Determinism - is there such thing as choice?

Discussion in 'Science' started by Foliage, Apr 10, 2004.

  1. Luke212

    Luke212 Member

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    Nice long running thread. Sam Harris says we have no free will.

    Book: http://www.samharris.org/free-will
    Sam harris has had quite a positive effect on my life, recently introducing me to mindful meditation. Practicing it helped me get a perspective on my conciousness and i feel happier and less stressed. You should try it Folbro (if u havent that is) it might put you up another maslow level. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2012
  2. OP
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    Foliage

    Foliage Member

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    Thanks, will try and get hold of it even just to have a self wank about reaffirming what I believe haha.
     
  3. Eddyah

    Eddyah Member

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    Could god create a particle that he himself could not predict its motion? Haha I dont know, but we do have choice. So what if an almighty being knows what we will choose, we still have choice
     
  4. Widman

    Widman Member

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    Is it late 2012 yet?

    The quantum nature of the universe makes it random, but does measuring/observing "change" the outcome, or merely fix the state (out of the entire range of possible states) in which the universe finds itself at that time?

    Until the observation is made the state of the universe is not known. Even if the omnipotent future human does catalogue the entire quantum state of the universe, the state is known for only that instant after which quantum randomness returns until it is measured again.

    Unless it is measured the quantum state is only a range of probabilities.

    If the omnipotentiometer is in fact able to record the entire quantum state of the universe in an ongoing and infinite manner, all we have is an excellent recording of the past. It cannot include the meter nor the information (consciousness) and what the meter monitors do with it (free will).

    If the mere fact of observation fixes the quantum state, what effect does actually trying to influence the quantum state have? We can (to a degree) choose the time and manner of the observation, and therefore can (to a degree) influence what quantum state the particles will be in when observed. We can refuse to accept a given quantum state, and adjust the parameters to attempt to acheive the goal we seek. If we don't like the state we find the universe in, we act to change the universe (at least in a very localised area) to meet our needs. (I.e rather than waiting for random quantum changes to cause the log to spontaneously combust, I act to set it on fire when I am cold.)

    The fact that we learn and innovate and tend to be anti-entropic (within our immediate frame of reference at least) indicates to me that consciousness and free-will must therefore act independently of the quantum nature of the universe.

    I cannot conceive of any way in which a deterministic universe can contain an entity which is capable of choice. The two are mutually exclusive propositions. The fact that we are able to influence which one out of a range of possible quantum states occurs, suggests to me that we have free will. Therefore the universe cannot be deterministic
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2012
  5. irR4tiOn4L

    irR4tiOn4L Member

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    It was inevitable we would have this discussion and we'll inevitably decide we do have a choice or practically have a choice.

    Oh and Foliage, if you're wondering why you're running into the absolutely typical responses of 'but its not predictable so it doesn't matter', its because most people are ruled by their fears and don't give a shit except for some vague, non specific feeling of peril associated with the idea of an all knowing, all controlling mortal or immortal being or society ruling over and manipulating what they rather fancy as their all important lives. Never mind that its water under the bridge either way and that being satisfied under the yolk of an all controlling being is no more threatening than being satisfied under the yolk of a pre-determined outcome. This argument has been repeated for millenia and it shouldn't be seen as anything more than a copout to reassure the writer's irrational fears. Which I guess you can't blame them for having.

    The reality, however, that we have no control over who we are, what we are, where we are, what the world around us is like, what will happen to us and what we will do seems fine to them as long as we also don't know that ahead of time. Pretty classic example of illusion being as good as reality if you can't distinguish the two.

    Never mind that in every moment of our lives we are hating someone, blaming someone, criticizing someone, praising someone or loving someone for personal qualities and decisions they could not have changed if they tried, meaning that our concepts of good, evil, culpability, guilt and responsibility are simply meaningless. We don't care, as long as the journey is pleasant, the weather is nice, the wine is good and the unpleasant downtrodden types are safely locked away. It has forever (or near enough) been so.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  6. Mickey V

    Mickey V Member

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    How do you know you are capable of choice? The "choices" you make could just be the inevitable outcome of the predetermined plan for the universe and none of us will ever know if that is the case or not.

    It's a long thread that I don't have time to read in it's entirity at the moment so I'm not sure if this has been discussed yet, but..

    Electrophysiological studies of the human brain have already demonstrated that the electrical signals associated with a "voluntary" action are commenced significantly earlier than the person has any conscious awareness of making a decision to act. I can't remember the exact delay off the top of my head, but I think it's somewhere in the realm of ~150ms. So it is sometimes argued that we have no ability to voluntarily initiate movements, but (at best) we may have a very short period of time available in which to veto actions that have already been initiated.
     
  7. irR4tiOn4L

    irR4tiOn4L Member

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    Moving on from this, by what mechanism would we 'veto' such actions? Nothing in physics, logic or mathematics allows for anything like this.

    Belief in free will is a product of lazy thinking and conviction against all information to the contrary. The fact of the matter is that we have so far found absolutely no mechanism by which 'choice' could be effected, nor any descriptor of physical phenomena which would allow for such a possibility. All of the products of our thinking that have allowed us to develop understandings of the world do not admit any possibility of 'choice', and are all deterministic even in their descriptions of 'choice'. From foundational logic to string theory, the closest we have ever come to 'choice' is the concept of 'randomness', which is certainly not the same thing. Belief in choice is fast becoming no better than religion.

    The only way to admit choice into our world is to admit interference from the outside in a way that at best works on gaps in our present understanding - such as claiming that it somehow stems from the uncertainty principle or other aspects of quantum mechanics - or outright violates other physical laws, as would be required for a biological computer like the brain to come to results that are not determined by conditions around and inside it. Needless to say, arguing that choice exists in some hitherto unknown and as yet undiscovered aspect of physical existence is not a strong foundation for choice. We don't look for 'choice' in our computers, so why do we expect it in their biological equivalents?

    Nonetheless we cling to this concept like politicians cling to power, because to admit that we are fundamentally little different to the machines that surround us and the physical processes that create us is to undermine the very locus of power with which humanity justifies its existence.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2012
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    Foliage

    Foliage Member

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