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".

Tags: Free, Harris, Michael, Sam, Shermer, Will

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And neither Heisenberg nor Godel did what they did.

Sarcasm is what people turn to when they cannot coherently explain their position.

Jonathan, I welcome frankness. I thank people for it and I thank you for it.

Explaining my position coherently on this thread would require more time than I want to invest in the attempt, partly because I see the frequent uses of 'must" and "cannot" as assertions of power intended to cover uncertainty.

Or, being frank, intended to bully.

In the New Oxford American Dictionary, sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.

Mockery yes; contempt no.

Would you prefer if we attach "maybe" to the end of every sentence, such as "Science is incoherent, maybe", or "God is a logical necessity, maybe"? To say that God is not a logical necessity is apparently too strong a stand for you. Are we bullying atheists when we assert a position contrary to the positions of any other group? Should we decry intellectual clarity and embrace a clouded ignorance, because nothing is for certain? This is taking uncertainty to an unprecedented slippery slope that Godel and Frege certainly would have never intended. For if all is uncertain, then you do not even know what you're talking about. Then, why do I even bother talking with an ignorant homunculus that inputs random characters without certainty and happens to resemble language by coincidence?

Sometimes I answer rhetorical questions; sometimes I don't.

Don't concern yourself with words being too strong for me; my years in hardball politics gave me a skin you won't puncture.

I read and enjoyed Kurt Gödel's little book but haven't seen anything by Frege. I will look for something by him (or her, since I'm uncertain.)

There is an alternative to "All is certain" that's not "Nothing is certain." Though it can be stated in several ways, it changes a two-value logic to a three-value logic.

Yes, Jonathan, why do you bother?

Your final sentence tells me I said something hurtful and you felt a need to take a swing at me.

I hope you're feeling less certain about the use of "must" and "cannot".

For a while the words "does" and "doesn't" or their several forms might seem to lack power. Use them and you will feel more powerful.

And neither Heisenberg nor Godel did what they did.

Perhaps you should educate yourself on these matters before you make claims about them that are incorrect.  The Heisenberg uncertainty principle only applies to the measurement of momentum and position (not being able to measure both with accuracy simultaneously). Godels incompleteness theorem establishes limitations of axiomatic systems in mathematics. Neither necessitate the acausal events needed for indeterminism in physics. Certain interpretations of Quantum mechanics do (such as Copenhagen), but others don't (such as the De Brogle - Bohm theory). 

Again, determinism doesn't imply that we can obtain certain knowledge of anything. You seem to be conflating these two things. It only means that every event is causal (which may or may not be the case but has not been proven or disproven either way).

And again, free will is logically incompatible with both a deterministic universe as well as an indeterministic universe.

But no one is claiming absolute knowledge of anything. If I say a colorless pink square circle can't exist, I only mean so in the realm of what is logical (such can't logically exist). In some magical realm outside of identity and noncontradiction who knows. Perhaps that's where "free will" lives as well.

My last sentence doesn't tell you anything (remember that?). In logic, the assertion that P (is true) is equivalent to P must be true. After all, something that is, must be. A tree must exist in order for it to exist, if it might not exist, then the assertion that a tree exists is unsound. On the other hand, if "Nothing is certain", then my last sentence in the previous post stands as an inevitable result of your position. I didn't say you are an ignorant robot, you did indirectly by asserting uncertainty for all things. How can you even claim to be an atheist or a Catholic if that were true? How would you be able to claim agnosticism, if you cannot be certain whether you should be uncertain?

I apologize for misreading your post. You did not say that "Nothing is certain". The first half of my post still stands. The problem with a three-value system is two:

1. An appeal to ignorance should never be used to justify uncertainty. We have the evidence we need to contradict free will.

2. For most decisions in life, it is impossible to take the third option honestly. Someone asserts, "If you don't give me $100 right now, God will strike you from where you stand". If you're an agnostic, truly, then you should take this grave thread seriously. After all, you don't know if this man is telling the truth, you're 50/50 and not leaning any way. However, most agnostics would ignore this kind of threat without second thought, calling into question whether they can even take the agnostic position without accepting intellectual suicide.

it is a fact that the universe is somewhat deterministic (or causal)

I would never deny that it is, but "somewhat deterministic" is like "somewhat pregnant" and is not a basis for asserting determinism as a governing principle. (Let's leave causalitiy out of it for the moment, determinism and causality are not equivalent.

Uncertainty doesn't imply determinism - non-causality does (e.g. uncertainty due to acausality)

I assume you meant to say something else. You surely don't mean to say that non-causality implies determinism.

You are correct, I meant to say "indeterminism". Mistype.

FIX:

Uncertainty doesn't imply indeterminism - non-causality does (e.g. uncertainty due to acausality)

I would never deny that it is, but "somewhat deterministic" is like "somewhat pregnant" and is not a basis for asserting determinism as a governing principle.

It depends on the context. If we were discussing horticulture, we could say that recombination of alleles to produce genotypes of the heritage, or that F1 hybrids should share the traits of its heirloom parents, is deterministic. If we were discussing building codes, we could say that a joist subjected to certain tension can be determined to collapse. If we were discussing neurology, we could say that a certain MRI pattern could be determined to represent the idea of a tree. If we were discussing logic, we could determine that the assertion of an uncaused event being caused is incoherent.

We are now discussing free will...

The point here is that the argument that x is uncertain because Uncertainty is true is a red herring. Strictly taken, it perhaps challenges the basis of all knowledge, including your own certainty that Uncertainty is true. While I do not claim to know whether anything is absolutely true, we conceive certain things to be epistemologically true. It would be absurd to live, and be consciously present, in the modern technological world, and be skeptical of science.

Do you have a position on the existence or function of free will, or are you just arguing technicalities for argument's sake?

Jonathan,

It seems they miss the even greater point that indeterminism isn't their "free will" savior. Any non-caused events that might "pop" into existence obviously can't be something within the control of a conscious entity. When people argue against determinism, they do so with the incorrect assumption that it's "determinism vs. free will" only. And they almost always misunderstand what determinism/indeterminism is and is not (e.g. it has nothing to do with what we can or can't know - our epistemological limitations, but rather about what "is" - ontology). Either every event is causal (determinism) or there are some uncaused events (indeterminism).

When you ask them "Do you have a position on the existence or function of free will" you are absolutely correct in doing so. They seem to be avoiding the topic at hand altogether as if their rejection of determinism is sufficient. They also take no recognition of the burden of proof they do carry if they were "free will" existence claimers.

I therefore ask the same question to any of them: Do you have a position on the existence or function of free will?

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