change, this is proved true in all cases where chemical reaction is observed.

If I chemically alter your brain with pills, it's no different from your brain releasing those chemicals in response to external stimuli. You are the sum of your parts.

That you can't recouple you with your existence is a problem that you'll have to address.

Mar 04, 2010
By the way, your reference website, what a joke.

Mar 04, 2010

@sysop:
Complexity is the illusion, and where you see complexity is where you are confused. Recall that in a healthy individual the free-will instantly manifests in proper action.

Care to prove that?

Self-evident. Complexity can always be reduced in piece-meal fashion to a set of interconnected simplex relationships, therefore it does not exist except as an illusion, since it is in the end simplex, not complex. Complexity that is not in the end simplex is obfuscation, or confusion meant to hide the truth. Many people profit from this sort of "complexity", especially BigPharma http://MercuryJustice.org yet in the end it is a zero-sum game unless it is both necessary and sufficient, and in the end, like all truth, simple when stood under.

http://RoboEco.com/simple

Mar 04, 2010
@ Lennox: You're not objective when determining you're own actions.

You simply don't understand what your body does, this much is plain as day. It's very simple, if I chemically alter your brain, your personality and attitude change, this is proved true in all cases where chemical reaction is observed.

If I chemically alter your brain with pills, it's no different from your brain releasing those chemicals in response to external stimuli. You are the sum of your parts.

That you can't recouple you with your existence is a problem that you'll have to address.


Skeptic, you overlook those that can via force of their free-will cut through haze of chemicals, by producing their own to counteract their environment.

Regardless free-will does exists, no matter what is thrown @ the body.

Lennox, what you say is not true for Royalty, only their subjects are subject, be Royal: http://teaminfini...me.shtml

Mar 04, 2010
@ Lennox: You're not objective when determining you're own actions.

You simply don't understand what your body does, this much is plain as day. It's very simple, if I chemically alter your brain, your personality and attitude change, this is proved true in all cases where chemical reaction is observed.

If I chemically alter your brain with pills, it's no different from your brain releasing those chemicals in response to external stimuli. You are the sum of your parts.

That you can't recouple you with your existence is a problem that you'll have to address.


Exactly Skeptic, and only via your free-will can you do this.

Look @ those that can via force of their free-will cut through haze of chemicals, by producing their own to counteract their environment.

Regardless free-will does exists, no matter what is thrown @ the body, the free-will can decide to leave a body damaged beyond a certain point, so lets do all we can via free-will to make life safer in our bodies.

Mar 04, 2010
I believe in free will. I have no choice.

Mar 04, 2010
Sysop,

It appears that you're ill prepared to have this conversation. Please come back when you've understood the difference between complex and simple systems.

The fact you took an insult as a positive proof for your ideology is frightening.
Regardless free-will does exists, no matter what is thrown @ the body, the free-will can decide to leave a body damaged beyond a certain point, so lets do all we can via free-will to make life safer in our bodies.

So educate me, where does one's free will go when they die? Make sure you provide evidence, preferably experimental as your observations cannot be trusted.

Mar 04, 2010
Belief is less than knowledge, always.

Why believe when you can know, and if you know, why do you call it belief ?

Know that free-will is.

http://teaminfini...it.shtml


Mar 04, 2010
Sysop,

The fact you took an insult as a positive proof for your ideology is frightening.
Fear is beginning of folly

Regardless free-will does exists, no matter what is thrown @ the body, the free-will can decide to leave a body damaged beyond a certain point, so lets do all we can via free-will to make life safer in our bodies.

So educate me, where does one's free will go when they die? Make sure you provide evidence, preferably experimental as your observations cannot be trusted.


Sure, if you are ready Skeptic, you do not HAVE free-will, you ARE free-will, that is who you are unless you choose not to BE, which appears you may have done, just change your mind, its that simple.

FREE-WILL cannot "go" anywhere, as it is everywhere already except where it is not welcome. Whose side are you on anyway ?

Read this Skeptic, it will make sense to the real you:

http://teaminfini...er.shtml

Mar 04, 2010
@skeptik,

dude, why are you arguing with Sysop ? when I read his statement 'your body is an earthsuit' i had to re-check the website im on. no offense Sysop, but people who believe in Souls should not engage in 'logical' arguments. I'm not dissing or anything, it's just comparing apples with oranges. Spirituality is great and all, but MUST be differentiated from what we know as facts.

Mar 04, 2010
@skeptik,

dude, why are you arguing with Sysop ? when I read his statement 'your body is an earthsuit' i had to re-check the website im on. no offense Sysop, but people who believe in Souls should not engage in 'logical' arguments. I'm not dissing or anything, it's just comparing apples with oranges. Spirituality is great and all, but MUST be differentiated from what we know as facts.


Milz, with all due respect, if you do not recognize the obvious, you must not venture into any science, so it is actually just the opposite.

To not have a frame of reference within which to guide science you will only produce pseudo-science like eugenics, the death camps, tobacco science, and BigPharma - http://MercuryJustice.org

There is no belief involved, you either know or you do not know.

Belief is very dangerous, for it means to accept as true with questioning.

Ask all the questions you want you deserve to know too. http://teaminfini...NKS.html

Mar 04, 2010
Yes... differentiation but not dissociation or reductionism.

Mar 04, 2010
The awesome has landed in this thread. Good thing crazy always identifies itself, eh?

Mar 04, 2010
"How does this "lesson" deter others from breaking the same law if the other don't have free will?"

Because their decisions are based on cost/reward. If a logic system (computer software or a human brain) determines that action A (robbing a store) seems to be too risky a payoff than action B (not robbing), then action B will be taken. The more data the logic system has that action A costs more, the less likely the logic system will choose A. This works perfectly well with a "no free will" system.


So you are then putting someone in jail because society has not found a better way to have their biological system not make the decision it made. We as a whole have failed this person and as a result will now be used as a tool to try to teach others biological systems. Yet we know that this doesn't work because this system was in place and he committed the crime.

Mar 04, 2010
Think the issue is as simple as not being able to see the forest for all the trees.

You are too close and too enamored with circular terminology. Like flat landers trying to explain 3D. If Free-will did exist, which it does, it would not be a PART of anything and still be free, therefore trying to find it in a bunch of parts, no matter how eloquently defined and saying, cant find it, says nothing. Think Ptolemy, and how premise is key.

Remember in a dictionary that ultimately every word must be defined, including those in the definitions, thus circularity must need occur, pointing to something outside of language, i.e. something outside of terms that cannot be defined with terms so to speak. None of which suggests anything more than we are still learning, i.e. term has yet to be defined etc, but even then the circularity cannot be eliminated, do you see it ?

This site may help explaining the New word Order:

http://teaminfini...07.shtml

Mar 04, 2010
The other thing which we see is that people confuse understanding of how machines work to be a model of how we are, when this too is cart before the horse.

We produce machines to assist us, we are not machines, we are designers of machines, their rules do not apply to us, we are creators, they the creation. Our bodies indeed are machines, but we are not. It is important and useful to understand how they work, but never mistake yourself with that you master. You are sacred, your body is here to serve you, yet it is not you.

Please prove that you ARE your body and not merely in possession of one ? Where were you before your body was here ? Do you not see the absurdity of your own position ? You are suggesting a far bigger mystery than to just accept that you ARE freewill, for you deny your very existence.

Keep thinking yourself nothing more than a machine, and you will be treated like one.

Design vs. Assemble: http://teaminfini...le.shtml

Mar 04, 2010
@skeptik,

dude, why are you arguing with Sysop ? when I read his statement 'your body is an earthsuit' i had to re-check the website im on. no offense Sysop, but people who believe in Souls should not engage in 'logical' arguments. I'm not dissing or anything, it's just comparing apples with oranges. Spirituality is great and all, but MUST be differentiated from what we know as facts.

Because unlike those who have religous intent, I must take it upon myself to save my fellow rational beings from the evil that is organized self-delusion.

I've found that sysop is not a rational being and as such have decided that he'll be one of the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

Sysop, I certainly hope you would treat me like a machine, as you've been played like one for this entire thread.

Funny how between Jayk and myself we've predicted each of your retorts, even the more crazed and unexpected of them.

Mar 04, 2010
How do you differentiate your self from those holy rollers who want to save your soul?
You are just as obnoxious.

I can evidence my stance, can you?

Mar 04, 2010
What is being suggested here is that Consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain - it is my understanding that several scientists have dispelled this theory some years ago! But since this is one of those intangible topics it boils down to "you know what you know, and you don't know what you don't know" Bottom line - you have Freewill to decide how to respond to this particular set of claims! I have covered this subject extensively in my own writings - but I shall throw another cat amongst the pigeons by asking "Are you reacting from Ego, or responding from Consciousness?"

Mar 04, 2010
Skeptic, your distaste, distrust and disgust with organized religion is more than shared, yet we have gone even further than you with that distrust, extending it to all forms of organized religion, including what could be argued as the most pernicious of all, the religion of pseudo-science which flys under the radars of those most alienated by the obvious abuses of the past false religions, just showing that truth is just that important, that one cannot assume one has it, one must know, or it is just another faith.

Be well friend.

Read these and you will understand:

http://teaminfini...it.shtml

http://teaminfini...er.shtml

http://teaminfini...nd.shtml

http://teaminfini...eo.shtml

http://teaminfini...LO.shtml

http://TeamInfnit...NKS.html

Mar 04, 2010
Cashmore confuses free will with consciousness. The term free will, as I understand it, simply means that a human--and I would add all higher intelligence animals--have a will that is not subject to supernatural influence. Since there is no supernature, only nature, that is a given.
So, obviously, your 'will' must be the result of physical action, in this case, mental action. It doesn't follow that it must be conscious action. Our will, free of supernatural influence, then, must be the result of unconscious mental activity. Obviously, logical people, that is, people who are not influenced by a mental defect or illness, are thinking logically, even if unconsciously, about their options and their experiences and also being influenced by their genetic predispositions. Still, whether or not the conclusions of your mental reasoning are arived at consciously or unconsciously, they are still a product of your own thinking, based either on your own interests, needs and desires.

Mar 04, 2010
Interesting heuristic. Please proceed.


My statements on chemical interactions leading to decision are evidenced by the field of psycology, pharmacology, and general medicine.

It is known that the insertion of synthetic hormones and neural chemicals creates immediate and subsequent lasting mental response.

Marjon, you think God grants free will, I've already addressed that topic and have disproved your stance using your own sources.

Sysop doesn't recognize that he is stating a stance for which there is NO evidence. It cannot be proven, and as he has stated it, is not falsifiable. He asserts this to be a fact of reality when the truth is he's repeating the same craziness I heard from many a philosophy major while enjoying large amounts of cannabis at University.

Mar 04, 2010
Sysop,

the religion of pseudo-science which flys under the radars of those most alienated by the obvious abuses of the past false religions


This site may help explaining the New word Order:


Regardless free-will does exists, no matter what is thrown @ the body, the free-will can decide to leave a body damaged beyond a certain point, so lets do all we can via free-will to make life safer in our bodies.

You HAVE a body, and will continue to especially if your free-will decisions are good ones. You do NOT however HAVE a soul, since you ARE SOUL.

Greatest hits in Contradiction: volume 5.
Yes, yes JayK, Please PayPal $1500 to get us started, then go and read these to sites in their entirety: http://cli.gs/free-will & http://RoboeEco.c...freewill and be prepared to answer questions to demonstrate your comprehension and devotion to the truth that is so true it works for everyone.

And for a small sum of $1500, you too can be saved.

Mar 04, 2010
Sceptic does not understand the concept of "self-evident".

Gravity and free-will are equally self-evident and in fact are the same force of self preservation in the most profound sense. If you do not understand yet, think deeper, just because you do not understand the mechanisms connecting it all does not mean they are not there. Show us the mechanism behind gravity please. Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Gravity is. Freewill is.

Just as gravity is detectable by scales, free-will is detectable by the scales of justice over eons of history including that of the Church attempting to crush people's freewill in the name of freewill, even saying that people cannot avoid sinning, while saying they have freewill, such ridiculous contradictions.

Apparently Sceptik believes something other than his free-will guides his decisions to respond to our emails, if so Sceptik, please do tell us what it is, and by all means present your evidence of course.

http://cli.gs/free-will

Mar 04, 2010
If we have no free will, then the future is as immutable as the past. Cashmore reveals that he doesn't really believe his own theory when he suggests we change our judicial system. If the future cannot be changed by our choices, then it's utterly pointless to suggest making any changes in the way we behave. What will be will be, and there's nothing anyone can do to alter the inevitable future.

Mar 04, 2010
Sorry about the multiple posts. It really looked like the post was hung up, with the little status meter just churnin' away...

Mar 04, 2010
@PinkElephant: Then Cashmore is arguing that he's incapable of acting rationally; that he is compelled to contradict himself. If we are forced by the laws of logic to do what we do, his advocacy of acting on our lack of free will is illogical.

Mar 04, 2010
@sysop,

You're committing a classical error of reasoning, in assuming your conclusion (a.k.a. circular argument):

http://en.wikiped..._fallacy

Also, stating that "Absence of proof is not proof of absence" is another rank fallacy. For example, I am haunted by a herd of invisible dragons: please disprove. Ockham addressed this type of erroneous argumentation quite some time ago.

If you want to argue for "free will" as a supernatural phenomenon, then you will have to first show why mind is not a product of the brain, and why it cannot be a natural phenomenon.

There are entire fields of science flourishing around the identity of mind and brain: neuroscience, psychiatry, neural computation, cognitive science. The evidence is overwhelming that the mind is merely a phenomenological outcome of the brain's underlying processes. Analogous to how your computer's interactions with external stimuli are emergent from its internal hardware and software.

Mar 04, 2010
@sysop:

Not done being the fool yet? Where to start....
Gravity and free-will are equally self-evident and in fact are the same force of self preservation
Too easy.
free-will is detectable by the scales of justice over eons
A subjective intangible proving another... still too easy.
Apparently Sceptik believes something other than his free-will guides his decisions to respond to our emails
Bingo, this will be a winner.

Free will appears to be "self-evident" to you as you're unable to become objective in your reasoning.

They said the world was flat, and that it was self evident because you don't fall off the planet.

They said the sun traveling around the earth was self evident because it traversed the sky.

They said man is the only sentient life in the universe because they didn't think other planets existed.

Then we refined our measurements. The church couldn't cope. You say you're against religion, take a look in the mirror.

Mar 04, 2010
What the editors would have written for headlines, if they just had the ability to overcome their own programming:

"Researcher Forced To Write Meaningless Article For Prestigious Journal"

-- Blames Environment
-- Says Journal Doesn't Deserve Reputation, Either
-- Commenters Ineluctably Drawn Into Pointless Debate About Undecidable Proposition

BBB

Mar 04, 2010
@TheWalrus,
If we are forced by the laws of logic to do what we do, his advocacy of acting on our lack of free will is illogical.
It is not "the laws of logic" that "force" us. We are (temporarily) organized assemblies of matter and energy, and as such we are driven by the laws of physics. Our behaviors are high-level aggregate outcomes of a lot of low-level physical interactions (of which we are not, and cannot in principle, be self-aware due to the infinite recursion that would entail, aside from empirical measurement and information storage and processing constraints.)

In this vein, any thought, action, or argument is an inescapable and predetermined event. Overall, the society evolves from interaction to interaction; its state transforms in response to new inputs and to ongoing processing. Cashmore's actions are not in contradiction to his thesis; they should be viewed as just a small part of the overall and ongoing process.

Mar 04, 2010
TheWalrus: Perhaps Cashmore considers his own suggestion, and any possible effects it may have, to be effectively predestined? Just because he doesn't pause every other sentence to say "But of course, I don't actually have free will and I have no control over what I do or do not do" doesn't mean that it's not so.

A question: Passing over specific examples, where is there room for free will? If I'm presented with a situation, I can respond to it according to my predilections (based on what the situation is, my thoughts, my past, my genes, and various other factors). If this situation is exactly replicated, logically I'll respond in exactly the same way every time--no free will. I could also respond in a completely random way, in which case I'll provide different responses each time--but that's just stochastic "will", not free will. How is it possible for me to act in a way that isn't based on anything, but isn't random? If that's free will, how is it logically possible?

Mar 04, 2010
And as an addendum to my previous post, if that ISN'T free will, what is? What logical mistake am I making?

Mar 04, 2010

Because unlike those who have religous intent, I must take it upon myself to save my fellow rational beings from the evil that is organized self-delusion.

I've found that sysop is not a rational being and as such have decided that he'll be one of the first against the wall when the revolution comes.



No no no , buddy, dudah, amigo ..

Trust me on this one : none of us here take sysop seriously. I mean, not even grandiose amounts of pot can make you this delusional, comparing free-will with gravity and warning us from the threats of pseudo-science which, relatively, sounds great at the moment.

So, relax! the only person you're trying to save is him from himself. You did well, but unfortunately it's a long shot.

Anyway, after I have given it some thought, the concept of free-will should stay in social sciences and 'will' has absolutely no meaning in physical sciences. Although it is kindof obvious that it is nothing but a 'glorious piece of meat' that is running the show

Mar 04, 2010
Deny free will and you will always end up with a paradox, which is strong grounds for accepting the reality of free will (as a reductio ad absurdum). However, science, as the project of coming to know more and more precisely the things in the world and their relations to one another, will always be antagonistic to the concept of free will, as it implies a being that is its own cause, at least of some of its properties, and thus cannot be fully known. It is unsurprising that a scientific perspective, being committed as it is to the possibility that everything in the world is knowable, would deny the reality and possibility of free-will.

But if one simply denies that everything in the world is potentially knowable (that is, deny that science will ever be complete), then there's plenty of room for free-will. What I want to know is how this "scientist" plans to do any science without really making choices.

Mar 04, 2010
@Thrasymachus,
But if one simply denies that everything in the world is potentially knowable (that is, deny that science will ever be complete), then there's plenty of room for free-will.
But how would you know about it, if it weren't even potentially knowable? Also, wouldn't there also be plenty of room for partially hydrogenated reduced-fat will? And so on and so forth?
What I want to know is how this "scientist" plans to do any science without really making choices.
How does a sunflower turn to face the Sun without really making choices?

Mar 04, 2010

How is that evidence for free will? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I just honestly don't follow.

Creek chose to jump on the grenade to save the others. He did not chose the safer alternative of jumping out of the fighting hole to save himself. That's what the article seems to be saying he would be compelled to do. The others may have not seen the grenade in time so we can't mull on their actions. The key word is chose, he chose the self sacrifice path over the self preservation path. Cashmore's stance says he should have been compelled to chose self preservation.

Mar 04, 2010
@PinkElephant, re: logic "forcing" us to behave:

Sorry, I tried to head you off at the pass and botched it. I anticipated your objection to another line of thought, and didn't do a very good job of it. Let me try again.

Cashman says we have no free will. Therefore, the future is unchangeable. Cashman then (effectively) asks "What are we to do, now that we know this?"

Excuse me? Do? That's suggesting that if we don't do something there will be one future, and if we do something else, there will be a different future.

He's implying that our choices make a difference. Whether he's compelled to say this by his lack of free will is irrelevant. The fact that he advocates a pro-active stance suggests that he hasn't internalized his own theory. If he can't logically speak of his own theory, how can we be expected to make a better future through our (non)choices? Maybe that ironically supports his theory, but it doesn't make me take him very seriously.

Mar 04, 2010
@RobertKLR,
Cashmore's stance says he should have been compelled to chose self preservation.
If self-preservation were the only input to Creek's decision making, you'd be right.

Cashmore's stance is that choices aren't made acausally by some nebulous agency. Choices are calculations that brains make, and are based on the brain's state and activity at the time. Which would include all the knowledge, experience, values, morals, and so on that the brain has incorporated over its lifetime. It would also include "random" brain activity, induced by metabolic and sensory noise (which only serves to add subjective "unpredictability" to choice-making.)

Mar 04, 2010
@Ronan:

If you're truly free, you're free to do the same thing every time. If you're forced to do it differently at least once, that's not freedom.

I can't explain the "mechanics" of free will. If I could, Cashmore wouldn't have published.

Our choices are an attempt to cause an effect. I don't see free will as the absence of cause and effect, but as a special case of cause and effect.

I think it has something to do with potential energy, making an imperfect mental model of that potential energy, and then rearranging the world in a way that will release a very precise amount of it in a very precise way. All through the law of cause and effect. Don't ask me how.

Mar 04, 2010
@TheWalrus,
He's implying that our choices make a difference.
But of course they do! Whoever said they didn't?

Every effect has a cause, and a choice is a perfectly valid cause even if the choice itself is just an effect of some other causes.

Yes, the future is predetermined. But that future incorporates all sorts of choices that must be made, as well as the outcomes of those choices. Just because the outcome is in essence inevitable, doesn't mean we're somehow absolved from having to bring it about (even through our choices)!

Mar 04, 2010
@PinkElephant:

"Choice" is another word for "free will." Your argument still implies that the future might be altered through our choices, and therefore is not predetermined.

Mar 04, 2010
"Choice" is another word for "free will." Your argument still implies that the future might be altered through our choices, and therefore is not predetermined.
If that were true, then your computer would have a lot more "free will" than you could ever hope to boast.

Mar 04, 2010
@Bloodoflamb,

Aside from irrelevance to cognition, it's no secret that current models of subatomic physics are rather crude and incomplete. The math works, but the underlying mechanisms remain uncharacterized.

But that's irrelevant to brain function, which occurs at the level of cells, not atoms. Can some quantum noise affect the system in some ghostly fashion once in a blue moon? Maybe, but as a rule the brain is set up to filter out transient low-amplitude noise, rather than amplify or respond to it -- that is to say, the brain is at least as digital as it is analog. To see what I mean, read up on action potentials.

Mar 04, 2010
THERE IS NO WHY. It simply IS.
You mean, sort of like diseases prior to the discovery of germs?
It was not predetermined.
Says who?
It was one of infinitely many positions the electron could have been in at the time of measurement.
Again, says who? Sure, if you measured it repeatedly, you'd find it in a different place each time. It moves between measurements, it interacts with other particles that aren't part of the measurement apparatus, including the nucleus it's a part of, and the measurements themselves move it by interacting with it. So what?
The argument that the future is predetermined is in complete contradiction with our current understanding of the universe.
No, it's only in contradiction with a narrow range of QM interpretations, all of which are pushed by people who believe in "free will", magic, and Santa Claus.

Mar 04, 2010
Here's a hint that quantum behavior is predetermined: if it were not, the probability functions governing OBSERVATION of particles, their properties, and their behavior, would have no shape, would be completely uniform, and would span the entire number line with virtually 0 density over any finite interval -- i.e. quantum behavior would be completely, utterly, random and chaotic. As a result of which, you could never build up any sort of structure starting with quantum entities. The structure and statefulness evident in the macro-world could not exist.

Try to keep in perspective that QM is a mathematical description of OBSERVATIONAL OUTCOMES. It makes no attempt to postulate any underlying mechanisms. That's how come, as you put it, QM lacks the "why", is concerned only with "what", and to some extent "how".

QM is a bit like astrology: charting (VERY ACCURATELY!) the movements of the heavenly bodies, with no clue as to what those bodies really are, or why/how they really move...

Mar 04, 2010
@PinkElephant:

A computer no more makes a choice than does a row of falling dominoes. It's just a bunch of 1s turning into 0s and back. You can stop the program at any point and say exactly why this 1 is not a 0. You can show what external influence and which line in the program made it so. It has no no choice.

People can imagine things that are not. We can also imagine things that might be, and make them so. I know of no computer that can do that.

It gets down to whether all those possibilities are really possible--are really choices--or whether we have no choice, and the only thing that can happen is what we are forced to do.

If the only possible future predestined, it is senseless to suggest doing something about it.

That would be like a character in a book telling another character to write a different ending.

Let me ask you: What do YOU suggest we do with the knowledge that we can't do anything about the future?

And why do you think it will make a difference?

Mar 04, 2010
You can stop the program at any point and say exactly why this 1 is not a 0. You can show what external influence and which line in the program made it so. It has no no choice.
Ditto for the brain. Except we don't yet have the tools to "stop" it in a non-harmful fashion, or to examine its detailed state non-destructively, or to produce a detailed trace of activity in its networks. Needless to say, much work remains on the plate of neuroscience.
People can imagine things that are not.
Most (perhaps all) of the things we imagine, are chimeras built up from elements we've already experienced. We can recombine, and distort. Computers can, too.
What do YOU suggest we do with the knowledge that we can't do anything about the future?
Same thing we do with the knowledge that we can't do anything about the past. Life goes on, regardless. But maybe we can become ever so incrementally less delusional about the whole process...

Mar 04, 2010
PinkElephant sed:

"But maybe we can become ever so incrementally less delusional about the whole process..."

Is that a goal? Something you'd like to cause to happen? Do you think it might not happen unless someone does something about it?

Mar 04, 2010
Here's my take on "free will".

Free will is when the decision you've made (which is based on your genes and environmental history) is based more on your personal history then huge external factor.

For example if you chose to not write poetry because your government has forbidden you to do so (you will face bad consequences if you do so), but excluding this factor you would for sure write poetry then you don't have free will.

It's hard to define free will, it's easier to define lack of it, because it produces discomfort.

Mar 04, 2010
We can learn from the past, ostensibly so we can make a better future. And in the sense that we can learn new truths about the past and discard old untruths, we can change the way we react to the past. Also, presumably, so we can make the future better.

Mar 04, 2010
Lies.
Here is the proof:
http://www.cs.auc...rem.html

Biologist should leave the hard stuff to the mathematicians.

Mar 04, 2010
@Bloodoflamb,
If something is predetermined, it should be able to be predicted with 100% certainty.
Only if all relevant initial conditions are known with 100% accuracy.
Quantum mechanics tells us, and DEFINITIVELY, that there are quantities that CANNOT be predicted.
No, what QM tells us is that there are quantities that cannot be definitively MEASURED. Which is pertinent to the above (first quote.)

Mar 04, 2010
@TheWalrus,
"But maybe we can become ever so incrementally less delusional about the whole process..."

Is that a goal? Something you'd like to cause to happen?
I'm not against that idea.
Do you think it might not happen unless someone does something about it?
Perhaps, though at best just not for a little while longer. With time (as we accumulate more knowledge about brain function), the conclusion becomes more and more obvious and inescapable.

You're still failing to grasp something really important. Allow me to quote myself:
Yes, the future is predetermined. But that future incorporates all sorts of choices that must be made, as well as the outcomes of those choices. Just because the outcome is in essence inevitable, doesn't mean we're somehow absolved from having to bring it about (even through our choices)!

Mar 04, 2010
@Ronan: Our choices are an attempt to cause an effect. I don't see free will as the absence of cause and effect, but as a special case of cause and effect.

I think it has something to do with potential energy, making an imperfect mental model of that potential energy, and then rearranging the world in a way that will release a very precise amount of it in a very precise way. All through the law of cause and effect. Don't ask me how.

Hm. This may fall under the category of "asking you how," but I still don't quite understand what you're getting at. Are you arguing for free will being, technically, only partially free? That is, one's choices are mostly governed by environment, genes, memories, etc, but some part isn't?

If that's what you're proposing, then...I still don't follow how that's free, in any way. I mean, what governs that last choice? Is it random, or is it influenced by something (even if that something is one's personality, etc.)? Either way, it's not free.

Mar 04, 2010
My point is that if you choose, then there was either a reason that you chose something, or there isn't (that's not a false dichotomy, isn't it? I'm pretty sure that there isn't a third option, but I'm open to suggestions). If there's no reason, then it's random, and free will isn't involved. If there was a reason, and it's external (for convenience's sake, I'm defining this as everything not directly connected to one's thoughts), then no free will. If it's internal, and driven by lengthy consideration on your part (or a "what the heck, let's just do whatever it is" decision), then it sure looks a lot like free will--but I'd argue it isn't. If your thoughts are logical, then the decision is in logic's hands, not yours. If they're illogical (i.e., effectively random, at some stage), then chaos is at the wheels, not you.

I just...don't know what free will would look like, so to speak. What would be its characteristics? How is it independent of influence, yet not random?

Mar 04, 2010
Frank_M created a new account to summarily say "Lies" and post a link to a recall of an unpublished paper's presentation. OK, he feels strongly, but isn't able to communicate his thoughts in an electronic medium? Maybe a quick summary of the presentation as "quantum mechanics magic shrouded in fancy mathematics" would be sufficient?

Mar 04, 2010
It seems to me that the negation of free will creates an epistemological problem: To wit: if I am not free to exercise choice, to assert my free will, if whatever I say is simply a matter of forces beyond my control, then I really have no idea of true or false. I am at the mercy of those forces and merely a mouthpiece for them so what comes out of my mouth may be true or not but I have no way of knowing. Free will is more than the freedom to chose between chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It is THE freedom to chose within your own thinking and if you don't have that then concepts of 'truth' and 'falsity' are just so much blathering but the world as we have built it would seem to be a strong argument (a strong counter) to the negation of 'free will.'

Mar 04, 2010
@Bloodoflamb,
...it has to do with the fact that the z-component of the spin after exiting the x-component analyzer was not predetermined before it entered the x-analyzer.
No. It has to do with the fact that measuring the x-component disturbs the z-component, so that the z-values obtained prior to x-measurement no longer hold. That's the problem with measurement in QM: it actually alters the thing you're trying to measure. The simplest example is of course Heisenberg uncertainty: measuring position disturbs momentum, while measuring momentum alters position; at any given instant you can have near-perfect knowledge of one, but it comes at the cost of near-complete ignorance of the other.

Mar 05, 2010
@equsnarnd,
I am at the mercy of those forces and merely a mouthpiece for them so what comes out of my mouth may be true or not but I have no way of knowing.
The way of knowing, is to test what comes out of your mouth against objective reality and known facts. And what comes out of your mouth isn't a product of some abstract "forces"; it's a product of your brain. Your brain has a way of learning (which is quite handy for survival), which results in the brain constructing a pretty good model of the world, and therefore being able to make pretty good judgments based on such approximations.
It is THE freedom to chose within your own thinking...
But what is "thinking", itself? There are a bunch of neurons in your brain (on the order of 100 Billion or so), and they're each connected to about another 10,000 neurons, and they're sending electrochemical impulses at each other. That's all physics, chemistry, and determinism.

Mar 05, 2010
Hi JayK,
That link posted is the quick summary presentation.
Conway taught the proof as a graduate course at Princeton. Links to published paper and 1st Lecture in the series can be found here:
http://brainbende...ics.html
Enjoy.

Mar 05, 2010
@Bloodoflamb,
Here's another way to look at it
...it has to do with the fact that the z-component of the spin after exiting the x-component analyzer was not predetermined before it entered the x-analyzer.
What if, after measuring the z-component, you again measured the z-component? Assuming nothing disturbs the particle between the two measurements, the two measurements should yield the same result, no? Measure the spin's z-component a third, fourth, fifth time -- what will be the value you'll expect to observe? How would that square with the view that the value isn't predetermined prior to measurement?

Mar 05, 2010
So now Frank_M sends a blog posting from someone that doesn't understand the math, nor does he ever really explain that Conway's definition of free-will isn't really very specific. I'd like to see Frank_M actually explain how math can come up with a determination that a philosophical entity exists or that the indeterminate behavior of QM on brain function can be measured in some statistically verifiable method.

Mar 05, 2010
@Ronan:

There are degrees and levels of freedom. We have no control over the individual particles in our bodies, but we are free to move our arms and legs. We operate within limits. Where there is potential energy that we are aware of and can release within these limits, we're free.

We are also creatures of habit and reflex. In a controlled environment, it's possible to predict accurately what someone will choose 7 seconds before they do it. That doesn't mean we can predict what they'll do before they're aware of the choice.

Normally our actions are based on our desires. We want to see one of the possibilities become real. The degree to which we can do that is the limit of our freedom. I suspect that when we choose to do what's good for us rather than what feels good, we imagine a future where we feel better for making this choice, and then recreate that pleasure in our present minds. At some point, we're just "riding" on the release of potential energy.

Mar 05, 2010
Absolutely, choices have reasons. As I've said to PinkElephant, I don't see free will as an exception to cause and effect, but as a special case of it. We choose to cause an effect that can only come about through intervention by a conscious agent. That cake isn't going to bake itself, so I'd better do it. What cake? The one I just imagined. The potential cake.

Why does that cake exist in my mind? I don't know, probably because I was looking at the box of mix awhile ago and I needed an example. Thinking of the cake may have been largely beyond my control. I flipped through my mental index of examples and went with the first one that seeemed like a "good example." But the decision to bake or not bake is based on many factors I am aware of. I imagine baking and eating the cake, and compare that to how I'd feel if I don't. I'll be happier for the moment if I don't bother with it, so I won't.

If I ever find myself baking a cake against my will, unable to stop, I'll let you know.

Mar 05, 2010
Hm. Well, what you've said makes sense to me, but I don't see the connection to free will. I mean, we act on our desires, or restrain our actions in anticipation of a future payoff, or do something completely different because some of our goals conflict with others--but the goals and desires themselves aren't exactly in our hands. We may adopt them without having much choice in the matter (if it's instinct, or taught to us when we're very young), or adopt them because they mesh well with other goals, which ultimately also tie back into either instinct or the taught-to-when-young set of motivations.

I'm afraid I'm a somewhat lackluster pupil; your explanation is understandable enough, but what you're trying to say somehow still eludes me. My own preconceived notions getting in my way, perhaps.