"I think therefore I am." Descarte's most basic tenet of free will. But how "free" is it?The more I study this and make observations of the people around me, the more I am convinced that free will is nothing more than an illusion.


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke.


Now let me rephrase Clarke's third law in context of this discussion:


"Any sufficiently complex memoryplex is indistinguishable from free will."


Note the phrase memoryplex, not memeplex. I'm referring here to our collective memories from the earliest retained memory right up to this instant. That instant has now passed (a few milliseconds ago) and as you continue to read, those instants are similarly passing into your collective memoryplex.


If our decisions are based on what we know (assuming that we're not mentally ill) and what we know is the memories we have formed, then free will simply isn't.


I've thought about this for some time now and I'm only summarising here, but if this is correct, it has frightening implications. For instance, what you've just read, based on what you already know, has influenced you - and you have no choice in what you're about to do: reply, ignore, digest, etc... everything is based on your experience to date plus this last few dozen words of argument.


So how "free" is your will?

Tags: free will

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Replies to This Discussion



It's not just you.

@ Park: A few things during this discussion have popped into my mind regarding things you have said.


1. considering the interactions of humanity as a whole, it would seem that as a species we are no more mature or rational than 10 year old children.


Amen, brother.


2. my ideas on reforming the penal system are unrelated in the most part


I disagree. I think you really agree with me here, that removing the notion of free will from our belief system would have many effects, some more dramatic than others, and the penal system might very well be one of those areas that are effected most dramatically.


3. You had said earlier at some point that we need to concentrate less on the parts of the arguments which we analyze the crap out of (I'm paraphrasing), and more on winning converts over to our side. I think this was a good statement, and I think that all the wrangling we do with these issues really won't amount to much if we don't put it into action. We need to become better organized, as atheists in general and especially as the ones who feel the most outrage over the injustices which pervade our society and the globe because of just how poorly people understand what the hell is going on, and just how poorly people behave (accordingly with point #1).


4. I think that we need to start having a serious discussion about just what can and should be done (as well as what cannot and should not). I think we need to become more political. And I think this means changing the way people think at the top of society. And this is where I think philosophy plays its most important role. Which is why this is a separate point from the last one, because you recently also said something about how "it doesn't need to be philosophical...". Ethics and politics are essentially philosophical. Not sure exactly what you meant to say, because your statement itself was philosophical. But it would be nice to discuss these things at greater length and depth. Just letting you know where my mind is at. Actions are better than words, so unless we can put all these words into action we are really just futzing around. This point (and any of them really) might just as well be directed at anyone listening. I think there is a lot of work to be done.

a somewhat comprehensive list of the real things that made people lose their religion (I, in my short life, have never been religious) and find a way to directly use those, instead of the mere rationalizations, which are a symptom of something larger, not the problem itself


Interesting... I've considered an even more sinister plan. Open a Bible bookstore. The Bible bookstore where I live keeps three cashiers busy at all times. There is Christmas commerce happening there year round. Take an every day object, a hammer or a lamp or a door stop, stick a picture of a cross or fish or Jesus on it... and it magically increases in value ten fold!


I am weary of trying to polish these turds... Lets use em as fertilizer instead.

Hear, hear!

Yes, a group, that was going to be my suggestion. Let me know when it has formed. It is hilarious that we should feel manipulative or sinister trying to organize to get people informed. Would love to see more people get involved, assuming the contribution is of decent quality of course.


it isn't whether they could have chosen to do what they did~ it is the mere fact that they did it that causes reproach


a good formulation


As for attacking the arguments vs. attacking the emotional attachment to the beliefs, this is an excellent thought. It would of course entail a healthy mix of both, but I think this makes for an excellent starting point. To come right out at the beginning and say that this is a first point of contention and then to use that as the primary tool throughout... And along these lines, I have some good thoughts already at hand. My background is in psychology, sociology, and philosophy, so this is an issue I have thought long and hard on (hehe, I said hard on). But I'll take these ideas to our group.


I haven't ever been religious myself. I have been an ardent atheist from at least age 12, and always remember just being skeptical of the whole business. Must have been the fairy tales and mythology I read a lot as a boy (and where's the difference?).

Count me in, Park.


We might also discuss, here or elsewhere, how Disney Channel's young stars go so far off the rails. The part of my hypothesis that deals with this suggests that these children are, in essence, pandered to to such a degree that they form memoryplexes which are completely unsuitable for the adult world - even in entertainment.

Examples include McAuley Culkin, LiLo and Miley Cyrus.

I'm also concerned that ordinary kids are being affected by a diet of children's entertainment where the children featured are hitting miles above their weight purely because the adult writers are not producing child-sensitive material.

And Park - cheer up, the world's about to end!

Glad to see you've opened the group - just tell me where to sign! Should invite Richard Healy and Zac Polk - for some different, but thoughtful perspectives.


There's an old addage - you reap what you sew. It's probably biblical in origin, but I don't care - something in the bible are fair... it's the rest that's bullshit.


I think these poor children - seen as commodities by the parents and studios - are cash cows and the exposure to this unreality damages them permanently. The Olsen twins are an interesting pair to study in this regard.


These examples lend much credence to this theory - that we're controlled (largely) by our memoryplexs - and it's very much a case of garbage in, garbage out.


I am now gonna pour my collective garbage into that pit of a bed and listen to some radio comedy - the way only the British can do it!

I've heard this idea before and see why you seem to think that it is a revelation, but each of us are a sum of our experiences plus our genetic attributes that points us in a particular way of thinking. All you have done is be successful in concluding that one can expect to react in a similar way with the same stimuli. The keyword is "similar". The difference is to some degree based on genetics and that is where the free will comes in. All of us are unique genetically so that when we are influenced by a stimulus, we have our own individual responses.

Whether you want to call this free will is up to you. Quite frankly, I find discussing such topics often useless because the evolution of human language is still so primitive which makes conveying ideas to others often a waste of time. After all, we create our language based on usage not on what is real. Until we create a repertoire of words that better reflect reality instead of our perception of it then we might be able to communicate well enough with each other so that we will understand each other clearly. If this happened, we might  actually evolve at the same rate socially as we have technologically

Of course, most don't understand that there is a difference between our perception of reality and actual  reality. Probably has a lot to do with defining ourselves as something special in relationship to everything outside our own physical bodies. We are insignificant in the greater scheme of things. In all likelihood, we will become extinct due to some catastrophic event just like so many other species on the planet. No we aren't special and the world doesn't revolve around us. Our perceptions are fallible so we need to question our perceptions and compare them with what we actually know to be accurate.

Bottom line is this. Your conclusions are based on your perceptions while using primitive communication skills that we all possess because of our faulty language. Most of us are ignorant of this because we seem to think that our perceptions are infallible. Obviously, they are not.

Forgive me if I don't respond to your response.

Not at all - and who said it was a revelation?


Forgive me if I don't give a fuck about your opinions then.

Nice comment. Language and definition are integral to philospohy and the source of much frustration and ignorance. But I do believe it is possible to define words objectively by retaining only the essential qualities of a thing and omitting its particular measurements of these qualities. People refuse to do this because of their emotional committment to their underlying principles. In the case of choice, freedom is not an essential aspect. Dependence is. Choice is only relatievly free and one can only have relative control. Freedom and control are relative terms describing a relationship between entities. Choice is dependent. Therefore choice is easy to understand as a causally determined mental calculation where there was previously only a probability.

Also, it is our judgment that is fallible, not our senses. Our senses do only what they are built to. They do not make decision or comparisons to be valid or true, they only convey pieces of the environment. Our brains however can incorrectly interpret these signals, but the signals cannot be incorrect in and of themsleves.

Thank you for this. I have been reading, hoping to learn, and your reply has stated it in a way that I understand the argument. Thanks.

Thank you for letting me know, I get frustrated when I explain things to people and they seem crystal clear to me and then they insist something irrational. I appreciate it.


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