Debating Determinism and Free Will

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Scrib
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Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby Scrib » 2012-03-07 07:55pm

I was debating someone recently on free will and God. His argument was naturally that man has free will and chooses to act in a way that displease God and thus deserves his punishment. I responded by pointing out that in the face of an omniscient, omnipotent creator there is no true free will, any action you take is a result of choices that that deity has already made knowing how you would react, thus the blame lies not with you but with him, your actions were literally fixed in place long before you were ever born.

As usual the argument deteriorated from that point, religious people simply pull a face and ignore the above argument, but it lead to another interesting discussion; determinism in a Godless universe. My view was that there is no free will here either. People act as their genetic makeup and environment make them act. If you give a person a choice between Path A and Path B then he will always pick Path A provided the choice is presented in the exact same way. Provided of course, that we can magically whip up the necessary computing power to calculate all the possible things affecting a humans life we would be able to predict his actions perfectly.

But something came up that I'm not sure about. Uncertainty, specifically the Uncertainty Principle and quantum physics. Now I'm not a physics student by any stretch so my knowledge of the principle is limited but it seems to me that it's incompatible with a deterministic universe. It seems that there will always be an element of chance in whatever action taken in the universe.

My question was, on a practical level, how does this affect determinism and are there any arguments against it? And more importantly if the universe is not completely deterministic, does this mean that we do in fact have 'free will', or does this just mean that our actions will simply flow from a set of possible outcomes, some more likely than others. Hell, for that matter, I've been led to believe that the UP operates on a subatomic scale, does it truly affect anything on scales are large as the ones human beings deal in? Someone on this board recently claimed that the UP doesn't matter in the brain is this true?Or is the argument outdated and flawed and should I just concede?

Note: Free will in our argument seems to boil down to the ability to make decisions that cannot always be predicted with perfect results.

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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby Batman » 2012-03-07 08:15pm

How, exactly, does my genetic makeup determine what I decided to have for dinner tonight? That I I'm currently skipping the first of the evening's TNG reruns in favour of Kim Possible? How did my environment make me decide to become Batman-wait, bad example. How did it make me maintain that I'm actually seriously Batman online when as far as everybody else knows I'm just a nutty german with too much time on his hands? What made me like pizza but not fish? SciFi but not reality shows?
And even if we for the moment assume that we do merely get to chose from a limited set of options (which, incidentally, is a given in the vast majority of situations anyway-those dastardly laws of physics tend to get in the way) that doesn't negate the fact that we do get to choose. That's free will.
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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby ray245 » 2012-03-07 09:57pm

Can't I simply argue back by saying your decision making process is a result of our genetic makeup and by the environment you were raised in? Furthermore, even if we have a choice, we cannot control how we go about choosing things. In a way, our belief that we have a choice is only giving us a false impression that free will actually exist.
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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby Batman » 2012-03-07 10:23pm

No. Not until you can actually prove that to be the case. Have fun.
'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby Scrib » 2012-03-07 11:22pm

ray245 wrote:Can't I simply argue back by saying your decision making process is a result of our genetic makeup and by the environment you were raised in? Furthermore, even if we have a choice, we cannot control how we go about choosing things. In a way, our belief that we have a choice is only giving us a false impression that free will actually exist.


I'll respond more fully when I wake up but I would like to add that I don't just mean your environment during your formative years or genetics. I mean your environment at all times and the biological processes your brain goes through all the time. How do you know that something you saw today didn't make you want to watch Kim Possible, that some stimuli you received didn't make you draw some subconscious connection in your mind that surfaced when you were presented with the choice? Our lack of knowledge of your brains patterns doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't a rational organ that follows set patterns (unless it's naturally chaotic, which would be news to me).

Your decision-making process is shaped not just by past events but present stimuli. I think of the brain like a biological computer that responds in a particular manner to certain stimuli, like say a drug addicts responses to getting or not getting his drug of choice. Can he be considered to have free will in the situation when his genetic predisposition and general personality and surroundings all conspire against him? Can he actually act in a manner contrary to all the things I mentioned? If you reran the scenario the same way a thousand times, will he ever change? That's the issue isn't it?

The idea is that, given your genes and your society and all the other innumerable other variables in your life, you can only take one path, and that that path can be predicted with absolute knowledge. The latter assertion seems to have been disproved by modern science, but the former may not have.

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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby someone_else » 2012-03-08 11:52am

Because the phisical body is a biochemical machine, that while we don't really understand it fully, all stuff we discovered so far follows a set of instructions coded somehow like any machine.

I mean, brain works by cells arranged in a certain way that say YES or NO to certain stimuli following very rigid (albeit complex) rules. They don'd make shit up on the fly like "free will" would require.

You cannot have real "free will" without adding incorporeal and immortal bullshit like a soul. At least imho. :mrgreen:
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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby Batman » 2012-03-08 07:04pm

Describe the biochemical processes that result in my watching 'Castle' instead of 'Episode IV' or 'The Green Mile' tonight.
'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby someone_else » 2012-03-09 10:20am

I wasn't very clear above, this post tries to clarify: :mrgreen:

It's reasonable to assume that we are biochemical machines due to the stuff discovered so far.

Besides, "free will" would go against the "everything has a cause" assumption you usually find in science (from where comes the decision? even if it is totally random it comes from somewhere). If you find a way to justify free will you also have a way to justify having one or multiple gods.
I'm nobody. Nobody at all. But the secrets of the universe don't mind. They reveal themselves to nobodies who care.
--
Stereotypical spacecraft are pressurized.
Less realistic spacecraft are pressurized to hold breathing atmosphere.
Realistic spacecraft are pressurized because they are flying propellant tanks. -Isaac Kuo

--
Good art has function as well as form. I hesitate to spend more than $50 on decorations of any kind unless they can be used to pummel an intruder into submission. -Sriad

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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby Imperial528 » 2012-03-09 10:31am

someone_else wrote:Because the phisical body is a biochemical machine, that while we don't really understand it fully, all stuff we discovered so far follows a set of instructions coded somehow like any machine.

I mean, brain works by cells arranged in a certain way that say YES or NO to certain stimuli following very rigid (albeit complex) rules. They don'd make shit up on the fly like "free will" would require.

You cannot have real "free will" without adding incorporeal and immortal bullshit like a soul. At least imho. :mrgreen:


I would argue that a system can have free will if it is sufficiently complex to be non-deterministic and if it is an intelligent, self-aware being. My reasoning behind this is that if a system is capable of changing itself based on its own decisions, and the processes that it uses to make decisions are non-deterministic, then you no longer are capable of accurately predicted based on input what, exactly, that system will do. While this is true with all non-deterministic systems, the key point of my reasoning is that because this system is intelligent, it is not limited to all possible outcomes for its decisions, rather it is only limited to those for its actions.
This is what makes an intelligent system have free will compared to say, a computer. When sufficiently complex a computer is non-deterministic, however its actions and decisions are the same and they result from the same processes at the same time, so you can predict the probability of each possible decision with a high degree of certainty because it is limited to the possible outcomes for its situation.

No soul required.

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Re: Debating Determinism and Free Will

Postby someone_else » 2012-03-12 05:08am

excuse me, but being non-deterministic just means its outcome is not predictable at the moment (while in the future it can become so as stuff gets more and more powerful and they can crack the seeds of your random number generation system or whatever), not that it does not follow rigid rules (=is still a machine).

Most non-deterministic algorithms use randomness of some kind (random number generation et similia). And that's not really "free will" in my book. You pick a number from your ass to "decide" and follow the programming otherwise.

That's still a machine. And a pretty fucking dumb one, if I may add.

the key point of my reasoning is that because this system is intelligent, it is not limited to all possible outcomes for its decisions, rather it is only limited to those for its actions.
Can you expand a little on this? I'm not sure I understand. :wtf:

you can predict the probability of each possible decision with a high degree of certainty because it is limited to the possible outcomes for its situation.
The entire point of being non-deterministic is making sure the machine does not act in a predictable fashion.
But anyway, if it's really random, everyone can calculate probability of outcome with kid-grade math. It's kinda pointless for a single course of action, but that is.
Say you can choose between A and B, that's 50% of chance of either. Does that tell me what the hell will the subject/machine choose in that precise moment? No.
If we were talking of 100 or 1000 outcomes then probability starts meaning something.

Then again, of course it can choose between a list of possible solutions, but so does a human mind.
It's very rare to see people come up with really fucking original solutions for a problem, most of the times it's just an "adapting a solution for problem X to try to solve problem Y as well", and even that trick is already beyond the grasp of the commoner.
I'm nobody. Nobody at all. But the secrets of the universe don't mind. They reveal themselves to nobodies who care.
--
Stereotypical spacecraft are pressurized.
Less realistic spacecraft are pressurized to hold breathing atmosphere.
Realistic spacecraft are pressurized because they are flying propellant tanks. -Isaac Kuo

--
Good art has function as well as form. I hesitate to spend more than $50 on decorations of any kind unless they can be used to pummel an intruder into submission. -Sriad


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