Free Will - Don’t Get it!
Posted: 24 April 2012 06:52 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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OK, so Harris says that Neuro-Imaging/EEG shows that some actions that I might take are actually decided by a “little man” in my brain milliseconds before I am aware of making the decision to take that action.  It seems to me that such data may not be nearly as significant for defining free will, as Harris seems to think.  Suppose a computer makes some logical decision, and then it takes x-milliseconds for that result to show up on a monitor screen?  Might we then say that the computer didn’t actually make that logical decision at all, but a “little man” inside the computer did it all in advance?  Perhaps we’re just dealing with a short delay of recognition, here, to explain such experimental results?

Also, Harris gives the example of me sitting in a waiting room, but some futuristic Neuro-Imaging can determine what magazine I am going to read before I consciously decide to read it.  In that situation don’t I still have the “Free Will” to decide to drink a cup of coffee and NOT read any magazine at all?  If so, does some mysterious part of my past make that decision for me or did I make the decision with Free Will, which was in some way influenced by a love of coffee that I developed 20 years ago?

So far, I I just can’t see any very good evidence that Harris has put forth to support his premise.  I will keep reading?

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Posted: 25 April 2012 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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iamchemist - 24 April 2012 06:52 PM

OK, so Harris says that Neuro-Imaging/EEG shows that some actions that I might take are actually decided by a “little man” in my brain milliseconds before I am aware of making the decision to take that action.  It seems to me that such data may not be nearly as significant for defining free will, as Harris seems to think.  Suppose a computer makes some logical decision, and then it takes x-milliseconds for that result to show up on a monitor screen?  Might we then say that the computer didn’t actually make that logical decision at all, but a “little man” inside the computer did it all in advance?  Perhaps we’re just dealing with a short delay of recognition, here, to explain such experimental results?

Also, Harris gives the example of me sitting in a waiting room, but some futuristic Neuro-Imaging can determine what magazine I am going to read before I consciously decide to read it.  In that situation don’t I still have the “Free Will” to decide to drink a cup of coffee and NOT read any magazine at all?  If so, does some mysterious part of my past make that decision for me or did I make the decision with Free Will, which was in some way influenced by a love of coffee that I developed 20 years ago?

So far, I I just can’t see any very good evidence that Harris has put forth to support his premise.  I will keep reading?


It depends on how you define “I;” when you say “I” am still making decisions regardless of whether I am the ultimate source of those decisions, what you really mean is “my brain” is making decisions.  You are just a witness, not a decision maker.  Your brain makes decisions and you witness them under the illusion that you’re the conscious cause of some of those decisions.  The real you (the experiencer) doesn’t ever actually do anything.  See this thread for more information.

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Posted: 25 April 2012 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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*****    I typically put some effort into considering how anything and everything could even remotely enhance a creature such ours survivability.  I am a Christian, but also an evolutionist, I personally do not feel that the two are exclusive, I find the Bible to be an advanced intelligence Book of Survival and I also find Evolution obvious. I am waiting for the POP as homosapiens make the leap into the next expansion of the mind… IQ, functionability… ok Dad… throw me the keys to the Gold Mind, quasi communication ... I mean the list is endless and limited only by the imagination and denial, which has always been homospiens worst enemy:  skepticism and negativity.

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Posted: 26 April 2012 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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“I find the Bible to be an advanced intelligence Book of Survival…”

Sadly, the ‘bible’ (which one? There are literally hundreds of versions and millions of other so-called ‘holy books’ expressing the dictates of infinite gods!) is not an advanced book even for the first century (e.g. advocating genocide, slavery and the sub-human treatment of women).  It is weakly translated from dubious sources and contradictory throughout.  It pales in comparison to ANYTHING written in ancient Greece and Rome centuries earlier!  It provides no information or knowledge that supersedes the ancient Egyptians.  IMO, it’s not the worth the paper (and trees) it’s printed on and almost impossible to have a rational discussion about it.  It’ more intellectually stimulating to debate Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  You are a victim of compatibilism and have conned yourself into accepting things on ‘faith.’  Do you accept the theory of evolution on faith too?

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Posted: 26 April 2012 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I can appreciate your opinion and your time to post and thanks for opposing my point of view without being cruel.  Until science can measure feelings, I believe we will always disagree about the Holy Bible and all other writings historical or current that give guidance to the masses to aid managing their feelings/emotions.  Humans can be altruistic or cruel, anyone at anytime, some provoked and some because for some unknown reason that cannot be witnessed/measured/recorded/proven/call it their lack of free will/ call it desire/say the devil made me doi it.  Unless you can recreate history without any religious bearings and prove to me that humans would be less cruel… you cannot convince me that religion does not have value for humans.  I’m on the same ride as you and I choose to believe that there is value in the Holy Bible and I have no desire to deny anyone their religion if it gets them thru the day because this life is all about survival… any evolutionist can appreciate that hole in the cheese?

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Posted: 26 April 2012 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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“Unless you can recreate history without any religious bearings and prove to me that humans would be less cruel… you cannot convince me that religion does not have value for humans.”

Like everything else, human behavior (niceness and cruelty) evolves.  Religion is part of human behavior and with the advent of the Enlightenment and the rise of science, we are evolving and past due with regard to discarding religion.  It served its purpose in the pre-scientific age.  We have evolved rapidly and to a much higher level of morality than ANYTHING ever written in any so-called ‘sacred book.’  Again, which book and god are you referencing?  Think about it, does it even matter?  It’s your unsupportable faith versus someone else’s.  The only resolution can be violence.  That’s what all religion or dogma taken literally leads to.

“I’m on the same ride as you and I choose to believe that there is value in the Holy Bible and I have no desire to deny anyone their religion if it gets them thru the day because this life is all about survival… any evolutionist can appreciate that hole in the cheese?”

Do you know there is value in the bible or just choose to believe?  I think there is just as much value in religion as there is in alcohol and pot.  It’s a way to calm (or numb) the brain from thinking too much and feeling too responsible for your own actions.  That’s the difference between being rational or irrational.  The whole point of reason and science is to appreciate the ‘hole in the cheese.’  That’s where we focus next.  We need not panic and invent fairy tales to hurriedly fill in the gaps.

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Posted: 26 April 2012 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Explain my dreams, my nightmares smarty pants!

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Posted: 26 April 2012 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Neuroscience is just beginning to.  We DO know that dreams are caused by brain activity and not imagery beamed down from an invisible deity.  Knowledge learned from testing reality doesn’t make anyone a ‘smarty pants.’  No scientist claims to ‘know it all’ like a religionist.  Name calling will not alter reality.  Deal with it.

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Posted: 26 April 2012 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Thanks for not letting your lack of free will and my semi-rude comment “smarty pants” (more of lite/friendly teasing in jest)
annoy you enough to react overly negative.  And what does science reveal about ESP or is that also classified by academics as the God Disease/Santa Claus Syndrome of the less intelligent/uneducated?  I experience some bizarre stuff in my mind and I await the day that my educated intgelligent earthling neighbors can explain why I “know” things and how things can materialize out of what appears to be thin air.  Thank you.

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Posted: 26 April 2012 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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There are lots of facts and data on ESP and all those things you mention.  Information doesn’t seek you out,  you must seek it out.  Next time you experience something strange, try researching it before you attribute supernatural causes to it.  The progress in neuroscience within the past 30 years has been astounding!  Have a little ‘faith’ in man’s power to reason.  It got us to the moon and it is the only reason we can communicate like this in real time across vast distances.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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    I agree.  Thanks!

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Posted: 12 May 2012 10:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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My mother expressed this idea in a very simple way to me.  She said, “At every given moment, every human being is doing the BEST they possibly can, at that moment in their lives.”  I don’t think anybody else really completely understood what she meant by that.  But I did.  Because I had already had the same thoughts myself, for years.  At one point or another, I asked myself, “If a person does “evil”, or acts in an “evil” way, WHY do they do so?  That is, there must be some REASON why some people do “good” and others do “evil”.  It is no explanation to simply say that someone is an “evil person, or that they are a “good” person.  That simply begs the question, “WHY are they evil” or WHY are they good?  What made them that way in the first place?  It is so tempting to posit a little man at the controls, a “ghost in the machine”, upon whom we can place ultimate “blame” or ultimate credit, without recourse to any prior cause.  But even if we concede the existence of a “soul”, then WHY are some souls “good” and others “evil”?  It’s just an infinite regress.  The very concepts of “blameworthiness” or “deserving punishment” or “revenge” are intrinsically flawed and nonsensical, as there is no entity at which the buck stops, no ghost upon which we can heap blame or guilt.  Human behavior and psychology are emergent phenomena which cannot be pinned on any single point of origin.  It is even more ridiculous when religious people say that God is justified in punishing his creations for eternity, for being “evil”.  If indeed there is a God (who is the ONLY causeless being in the universe, and who has complete control over the entire universe, and who created all human beings), then ultimately, if anyone could be said to be responsible for human evil, it would be that God, would it not?  It is just ludicrous to me that religions like Christianity, who posit an all-powerful God, nonetheless feel justified in assigning blame for all the evils of the world to human beings who were the creations of that God, and derive great satisfaction from the idea that God will wreak eternal revenge upon “evil” souls who “deserve” to be punished.  It’s just ridiculous.

[ Edited: 12 May 2012 10:40 PM by rydinearth]
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Posted: 22 May 2012 11:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I seem to remember a tweet from Harris sent out not too long ago about a scientific rebuttal to the free-will argument. I believe he stated “I stand corrected!”
Also, the comparison to a computer’s processing ability is not that far-fetched in the free-will argument, as I believe that the idea is somehow related to the user being in control of whatever the computer is thinking…something along the lines of “computer simulation theory” which Sam has talked about. That we might all just be living in a very advanced ancestral simulation video game…freaky stuff.

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Posted: 22 August 2012 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Free Will/Won’t ——-  a different angle
Before language we lived in groups and members cooperated. When we learned more efficient cooperation it was due to improvements in communication of what the different organisms   intended to do. It was done by by signs,  sounds and, later,  words.  The intensions/decisions were formed in the (sub)conscious workings of that organism.
With time,  we got better and better in communications and we even created a word for the ‘announcement’:  ‘I’ !  But that did not mean that we added a function to our organism:  an ‘I’  that suddenly could deliberate and decide about things! 
Through 1000s of years we then used ‘I’  to give agency to decisions that were communicated and then we started to believe that what was communicated was really made by   ‘I’,  as we had little idea about how a decision came to. 
We are still in that situation;  most people have no idea about how an organism makes decisions….they just assume that ‘I’  did it.
And …. As ‘I’  did it…‘I’  have Free Will.
Voila!
But…..
My organism is still doing decisions in the same way as it has done for 1000s of years! Only   better due to access to more information.
A big confusion was created when this witnessing and announcing function of my organism’s deliberations and decisions was also supposed to have the powers to do them; i.e.  when the announcement got the confusing ID:  ‘I’ ?  Or rather:  Who is there to have Free Will?  There is no one! 
Without anybody   to own the Free Will/Won’t mechanism; it can not exist.
But my organism will continue to make decisions and announce them and many people will continue to believe that a Free Will decision has been announced.

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Posted: 22 August 2012 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Free Will/Won’t ——-  a different angle
Before language we lived in groups and members cooperated. When we learned more efficient cooperation it was due to improvements in communication of what the different organisms   intended to do. It was done by by signs,  sounds and, later,  words.  The intensions/decisions were formed in the (sub)conscious workings of that organism.
With time,  we got better and better in communications and we even created a word for the ‘announcement’:  ‘I’ !  But that did not mean that we added a function to our organism:  an ‘I’  that suddenly could deliberate and decide about things! 
Through 1000s of years we then used ‘I’  to give agency to decisions that were communicated and then we started to believe that what was communicated was really made by   ‘I’,  as we had little idea about how a decision came to. 
We are still in that situation;  most people have no idea about how an organism makes decisions….they just assume that ‘I’  did it.
And …. As ‘I’  did it…‘I’  have Free Will.
Voila!
But…..
My organism is still doing decisions in the same way as it has done for 1000s of years! Only   better due to access to more information.
A big confusion was created when this witnessing and announcing function of my organism’s deliberations and decisions was also supposed to have the powers to do them; i.e.  when the announcement got the confusing ID:  ‘I’ ?  Or rather:  Who is there to have Free Will?  There is no one! 
Without anybody   to own the Free Will/Won’t mechanism; it can not exist.
But my organism will continue to make decisions and announce them and many people will continue to believe that a Free Will decision has been announced.

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