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Author Topic: Do You Believe In God?  (Read 6690 times)

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Offline Ephiral

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Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #325 on: July 13, 2014, 07:46:42 PM »
I'm not particularly arguing for a supernatural element to be involved, although I instinctively reach for one as opposed to a deterministic view. My point is more that if the "soul" is removed then it seems that all that can be left is determinism... and that in turn has a huge impact on our view of morality and everything that comes from it.
I don't have a complete and coherent answer to the difficult moral questions a deterministic worldview raises - but this does not count as a reason to retreat from it, to me. "This is difficult and worrisome" and "This is false" are two very different statements.

"if we merely have the physical and in every other respect the physical is deterministic, then why is the brain not?"
Except that's where I disagree; not everything physical is deterministic. Flipping a coin, for example. Rolling a dice. Beyond the obvious possible outcomes, that is completely random, and assuming the dice/coin is not weighted, no amount of information would give a more accurate prediction because the outcome itself is not dependent on anything other than pure chance.
...except it is. It appears random because we do not have total information about the exact weighting of the coin/die and reproducing the exact circumstances of the roll is difficult. Given an identical coin or die with identical forces exerted on it, you will get an identical roll. Failure to match perfectly is not randomness. There is no non-deterministic element to physics at the macro level. So again: On what basis do you make an exception for the human brain?

Offline consortium11

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #326 on: July 13, 2014, 07:55:09 PM »
That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that everybody reasons in a different way, and values different things differently. But for the record, I agree with Laa on this one. The choice itself is an input and an output, influenced by various stimuli but not necessarily determined by it. I agree that humans are subject to the same physics as everything else - that's obvious - but I fail to see how that means that our actions are pre-determined.

I think this was meant to be aimed at Ephiral, but I think as we're arguing a similar point I can respond as well.

I think the challenge you face with this position is that to do so you have to set the brain up to be a unique thing that stands pretty much alone in the world of science.

In every other "hard" science branch it is taken pretty much as read that determinism is true; that if certain stimuli or conditions are applied there is only one possible reaction and the scientific method itself is largely about understanding what the reaction is and what conditions effect it. Areas where we have more scientific knowledge are just those where we have more understanding of the reactions and the conditions that cause it.

Neuroscience follows that; pretty much every development in it has shown more and more how conditions can be manipulated to produce a response. Again, in every other scientific area when a reaction that wasn't predicted occurs it is viewed as being the result of not understanding all the conditions in effect or their influence on each other and the final reaction, not that the thing in question "made a choice" to not react in a certain way. To use an example I've called upon previously in a different context, dark matter was hypothesised because people were trying to explain why there were the effects of mass without mass being seemingly present; people didn't take the view that the things in question simple chose to act as if they were impacted by mass.

So why is the brain different?

The brain is physical. There is no natural reason it shouldn't act the same way as everything else... and everything else is deterministic.

If the brain controls "choice" and the brain is deterministic then why are "choices" any different to any other reaction? Surely they are merely the result of the brain reacting in a certain way to a near countless number of conditions? And with perfect knowledge of those conditions and their effect both alone and together why would we not be able to predict with 100% certainty what the "choice" will be? And if we know that a "choice" is merely the reaction to conditions, even if we don't understand all those conditions as we stand here today, then how is it a choice at all? We know that water boils at different temperatures depending on the conditions; it does not "choose" to boil at those different temperatures, it has to due to the conditions... why is the brain different?

And if not the brain then what controls choices?

If it's natural then the same issues arise.

If it's not natural then what separates it from the "soul"?

Except that's where I disagree; not everything physical is deterministic. Flipping a coin, for example. Rolling a dice. Beyond the obvious possible outcomes, that is completely random, and assuming the dice/coin is not weighted, no amount of information would give a more accurate prediction because the outcome itself is not dependent on anything other than pure chance.

I think your examples actually go against your point.

If I know a coins weight, if I know what way it is up to begin with, if I know how hard it's flipped, if I know the angle it's flipped at, if I know if I know the atmospheric conditions, if I know the density of the ground etc etc, why can't I predict which way it will land? Persi Diaconis is probably one of the leading minds when it comes to looking at seemingly "random" events such as this and in his writing on coin flipping he mentions how he had a "perfect flipping machine" built that would always come up heads. Because it controlled a number of the conditions near exactly it got a single reaction every time... and in that case they didn't know or control all of the conditions that impacted on the flip.

With perfect knowledge a coin flip is perfectly predictable.

The definition, and the fact that "free will" is an abstract concept and "soul" as it is being used refers to something that actually exists in a way that directly influences physical things. There's a difference between an emotion, for example, like happiness - which is a stimulus that affects the input and output - and a metaphysical, supernatural soul that controls the body and somehow has access to cognitive thought and emotions.

So what does the concept of "free will" cover and how does it come about? If it is a product of natural elements then why is it not deterministic when everything else is? If it isn't natural then there must seemingly be a supernatural cause... and if there is a supernatural cause then what separates it from the "soul".

As I defined in my last post, free will is simply the ability to make choices that align with your own personal wants and needs - within reason, of course - without external interference or hindrance. So if I wanted to make myself a sandwich and there was nothing to stop me, that would be me exercising my free will to fulfil a want, namely, a bacon sandwich.

Assuming we mean "external" to mean outside ourselves, then surely your own example falls apart as a case of free will because it is rife with external interferences; the fact that bacon and bread are available as foodstuffs is an example of something external directly interfering with your "choice".

Beyond that I'm not sure this actually deals with the deterministic objection. A determinist view would simply look at the conditions which applied; your mental state, your level of hunger, your liking for bacon sandwiches, the availability of the things needed to make a bacon sandwich and countless more and say that your decision to make a bacon sandwich wasn't a "choice" at all, it was merely a reaction to the conditions at the time. Thus while you may like the term "free will" to cover it, in reality you were no more free not to have a bacon sandwich then water is not to boil when subjected to enough heat.

Why, though? What evidence would you have for such a conclusion? It might "feel nicer," but just because an explanation feels good doesn't make it true.

Oh, I agree utterly and I make no claims as to the existence or lack thereof for a soul or other supernatural elements on that basis. Frankly, I'm not sure I make any claims on the supernatural side of things at all... if I had to label my own belief it's largely a god of the gaps theory where I use the term "god" as shorthand for things we don't yet understand as opposed to a more traditional deist view or attaching any particular attributes to it. The reason I reach beyond determinism is pretty much exactly what I said... an instinctive reaction which I haven't contemplated or studied in any great depth.

Again, my point is more that if one discounts anything other than the physical then I struggle to see how one doesn't then have to follow determinism... and as explained below that has an impact on morality.

I disagree. Some things are deterministic and others aren't, and it's oversimplifying the extremely complex world we live in to paint everything with so broad a brush.

I actually think it's the other way around; the simpler argument is to not view things deterministically. Which is the simpler view... that earthquakes are the result of a god laughing as the ancient Egyptian's believed or that it is the result of force of moving blocks finally overcoming the friction of the jagged edges of a fault and then unsticking, with all that stored up energy being released. The energy radiates outward from the fault in all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond. The seismic waves shake the earth as they move through it, and when the waves reach the earth’s surface, they shake the ground and anything on it (to give a simple description).

Determinism views "free will" and "choice" as being the direct result of near countless natural conditions all interacting together to produce a single outcome. A non-deterministic view inserts something on top of that which has the ultimate say. That "something" can't be seen, detected or tested. That second position seems the one that oversimplifies things to me.

And as for morality...well, why? Why would morality be worse in a world without a soul? Morality would remain the same, since the soul demonstrably doesn't have control over our body or cognitive functions since our brains demonstrably do that and morality seems to work just fine. We may not understand where morality comes from or how it's figured out yet, but that doesn't mean you get to insert your own more complex answer.

The vast, vast majority of moral systems (I struggle to think of any that aren't) are based on the idea that we are moral agents... that we have a choice in our actions. For that reason we don't attach moral blame in situations where someone had no choice as to what they could do; to use this scene from a movie as an example (warning; Friday the 13th death scene) we would surely all not attach any moral blame to the girl trapped in a sleeping bag and used as an improvised club to beat another to death as she had no choice or control in the matter.

But determinism widens that.

If my "choices" are not really choices at all but merely guaranteed reactions to stimuli, the vast majority of which existed far before I was born, how can I then take moral blame for them (or be morally praised)? I did not "decide" to do what I did. We already somewhat accept this in law; from general mitigation where one points to a criminal's background in a hope for a lesser sentence to perhaps most similarly, the defences of insanity and automatism, which in effect argue that because the defendant was not in control of their actions, they were not guilty. And what is more "not being in control" then not having a choice?

With determinism, moral agent theory basically collapses; and with it the vast majority of morality. To quote a breakdown of the determinist challenge to morality:

1) The moral judgment that you shouldn't have done X implies that you should have done something else instead
2) That you should have done something else instead implies that there was something else for you to do
3) That there was something else for you to do implies that you could have done something else
4) That you could have done something else implies that you have free will
5) If you don't have free will to have done other than X we cannot make the moral judgment that you shouldn't have done X

I repeat my earlier questions: Assuming a soul existed, how do we test it? Where did it come from? Without a brain, how does it think and reason? How does it have access to abstract concepts like love and happiness and hatred without a physical thing for them to come from? *shrug* replacing a mystery with a bigger mystery doesn't solve anything

As above, I'm not particularly arguing for the existence of a "soul" or any supernatural element that hangs above the physical. I'm simply pointing out the consequences of reducing things to the physical.

and i have fundamental issues with your premise that without some sort of soul, everything becomes deterministic, which I hold is simply not true.

I'm still not sure why you hold the brain to be unique in the universe when it comes to this. Without a supernatural element that imposes itself above the physical then surely the laws of science that apply to everything else apply to us, the brain and thus our choices? And the very idea of laws of science is deterministic.

Offline consortium11

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #327 on: July 13, 2014, 08:02:26 PM »
I don't have a complete and coherent answer to the difficult moral questions a deterministic worldview raises - but this does not count as a reason to retreat from it, to me. "This is difficult and worrisome" and "This is false" are two very different statements.

Absolutely and I don't disagree at all. I instinctively want there to be some supernatural element because I want there to be free will and choice in a meaningful sense and without the supernatural element I find it near impossible to see how. But I'd never take the next step of saying that because I'd prefer there to be something that allows me to say my choices are actually my choices as opposed to merely guaranteed reactions to certain stimuli therefore determinism is wrong.

The simple truth is that with each new scientific discovery determinism gets more and more evidence in its favor. Arguing against it in principle is, right now at least, fighting a losing battle.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #328 on: July 13, 2014, 08:18:27 PM »
I actually think it's the other way around; the simpler argument is to not view things deterministically. Which is the simpler view... that earthquakes are the result of a god laughing as the ancient Egyptian's believed or that it is the result of force of moving blocks finally overcoming the friction of the jagged edges of a fault and then unsticking, with all that stored up energy being released. The energy radiates outward from the fault in all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond. The seismic waves shake the earth as they move through it, and when the waves reach the earth’s surface, they shake the ground and anything on it (to give a simple description).
This is why formal definitions are important. Information theory contains formal definitions of "simple" in this context; the layman's version is "Which idea, in its totality, can be expressed in the shortest message?" To use your example, the equations governing plate tectonics are significantly shorter than a detailed explanation of Geb, his place in the Egyptian pantheon, etc. My preferred example is Maxwell's equations vs a detailed explanation of Thor or Zeus, but the point is the same.

Offline Clorinda

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #329 on: July 13, 2014, 09:15:33 PM »
Ephiral, I agree with you completely.  You basically rephrased my argument, from what I can gather.  I am saying that the world is entirely deterministic, that the only reason choice seems to exist is that we have incomplete knowledge of how the brain works.  But, I'm saying, because I want to believe in free will, I believe in a soul that allows for that.  Like I've said before, my belief is almost certainly wrong, but I choose to believe.  I suppose I am running away from rather than fully confronting the consequences of complete, physical determinism, that is one point where I, to an extent, disagree.  Though, on the other hand, I'm very open to talk about it.

And, Mr. Tanner, Ephiral and Consortium11 have basically made my point, that the world is perfectly deterministic and randomness and choice are merely illusions of imperfect knowledge.  I would add that, as far as we can tell, there is randomness in the movement of electrons and various quanta, but that, again, could be due to imperfect knowledge.  And, like I said before, I'm not arguing souls exist, merely that I want to believe in free will and thus believe the soul is the medium for that because without that, I can't conceive of how free will would be possible for the points listed.

Also, Mr. Tanner, you say that animals are distinct from plants because of reproduction methods and food consumption.  So, are you positing that plants are sessile and animals mobile?  Is a sponge, because it doesn't have sex and just sits there and filters food isn't an animal?  What definition of animal are you using?  I'm using a biology definition, do you mean vertebrates are different from non-vertebrates?  That all animals are different from non-animals?  Are clams and barnacles animals?  Please, provide me what you mean?

And Laa, I am not refuting Descartes maxim.  Well, I sort of am.  I'm certainly not refuting that es, but rather that cogitas non.  I'm stating that thought is an illusion of the complex electro-chemical processes of the brain.  That's what I'm saying, that thought is an illusion of mechanical processes.  And that all of our actions could be predicted 100% with perfect knowledge of genetic and environmental factors of the subject because there is no aspect of free will, of real choice, simply actions and reactions based on the electro-weak force, strong nuclear force, and gravitational force acting on matter/energy.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #330 on: July 14, 2014, 03:18:53 AM »
Determinism is, to the best of my knowledge, "the idea that everything is caused by prior conditions, making it impossible for anything else to happen." How do you get determinism necessarily from the lack of a soul? It seems like a very big leap. I don't believe in a soul, and I don't agree with that statement. Sure, prior conditions influence the decision, but there is always a choice. How do you get from no soul to determinism? Or am I wrong about the definition of determinism?

How does a "thought" switch a neuron on or off on its own accord?
Can a non-physical "choice" alter things in the physical world? Like in telekinesis? I don't think so.
How is choice possible?

Until I can be convinced otherwise, I'm pretty comfortable to date with the idea that there is no choice, only the illusion of choice.

With regard to randomness, I don't think randomness is possible at the macro level. Think about what sort of state the universe would be in if things could just happen at random. If objects could collide and deflect at random angles or if light could just change its trajectory along the way every now and then for no reason at all. What makes you think that your brain can do this?

Try to make a computer pick a random number.

Seriously. They can't. Computers at best can give you a pseudorandom number - one that a human will not be able to predict, but not one that is truly random. This problem can be illustrated by attempting to write a mathematical equation that returns a random value. Math does not work like that.  A quick search on pseudorandom number generators will give you much more detail on this.

« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 04:00:07 AM by TaintedAndDelish »

Offline Dice

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Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #331 on: July 14, 2014, 05:35:55 AM »
Try to make a computer pick a random number.

Seriously. They can't. Computers at best can give you a pseudorandom number - one that a human will not be able to predict, but not one that is truly random. This problem can be illustrated by attempting to write a mathematical equation that returns a random value. Math does not work like that.  A quick search on pseudorandom number generators will give you much more detail on this.
Computers (Via the joys of Quantum Mechanics) are able to do this now.

Online Vergil Tanner

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #332 on: July 14, 2014, 05:50:10 AM »
"On what basis do you make an exception for the human brain?"
I'm not making an exception. This is where I think we're talking past each other. There are certainly elements of this world which are deterministic, I'm not arguing that point, but there are also parts of it that are random and not directly caused by anything (to the best of our knowledge, of course; science is never 100% certain about anything). The thing is, you might be able to prod the brain with stimuli and predict the outcome, but everybody always has at least a limited choice, and the way the brain reasons - to the best of our knowledge - won't always come up with the same result. Free will does exist in a limited state - you can't do whatever you want whenever you want - but you can act on your own desires and motivations. Obviously the actions you take are influenced by your surroundings, but you still have a choice as to whether or not you act on those desires. As I said; I'm kind of a compatibilist. Whilst the world is very deterministic (though not entirely), that does not infringe on free will, again here meaning "The ability to act on desires and motivations." Nothing is forcing us to do anything. We do it because we make the decision internally to do it. Yes, there are external factors, but it is still - in the end - our choice.

"I think the challenge you face with this position is that to do so you have to set the brain up to be a unique thing that stands pretty much alone in the world of science."
No I don't. It is subject to the same laws as everything else, but that does not remove free will (again, here meaning the ability to act on our desires and motivations). Determinism has its influences on the human brain, yes, but that doesn't stop us from coming to a conclusion that we're happy with and then acting on it.

"In every other "hard" science branch it is taken pretty much as read that determinism is true"
That's a pretty big assertion to make. I can guarantee you that there are scientists that don't agree that determinism is completely true. Nothing is universally agreed upon within science. If there are "scientists" that can still deny evolution, there will certainly be scientists that disagree with a philosophically controversial position like determinism.

"The brain is physical. There is no natural reason it shouldn't act the same way as everything else... and everything else is deterministic."
And even if I accepted that - I still think there are certain things that are not deterministic - why does that remove the possibility of free will (which I have defined several times)?

"So what does the concept of "free will" cover and how does it come about?"
I've already said. Free Will is the ability to act on your own desires and motivations, without extreme hindrance by external stimuli. Free Will simply comes about from having desires and being able to act on them. It's an abstract construct.

If it is a product of natural elements then why is it not deterministic when everything else is?"
The processes might be deterministic, but that does not infringe on Free Will as I have defined it, since the brain is still using those processes to come up with a decision that is right for it. Yes, with perfect knowledge you could probably provoke predictable responses. So what? The brain is still reasoning through it and making its decision, and those processes can be changed and altered. The brain is a very powerful organ, but it is still an organ. So I concede that most - if not everything - is deterministic...but how does that do anything to infringe on free will? If you can act on your desires and motivations, then you have free will. If you cannot, you do not. I fail to see how determinism requires a soul to fill in for free will.

"If it isn't natural then there must seemingly be a supernatural cause... and if there is a supernatural cause then what separates it from the "soul"."
Except you haven't demonstrated that there ISN'T a natural cause. In fact, everything we have suggests that the brain is purely physical and there is no supernatural agency to it whatsoever. You want to posit a supernatural cause for free will - here meaning the ability to act on your desires and motivations - well...prove it. I've asked this before and nobody has answered. How do we test your hypothesis? Without evidence to say that you are correct, why should we believe this thing exists? That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

"Assuming we mean "external" to mean outside ourselves, then surely your own example falls apart as a case of free will because it is rife with external interferences; the fact that bacon and bread are available as foodstuffs is an example of something external directly interfering with your "choice".
And that doesn't effect it whatsoever. You don't have bread? You will act on your desire to have a sandwich by going to buy the bread, or you will act on your desire not to get dressed and stay at home eating Pringles instead. Determinism doesn't remove free will from the equation.

"Beyond that I'm not sure this actually deals with the deterministic objection. A determinist view would simply look at the conditions which applied; your mental state, your level of hunger, your liking for bacon sandwiches, the availability of the things needed to make a bacon sandwich and countless more and say that your decision to make a bacon sandwich wasn't a "choice" at all, it was merely a reaction to the conditions at the time. Thus while you may like the term "free will" to cover it, in reality you were no more free not to have a bacon sandwich then water is not to boil when subjected to enough heat."
Except that I was free to act on those desires and motivations. THAT is what Free Will is; the ability to have a desire and act on it. So what if various stimuli interacted to make me want the sandwich? I was still "free" to act on that desire, and my brain made the choice that it was going to act on it. So what if the brain would make the same decision a second time under the same circumstances? A choice is simply deciding a course of action based on the current information and stimuli. It doesn't matter if the choice was predictable or not, it was still a choice. Until the choice was made, it was possible - no matter how vanishingly small that possibility was - that the brain would come to a different conclusion. So again, I fail to see how determinism removes free will as I have defined it.

"Again, my point is more that if one discounts anything other than the physical then I struggle to see how one doesn't then have to follow determinism."
Well, I obviously think we always have a choice. And even if we "had" to follow determinism, that doesn't remove free will.

"Which is the simpler view... that earthquakes are the result of a god laughing as the ancient Egyptian's believed or that it is the result of force of moving blocks finally overcoming the friction of the jagged edges of a fault and then unsticking, with all that stored up energy being released. The energy radiates outward from the fault in all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond. The seismic waves shake the earth as they move through it, and when the waves reach the earth’s surface, they shake the ground and anything on it (to give a simple description)."
So...which is more complicated: a supernatural entity that cannot be tested or proven that somehow has omnipotence over an entire universe that is supposed to have existed before the universe and created it, and has no explainable origin....or a series of natural stimuli that can be measured, tested and predicted. I'd say God is the more complicated there. But I fail to see your point here; our world is complex, and painting it with a broad brush and not allowing for shades of grey is a mistake, in my opinion.

"Determinism views "free will" and "choice" as being the direct result of near countless natural conditions all interacting together to produce a single outcome. A non-deterministic view inserts something on top of that which has the ultimate say. That "something" can't be seen, detected or tested. That second position seems the one that oversimplifies things to me."
Except I'm not inserting anything in at the top, and I obviously have problems with determinism. But again, I'm a compatibilist; determinism doesn't remove the ability to have free will, or to make choices. The fact that you can predict those choices with the right information doesn't make it any less of a choice; there is always the possibility, no matter how vanishingly small, that the opposite choice will be made. I might even agree with Tainted in that in some situations, you only have an illusion of choice, but once again, that doesn't infringe on free will.

Morality:
Except that conclusion is flawed, and here's why:

- So what if we're deterministic beings? Taking the literal deterministic way of thinking, if somebodies brain reasons through the information and comes to a conclusion that hurts others, that brain is responsible for making that conclusion because that is how that brain reasoned through things. So in the interest of society - and the other brains that live in that society - the brain that broke the other brains rules should be punished, to (ideally) alter its internal deterministic processes to therefore make it make better decisions later.
- Secondly, morality isn't an outcome. Morality is one of the "cogs" that goes into making our decisions. If your morality is - basically - "do as much good and as little harm," then your decisions will reflect that. And who cares if it's a deterministic decision? A human is judged by their actions, not their intent or processes. The simple fact that your brain has the processes with which to make decisions that positively influence society should in itself be applauded, because there are brains that don't do that.

The question you are, by proxy, asking is "Why Be Moral?" And the simple answer is this:
I live in this world. Regardless of whether it's a deterministic world or not, I have to live here so I should try and make the world as fair and pleasant as it can be, since I don't want to live somewhere dangerous and unreasonably oppressive. That means applauding the people who have the processes to make good, fair, kind decisions and take good actions, and punishing - and trying to change the processes of - people who make bad, harmful decisions. Determinism doesn't remove the need or validity of morality. Why be moral? Because it's in your own best interests to be moral. Because doing good and avoiding harm is good not only for you, but the world you live in, which inevitably affects you. THAT'S why you're moral, and determinism doesn't get you off the hook for a crime. You still hurt people, so in the deterministic point of view, the brain that came to that conclusion should either be punished so that next time it is in that position, it remembers its punishment and chooses a different course of action, imprisoned so that it cannot hurt anybody else with its poor decision making processes, or removed from this world entirely for the safety of everybody else. So your premise that determinism = poor morality and anarchy is completely flawed.

"As above, I'm not particularly arguing for the existence of a "soul" or any supernatural element that hangs above the physical. I'm simply pointing out the consequences of reducing things to the physical."
Which are flawed, simply because they ignore why people would want to be moral or decent without the sky-bully threatening them into it. The answer? Because you live in this world, so it benefits you to make it a good one. Would a world where rape, murder, theft, assault and discrimination were perfectly fine be a particularly safe or decent world for you to live in? No? Then we should probably try to avoid making that world, shouldn't we? And that's why we should be moral. There's no such thing as a wholly selfless act.

"Without a supernatural element that imposes itself above the physical then surely the laws of science that apply to everything else apply to us, the brain and thus our choices?"
Yes. Doesn't mean we don't have free will, it doesn't mean we can go around doing whatever we want and it doesn't mean that the supernatural is necessary, possible or even likely. As I keep saying...if you (royal you) want to claim the supernatural exists....prove it. How do we test it? How do we gather evidence? How can we tell if you're right, and until evidence is available that says that you're right....why believe it? As pretty as they are, logical arguments are not evidence. They can be internally consistent and make sense and still be wrong, after all.

And, like I said before, I'm not arguing souls exist, merely that I want to believe in free will and thus believe the soul is the medium for that because without that, I can't conceive of how free will would be possible for the points listed.
See the rest of my post. Free Will and Morality are independent of souls. Free Will is just the ability to act on our desires or motivations, and Morality is simply what we use to try and make a safe and fair world to live in. It's like the Guardians of The Galaxy trailer (SO looking forward to seeing that! :D ):
"Why would YOU want to save the galaxy?"
"Because I'm one of the idiots who lives in it!"
A bit of a weird place to get a citation from, but c'est la vie. It illustrates the point quite nicely; why would you want to make reality a better place? Because you live in it! :P

"Also, Mr. Tanner, you say that animals are distinct from plants because of reproduction methods and food consumption.  So, are you positing that plants are sessile and animals mobile?  Is a sponge, because it doesn't have sex and just sits there and filters food isn't an animal?  What definition of animal are you using?  I'm using a biology definition, do you mean vertebrates are different from non-vertebrates?  That all animals are different from non-animals?  Are clams and barnacles animals?  Please, provide me what you mean?"
This seems suspiciously like trying to shift the question. There are plants that are mobile and animals that are mostly stationary.
http://www.mcwdn.org/Plants/PlantsDiffer.html
Those are, generally speaking, the differences between the two Kingdoms. The biggest and universal differences (to the best of my knowledge) is the structure of the cells and the presence/complexity of the nervous system.

"And Laa, I am not refuting Descartes maxim.  Well, I sort of am.  I'm certainly not refuting that es, but rather that cogitas non.  I'm stating that thought is an illusion of the complex electro-chemical processes of the brain.  That's what I'm saying, that thought is an illusion of mechanical processes.  And that all of our actions could be predicted 100% with perfect knowledge of genetic and environmental factors of the subject because there is no aspect of free will, of real choice, simply actions and reactions based on the electro-weak force, strong nuclear force, and gravitational force acting on matter/energy."
Whilst I don't necessarily agree with it, I wouldn't mind it if choices are only illusions of choice...but we still have free will, and we can still alter our thinking processes given the right stimuli. And we still have a vested interest - soul or no soul - to make sure that everybody adheres to at least a basic code of morality.

Tainted And Dice:
Yhup. And remember, computers are just imperfect imitations of the human brain...brains can do a lot of things that current computers can't. But yhup, computers are able to generate completely random numbers now. :-)


On a side note, is it obvious that I'm more comfortable debating morality than neuroscience? :P :P
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 05:54:49 AM by Vergil Tanner »

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #333 on: July 14, 2014, 06:02:00 AM »
Quote
Tainted And Dice:
Yhup. And remember, computers are just imperfect imitations of the human brain...brains can do a lot of things that current computers can't. But yhup, computers are able to generate completely random numbers now. :-)

This is interesting, but I'm not sure about it yet. I don't really know enough about this stuff to say anything further about it, so I'll take a step back here and leave it to someone else. My understanding was that this randomness ( or perceived randomness ) at the quantum level was not supposed to have an influence at the macroscopic level. I could be wrong here.


Offline laa

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #334 on: July 14, 2014, 06:33:47 AM »
And Laa, I am not refuting Descartes maxim.  Well, I sort of am.  I'm certainly not refuting that es, but rather that cogitas non.  I'm stating that thought is an illusion of the complex electro-chemical processes of the brain.  That's what I'm saying, that thought is an illusion of mechanical processes.  And that all of our actions could be predicted 100% with perfect knowledge of genetic and environmental factors of the subject because there is no aspect of free will, of real choice, simply actions and reactions based on the electro-weak force, strong nuclear force, and gravitational force acting on matter/energy.

You actually tried to semi-refute Cogito ergo sum... And you don't seem to understand the terms you don't like, either.

Quote
I'm stating that thought is an illusion of the complex electro-chemical processes of the brain.

COMPLEX ELECTRO-CHEMICAL PROCESSES IS THE BIOLOGICAL DEFINITION OF THOUGHT.
*sigh*

And since everything can be an illusion beyond your own thoughts, you can't take it as an absolute truth. This is why cogito ergo sum is the foundation for knowledge.

Example: Everything you see and feel can be a lie, including gravity and all you've learned from scientist via the scientific model, which requires cogito ergo sum along with a few assumptions to work. This text can be fake. Your hands may not even exist. Maybe you're dreaming. That is why - cogito ergo sum.

And since cogito ergo sum comes before all knowledge, consciousness must exist for at least one person - yourself.

You got that? If not, I might have to give up.

Also, this might interest you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_theory_of_mind
Perhaps it'll make some terms regain their meaning.

Online Vergil Tanner

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #335 on: July 14, 2014, 06:43:18 AM »
^ What Laa said. I think. :P :P

Offline Clorinda

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #336 on: July 14, 2014, 07:33:35 AM »
Mr. Tanner, so your definition of animal would not include, say, a sponge, which biologically is an animal?  Also, if all one requires to have free will is a set of desires and the ability to act on them, then you would argue that an amoeba has free will because it has desires (eat and reproduce) and acts on them?  Because if your definition of free will is so basic that it would include bacteria and eukaryotes, then we really are talking about different things.

Also, Mr. Tanner, you seem to think that because randomness exists (in quanta) that free will exists.  So, what you are saying is that because electrons move randomly, that is the source of free will?  That is just chaos and stating that all of our choices are based on the movement of subatomic particles.  How are they choices, then.

Laa, I would agree with the computational theory of the mind.  However, if your definition of thought is that it is an algorithm, then do you hold that all living things (which all have certain biological reactions to external and internal stimuli) think?  Are you in agreement that an amoeba or e coli think?  I was assuming a more complex definition of thought, but if my pocket calculators thinks (runs an algorithm based on stimuli) what is the usefulness of thought?

Besides, Laa, "I think therefore I am," as Kiekegaard argued, presumes an "I.". Logically, it is not a sound argument for existence.  He rephrases the cogito thus: X thinks.  I am that X.  Therefore I think.  Therefore I am.". But there is no way to know that " I am that X.".

Offline laa

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #337 on: July 14, 2014, 08:01:08 AM »
Laa, I would agree with the computational theory of the mind.  However, if your definition of thought is that it is an algorithm, then do you hold that all living things (which all have certain biological reactions to external and internal stimuli) think?  Are you in agreement that an amoeba or e coli think?  I was assuming a more complex definition of thought, but if my pocket calculators thinks (runs an algorithm based on stimuli) what is the usefulness of thought?

Now this is a pretty complex matter, aye. Way to throw one of the biggest philosophical questions my way. >.<

But okay, I'll give it a shot.

Basically, what all that linguistic mumbo jumbo boils down to is: "What is thought?"

Firstly, thought is abstract problem-solving.
Secondly, thought is automated and self-correcting.
Thirdly, thought is often a part of consciousness, which is basically a collection of all sorts of mental stimuli.

This basically means that a bacteria isn't thinking, because it can't problem solve.
This means a computer isn't thinking, because it isn't automated and self-correcting. (yet)

Though I'm just doing off the top of my head. I'm not going to be arrogant enough to believe that I actually nailed it. Heh. :P

Oh, and on this subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room
Weak AI vs Strong AI basically is at the core of this debate.

Quote
Besides, Laa, "I think therefore I am," as Kiekegaard argued, presumes an "I.". Logically, it is not a sound argument for existence.  He rephrases the cogito thus: X thinks.  I am that X.  Therefore I think.  Therefore I am.". But there is no way to know that " I am that X.".

And using mathematical logic, he's not changing the sentence at all.

X thinks. Z is that X. Therefore Z think. Therefore Z am.
Doing some mathematics, we can see that: Z = X in the second statement.
X thinks. X is that X. Therefore X think. Therefore X am.
I think. I is that I. Therefore I think. Therefore I am.
Shortened: I think therefore I am.

Online Vergil Tanner

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #338 on: July 14, 2014, 08:08:56 AM »
A sponge is an animal, yes. My definition of "Free Will" is having desires and acting on them, yes, but I think you're misunderstanding the difference between desires and instinct. Instinct is subconscious reactions to needs, and a desire/motive is a conscious thought that you specifically want something. So breathing is instinctive, but wanting to avoid inhaling the smell of rotting rubbish, for example, is a desire. So I wouldn't say that a sponge - which only acts on instinct - necessarily has free will. My definition does not include basic lifeforms such as bacteria, so your objection doesn't address any of my points.

That is not what I am saying. I'm saying that not everything is deterministic, and you cannot say as such. I never said that randomness = free will, just that saying that all of reality is deterministic is an oversimplification and that non-deterministic things can be demonstrated to exist. It is also a gross misrepresentation on your part to say that I am arguing that electrons are the source of free will. I explained my position pretty clearly; free will is the ability to consciously recognise and act on specific desires (I'll admit, I should have clarified that further earlier on), and is an abstract concept. There is no "source" of free will, just as there is no "source" of Justice or Mercy. It is the label we give to a complex phenomenon. I am NOT stating that our choices are based on the movement of subatomic particles. The decision making process is, in a way, caused by the movement of particles and electrical impulses since that is how the brain works, but it doesn't go particles ---> choice. That is an oversimplification and a misrepresentation of my position. Choices are the label we give to different courses of action that any given creature can make. The decision making process results in those choices, but the choices themselves are not derived from subatomic particles.

I explained my position in my previous post, and I'm not going to restate it all.

Also, Laa, I would say that you nailed that pretty well :-) It may or may not be entirely accurate - I'm not qualified to say yes or no - but it looks right to me, for what it's worth :P :P

Offline Sabby

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #339 on: July 14, 2014, 09:05:40 AM »
Clorinda, correct me if I've misunderstood, but it seems to me that your position is "Infinite possibility does not exist for every choice, therefore Free Will does not exist". Apologies if that seems a gross simplification of your position, but that is the impression I get.

Offline laa

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #340 on: July 14, 2014, 10:48:08 AM »
Quote
Besides, Laa, "I think therefore I am," as Kiekegaard argued, presumes an "I.". Logically, it is not a sound argument for existence.  He rephrases the cogito thus: X thinks.  I am that X.  Therefore I think.  Therefore I am.". But there is no way to know that " I am that X.".

Ahhh, wait, I see I misunderstood... Though I wish it wasn't a misunderstanding, because the real deal is... I don't even... I never really liked Kierkegaard, but wow, this is just unbelievably... *ahem*

I'm trying really had not to say any bad words right now and/or laughing.

In the act of doing literally anything, you have established an existence, whether it be gravity or something even less that interacts with you. That's how you know it. The 'thought' bit just comes into play as something that isn't thinking can't observe itself. To think he couldn't understand this just strips my respect for Kierkegaard even further down the drain...

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #341 on: July 15, 2014, 01:25:32 AM »
Ephiral, I agree with you completely.  You basically rephrased my argument, from what I can gather.  I am saying that the world is entirely deterministic, that the only reason choice seems to exist is that we have incomplete knowledge of how the brain works.  But, I'm saying, because I want to believe in free will, I believe in a soul that allows for that.  Like I've said before, my belief is almost certainly wrong, but I choose to believe.  I suppose I am running away from rather than fully confronting the consequences of complete, physical determinism, that is one point where I, to an extent, disagree.  Though, on the other hand, I'm very open to talk about it.
...interesting. I've never encountered such an open and frank statement of belief-in-belief before. A tip of the invisible hat to you.

"On what basis do you make an exception for the human brain?"
I'm not making an exception. This is where I think we're talking past each other. There are certainly elements of this world which are deterministic, I'm not arguing that point, but there are also parts of it that are random and not directly caused by anything (to the best of our knowledge, of course; science is never 100% certain about anything).

Citation needed. Please show me an example of something that is truly non-deterministic - something that we cannot predict via any known method - under laboratory conditions at the macro level.

See, that's the thing: You are making an exception, because you are mistaken about the science. Physics is deterministic, and thou art physics. The only ways to avoid this conundrum are to prove that electrochemical processes are not deterministic (shaking up physics as we know it; enjoy your Nobel), or postulating some part of the mind that is not physically implemented by electrochemical signals.

In the act of doing literally anything, you have established an existence, whether it be gravity or something even less that interacts with you. That's how you know it. The 'thought' bit just comes into play as something that isn't thinking can't observe itself. To think he couldn't understand this just strips my respect for Kierkegaard even further down the drain...

Actually, I suspect the inferential gap is a bit more subtle and a lot wider than "am". Being so wide, it tends to be a bit of a rabbit hole, so I'll spoiler it and reccommend that any discussion be forked to either PM or a new thread.

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
The problem is "I". What, exactly, are you? You aren't any specific bit of your brain - if we could instantly swap out one atom in your brain for another identical one, you wouldn't even notice. If we did this over and over until no portion of your original brain was left, you wouldn't notice. In fact, if we really drill into the physics, individual bits of matter are fungible. So if we could swap out your entire brain without changing you, you are not your brain.

You are also not defined by continuity of consciousness - that's rather broken by the fact that you sleep - or by causal links to your past and future - unless you want to count your entire environment and your corpse, among other things, as "you". So... what are you?

Offline laa

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #342 on: July 15, 2014, 03:40:44 AM »
No need, for you're also misunderstanding it completely. The statement never tells you what you are, just that you are. You could be having a mass delusion, you could be a robot emulating the entire world, you could live in another universe via telepathy, whatever - it has nothing to do with the statement 'I think therefore I am'.

Besides, err... This thing has already fragmented like crazy.

Online Vergil Tanner

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #343 on: July 15, 2014, 04:02:07 AM »
"Please show me an example"
Genetic mutations are, to the best of our knowledge, entirely random. Which ones stick around isn't random, but the mutations themselves are.

"You are making an exception,"
No I'm not. I'm not saying that the brain isn't deterministic, just that your assertion that everything is deterministic is oversimplifying the world. I'm saying that determinism is not incompatible with morality or free will, as I explained in my previous post.

"or postulating some part of the mind that is not physically implemented by electrochemical signals."
Except that doesn't solve anything. You can't answer a question with a mystery. What is the soul? Where did it come from? How does it affect things without a physical brain, which goes against everything we know about the human body? Where does it go when the body dies? Can we test it? How can we test it? If the soul is the source of thought, personality and free will, why does damaging the brain in certain ways completely alter a persons personality? Wouldn't the soul - being immaterial - be able to compensate for that? The point is, you might not like the fact that the brain runs on deterministic principles, but that doesn't mean you get to make your own stuff up. As you so eloquently put it: You postulate a soul? Citation needed. You may say that you're not arguing for a soul, but that is the impression that you give, and I will keep asking the above questions until they are answered by somebody arguing for a soul. The brain may well be deterministic; I'm not a neurobiologist, so I'm trying to stay away from debating that point too much since I don't know much about it. But that does not infringe on morality or free will necessarily, and you do not need a soul to stand in for that purpose, and before I will accept that conclusion, I will need evidence, not the protests that without a soul, life is deterministic and therefore meaningless (which is false, in my view).

But I agree with Laa: We should probably stop here, since this thread has gotten off topic yet again, haha.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #344 on: July 15, 2014, 04:16:44 AM »

Vergil, how do you define random? Perhaps we have different ideas of what "random" means?

If I take a coin, and toss it in the air, I cannot predict which side its going to rest on. The side that it lands on only appears to be random because I am not capable of making this computation. In reailty, the coin's trajectory, bounces, deflections etc.. are strictly deterministic.



Online Vergil Tanner

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #345 on: July 15, 2014, 04:35:08 AM »
I mean random in the biological sense; whilst there are certain things that are known to increase the chances of mutation (eg, radiation), a lot of mutations are random in that there was no apparent cause for them to appear, they just did. Mutations are “random” in the sense that the sort of mutation that occurs cannot generally be predicted based upon the needs of the organism. Many mutations happen for (apparently) no reason whatsoever, and whilst there could be a factor that we are unaware of, the fact is that we are unaware of it if it exists, so until it is proven, we cannot say it exists.

In all honesty, determinism is fairly new to me; I'm still trying to figure out what I think (which in hindsight probably means I should have stayed out of this....it's why I've been trying to step away from the whole determinism debate and focus on the Free Will and Soul thing with my recent posts), so I can't even pretend any knowledge in the area whatsoever. More research is needed, methinks. Haha.

Offline Sabby

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #346 on: July 15, 2014, 05:16:27 AM »
I think you guys need to decide on a definition of random, because it appears to me that many of you are using the word in such a way as to render it meaningless. If I were to roll a dice, I would get a random number between 1 and 6, correct? What I'm seeing here is that many don't consider that result to be random at all because there is a measure of predictability to the results. I see where you're coming from with that, but if random = absolutely zero predictability, then it's a useless term, as everything in the material world has a measure of predictability.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #347 on: July 15, 2014, 05:37:52 AM »

Sabby, I agree but I'm not really sure what other words to use here.  :)

So now that you see it this way, think about this. If nothing happens "randomly", then there is only complexity and obscurity. Each thing that happens is due to previous conditions. When you smack a que ball across the table and it smacks into another ball, that ball HAS TO react a certain way ( according to the forces acting upon it ). If you shoot the que ball at the bunker, it must deflect at a mirrored angle. ( yes, you  need to factor in things like the bunker's elasticity, friction, air resistance, and so on )

This eventually leads to the conclusion that everything we do is just a reaction and that our freedom to choose what happens next must therefore be an illusion. This is something nobody really wants to believe. It is disempowering and counter-intuitive however, it also has other consequences. It means that you do the things that you do because of preexisting conditions not because you made a conscious/moral choice. You ultimately deserve neither blame nor praise for your perceived *choices*. ( This right here will make some folks cringe! )

Funnily enough, we will continue to praise and condemn because that's just part of the chain of events....

There is another interesting consequence that I was thinking of recently. It also means that all this GOD business is a result of preexisting conditions. People believe in a god not because they are foolish and gullible, but because there was a mathematical chain of events from which that belief stemmed. ( the same can be said about belief in the boogey man, so don't get all uppity, now )

Offline Sabby

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #348 on: July 15, 2014, 05:46:21 AM »
I'm really not following how 'prior conditions influence results' = 'Free Will does not exist'. That just seems like a gargantuan leap to me. As I asked before, but have yet to get a response on, does the lack of infinite possibility at all times render choice an illusion?

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Do You Believe In God?
« Reply #349 on: July 15, 2014, 05:56:54 AM »
Take a simple example - a pinball machine. You pull the lever and release the ball with force f. The ball follows a pattern and eventually comes to rest. If you could launch the next ball with the same exact amount of force, it would follow the same exact path ( assuming there is no electronic timers and stuff to introduce randomness ). In this case, the ball is slave to physics and cannot just "choose" a different path.

I'm saying that likewise, people are slaves to physics and cannot choose another path for the same exact reason. How is it that a person can possibly break out of this cycle and defy physics?

We want to say, "my experience/perception tells me that I can just choose something different", but to do so means that we can defy physics. That right there sounds impossible if you forget for the moment that you feel like you do have choice.

Perhaps I am taking a leap here, but it seems more plausible to me that we are a slave to physics than that we are defying physics with free will.

Quote
does the lack of infinite possibility at all times render choice an illusion?

I apologize, I do not understand the question.