If there is one thing to like about the idea of not having free will, it is - as Sam Harris points out - that it removes any reason to hate other human beings. They could not have chosen to act differently.
Which does not mean, however, to abolish criminal punishment, since negative consequences for certain actions are an important element a deterministic brain would consider when making up its “decisions”.
But to recognize that is meaningless, because we cannot influence or (or society’s) decision if we want to lock people up or not.
The thing is, what we call soul makes some kind of sense, why in the universe would there be a reason for a string of complex reactions to create your inner being? You know, before you were born, there were a lot of other people, and none of them rose to be you, yet, there you are now, and why? Couldn’t there be conscience without a sense of being? It’s like there is actually a soul, but then again, why would there be this need? It falls just to pure nihilism.
To me, time is just a measurement of movement through space, at least that’s what I could understand from Relativity. So, there’s no such thing as future, just what a chain reaction will bring.
That’s the conclusion I came upon. It can be pretty ethic when dealing with other people’s crimes and punishment.
In hunter-gatherer times, the cost of criminal actions is to kick you out of the tribe. If you can’t play well with others, you get to go out into the wilderness alone, to survive–without the protection of the tribe.
That may be true, but humans are imprinted with their values. I’d argue that we are special, because we all add our unique contributions to humanity. The vast portion of human instinct is reactive, however, and falls back on its unique socialization to respond to stimuli in the environment. We are not ‘thinking’ about what we are doing, in the same way we are not ‘thinking’ about our heart beating. Most of it is subconscious reaction.
As far as predetermination, I gave the physics quiz: If we can remember the past, how can we cannot remember the future? After all, space is just a measurement of time, and vice versa.
I just don’t get what the benefit or purpose is for beings to be conscious. There are organisms with complex functionalities that - for all we know - do not have or need consciousness to function properly (e.g. the heart, plants).
And it certainly isn’t necessary to react to the environment or make decisions. Computers beat humans in checkers, chess, even Jeopardy - in all likelihood without being conscious.
I submit humans would function and survive just as well if we were unconscious. So what is it good for? Absolutely nothing?
My theory (for which I admit I have no evidence) is that despite the alledged determinism of the macrocosmos, consciousness gives us a chance to affect our choices in the sense of free will and that having free will was an advantage in evolution so it survived among humans (and other animals).
Then it also follows that the idea of a personal God and Abrahamic religion is not necessarily false.
Again, looking for purpose or reason presupposes God, which it appears you must believe, and perhaps Phasma as well. If you believe in God, that’s fine, but I can’t argue God.
From a scientific perspective, all of these dilemmas completely evaporate because there’s no reason for anything and no need to question what we have now. The brain is aware of itself [fact]. This awareness may seem intangible, coming from inside, unnecessary, etc. but natural selection doesn’t care about any of that. If something survives, it survives. If something dies, it dies. If a design can’t compete with those around it, it becomes extinct. Why do we have consciousness? The sum total of a whole bunch of random mutations from UV rays, toxins, viruses and more. Why did we survive with this consciousness? Because it happens to serve us pretty damn well. While we may be able to exist as computers, CLEARLY it’s not the best design, else humans without consciousness would roam the Earth instead of us. That’s how natural selection works after all. And don’t forget… computers don’t seek to better themselves. One of the massive benefits of being self-aware is curiosity, which leads to knowledge and motivation, and then further development. A being unaware of itself has to wait for development to occur by accident because it can only carry out its core program and respond to stimuli unconsciously.
I can’t say I believe in god, nothing to back up something like it, but I’m open minded about this kind of thing, that’s why I’m not too certain on things science still struggles to give an answer, but branches on to many possible ideas. When I talked about a soul I didn’t mean to go into religious ground, but it happens, communication problems.
My problem with consciouness percieved as part of what we are is that it seems illogical to me. To me, it could pretty much be all black, not just for me, but for everyone. The important part of me in this universe shouldn’t be attached to a need for me feeling all this.
As the example I gave before, many lived before I was born, none of them came to be me. I wasn’t anything before that, pretty much what we may expect from death: nothing. Then again, why this self came to be ‘myself’? I ask even further, why is there a ‘myself’? This questioning falls close to the Ship of Theseus paradox.
Of course I don’t expect an answer to this question, science’s still playing with these toys, but I like the concept of it, and I used it to illustrate a possibility for the existence of free will, which I embrace, as it’s better than just believing we’ve everything predetermined. But I would never take this as a fact to a discussion based solely on proven stuff.
I also used, as a way to prove the possibility of free will, the strangeness of quantum physics, where atoms do things that classical physics would consider impossible. There’s even the problem where quantum and classical algorithms won’t work on one another, revealing a gap we still need to understand. So, if in atomic scale we have some kind of process that can’t be mathematically quantified precisely, then we have a possibility for something a little more chaotic, hence free will.
But then again, I’m just pointing out things I think may be a door to answering if we have free will.
To put a bit finer of a point on it, quantum physics only acts weird when it is unperturbed by observation (ie. if you try to know a parameter by measuring it, it necessarily destroys the quantum effects and make them deterministic. Reference the double-slit experiment). In other words, our desire to know what a quantum particle is going to do is DIRECTLY counterproductive to that goal. Therefore free will (I want corn flakes this morning, not raison bran) couldn’t possibly exploit quantum uncertainty and under circumstances where quantum uncertainty would be a factor, the outcome would be unknown, which is to say it may not be something you wanted. In short, quantum physics makes the world non-deterministic but does not prove free will is possible.
Having said all that, I think I grasp the concept Phasma is talking about and honestly have no idea why we suddenly come into this shell of consciousness only to leave it in death. It is truly puzzling. All I can speak to is the physics that allow a consciousness to manifest.
Even what you eat may not be as uncertain as you think. The body craves certain minerals. You may eat broccoli one day and steak the next. Why? The body runs on autopilot. If you crave a certain nutrient, the body will let you know by craving one food over the other. See what I mean about free will? It doesn’t tie into ‘choice’ so much as it ties into ‘survival instinct.’ Even our friends are based on early hunter-gatherer pack mentality. Mammals survive better in packs, so we tend to bond and create friendships with each other–an extension of the tribe. Our choice of mates ties into their reproductive & genetic value. I can think of a million circumstances where every choice we make can be described in logical concrete terms, with no apparent expression of free will beyond biological necessity.
Were you trying to prove my point? Because biology is a sub-set of physics, just like chemistry. They all reduce to the lowest common denominator, which is matter-energy interactions. A thought is merely an abstraction which is the end result of a bunch of physics playing itself out (in the body, in the environment, etc). So while all the stuff you said is true about food choices for example, it still reduces to physics. It’s just that nobody in their right mind actually thinks that way or is aware of their choices on a matter-energy level. Free will is fine to embrace in society because it appears to be real. When we “change our mind”, it appears to be of our own volition. Proving otherwise is tedious and complicated and nobody bothers to carry out that futile exercise so for all intents and purposes, free will does exist. It’s better that way. Most ppl’s brains short circuit if they begin to dwell on matters of causality or existentialism.
As I said before, I’m not trying to prove anything, just giving points to where things are still uncertain and may carry us to discovering if there is free will. But, if there’s actually no unquantifiable event in the universe, there goes a possibility. Even though that would be a bold statement. Black holes are still pretty much a mystery when it comes to numbers.
Scientists in general aren’t averse to this kind of thinking, knowing how to separate fact from possibility is important, though. I take that it’s more probable that we don’t have free will, from the findings we have until now, but I prefer thinking we have, as I’ve got nothing to lose thinking that way.
For the sake of making sure I’m not being taken the wrong way: behavioral processes are a flipped page, they are the first barrier you encounter when thinking about free will, and they will point you to a big no-no. That’s why I take it to where it’s mostly unknown surface. RocketMan got right the point I was taking about quantum physics, and truly, they in no way prove free will, the gap’s still there where quantum seems like another universe within our own, but still, we’re made of those unpredictable things. But I won’t say to you I believe vehemently in free will, all the logical conclusions point to a no, still, nothing’s more precious than doubt.
It is an indulgence we kind of depend on for quality of life, even if it’s wrong. I’m cool with that. Why fight for anything in this world if you don’t believe your efforts are your own or are a result of your own values?