I'm really interested in hearing all of the believer's arguments but instead of turning the group into a debate forum let's post them here.
Please post any argument for the existence of free will you can muster. The only one I've heard thus far is that "I feel it, that's why I believe in free will." Sounds a little too much like a theist saying "I can feel God, that's why I believe in Him."

I'm interested in hearing some fresh logic based/evidential arguments, so please enhance my awareness. My guess is that this discussion won't garner too much response but i'm happy to be proved wrong.

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I think that is the dominant objection. Within the confines of physical existence we appear to be able to make conscious choices between several possible actions without outside influence.
I'm going to bed, but I just wanted to take a quick stab at one statement:

"It is childishly simplistic to suggest that the creations of Boeing, NASA, Rembrandt, Mozart, Robert Frost, etc., are chance occurrences absolutely determined by cause and effect,"

Not to be trite, but if they are determined by cause and effect, they are decidedly NOT random...
This is the equivalent of calling the evolution of the eye a "random" occurrence. And I think we all feel the same way about those kind of statements.

I am not creating moral equivalency between your statement and creationism, mind you. I am simply saying that it is the same logical fallacy.

You should read Dennett's "Freedom Evolves". I think you would find much common ground with him, as he too is a compatibilist. He sidesteps the arguments of determinists with a tautology, though. It was very disappointing to see someone of his intellectual stature do this. If anyone wants details on this evasion, reply and I will post them.
"If there was no design, then these things were random. But you claim they're not random"

this is a false dichotomy. There can be no design and there can still be strict laws that the universe must obey. Thus not random
John said:
"One day, a grand unified theory of everything might finally be developed. Perhaps, at that time, the freewill/determinism debate will finally be resolved. But it will be sad to understand that we are puppets instead of people of independence. We will not want to accept that we've unlocked the mysteries of the universe only to find that our arduous journey was scripted since time immemorial."

This is almost poetry, sir.

I'm reminded of Dr. Manhattan in the Watchmen. I'm paraphrasing because I've loaned out my copy to my brother in anticipation of the upcoming film:
Silk Spectre 2: "You think we're all just puppets of physics! I suppose you think you're special."
Dr. Manhatten: "No. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings."

I think what you've pointed out here is the greatest barrier to people letting go of free will. It is romantic to believe that we rely on ourselves, and that we have responsibility for what we create. Letting go of free will seems, at first, to mean that we have to give up idolizing Winston Churchill, or our mothers, or Alexander the Great. It seems that physics deserves the credit, not them. It seems that we have to surrender even our own pride in our accomplishments. This is the very core of the self esteem we have been evolved to feel.

Some people just wouldn't let free will go because they love retributive justice (Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold...in space.) (We're going to hunt down the terrorists...now watch this drive!)

Believing in free will is a good evolutionary trick. It allows us to play prisoner-dilemna-esque tit-for-tat morality games in our little great ape tribes. It's a very, very efficient way of maintaining social cohesion. That's right, even Christopher Hitchens--saint of atheism--believes that personal responsibility is the beginning of morality. You should see his slam of Dinesh D'Souza on it, if you haven't already.

So what do we do without it, if Zero, TJ, and I are right? I think this is answerable, but in the "Self" forum. I have some ideas about it, but I don't think I have it in me to post it tonight.

Suffice it to say that we can preserve the individual as a locus of causation that needs to be dealt with by society. I would posit that that is what the self is: a critically important locus of causal factors in the chain of causation. Critically important. The self is a concept distinct from personal identity. Personal identity is perhaps the most important change in thinking I'm trying to bring about. It's "the rub", and it's why I'm using an atheist forum for this.

Jim, if you'll be so kind as to not beat me over the head with Webster's for a few days, I'll try to develop this in a seperate forum post next week. There's too much too it, and it's where I'm trying to go with this whole project.

Once I get it up, beat away! I've engaged this forum before my ideas were fully formed, but the forge of criticism only tempers them. (Hows that for poetry!)
"Once I get it up, beat away!"

Bwahahaha! I didn't even realize I had put it that way!

I promise, you're not my type!

:)
If you see the strings, then you have been strung up by the strings themselves to see them. Seeing them doesn't suggest you are free to do anything else about it other then see them as they have strung you up to do so. You are still moving to how the strings dictate.
"Are those "strice laws" you cite by design or random?"

I can't explain how these laws have arise (neither can you) They may be random according to the anthropic principle. we don't know. You sir however, are still creating a false dichotomy.
-Something can be not designed and not random as these two words are not necessarily intrinsic opposites.

'~design' is not necessarily identical to 'random'

just as
'~random' is not necessarily identical to 'design'
Also..
>determinism doesn't necessitate predetermination.

>free will not determinism necessitates a metaphysics.
Jim said, "As you can see, this deals with determinism, NOT freewill."

Most of this thread deals with determinism. Probably because with determinism, you actually have something there to even talk about. Free-will, still nothing, no evidence, no nothing.
Yes, I am saying that my choice to begin this paragraph with the word "Yes," was determined by the laws of physics playing out since the big bang. Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

If you ask me where the universe and the laws of physics come from, I will revert to the standard atheist answer: "I don't know." I really don't. The non-physical might exist, but we have absolutely no evidence of it. Again the stock atheist answer is: "I'm technically agnostic about [the non-physical / super-natural], but I live my life as if it doesn't exist." God is obviously the replaced noun, here.

My hypothesis regarding free will is based on what is observable, and on what logic I can bring to bear on the subject. In my previous post I stated that we have no knowledge of anything but the physical. I meant that.

So, yes, I think everything is predetermined. But I don't see design or intent. I see apparent design and intent, but no evidence of the actual.

The issue of randomness almost deserves its own forum. I'll be very daring and attempt to deal with it quickly here.

If I launch a pinball into a pinball machine, the mathematics required to project it's trajectory, even if it's initial velocity and vector are know, become practically incalculable after the third bounce, much less the fifth or sixth or one hundredth. The number of variables are too vast: the small imperfections in the ball and the machine, the pull of lunar gravity, humidity, etc, etc, etc. But it's movement is not random. It is easy to perceive it as such, though, because of the massive numbers of variables.

To answer your question about how evolution occurs without randomness, when evolution requires randomness...

If we were to look at what causes genetic "random" mutations to occur at the level of molecular biology, we find chemical interference, radioactive interference, and so forth having an impact on the DNA in a cell, influencing meiosis and mitosis and the offspring of those cells.

The same is true at the gene-flow level, where the Tyrannosaur "randomly" eats a herbivore with a superior genetic mutation before the herbivore has a chance to procreate.

In other words, like the pinball machine, a complex physical system is being influenced by the vastly complex universe with unpredictable, but not random, results. These are the events that geneticists use the word "random" to describe.

I'm surprised quantum mechanics haven't come up yet. "Spins" or "vibrations" of "quarks" or "strings" appear random to us. Perhaps they are. Perhaps they are so complex that they merely appear random to us. We do not yet know, but the admitted possibility of true randomness at the subatomic level opens a window of doubt for the free will DNE hypothesis. It means that the universe itself is not deterministic, so how can we be absolutely so?

If sub-atomic randomness is true, and there is a lot of debate about whether it actually is or if it merely appears to be amongst physicists, it still doesn't seem to rescue free will. Your decisions become a product of sub-atomic randomness, not true choice.

There is only one hope for free will here, which I will admit, and it's based on a number of assumptions:
a) There is randomness in the universe at the sub-atomic level. (This is how it currently appears to many physicists.)
b) That randomness can effect the universe at a level above the atom. (I am not aware of any examples of this. This is what a unified theory of physics is striving to resolve, so far unsuccessfully.)
c) That the randomness at the atomic level and above, can create a system that is somehow more than its component sub-atomic and atomic physical parts, not merely by having the properties of consciousness and mind and will, but by allowing that mind to violate the laws of physics as we know them by not being bound by the previous physical state of the brain which houses the mind.

I admit that this is possible. It is a crack in the hypothesis that free will does not exist. But it is a very, very small crack to try to squeeze free will through. Nevertheless it shows the hypothesis to be falsifiable.

I do not deny the existence of consciousness, mind, or will--as distinct from free will. We do adopt intentional stances towards the universe, and we are perhaps alone amongst animals to grasp causation. I agree with your final two paragraphs almost entirely.


John said:
"In the real world, we all behave as if freewill is taken for granted."
I will give you that. I'd like to try to change that, if only for a few people, including myself. I too behave as if I have free will for the most part. As I've previously posted, there are very serious ramifications for a world without free will that need to be explored, and I don't have all of those answers yet.

The definition of the self must change. So too must our personal identity (human, not Xian/Jew/Muslim/etc), our justice system (rehabilitation, not retribution), our ethics (selfishness, not greed), etc, etc, etc.

Cheers to you, sir. And thanks again for keeping me honest!
I slept on it, and feel my rebuttal on evolution requires just a tad more explicitness.

Genetic mutation, and "random" events effecting gene flow, are NOT causeless events. They are random in the same way that thrown dice produce a "random" result. More accurate language would be to refer to them as "unpredictable".

DonExodus2 has a fantastic channel on YouTube. He is a geneticist working in the United States (and a Xian, but we won't hold that against him). His video series on how evolution works is fantastic, and explains where and when "randomness" enters into the system. If you listen to the events he describes as "random", you will see that they are most definitely not causeless. Unpredictable is therefore a far better descriptor.

DonExodus2
How Evolution Works
You may find this of some interest:

http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~chaitin/sciamer.html

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