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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:54 pm 
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X-TownCuber wrote:
Has anyone else noticed that here on the twistypuzzles forum the topics we debate and think about the most are often completely unrelated to twisty puzzles?
That's because life is the ultimate twisty puzzle! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:30 pm 
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Perhaps we are actually discussing the wrong thing here. Surely it is (as someone mentioned early) whether the universe is deterministic (causality). Does it function in a snooker table type way with balls appearing to go all over the place but each one following a predictable and unavoidable path? This Newtonian style universe is the one I believe in because I simply do not understand how any other can exist. The idea I believe was pretty much dismissed long ago though.
If the universe is deterministic then free will is not possible. If it isn't then it might be. Whatever the answer everything that I have experienced regarding myself and people around me strongly suggests free will does not exist.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:33 pm 
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Tony, the question of determinism is slightly different to that of free will. For example, quantum mechanics rules out determinism as it adds an inescapable degree of inherent uncertainty and randomness to the universe. However, randomness is not any basis for free will.

In fact, none of the current models of physics (classic Newtonian mechanics, quantum mechanics, relativity, standard model, etc.) appear to leave any room for free will, but they are known to be incomplete. Perhaps if and when we can establish and prove a fully consistent model of the universe then we may be able to answer the question of whether free will is real or just an illusion.

Come to think of it, how can any potential model of the universe ever explain free will? It seems inconceivable otherwise it would not be free will by definition. In that case, if free will exists then we should never be able to fully define the universe. But if free will doesn't exist, then we may be pre-determined never to do so either!

On the other hand, wouldn't it be funny if we eventually prove the standard model of physics by finding the Higgs Boson, and then use this model to prove that free will does not exist and is just an illusion? It would mean that we have been set up/pre-determined to discover the sad fact that our lives have no meaning right from the beginning - possibly the cruelest practical joke on mankind that one could ever imagine! :lol: :cry:

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:30 pm 
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Some of it is mentioned here- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_determinism

KelvinS wrote:
Wouldn't it be funny if we eventually prove the standard model of physics by finding the Higgs Boson, and then use this model to prove that free will does not exist? It would mean that we have been pre-determined to discover the sad fact that our lives have no meaning right from the beginning. Possibly the cruelest practical joke on mankind that one could ever imagine! :lol: :cry:

Imagine the riots, r and pillaging.
I don't think meaning and free will are mutually exclusive. Even if free will was proven I still wouldn't believe in meaning. I find it interesting how so many people desire these things. I don't see life as being any less fun or any different without them. In fact having a meaning would make it possible to fail at life which would be kind of scary. Anyway, a bit off topic.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:56 pm 
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When you watch a good film it's pretty easy to get caught up in it even though you are not in control of the outcome of the story in any way. The ending of the film is set and it's just a matter of time before you reach it.

In that way, even if we lack any free will at all, life is still worth living for the story / experiences that unfold.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:38 am 
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With a film you can rewind it and watch the good bits again and again. Also, usually films end in a happy way, not in a painful lingering death.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:59 am 
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I'm not sure I buy any of the arguments against free will. Mostly because even in a deterministic universe, I don't see how that affects the idea of free will, and I find the idea of predetermination on a large scale a bit ridiculous, at least in the general way of thinking of predetermination. Certainly nothing is "predetermined" by the general definition of the word for an extremely complex model like the entire human population.

First of all, it seems to me the argument against free will is "there is probably only one future state, and time in general appears linear, therefore free will does not exist." However, free will is not really dependent on the existence of multiple states. Free will simply means that the state that exists is the one you chose. I could see how that could be easily confused with a lack of free will though. And, I suppose being able to predict people's actions would likewise put doubt in the existence of free will. Maybe I'm crazy though, but I still don't think being able to predict people's actions really debunks the existence of their free will.

I think the most compelling argument for free will is in the existence of not obvious decisions. The most interesting decisions are where the person is not enturely sure what the decision will be, or where they have little preference to any certain decision. Usually for cases like these the decision is entirely random and could have easily been either decision. For instance, my decision to take a nap early today or to check out twistypuzzles and find this topic. Obviously I have picked twistypuzzles, but at that moment I could have easily made the other decision instead. I could not predetermine my own action in that situation.

But, again, I am kind of strange. I do believe in a single future state, or even a static universe with higher dimensionality than 3. :roll:

However, I fail to see how that in itself defines whether we have free will or not. I suppose many of the decisions we make can be predicted by knowing our character, because many of the decisions we make in life are large grand decisions that to each of us are obvious, and we would only really ever choose one option, and never the other. This does not sway me to state that we have no free will though, only that we decide on the decisions we make long before we make them.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 6:05 am 
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elijah wrote:
For instance, my decision to take a nap early today or to check out twistypuzzles and find this topic. Obviously I have picked twistypuzzles, but at that moment I could have easily made the other decision instead. I could not predetermine my own action in that situation.


But wasn't there some tiny thing that swayed you? Remember we are talking about a whole series of complex events and thoughts over millions of years that lead you to your decision. In most cases you would never be able to track down the reason why you ultimately chose one over the other. The universe may be predictable but no amount of computing power will ever come close to actually predicting it.
If I was 'arguing in favour of free will I would say pick a number between 1 and a 1,000,000. Of the top of my head lets say 513,459. Now what earth could make me pick that if it wasn't free will? I don't know of course since I don't know every past event in the universe. What I can say already though is that I picked a six digit number which I bet happens in most cases. And the digits were fairly well spaced which I also predict would happen a lot. Would anyone pick 199 in that situation for example? I doubt it. So already some biases are evident.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:33 am 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
elijah wrote:
For instance, my decision to take a nap early today or to check out twistypuzzles and find this topic. Obviously I have picked twistypuzzles, but at that moment I could have easily made the other decision instead. I could not predetermine my own action in that situation.


But wasn't there some tiny thing that swayed you? Remember we are talking about a whole series of complex events and thoughts over millions of years that lead you to your decision. In most cases you would never be able to track down the reason why you ultimately chose one over the other. The universe may be predictable but no amount of computing power will ever come close to actually predicting it.
If I was 'arguing in favour of free will I would say pick a number between 1 and a 1,000,000. Of the top of my head lets say 513,459. Now what earth could make me pick that if it wasn't free will? I don't know of course since I don't know every past event in the universe. What I can say already though is that I picked a six digit number which I bet happens in most cases. And the digits were fairly well spaced which I also predict would happen a lot. Would anyone pick 199 in that situation for example? I doubt it. So already some biases are evident.

The point is it doesn't matter if answer to the question was predetermined; There was still a choice. I know there was a choice because he thought "Should I take nap, or should I check twisty puzzles?" What do you call that thought other than a choice? He chose based on the tiny swaying factor, but he was the one who made the decision. the tiny factor didn't make a decision.

He chose of his own free will.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:40 am 
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Again, perception of free choice/will is indistinguishable from the real thing, so how can you claim that the electrical and chemical processes in the brain have a life of their own, rather than simply following the laws of physics and chemistry in what just happens to be a really complex system? There is just no way to distinguish between perception and reality.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:04 am 
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X-TownCuber wrote:
There was still a choice. I know there was a choice because he thought "Should I take nap, or should I check twisty puzzles?" What do you call that thought other than a choice? He chose based on the tiny swaying factor, but he was the one who made the decision. the tiny factor didn't make a decision.

He chose of his own free will.


He was the one who made that decision based on the tiny swaying factor. There isn't some great external force making the decisions for him. It's one and the same thing. He decides to follow his own predetermined future. If he swayed the other way there would have been some reason for it. Everything we do we do for a reason. To me a reason is proof enough that we have no freewill. Once again I will repeat this is simply my opinion and I could easily be wrong.
Not scientific but an example-
Occasionally there is a family fortunes style quiz at the pub I go to with my mate. He is madly into golf and his thoughts are golf biased. There will be a question like- Name a sport played with a ball? you pick 5 questions and select the top one. Whenever this kind of question comes up I know what's coming. He's going to want golf as the top answer everytime. However he doesn't consciously know this and he sits and thinks for a while but inevitably he will say, "I guess top will be golf". As far as he is concerned he has exercised free will. He didn't know at the start he would say golf and thinks he has freely chosen it. I however knew at the start he would say golf. Does he have free will or not?

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:19 am 
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ooh. I guess I never thought of that. Yes, it does appear that the illusion and existence of free will are the same thing. This entire discussion seems to run into the exact same problem as when you try to discuss the existence of consciousness objectively, you find no evidence for or against it objectively.

Interesting. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:37 am 
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Watch this remarkable video and you will really see that free will could be just a very powerful illusion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEwcnhzU2Tk

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:43 am 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
I however knew at the start he would say golf. Does he have free will or not?
So you knew he would say golf? Absolutely knew 100% he would say golf? Would you bet you house on that? This is nothing to do with free will at all! What we should be asking is: Can he say anything he wants? Or are some answers he might give more probable than others? Well of course he could say "Paint ball", but if he doesn't that is not because he couldn't because it was predetermined at the big bang what he would say in that pub on that date.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:47 am 
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Check out the video link I posted above: it will blow you all away, I promise!

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:11 pm 
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Gus wrote:
Tony Fisher wrote:
I however knew at the start he would say golf. Does he have free will or not?
So you knew he would say golf? Absolutely knew 100% he would say golf? Would you bet you house on that? This is nothing to do with free will at all! What we should be asking is: Can he say anything he wants? Or are some answers he might give more probable than others? Well of course he could say "Paint ball", but if he doesn't that is not because he couldn't because it was predetermined at the big bang what he would say in that pub on that date.

No, I am not 100% certain he would say it but it gives an unscientific idea of how it works. I only see an infinitesimal part of his mental workings. The complete list of events and causes leading to his decision are not known to me. Even with very limited knowledge, lack of free will is clearly evident in our every day lives. Just on the surface, we see people trapped in their own repetitive personalities which control their actions and make them them hugely predictable. If you have free will I challenge you to like something you hate or believe something you think impossible.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:31 pm 
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KelvinS wrote:
Watch this remarkable video and you will really see that free will could be just a very powerful illusion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEwcnhzU2Tk

That video is blocked in the UK.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:40 pm 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
KelvinS wrote:
Watch this remarkable video and you will really see that free will could be just a very powerful illusion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEwcnhzU2Tk

That video is blocked in the UK.

Try this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjueOXCy3OM

Or search for "Derren Brown subliminal" - he does a lot of great tricks to show that free will is nothing more than an illusion and can easily be manipulated without people even being aware of it.

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Last edited by KelvinS on Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:21 pm 
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Here's another amazing video, also with Derren Brown:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-VEdzz3ixA

And another, even more amazing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WSmjLMVa5I

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Last edited by KelvinS on Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:42 pm 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
If you have free will I challenge you to like something you hate or believe something you think impossible.
I think that it is impossible to speak to the dead and I hate psychics who claim they can because I don't believe in an afterlife. But ... if someone provided compelling proof that there was life after death, I would then think that it was not impossible to speak to the dead and I would no longer hate psychics.
KelvinS wrote:
Or search for "Derren Brown subliminal" - he does a lot of great tricks to show that free will is nothing more than an illusion and can easily be manipulated without people even being aware of it.
Darren is a very good magician and does some great tricks. But ... remember, he is a magician and a lot of the stuff he does, although presented as mind control (or manipulating free will if you like), is nothing of the sort.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 4:08 pm 
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Gus wrote:
Tony Fisher wrote:
If you have free will I challenge you to like something you hate or believe something you think impossible.
I think that it is impossible to speak to the dead and I hate psychics who claim they can because I don't believe in an afterlife. But ... if someone provided compelling proof that there was life after death, I would then think that it was not impossible to speak to the dead and I would no longer hate psychics.

So you would need reason, a cause? That's my whole point. True free will would mean you could simply decide to like psychics. Do it now, like psychics! betcha can't.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 5:41 pm 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
That's my whole point. True free will would mean you could simply decide to like psychics. Do it now, like psychics! betcha can't.
Of course I can't! That is my whole point. I use my "brain" and examine the evidence, and I decide what I think is the most probable reality of the situation. I am influenced by the evidence which I can gather, from my own personal experience (and yes, I have been to psychic meetings) and what I can gather from other people, and what I can read on the 'net etc. Are there other things which might influence my decision? Of course. Are they beyond my rational mind to accept (or even see that they are even there)? Maybe, but I cannot accept that just because I cannot instantly change my views on the matter of psychics that proves that I have no free will.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 6:03 pm 
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Then your thoughts are bound by past events, thoughts, experiences. You are trapped on an unavoidable path. Think about our tastes in music, art, tv, films, puzzles, food, drink etc. Our views on politics, religion even free will. We don't freely choose them. I hate tomatoes, why? I haven't a clue. I would prefer to like them so I don't have to pick them out of burgers when the serving person was too stupid to listen to me when I said I didn't want any. Unfortunately I cannot like them since I am bound by past events I don't even understand.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 7:02 am 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
Then your thoughts are bound by past events, thoughts, experiences. You are trapped on an unavoidable path. Think about our tastes in music, art, tv, films, puzzles, food, drink etc. Our views on politics, religion even free will. We don't freely choose them. I hate tomatoes, why? I haven't a clue. I would prefer to like them so I don't have to pick them out of burgers when the serving person was too stupid to listen to me when I said I didn't want any. Unfortunately I cannot like them since I am bound by past events I don't even understand.
I understand what you are saying Tony. I see that for important, concious decisions, a lot of events in the past will influence my choice, that is to be expected. But does it lead to an unavoidable conclusion over which I have no real choice? I don't think so. And with no way of analysing and confirming with cast iron evidence that this particular choice was pre-determined solely by past events, then your world view is unproven and unprovable. It is certainly interesting to consider such matters, but in the end we may as well be arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Tony Fisher wrote:
I hate tomatoes, why? I haven't a clue. I would prefer to like them so I don't have to pick them out of burgers when the serving person was too stupid to listen to me when I said I didn't want any. Unfortunately I cannot like them since I am bound by past events I don't even understand.
I dislike cheese, and will avoid it if I can. Why? I don't particularly like the taste, and the way it sticks to the roof of my mouth and my teeth. But I will eat it on a pizza. What does this prove? Nothing. Maybe if I tried more cheeses instead of avoiding them, I could grow to like some. Oh, and remember, that for that server, it is not his fault that he put the toms on your burger - in fact, he put them on the burger because he had to, he had no choice - so calling him stupid is a little harsh :(

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 7:28 am 
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Tony, Gus, I guarantee that neither of you will be able to prove and win your argument over the other based on observations alone, because the observable effects of free will and the illusion of free will, will always be indistinguishable from each other for the reasons I explained above.

As far as I can see, there are only 2 ways to settle this debate:

1. Prove that everything in the universe is defined exclusively by laws of determinism (classical mechanics) and/or randomness (e.g., quantum mechanics), so that there is no room for free will to influence any potential outcome beyond those laws.

2. Run "experiments" like those of Derren Brown, but under more strict and objective scientific control (not just set up for show), to demonstrate that what we believe to be our own free choices can be controlled or influenced by others without us even being aware of the fact.

Otherwise, it's very easy to argue either way, that an individual decision was made by free will, or by the fact that all molecules in your brain happened to be in the right place at the right time (based on a very complex sequence of preceding events) to make that decision for you.

One thing I can say, however, is that I have never seen any example where somebody has been able to freely disobey the fundamental laws of physics, indicating that our brains and decisions are governed by those same random and deterministic processes, which are merely obscured by complexity. In fact, I think it's that complexity which makes the illusion of free will so utterly convincing and thus real, purely on the basis that perception is reality.

In short, it's a completely pointless argument, but still extremely fascinating! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:23 am 
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Kelvin, both Gus and myself are merely taking on board alternative views. Unlike most of my other opinionated discussions I haven't a clue if I am actually right or wrong.
Lets say for a minute that free will does exist. What does that actually mean? Have we got free will not to feel pain? No I guess not since we have nerves plugged into our brains. Does Gus have free will to like cheese? Well he has already stated a reason why he doesn't like it. With free will that reason still exists. So free will does not mean 100% free will. It only seems available in those situations where we are unaware of a reason. You see where I am going?
Think about everything you did this week. I bet you can find a reason for 99.9% of the them. You may say, well, I could easily have done something else, but could you? It may seem like you could but there will always be that little thing or bias that sways you. If we do have free will I really don't get where it comes in to our lives.
I don't agree that it would indistinguishable as to whether free will exists or not. Imagine two identical worlds. One has free will while the other doesn't. In the world without freewill every event will have a traceable (in theory) reason. In the world without free will many events will have no reason. For example, a news item like the Norwegian massacre will not necessarily be followed up with a documentary explaining the reasons the guy did it. He simply chose to do it, full stop. The more I think about this subject the more I believe we really don't have free will.
Surely in Science you don't introduce unnecessary elements. Isn't free will an unnecessary element?

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:03 pm 
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Free will is an unnecessary element, but like consciousness, it is a subjective element that we all feel that we experience.
Trying to imagine the complexity of this system if the universe is deterministic is absolutely insane though. The complexity of human interactions then must be many orders of magnitude more complex than the systems and laws that simply govern matter. Then again, I suppose that is life after all, turning simple systems into complex ones and producing entropy.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:35 pm 
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Tony, I think we are basically saying the same thing, that there is no perceivable difference between a world where decisions are based on no *real* reason, and one where decisions are based on real reasons that are not *known* to us. Either way, we perceive that we have free will, and perception is reality.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:39 pm 
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Indeed, the more you think about these subjects it quickly becomes apparent that there are many opposing explanations which could describe quite nicely the universe in which we humans exist. Does the Universe have free will to do what it wants? I mean, if just a couple of the fundamental physical constants (mass of the electron, fine structure constant, speed of light etc.) are changed by a very small amount, the universe as we know it could not exist. Or to put it another way, if things were different they wouldn't be the same :lol: So, the Universe could not just arbitrarily use just any old constants at the Big Bang, there was no "free will" then. Perhaps that does apply now to humans making much less important choices, at least as far as the Universe is concerned.

And no, I am not substituting "Universe" for "God" here. Oops, let's not go down that path :oops:

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 5:15 pm 
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Gus, it's no coincidence that all the fundamental constants are finely tuned as they are, as they enable production of the greatest number of black holes by which the universe can reproduce, so our universe becomes the most abundant and probable, simply because it is the most prolific. Each black hole forms an identical new universe by borrowing just the right amount of mass from the surrounding empty space of its parent universe, thus creating a perfectly consistent reproducing system, rather like an infinite multi-dimensional fractal. As a result, the space between the black holes fills with dark energy that accelerates their separation, so that expansion of the universe accelerates to keep them apart.

I actually wrote a letter proposing this idea to Stephen Hawking over 20 years ago, while I was still doing my A levels at school and just after his book came out in 1988, and he wrote back a short note explaining that this would be impossible as Einstein himself had discarded the idea of a cosmological constant that would allow the universe to expand at a faster rate. I was gutted and didn't keep copies of these letters. Only this year, the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded for demonstrating that expansion of the universe is indeed accelerating. :oops:

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:46 pm 
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To expand on my previous comments (what is this "you"?) I think much of this argument hinges upon how one sees an individual, or consciousness.

If you see it as just an immensely complex set of electrical and chemical reactions in your brain mapping stimulus to response, then there isn't free will because this process is bound by the same laws as the rest of the universe, be they classically deterministic or infused with chance (quantum).

If you see it as something beyond the physical (classical or not) world then there is room for free will. It is the idea of the soul/spirit/essence that transcends the physical that allows free will to come into play. To use the Wizard of Oz analogy, the little man behind the curtain (in your head/heart/soul) that pulls the strings and levers to animate the crude instrument (your body) is removed from the physical world and can therefore act independent of it.

From what I can tell the concept of "Fate" has traditionally come from those favoring the second point of view: That there is a plan, order or balance to things also beyond the physical directing things towards a chosen outcome. I think it is neat that a completely separate version of fate comes in from those favoring the first point of view. Just as deterministic, but approached from a different angle.

Dave

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:55 pm 
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Dave, I would agree with your last point except that a lack of free will does not automatically imply a pre-determined fate, considering the randomness of quantum mechanics as an intrinsic property of the universe.

Also, even if free will doesn't exist at a fundamental level, it is still effectively real to us since the degree of complexity makes it appear so:

"Free will" = perception/illusion of free will = determinism + randomness + complexity

Evolution also plays a critical role as it has given us a "self-aware" composition that "cares" for itself. Or scientifically speaking, we have evolved a complex brain whose molecules tend to be in the right place at the right time to make the best decisions for our survival (i.e., wellbeing and procreation), where all the molecules are simply reacting by a combination of random and deterministic processes that are governed entirely by the laws of nature. It's the complexity of all this that we perceive as free will.

In fact, perception is another process that has evolved to improve our chances of survival, and our perception of free will improves our chances of survival by enabling us to feel responsibility for our decisions: If we were not convinced by the illusion of free will, then we would not feel such responsibility for our decisions, and we would not act in our own best interest. Presumably those with a weaker perception of free will were less likely to survive and pass on their genes, and we are now left with a very strong perception of free will indeed. So I'm not surprised that we find it virtually impossible to consider free will as just an illusion, because we gain no benefit from doing so. And even though I can't see how free will is anything but an illusion, I still completely believe in it - simply because I have been programmed over millions of years and all the molecules in my brain are now fully "aligned" to believe in it!

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Last edited by KelvinS on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:55 am 
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Of course, we try to make decisions which cause our own personal comfort level to increase, sometimes at the expense of other people's comfort levels - I guess this is like Dawkins selfish gene. So, in this regard the amount of free will which we have may tend to zero. However, this does not explain altruistic behaviour, which can be also witnessed in the rest of the animal world.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:05 am 
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Gus, some would say there is no such thing as true altruistic behaviour. In nature it is usually explained by mutual reciprocity, or expectations of such. Indeed, social behaviour adds a whole new level of complexity far beyond that of a single human (or animal) brain. Where behaviour seems completely altruistic, e.g., jumping in front of a bus to save a child, it can still be explained by the benefit of enabling related genes of another individual the chance to survive and reproduce, otherwise it is a purely anomolous behaviour (perhaps caused by a genetic mutation) that will not be carried forward in future generations.

One could say that bees are the ultimate altruists as they pollinate all the flowers, give us honey, and sacrifice themselves for each other, BUT: they only pollinate the flowers by accident as they *steal* the nectar, they try to sting us when we try to take their honey without their consent (unless we first make them drowsy with smoke), and they only sacrifice themselves for genetic clones of themselves, while they will happily attack another bee colony if resources get tight. So not very altruistic at all!

In general, the more similar the genetic composition, the more likely you are to take risks to save it:

Children > close relatives > distant relatives > same ethnicity > different ethnicity > monkey > cow > rat > chicken > snake > fish > etc.

However this can be more complicated and the order can change if, for example, we depend on the cow or chicken to feed ourselves or our family, or when we depend on people of different ethnic origin as friends, to raise or educate our children or otherwise contribute to our society, thus improving the outlook of our own genes. Meanwhile, saving a fish is preferable to saving a snake, but only because we can breed and/or eat the fish, while the snake may harm us. And sometimes our own family members can be more harmful to us than snakes as they put themselves first.

And we are all programmed to make these kinds of decisions without even thinking. Of course these are very simple and obvious decisions, but I think the same goes for decisions like whether to take the bus or the train, whether to order the pasta or just a salad. We automatically weigh up the pros and cons and how it will affect our immediate and long-term safety and wellbeing, either directly or indirectly via our finances and relationships, etc.

Indeed, our genes are utterly selfish, and evolution is a lot wiser than we think.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:04 pm 
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KelvinS wrote:
our genes are utterly selfish, and evolution is a lot wiser than we think.

Yes, controversial but I totally agree.

Quote:
Children > close relatives > distant relatives > same ethnicity > different ethnicity > monkey > cow > rat > chicken > snake > fish > etc
.
This is nonsense. Chicken comes a lot higher than that (above some close relatives) just for the sake of KFC alone. This explains why racism though abhorrent of course, is a natural and expected occurrence. (Dave's thoughts- "Look we got away with a potentially dodgy subject and now Tony mentions racism!!)

Great discussion guys and very informative for those of us without a science background.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:53 pm 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
This explains why racism though abhorrent of course, is a natural and expected occurrence.
Racism is abhorrent to us now because we already have a surplus of resources so there is not enough incremental value worth discriminating and potentially fighting over (we have more to lose than gain), but it becomes more natural as resources become scarce. However there are exceptions to this based on mutually beneficial relationships and alliances as I explained above. Still, it's all driven by our fundamentally selfish genes.

Back on the topic of free will, I would guess that more than 95% of our decisions are ultimately driven by things like fear and greed which are fundamentally programmed into us by evolution. The rest may be purely random, or sparked by some subconscious observation or stimulus, otherwise I can't see how the molecules in our brains could act beyond the random and deterministic processes that govern the rest of the universe.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:04 am 
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Good God. I can't believe I actually managed to read every post. Every single argument that anyone has posted in favor of freewill I feel I already refuted in the original post or just doesn't really hold water in my view, so I don't think I'm going to post anymore. As exhausting as it was to go through this topic it was a fun discussion.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:21 am 
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murderouslyrics wrote:
Good God. I can't believe I actually managed to read every post. Every single argument that anyone has posted in favor of freewill I feel I already refuted in the original post or just doesn't really hold water in my view, so I don't think I'm going to post anymore. As exhausting as it was to go through this topic it was a fun discussion.

@ murderouslyrics, while I agree the pure *logical/rational* argument against free will is very compelling, there is still no (and as I explained above, probably never will be) any direct evidence against free will, and so it remains (and will remain) an unproven hypothesis. So let me know if you come up with any direct evidence, rather than just pure reasoning.

PS. What made you *choose* to use logic/reasoning to support your argument, if it wasn't by your own free will? Seems like a self-fulfilling argument, whereby your left brain is arguing in favour of its own way of thinking (cause-effect logic). But what does your right brain (intuition and creativity) say about all of this? The only thing we can conclude is that you are very left-brained. In fact, I would guess that you are more into solving puzzles (left brain) than designing them (right brain), correct? :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:23 am 
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KelvinS wrote:
@ murderouslyrics, while I agree the pure *logical/rational* argument against free will is very compelling, there is still no (and as I explained above, probably never will be) any direct evidence against free will, and so it remains (and will remain) an unproven hypothesis. So let me know if you come up with any direct evidence, rather than just pure reasoning.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/31/health/psychology/31subl.html?pagewanted=all

KelvinS wrote:
PS. What made you *choose* to use logic/reasoning to support your argument, if it wasn't by your own free will? Seems like a self-fulfilling argument, whereby your left brain is arguing in favour of its own way of thinking (cause-effect logic). But what does your right brain (intuition and creativity) say about all of this? The only thing we can conclude is that you are very left-brained. In fact, I would guess that you are more into solving puzzles (left brain) than designing them (right brain), correct? :wink:

murderouslyrics wrote:
You don't choose your thoughts. Your choices are based on the thoughts you have, and to say you are responsible for your choices would be to say you are responsible for your thoughts, and to say you are responsible for your thoughts would require planning on what thoughts you're going to have next, and I don't know how this could be possible.

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

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:38 am 
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@ murderouslyrics, you're still using pure logic to argue the case for pure cause and effect - a self-fulfilling argument.

Also, you should read the entire NYT article you linked to, as it actually undermines your case:

Quote:
Some scientists also caution against overstating the implications of the latest research on priming unconscious goals. The new research “doesn’t prove that consciousness never does anything,” wrote Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, in an e-mail message. “It’s rather like showing you can hot-wire a car to start the ignition without keys. That’s important and potentially useful information, but it doesn’t prove that keys don’t exist or that keys are useless.”


In other words, it proves nothing.

:wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:24 pm 
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KelvinS wrote:
@ murderouslyrics, you're still using pure logic to argue the case for pure cause and effect - a self-fulfilling argument.

Also, you should read the entire NYT article you linked to, as it actually undermines your case:

Quote:
Some scientists also caution against overstating the implications of the latest research on priming unconscious goals. The new research “doesn’t prove that consciousness never does anything,” wrote Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, in an e-mail message. “It’s rather like showing you can hot-wire a car to start the ignition without keys. That’s important and potentially useful information, but it doesn’t prove that keys don’t exist or that keys are useless.”


In other words, it proves nothing.

:wink:

I don't think that's a very good analogy to help your case because keys do the same thing as hotwiring. What makes the decision made in the Yale study different from any other decision ever in the history of ever? There is always priming like this happening that affect every decision you make. The only difference is that in the study, the priming was directed by the designers of the experiment.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:28 pm 
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KelvinS wrote:
@ murderouslyrics, while I agree the pure *logical/rational* argument against free will is very compelling, there is still no (and as I explained above, probably never will be) any direct evidence against free will, and so it remains (and will remain) an unproven hypothesis.

But doesn't that turn scientific procedure on it's head? Surely the hypothesis is free will and until someone proves it or gives good reason why it should exist we have no basis to believe in it. I mean how do you know there aren't invisible quiet dwarves beside you right now? If the world does not appear to need freewill or invisible dwarves to be exactly as it is then we have no reason (yet) to think they exists.
Sorry for skimming over some of this thread and references.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:33 pm 
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murderouslyrics wrote:
I don't think that's a very good analogy to help your case because keys do the same thing as hotwiring. What makes the decision made in the Yale study different from any other decision ever in the history of ever? There is always priming like this happening that affect every decision you make. The only difference is that in the study, the priming was directed by the designers of the experiment.

Yes, I don't deny that priming can be controled by others. In fact earlier in this thread I posted links of several videos by Derren Brown which demonstrates this point (are you sure you read through this thread??). However none of this proves that decisions are made without any free will.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:35 pm 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
But doesn't that turn scientific procedure on it's head? Surely the hypothesis is free will and until someone proves it or gives good reason why it should exist we have no basis to believe in it. I mean how do you know there aren't invisible quiet dwarves beside you right now? If the world does not appear to need freewill or invisible dwarves to be exactly as it is then we have no reason (yet) to think they exists.
Sorry for skimming over some of this thread and references.
Hypothesis is in the eye of the beholder, so both hypotheses (free will and lack thereof) are potentially valid or invalid until either one is proven or disproven. Currently they are both consistent with all observations, so I don't think this will ever happen, and they will remain just that - alternative hypotheses, supported by faith alone.

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 Post subject: Re: Freewill does not and cannot exist
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:30 am 
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Free will - be careful what you wish for, you might get it!

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