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Author Topic:   Free will but how free really?
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 8 of 182 (483484)
09-22-2008 5:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Agobot
09-21-2008 8:02 PM


"I am not afraid of death but my genes(selected by Natural Selection for best survival) dictate me to be afraid. On the other hand the genes are me, so where did the free will go?

The genes are you?

You have been built as a result of your genes, as well as environmental factors including culture. Your learned response to death is one of not fearing it, but your genetic response to death is to trigger various physical states you call 'fear' since this has proven a great tactic for trying to make sure the body doesn't end up dead before it has passed on the requisite genes to the next generation.

Neither the learned concept of fearlessness in the face of death, nor the genetically encoded aversion to death is 'you'. They are both composites of what 'you' are. 'You' are a complex set of various desires and fears many of which conflict. Some genes influence you to avoid death, others to embrace it (sacrifice life for children for example).

So what do you say, do we have a free will or is it just pre-"programmed" by Natural Selction and chance(random DNA mutations), fooling us into thinking there is a free will?

It certainly seems that there is an 'I' that freely 'chooses' to do what it likes. Of course, there is no compelling reason to believe that there is, and I've not seen any compelling reason to believe that there is anything such as 'free will' with any reasonable definition of it. My body does the things that my brain tells it to. My brain comes to decisions about what to do based on genetic and learned lessons as well as other environmental features (such as brain damage, drug usage, oxygen starvation etc).

And if i am right to suspect there is no true free will, wouldn't that mean we are simply pre-programmed biological robots, since we didn't choose our genes(the ones carried by the sperm and the egg that coupled with a bit of random mutations instruct how our brains are to be formed and determine our characters, our tastes, our behaviour, etc.)?

We have a large brain. Whilst much of what we do is 'pre-programmed' at least some the activities are the result of learning after the the initial genetic construction. We are pre-programmed, and then continuously programmed thereafter.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Agobot, posted 09-21-2008 8:02 PM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Agobot, posted 09-22-2008 6:36 PM Modulous has responded
 Message 14 by Stile, posted 09-23-2008 12:00 PM Modulous has responded

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 12 of 182 (483509)
09-22-2008 8:42 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Agobot
09-22-2008 6:36 PM


Re: Where is "Me"?
Good points Modulous, but still what is "you"(what you see in the mirror), is the product of genes including the brain that tells you that we are continuously self-programming ourselves as we move along our lives

There is more to the self than the part that is built by genes. For example: had your mother, while pregnant with you, taken certain drugs or had been exposed to toxic gasses, radiation etc etc, your development might have been affected. You might be brain damaged, or be slightly more intelligent. You'd have then lived a different life, making different decisions, you'd be a different person.

Plus, much of what "I" am is absorbed from culture. So what "I" am is not just the product of my genes (though they obviously played a vital role). You couldn't read my genes, and know I enjoy sitting on my leather chair in the evenings after work pondering life's mysteries.

That same brain that was created by genes might, just might be fooling yourself that there is an "I" at all.

There is an entity named 'I', though undoubtedly exactly what that is is obfuscated by the very brain that creates it.

In this passage where do you think the "I" should emerge? Somewhere among the genes?

No, it is a composite of all those things. Take away the environment, and I necessarily cannot exist. Take away the culture and I cannot exist. Different 'I's might exist without culture, depending on our definitions. Some believe that culture and language are required for this sense of 'I' to come into being.

It was the work of NS carried out by genes that passed from generation to generation. NS made us intelligent and smart, gave us consciousness, but still we are 100% what genes instructed the the primary cell to become.

Yes, the capacity for this self-awareness was created through evolutionary processes, but more has gone into creating me than my genes. Proof: Twins are different people with sometimes vastly different perspectives - and often despite being identical genetically (near enough), can be easily differentiated visually.

Same genes, different physical appearance, different personality. All because there is more to what makes an individual who they are.

It's confusing that when you look in the mirror you see "someone" that you identify as yourself, when all of that "yourself" is created and is the product of genes(and not how you'd create yourself, if you had true free will). That's what i had in mind when i said "the genes are me". They are me, but where is "Me" when what i identify as "Me"(my whole body) is constructed, made and pre-programmed by my genes and as soon as we are born we have to use a mirror so that we know who we are?

Sounds like you are confusing the recipe with the cake.

The body is the cake.
The genes are the recipe.
The environment is the oven.

You need both an oven and a recipe to make a cake. The cake is not the recipe. The recipe makes the cake. Without the recipe there'd be no cake. Without the right oven conditions, there would be a pile of sticky goo.

The only significant difference is that a body contains multiple copies of the recipe within it, and continuously refers to them during the long 'baking' process we are only part way through (indeed, we could even postulate at what age one would be declared to be 'half-baked'...). The recipe seems to start going downhill after about 25 years, a fascinating topic of evolutionary research.

We are what our genes made, this "I" is really somewhat foreign to me, as it was chosen for me by NS and randomness and not only was it chosen for me, but "I" was given a brain made for me by genes.

I think 'you' need to sit down and breath! :)

This 'I' you refer to cannot be foreign to 'you'. It is part of what you are. It is not foreign but completely local. It was not chosen 'for you' by anything. You exist therefore the sense of 'I' exists. The last part is terribly confused.

The genes that your father and mother gave you both contained a recipe for making much of what would become you, including your brain. The brain was made to control the body in its quest to continue to propagate the genes. The brain has evolved, for whatever reasons, to have a sense of self and this concept of 'I' has developed from that and possibly the addition of culture and language.

That's what makes the concept of free will seem elusive.

The problem with free will is much more than the determinism of brains. One could argue that we have brains and a soul and the soul providing a 'will'. But how would this be 'free'? Does that mean the soul makes its decisions at random? Or is it constrained by experience? If so, how can we call it 'free'? I'd rather not have free will if it means truly 'free'.

The notion of God would have easily cleared that mess(us being robots of God), but since there is no God, we appear to be biological robots of NS and randomness.

But what fascinating robots, no? What wonderful dreams and fantastic experiences are possible for these robots to have! What is so problematic about being a robot?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Agobot, posted 09-22-2008 6:36 PM Agobot has not yet responded

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 15 of 182 (483600)
09-23-2008 12:50 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Stile
09-23-2008 12:00 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
I mean, simply, I think I have "free-choice" to wear white socks or black socks each day. Or free-choice to snap my fingers 4 times or maybe stop at 5 times just because I want to.

Yes, you think you have 'free-choice' to wear white or black socks. If being of the mental condition of thinking you have free choice is equivalent to having free choice in your view then that's fine.

Is it actually a free choice? What is a choice that is 'free'? Do you just mean there are two options and you don't consciously pick one as better but you still make a decision? How did you actually make the decision? Was it randomness? In which case, I don't want free will. Was it parts of the brain that we aren't conscious of trying to come to a 'consensus' as to what to do, perhaps for some nonsensical reason like you wore white socks once and your feet got cold and besides you also wore white two days ago Saturday is associated with blackishness. In which case, is that 'free'? It is entirely contingent on the intricacies of the brain. Likewise with any soul type argument.

What about when we come to an age where we can choose our environment (friends, living location, career...)?

Fundamentally, this choice is no different than choosing black socks. Only this time we may also have conscious monologue of weighing the various merits, we may even talk out loud about them. This monologue may serve a purpose, it may allow various memories/ideas and decision making centres to communicate more efficiently. Ultimately though, whether you take that job 300 miles away is going to be decided by the same mechanics as the socks.

So either there is an ordered decision making mechanism, which would imply that 'freedom' is only an illusion the conscious self has. In a sense, your brain takes the information available, tries to order it, comprehend it and extrapolate the best way to proceed.

Or there is no ordered mechanism, the decisions are not based on anything.

Other than some combination of the above, I see no other way. Is this 'free' choice? Sure, if free choice exists then we have it. But what 'free' choice is, might (almost certainly is, I'd say) be quite different than how we perceive it.

In the spirit of learning though there are two views: compatabilism and incompatabilism. I am of the latter school, from wiki:

quote:
Compatibilism, as championed by the ancient Greeks Stoics, Hobbes, Hume and many contemporary philosophers, is a theory that argues that free will and determinism exist and are in fact compatible.[3] Determinists argue that all acts that take place are predetermined by prior causes, including human actions. If a free action is defined as one that is not predetermined by prior causes, then determinism, which claims that human actions are predetermined, rules out the possibility of free actions.

A compatibilist, or soft determinist, in contrast, will define a free act in a way that does not hinge on the presence or absence of prior causes. For example, one could define a free act as one that involves no compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, actions which are caused by the laws of nature, would still be free acts, and therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.



This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Stile, posted 09-23-2008 12:00 PM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Stile, posted 09-23-2008 1:34 PM Modulous has responded

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 17 of 182 (483651)
09-23-2008 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by Stile
09-23-2008 1:34 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
But, without some deterministic way to identify what a free choice actually is like (in comparison to an illusion of that free choice), I am at a loss in understanding either one way or the other.

We get to decide what free choice means. Once we've done that, we can go looking for it. You might want to try flicking through the preview of Elbow Room by Dan Dennett, though I'm sure there are 'better' authors - I always found Dennett's 'intuition pumps' enlightening. He is a compatabilist, for what its worth.

If it is not deterministic, then it is possible that we have free-choice. It is still possible that our choice-mechanism may be a deterministic one (since deterministic things still exist even if the universe itself is not entirely deterministic), but at least the possibility of non-illusory free-choice still exists. In which case, we would need to develop some means of comparing a real free choice against an illusory free choice. Such a thing seems a daunting task.

Indeed - how does one even begin to study something that does not rely on cause and effect or something similar? It's the quantum physics of philosophy (and some rather over-zealous types have postulated that the analogy is no coincidence).

But still, what does it even mean for a decision to be made in a non-deterministic way? Doesn't imply that some or even all decisions are made at least partly for no rhyme or reason? Isn't this almost random decision making just as terrible as its absence?

I don't think I like the idea of this Compatibilist notion. Simply changing a definition to make yourself feel better, and in so doing including "lightning striking a metal pole" as a free choice... just seems like lying, to me.

I wouldn't go so far as lying, but it is absurd equivocation in my opinion.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by Stile, posted 09-23-2008 1:34 PM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 20 by Straggler, posted 09-23-2008 7:29 PM Modulous has responded
 Message 42 by Stile, posted 09-24-2008 2:05 PM Modulous has responded

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 22 of 182 (483783)
09-24-2008 8:07 AM
Reply to: Message 20 by Straggler
09-23-2008 7:29 PM


experiments in free will
Roger Penrose proposed a whole 'thesis' on conscious freewill and it's possible relation to QM. As I understand it this has been largely refuted. Do you know of any more recent QM based theories or speculations regarding conscious freewill? Is this area considered as much of a dead end by most as you seem to imply?

A theory on Quantum Consciousness was developed by Penrose and Hameroff. Hameroff is still working on it with a passion. I don't think he has a lot of support. I'm not sure, but I think Penrose went back to pure Physics/Mathematics some time after Tegmark's critique. The wiki article on Penrose states:

quote:
Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have speculated that human consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in microtubules, which they dubbed Orch-OR (orchestrated objective reduction). But Max Tegmark, in a paper in Physical Review E, calculated that the time scale of neuron firing and excitations in microtubules is slower than the decoherence time by a factor of at least 10,000,000,000.

I won't pretend to understand the critique, but I do know that being off by 10 orders of magnitude is rarely considered a success in science :)

What can we learn of freewill from experimentation on brains and human subjects. The link below relates to experiments that seem to show the brain having "decided" simple choices before the subject was consciously aware of the choice that they had apparently made freely.

Indeed, there are some good experiments out there. I like Dennett's description of some of key (pre-1991 I think) experiments described in 'Consciousness Explained', many of them are variations on button pressing. I'll try and dig it out and describe some of them later.

Have you heard of these cases and what implications, in your opinion, do these cases have for the subject of conscious freewill?

I'm not totally familiar with them, but I have heard of the general idea. The biggest implication I think is that free will and decision making is not at all like what it seems to us experientially. When we combine that with other things about the conscious mind, this conclusion is reinforced.

Take visual experience: It seems to us that everything is in focus and clear, but only a small part of our eye is capable of seeing this well - the fovea. The rest of our visual field is actually rather indistinct, but that's not how it seems to us. The significant difference between the way things are and the way they seem to us when it comes down to experiences should drive us to caution about trying to use 'it seems this way to me' as a way to determine the reality of affairs.


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 29 of 182 (483815)
09-24-2008 11:19 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by Agobot
09-24-2008 9:29 AM


Re: Lack of information
No, no, if you know ALL the forces acting on all molucules in the Universe and you have the processing power to process all that information in a timely manner, YOU WILL DEFINITELYY KNOW THE OUTCOME.

I submit that anything with the power to calculate all that with the necessary accuracy at the required speed would simply be the universe. But yes, this is the position of the determinists. Whether or not they are right is the question. It cannot be said determinism is definitely true, though we can have some confidence in the proposition.

While we are talking ludicrously powerful machines capable of describing all the molecules in the universe, if we could describe the universe fully in all its 4D glory (or however many there turn out to be), then we wouldn't need to worry about calculating the 'future' - it would be as much a part of our model as the states of all the molecules at one given moment in time were in yours.

If we were in a position to conclude with certainty that the universe can only exist in this state, then the determinism question becomes moot. We could even test for free will to be sure: Simply work out what action should happen with regards to a simple experiment with a hypothesized free agent involved: let's say deciding between pushing a red or blue button. If our total universal model dictates they will press the red button we tell the subject that they must press the blue button and become a billionaire or press the red button and they and their family will die.

A free agent that cares about money and family should surely choose to press the blue button, but the future is fixed: which wins?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 26 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 9:29 AM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 11:44 AM Modulous has responded
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 33 of 182 (483829)
09-24-2008 12:56 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by Agobot
09-24-2008 11:44 AM


Re: Lack of information
I don't think Free will is possible in a world with fixed past, present and future. Those concepts are mutually exclusive.

Indeed, as long as we stick to traditional understandings of 'free will'. The big question is: is the future fixed?

We don't need to have all the information in the Universe to prove that chaos does not exist. We can prove "locally", in a particular spot of our realm/environment that chaos is a misconception(by knowing a humanly possible number of variables and guessing the outcome with 100% ceratainity).

But chaos is not a misconception. It is the case that some systems are such that even a slight variance on initial conditions can have dramatic differences in the final outcome. You may be confused about Chaos Theory, so have a quick scout around about it. From wiki. As I will expand upon below, the notion that we can even know all the variables may be flawed as well as the assertion that we have been able to predict things '100%'.

quote:
In mathematics, chaos theory describes the behavior of certain dynamical systems – that is, systems whose state evolves with time – that may exhibit dynamics that are highly sensitive to initial conditions (popularly referred to as the butterfly effect). As a result of this sensitivity, which manifests itself as an exponential growth of perturbations in the initial conditions, the behavior of chaotic systems appears to be random. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future dynamics are fully defined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.

What stands between us and knowing all the variables, other than the computational impossibility of it, is quantum physics. If quantum physics is accurate: it is simply not possible to gain all the information about a system - and even if we could, we'd only be able to assign probabilities to future outcomes.

The determinists case is far from made just yet. We still haven't figured out why a given atom 'decides' to decay at a given time. Maybe there is predictable set of preconditions before it happens, but as far as I can tell - physicists aren't expecting that to be the case.

Try the thought experiment: You have two molecules in the universe. One stable (a stablon), one that will decay (a decayon). The decayon has a half-life of 5 minutes. The stablon will be stationary with respect to the decayon unless it decays, in which case it will be moving at 1000ms. What will the status of the stablon be in 5 minutes? You're only out is that there are some hidden variables.

Living in a reality which is based on probabilities doesn't necessarily rescue free will, of course, but it offers it a possible hiding place for the time being. I'm just pointing out that while it may be 'thought experimentally' possible to know all the variables, that doesn't necessarily mean there is no free will. If 'freewillness' has no associated variables, it means we cannot account for it so therefore the future is not fixed.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 11:44 AM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 34 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 1:12 PM Modulous has responded
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 37 of 182 (483840)
09-24-2008 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by Agobot
09-24-2008 1:12 PM


Re: Lack of information
In the case of the molecule scenario above the most one can do is to show that the status of the molecule within the given 5 mins. is not predictable using our current knowledge of the "laws of nature" - but this does not lead to the safe conclusion that the molecule's status is necessarily random. It may simply be that the molecule status is very uniquely determined, but our understanding of the "laws of nature" is inadequate...

The same argument can be applied to any empirical "evidence" of randomness (including quantum randomness).

I said as much myself - your only out is 'hidden variables'. I gave a link that discusses such ideas, what did you think of it?

IMHO, the reason why many people seem to want to cling on to the idea of genuine randomness is because this seems to be the only hope for any kind of "free will" - such persons are unfortunately (IMHO) misguided.

Yes, there are better reasons to accept the notion of the probabilistic underpinnings of reality. All one has to point out to the free will people is that it provides no greater 'free will' to have certain decisions based on a number of probabilities than it does to have them based on a single determinable outcome. They have just changed their slavemaster from clockwork to craps.


You can edit posts to keep them down to one per, rather than making lots of single posts.

How could Free Will not have any associated variables, when free will is supposedly the product of our brains, and all the processes in our brains are essentially variables?

Who said free will is the product of our brains?

What would be an example of such a system? {a dynamic system which is highly sensitive to initial conditions}

The weather.
A double pendulum.
If you read the Chaos Theory wiki page, right at the bottom there are links to other examples.

Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 1:12 PM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 38 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 1:26 PM Modulous has responded

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 50 of 182 (484088)
09-26-2008 10:28 AM
Reply to: Message 38 by Agobot
09-24-2008 1:26 PM


Re: Lack of information
Are you inferring God/super power/Unknown entity?

I'm not inferring one, I'm suggesting it as a philosophical possibility - and I'm more erring towards 'souls' than God. What I am saying is that you cannot simply ignore the dualist position by saying that the physicalist position is right. A stronger argument is needed. The links contain summaries of various arguments in that direction.

Why wouldn't weather be 100% predictable if we knew ALL the forces and variables at play?

I do not know if weather would be 100% predictable if we knew ALL the forces and variables at play, I imagine it that the most efficient way of knowing all the variables at play would be to create an exact copy of this universe and examine what happens in the future. I dare say we'd do a pretty good job if we did, unless free will exists - then we might still have a few difficulties.

What I actually said was that Weather is a chaotic system. A chaotic system is NOT a system that cannot be predicted even when we know all the variables. A chaotic system is a dynamic system in which even slight, seemingly insignificant, variances in the initial variables can result in dramatic differences later down the line.

To simplify meteorology for a moment, let us say that there is only one variable in weather: air pressure. Let us say you measure the air pressure at a certain place to be 890.11123214mb. You do your calculations and it says 'nasty hurricane will hit within 24 hours'. However, this is only for 890.111232140mb. If you plug in 890.111232144mb it says 'slight rain and heightened wind in the next 24 hours'. This is a chaotic system. All I was trying to tell you was that chaotic systems and deterministic systems are not mutually exclusive: the weather may well be 100% deterministic but it is still also chaotic.

I had a great pleasure talking to you but have to run now. I'll be back in a fews hours.

The feeling is mutual, I missed your edits so I was a bit late getting back to you anyway :)

Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 38 by Agobot, posted 09-24-2008 1:26 PM Agobot has responded

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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1096 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 51 of 182 (484089)
09-26-2008 10:41 AM
Reply to: Message 42 by Stile
09-24-2008 2:05 PM


Re: Deterministic vs. Random, eh?
I'm beginning to see the dilemma.

It's certainly a pickle, maybe a pickle and a half.

Or perhpas we may even have the ability to make a decision random if we so choose?

And that choice itself could then be paradoxically deterministic. There are studies out there that deal with this topic. If you ask a person to draw dots at random on a page, you generally find that they evenly distribute the dots whereas a random number generator will clump some dots tightly together while some parts of the page will be sparsely populated.

On the other hand, humans might have at least limited random number generation capabilities which the authors speculate may be called into operation during decision making where there is no clearly superior option available as a strategy to break a cycle of indecision.

Heh... I sometimes say things unnecessarily blunt when I'm confident the audience is not going to be offended easily

I hope to continue to avoid denting your confidence :)


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 Message 42 by Stile, posted 09-24-2008 2:05 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply

  
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