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Illusion of Freedom
Posted: 06 June 2011 02:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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You keep modifying your statements. “basic facts of live.”; “at its core deterministic”. Well, the “core” of the world are its elementary particles. The mainstream scientific understanding of our days is that the elementary particles do not behave in a deterministic fashion. The belief that this randomness is due to our lack of knowledge is called hidden variable theory. There is no evidence whatsoever that these hidden variables exist. ‘Therefore, most physicists do not believe in hidden variables or many worlds. We have no evidence for their existence. Therefore, the mainstream understanding is that quantum mechanics is a complete description of these particles.  So you reject the existence of god for lack of evidence but you postulate hidden variables but have no evidence whatsoever for their existence. That’s inconsistent reasoning.

Explain to me then how a system based on truly random effects can create a coherent system that is highly predictable? The fact that there is no evidence yet of any hidden variables does not mean there are none. Furthermore, there is a big difference between my believe in determinism and that in a god. Determinism has proven true on the most important level of our experience, namely daily life. That is what I mean with the basic facts of life. You can argue that the smallest particle in existence behave in a (seemingly) random way, but apparently it doesn’t follow that everything else must also behave in a random way.

The theory is extremely successful. The theory has been tested like no other theory of physics. For example, QM explains the periodic table of elements ... Chemistry is basically governed by the behavior of the valence electrons of atoms. This is pure quantum mechanics and a sound understanding of chemistry is not possible without quantum mechanics. Therefore, all chemistry majors learn QM.

That is your opinion, but a sound understanding of chemistry is certainly possible without understanding quantum mechanics. There are many professionals that work in the areas of chemistry and biology that do not have a good understanding of quantum mechanics. Do you dispute this?

The correspondence principle explains how the non-deterministic world may appear to be deterministic. Newtonian physics is an approximation of quantum mechanics under certain constraints. That’s why it works pretty well. But, it doesn’t always play out this way. This is a topic of intense research. If you want to understand this paradox, you are going to have to study quantum mechanics. Sorry man!

How can something appear deterministic if it isn’t? Are you just playing with words here?

Yes, there are many things that can be predicted with a high probability. But, if you wan’t to prove the non-existence of free will based on a comletely deterministic world, then high probability is not enough.


Just like you can’t disprove god? If I had to predict everything 100% to prove determinism than I could never do it. There are limits to human intelligence. That something cannot be 100% predicted doesn’t mean it is not 100% determined. Besides a little randomness does not make room for freewill. Explain to me how that would work?

That’s a non sequitur. There are many things you can’t do, for sure, 100% sure. You can’t stop drinking and survive for years, 100% sure. You can’t start flying in the air by waving your hands in the air, 100%. Sure. There are limits to our freedom. But that doesn’t mean that we do not have any choices whatsoever. You can drink 2 liters of water per day or 3 liters if you like. You can jump in the air, walk, take an air plane or swim, drive a car….

All of which are predictable things. You don’t need freewill to jump in the air. If someone would suddenly start flying because he decided to with his freewill. Now that would be something, I might reconsider then.

Finally, we are talking about human behavior. If you could predict human behavior precisely, then you would have a point. But, you can’t. You can’t even predict human behavior approximately. You are in fact making a bold conjecture: Because many everyday events appear to be predictable, everything is precisely predictable.  The conjecture is wrong.

Seems more logical than claiming things must be random because they cannot be fully predicted. Besides, as Sam also explained, randomness is not really a good basis for freewill.


I will stay with the point I made throughout this topic. If things appear for all practical purposes determined than they might as well be considered determined and this just doesn’t leave enough room for freewill.

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Posted: 06 June 2011 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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lente - 06 June 2011 06:13 AM

You keep modifying your statements. “basic facts of live.”; “at its core deterministic”. Well, the “core” of the world are its elementary particles. The mainstream scientific understanding of our days is that the elementary particles do not behave in a deterministic fashion. The belief that this randomness is due to our lack of knowledge is called hidden variable theory. There is no evidence whatsoever that these hidden variables exist. ‘Therefore, most physicists do not believe in hidden variables or many worlds. We have no evidence for their existence. Therefore, the mainstream understanding is that quantum mechanics is a complete description of these particles.  So you reject the existence of god for lack of evidence but you postulate hidden variables but have no evidence whatsoever for their existence. That’s inconsistent reasoning.

Explain to me then how a system based on truly random effects can create a coherent system that is highly predictable? The fact that there is no evidence yet of any hidden variables does not mean there are none. Furthermore, there is a big difference between my believe in determinism and that in a god. Determinism has proven true on the most important level of our experience, namely daily life. That is what I mean with the basic facts of life. You can argue that the smallest particle in existence behave in a (seemingly) random way, but apparently it doesn’t follow that everything else must also behave in a random way..

Well, I think the best approach for explaining this is the Wentzel, Kramers and Brioullin approximation method. You can read about it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WKB_approximation

The first order of this approximation renders the classical Hamilton-Jacobi differential equations. You will have to immerse yourself in the math, unfortunately there is no easy way for explaining this. But, this is definitely not a complete explanation, but renders this observation plausible. I repeat myself: The boundary between seemingly classical and quantum mechanical systems is a topic of intense research both in the theoretical and experimental domain.

Well, the fact that there is no evidence for a god doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist, right? A scientific theory must be grounded on sufficient evidence. Believing something without any evidence whatsoever, is in fact dogmatism. That’s what you are doing. The hidden variables are the flying spaghetti monsters of determinism.

“Determinism has proven true on the most important level of our experience, namely daily life.” Really!? We are talking about the free will of human beings, right? Where is your proof that human beings are completely predetermined? I do not know of any such proof and it runs contrary to experience and daily life.

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Posted: 06 June 2011 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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lente - 06 June 2011 06:13 AM

...That is your opinion, but a sound understanding of chemistry is certainly possible without understanding quantum mechanics. There are many professionals that work in the areas of chemistry and biology that do not have a good understanding of quantum mechanics. Do you dispute this? .

Yes, I dispute that. Any chemist working in a western university, USA, Canada, Europe, or a developed asian country like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, ... has a good understanding of quantum mechanics. If you major in chemistry you must learn quantum mechanics. I don’t know about universities in Africa or the underdeveloped world in general;-) Theoretical chemistry is basically a branch of quantum mechanics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoretical_chemistry

lente - 06 June 2011 06:13 AM

How can something appear deterministic if it isn’t? Are you just playing with words here? .

No, I am not;-) You say man is completely determined although he doesn’t appear to be!? Are you merely playing with words here?

lente - 06 June 2011 06:13 AM

  Just like you can’t disprove god? If I had to predict everything 100% to prove determinism than I could never do it. There are limits to human intelligence. That something cannot be 100% predicted doesn’t mean it is not 100% determined. Besides a little randomness does not make room for freewill. Explain to me how that would work?

It’s your job to prove this. You hold complete determinism to be true, therefore it is your job to find the proof.

lente - 06 June 2011 06:13 AM

Seems more logical than claiming things must be random because they cannot be fully predicted. Besides, as Sam also explained, randomness is not really a good basis for freewill.

Well, Sam is wrong. Unpredictability is the basis for free will. If a persons behavior is completely predictable then there is no basis for free will. Unpredictability is a necessary condition for free will, in this sense it is a basis for free will.

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Posted: 06 June 2011 06:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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kikl - 06 June 2011 07:36 AM

. . . Unpredictability is the basis for free will. If a persons behavior is completely predictable then there is no basis for free will. Unpredictability is a necessary condition for free will, in this sense it is a basis for free will.

This approach would seem to imply the necessity of audience—sort of like how otherwise bright and normal people used to think that particle/wave determination hinged on the attitude of the observer somehow.


A human being who has some minimal measure of intelligence and emotional complexity is, in a sense, a result of trillions and trillions of biological events having taken place in the past. A behaviorist at the old Richard Dawkins forum once claimed that he could indeed predict the actions of any person he might come across at any given frame of time. He was either really good at his work or he was exaggerating. Take your pick.


Since no one is able to see the vast past that informs our ways, all we can do is either to flow with things or struggle to switch things up. Describing how our ways are determined is an exercise in ignorance and foolishness unless done with a competently poetic flair.


If eons ago a butterfly wing moved a sufficient amount of pollen to an exact spot in a forest, or moved something else that ended up influencing things in certain ways, it can be claimed (if your claim is complex and thorough enough) that I will choose where I will set up a gravel mining operation due to one tiny movement of a butterfly wing. Of course, lots of other things have happened since, and they all influence the way the world has turned out. Together, the number of such “events” is so great that it makes far more sense to think of these influences as randomness, but they’re really not. It also doesn’t make much sense for people to think of themselves as puppets of the universe, or puppets of their brains. A literal truth, if it sets out to describe complexity that’s large enough, lacks actual descriptive potential. It can easily come to resemble incoherent rambling. (I’m referring here to no one posting in these forums, by the way.)

[ Edited: 06 June 2011 06:10 AM by nv]
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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 06 June 2011 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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Well kiki, I am a bit tired of this discussion. I may respond later, but don’t hold your breath. Let’s just hope science keeps marching forward and gives us a answer that nobody can doubt.

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Posted: 09 June 2011 11:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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“You Do Not Choose What You Choose”

The title is funny and the rest is also very humorous.

When I read something like that I always love to quote this:

THE WITCH

(begins to declaim, with much emphasis, from the book)

See, thus it’s done!
Make ten of one,
And two let be,
Make even three,
And rich thou ‘It be.
Cast o’er the four!
From five and six
(The witch’s tricks)
Make seven and eight,
‘Tis finished straight!
And nine is one,
And ten is none.
This is the witch’s once-one’s-one!

FAUST

She talks like one who raves in fever.

MEPHISTOPHELES

Thou’ll hear much more before we leave her.
‘Tis all the same: the book I can repeat,
Such time I’ve squandered o’er the history:
A contradiction thus complete
Is always for the wise, no less than fools, a mystery.
The art is old and new, for verily
All ages have been taught the matter,—
By Three and One, and One and Three,
Error instead of Truth to scatter.
They prate and teach, and no one interferes;
All from the fellowship of fools are shrinking.
Man usually believes, if only words he hears,
That also with them goes material for thinking!

The translation is pretty good but not quite as witty as the original. But, you get the idea;-) Methinks, Sam is practicing the art of witchcraft;-)

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Posted: 10 June 2011 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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Hi everyone.

Rolyat - 21 May 2011 06:50 PM

Determinism says all things are determined by antecedent events and the laws of nature.  This does not mean we have a fate, or a set path.  There is still contingency: B can’t happen without A, C can’t happen without B.  Determinism does not say that since A then D, but that if A -> B, then B was the only event that could have happened next due to antecedent events and laws of nature.  From A there may come D, but only if B and C happens, which is completely contingent on antecedent events and laws of nature.  Do not confuse Determinism and Fatalism.

I’m afraid I don’t get your point, Rolyat. How does determinism leave room for contingency if A -> B -> C -> D and so on?
It seems to me that in a strongly deterministic world, everything is in fact set in stone - unless there is a way for some (quantum) randomness to sneak in.


I’m not arguing in favor of free will though. Here’s a question for the free will proponents: What kind of brain do you need for free will to be possible?
Do ants have free will? Probably not.
Do mice?
So, when exactly during evolution did free will emerge?

Note that I don’t believe in souls or magic, and will not accept dualist explanations ;)

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Posted: 10 June 2011 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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mathias - 10 June 2011 04:47 PM

Hi everyone.

Rolyat - 21 May 2011 06:50 PM

Determinism says all things are determined by antecedent events and the laws of nature.  This does not mean we have a fate, or a set path.  There is still contingency: B can’t happen without A, C can’t happen without B.  Determinism does not say that since A then D, but that if A -> B, then B was the only event that could have happened next due to antecedent events and laws of nature.  From A there may come D, but only if B and C happens, which is completely contingent on antecedent events and laws of nature.  Do not confuse Determinism and Fatalism.

I’m afraid I don’t get your point, Rolyat. How does determinism leave room for contingency if A -> B -> C -> D and so on?
It seems to me that in a strongly deterministic world, everything is in fact set in stone - unless there is a way for some (quantum) randomness to sneak in.


I’m not arguing in favor of free will though. Here’s a question for the free will proponents: What kind of brain do you need for free will to be possible?
Do ants have free will? Probably not.
Do mice?
So, when exactly during evolution did free will emerge?

Note that I don’t believe in souls or magic, and will not accept dualist explanations wink

With regard to his point, I don’t get his point either.

With regard to your questions: I am a free will proponent. My answer is: I don’t know. But, I am not willing to fill the missing gaps with god (or determinism.).

Regards

Kikl

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Posted: 10 June 2011 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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This is a letter to Sam Harris,

I reread my post quoting Faust in the witches kitchen. This is in fact one of my favorite scenes in the play. I hope you get the idea. You read the witches nonsense and try to make sense of it. You are bewildered and finally mephisto tells you that you have been tricked. Your sense of awe is created by fooling you. In a way Goethe is commenting on shakespeare’s macbeth, where the witches say: “Fair is foul and foul his fair” In his play the witch says: “nine is one and ten is none.” So he is telling Shakespeare, great play, but wasn’t that a cheap trick?

In hindsight, this appears to be a condescending and arrogant way of commenting on your recent blog entry. Therefore, I want to apologise.

Now, I don’t think we will agree on this point and we both obviously think our point of view is the only sensible one. Nevertheless, I want to express my gratitude for your work. I enjoy very much reading your books and listening to your writing. I think you are doing a very valuable work and your criticism of religious dogmatism is right to the point.

So, I wish you all the best and good luck.

Kikl

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Posted: 12 June 2011 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
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kikl - 10 May 2011 05:39 AM

Sam believes that freedom is an illusion. Humans act according to the laws of nature, which completely determine our behaviour. Therefore, the notions of “acting”, “choosing”, “deciding”, “doing”... are all mere illusions. I have a few questions related to this topic.

1. Morality is about what persons ought to do. But doing is a mere illusion. Therefore, there is no place for morality. What’s wrong with this reasoning? Why does Sam write books about morality?

2. If freedom is an illusion, then why does this illusion exist? Are there scientific reasons for the illusion of freedom?

3. If freedom is an illusion, then why do we have developed a conscious mind? What is the function of conscience if not to guide our actions? Or does Sam believe that conscience is an illusion too?

All the best

Kikl

The best evidence for Free Will being an illusion is to state to someone who believes they have free will that “Free will is an illusion”, the response is ‘knee-jerk’

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Posted: 14 June 2011 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
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Let me just interject with a slight digression before I get involved in all of this, but first let me briefly explain my position. Many a minute have I pondered free will and many a time have I descended the depths of madness. Personally I can not shake the notion that everything I ever have done and everything I ever will do was determined the very instant the first particle spewed forth from the very big—but not very loud—“bang”. In other words, if I had to apply a probability score to every action I’ve ever carried out, 100% of the time that score would be—and is—100%; every “other” choice I seemingly could have made is indeed illusory.

Here is my digression:

There are six playing cards—obviously you can do with this dice (whatever)—on a table from six identical decks all turned to the three of clubs; I ask you to pick a card. What governs what card you pick? Is the process random or determined? Why? Why not?

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Posted: 14 June 2011 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
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FreeWillFlowChart - 14 June 2011 01:13 PM

Let me just interject with a slight digression before I get involved in all of this, but first let me briefly explain my position. Many a minute have I pondered free will and many a time have I descended the depths of madness. Personally I can not shake the notion that everything I ever have done and everything I ever will do was determined the very instant the first particle spewed forth from the very big—but not very loud—“bang”. In other words, if I had to apply a probability score to every action I’ve ever carried out, 100% of the time that score would be—and is—100%; every “other” choice I seemingly could have made is indeed illusory.

Here is my digression:

There are six playing cards—obviously you can do with this dice (whatever)—on a table from six identical decks all turned to the three of clubs; I ask you to pick a card. What governs what card you pick? Is the process random or determined? Why? Why not?

Well there are two components to your hypothetical example:


1. The individual who pick these cards (the subject).
2. Six three of clubs cards from six same type of decks (the object).


It is random and are based on conditions or some set of conditions that allow the individual to pick the same cards. So the conditions may be how the cards are shuffled or arranged and or the individual have some ability to seek out the patterns of such arrangements and then pinpoint exactly where to pick them. Since this is a hypothetical example and even with the same example with only just two deck of cards, it would still be random.


Remember, it is either all natural processes are random with many sets of conditions or determined by some fix conditions. So if one process is determined, like with this example, then what would determine the existence of a sentient being following with mental faculties and finally having the ability to choose?

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Posted: 14 June 2011 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
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Gia Cát L??ng - 14 June 2011 04:08 PM
FreeWillFlowChart - 14 June 2011 01:13 PM

Let me just interject with a slight digression before I get involved in all of this, but first let me briefly explain my position. Many a minute have I pondered free will and many a time have I descended the depths of madness. Personally I can not shake the notion that everything I ever have done and everything I ever will do was determined the very instant the first particle spewed forth from the very big—but not very loud—“bang”. In other words, if I had to apply a probability score to every action I’ve ever carried out, 100% of the time that score would be—and is—100%; every “other” choice I seemingly could have made is indeed illusory.

Here is my digression:

There are six playing cards—obviously you can do with this dice (whatever)—on a table from six identical decks all turned to the three of clubs; I ask you to pick a card. What governs what card you pick? Is the process random or determined? Why? Why not?

Well there are two components to your hypothetical example:


1. The individual who pick these cards (the subject).
2. Six three of clubs cards from six same type of decks (the object).


It is random and are based on conditions or some set of conditions that allow the individual to pick the same cards. So the conditions may be how the cards are shuffled or arranged and or the individual have some ability to seek out the patterns of such arrangements and then pinpoint exactly where to pick them. Since this is a hypothetical example and even with the same example with only just two deck of cards, it would still be random.


Remember, it is either all natural processes are random with many sets of conditions or determined by some fix conditions. So if one process is determined, like with this example, then what would determine the existence of a sentient being following with mental faculties and finally having the ability to choose?

I disagree with something you say here, my friend. You see the important thing is not what pack the cards came from or how they were shuffled or what arrangement they are in. We can take any six identical objects. Nothing that came before has any bearing on which choice the “chooser” will make in terms of the deck of cards. Obviously if you are a hard determinist—as indeed I am—there is a recursive process that eventually leads to the Big Bang. Let’s ignore that fact and isolate this particular card exercise. I am trying to perform this exercise without invoking any antecedent parameters or conditions, which I find oxymoronic based on my hard deterministic outlook!

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Posted: 14 June 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
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FreeWillFlowChart - 14 June 2011 04:37 PM
Gia Cát L??ng - 14 June 2011 04:08 PM
FreeWillFlowChart - 14 June 2011 01:13 PM

Let me just interject with a slight digression before I get involved in all of this, but first let me briefly explain my position. Many a minute have I pondered free will and many a time have I descended the depths of madness. Personally I can not shake the notion that everything I ever have done and everything I ever will do was determined the very instant the first particle spewed forth from the very big—but not very loud—“bang”. In other words, if I had to apply a probability score to every action I’ve ever carried out, 100% of the time that score would be—and is—100%; every “other” choice I seemingly could have made is indeed illusory.

Here is my digression:

There are six playing cards—obviously you can do with this dice (whatever)—on a table from six identical decks all turned to the three of clubs; I ask you to pick a card. What governs what card you pick? Is the process random or determined? Why? Why not?

Well there are two components to your hypothetical example:


1. The individual who pick these cards (the subject).
2. Six three of clubs cards from six same type of decks (the object).


It is random and are based on conditions or some set of conditions that allow the individual to pick the same cards. So the conditions may be how the cards are shuffled or arranged and or the individual have some ability to seek out the patterns of such arrangements and then pinpoint exactly where to pick them. Since this is a hypothetical example and even with the same example with only just two deck of cards, it would still be random.


Remember, it is either all natural processes are random with many sets of conditions or determined by some fix conditions. So if one process is determined, like with this example, then what would determine the existence of a sentient being following with mental faculties and finally having the ability to choose?

I disagree with something you say here, my friend. You see the important thing is not what pack the cards came from or how they were shuffled or what arrangement they are in. We can take any six identical objects. Nothing that came before has any bearing on which choice the “chooser” will make in terms of the deck of cards. Obviously if you are a hard determinist—as indeed I am—there is a recursive process that eventually leads to the Big Bang. Let’s ignore that fact and isolate this particular card exercise. I am trying to perform this exercise without invoking any antecedent parameters or conditions, which I find oxymoronic based on my hard deterministic outlook!

You appear to be arguing in riddles. Why don’t you just make your case and prove that the world is governed by completely deterministic laws so we can all appreciate the proof?

Regards

Kikl

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Posted: 14 June 2011 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
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Because I don’t have a case, Kiki. My convictions regarding free will are no more falsifiable than my certainty that there is absolutely no such thing as a deity, or for that matter anything supernatural. What I am trying to do is discuss the process(es) involved in making a “choice” that for all intents and purposes is particularly useless; i.e., picking from a collection of twelve dice that all display the same number. I don’t see any riddle hidden between the lines of this thought experiment…

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