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When_MP_Attacks
04-10-2010, 11:27 AM
http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=scientists-say-free-will-probably-d-2010-04-06

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 12:15 PM
This article is interesting for a number of reasons.

I still think the best answer to the question of free will is this one:

We have to believe in free will; we have no choice.

To illustrate this principle, I'll ask another question that occurs to me when reading this article. When scientists ask if they should refrain from publishing the results of research that support the idea of determinism, doesn't that question in itself show that they still believe in free will, that they have a choice to refrain or not to refrain and that their choice will have consequences one way or the other?

Incidentally, I'm currently reading Henri Bergson's Time and Free Will.

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 01:25 PM
This also seems relevant:

The Armando Iannucci Shows - Don't piss it away - YouTube

In relation to that (for me, at least) there is this quote from Francis Crick (also quoted in the article):

‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons … although we appear to have free will, in fact, our choices have already been predetermined for us and we cannot change that.

I often wonder about the emotional agenda behind this kind of statement. I'm sure some people would claim it's objective, but I think it's fairly easy to demonstrate that it's not. For instance, consider these phrases:

"no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules"

"nothing but a pack of neurons"

These statements are explicitly reductive: "no more". "nothing but". Is there not a value judgement in this? First of all, these statements seem to be saying that you are your nervous system (they make this claim as a form of reduction - nothing else about you counts), then they say you are not your nervous system, since any decision your nervous system makes is somehow not your decision (another form of reductionism, trying to cut 'you' out of the picture by sleight of hand).

If you say that you are your nervous system (at least that much) and your nervous system makes decisions, then it is you who is making decisions after all.

Or, like those who lived in Nazi Germany and who were bombarded with (false) deterministic messages about the Jews, do you simply not intervene at all?

It's interesting that the world 'false' is inserted here. Compare it with this, where the phrase "in point of fact" is inserted:

These laboratory findings demonstrating the antisocial consequences of viewing individual human beings as hapless pin balls trapped in a mechanical system—even when, in point of fact, that’s pretty much what we are—are enough to give me pause in my scientific proselytizing.

Some time back I made disparaging comments about the same Francis Crick quoted above on my blog. I received private messages from someone telling me that I should not disparage Crick as he is a great and true scientist daring to say what other scientists don't (if you remember, he resigned, or was asked to resign, over his comments about the genetically determined inferiority of the intelligence of people of African descent). Interestingly, after some discussion of the subject, the same person began to send me links about 'the Jewish conspiracy' etc.

So deterministic messages are false when they are politically incorrect or inexpedient but become "in point of fact" when they are towing the current scientific party line. People like Crick show up where it all gets messy.

I sometimes wonder if the message "you have no free will" is not a roundabout way of getting people to submit to someone else's will.

njhorror
04-10-2010, 02:39 PM
So deterministic messages are false when they are politically incorrect or inexpedient but become "in point of fact" when they are towing the current scientific party line. People like Crick show up where it all gets messy.

I sometimes wonder if the message "you have no free will" is not a roundabout way of getting people to submit to someone else's will.



I couldn't agree with you more.

My objections include some personal beliefs, but it appears that your arguments are valid and expose an agenda-like mindset.

gveranon
04-10-2010, 05:19 PM
For the sake of pedantry, and in heroic defense of the honor of Crick (d. 2004), I'd like to point out that it was actually his collaborator Watson who made the comment about race and intelligence.

I don't know if we have free will or not. I tend to assume that we do, because I can't really assume the opposite except as a mind-boggling intellectual exercise. Concerning the amusing spectacle of scientists pondering whether they should publish results that support determinism, I'm reminded of something the philosopher David Stove said. I can't find it now, but if memory serves I believe that Stove compared Marxists and Freudians to the biblical Ishmael: "And I alone am escaped to tell thee." Everyone's ideas are based on class consciousness -- except those of the Marxists who tell us so, etc. Of course, scientists who deny free will would not claim an exemption in their own case, but nearly everything they say shows that they share the free will assumption, too. We may indeed just be puppets, but if so, a part of our puppethood seems to involve the inability to fully and consistently conceive of ourselves in that way. We can entertain the idea only fleetingly -- as a philosophical conundrum, or in a moment of horrific suspicion, or as an experience of schizophrenic psychosis.

I sat down at the computer to do my taxes, but instead I wrote this post. What the hell! Taxes remain undone. But I think this has more to do with procrastination than determinism.

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 05:25 PM
I had a nagging feeling that my memory might be mistaken. It was James Watson, not Francis Crick, who resigned over the remarks mentioned:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fury-at-dna-pioneers-theory-africans-are-less-intelligent-than-westerners-394898.html
[/URL]
James Watson, was, with Francis Crick, one of the three discoverers of DNA. It was Watson I mentioned on my blog, and Watson who was defended by the correspondent mentioned.

Therefore, please insert 'James Watson' for 'Francis Crick' in my above comment.

There's one place where this doesn't work, where I make a link by saying "the same Francis Crick". Either discount this link from the points made, if so inclined, or consider that Crick apparently agreed with Watson on race issues:

[URL]http://www.parapundit.com/archives/004922.html (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/oct/25/highereducation.uk2)

I make this point simply for the validity of the associative link that I made.

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 05:26 PM
For the sake of pedantry, and in heroic defense of the honor of Crick (d. 2004), I'd like to point out that it was actually his collaborator Watson who made the comment about race and intelligence.



You posted as I was writing.

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 05:28 PM
I don't know if we have free will or not. I tend to assume that we do, because I can't really assume the opposite except as a mind-boggling intellectual exercise. Concerning the amusing spectacle of scientists pondering whether they should publish results that support determinism, I'm reminded of something the philosopher David Stove said. I can't find it now, but if memory serves I believe that Stove compared Marxists and Freudians to the biblical Ishmael: "And I alone am escaped to tell thee." Everyone's ideas are based on class consciousness -- except those of the Marxists who tell us so, etc. Of course, scientists who deny free will would not claim an exemption in their own case, but nearly everything they say shows that they share the free will assumption, too. We may indeed just be puppets, but if so, a part of our puppethood seems to involve the inability to fully and consistently conceive of ourselves in that way. We can entertain the idea only fleetingly -- as a philosophical conundrum, or in a moment of horrific suspicion, or as an experience of schizophrenic psychosis.



In full agreement.

gveranon
04-10-2010, 05:35 PM
For the sake of pedantry, and in heroic defense of the honor of Crick (d. 2004), I'd like to point out that it was actually his collaborator Watson who made the comment about race and intelligence.



You posted as I was writing.

My heroism was all for naught. That's always the case.

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 05:43 PM
For the sake of pedantry, and in heroic defense of the honor of Crick (d. 2004), I'd like to point out that it was actually his collaborator Watson who made the comment about race and intelligence.



You posted as I was writing.

My heroism was all for naught. That's always the case.

Some would say that's the best kind of heroism.

Just as an addendum to my ammendments, the first mention of Francis Crick, as the scientist quoted, is, of course, correct, and not to be replaced by 'James Watson'.

Evans
04-10-2010, 06:05 PM
‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons … although we appear to have free will, in fact, our choices have already been predetermined for us and we cannot change that.Must we post-modernize the Calvinist notion of Predestination again?

On a purely rational note I fail to see how some one agreeing with the former should consent to the later. Surely rational idea would be we make concius descions influenced by the stimulus our senses recive and our memories of simaler situations.

Besides it seems self defeating; second point would mean the writer of said article would have had no free will to question the machina of the first point. If the later point is true everything else could be wrong in a way he would never see due to pre-destination.

In the end this would render all rational deductions ultimately unreliable.

P.S. I am aware much of this is riddled with spelling errors.


I know this goes somewhat against the tone of the forum but I really dislike articles like this. I feel they've been partly responsible for ruining the world - so much of the last century seems to have been about trying to do down higher feelings (good and bad) and to convince people they are nothing. I'm sorry to go into this here.

qcrisp
04-10-2010, 07:46 PM
I know this goes somewhat against the tone of the forum but I really dislike articles like this. I feel they've been partly responsible for ruining the world - so much of the last century seems to have been about trying to do down higher feelings (good and bad) and to convince people they are nothing. I'm sorry to go into this here.

Regardless of whether free will exists or not (will free from what, or to do what?), I think it is no secret that I am more than vaguely suspicious of this trend myself. The question for me is quite simple: Do we actually want to live in a world where we believe people are, and thus treat them like, machines? It seems to me that a great deal of the rhetoric surrounding this particular worldview is either to do with resentment ("I've just proved that we're all nothing! Take that!"), or with what might be called a Dave the Moon-Man approach:

Looper - Dave the Moon Man - YouTube

There's a great deal that could be said on this question, but I won't go into it here, because it's late and I'm tired, and also because I've gone into it all at length in other places. And this may well not be the time and the place, etc.

njhorror
04-10-2010, 10:46 PM
I know this goes somewhat against the tone of the forum but I really dislike articles like this. I feel they've been partly responsible for ruining the world - so much of the last century seems to have been about trying to do down higher feelings (good and bad) and to convince people they are nothing. I'm sorry to go into this here.


I agree wholeheartedly.

There seems to be a stream of conciousness whose intent is to diminish the role of mankind and reduce it to another species of monkey.

It seems to me that the destruction of mankind could be brought about through the most banal of evils.

Odalisque
04-11-2010, 06:15 AM
My own feeling is that many species of animal (including monkeys) may exercise free will. (Although, according to Kant, we can only exercise free will by acting morally. The morality of other species is an odd subject.)

njhorror
04-11-2010, 11:12 AM
yeah, good point.


I know that mankind's role as seperate from, or the same as, other species of animal can be a touchy subject and a matter of personal belief.

Russell Nash
04-11-2010, 02:43 PM
The question of whether destiny or free will exists could be lightly studied in two ways: 1) considering its historical origin, or 2) scientifically.

1) One would be tempted to say that all (or almost all) atheists believe in free will and that a religious person would accept both destiny and free will alike. The best example of this statement is clearly seen in modern Christianity, in which one can choose freely (Satan fallen in the book of Ezekiel) but knowing that God will win in the end (the end of times yet to come, it is nothing more than predestination). The coexistence of both is essential for Christianity. If there is no free will one would not be guilty of anything, but if there is no destiny no one could predict the final outcome of this supposed war between good and evil.

2) Being an atom the size of 10 to the power of -10 m and the velocity of an electron around the nucleus of 10 to the power of 4 m / sec, we would have an electron turning 10 to the power of 14 times per second around the nucleus (almost a quadrillion times per second). Therefore, scientists assert that it is more correct to speak of “orbitals”, and not of orbits. The electron, being studied in that second, would be in a region of space but we would not know where since it does not follow the same trajectory each time. Sometimes it would be closer or further away, or would repeat millions or billions of times the same orbit but not always. In this case, the most appropriate way to study an electron is to do it approximately (statistically, or with no destiny, if you want). On the other hand, does an electron (or any other subatomic particle) have freedom, or will? It has no freedom because an electron cannot say "today I will be a proton". Nor can we say that it has will because it does not think, has no soul, brain, or consciousness (choose any). And since we are nothing more than an unbelievably complex group of elementary particles, we have neither free will nor destiny.

In short, no scientist (or almost none) believes in destiny. They would be more inclined to accept free will, arguing that there is no mathematical way (or exact way) to study the properties of subatomic particles (stuff we are made of). And religious people are condemned to live in a sickly dichotomy accepting two opposites coexisting together.

Personally, as it can be seen from what I already said, I do not believe in free will and destiny. Neither of them is true. I exist, and that's all or almost all I would dare to know. No wonder, since neither color nor adjectives have free will and destiny and no one rends his garments or shrieks from the rooftop for it.

qcrisp
04-13-2010, 10:38 AM
Just thought I'd add a couple of snippets on the subject generally.

Here's Arthur Young saying - apparently - that we have free will in answer to the question of whether science has anything spiritually nourishing to teach us:

Arthur Young on Henri Bergson - YouTube

And here's the story of Hyakujo's Fox from The Gateless Gate, a Zen text written, if I remember correctly, some time in the 12th century:

http://www.ibiblio.org/zen/gateless-gate/2.html

In my opinion a much more sophisticated idea of free will is presented in that story than in the original article linked to. And it was written about eight hundred years ago.

I certainly don't think progress is a straight line.

Odalisque
04-13-2010, 03:37 PM
Another thought: I wonder what "Scientists say free will probably doesn't exist" means. Obviously not all scientists have said this. How many scientists have said it? At least two, I suppose...

shivering
04-13-2010, 05:31 PM
Part of this argument is also at least partially based upon (self) consciousness....if there is none, then the question of the existence of free will is non-existant as well. Only a lifeform aware of itself as an individual would be concerned with the question of free will.

It would be interesting to see the responses of people who are not part of a culture that puts such a premium on individuality when it comes to the question of free will as well....

Or, it could be that the more alienated one is the more free will is an issue. Perhaps.

paeng
04-14-2010, 10:01 AM
That's right, my friends. The human condition is a rich combination of the rational and irrational.

Russell Nash
04-20-2010, 07:33 PM
Scientific experiment (I called it "the absent choice"):

Tools:
1. a friend astronomer (or 50 people),
2. a coin,
3. paper,
4, a pencil,
5. a cup of tea (or coffee).

Goal:
To prove or disprove the existence of destiny.

Proposal:
1. Call a friend astronomer and ask for data regarding a distant quasar (any), located at least 200 billion light years from Earth. For example: the exact number for its redshift (3.57 for example), or the amount of cosmic rays that come from it, or anything else that gives a number with at least one decimal as a result.
3. Flip a coin.
4. If the result is heads then I check the number given to me by my friend astronomer. If the decimal is even, then I drink my tea (or coffee). If it is odd, then I don't drink it.
5. If the result is tails then I flip my coin again.
6. I write the succession of results on my paper with my pencil.

What do I prove or disprove by doing it?
Well, if the result of flipping my coin is heads then whether or not I drink my tea depends on an event originated "200 billion years ago". That number given to me by my friend astronomer (Whatever it is: even or odd) happened 200 billion years ago, before I (or humanity) was even here, on Earth. Then if I drink my tea it is not because I have a destiny but it depends on a certain cosmic event originated BEFORE I even conceived my experiment. If the result is tails, I flip my coin again (the absent choice). If destiny exists, it cannot allow chance (a random event originated 200 billion years ago) to decide whether or not I drink my tea (or coffee). If destiny exists it would force the coin to be tails, and tails again, and again. It is called "the absent choice" because I never allow destiny to choose anything, therefore disproving its existence. See the following results:

experiment one: heads, destiny doesn't exist.
experiment two: tails (maybe it exists), tails (wow!), heads, destiny doesn't exist. Why? Because whether or not I drink my tea depends on an event 200 billion years old, that already HAPPENED. Sooner o later, it is going to be heads, and I choose according to chance (who does really know what the number given to me by friend is going to be?), not destiny. Therefore, destiny does not exist.

Variation of the experiment:
Have 50 people gathered in a room and after flipping your coin ask them: raise hands whoever likes yellow color (or any other), depending on the answer (odd or even) destiny exists or not. Following identical procedure, we verified that destiny does not exist.

Could anybody refute it?