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TomJrzk
February 24th, 2006, 01:48 PM
From www.SciAm.com
Brain Region Tied to Regret Identified

It's human nature to sometimes regret a decision. Now scientists have identified the brain region that mediates that feeling of remorse: the medial orbitofrontal cortex.

Giorgio Coricelli of the Institute of Cognitive Sciences at the National Science Research Center in Bron, France, and his colleagues designed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment to monitor how people make decisions and feel about them after the fact. The team presented volunteers with two choices, one of which carried higher risk than the other, but had the potential for greater reward as well. After indicating their choices, the subjects were told the outcome of their decision. In some cases, however, the researchers also revealed what would have happened if they had chosen differently. Choosing the less lucrative option and learning the other one was better was strongly correlated with activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which sits above the orbits of the eyes in the brain's frontal lobe. The amount of activity observed was also tied to the level of regret, which corresponded to the difference between the result of the choice made and that of the alternative outcome.

When participants were assigned one of two possibilities and thus felt no control over the outcomes, this activity was not observed, suggesting a feeling of personal responsibility helps govern OFC activity in addition to feelings of regret. The findings support previous studies involving patients with damaged OFC areas who do not experience regret and are also unable to alter their behavior to avoid situations that would induce the feeling. A paper describing the results was published online yesterday by Nature Neuroscience. --Sarah Graham

The human brain evolved and here is a part of the human brain that has an emormous effect on a person's psychology. What could be more devastating to a person's 'personality' than to lose the feeling of regret/remorse?

Run over a dog? "So, what?" Cheat on your wife? "Who cares?" Spoil all of your food? "Big deal." Lose the company's biggest client? "Doesn't bother me." Disavow Jesus Christ? "I don't care."

Is a 'good' person who has an aneurysm that wipes out this part of the brain suddenly an 'evil' person who belongs in the fires of Hell? Is a child born with an undeveloped medial orbitofrontal cortex an innately 'bad' person?

No, we behave as our brains allow. This is proof that there is no 'Free Will'.

Fred H.
February 25th, 2006, 11:28 AM
TJ: . . . we behave as our brains allow. This is proof that there is no 'Free Will'.
Yep. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. were all just behaving as their brains allowed. Hell TJ, that’s all you and I are doing, right? I mean what other “choice” do “we” have?

TomJrzk
February 25th, 2006, 01:14 PM
Yep. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. were all just behaving as their brains allowed. Hell TJ, that’s all you and I are doing, right? I mean what other “choice” do “we” have?
By jove, I think you've got it! This is one of your first posts replying to me that isn't insulting or misrepresenting me. Thanks!!!

Yes, they were just behaving as their brains allowed. They had brains that thought quite a lot of themselves; as you and I also seem to have. They also had laws/religions that were not quite sufficient to rein them in and enough angry/scared people to follow their orders. A bad mix of megalomaniacal predilections and a fertile social environment. We must continue to support countries that have the sort of checks and balances that can lessen the possibility that those sorts of things can ever happen again.

It was predetermined that they would do exactly what they did; they had psychologies that were destined to take advantage of their environment. As long as we keep this in mind rather than curse the gods or the devil, we can make healthy, rational decisions. In other words, forcing other countries to bow to our god, no matter how much we think that might benefit them in the end, is not now, and never was, a rational choice if we want peace in the near term.

Fred H.
February 26th, 2006, 10:43 AM
TJ: It was predetermined that they would do exactly what they did; they had psychologies that were destined to take advantage of their environment. As long as we keep this in mind rather than curse the gods or the devil, we can make healthy, rational decisions.
Of course TJ, psychologies, environment, and predetermination—how could it be otherwise? Sheds new light on war crimes and genocide—instead of the simplistic old defense, “I vas just following orders,” we now have a more nuanced, “I vas just predetermined; und my psychology just destined me to take advantage of mine environment.” Sounds like something comrade Milošević might be able to use.

TomJrzk
February 26th, 2006, 01:41 PM
Of course TJ, psychologies, environment, and predetermination—how could it be otherwise? Sheds new light on war crimes and genocide—instead of the simplistic old defense, “I vas just following orders,” we now have a more nuanced, “I vas just predetermined; und my psychology just destined me to take advantage of mine environment.” Sounds like something comrade Milošević might be able to use.
Yes, we're in agreement once again! That's exactly my point, you and I are destined to do what our brains tell us. Just as your brain had in the past quoted my words to give the entirely wrong tone or mangled Margaret's words to a laughable caricature of her intent, their brains told them what they were doing was the right thing to do; whether out of greed or justice over prior abuses, I don't know. Whether you did those dishonest things because of a sense that the end of convincing us to your POV justified the means or sheer cruelty or retribution for some pain you've suffered, I don't know. Regardless, I don't hate you for doing those things; you sound like a decent person and you had some condition in your brain that made those things 'right' from your perspective. Even if it were from pure cruelty, I'd argue that is physical and not different from an aneurysm taking out the 'regret' module in your brain, in which case I pity you rather than hate you.

But there's still no blindness here, society was destined to identify those as antisocial behaviors and punish them accordingly. We have laws that change the environment as much as possible and jails if those laws are not enough in themselves to prevent people from behaving badly. So, in other words, if their defense is "my psychology just destined me to take advantage of mine environment" then our right is to lock them up. Milošević should be punished and I'd hope that punishment would include sitting in the bottom of a pit where anyone who lost a family member could at least pee on him.

Great posts, thanks!

Fred H.
February 28th, 2006, 05:24 PM
TJ #1: No, we behave as our brains allow. This is proof that there is no 'Free Will'.
#3: It was predetermined that they would do exactly what they did; they had psychologies that were destined to take advantage of their environment.
#5: you and I are destined to do what our brains tell us.
#5: But there's still no blindness here, society was destined to identify those [Stalin, Mao, etc.] as antisocial behaviors and punish them accordingly.
Stalin & Mao were punished by “society?”—They were the “society,” back when they were in charge. Hello?

OK, so it’s your view that while individuals are “destined” to behave however it is that they behave, “society,” nevertheless, has somehow, concurrently, been “destined” to “identify” & “punish” “antisocial behaviors”; and that that apparently, somehow, eliminates any implied “blindness” . . . in (using Dawkins’s words) a pitiless, indifferent universe of “electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication.”

Well Tom, your doublethink just isn’t terribly convincing. So nothing has changed—the actual evidence continues to indicate that we humans do indeed have some amount of free will, and moral responsibility, individually and collectively (and I’d add, in a universe that is not here just somehow by chance). Even Todd agrees that we have some sort of “free will”—although he doesn’t seem to appreciate that human consciousness requires more than algorithms.

Your doublethink and/or lack of rigor has become more tedious than I care to continue to respond to.

TomJrzk
March 1st, 2006, 09:47 AM
Stalin & Mao were punished by “society?”—They were the “society,” back when they were in charge. Hello?
The whole world is 'society', we did the best we could and did not allow them the ultimate power they probably craved. And the world doesn't remember them as heroes.
“society,” nevertheless, has somehow, concurrently, been “destined” to “identify” & “punish” “antisocial behaviors”; and that that apparently, somehow, eliminates any implied “blindness”
No, I never said that society eliminates blindness. I've said repeatedly that our brains' capacity to weigh evidence and decide eliminates blindness. Our determined choices are not blind. I know this is a hard concept to grasp but it's very freeing once you understand it.
the actual evidence continues to indicate that we humans do indeed have some amount of free will, and moral responsibility
There is no evidence of free will. No matter how many times you say otherwise. Your quote of my "No, we behave as our brains allow. This is proof that there is no 'Free Will'" was only slightly misleading. The preceding words detailed the fact that there's a module in the brain that supplies 'remorse' and 'regret', and that some people don't have it, is proof that there is no free will.

Without the feedback of a feeling that your actions are wrong, there's no way for you to stay on the course of your "moral responsibility"; your will is NOT free, it's at least dependent on the 'proper' development and functioning of this part of your brain. So this is evidence that there is no free will. You would not be proud at all of a Fred without this part of your brain and you would be unfairly doomed to whatever horrible consequences your religion threatens.
Your doublethink and/or lack of rigor has become more tedious than I care to continue to respond to.
I understand the frustration you must feel toward my replies, and I'm truly sorry for that; it must be tough. I don't get into arcane nuances (on purpose), I don't get mad at you (because of my philosophy) and I don't get hurt by your insults and condescension (because, at the moment, you can't help it), so there's nothing left for you to do but address the 'straightforward' facts. Regardless, you are Fred and you are an important part of society.

Fred H.
March 1st, 2006, 08:59 PM
So now you blame the behavior of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. on the lack of “feedback,” a lack of “proper development and functioning” of their “remorse and regret” “module.” :rolleyes:

TomJrzk
March 2nd, 2006, 11:55 AM
So now you blame the behavior of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. on the lack of “feedback,” a lack of “proper development and functioning” of their “remorse and regret” “module.” :rolleyes:
Yes, quite possibly. But it might instead be blamed on real or imaginary feelings of justice, I don't know. Or maybe they were convinced that they were actually helping the masses.

Regardless, the underlying point is that you and I would make the same choices given the same experiences and brains; there's nothing else to guide us.

I'm glad, though, you've chosen to my "respond to" my "doublethink and/or lack of rigor". I welcome any chance to reiterate my views and/or make them more clear.

TomJrzk
March 4th, 2006, 04:08 PM
And here's another point, just to drive these facts home: Why are all of these examples of "immoral" people men? Do women just happen to be more moral through the strength of their characters?

Before you jump on the instinctive reflex of "because society gives men all the power" (I'd answer that men grabbed all the power because they were driven to), let's consider a few more questions: Why are most of the people in jail men? Why was a man just thrown in jail for making out with 10 women against their will? Why aren't women planting hidden cameras in men's locker rooms? Why aren't as many women being fired from their jobs for downloading porn at their desks? Why do we have such a problem with pedophile priests and not pedophile nuns? Am I more "moral" because I am attacted to women, not girls or boys? Am I more "moral" because I have an engineering degree and a great job and don't want to risk what I have to hold up a gas station? Are the presidents' daughters more "moral" because they were given good educations and don't have to prostitute themselves?

I think the answers are based on evolutionary psychology and would be generally opposite between your philosophy and mine.

Fred H.
March 4th, 2006, 06:28 PM
TJ: Am I more "moral" because I have an engineering degree and a great job and don't want to risk what I have to hold up a gas station?
Not necessarily—I understand Stalin studied for the priesthood b/f he became an atheist/mass murderer, and I doubt he ever held up a gas station. And I suppose there’ve been “engineers” that have also been atheists/mass murderers. Out of curiosity, what’re your specific degree(s) and school, and work experience and earnings?

TomJrzk
March 6th, 2006, 09:51 AM
Not necessarily—I understand Stalin studied for the priesthood b/f he became an atheist/mass murderer, and I doubt he ever held up a gas station. And I suppose there’ve been “engineers” that have also been atheists/mass murderers. Out of curiosity, what’re your specific degree(s) and school, and work experience and earnings?
Wow, are you somewhere way past left field, or what? You must really be annoyed.

My point in that quote was that people tend to weigh what they might lose before they break the law; those with less to lose are more apt to rob a gas station. So your 'objective' morality and 'free will' seems to depend on a person's circumstances. And I stand by my point, which I think is a very good one.

Here's a question I think is more relevant to the conversation: In your 'morality', based on 'free will' and 'objective truth', how do you explain the high proportion of men in prison?

Fred H.
March 6th, 2006, 04:18 PM
TJ: . . . how do you explain the high proportion of men in prison?
JB has provided explanations on why there’re more males in prison in various posts, including here: http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/showpost.php?p=2635&postcount=1.

Additionally, whatever freewill such males may have had prior to jail, they obviously didn’t use it too wisely (and/or may have suffered various mental disorders), and probably have even less free will once they’re in jail.

Keep in mind that although we do have this “free will,” that doesn’t mean that we are necessarily “free” to choose to be, say, a rocket scientist, or professional basketball player, or President. Obviously we all have varying abilities and limitations, and I don’t doubt that some have a higher propensity to screw-up and find themselves in jail.

But the issue is whether most of us have at least some amount of choice in our behavior—e.g., couldn’t Bill Clinton have chosen to refuse that Oval Office BJ, or at least couldn’t he have chosen to be truthful rather than perjure himself regarding said BJ?

Be that as it may, that you’re an “engineer” apparently is relevant to you since you’ve chosen, so to speak, to mention it several times—so why don’t you now choose to provide more (brief) info on your engineer degree/background/experience? If nothing else it may help me better understand your POV . . . but of course the choice is yours.

TomJrzk
March 7th, 2006, 09:33 AM
I don’t doubt that some have a higher propensity to screw-up and find themselves in jail.
Great, we're getting somewhere.

Where does this propensity come from?

Fred H.
March 7th, 2006, 04:41 PM
TJ: Great, we're getting somewhere.
Not really, since you apparently have chosen to not answer my question . . . but that does suggest that you’ve a free will and that you’ve exercised it, doesn’t it? Of course you’ll deny it. Oh well.

Here’s my advice: Choose to behave and you’ll probably avoid jail; and choose to use protection if you choose to participate in extramarital sex and you’ll increase your odds that you’ll avoid those nasty STDs and/or unwanted pregnancies.

Hope that helps. Have a nice day. :)

TomJrzk
March 7th, 2006, 05:11 PM
since you apparently have chosen to not answer my question
OK, so I've not answered your question about how much money I make and you've not answered mine about where a "higher propensity to screw-up" comes from; interesting. I accept that you've probably seen the logical trap and will not answer my question. So be it, I think those who have read so far understand the strength of my argument:

If a region of the brain can eliminate Fred's ability to feel remorse, and act on it, he does not have free will. He can still think and 'choose', as I've always said, but only to the limits of his brain. Again, not free. And not blind.

Thanks Fred, I hope your day is great, too.

Fred H.
March 7th, 2006, 05:47 PM
TJ: If a region of the brain can eliminate Fred's ability to feel remorse, and act on it, he does not have free will.
Come on Tom—that’s obviously not the issue. If one’s brain is undeveloped or damaged, then one’s “free will” is obviously going to be reduced, perhaps nonexistent. Obviously, a human infant has little or no free will, and obviously one with severe Alzheimer’s has little or no free will. (And also all the other creatures having lesser brains obviously don’t have free will.) What the hell kind of engineer are you? A train? Domestic?

TomJrzk
March 8th, 2006, 10:32 AM
If one’s brain is undeveloped or damaged, then one’s “free will” is obviously going to be reduced, perhaps nonexistent.
OK, thanks, this is sounding like a conversation. So, do you think the developed brain is an all-or-nothing proposition? Do people either have a "regret module" in perfect working order or none at all? Or do you think that people cover the spectrum of a very sensitive one...kinda sensitive one...barely sensitive one?

Plus, I'll be glad to answer the "what kind of engineer" question if you tell me your religious affiliation.

Fred H.
March 8th, 2006, 12:37 PM
TJ: OK, thanks, this is sounding like a conversation. So, do you think the developed brain is an all-or-nothing proposition? Do people either have a "regret module" in perfect working order….
A “conversation?” Actually Tom, more like you're beating a dead horse. I’ll summarize one last time for you—

Essentially you’re arguing that, say, Clinton chose that Oval Office BJ, or that he chose to perjure himself regarding said BJ, b/c his “regret module” is not in “perfect working order.” And that Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Milošević, etc. all misbehaved b/c their “regret modules” are/were not in “perfect working order”—that essentially they had no choice, no real or meaningful moral responsibility.

I’m arguing that those individuals “chose,” using their free will (unless they truly had some major brain damage I’m not aware of), to do the evil they did—that they were morally responsible for their behavior.


Regarding my “religious” views, I think I’ve indicated this elsewhere, but just for you—

I’ve no specific “affiliation,” but I’m obviously no atheist. I suppose I’m a deist or theist, depending on the day of the week. I usually like Jesus. I have a certain kind of respect for the Bible—it’s fascinating literature/poetry and has had a huge impact on our culture. I also really like what these great scientists (obviously not atheists) have had to say: Einstein: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man....”

Max Planck: “There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Roger Penrose: "I would say the universe has a purpose. It's not there just somehow by chance."


And no need for you to come clean on your “engineer” thing. Have a nice day. :)

TomJrzk
March 8th, 2006, 01:54 PM
I’m arguing that those individuals “chose,” using their free will (unless they truly had some major brain damage I’m not aware of), to do the evil they did—that they were morally responsible for their behavior.
I'm always suspect of any concepts that are thought of as yes/no, so I prefer to believe that anything that can be damaged in the brain can be somewhat-damaged, and probably somewhat-developed. But I can understand how that wouldn't jibe with your philosophy. I'll cover the investigation of the border conditions with someone else.

That you agree that free will is somewhat dependent on the condition of the brain is way more than I expected. So, I'll leave it there.

Whether my horse is dead or not, it's been a great ride. But, yes, I feel that they are not morally responsible, and should still be punished/deterred. I can't hate an invalid. And I think that Clinton is such an excellent example; that he risked so much for so little (on MY balance) means that he must've been far more tempted than I; his regret module did not outweigh all the other modules concerning respect for the office, the furniture, his party, his wife, Monica's parents, etc.

And I have a BSEE. I started out in electrical hardware but once I started assembly-language programing, I was forever hooked on the dark side.

Fred H.
March 8th, 2006, 11:23 PM
TJ: . . . yes, I feel that they [Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Milošević, etc.] are not morally responsible, and should still be punished/deterred.
Thanks Tom. That, better than anything else, I think, captures the difference of how you and I see things. Unlike you, I’m convinced that such criminals are morally responsible and that that is the reason that they should be punished.

Nevertheless, while I may find your view—that such criminals are not “morally responsible”—somewhat repugnant, I have to admit that your acknowledgement has an intellectual honesty and consistency with your atheism that I didn’t quite expect—most atheists lack the intellectual rigor to recognize that there can’t really be any “moral responsibility” in a pitiless, indifferent universe of electrons, selfish genes, blind physical forces, and genetic replication; and/or simply lack the intellectual honesty or balls to acknowledge such harsh implications.

Bravo Tom. The other “atheists” posting here are pussies compared to you. FWIW, my respect for you has just increased a bit. And if I ever revert back to being an atheist (I was one until my middle twenties), I hope I’ll have the intellectual balls that you’ve shown here.

TomJrzk
March 10th, 2006, 10:06 AM
your view—that such criminals are not “morally responsible”
Yes, humans have no 'moral' responsibility; that term was co-opted by the religious and I avoid it. We are held responsible by psychological and societal instincts which evolved. This includes the evolution of the 'regret module' that started this discussion thread.

Humans have a 'clan' instinct; with many evolved, adaptive behaviors ('altruism', revenge, sharing, etc.). We needed to form clans since our offensive weapons (and those of our predators before technology) far exceeded our defensive ones and we'd be as numerous as the Neanderthals without it. That clan instinct evolves and guides society.

ToddStark
March 18th, 2006, 11:14 AM
If I get the drift here, it sounds like Tom is suggesting that human moral reasoning is essentially the application of something like instincts (via evolved computational modules in this particular case). So for example, moral responsibility is nothing more than the pull of guilt wired into us for doing the wrong thing. This implies to me that there is no such thing as human wisdom, or no basis for its development, or that it is something inflexible and hardwired. None of these is in accord with my experience.

So I have to disagree with this. For example I feel that the pull of guilt is very important or neccessary to moral reasoning, but not sufficient. I could feel guilty for imagining doing the wrong thing, and therefore be guided into making a more moral decision, or I could feel guilty for missing the opportunity to exploit someone. I don't think individual "emotional modules" can themselves contain enough contextual information to be able to make the sorts of decisions that we consider good judgment.

The older instinct theory of behavior and the newer evolved module theory share the same conundrum which it seems to me we would need to address here. If our decisions are "tied to" various hardwired responses to information or stimuli in our environment, then how do we manage to choose which hardwired response gets activated? Is there some property of a task that triggers one module vs. another? The evidence doesn't seem to point that way, we often perform the same task differently in different situations.

For behaviorists, the problem was that the environment simply doesn't provide enough structured information to make this decision for us according to our goals, so there must be some fairly sophisticated information processing going on within the individual mind, which I think is a big part of the rationale for the general shift of most researchers of mind, brain, and behavior to cognitive neuroscience over behaviorism.

For modularists, the problem is similar, but more sophisticated.

Human decision making is obviously littered with all sorts of blind spots and judgmental biases that have been well studied by experimental psychologists and social psychologists. This does, to me, imply that there are a lot of "click-whir" responses in a human brain that support the model of underlying modules being activated under particular conditions.

The reason the modularity problem is more of a dilemma to me than the behaviorist problem is that the tools that underlie human reasoning do not seem to be only domain-specific. For example, under some conditions we do consistently make a concerted and somewhat successful effort to test our conclusions for logical consistency with evidence, and apply this skill in a way that is not specific to a particular computational domain.

So while I would agree that even this sort of skill is probably exploiting underlying specialized abilities, it is being applied across domains. And most importantly, it is being applied in a way that is not informationally encapsulated. This should be emphasized because that is the cornerstone principle of the mind modularity model, that the information in each module is opaque to the other modules. If you break that assumption, then many of the most common implications we want to be able to draw from the model are no longer supported by it.

For example, people can no longer be said to simply be reacting from the activity of a particular module in a particular situation, that would be an untestable story akin to Freud's unconscious motivations in psychoanalysis. Even if the module was very real, it would not be appriopriate to pinpoint it as a causal factor in a particular behavior without a lot of additional information, and it would probably not be the sole cause.

To me, the implication seems to be that the human brain possesses strategies for accessing information across domains, and performing tasks differently under different conditions, and this implies to me that it is not modules all the way up.

It seems to me to still make sense to look for modularity when we see click-whir responses, just as it made sense to look for non-obvious reasons for behavior in psychoanalysis, but it makes no sense to me to assume that cross-domain skills like reasoning and moral judgment are themselves modular.

kind regards,

Todd

TomJrzk
March 18th, 2006, 03:20 PM
If I get the drift here, it sounds like Tom is suggesting that human moral reasoning is essentially the application of something like instincts (via evolved computational modules in this particular case). So for example, moral responsibility is nothing more than the pull of guilt wired into us for doing the wrong thing. This implies to me that there is no such thing as human wisdom, or no basis for its development, or that it is something inflexible and hardwired.
You stress the punishment force (guilt) in our decisions but not the reward side. I'm guessing that you accept that there are both so I will not add to this except to say that I would agree that guilt is not sufficient.

There is such a thing as "human wisdom" and a basis for it: we, like all good evolvers are just trying to make the best of our environment. We can weigh many, many inputs and choose to be conciliatory or brutish. Human wisdom is just this basic fact taken to its currently highest form.

That I think a 'regret module' is tremendously important as a proof of the evolution of psychology and an un-free will does not mean that I'm a 'modularist' and think that everything is encapsulated. Yikes. I accept that 'modules' are not opaque and not even that 'modular'. That's not my argument.

I'm ONLY saying that 'will is completely dependent on the brain', however wonderful that brain is. If you take a mind-altering drug, you've changed your will. Even Fred says that if your brain is damaged enough, you have no free will. If you have no free will, you have no 'morals' beyond the instincts that have been bred into us as social animals. We're all just fooling ourselves in whatever way will make us most acceptable to our respective, and vastly different, tribes; except, of course, me ;).

I know we're probably going around the circle again (and may forever) but if you want to say that 'something else' gives us and machines some power beyond the brain, I'd like to know what that is.

It must be frustrating to read what I write without my having read all the books and understanding whatever 'great knowable truth' there is out there that you accept and I'm sorry about that. I'm stupid, I like to keep it simple.

Fred H.
March 18th, 2006, 07:36 PM
TomJ: I'm stupid, I like to keep it simple.
So this guy gets a flat tire, as it happens, on a street right in front of a psychiatric hospital.

He removes the hubcap and then the lug nuts and places them in the hubcap; then, in the process of replacing the flat with the spare, he somehow manages to tip over the hubcap and the lug nuts roll away and disappear down a nearby sewer.

Scratching his head and looking down the sewer the guy is wondering what in the world he’s going to do, when one of the psychiatric patients who’d been observing all this from his hospital window yells: “Hey buddy, I’ll tell you what to do—just remove one lug nut from each of the other three wheels and use those."

The guy looks up, startled, realizing that the solution to his problem has just been solved by a psychiatric patient, and says: "Yeah, that’s very good thinking . . . so what in the world are you doing in there?" And the patient responds, “Well, I’m in here b/c I’m crazy, not b/c I’m stupid."

I’m thinking maybe that’s why I post here—b/c I’m crazy . . . and then there are others who can’t seem to find their nuts.

TomJrzk
April 2nd, 2006, 04:33 PM
A mass murderer, however, obviously “chooses” to be a mass murderer (except possibly in cases where the mass murderer is truly insane, or perhaps is a “child”). As best I can tell, there aren’t many “sane” “adults” that would argue, as you seem to, that a mass murderer is somehow not “morally responsible” or that mass murderers are “just following their social instincts.”Fred, great post, thanks! I guess Mrs Fred is a really good influence ;). I think the reply is better discussed in the context of this thread rather than the "Race Differences and Intelligence" thread where you wrote this in post #44.

Your point here about mass murders and your point on the other thread about homosexuals tie in nicely for me to make my point.

Long ago I felt that homosexuality had a large genetic component. Why? Because I felt that any man with my initial conditions could not possibly prefer men over women. That was just so far beyond what I could consider possible, I had no choice but to deduce that they have something distinctly different in their makeup. (I considered some sort of psychological trauma but didn't see enough and saw young, happy children in obviously cross-gender roles.)

So now, you're INSISTING that mass murder is a choice and I'm confronted with the same problem: I can not conceive that anything could make me hurt innocent people so much. The pain inflicted on their surviving friends and family as much as the victims themselves is just incomprehensible. I have this fairness gene that will just not allow such a thing. (And this from an atheist who MUST be 'morally blind', in your words.)

So, a mass murderer must have some of a number of 'problems'. Either they think it's a fair thing to do or they're doing it "for their (the victims') own good" or they have no concept of fairness. They must have something wrong in their brains in the first place or been in an environment that gave them such a tremendous amount of pain that they were working from a different set of assumptions as I am now. And again, I've seen small children doing hideously cruel things to innocent cats and dogs.

But the real reason you and I can not agree goes back to baseball. As I watched numerous instances of a player on my team getting called out at first base, I was sure my team was robbed. And when the umps called the runners on the other team safe on close plays, I was sure that the umps had ulterior motives. This was with professional teams on TV, it got MUCH worse when I was playing softball and had more personal emotional investment in the direction of the call. And then came the television replay. I was convinced that the player I was rooting for was safe; as the frame clicked by, I saw that he was actually out. This happened more times than I cared to count, far more than when he was actually safe. The kicker, though, was that I don't remember a single case where I thought my runner was out but the replay showed that he was safe! What's with that?

I realized then the power of 'wishful thinking'. And now comes the proof as stated in this and the http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/showthread.php?t=728 thread that I posted: there is a part of the brain dedicated to precisely that! It filters out facts, inserts false ones and massages thoughts so that MY teams wins every time! Once in a while, when I'm feeling secure and not too emotionally invested, my reality center kicks in and knocks me over the head with reality, but, if it means enough to me, reality has a good chance to lose that battle.

So, you will not abandon your illusion of free will, neither will most "sane adults". Probably because of the ugly fact of my philosophy: if a mass murderer is not ultimately responsible for being bad, then you are not superior to others because of your facade of 'goodness'. You and I are merely luckier that society is a better fit for us and our instinctive tendencies than it was for Dahmer.

Fred H.
April 3rd, 2006, 12:42 PM
TomJ: I can not conceive that anything could make me hurt innocent people so much.
You mean like when you were “sure” that your “team was robbed,” except that it wasn’t? Don’t flatter yourself—you’re quite capable of being “sure” of the lack of “innocence” in others, and of immense viciousness.

Human history is replete with numerous instances of “man’s inhumanity to man”—the 20th century being especially brutal—with multitudes of regular folk choosing to participate in the inhumanity. And in every case all the participants were “sure” that in some sense their “team” was “robbed,” that the victims were not “innocent,” and/or that a greater good was being served.

Your supposed fairness gene/regret module is an illusion, or just damn easy to short-circuit. Without free will/moral responsibility (and some sort of religious/spiritual values serving as a mitigating factor against the excesses of state power and human behavior) we humans are essentially nothing more than wolves. (Mass murderers would probably agree with your “philosophy,” that they’re “not ultimately responsible for being bad”—it’s just the rest of us “sane adults” that tend to see things differently.)

You and I are done—perhaps Todd or someone else will continue this conversation with you, or not.

TomJrzk
April 3rd, 2006, 03:48 PM
all the participants were “sure” that in some sense their “team” was “robbed,” that the victims were not “innocent,” and/or that a greater good was being served.Yes, that's my point. Though 'all the participants' is further than I would go and you left out "have no concept of fairness".
Without free will/moral responsibility (and some sort of religious/spiritual values serving as a mitigating factor against the excesses of state power and human behavior) we humans are essentially nothing more than wolves.We are much, much more than wolves. Our brains have evolved to be much more powerful. We can plan ahead and learn from history. We can apply our brains to dramatically change our environment. We can play ping pong ;).

Besides, I don't argue that the kind part of religion is not beneficial, just against your argument that atheists can not be kind ("morally blind" in your terms). Atheists can not create laws that say everyone has to be kind every time they interact with others, no matter how much better everyone's life would be; ministers of all types can, however, influence their flocks to do just that.

In fact, there's a reason that everyone is highly tuned to the smell of ammonia and that cat urine is so much stronger smelling than human urine; I believe there is a evolutionary reason for everything. That there is so much religion in the world means to me that there are evolutionary reasons for it and religion has made us fitter.

So, I support religions though I can't seem to accept anyone's myths or folklore. The carrot and stick of heaven and hell probably alter many people's environment to the point where they deterministically make better 'choices' but I still believe there are many bad religious people and good atheists.
You and I are doneCool, I'll be here if you're ready to discuss my views further...

TomJrzk
May 2nd, 2006, 11:27 AM
But “we” can “control” fear, usually, at least to some degree—e.g., we can choose to take Xanax, or we can choose to control certain kinds of fear through behavioral therapy. You can choose to control your fear of heights by not looking down. Perhaps eventually we’ll be able to choose to have some kind of surgery on the amygdale to “control” fear, or PTSD.

But I do wonder if you yourself will ever be able to control your propensity for making such thoughtless assertion like you’ve just done here again? Perhaps you could just choose to not post? Or choose to actually consider the implications of whatever you’re asserting b/f you post? Nah, probably not.You guessed right.

All those examples of controlling fear involved changing the state of the brain, that's my point. Will depends completely on the state of the brain. And, yes, I've given it a lot of thought. Just because your philosophy is wrong does not mean that I don't consider the alternatives.

BTW, I really liked Wiki's statement on 'emergence': "In fact, calling a phenomenon emergent is sometimes used in lieu of a more meaningful explanation". A millennium ago, the motion of planets baffled the flatlanders; today, we're baffled by the complexity of the brain. We will solve it and know the source of will, and it will not be free no matter how strong the illusion. In fact, the regret module that is the subject of this thread and the repression function in the other thread are large, controlling, parts of that 'free' will.

Carey N
May 2nd, 2006, 12:50 PM
A millennium ago, the motion of planets baffled the flatlanders; today, we're baffled by the complexity of the brain.
This is a poor analogy . . . the solar system is vastly simpler than a human brain, and it is absolutely the case that consciousness is an emergent property. I agree with Wiki that the word emergent is often misused, but here it is appropriate: a collective has properties which would not have been anticipated (and cannot be deterministically modelled) by a looking at the individual behavior of its components alone. Just because consciousness is emergent doesn't mean that will is free, however.

TomJrzk
May 2nd, 2006, 01:44 PM
This is a poor analogy . . . the solar system is vastly simpler than a human brain, and it is absolutely the case that consciousness is an emergent property. I agree with Wiki that the word emergent is often misused, but here it is appropriate: a collective has properties which would not have been anticipated (and cannot be deterministically modelled) by a looking at the individual behavior of its components alone. Just because consciousness is emergent doesn't mean that will is free, however.It's a perfect analogy for my POV. If by "cannot be deterministically modeled" you mean that it could not EVER, then I'd have to disagree and I doubt you can prove me wrong; someday I think I'll prove you wrong. The whole is merely the sum of its parts.

If you mean could not now, then I'd agree we can't today and my analogy is perfectly valid.

Carey N
May 2nd, 2006, 02:57 PM
The whole is merely the sum of its parts.
I'm sorry Tom but I think there's more to the picture here . . . even ant colony behavior, which is way, way simpler than human brain behavior, cannot be deterministically modelled. Some wholes are effectively greater than the sums of their parts.

TomJrzk
May 2nd, 2006, 03:42 PM
I'm sorry Tom but you're out of the loop in this area of science . . . even ant colony behavior, which is way, way simpler than human brain behavior, cannot be deterministically modelled (due to the influence of stochasticity . . . but it can be simulated - very different). Some wholes are greater than the sums of their parts.That's OK, I'm comfortable being out of the loop. And I still believe in determinism; any 'extra' behavior has to come from 'somewhere'. Spooky action from a distance is physics but we can not yet explain why. Possibly due to other dimensions but we just don't have all the facts yet, therefore I think it's very premature to rule determinism out.

Regardless, the regret module is enough evidence for me that there is no free will. And the repression module is enough evidence that even if we had 'free' will, it would not be reliable since it would often be based on invalid 'facts'.

Carey N
May 2nd, 2006, 04:12 PM
I still believe in determinism; any 'extra' behavior has to come from 'somewhere'. Spooky action from a distance is physics but we can not yet explain why.
There's no spooky action from a distance going on . . . emergent properties are just a consequence of multiple individuals interacting in mathematicaly intractible ways. Collective decision making is a great example. If you want, I can send you a recent paper on this topic - let me know your email address.

The strict determinism paradigm has been out-grown in many fields of biology (but it has NOT been replaced with super-naturalism). Guys like Robert May illustrated decades ago that even very simple ecological systems can show chaotic dynamics which rapidly lose tractability. Again, I can send you relevant papers.

And lastly, non-determinism doesnt mean that will is free . . . I never said that. As I've intimated before, I'm pretty neutral on this matter and consider it to be a philosophic mind game. But do keep in mind that emergent properties can still be utterly dependent on the interactions between lower-level units and the environment. Stochasticity doesn't mean we're free, just that it's harder to trace what's going on.

TomJrzk
May 2nd, 2006, 05:11 PM
emergent properties are just a consequence of multiple individuals interacting in mathematicaly intractible waysThanks for your patience. I also appreciate that you're not supporting free will.

But, "intractable" just means difficult to manage. If the papers say the math would be difficult, I'm not arguing that. Nor am I arguing that we'll ever be able to determine what will happen next. I am arguing, though, that what will happen next must happen next, based on current conditions; there's nothing more that could have any effect. So, we COULD know the future of the universe if we had a computer that we'll never have. If the papers argue that the math is impossible without giving evidence, then I would say the emporer has no clothes and bide my time...

I even go so far as saying that the Uncertainty Principle is just ignorance on our parts. That's where other dimensions might come into effect.

If the papers argue against my point with some vestige of common sense, then please send me the links through the personal message interface in this forum.

Thanks!

Carey N
May 2nd, 2006, 06:20 PM
If the papers say the math would be difficult, I'm not arguing that. Nor am I arguing that we'll ever be able to determine what will happen next. I am arguing, though, that what will happen next must happen next, based on current conditions
The idea is not that the math would be difficult - if that were the case, someone would have figured it out - but rather that some (suprisingly simple) systems cannot, even in principle, be described by deterministic equations. I appreciate the distinction you make, however, between our ability to predict the future, and the fact that the future is already determined by current conditions, which may be so vast that we could not possibly compile and process all the information necessary to make the relevant forecast. In this sense, yours and my interpretation of emergence and determinism may be different, in which case there may not be any disagreement after all. This seems to happen frequently with you and me, for some reason.

Let me re-examine the material I have on hand and see whether or not it addresses your questions. This may take a while as I'm tied up with other work, but if it turns out that you would like to see some of it, I will need your real email address, as the papers will not be accessible outside of the network into which I'm currently connected (i.e., I'll need to send you .pdf files).

-Carey

Fred H.
May 2nd, 2006, 09:54 PM
Carey: The strict determinism paradigm has been out-grown in many fields of biology (but it has NOT been replaced with super-naturalism). Guys like Robert May illustrated decades ago that even very simple ecological systems can show chaotic dynamics which rapidly lose tractability. Again, I can send you relevant papers.
Maybe those involved in various fields of biology are presumptuous enough to think they have “outgrown” determinism, but let’s face it Carey, biology isn’t a hard physical science, and biologist aren’t physicists—undoubtedly, the objective mathematical truth and actual hard physical science of physics will always trump whatever circular tautologies that the philosophers of biology conjure up in their attempt to explain what they don’t truly understand.

Contrary to what many believe, “chaos” is not randomness, nor is it a lack of determinism—it’s a result of complexity and non-linearity, and the result is that the behaviors of chaotic systems are, in practice, very difficult or impossible to predict—e.g., the weather.

All the known laws of nature/physics are deterministic, including the evolution of quantum wave function, although there is that annoying “measurement problem” (and the so-called uncertainty thing) whenever we attempt to measure the position/momentum of a quanta, at which point those pesky probabilities appear to come into play—it’s an odd thing that everything we actually “know” about the classical world is deterministic, and yet at the foundation of our classical world, the quantum world, there “appears” to be this randomness and probabilities, albeit only when we attempt to “measure” the position/momentum of the “wave-particle.”

However, since we know of nothing that is truly random at the classical level, and since probabilities are always, ultimately, only an attempted quantification of our ignorance; and since there are many unexplained things happening at the quantum level, we have to conclude that all the evidence strongly indicates that the apparent randomness and the resulting probabilities that emerge whenever “measurements” are attempted, are merely a measurement/quantification of our ignorance of what is actually happening at the quantum level . . . after all, that’s why they call it a measurement “problem.”

So anyway Carey, the actual real science and real evidence tells us that all the natural laws of our world are deterministic. Thus, Fred’s First Theorem: Randomness is an illusion; ignorance, however, is real.

OK Carey, pop quiz: What are the odds that TomJ will be pissing himself as he attempts to nail me on what he mistakenly perceives an inconsistency/contradiction in my conviction that we evolved humans have freewill on the one hand, and that the known natural laws of our universe are deterministic on the other?

Carey N
May 3rd, 2006, 06:39 AM
OK Carey, pop quiz: What are the odds that TomJ will be pissing himself as he attempts to nail me on what he mistakenly perceives an inconsistency/contradiction in my conviction that we evolved humans have freewill on the one hand, and that the known natural laws of our universe are deterministic on the other?
It's either 0.999, or 0.001 . . . depending on how exasperated he feels at the moment. As you point out, one cannot obtain all of the information required to make a precise prediction.

Carey N
May 3rd, 2006, 07:11 AM
I think we're talking about two different aspects of science: you're speaking of principles, and I'm speaking of practice. Yes, everything is determined, in the sense of which you're speaking. But practically, some processes cannot be modeled or understood deterministically . . . that's what I'm talking about. Eusocial insect colony behavior is a very concrete example of this, as is the weather.


Fred: “chaos” is not randomness, nor is it a lack of determinism—it’s a result of complexity and non-linearity, and the result is that the behaviors of chaotic systems are, in practice, very difficult or impossible to predict—e.g., the weather.
I've expressed the same principle in a different post:


Carey: Stochasticity doesn't mean we're free, just that it's harder to trace what's going on.

TomJrzk
May 3rd, 2006, 09:33 AM
It's either 0.999, or 0.001It's the latter. I don't expect Fred to be consistent; his inconsistency is why he is wrong. So, I appreciate where his randomness agrees with my philosophy and roll my eyes in understanding when it doesn't.

His rudeness (implying that I have no control over my body, among many other things) indicates to me that he already knows he's wrong.

Oh, one of the reasons you and I probably confuse each other is that you have incorporated terms into your vocabulary to the point where you assume nuances that I don't get from literal translations. For instance "Stochasticity" seems to be just an antonym for 'determinism' and you used it in your description of determinism: "cannot be deterministically modelled (due to the influence of stochasticity . . . but it can be simulated - very different)". But this is a great conversation!

Carey N
May 3rd, 2006, 10:52 AM
Oh, one of the reasons you and I probably confuse each other is that you have incorporated terms into your vocabulary to the point where you assume nuances that I don't get from literal translations. For instance "Stochasticity" seems to be just an antonym for 'determinism' and you used it in your description of determinism: "cannot be deterministically modelled (due to the influence of stochasticity . . . but it can be simulated - very different)".
Right . . . sorry about that. I don't pretend to completely understand the literature in this area, but to my knowledge, many of these complex processes (e.g. collective decision-making by ants, fish schools, bird flocks, etc.) are modeled such that random variables (drawn from a Normal distribution) are incorporated into the behavior of individuals in the groups. This is what I mean by stochastic - there's a random variable somewhere in the modeling process.

For example . . . an individual fish's directional preference might be a function of a bit of information it has about a resource patch somewhere, where it is with respect to other fish in its vicinity (it wants to stay with the group, but not get too close to other fish), the presence of predators, and then some random noise, which could be due to a combination of sensory error, tiny heterogeneities in the pressure on either side of the fish, etc. (that's the stochastic part . . . interestingly, these collective systems often don't work at all without the noise component incorporated).

When you put a bunch of 'fish' in a simulated 3-D environment with a few simple behavioral rules (as above), they can collectively choose the most efficient resource patches (even if only a few individuals have information), avoid predators, divide and re-fuse, and do all other sorts of incredible things. To my knowledge, this process has not and cannot be captured by conventional mathematics - perhaps it can be coarsely approximated, but not captured in full. That's how we justify using the word "emergence" in this context.

So, in one sense (which you have stressed), everything is determined, in that the future invariably depends on the exact current conditions of the universe. But in another sense, the behavior of complex social groups actually depends in part upon the influence of random noise. Again, I'm not an expert in the this area, but it's a pretty fascinating situation.

Fred H.
May 3rd, 2006, 11:14 AM
Carey: I think we're talking about two different aspects of science: you're speaking of principles, and I'm speaking of practice. Yes, everything is determined, in the sense of which you're speaking….

I've expressed the same principle in a different post: “Stochasticity doesn't mean we're free, just that it's harder to trace what's going on.”
The term “stochastic” is typically defined as a “process with an indeterminate or random element as opposed to a deterministic process that has no random element”—are you now suggesting/implying that “random” elements in a stochastic process are actually just “unknown” (or possibly unknowable) elements?

Also Carey, in your post 36 above you spoke of systems “in principle”: The idea is not that the math would be difficult - if that were the case, someone would have figured it out - but rather that some (surprisingly simple) systems cannot, even in principle, be described by deterministic equations.
So which way is it? Apparently Tom doesn’t see the inconsistency here, unhelpfully labeling it “nuance,” but then Tom often doesn’t seem to require much rigor in certain things, even insisting that mass murderers aren’t morally responsible . . . and the nice thing about Tom’s bullshit “nuance” is that it might enable you two to reach some sort of circle-jerk consensus. Or am I being too harsh?

TomJrzk
May 3rd, 2006, 11:59 AM
Apparently Tom doesn’t see the inconsistency here, unhelpfully labeling it “nuance,” but then Tom often doesn’t seem to require much rigor in certain things, even insisting that mass murderers aren’t morally responsible . . . and the nice thing about Tom’s bullshit “nuance” is that it might enable you two to reach some sort of circle-jerk consensus. Or am I being too harsh?Yes, too harsh. Just because my thoughts disagree with yours does not make them unrigorous 'BS'; it just makes them right ;).

Fred H.
May 3rd, 2006, 12:13 PM
Carey: So, in one sense (which you have stressed), everything is determined, in that the future invariably depends on the exact current conditions of the universe. But in another sense, the behavior of complex social groups actually depends in part upon the influence of random noise..
When you say “random noise” in your last sentence, do you actually mean “random,” or do you mean “unknowns” and/or possibly unknowables?

B/c if there truly is “random” “noise” impacting the behavior of anything, then the future will depend on more than just “the exact current conditions of the universe,” and the next time Tom farts the universe could possibly implode . . . or would you view Tom’s farts as nothing more than nuances?

Carey N
May 3rd, 2006, 12:16 PM
it might enable you two to reach some sort of circle-jerk consensus. Or am I being too harsh?
I don't think you understand what I was saying (though I'm not going to categorically deny that there may be small inconsistencies in what I say - my explanation below should be helpful).

I am very curious though . . . in real life - outside this forum - when someone says something that strikes you as unappealing or incorrect, do you go with the admittedly sophisticated "circle-jerk" criticism, or the more classical "yo momma's fat" approach? I personally prefer the latter style, as it's far more likely to wind up the opponent and thus prevent him from returning a cogent response.


are you now suggesting/implying that “random” elements in a stochastic process are actually just “unknown” (or possibly unknowable) elements?
You must acknowledge the distinction between real life, and an environment simulated in a computer. In real life, fish suffer from all sorts of sensory errors and tiny environmental influences, all of which together take the appearance of random "noise" in their behavior. Perhaps in principle, these factors are knowable, but in practice they are not. To approximate the influence of these factors in a simulation model, a stochastic variable is incorporated into the behavior of individual fish. The variable, usually drawn from a Normal distribution, is meant to represent that "noise" present in the real world. Thus, to extend the example in my previous post:

Preferred orientation of fish A = weighted average of (orientation dictated by information about resource + orientation dictated by position of other fish + orientation dictated by presence of predators) + random value from from a Normal distribution with mean 0 and SD=1.

To me this seems pretty straight-forward . . . random variables are incorporated into models as a short-hand for the tiny real-life influences that effectively add a stochastic element to individual behavior.

So, please tell me if there's still a contradiction.

TomJrzk
May 3rd, 2006, 12:32 PM
Perhaps in principle, these factors are knowable, but in practice they are not.Yes, deterministic but not necessarily determinable (by mere humans and computers). You're absolutely right on this.

I really wish you hadn't closed the door on a conversation on free will being an illusion, I guess I'll have to wait for other rational minds that disagree with me on this point.

Great posts!

Carey N
May 3rd, 2006, 01:06 PM
Fred! Hit the "reply" button on the post to which you're directly referring, or the thread structure becomes unwieldy.


When you say “random noise” in your last sentence, do you actually mean “random,” or do you mean “unknowns” and/or possibly unknowables?
I mean unknowns . . . thank you for pointing this out . . . the unknowns together look like random noise from our perspective, but in principle they are quantifiable things, like sensory error. And again, in our models, this apparent noise is approximated with stochastic variables.

Fred H.
May 3rd, 2006, 02:33 PM
Carey: I mean unknowns . . . thank you for pointing this out . . . the unknowns together look like random noise from our perspective, but in principle they are quantifiable things, like sensory error. And again, in our models, this apparent noise is approximated with stochastic variables.
Sure Carey—seems that we now actually do more or less agree here, although I suppose I’m a bit disappointed b/c now the discussion may not deteriorate to a point that’ll enable me to utilize one of my sophisticated "circle-jerk" criticisms.”

Carey: When you break wind, Fred, does the room smell like: a) cinnamon rolls b) cotton candy c) depleted uranium d) all of the above.
Let me put it this way: The disgust engendered by such a smell is dwarfed by the disgust engendered by Tom’s proclamation that mass murderers are not morally responsible, regardless of whatever “nuance” one places on “morally responsible.” (Perhaps Tom’s disgust module is not functioning properly? And interestingly, if you watch and listen closely enough to Margaret’s circular drivel, her ultimate point also is that we humans aren’t truly morally responsible in any meaningful way.)