Author Topic: Free Will  (Read 20599 times)

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Offline stickman

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Free Will
« Reply #75 on: March 27, 2007, 09:10:02 PM »
Quote from: "Winick88"
Stickman--
Chaos theory is deterministic.  I think you're attempting to combine Chaos theory with quantum randomness in order to apply quantum effects to the macro world. This is unwarranted. Quantum effects can only appropriately be applied to energies on the order of Planck's constant. Anything greater than that can be treated classically, and therefore deterministically.


Yes, chaos is deterministic.  but chaos tells us that a complex systems are extremely sensitive to small changes in the initial conditions.  Quantum events provide such small changes, no?  This is the lesson of the butterfly effect, isn't it?  that infinitesimallysmall changes soon grow to change the outcome of the whole system?

For example, take the case of a molecule of water about to go over a waterfall.  Given the same initial conditions, the molecule will always end up in the same place a given time later.  But what if the molecule absorbs and re-emits a photon at some point?  It's momentum will be slightly changed in a non repeatable way.  This tiny change will be magnified so that its end position will be different each time the experiment is run.
The best debates are the ones in which I'm proven wrong.  Then I've learned something.

Offline Winick88

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« Reply #76 on: March 27, 2007, 09:28:57 PM »
Quote from: "stickman"
Quote from: "Winick88"
Stickman--
Chaos theory is deterministic.  I think you're attempting to combine Chaos theory with quantum randomness in order to apply quantum effects to the macro world. This is unwarranted. Quantum effects can only appropriately be applied to energies on the order of Planck's constant. Anything greater than that can be treated classically, and therefore deterministically.


Yes, chaos is deterministic.  but chaos tells us that a complex systems are extremely sensitive to small changes in the initial conditions.  Quantum events provide such small changes, no?  This is the lesson of the butterfly effect, isn't it?  that infinitesimallysmall changes soon grow to change the outcome of the whole system?

For example, take the case of a molecule of water about to go over a waterfall.  Given the same initial conditions, the molecule will always end up in the same place a given time later.  But what if the molecule absorbs and re-emits a photon at some point?  It's momentum will be slightly changed in a non repeatable way.  This tiny change will be magnified so that its end position will be different each time the experiment is run.

No-- quantum events do not cross over to the macro scale. This is one of the paradoxes of modern physics.
The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. ~Francis Bacon

Offline ChrisChris

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« Reply #77 on: March 27, 2007, 11:08:21 PM »
I tend to subscribe to David Hume’s Compatalism.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

Compatibilism, as most famously championed by Hume, is a theory that argues that free will and determinism exist and are in fact compatible. The compatibilist definition of free will states that free will is not the ability to choose as an agent independent of prior cause, but as an agent who is not forced to make a certain choice. Compatibilists, being determinists, argue that all acts that take place are determined by prior causes. Because human decision is an act that is not exempt from prior cause, by this definition, some determinists known as hard determinists believe that free will thus becomes an illusion. A compatibilist however will draw a distinction between an act that is forced and an act that is chosen, and it is this distinction that defines for them what free will actually is.
...
Further, according to Hume, free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather, it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires. That is, when one says that one could either continue to read this page or to delete it, one doesn't really mean that both choices are compatible with the complete state of the world right now, but rather that if one had desired to delete it one would have, even though as a matter of fact one actually desires to continue reading it, and therefore that is what will actually happen.

Hume also maintains that free acts are not uncaused (or mysteriously self-caused as Kant would have it) but rather caused by our choices as determined by our beliefs, desires, and by our characters. While a decision making process exists in Hume's determinism, this process is governed by a causal chain of events. For example, one may make the decision to support Wikipedia, but that decision is determined by the conditions that existed prior to the decision being made.


From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hume#Free_will_versus_determinism

Just about everyone has noticed the apparent conflict between free will and determinism – if your actions were determined to happen billions of years ago, then how can they be up to you? But Hume noted another conflict, one that turned the problem of free will into a full-fledged dilemma: free will is incompatible with indeterminism. Imagine that your actions are not determined by what events came before. Then your actions are, it seems, completely random. Moreover, and most importantly for Hume, they are not determined by your character – your desires, your preferences, your values, etc. How can we hold someone responsible for an action that did not result from his character? How can we hold someone responsible for an action that randomly occurred? Free will seems to require determinism, because otherwise, the agent and the action wouldn't be connected in the way required of freely chosen actions.


To create an analogy of this position… imagine as a 4 year old child you touched a hot cooker and burnt your hand. So now you don’t touch a hot cooker. Thus, your choice not to put your hand on the cooker was determined by your actions/experience as a 4 year old. You still have the ability to choose whether of not to put your hand on the stove, but your previous actions as a child have influenced your decision not to.


There are two types of determinism: hard determinism and soft determinism, the latter being another word for compatalism. The main difference between the two is how free will is defined.

Some state that free will is the ability to have absolute free choice, rather than the hypothetical choice Hume talks about. I reject this because it would mean someone with this absolute free will would be able override any influential factors such as upbringing, character, desires, and experience etc, and even external factors beyond our control, which is impossible. I define free will as the ability of choice, but a choice which is within these influential factors. For example, a person may make a choice, but is would be a choice which is determined/influenced by the conditions that existed prior to the decision being made. In other words, our choices are the results of our own desires and preferences.

Hume argued that while it is possible that one does not freely arrive at one's set of desires and beliefs, the only meaningful interpretation of freedom relates to one's ability to translate those desires and beliefs into voluntary action.


One final thing… many people confuse determinism with fatalism, fatalism being the view that all our choices are predetermined, which would imply come kind of [divine] plan, or creator, or god of some sort. While it is true however that some views of fatalism are similar to determinism, I think there is still a distinction. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatalism


Also, on the Matrix/illusion argument... if this is the case, I would ask: could we know life was an illusion, and could we comprehend the ‘real’ reality? If not, if we have no way of comprehending and knowing the real reality, the illusion may as well be real, since it would be all that we are aware of.
"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence" -- Christopher Hitchens

Offline Winick88

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« Reply #78 on: March 27, 2007, 11:25:08 PM »
I mentioned Humean compatibilism a few posts ago. It all depends on whose concept of free will you use. If you use the Abrahamic concept based on the garden of Eden, then free will isn't the kind Hume describes. That is, if God created the Universe then he had control over the initial conditions and therefore the choices made by Adam and Eve could only diverge from God's will if they arose independently of their physical constraints.
The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. ~Francis Bacon

Offline jason

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« Reply #79 on: March 28, 2007, 03:15:37 AM »
Quote from: "ChrisChris"
Also, on the Matrix/illusion argument... if this is the case, I would ask: could we know life was an illusion, and could we comprehend the ‘real’ reality?

No.
Quote
If not, if we have no way of comprehending and knowing the real reality, the illusion may as well be real, since it would be all that we are aware of.

Absolutely true. Of course, that doesn't actually change the fact that the "real reality" exists. Similarly, if our universe actually is just one among many, the fact that we can never perceive them doesn't stop them existing.
quot;Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick
"Scientific skepticism: the buck stops at reality."

Offline hm..

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« Reply #80 on: March 29, 2007, 08:54:51 AM »
Quote
Yes, chaos is deterministic.  but chaos tells us that a complex systems are extremely sensitive to small changes in the initial conditions.  Quantum events provide such small changes, no?


Here is the way I explain the lack of free will.
me: If you throw a coin and it comes up heads did it have a choice / free will?
them: no
me: If you throw millions of coins do they now have free will to choose the state they end up in?
them: nope doesn't matter how many you throw
me: Or what order?  Or what dependency?  Like you will only throw this one if these others were heads?
them: doesn't matter, no free will with coins!

me: If a single neuron has an electrical input and it fires did it have free will?
them: no
me: If 100 billion neurons have some electrical input and they fire in some pattern did they have free will?
them: uh.. well.

So let's take a single coin throw.  If quantum effects caused a coin that was going to come up heads to come up tails does that mean it all of a sudden had a choice?

When you drink alcohol your brain chemistry changes and you get more randomness* than quantum effects could ever give you.  Do drunk people have more free will than sober people?

*ok maybe not random but at the least it represents noise in your brain system.

Offline skidoo

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« Reply #81 on: March 29, 2007, 09:14:21 AM »
Quote from: "hm.."
When you drink alcohol your brain chemistry changes and you get more randomness* than quantum effects could ever give you.  Do drunk people have more free will than sober people?

Haha! Great analogy, likening the influcence of quantum indeterminacy to drunkenness.

Offline Silo

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« Reply #82 on: March 29, 2007, 11:55:25 AM »
I don't mean to be a stick-in-the-mud but I think it is a semantics mistake to call the "illusion of free will" "free will" itself. For example I don't call the "voice" inside my brain "God" like some religious people do. I think that it just leads to confusion.

Offline stickman

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« Reply #83 on: March 29, 2007, 12:09:18 PM »
Having thought about this a lot in the past few days, I'm finding it difficult to imagine free will exists.  However, that also leads me to the conclusion that conciousness and creativity are just as illusory.

How disapointing.

I think I'll just quietly go back to enjoying my illusions.

And I still don't see how determinism can survive in the face of quantum mechanics and chaos theroy.
The best debates are the ones in which I'm proven wrong.  Then I've learned something.

Offline jason

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« Reply #84 on: March 29, 2007, 12:48:23 PM »
Quote from: "stickman"
And I still don't see how determinism can survive in the face of quantum mechanics and chaos theroy.

Regarding quantum theory: sure, it's impossible to predict the location of a quantum particle, though we know where it might be at a given instant... but if time were replayed, the question is whether the quantum particle would be in exactly the same place.

That is, the "quantum weirdness" reflects out inability to know precisely where the quantum particle is, but assuming that you measure it at the same point in time, is the result always going to be the same?

I know, the answer is "no, it's random", following the Bohm interpretation.  However, I still hold out some hope for the hidden variable theory; if that were correct, perhaps even at the quantum level things are actually deterministic.
quot;Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick
"Scientific skepticism: the buck stops at reality."

Offline TVG

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« Reply #85 on: March 29, 2007, 03:32:36 PM »
Quote from: "skidoo"


Which is more evidence for emergence.



I am interested in the emergence concept and its link with providing the illusion of free will, though I don't know much about it all really... :?

http://www.skepchick.org/skepticsguide/viewtopic.php?t=41&start=45

Anyone got any insight on this...?




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Offline Winick88

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« Reply #86 on: March 29, 2007, 04:48:49 PM »
Quote from: "jason"
I know, the answer is "no, it's random", following the Bohm interpretation.  However, I still hold out some hope for the hidden variable theory; if that were correct, perhaps even at the quantum level things are actually deterministic.

I agree with everything you're saying.

Einstein seemed to believe the hidden variable hypothesis, but even if he's wrong, and the quantum realm is truly non-deterministic, it wouldn't change the fact that the macroscopic realm is deterministic. There is something unsatisfying about that, I know, but this is just a statement of empirical fact (thus far), and not something we can we can reason our way out of. The micro/macroscopic worlds appear to operate as separate domains in this regard.
Quote from: "Steven Novella"
If by "free will" you mean our thoughts and actions do not have a physical cause but are somehow free from determistic mechanisms, then no, we do not have free will. Our choices are caused by the physical processes inside our brains and the information they receive from the physical world outside the brain. The macroscopic world is materialistic and deterministic - and so are our brains. There is no theory or evidence to indicate that quantum indeterminate processes are active at the macroscopic scale of our brains.

Consciousness and free will is a very compelling illusion, though, huh.
The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. ~Francis Bacon