I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".
I haven't read Free Will, but I have read The Believing Brain (a great book!) It's often said that 'Space" is the final frontier, but I think it is the human brain. As wonderful as it is to learn about the mysteries of the universe, our brains possess a vast reservoir of untapped discoveries. The human brain is responsible for our every thought, action and behavior, be it highly intellectual or basic primal urge. To understand the brain is to understand who, why and what we are as sentient, human creatures.
I'll have to check out Harris' Free Will. It's definitely a fascinating topic.
Great post and outstanding books. I didn't realize you posted a new Free Will line; I have a piece on the older theme. This is a subject we need to learn and understand. It is so easy to think we are in control of our thoughts and actions, and when electrodes are used to study the phenomenon, we discover we have a lot going on inside the gray matter before it ever hits conscious thought.
Not being a philosopher, I don't understand free will. WHether we have it or not, I hope that doesn't let people off the hook for their actions or decisions.
I don't care if people have free will. If someone commits a heinous act, they need to be held accountable. If someone is cruel, or deceitful, or hateful, racist, sexist, manipulative, bullying, they need to be fought. If someone organizes others to commit atrocities, they need to be condemned.
If someone does good, they should be rewarded and honored. If someone is kind, thoughtful, honorable, courageous, they should be respected.
I've seen many discussion of free will. While we may be the sum of our parts, and we may originate from chemicals, DNA, nurture, nature, history, climate, provenance, we are still individuals, our actions affect others, we hurt, we feel comforted, we love, we hate, we don't care, we do. Regardless of free will.
I agree with you Sentient Biped. But I think that if there is a chance that some criminal activity can be rehabilitated and reformed that it should be considered an option. Of course there are many bad people who are not amenable to rehabilitation and reform, and these types should be locked up for the safety of everyone concerned.
Since I have been fooling around with the reality on heterozygotes, homozygotes, or zygosity as the degree of similarity of the alleles for a trait in an organism, the obvious question arrises: if homosexuality begins during the cell splitting stage of development, just as hair and eye and skin color develop, then why all the fuss about GLBTQ? It is a simple matter of genetics and alleles. Am I wrong in this thought?
If I am right, and the person who attempts to influence political outcomes that impact others by starving himself to death, then this man is not only stupid, he is evil. Disgustingly, deplorably, hatefully, outrageously repugnant. And so are those who pretend they know what is true.
Joan, I think sexual orientation comes to something like:
Various genes that promote same gender orientation
Various genes that suppress opposite gender orietation
Various genes related to temperament
Intrauterine hormonal and immunological mileu
Elements of experience, upbringing, provenance, that allow, or not, expression of innate orientation
Who knows what.
People seem to forget, if there is a "cause" for same sex orientation, there is also a cause for opposite sex orientation. Some argue, "opposite sex is natural" so doesn't need a cause. But everything has a cause - height, weight, blue eyes, brown eyes, red hair, black skin, white skin, olive skin, psychosis, mental health, mental illness. There are very few people willing to ask "what causes heterosexuality".
Regardless, it's hard for me to understand the issue of Free WIll. I wonder if that is a christian concept. Do oriental philosophies have free will? Aboriginal societies of the Americas, tropics, australasia have that concept? I don't know what it means.
For Intersex folks, there is anatomic expression of gender blending. We certainly can't give that the concept of "Free Will". Intersex people undergo even more bias, exclusion, and abuse, right from the start of life, than other LGBT people. Abrahamic religion doesn't have room for such a grey zone of gender - outside the biblical rules.
I agree about the guy on hunger fast. Which he ended, when the Supreme Court put a stay on same sex marriages.
Free will is definitely a christian thing; I don't know about other religions. According to the mythology, god gave man humans free will to make choices and if humans make bad choices they suffer consequences. Voile! god is off the hook when bad things happen and the violator is off the hook if he/she confesses, even with the last breath.
One more way god is a poison, a virus, and poo, Ruth's word. All make more sense than faith and belief.
I so respect your gentle nature and the way you think about this conflict. I wish I were as gentle, however, there is so much fire in me, I am far more brutish than you could ever be. You have replaced the fire of your experiences with a wonderfully healing energy.
Oh! Did he end the fast? He has a lot to thank the Supreme Court for ... obviously not on the side of justice. So, of what use is the Supreme Court when it doesn't keep our politicians and voters in line with the theory of justice being served.
If homosexuality begins during the cell splitting stage of development, just as hair and eye and skin color develop, then why all the fuss about GLBTQ? It is a simple matter of genetics and alleles. Am I wrong in this thought?
Isn't this part of that ol' question posed about homosexuals, "Is it something they're born with or is it a choice?" I've sort of thought of a few examples that we, of course, couldn't perform in the real world unless we could make human clones.
You have two primary factors, genetics (DNA) and external influences such as environment and cultural influences, etc. Let's say you have someone born in the U.S. who ultimately identifies themself as a homosexual. Now, if you were to have this same person with the same DNA, same set of genes, etc. and have them born elsewhere to grow up and identify themself as a heterosexual, then this obviously mean that sexuality is determined by an interplay of your genetics and external influences.
Now, if these clones were to always end up homosexual in any given situation, then obviously it would be a matter of genetics. I tend to lean more against the first example being the case rather than pinning sexuality solely on genetics since human experience is such a rich and complex network of interaction. Even if predeterminism is true, I believe the former example would still apply.
Identical (monozygotic) twins -- the closest thing we have to human clones -- end up with the same sexual orientation about 60% of the time, vs. 16% for fraternal (dizygotic) twins.
Identical twins do have differences both in the genome -- notably in the number of times genes are copied -- and in gene expression (epigenetics). There have been cases where one twin had progeria (the congenital disease that inspired Rabbi Harold Kushner to rethink his god concept and write When Bad Things Happen to Good People) and the other didn't.
This Yahoo Answers writer gives a few references, and also mentions the "older brother effect": men whose biological mothers previously gave birth to older brothers are more likely to be gay, whether or not they were raised together.
Whether homosexuality is genetic is a huge red herring. Cancer, psychopathy might also be genetic. There is no reason to accept anything on account of whether it's genetic.
There's no reason to reject anything on account of whether it's genetic. (Think of gifted athletes, actors, comedians, authors, songwriters, scientists, diplomats, rock stars... there's likely genetic influence there too!)
Whatever the causes of homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, and asexuality, they're still morally neutral, like being right- or left-handed. (That's something else people tried to change in a less enlightened time.)
All the reasons people give for trying to reject, repress, and change LGB people ultimately come down to "gay sex is icky!" and/or "god said so!"
(Conservative religions tend to not be accepting of trans people either -- how dare they know their gender doesn't correspond to the "obvious" "god-given" physical appearance they were born with!)