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  #41  
Unread February 3rd, 2006, 10:25 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
TomJrzk: At the risk of having you call my post a joke again, I happen to be one of those true determinists. Any idea of free will that goes beyond physics is not something that I'm convinced of, yet.
Hey Tom—As I recall, you were “TomJ,” and your post to Carey (here: http://www.behavior.net/forums/evolu...9/msg3884.html), regarding relationships with women, actually struck me as being satire, something akin to the hedonism of Fielding’s Tom Jones—my bad.

If the physical world and accidental evolution is all there is, then I’d agree that free will is almost certainly an illusion. I see how one might reason that free will is an illusion; but I doubt anyone can viscerally buy into such a POV; and I think that ultimately emotion always trumps reason.
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  #42  
Unread February 3rd, 2006, 04:02 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee

I guess I am one of those " . . who assert that we’re merely products of a directionless evolution in a pitiless and indifferent universe of blind (deterministic and/or random) physical forces and genetic replication . . " but so far I'm enjoying that ride.

Margaret
I'm sorry that we agree so much, I don't have much here to quarrel with; the ride is even more pleasant while I consider the other passengers and think, "there but for a different soup go I", no matter how ridiculous they sound/act. It seems like you're where I am but provide quite a bit more sugar to go with the medicine. Alexandra seems to agree as well, if I'm reading either of you correctly.

Keep up the great conversation! The internet IS a wonderful thing. If only I were retired...
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  #43  
Unread February 9th, 2006, 03:33 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

well... it all depends what you mean by free will.

if having free will is incompatible with determinism then it seems we don't have free will.

if free will is compatible with determinism then it seems we can have free will.

the trouble with saying that we don't have free will is that...

there is intuitively a difference between the following two acts:

1) i buy a gun and then drive to your house and shoot you.

2) someone hands me a gun and tells me that if i don't shoot you then they will shoot 10 people (and i believe them).

in the first case we seem to want to say the act was free...
whereas in the second we seem to want to say the act was coerced (hence not free).

here are another two cases:

1) i am sitting on a chair.

2) i am tied to a chair.

in the first case we seem to want to say the act was free...
whereas in the second we seem to want to say the act was not free (because i was physically prevented from leaving)

1) i wash my hands.

2) i wash my hands many many times a day (and am wearing the skin and tissue away)

in the first case the act seems free... in the second the person is in the grip of a compulsion (kleptomania type cases also addictions - though these types of cases might be the most controversial)

if there is no such thing as 'free will' then the problem merely shifts to explaining the difference between 1 and 2 (or perhaps people think there is no difference?)
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  #44  
Unread February 9th, 2006, 09:29 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
1) i buy a gun and then drive to your house and shoot you.

2) someone hands me a gun and tells me that if i don't shoot you then they will shoot 10 people (and i believe them).

in the first case we seem to want to say the act was free...
whereas in the second we seem to want to say the act was coerced (hence not free).
In my view, which many people have an instinctive disagreement with, #1 is not "free will". Something 'drove' you to shoot me, of all people. What was it? Did you have a brain tumor that told you that I was the Devil? I'd shoot me, too. Did you have such an inflated perception of yourself that your small benefit in not having to read my posts outweighed the carpet stain? What caused you to have that perception?

The bottom line is this: Is there something extra-neuronal that you have in your 'soul', or whatever, that determined your actions or was it just your brain development with your environmental experiences with the distribution of chemicals in your brain that pulled the trigger? If your answer is door #1 then I'd like to know the physical mechanism that creates that 'soul'; I know of none. If it has no physical mechanism and it comes from something 'spiritual' then that's where you and I must part; at least for the time being...and, regardless, until I get my will updated .

Keep up the great posts!!!
Tom
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  #45  
Unread February 9th, 2006, 05:09 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

So you think there is no difference between acts of type one and acts of type two?

I grant you
genes + environment -> representational states (beliefs, memories etc) + motivational states (desires, preferences, drives etc) -> behaviour.

AND THAT IS ALL. No immaterial souls interfearance allowed ;-)

I would like to leave it open whether the -> signifies a causal relationship (100% predictive leverage in principal) or whether it signifies probabilities for various outcomes (if the world turns out to be irreducibly indeterminate at the macroscopic level). But really... Nothing of consequence for free will hinges on this (though I'm prepared to argue that point).

Now I'll tell you a little story (courtesy of Elliot Sober - a philosopher of biology who wrote this introductory textbook which covers his theory of free will among other things).

There is a weather vane. When the weather vane is free it swings with the wind. When the weather vane is not free (stuck) it is prevented from swinging with the wind. This seems to follow fairly well from standard usage of 'free' or 'not free'. Note that the difference is not that the behaviour is caused in the 'not free' situation and not caused in the 'free' situation. In both cases the behaviour is caused.

It is something about the kind of causation that is relevant to free will (in Sober's opinion).

He says that we should consider the function of the weather vane. The function of the weather vane is to move (caused by) the weather. When there are other causes that interfeare with the function then the behaviour is not free.

In our case... People are okay with my talking about beliefs and desires having a function? Desires should function to motivate action to... things that are of benefit to the organism. When a desire is self-destructive (in the case of compulsion or kleptomania) then it seems something is going wrong... And so Sober thinks the behaviour is not free. I guess... Criminal activity in general might come under this. Hmm. I'm personally okay with that. I favour prevention of reoffending and rehabilitation over retribution / retaliation.

In the being tied to a chair case... The person is not free to act on their beliefs and desires. This is just to say that the problem is that their behaviour is not caused by their beliefs and desires, rather it is caused by their being physically restrained. They might desire to leave the room but they are prevented. So... They are not free.

If I desire to flap my arms and fly like a bird (which my physiology prevents) then am I unfree as is the person tied to a chair who desires to leave the room?

(I have no idea)

If a particular variety of deer never (normally) wanders more than 2ks from its place of birth then if we fence an enclosure 20ks by 20ks then is the deer no longer free?

Don't ya just love philosophy puzzles?

I just gave Sober's idea (which needs work) to show how there might possibly be a compatibilist theory of free will. Yes all behaviour is caused (either determined or the probability of various behaviours is determined) but that doesn't all by itself rule out free will. We want free acts to be caused by beliefs and desires (otherwise how is the act MY act?). We also want beliefs to be caused by the world (otherwise how might they be true?). We also want desires to function to motivate the organism to good (for the organism) rather than harm. So... Maybe it is something to do with the KIND of cause that determines whether an act is 'free' or 'not free'.

This does of course involve us tweaking our concept of free will ever so slightly ;-) (acts can be more or less free)
But ditto for analysis of concepts like 'justice' 'knowledge' etc etc.

> Keep up the great posts!!!

You too :-)
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  #46  
Unread February 10th, 2006, 10:17 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

I think you're talking about varying degrees of the illusion of free will. Your discussion perfectly fits in a metaphysics class but not so much in a physics class.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
I grant you
genes + environment -> representational states (beliefs, memories etc) + motivational states (desires, preferences, drives etc) -> behaviour.

AND THAT IS ALL. No immaterial souls interfearance allowed ;-)
If you say "AND THAT IS ALL", then you seem to agree with me that "(beliefs, memories etc)" and "(desires, preferences, drives etc)" are all generated/controlled by the chemical mix in our brains. So, I don't think you'd argue that, given the same preconditions of a decision you made and your predilections don't change, you would make the exact same decision every single time. There is nothing else on the balance of 'yes' or 'no'. So, if you had the same preconditions and predilections as a cereal killer, you too would be a cereal killer! You would indiscriminately inhale all the Fruit Loops you could find.

So, the guy that cut you off on the freeway merely has different conditions from the guy who let you in from the ramp. You would be one or the other depending on how much testosterone, or time, or extra gas, you happened to have at the time.

Many people have an instinctive problem with this. Is anyone responsible for their actions? Well, ultimately, no. Should anyone be punished for their actions? Well, yes. Society still needs to deter someone from eating all the Fruit Loops; we can change the environment under which people make their decisions or remove them from the opportunity or convince them that they'd enjoy sharing some Fruit Loops. We can also squirt chemicals in their brains or lobotomize it or castrate the testosterone away but these methods are not yet or no longer as acceptable.

This 'philosophy' does have its advantages. When I hear of a pedophile or rapist, I don't cringe in horror of how bad a person he is or get angry. I just feel sorry for him that he has urges that you and I don't. What a terrible, terrible burden to bear. Certainly, anyone with a deep understanding of EP could understand how successful (at least in the distant past) those 'sicknesses' are in spreading genes, but we still need to lock them up (though a comfortable, productive society of just these men on a remote island would be my choice of environment change).

So, yes, there are 'good' people that make good 'decisions'. But every decision is preordained (no matter how much you 'feeeeeeeeel' like you're choosing 'yes' or 'no') and, therefore, society is deterministic and there is no truly free will. And, you and I ought to try and steer this species in the 'right' direction.

See, my brain MADE me add that last line. Why? I'd assert that our fragile species having survived this long is testament to the fact that our brains have 'developed' (this, of course, is backward; we'd just have died out if we hadn't accidentally created lots of Freds ) the capacity to keep in mind what is in the best interests of our entire species; well, maybe more each of our clans. Ahhh, Evolutionary Psychology at work!!! Perfect.
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  #47  
Unread February 10th, 2006, 12:26 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hi Tom, I like your view of this (aside from my general agreement). Here's an excerpt from something I wrote previously that attempts to explain why it seems that we have free will:

Quote:
The Illusion of Conscious Direction

Whether we are generally rational or irrational it seems to all of us that we use our reason and not our emotions to guide our decisions. Even Damassio only believes that our emotions support our cognitive decision-making process. In my opinion this is an illusion created by our conscious mind that spends all its time observing the world and directing our intellect. Awareness is an outcome of consciousness. It seems to us consciously therefore that that's all our mind ever does.

We occasionally become aware of our emotions when our intellect observes and recognizes them as feelings. But, we are usually unaware of them as they work in the background actually making our decisions. We are also unaware that our intellectual conclusions are not driving the bus, that they only provide one more vote along with the other emotions coming in to our sub-conscious decision computer.

It therefore seems to us that we are thinking our way through life. It is more accurate to say that we have no choice but to follow our emotions through life, largely ignoring our intellect when the emotional weight of its conclusions are not strong enough to overcome other strong emotions from our instincts and especially from our personal belief system.

In practice, we spend much more intellectual energy justifying behavior decisions that we made based on those non-intellectual inputs - than we spend to logically analyze our decisions to start with, especially when those decisions were guided by strong beliefs. And then those justifications, molded by our always anxious ego, become what some of us call critical thinking.

This is proven every time someone buys a lottery ticket. For thousands of persons every day the emotions produced by the extremely high intellectual probability of losing that dollar are no match for the more basic and more powerful emotions generated by the prospect of winning millions — no matter how unlikely.

"Well, you can't win if you don't buy a ticket", they say.
Cheers, Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 10th, 2006 at 12:32 PM. Reason: Clarification
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  #48  
Unread February 10th, 2006, 01:01 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Quote:
TomJ: we'd just have died out if we hadn't accidentally created lots of Freds.
Speaking of accidents, I saw Woody Allen’s Match Point the other night.

The movie is supposedly about the way chance and luck, regardless of talent, determines outcomes—for example, the chance bounce of ball, as it hits the net and then either goes over or falls back. The protagonist, a tennis instructor/social climber, reads Dostoevsky; says that "The man who said, 'I'd rather be lucky than good,' saw deeply into life"; and comments on how much of the outcome of one’s life is out of one’s control, claiming that scientists tell us all existence is here by blind chance. And sure enough—SPOILER ALERT (and more to follow!)—the protagonist ultimately avoids being accused of the murders he commits due to “luck.”

Looking thru the various reviews (e.g., a NYT critic says, “The gloom of random, meaningless existence has rarely been so much fun, and Mr. Allen's bite has never been so sharp, or so deep.”) and from what I know about Allen, I think that was pretty much his intent, how he sees life, and what most take away from the film.

But here’s what’s interesting: While I find the movie’s atheism to be mostly tedious, it does seem to have slow simmered its audience to the view that, yes, we apparently do find ourselves in an accidental universe of blind chance and subjective morality; with the result that most of the audience are blinded to the fact that the protagonist’s crimes (of the murder of two people in order to make the murder of his mistress look merely like bad luck/chance, and thereby cover up his adultery and avoid being divorced by his wealthy wife) really had nothing at all to do with luck or chance, but only had to do with the protagonist lack of morality and his resulting choices (and perhaps also the police’s belief in chance and their judgment that his adultery shouldn’t be unnecessarily exposed . . . adultery, after all, isn’t murder).

And so I’m left wondering if Allen actually intended to make a movie that surreptitiously exposes how atheism and belief in chance (and/or the belief that free will is an illusion) results in such moral blindness, or whether it was just Allen’s “luck” that his movie exposes such a truth? But of course I only wonder about such things b/c I actually believe that we humans do have at least some free will, some responsibility; while I suspect that others here'd say it was an accident, which reminds me of that old song:
Quote:
Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it's good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I'm back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR
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  #49  
Unread February 10th, 2006, 01:17 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Fred, you said,

Quote:
And so I’m left wondering if Allen actually intended to make a movie that surreptitiously exposes how atheism and belief in chance (and/or the belief that free will is an illusion) results in such moral blindness,
I am an atheist and I believe that free will is an illusion. Are you suggesting that I am therefore morally blind?

If so, don't you you think that's a pretty outrageous thing to say (or believe)?

Wouldn't that be the same as me asserting that by far the greatest number of murders of innocent people in the history of civilization has been at the hands of those who fervently believe in some moral God or other - and decide they need to kill all those who don't? And therefore those who believe in some moral God support the murders of innocent children?

Please be more careful with your words and your beliefs.

Aside from that, I would like to see you make the case for the assertion that " . . atheism and belief in chance (and/or the belief that free will is an illusion) (can often) result in moral blindness".

I'd be happy to make a case for how strong personal beliefs can often result in moral blindness if you like.


Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 10th, 2006 at 01:35 PM. Reason: Clarification
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  #50  
Unread February 10th, 2006, 02:36 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Again, our agreement leaves us little to discuss. So, just in the interest of wasting more time , I'll offer a different example.

I woulda chosen an example more pertinent to this thread: people whose religious beliefs refuse to allow them to follow the evidence. (Of course, I've already said that you add more sugar to your medicine.) Take Fred, for example. I don't bother trying to reason him out of his firmly-held beliefs; I don't think his psychology will allow him to acknowledge even pure fact, much in the way the woman discussed in the "Repression Vindicated" section of this article can't acknowledge her paralyzed arm without brain alteration: http://www.neuro-psa.org.uk/download/SAorig.pdf

I could argue him out of his beliefs morally much more easily than scientifically (since his beliefs are, by definition, beyond science) but I haven't seen the need. Many people of faith actually need to believe, in my opinion; I don't think it's a good idea to sink someone's ship if they rely on it that heavily. As much as I dislike his tactics I know that he impels some people to respond, adding way more than I do to this forum.

BTW, it seems like you probably have more time than I and might be able to get more out of a private correspondence I had with Todd. He still argues for some sort of free will and his intellect is far beyond mine; and is actually surpassed by his tact. Maybe you can interpret some of it. Though he didn't say to keep it private, I'll send him a note to see if he's OK with it...
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