Free Will Redux: A Question

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  • #35449

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    don’t be surprised to hear a loud guffaw

    Some mutations are more likely than others, varying according to the likelihood of (e.g.) gene-level stresses, epigenetics, or specific kinds of copying errors that enable mutations to slip by.

    A question no one seems to want to ask

    It’s been asked a lot, and studied extensively, but currently keeps leading to the same “it’s random” answer. I’m still trying to understand Bell’s Inequality (specific to quantum entanglement) that supposedly experimentally disproves the existence of underlying hidden variables in quantum behaviors. I most definitely don’t like how some physicists can believe “the universe splits into multiple timelines” for every probabilistic wave function occurrence!

    Back on topic, quantum mysteries, especially the “many worlds” model fuel rampant speculations on consciousness and free will. They just add to the uselessness of proving, or at they at least help illustrate the unprovable nature of whether or not free will exists. I find it more interesting recently to explore why the feeling of free will is so strong, and that leads to evolutionary explanations.

    #35451

    Unseen
    Participant

    Experiments are only repeatable if you whack off some digits. Even then there will be outliers if you take enough readings. That’s when statistics come in.. so you can draw probabilities of outcomes. Randomness is always there. It’s the snow on your old TV tube, it’s the static on your AM radio. It’s the frame freeze on a digital TV. It’s the waves on the ocean. All because seas are running 3-4ft that doesn’t mean you won’t get the odd 8 footer. That 8 foot wave had a cause…in fact you can even describe the situations that would cause an 8 foot wave when seas are running 3-4ft, but good luck predicting any individual 8 foot wave. It is in-the-noise to our ability.

    Well, yeah. Chaos theory, right? But I don’t get where will ties in. We atheists have an expression “The God of the Gaps” which theists keep invoking in their retreat. “God isn’t here, so maybe he’s over there.” Wherever you haven’t disproven him yet, there he is.

    So it is with free will, it sometimes seems.

    Your brain operates on relatively tiny electrical signals and that noise is in there and as far as your brain is concerned it is in no way deterministic. And mistakes will happen (the 8 foot wave). There is always a cause, but is it really always deterministic? A yes answer could be a most meaningless yes. We live in a universe of causal probabilities and that is why I question framing the free will mystery in such a binary fashion.

    The original post asked “How do we have free will?” and the fact that we live in a world that rarely has 90 to the n degree angles or absolutely perfect spheres still doesn’t seem to explain how free will could actually happen, much less what it actually is.

    Asserting that determinism/indeterminism isn’t a hard and fast distinction just fractures our language and I don’t see how it salvages free will. Is it like the God of the Gaps? Maybe it’s lurking in this Twilight Zone where maybe determinism applies but maybe it doesn’t?

    Even physical laws have asterixes. Water boils at 100C or 212F. The asterix is “assuming one atmosphere of pressure.” The point is that when water boils at a different temperature than 100C/212F, there is a cause for this deviation. Deviations always have causes. No other assumption is useful for making sense of the world.

    As I’ve said before, free will is this one thing we seem to want to bend over backward to make an exception to principles we’d normally be defending, that everything that happens has a cause or set of causes. Your project, should you care to take it, is to show that will is a cause and that somehow it is uncaused, for otherwise, how can it be free?

     

    #35452

    Unseen
    Participant

    A bit of a tangent on randomness: Did you know that the IRS uses algorithms detecting random digits to discover tax fraudsters? Many tax dodgers cook up fake numbers and are careful to make them seem random. In fact, real worldly numbers are generally not random and have a low-value first digit bias. The first digit “1” appears nearly 30% of the time in most sets of natural numbers, “2” somewhat less frequently, “3” even less frequently and so on.

    This observation has come to be called Benford’s Law. Here is an article discussing this weird phenomenon.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    #35454

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Your project, should you care to take it, is to show that will is a cause and that somehow it is uncaused, for otherwise, how can it be free?

    Nah, I don’t think anything is “uncaused”. However I also do not think choices are “deterministic” OR “completely random” as heard so often in the arguments for and against free will. The best I could do for free will is to propose that living things do have unconscious choices made in the moment, provided by a localized degree of randomness and that a particular situation if repeated over and over would manifest in a normal probability curve of choices made.  That is different from the idea that I keep hearing that predicts the same choice would be made over and over. It is not different enough to say we have free will as usually defined.

    #35455

    _Robert_
    Participant

    A bit of a tangent on randomness: Did you know that the IRS uses algorithms detecting random digits to discover tax fraudsters? Many tax dodgers cook up fake numbers and are careful to make them seem random. In fact, real worldly numbers are generally not random and have a low-value first digit bias. The first digit “1” appears nearly 30% of the time in most sets of natural numbers, “2” somewhat less frequently, “3” even less frequently and so on. This observation has come to be called Benford’s Law. Here is an article discussing this weird phenomenon.

    Yep. as I said earlier, real world numbers are generally not completely random, nor deterministic and will become more random as you move out in decimal places.

    #35460

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    The human brain may also use electrical or some other noise to enrich our ability to determine choices to help our survival.

    Yes. Creativity. E.g. dreams, even.

    There’s also the analog nature of the hormones and neurotransmitters that bathe neurons and their synapses, so even the binary output of neurons are somewhat randomly produced according to up to thousands of analog inputs. (It distracts me to realize how many people expect that downloading a consciousness into a binary machine will be easy someday.) Sure, averages of activity can be calculated, but then that kind overall picture cannot capture the plasticity over time, what we know happens in the process of learning.

    Not only are binary data reads practically impossible at the level of every neuron, but within the period of (say) one microsecond in time across the whole brain. I.e. every microsecond allows significant neuronal changes to occur, such that it’s absolutely impossible to catch the “current” condition of every neuron and every part of the neuron’s receiving and transmitting parts at once, much less the chemically analog conditions of the surrounding tissues and fluids that bring their own affects.

    Had to get that off my chest.

    #35463

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Pope Beanie, has willed the following definition of free will in his personal, internal dictionary.

    I do not care about other definitions, because 1) no definitions to date are scientifically based, 2) the feeling of free will is universally a personal feeling. Declarations of how determinism causes behaviors of every neuron, which in turn affect thoughts and action at the level of the brain as a whole and the body, are as meaningless to me as are (say) the randomness of quantum behaviors at the subatomic level are to the laws of physics at the more macro (e.g. molecular and above) levels.

    Tautologies: I am me; I decide things, and I behave as I choose. I’m not interested in subatomic-to-chemical levels of determinism, because I, Pope Beanie, have the will to adjust my behaviors according to how I perceive the reality around me, and according to how my frontal lobes are able to predict outcomes and plan ahead.

    You can debate all you want about the underlying micro-determinisms that I cannot control at the micro level, but at the me level, I am still in control. This tautology does not make these statements untrue. In fact I am me, and in control are the results of determinism.

    Of course, y’all are free to disagree! And define free will any way you will. It has always been a human construct. 🙂

    #35466

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Pope, from what i gather the limited data in the field of neuroscience is not in agreement with the notion i am in control at the me level. Also while i cant argue free will is a construct, it is not like other constructs because it is a natural feeling. Would a caveman have questioned her free will? It is hard to believe she would. Being a natural feeling makes us more invested in preserving the feeling. Further that feeling being real is tied to our identity. It is similar to wish thinking associated with god belief. And i think that explains the tortured logic of Dennett in this particular issue.

    It is a construct in the sense that religion has used free will to control theists and law has used free will as a fundamental assumption.

    #35469

    Unseen
    Participant

    Your project, should you care to take it, is to show that will is a cause and that somehow it is uncaused, for otherwise, how can it be free?

    Nah, I don’t think anything is “uncaused”. However I also do not think choices are “deterministic” OR “completely random” as heard so often in the arguments for and against free will. The best I could do for free will is to propose that living things do have unconscious choices made in the moment, provided by a localized degree of randomness and that a particular situation if repeated over and over would manifest in a normal probability curve of choices made. That is different from the idea that I keep hearing that predicts the same choice would be made over and over. It is not different enough to say we have free will as usually defined.

    Did you see the Sam Harris thought experiment video? Pick a city, any city. Was it a conscious voluntary choice? It was you say. Now, can you explain why you picked Acapulco rather than Timbuktu? If you try to explain by saying “Well, I did enjoy my vacation in Acapulco in 2014” but then realize you are not explaining but rationalizing your choice. You’re speculating. If you can’t really explain it and have to speculate, how can you claim it was voluntary, free, and willingly made? It would seem that the choice was given you by some process beyond your control and, perhaps worse, a deliberation process which happened totally out of sight and out of mind. And yet, what better example can there be of a freely-made and voluntary choice than picking something “at random”?

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    #35470

    Unseen
    Participant

    A bit of a tangent on randomness: Did you know that the IRS uses algorithms detecting random digits to discover tax fraudsters? Many tax dodgers cook up fake numbers and are careful to make them seem random. In fact, real worldly numbers are generally not random and have a low-value first digit bias. The first digit “1” appears nearly 30% of the time in most sets of natural numbers, “2” somewhat less frequently, “3” even less frequently and so on. This observation has come to be called Benford’s Law. Here is an article discussing this weird phenomenon.

    Yep. as I said earlier, real world numbers are generally not completely random, nor deterministic and will become more random as you move out in decimal places.

    There may be a more deterministic explanation than you think. Also, there are data sets which are not going to conform to Benford’s Law, a list which is given in the same article.

    I have to admit a limitation which may have to do with ADD to some extent. I’m good at logic and geometry, especially topology. Unfortunately, as soon as numbers and mathematical calculations beyond simple arithmetic get involved, I become helpless.  LOL

    That’s why I never went into hard sciences or accountancy.

    #35471

    Unseen
    Participant

    Pope Beanie, has willed the following definition of free will in his personal, internal dictionary. I do not care about other definitions, because 1) no definitions to date are scientifically based, 2) the feeling of free will is universally a personal feeling. Declarations of how determinism causes behaviors of every neuron, which in turn affect thoughts and action at the level of the brain as a whole and the body, are as meaningless to me as are (say) the randomness of quantum behaviors at the subatomic level are to the laws of physics at the more macro (e.g. molecular and above) levels. Tautologies: I am me; I decide things, and I behave as I choose. I’m not interested in subatomic-to-chemical levels of determinism, because I, Pope Beanie, have the will to adjust my behaviors according to how I perceive the reality around me, and according to how my frontal lobes are able to predict outcomes and plan ahead. You can debate all you want about the underlying micro-determinisms that I cannot control at the micro level, but at the me level, I am still in control. This tautology does not make these statements untrue. In fact I am me, and in control are the results of determinism. Of course, y’all are free to disagree! And define free will any way you will. It has always been a human construct. 🙂

    Was there an actual definition of free will in there? I didn’t find it.

    Unless you are saying that free will is defined as feeling free.

    #35475

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Your project, should you care to take it, is to show that will is a cause and that somehow it is uncaused, for otherwise, how can it be free?

    Nah, I don’t think anything is “uncaused”. However I also do not think choices are “deterministic” OR “completely random” as heard so often in the arguments for and against free will. The best I could do for free will is to propose that living things do have unconscious choices made in the moment, provided by a localized degree of randomness and that a particular situation if repeated over and over would manifest in a normal probability curve of choices made. That is different from the idea that I keep hearing that predicts the same choice would be made over and over. It is not different enough to say we have free will as usually defined.

    Did you see the Sam Harris thought experiment video? Pick a city, any city. Was it a conscious voluntary choice? It was you say. Now, can you explain why you picked Acapulco rather than Timbuktu? If you try to explain by saying “Well, I did enjoy my vacation in Acapulco in 2014” but then realize you are not explaining but rationalizing your choice. You’re speculating. If you can’t really explain it and have to speculate, how can you claim it was voluntary, free, and willingly made? It would seem that the choice was given you by some process beyond your control and, perhaps worse, a deliberation process which happened totally out of sight and out of mind. And yet, what better example can there be of a freely-made and voluntary choice than picking something “at random”?

    By your response it appears to me that you don’t seem to comprehend my posts.

    #35477

    Unseen
    Participant

    By your response it appears to me that you don’t seem to comprehend my posts.

    That’s entirely possible.

    Let’s figure out where I jumped off your train of thought, one step at a time. Tell me when I’m wrong and what’s right.

    You seem to be playing on the, let’s call it fuzziness, of the real world. Few things are as distinct as black and white. Am I still on the train? If not, where have I got you wrong? If so, what’s the next point?

    #35480

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Was there an actual definition of free will in there? I didn’t find it.

    Good point, I think there is no sensical definition for it as long as spirits, gods, souls, and other impossible entities are nonsensical… but I don’t want to say the free will discussion is useless. Because…

    Unless you are saying that free will is defined as feeling free.

    That’s far from what most people could accept, even those who think it’s God-given… but I’m willing to step up and say that the feeling of free will is the only thing close to a discussion of free will that can eventually gain some useful traction, and I’m sure someday there will be some science and measurements to quantify those feelings, even if only in brain scans at first. IMO the feeling of free will contributes a lot (if not everything) to personal motivation, so there are practical (and probably, evolutionary) reasons for it to feel like it exists.

    Pain is another example of a feeling that can already be quantified to some degree, with science behind it.

    But most important to me, in that particular post of mine that you’re responding to, is that I could express for the first time that we can understand more about our feelings of free will by speaking of it more in terms of agency at the organismal level rather than breaking it down to the micro level of consciousness, brain modules and neurons, and so on. We can measure things like how we make decisions at an unconscious level before we’re consciously aware of the decision, which is interesting, but again, at the organismal level each of us is our own “agent” regardless of what’s happening at the lower levels, and we/I/us/me are just that… the whole organism, not just a homunculus or just unconscious processes or just a consciousness. “I”, by definition am all of those things put together. We are agents in a sea full of other agents (and each other), and we’re able to adapt to dynamic circumstances.

    So out on a limb here, again: It’s okay (with me) to define or at least discuss free will as existing at the organismal level even if it doesn’t exist at the lower levels. We have choices and we make decisions. I decide what I want to do, and if I am capable, I can make a plan and follow through with it. While I still gotta confirm to y’all at the same time, I do not subscribe to any idea of paranormal or spiritual things, or souls, or any other agents or forces that aren’t subject to physical laws.

    #35487

    Unseen
    Participant

    Better yet, Robert, as a first step, what is the conclusion your premises/argument are leading me toward?

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