It occurred to me that an interesting test of free will would test the "will". I propose this test.

Believe, for an entire day, in God.

I have these questions after you have completed the test:
Can you do it?
How is this test flawed?
What, if anything, does it prove?
How would you modify the test?
What other questions should we be asking about this test?

Tags: free will, belief, psychology

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If I could believe in a deity for an entire day, I'd still be attending services and bible studies. I can act like I believe in a deity, I can contemplate how my life would change with belief, I can even come up with scenarios that would convince me that a deity exists, but I cannot force myself to believe.

Prove? I suppose it is further evidence that I am what my brain decides I am.
Hmmm - can't do it. Indeed, once I turned the corner into full blown atheism (during a two week stay in the hospital where I survived a life-threatening illness - I know - supposed to work the other way around, right?) any attempt to even pray just seems hollow. But I used to believe deeply - in something. I can't say I believed in a 'sky daddy' style god any longer than I believed in Santa Claus. The nuns even told us THAT type of god was a fiction.

Here's a strange one though - my Mother definitely believed in God when she died. However, she just vaguely did when she was seventeen. She grew up in a non-practicing, unitarian style 'sure, there;s a god - but that's about the extent of it, household.

And she never had a drinking/drug problem or a teen pregnancy. She initially converted to Catholicism when she married my dad - totally a 'free will' move (what would normally be called an unextorted choice). My dad never would have demanded it of her and his family lived thousands of miles away.

She absolutely became more faithful than he has remained having been born into it. At 75, he's beggining to come around to atheism. He calls god his 'crutch' now. It's like he's intellectually done with it but the imprinting is sooo deep seated.

So - I'm not sure what the pathologies here show. Because, other than this (perfectly socially acceptable psychological 'aberration') my mother didn't smoke, drink, never got a speeding ticket, held a job, had close to two hundred people show up at her funeral (and we aren't wealthy), and no qualified psychiatrist would have diagnosed her with anything beyond a fear of heights. She had her stuff, like we all do, but she was sane, and fair-minded, never condemned me for having my own way of looking at things, taught me an immense amount about art and architecture, saved both my brother and I from drowning by herself (we were 8 and 9 or so), volunteered at homes for the disabled, etc. I could go on.

I have to tell you - I could never figure out what Catholicism held onto her with. I do know that the priest who she did her conversion with, who remained a dear family friend until he died, was actually an extremely intelligent, fair-minded, talented old man who I always respected in the best possible sense of the word.

I have to admit, this is an interesting thought experiment. But I have definitely changed my mind using only my mind. Its the shape of frozen water crystals I can't change using only my mind.
But I have definitely changed my mind using only my mind.

Of this, I have no doubt. But is that an act of learning or an a act of will? A crucial difference in this context.

It seems to me that if the will were truly free we could will ourselves to believe the moon is made of green cheese if we choose.
Well - I would have to suggest that my mother may have pulled this off. Not really sure.

I guess the difference is only really crucial if 'learning' means - getting closer to the 'truth' so to speak.
I would say learning acts AGAINST our ability to freely choose what we think on a subject.

Learning is a biological process. As neural connections are formed it "grows" what we know. When these connections are strengthened by use they become more "real".

I guess you could say we are free to choose what we learn but once learned impossible to contradict? Nothing against your Mother Howard but this is purely a first person exercise. We can never truly know the mind of another.
True - although fifty years of praying at your bedside every night after the first nineteen of barely praying at all is SOME indication.

I also think you can unlearn things - as I did with my Catholicism.

As a simple (perhaps too trivial) example ... I was afraid of spiders when I was a kid. Daddy longlegs were very commonplace where I lived. My Dad told me they couldn't hurt me and made me hold one without killing it. Later, an intelligent friend of mine told me that Daddy longlegs were extremely venomous, but their fangs were too small to penetrate human skin. I bought into that - since it didn't change the threat assessment. Later, I discovered that they are not at all venomous - from a couple of independent articles that corroborated each other online. Now, I had revisited my 'knowledge' a few times in the course of this ongoing inquiry. The threat assessment changed only once - when my Dad made me confront my fear. But what I was willing to accept as fact did change. And, to be honest, it may that threat assessment that prevents me from easily changing my mind about things - because it most affects the importance of accurate information.
I would agree with "un" learning, as you 'grow' new knowledge the unused pathways weaken and become less influential.

Sudden conversions like the moment you understand evolution for the first time or quantum physics, even 'religious' conversions are a bit hard to explain in this model. The part of the brain that provides realness to the experience would probably be key in these events.

I was making a distinction between knowledge and belief yesterday. After thinking about it , am backing away from that stance.
Its not made of cheese? You mean I have been building this spaceship/moon-cheese-mining machine for nothing? Six and a half years wasted!
Yeah, Mike,

That word "free" in "free will", is less than conducive to understanding free will. I prefer "self-determinism": the term suggests the constraints of determinism itself.
I can agree with you here, Free Thinker. The word free is just too slippery.
If God/Jesus/Holy Ghost are all the same, isn't that an unforgivable sin?
This trinity stuff has never been properly explained by any Christian, Catholic or Protestant.  Every word ever spoken about it is mumbo jumbo, idiot glossolalia, and invocations of the Easter Bunny.

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