No. of Recommendations: 0
Haven't been following this board so don't know if this was posted. About a year ago was published "the first-ever qualitative review" of the classic Libet experiments (and subsequent similar studies) that argued against free will (decisions were made by the brain before conscious awareness of the decisions). "The review analyzed 48 studies, ranging from Libet's landmark 1983 paper through 2014." https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180312115359.h...

The review conclusion was that Libet's study and many of those that followed had significant methodological errors and/or suffered from experimenter bias. The criticisms are pretty substantial with perhaps the most important point being that the review authors believe Libet's claims have not been replicated. I think that at best one can only consider the results of the Libet-type experiments to be inconclusive.

From one author: "To be clear, we're not taking a position on free will," Dubljevic says. "We're just saying neuroscience hasn't definitively proven anything one way or the other."

Unfortunately the paper is behind a paywall. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21507740.2018.14...

Here is an interview with one of the authors: https://medicalresearch.com/abuse-and-neglect/do-we-have-fre...
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Good find, and a very relevant topic for this board since it has come up repeatedly over the years. It will be interesting to see if those that have promoted the "science has proven we don't have free will meme" will change their minds.

I found this comment to be relevant also:

This is important because what people are told about free will can affect their behavior.

"Numerous studies suggest that fostering a belief in determinism influences behaviors like cheating," Dubljevic says. "Promoting an unsubstantiated belief on the metaphysical position of non-existence of free will may increase the likelihood that people won't feel responsible for their actions if they think their actions were predetermined."
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
It will be interesting to see if those that have promoted the "science has proven we don't have free will meme" will change their minds.

Is there such a person on this board? I am not at all convinced of some grand free will, but I make no claim that science has proven this in any way. In fact, I would probably dispute any such claim (in the absence of evidence). For me it is more of a logical argument than a demonstrable scientific principle. FWIW.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Is there such a person on this board?

Your name was on the list, but I'll take it off ;-)
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
For me it is more of a logical argument than a demonstrable scientific principle.

Quantum mechanics should tell you that common sense logic is not always applicable to reality. Consciousness itself is a bit of a contradiction. It is something that from personal experience we are absolutely certain exists but that we cannot scientifically demonstrate exists. We know we have subjective thoughts but cannot demonstrate that anyone else, or any thing else, does as well. Completely empirical but not empirically testable. In any case, consciousness has to come from somewhere.

Free will can be described as nonrandom indeterminacy. The classical world is deterministic. The quantum world contains indeterminacy. The transition between the classical and quantum realms occur through a process involving decoherence (Q to C) and recoherence (C to Q). Suppose this is where consciousness exists. Consciousness is the process by which decoherence/recoherence occurs with the "will" the active component of consciousness that makes the decoherence/recoherence decision. That is the panpsychic universe.

From this perspective, for the great majority of stuff consciousness/will would be small relative to historical influences and the decoherence/recoherence frequencies are essentially that predicted by history and randomness. But with more complex interactions as found in the brain, perhaps consciousness/will also becomes more complex and independent, becoming increasingly capable of acting nonrandomly (and occasionally different than that dictated by history).

So a simple ping-pong ball with low consciousness/will will behave as described by math. But an appropriately complex brain with high consciousness/will can behave in ways that is unexpected. That would be an exercise of free will by the conscious mind.

The following article describes prolonged decoherence-recoherence occurring in photosynthesis. If it occurs there it can probably occur in neurons. https://www.nature.com/articles/nphys2515
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
It will be interesting to see if those that have promoted the "science has proven we don't have free will meme" will change their minds.

I've consistently argued that libertarian free will is impossible by its own definition. Science is as useful in proving we don't have free will as it is in proving there are no 4 sided triangles.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
"Numerous studies suggest that fostering a belief in determinism influences behaviors like cheating," Dubljevic says. "Promoting an unsubstantiated belief on the metaphysical position of non-existence of free will may increase the likelihood that people won't feel responsible for their actions if they think their actions were predetermined."

Hmmmmm. But if it's predetermined.....the whole argument is circuitous. Predetermined to cheat, not predetermined to cheat, predetermined to cheat if <x>, predetermined to cheat if not <x>.

The argument is absurd on its face.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 5
The review conclusion was that Libet's study and many of those that followed had significant methodological errors and/or suffered from experimenter bias.

I don’t think that that’s an accurate representation of the paper. I can’t find anything in the paper that supports the contention that Libet’s study had significant methodological errors. In addition, it is only the interpretation that suffered from bias, and that bias is not limited to the experimenter. As Dubljevic says, “Basically, those who opposed free will interpreted the results to support their position, and vice versa." (my emphasis). There is bias on both sides in the interpretation of the data. That being said, one of the authors’ conclusions is “While almost all papers in our review reported a general pattern of average neural activity occurring before participants’ awareness of their intention to act, the relationship of this activity to their intention still needs to be established.” So, the problem is not that there is strongly conflicting data in the literature (i.e., some people observe the phenomenon and some don’t) but in trying to understand what the data tell us.

What is “free will?” What is “consciousness?” I think that part of the problem in these discussions is that these are essentially undefined. Free will and consciousness are things we feel, not things we measure. Are the real or are they akin to an optical illusion? Until you define them in a meaningful way that makes testable predictions, there’s no way to tell. The two concepts (concept might be an exaggeration) are often conflated. However, the two seem quite separate to me, and it is not immediately obvious that one requires the other.

You stated that free will could be described as “nonrandom indeterminacy.” I’m not completely sure what that means. Clearly, we can write computer algorithms that are nonrandom and these can be coupled with a quantum system to provide indeterminacy. I’m not sure that most people would say that that contraption has free will even though it satisfies your description.

Radiolab has had a couple episodes on the human brain that have stuck with me. One just came up again last week: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/radiolab-loops . In the first segment, they describe a patient who has transient global amnesia. Every 90 seconds, the patient has the same conversation, over and over again. One person described her responses as robotic. If you’re given the same set of cues and you output the same response, it would seem that you lack indeterminacy. Did the woman lose her free will while she was experiencing amnesia?

The second episode is: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/revising-fault-line . Essentially, it dug into the question of how you make choices and how aware you are of how you make those choices. The first story is a cool anecdote describing this guy who has chunks of his brain removed to treat his epilepsy with unfortunate consequences, but it’s still just an anecdote. The more interesting part deals with a study of parole judge decisions. If I remember the numbers correctly, the study showed that if you go before the parole board before they have lunch (or maybe it was a meal), you had something like a 3% chance of receiving parole. After lunch, that chance jumps to 60%. If you talk to the judges after the fact, they’ll describe some rationale that led to one person being paroled and one not being paroled. However, the data suggest that there’s something else strongly tipping the scales. IIRC, the neurologist they interview suggests that problem lies in cortical neurons. When your blood sugar is lower or you’re tired, you begin to sacrifice the cortical function that suppresses your baser urges. There are probably other models that could be invoked (at least in the parole board study) to explain the observations. However, whatever the cause, clearly there are decisions that you make without really being aware of why you make them.

The following article describes prolonged decoherence-recoherence occurring in photosynthesis.

Apparently, this is a hotly debated topic in physics. The data and/or interpretation on this topic are contradictory:
https://physicsworld.com/a/is-photosynthesis-quantum-ish/

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
You stated that free will could be described as “nonrandom indeterminacy.” I’m not completely sure what that means.

It's almost like the terms contradict each other.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
You stated that free will could be described as “nonrandom indeterminacy.” I’m not completely sure what that means.

It's almost like the terms contradict each other.


Maybe, but not necessarily. A loaded die does not have an equal chance of coming up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, so in a sense one might consider it "nonrandom." At the same time, as you throw the die, the outcome is essentially nondeterministic. So, one might say it has nonrandom indeterminacy.

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
However, whatever the cause, clearly there are decisions that you make without really being aware of why you make them.

It's always a pleasure to read your well though out posts, Anthony. It's not just momentary chemistry, your hardware drives what you think you're deciding, as well. Perhaps consciousness is just allowing us to rationalize our choices. An evolutionary ego booster.

Differences in political ideology are a major source of human disagreement and conflict. There is increasing evidence that neurobiological mechanisms mediate individual differences in political ideology through effects on a conservative-liberal axis.
This review summarizes personality, evolutionary and genetic, cognitive, neuroimaging, and neurological studies of conservatism-liberalism and discusses how they might affect political ideology. What emerges from this highly variable literature is evidence for a normal right-sided “conservative-complex” involving structures sensitive to negativity bias, threat, disgust, and avoidance. This conservative-complex may be damaged with brain disease, sometimes leading to a pathological “liberal shift” or a reduced tendency to conservatism in political ideology. Although not deterministic, these findings recommend further research on politics and the brain.


Emphasis added. The full paper can be found here:

https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1176/appi....

On just hardware structural differences.

Highlights
? Political liberalism and conservatism were correlated with brain structure ? Liberalism was associated with the gray matter volume of anterior cingulate cortex ? Conservatism was associated with increased right amygdala size ? Results offer possible accounts for cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092984/

All your thoughts are belong to us.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
This conservative-complex may be damaged with brain disease, sometimes leading to a pathological “liberal shift” or a reduced tendency to conservatism in political ideology.

Liberal ideology associated with brain disease?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I don’t think that that’s an accurate representation of the paper.

I unfortunately don't have access to this paper but my representation uses the same terms as an interview of one of the authors, which I posted. https://medicalresearch.com/abuse-and-neglect/do-we-have-fre...

For example, Dubljevic: "...This led Libet to conclude that there is no ‘free will’, but that there is a ‘free won’t’. On the other hand, there were many criticisms of the study – methodological or substantive."

And perhaps most compelling "...Opposed to claims of replication, we found substantial variation between studies in terms of experimental set up and results. In cases where experiments were explicitly conducted to replicate other experiments (Libet’s and others), most were unable to produce similar results. Most notably, published original research articles that actually did compare RP or LRP to W often found conflicting results..." If replication is a problem with Libet-type studies then there isn't much one can conclude from the observations.

You stated that free will could be described as “nonrandom indeterminacy.” I’m not completely sure what that means.

Free will requires choices, i.e., different outcomes. For the same starting conditions to give rise to different outcomes requires indeterminacy. Indeterminacy in the quantum world is random. If there is free will, then it reflects an indeterminacy that is different from quantum randomness. I call that nonrandom indeterminacy. This is in principle testable. In principle one can test whether the same starting conditions can give rise to different outcomes. One can further, in principle, test whether the frequency of the outcomes is consistent with quantum randomness.

If it isn't, then that choice cannot be fully explained by determinism or randomness. I assume that free will will exhibit that characteristic.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
Maybe, but not necessarily. A loaded die does not have an equal chance of coming up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, so in a sense one might consider it "nonrandom." At the same time, as you throw the die, the outcome is essentially nondeterministic. So, one might say it has nonrandom indeterminacy.

Random doesn't mean equal chances between all outcomes. Whether or not a N-16 atom decays over 30 seconds is random. So is whether or not a U-235 atom. But the chances are not equal.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Every 90 seconds, the patient has the same conversation, over and over again. One person described her responses as robotic. If you’re given the same set of cues and you output the same response, it would seem that you lack indeterminacy. Did the woman lose her free will while she was experiencing amnesia?

Watching the film of the patient I could see that she generally repeated herself (confusion about the date) but the wording she chose to use differed each time. So while it may have been described as "robotic" it was not like a machine going through an endless loop.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3fA5uzWDU8

However, whatever the cause, clearly there are decisions that you make without really being aware of why you make them.

Not particularly surprising. But demonstrating unconscious influences or even decision making is not evidence that free will cannot occur. I think we all probably agree that the capacity for consciousness and self-awareness evolved with increasing biological complexity. This would mean our brain, which is a product of that evolution, is capable of both "non-self-aware" behavior as well as that more compatible with free will.

I see free will as a behavioral capability that provides a substantial fitness advantage by allowing novel responses to environmental challenges. Hence we see the evolution of increasingly complex brains that can act increasingly independent from predictable non-conscious determinism. This doesn't mean the human brain must always be self-aware for free will to exist.

Apparently, this is a hotly debated topic in physics. The data and/or interpretation on this topic are contradictory

Yes it is. But it is also not the only area where quantum coherence is believed to play a role in biological systems. A whole subcategory exists called "Quantum Biology" to examine this possibility:

"...The emerging field of quantum biology is concerned with interactions between dynamical phenomena at well-separated length and time scales, from femtosecond energy transfer processes in molecular assemblies at the nanoscale to survival and reproduction within ecosystems at the scales of overall organisms..." https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsif.201...
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
adonsant: Maybe, but not necessarily. A loaded die does not have an equal chance of coming up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, so in a sense one might consider it "nonrandom." At the same time, as you throw the die, the outcome is essentially nondeterministic. So, one might say it has nonrandom indeterminacy.

Just to add to what benjd wrote (random does not mean equal probability). Once the die leaves your hand I don't believe the outcome is "nondeterministic". I am sure the outcome is as predictable as the mathematics of relativity given sufficient information. Where I suspect benjd and I differ is with the conscious decision to toss the die. I'm guessing he would say that the conscious choice was either determined by history (all material events leading to the choice) or a random event or some combination of the two. In the latter case, history dictates the probabilities of toss vs no-toss. If the choice is subsequently made at random, the observed frequency of the toss choice (if one could repeat this many times) would equal the probability determined by history.

I would argue that free will is a separate causal agent not included in "history". The subjective mind arises from the material but is itself not material and so cannot be measured materially (which is why the only evidence of subjective thoughts is personal experience). If this is true, then the choice to toss the die would not need to occur at a frequency predicted by randomness. This what I call a nonrandom indeterminate event and claim would be a prediction of free will.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
The subjective mind arises from the material but is itself not material and so cannot be measured materially (which is why the only evidence of subjective thoughts is personal experience). If this is true, then the choice to toss the die would not need to occur at a frequency predicted by randomness. This what I call a nonrandom indeterminate event and claim would be a prediction of free will.

Just make sure one pays no attention to the hypothesized reliable interaction between this 'subjective mind which cannot be measured materially' and material stuff. This must be forever unexamined or investigated or even described so that it can remain the hiding place for the non-determined / non-random contradiction.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Liberal ideology associated with brain disease?,/i>

No. Liberal and conservative tendencies are a result of your brain physiology. We just rationalize how intelligent and sophisticated we are for holding our own particular views. Damage to the right or left side can cause a shift from one leaning to the other.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Just make sure one pays no attention to the hypothesized reliable interaction between this 'subjective mind which cannot be measured materially' and material stuff. This must be forever unexamined or investigated or even described so that it can remain the hiding place for the non-determined / non-random contradiction.

Odd criticism to make since you are the one who avoids the issue by simply declaring stuff like free will as being contradictory.

A thought question. Do you believe any artificial intelligence that approaches human behavior must be conscious and have subjective experiences (qualia)? How would you test your belief, whatever it might be? Heck, how would you test whether any thing or entity has subjective experiences?

I don't think you can, which if true places the subjective mind outside the realm of the material by any empirical criteria.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Odd criticism to make since you are the one who avoids the issue by simply declaring stuff like free will as being contradictory.

Declare? I explain it thoroughly, over and over.



Do you believe any artificial intelligence that approaches human behavior must be conscious and have subjective experiences (qualia)?

I think any artificial intelligence that can pass as behaving very similar to humans would be classified the same as humans regarding subjective experiences and consciousness, yes.


How would you test your belief, whatever it might be? Heck, how would you test whether any thing or entity has subjective experiences?

By their behavior, including their descriptions of their own thinking processes. How else would you 'test' it?

For example, an artificial intelligence that didn't report its own subjective experiences would not be behaving very similar to humans. So I wouldn't think it have subjective experiences or consciousness similar to humans.

Similarly, an artificial intelligence that told me things about its own thoughts and experiences and then behaved completely contradictory to that would make me think it was lying about one or the other.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Declare? I explain it thoroughly, over and over.

Yup, and then you dismiss it as a contradiction for mostly semantic reasons. There is no reason why something that appears contradictory to us humans can't be real...things being simultaneously particle and wave attests to that.

By their behavior, including their descriptions of their own thinking processes. How else would you 'test' it? For example, an artificial intelligence that didn't report its own subjective experiences would not be behaving very similar to humans. So I wouldn't think it have subjective experiences or consciousness similar to humans.

You make my point. Your test is either completely subjective ("Do you feel you have subjective experiences") or vague ("...by their behavior"). What behavior would demonstrate a conscious mind? If a person told you that he had no subjective experiences how would you test that? The best you can say is that he behaves like he has subjective thoughts but whose to say the same behavior couldn't occur without consciousness?

Compare that with something we know is completely material, malaria. We can measure things that determine whether or not a person has malaria, no subjectivity required. His opinion or my opinion don't matter. Can't do that with subjective experience. Do dogs have subjective experiences? We all have opinions on that but who really knows since we can't objectively measure the subjective.

Similarly, an artificial intelligence that told me things about its own thoughts and experiences and then behaved completely contradictory to that would make me think it was lying about one or the other.

What exactly would be behavior contradictory of subjective thoughts? Are you suggesting that a conscious mind would make decisions differently from a non-conscious brain? Be careful, as this has the beginnings of an argument for the existence of free will...
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I unfortunately don't have access to this paper but my representation uses the same terms as an interview of one of the authors, which I posted.

For example, Dubljevic: "...This led Libet to conclude that there is no ‘free will’, but that there is a ‘free won’t’. On the other hand, there were many criticisms of the study – methodological or substantive."


Dubljevic is responding to the question: What is the background for this study? In his answer, he presents both sides. That doesn’t tell you what his opinion is on the matter, and he seems to be very careful in both the interview and the paper to not delve into questions of methodological errors and bias in the original paper. In the rest of the interview where he discusses the findings of his own study, nowhere does he mention either. Why? If you read the paper, you’ll find that neither was part of the study.

Regarding the question of the “conflicting results,” there are different types of conflicting results. Some are problems with magnitude. For instance, earlier this week I read that two separate measurements of the rate of expansion of the universe have yielded significantly different rates. These are clearly conflicting results. However, no one is saying that there isn’t much one can conclude from these observations. Everyone agrees that the universe is expanding, but there are questions about what the actual rate is and whether it is constant. On the other hand, if one method said the universe was expanding and the other was contracting, you’d be in deep doggy doodoo.

In the current study, yes, there are conflicting results between studies. For studies that measured both RP and W, RP always occurred before W. However, the time between RP and W varied from study to study and were all longer than the Libet’s. Something seems to be going on in their brains that the participants are not aware of (whatever that means). On the other hand, the relationship between LRP and W was more complicated. On average, LRP occurred before W, but in at least one study, the order varied from person to person. So, it’s unclear what to make of that relationship. As the authors note in the paper, there was a lot of variation in the types of measurements, where the measurements were taken (such as different brain regions), the tasks performed, etc. So, it’s difficult to determine why different studies generate different numbers. And, as the authors conclude, “While almost all papers in our review reported a general pattern of average neural activity occurring before participants' awareness of their intention to act, the relationship of this activity to their intention still needs to be established.”

Free will requires choices, i.e., different outcomes. For the same starting conditions to give rise to different outcomes requires indeterminacy. Indeterminacy in the quantum world is random. If there is free will, then it reflects an indeterminacy that is different from quantum randomness. I call that nonrandom indeterminacy.

I think I’m losing you right after the first sentence. I think we would both agree that, for a system to achieve different outcomes given a particular input, there needs to be a source of indeterminacy. However, I don’t understand why it makes sense to only focus on one potential source or why that would be the sole distinguishing factor. We aren’t interested in the question “Does a salt crystal have free will?” We want to know if a human or a cat or an AI has free will. For at least the first two, there is no such thing as “the same starting conditions.” From your description, I think you’re looking at probability distributions. Does the probability distribution of the decisions made by the subject differ from the predictions of a model of that system? Thus, you need to pose the same set of choices multiple times to the same subject in order to measure that distribution. Because your subject has memory, you necessarily alter the system when you pose the question. So, when you pose the choices again, the starting conditions are different. I suppose you could attempt to wipe their memory or induce some sort of transient anemia, but you’d never have the same starting conditions. Their blood sugar may have dropped a little, they’re a little more tired, their biological clock has continued to advance, etc. At best, you’re “close” to the same starting conditions. As we’ve learned from chaos theory, “close” starting conditions do not necessarily lead to close outputs.

It also isn’t clear to me where “nonrandomness” naturally arises. Let’s assume you solve the starting conditions problem. Also, I’m just going to ignore the nightmare of a quantum mechanical model of the human brain and pretend that we can calculate the probability distribution for the response to any question posed to any volunteer. Let’s say that the model predicts that outcome A will occur 60% of the time and outcome B will occur 40%. You run the experiment on your volunteer, and you find something different; let’s say its 30/70. So, you know that the model is wrong. To fix the model, you add “free will” that shift the probability distribution to match the data. However, it’s not obvious to me that the “free will” factor has to be any less random than the quantum mechanics component. It just has to produce a different probability distribution.

I’m not sure that outcome would make doubters of free will change their minds.

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
There is no reason why something that appears contradictory to us humans can't be real...things being simultaneously particle and wave attests to that.

Nothing is simultaneously both particle and wave. Electrons and photons and such are objects that are neither particle nor wave.

https://www.quora.com/When-they-say-an-electron-has-both-a-p...

In short - electrons are not “both a particle and a wave”. They are neither a particle nor a wave. An electron is an electron. But in some situations, when we are interested in only one or two of its properties at a time, we can use the vocabulary of macroscopic waves and particles BY ANALOGY to talk about them. But this analogy is always to be understood as just that.


What behavior would demonstrate a conscious mind? If a person told you that he had no subjective experiences how would you test that? The best you can say is that he behaves like he has subjective thoughts but whose to say the same behavior couldn't occur without consciousness?

Conscious thoughts affect behavior. A conscious being performs mental processes that a non-conscious being would not perform.


Are you suggesting that a conscious mind would make decisions differently from a non-conscious brain? Be careful, as this has the beginnings of an argument for the existence of free will...

Yes, I very much think that a conscious mind makes decisions differently than a non-conscious mind. It is not the beginning of an argument for free will in any shape or form. You couldn't make a calculator that doesn't perform mathematical mental processes and yet gives answers identical to a calculator in good working order, either.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
For at least the first two, there is no such thing as “the same starting conditions.”

You can't practically create the same starting conditions, but you can talk hypotheticals.

Libertarian free will holds that if you look at a particular situation - all of reality, including a particular human (including souls and their states / thoughts / whatever properties, if there are any such things) - then that situation could still lead to the particular human making multiple succeeding choices. It also, simultaneously, holds that the choice that is made is determined by the human. So, somehow, a subset of reality determines whether or not a choice is A or B while reality as a whole including that subset does not determine whether or not the choice is A or B.

And, no, this is not a strawman.

Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism_(metaphysics)

It has to be the agent taking the course of action. The action can't occur due to randomness - if it did, it wouldn't be willed. The action can't occur due to a given set of circumstances - if it did, it wouldn't be free. Therefore it must be simultaneously taken due to a subset of the set of circumstances (the agent and all its internal thoughts, states, etc.) while simultaneously not being taken due to the total set of circumstances.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Conscious thoughts affect behavior. A conscious being performs mental processes that a non-conscious being would not perform.

That's all very different from those who argue from Libet-type experiments that it is objective neural activity that affects behavior while subjective experiences are just some epiphenomenal aftereffect that has no function.

Computers can do many of the processes that the human brain does, such as math calculations, storing and recalling information, recognize faces, proof-read papers, drive a car. Are these similar enough to human mental processes to infer consciousness? If not, what kind of behavior would suffice?

In other words, I can calculate 2X3 and so can my computer. Is my computer conscious (or am I non-conscious)?

Yes, I very much think that a conscious mind makes decisions differently than a non-conscious mind. It is not the beginning of an argument for free will in any shape or form.

I dunno. The obvious difference between conscious and non-conscious is the presence of subjective experience. If there is an a priori difference between conscious and non-conscious behaviors as you seem to suggest, then the subjective mind significantly affects behavioral choices in a way that non-conscious entities cannot. That looks to me like the beginning of an argument for free will, which is consciousness-dependent.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
So, somehow, a subset of reality determines whether or not a choice is A or B while reality as a whole including that subset does not determine whether or not the choice is A or B.

I don't see the logic here. Let S equal the subset of reality that determines choice. Let R be the reality of which S is a part.

S: determines choice
R-S: does not determine choice.
R: can determine choice because it contains S.

Where is the contradiction?

It has to be the agent taking the course of action. The action can't occur due to randomness - if it did, it wouldn't be willed. The action can't occur due to a given set of circumstances - if it did, it wouldn't be free. Therefore it must be simultaneously taken due to a subset of the set of circumstances (the agent and all its internal thoughts, states, etc.) while simultaneously not being taken due to the total set of circumstances.

This is convoluted and I think is in error. Free will requires an Agent that determines the choice and whose actions are not determined by circumstances outside the Agent.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
And, as the authors conclude, “While almost all papers in our review reported a general pattern of average neural activity occurring before participants' awareness of their intention to act, the relationship of this activity to their intention still needs to be established.”

Thanks for the description of the paper but I am not sure your point. The paper is a review article that lists criticisms of Libet and similar studies. Prior to this review there have been other papers that criticize the methodology used, most notably IMO questioning the accuracy of the subjective appraisal by the subject of when they were consciously aware of making a decision. The quote above from your post indicates doubt about the conclusions that can be drawn from the Libet-type studies done so far.

Are you arguing Libet and other have disproven free will?

I think I’m losing you right after the first sentence.

As benjd noted, I am proposing how in principle there might be a difference between behaviors with and without free will. No doubt as you describe these would be difficult experiments to do. But I think the first step is to think about whether those with free will would behave differently from those without, and what you would need to measure to see the difference.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
S: determines choice
R-S: does not determine choice.
R: can determine choice because it contains S.

Where is the contradiction?


There is no contradiction in this. The choice is determined by R, and libertarian free will is false. Given a particular R, one's choice will be determined and no other choice can possibly be made.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
There is no contradiction in this. The choice is determined by R, and libertarian free will is false. Given a particular R, one's choice will be determined and no other choice can possibly be made.

Your line of reasoning also "proves" random events are false (just substitute "random events" for "libertarian free will"). Probably indicates a problem with your reasoning.

Free will only requires that the "will" can act independently of things outside the will. That "will" and "not-will" are both part of reality (R) doesn't change that.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Thanks for the description of the paper but I am not sure your point. The paper is a review article that lists criticisms of Libet and similar studies.

Have you read the paper yet? My guess is no. Please read the actual paper.

Are you arguing Libet and other have disproven free will?

I think it depends on what you mean by free will. One dictionary definition is: the ability to act at one's own discretion. By that definition, Libet does not disprove free will, since it's still your brain acting, even if you aren't aware of everything that's going on. Of course, it naturally follows that AlphaGo also has free will, which I think would upset the majority of free will proponents.

At the other extreme, you have the free will where you are completely aware of why you're doing something. That's dead-on-arrival. The parole board study I mentioned earlier demonstrates that that's untrue at least part of the time. Given that you don't really know always what's going on, you have to at least consider the possibility that you never really know why you're making any choices. Libet certainly isn't helping the cause of free will here. So, there should be at least a great deal of doubt that this type of free will exists, and I would argue that it does not.

Then, there are the squishy definitions between these two extremes. "Nonrandom indeterminacy" seems to fall in here. My main complaint about this concept is not that the experiment you propose is impossible (not just difficult). My chief complaint is that, after all that work, you still haven't addressed whether the actions are nonrandom. As far as I can tell, you can never determine this given the structure of nonrandom indeterminacy. If I'm right, then nonrandom indeterminacy suffers from the same fatal flaw as intelligent design. There's no way to ever test the hypothesis.

If we're ever going to answer the question of whether humans have free will, we're first going to have to define this abstract concept in a concrete way. Maybe that begins with asking questions, such as: If you don't really know why you do something, can you still have free will?

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Watching the film of the patient I could see that she generally repeated herself (confusion about the date) but the wording she chose to use differed each time. So while it may have been described as "robotic" it was not like a machine going through an endless loop.

The inputs also differed each time. Similar inputs produce similar outputs. That's not a win for non-determinism.

Yes it is. But it is also not the only area where quantum coherence is believed to play a role in biological systems. A whole subcategory exists called "Quantum Biology" to examine this possibility:

"...The emerging field of quantum biology is concerned with interactions between dynamical phenomena at well-separated length and time scales, from femtosecond energy transfer processes in molecular assemblies at the nanoscale to survival and reproduction within ecosystems at the scales of overall organisms..." https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsif.201......


At least for the two areas that I'm familiar with, that's a remarkably biased review. For both photosynthesis and olfaction, they completely ignore the body of work that suggests or demonstrates otherwise. For olfaction, I thought that idea had died a horrible death. Both humans and a tissue culture model failed to distinguish between regular and deuterated forms of the molecules, suggesting that molecular vibration did not play a role. And, a subsequent study suggested that the difference observed in flies was due to how quickly the molecule is metabolized (it was already known that the different isotopes affected this rate.

I don't have time to carefully review the rest of the claims, but the fact that they're 0/2 of the fields I'm more familiar with does not give me confidence about the rest.

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Have you read the paper yet? My guess is no. Please read the actual paper.

I'll try when I get a chance, but I do have a day job. I still wonder though what point you are trying to make about this paper and where it is you think we disagree.

One dictionary definition is: the ability to act at one's own discretion. By that definition, Libet does not disprove free will, since it's still your brain acting, even if you aren't aware of everything that's going on. Of course, it naturally follows that AlphaGo also has free will, which I think would upset the majority of free will proponents.

I don't understand why it naturally follows that a Go program has free will. I mean it might but I don't see how it naturally follows from "acting at one's own discretion". Can AlphaGo choose to make a Go move "at its discretion" that it has assessed will lose the game?

At the other extreme, you have the free will where you are completely aware of why you're doing something.

What does omniscience have to do with free will? It is pretty easy for me to imagine having free will in the absence of complete knowledge about intentions.

My chief complaint is that, after all that work, you still haven't addressed whether the actions are nonrandom. As far as I can tell, you can never determine this given the structure of nonrandom indeterminacy. If I'm right, then nonrandom indeterminacy suffers from the same fatal flaw as intelligent design. There's no way to ever test the hypothesis.

Not sure why you would say this. It is possible to test whether something is determined (caused by something else). It is also possible to assess whether an event is at least likely to be random. Given that I don't see why someone clever couldn't test whether an event is both indeterminate and nonrandom.

Maybe that begins with asking questions, such as: If you don't really know why you do something, can you still have free will?

Seems to me the only thing you really need to know is whether you are doing what you consciously chose to do. If you consciously chose to do something and find yourself doing something else that is a good sign you don't have free will. Does that happen often?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
The inputs also differed each time. Similar inputs produce similar outputs. That's not a win for non-determinism.

Well you brought up that example to make some point about determinism. Here is your quote "...If you’re given the same set of cues and you output the same response, it would seem that you lack indeterminacy. Did the woman lose her free will while she was experiencing amnesia?..."

I'm glad you now admit that the inputs were different as were the responses so your example really doesn't say much about determinacy or free will.


At least for the two areas that I'm familiar with, that's a remarkably biased review.

It is not my area of expertise so I'll take your word for it. But I think the 2018 Royal Society Review is a pretty good indication that quantum effects in biological systems is an active area of scientific research that has significant proponents.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Seems to me the only thing you really need to know is whether you are doing what you consciously chose to do.

And how would you know that? What drove your consciousness to make that decision (if anything)? If that something was out of your control then free will is potentially compromised.

I won't speak for Anthony, but it seems he is at least implying that there could be such drivers that are beyond your control, and further that you aren't even aware are in there. How could you possibly test for such a thing to falsify it?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
But I think the 2018 Royal Society Review is a pretty good indication that quantum effects in biological systems is an active area of scientific research that has significant proponents.

OK. I know a bit about quantum. I'm sure that's very interesting, but it does not necessarily follow "free will". Quantum mechanics is probabilistic (as I'm sure you know). It's not random, but neither is it a subject of control (i.e. "will"). Multiple trials will yield a probability distribution, and you can never predict what you will get on any given trial. Only the probability of a given a outcome.

I don't see that having quantum effects in your brain helps the "free will" argument. In fact...

...something to really mess with your brain, they did a really interesting verification of EPR recently using a quasar as the random trigger for measuring (i.e. removing the human factor in making that "decision"). EPR was verified, which confirms quantum entanglement and gets around the Bell paradox.

So what if somehow some quantum bits of our brains are entangled with other stuff elsewhere...then when those bits elsewhere choose a state (e.g. are "measured") that mandates what state those bits in our brains will assume. There is no "free will" on our part in such a scenario. It would be an outside influence, potentially light years away here. And we would be totally oblivious to this happening, thinking that we chose the chicken cordon bleu of our own accord instead of the pizza.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
And how would you know that? What drove your consciousness to make that decision (if anything)? If that something was out of your control then free will is potentially compromised.

The belief in free will is based on the same evidence as that of consciousness and the existence of subjective thoughts. All these are based solely on personal experience. Belief in free will seems pretty universal and instinctive, people in all cultures assume they are responsible for their behavior. So if free will is false, one has to postulate that the human brain evolved to give this false impression of conscious control. It's possible, but seems unnecessary.

I won't speak for Anthony, but it seems he is at least implying that there could be such drivers that are beyond your control, and further that you aren't even aware are in there. How could you possibly test for such a thing to falsify it?

You and Anthony propose unknown factors controlling conscious thought in unknown ways. That is tough to falsify or prove, but I think testing your proposal is your responsibility. I believe I have free will for the same reason I believe I am conscious and self-aware. It is what I experience and that experience is pretty convincing to me. So IMO, the burden of proof is on those who claim my personal experience is false.

This is why I am confused as to what point Anthony is trying to make. His posts mostly seem to say that studies on free will are difficult and inconclusive. I agree, which is why I see nothing that challenges the evidence of my personal experience that free will exists.,
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I know a bit about quantum. I'm sure that's very interesting, but it does not necessarily follow "free will".

I bring quantum mechanics because of the Stuart Kauffman hypothesis of free will and consciousness that I described in another thread.

https://boards.fool.com/the-importance-of-conscious-thought-...

Here is a review of recent work in "quantum neurobiology" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5681944/

Here is an older but classic article on quantum neurobiology and free will from Stuart Hameroff who worked a lot with Roger Penrose. He talks about how Libet and others proposed that consciousness could act backward in time to control neural activity.

"However evidence for backward time effects in the brain (Libet et al., 1983; Bem, 2012; Ma et al., 2012), and in quantum physics (e.g., to explain entanglement, Penrose, 1989, 2004; Aharonov and Vaidman, 1990; Bennett and Wiesner, 1992) suggest that quantum state reductions in Orch OR can send quantum information backward in (what we perceive as) time, on the order of hundreds of milliseconds. This enables consciousness to regulate axonal firings and behavioral actions in real-time, when conscious choice is felt to occur (and actually does occur), thus rescuing consciousness from necessarily being an epiphenomenal illusion." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3470100/
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Some additional thoughts...

At the other extreme, you have the free will where you are completely aware of why you're doing something. That's dead-on-arrival. The parole board study I mentioned earlier demonstrates that that's untrue at least part of the time. Given that you don't really know always what's going on, you have to at least consider the possibility that you never really know why you're making any choices. Libet certainly isn't helping the cause of free will here. So, there should be at least a great deal of doubt that this type of free will exists, and I would argue that it does not.

I think animal evolution can be seen as moving from strictly mechanical or instinctive behavior that is non-conscious to that which is increasingly discretionary (freer) with choices becoming more dependent on conscious deliberations. The human brain is therefore a combination of both, with the conscious mind capable of imposing itself to varying degrees on non-conscious reflexes and instincts. At one extreme are flight/fight responses or simple tasks like responding to a stimulus (e.g., Libet-type experiments) where most of the action is non-conscious. When you walk for example the brain is making countless number of decisions (length of step, pace speed) that your consciousness for the most part is unaware. Near the other extreme is financial planning for retirement, which is mostly dependent on conscious deliberation.

So from my point of view, the observation that there are subconscious or non-conscious factors that influence conscious decisions is not surprising. What I don't see the need for is to assume these factors are so pervasive that one should believe there is no free will.

Of course, it naturally follows that AlphaGo also has free will

Suppose after its next update AlphaGo did achieve the capacity for conscious free will. What would happen? How would it behave differently? IMO, the conscious AlphaGo would occasionally behave outside the expectations of its program in a nonrandom manner. For example, it might purposefully lose some games when playing small children who it thinks might cry easily. Nonrandom indeterminacy.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Anthony and I are taking the null hypothesis (i.e. 'no free will'). The burden should be on those taking the opposing view. Specifically, you are proposing there is something beyond causation (i.e. the string of events throughout time that produced a given DNA (nature) and stuff that happens to us (nurture - STHTU). As I recall you further posit that this something is innate to the universe, and you label it "conscious". All without any evidence more compelling than "I feel the spirit of the lord" (which neither you nor I would accept either). Personal experience is not evidence of anything other than one's personal experience, and said experience often does not match up with objective reality.

Most recently you bring up quantum effects in biology without explaining how those could be related to free will (an especially tough challenge given that QM is probabilistic, not "willed" in any way that I'm aware of).
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Anthony and I are taking the null hypothesis (i.e. 'no free will'). The burden should be on those taking the opposing view.

The most precise definition of the null hypothesis is a statistical one, there is no significant difference between two sets of observations. Yours is not a statistical argument. Your use of the term is pretty arbitrary as is your identification of which alternative should be the null hypothesis. Lots of people, perhaps most, have the experience of free will that you are claiming is false. Certainly the vast majority of laws are based on the assumption that people are responsible and accountable for their behavior. The vast majority of parents, I suspect even you, raised their kids on the presumption that they were responsible for their behavior. I don't know how one can be held accountable in the absence of free will.

If you are claiming all these folks are wrong then I think the burden of proof is on you.

All without any evidence more compelling than "I feel the spirit of the lord" (which neither you nor I would accept either). Personal experience is not evidence of anything other than one's personal experience, and said experience often does not match up with objective reality.

As I have mentioned before, the evidence for free will is exactly the same as that for consciousness. What objective proof do you have that you are conscious? Can you prove to someone else that you have subjective experiences? If personal experience is not sufficient to demonstrate free will then you should also be skeptical about whether you have consciousness and are experiencing subjective feelings.

Most recently you bring up quantum effects in biology without explaining how those could be related to free will (an especially tough challenge given that QM is probabilistic, not "willed" in any way that I'm aware of).

There have been many proposals linking quantum mechanics to consciousness and free will. Stuart Kauffmann's is simply one of the more recent. Two of the founders of QM, John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner, proposed that consciousness was necessary to cause wave function collapse. In other words, smarter minds than mine are considering the possibility and have proposed models.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann%E2%80%93Wigner_int...

As I recall you further posit that this something is innate to the universe, and you label it "conscious".

It isn't my idea. For example, the Free will Theorem was published in the Foundations of Physics and states that "... if we have a free will in the sense that our choices are not a function of the past, then, subject to certain assumptions, so must some elementary particles." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will_theorem

So it would appear that if free will exists, it is universal.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Yours is not a statistical argument.

True. I probably should not have used that with this audience who actually know the nuances of such things.

Lots of people, perhaps most, have the experience of free will that you are claiming is false.

Lots of people have felt the "spirit of the lord". I also claim that is false. Not that they felt something, just that they are not interpreting correctly unless they can provide evidence indicating they are.

Same here. I'm aware of the subjective feeling you're referring to. I experience it also. That does not mean my interpretation of it (or yours) is correct. Without objective proof we are just pontificating. Which is fine so long as we recognize that's what we're doing.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
As I have mentioned before, the evidence for free will is exactly the same as that for consciousness. What objective proof do you have that you are conscious?

Consciousness is not an explanation to be proved. It is a personal experience and observed phenomena to be explained.


If personal experience is not sufficient to demonstrate free will then you should also be skeptical about whether you have consciousness and are experiencing subjective feelings.


I have never ever had personal experience of libertarian free will. No one else has either, because no one has yet made two different choices for the same exact situation. Libertarian free will is a hypothetical explanation for experiences of arriving at one choice in a given situation.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Lots of people have felt the "spirit of the lord". I also claim that is false. Not that they felt something, just that they are not interpreting correctly unless they can provide evidence indicating they are.

Now you are just being biased. Most scientists I know agree that the existence of a supernatural God is not something that can be tested by science. That being the case, the only evidence available is the religious experience itself. If you haven't had that experience you are in no position to judge.

Same here. I'm aware of the subjective feeling you're referring to. I experience it also. That does not mean my interpretation of it (or yours) is correct. Without objective proof we are just pontificating. Which is fine so long as we recognize that's what we're doing.

To be honest, the only ones claiming any degree of certainty on the issue are those arguing the impossibility of free will. I just happen to be skeptical of those arguments.

I'll ask again, why is your admitted personal experience of free will, that your conscious mind makes decisions, less believable than your personal experience of consciousness? You believe in the experience of consciousness but disbelieve the experience of conscious choice. Why the difference? If your consciousness can't make choices, what is it there for?

And if you truly believe that your brain is deceiving you about something as fundamental as the experience that your mind can make willful choices, then I wonder what experiences can you trust. You feel no free will is more believable than free will. How do you know that belief itself isn't a deception? Things gets pretty confusing once you assume your brain is untrustworthy.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I do not believe we have free will, that's it's all genes and STHTU. That is subtly, but importantly, different from saying I believe we do not have free will. The former is saying that I have seen no evidence, the latter that I don't think it's possible. I will not speak for others who are making stronger statements, though I do find the reasoning interesting to think about.

You believe in the experience of consciousness but disbelieve the experience of conscious choice. Why the difference? If your consciousness can't make choices, what is it there for?

Let's first be pedantic:
https://www.google.com/search?q=consciousness&oq=conscio...

Yes, I am aware. Even as I know that my senses can distort what I perceive, I am at least aware of the inputs from them.

And, yes, it seems I make choices.

benjd25 has argued quite convincingly why libertarian free will is a non-starter.

So what free will could I have, and where could it come from? I am a product of my genetics and STHTM both in-utero and since. What else is there? Where is it? The brain is an immensely complicated parallel processor. What else is there? And how can it overcome genes and neural pathways? The universe has been evolving for 13.8B years, events leading to other events based on physical laws, culminating in me typing this message in response to a message that you typed. The interaction of all the factors is far too complicated to predict (usually), so it seems like a free choice when in fact it may well have been as inevitable as our sun becoming a red giant one day. I have yet to see an argument to circumvents this causal chain.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Hit "submit" too soon.

And if you truly believe that your brain is deceiving you about something as fundamental as the experience that your mind can make willful choices, then I wonder what experiences can you trust. You feel no free will is more believable than free will. How do you know that belief itself isn't a deception? Things gets pretty confusing once you assume your brain is untrustworthy.

I KNOW my brain is not trustworthy. I trust it only so far as I do not have mechanical data. There's a reason scientists use instruments to take measurements.

Further, while juries often regard eyewitness testimony as the best, it's actually the least reliable because the brain of the witness is not trustworthy, failing to perceive and record correctly. Actual forensic data and DNA are not subject to such failings. Math/logic and physics are much more reliable and rigorous. If my senses tell me one thing, but doing the math tells me something else, I trust the math. Math doesn't care about perception. It just is. (which could lead down a huge tangent about math and the universe) Which is why fighter pilots (and really all pilots) are trained to trust their instruments, not their senses. Failure to do so often results in nasty consequences.

So I see the causal chain from Event 1 to now, and there (thus far) is no indication of anything else other than physics. "Me" is the exquisitely complicated interaction of neurons and synapses. If there's anything else it has never been detected or measured (in any human, not just me). You assert it because you "feel" it, as a born-again "feels the lord". Neither of you can prove it. I am not asserting there is anything "extra", so I have no burden of proof here. Those asserting that extra "something" have to demonstrate it, as surely as the theist has to prove the existence of their deity.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
benjd25 has argued quite convincingly why libertarian free will is a non-starter.

Zeno demonstrated that the human mind can create logical paradoxes that are not reflected in reality. Achilles really can outrun the turtle.

I should say that I don't think benjd and I differ that much. I just think he is making too much of the word "libertarian". He's written that behaving like a human requires human-like consciousness ("I think any artificial intelligence that can pass as behaving very similar to humans would be classified the same as humans regarding subjective experiences and consciousness" https://boards.fool.com/odd-criticism-to-make-since-you-are-... ), and at least implied that a conscious entity must necessarily behave differently than a non-conscious one ("Yes, I very much think that a conscious mind makes decisions differently than a non-conscious mind" https://boards.fool.com/there-is-no-reason-why-something-tha... ).

So benjd asserts that subjective thoughts alter behavior, which to me means subjective thoughts influence behavioral choices. As a simple operational definition, I would argue that this difference in behavior that benjd describes between conscious and non-conscious is what I would call free will. So while we may disagree on semantics, I don't really have a substantive disagreement with benjd.

So what free will could I have, and where could it come from? I am a product of my genetics and STHTM both in-utero and since. What else is there? Where is it?

First off, I don't know what STHTM is but I can guess. Secondly, let's simplify this by talking about consciousness, which you at least believe exists (the same argument applies to free will). I want to emphasize that what follows is my opinion or speculation, I'm not trying to preach and I don't want to have to put IMO in front of every sentence. For the where question, consciousness comes from the same place as magnetism or gravity, it is a fundamental characteristic of matter.

Think about it. In your reality, consciousness arises de novo from from the non-conscious. It is something qualitatively different from the component parts that emerges "magically" when things get sufficiently complex. In my reality, consciousness is present in all matter and becomes increasing influential when matter is arranged properly, like magnetism. No magic required.

As for your "What else is there" question, in the world of quantum mechanics everything exists as a probability wave function. To go from probability to specific the probability wave needs to collapse. What does the collapsing? I call that the "will" and I believe that is the function served by that characteristic of matter called "consciousness". With simple things the level of consciousness is low and choices appear random. Reach the complexity of the human brain and the level of consciousness is high and the pattern of choices becomes more willful and directed.

The brain is an immensely complicated parallel processor. What else is there? And how can it overcome genes and neural pathways?

Subjective thoughts (consciousness) are a property of matter. As such, interactions between matter at the subjective level should be able to affect those characteristics of matter we call objective (the stuff we can measure). Therefore subjective thoughts can alter neural activity.

I've said before, animal evolution from amoeba to human can be seen as a progression from instinctive, gene-driven choices to more complex behaviors that go beyond the genetic program. The way genetic programs exceed themselves is through increasing the influence of consciousness. Consciousness allows free will. Free will allows going beyond the limits of genetics and whatever STHTU is.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I KNOW my brain is not trustworthy. I trust it only so far as I do not have mechanical data...I trust the math...

But that "trust" you get from mechanical data is also coming from that untrustworthy brain. Math is a product of your brain. So is logic. Consider the statement: if a=b then b=a. You feel that must be true in much the same way you feel that it is your conscious mind deciding whether to reply to this post or not. If you doubt the validity of the latter I'm not sure why you wouldn't be skeptical of the correctness of the former.

Not to put words into your mouth, but I think you assume your brain IS trustworthy unless proven otherwise. It is hard to live otherwise (...did the barista really give me a grande mocha latte or is this all a delusion?). I also suspect that despite what you post you lead your life as if free will exists. I suspect that if a co-worker stole your ideas you would probably hold him accountable rather than assume he had no choice because of his genes and the events that occurred since the Big Bang.

The point is that these are nice philosophical discussions but in reality people live their lives assuming free will. They do so because that assumption works. It has led to sophisticated societies, facilitates social interactions, and allows parents to raise responsible children. IMO, the fact that the assumption of free will works so well strongly suggests that it is for the most part true.

You assert it because you "feel" it, as a born-again "feels the lord". Neither of you can prove it. I am not asserting there is anything "extra", so I have no burden of proof here. Those asserting that extra "something" have to demonstrate it, as surely as the theist has to prove the existence of their deity.

If I assert that I "feel" nauseous and you claim my feeling of nausea is false and I am delusional, who has the burden of proof?

This "extra" argument of yours by the way is I think a misapplication of Occam's Razor. The "razor" doesn't mean to assume the simpler hypothesis with respect to whether something exists or not. It is to favor the hypothesis that makes the fewer assumptions to achieve the same outcome. If to explain human behavior you reject free will, then you have to assume that the feeling of free will is a delusion and that the conscious mind despite appearances has no affect on choice. Not clear to me that "no free will" makes fewer assumptions than free will.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
You feel that must be true in much the same way you feel that it is your conscious mind deciding whether to reply to this post or not. If you doubt the validity of the latter I'm not sure why you wouldn't be skeptical of the correctness of the former. You feel that must be true in much the same way you feel that it is your conscious mind deciding whether to reply to this post or not. If you doubt the validity of the latter I'm not sure why you wouldn't be skeptical of the correctness of the former.

Nice, concise summary of the problem for materialism. It saws off the branch it is sitting on.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
...I don't know what STHTM is but I can guess...

Scroll up a few posts. ;-) "stuff that happened to me" (or if I used "U" then the plural "us")

For the where question, consciousness comes from the same place as magnetism or gravity, it is a fundamental characteristic of matter.

Evidence? Are you asserting that a lump of iron (matter) is conscious? It appears consciousness is more of an emergent property, not an innate property. As best I understand it (this is not my field). Certainly if this is your opinion, as you implied in your preamble, then you're entitled to it. I have no evidence that matter does not possess consciousness, but neither have I ever seen evidence it does.

To go from probability to specific the probability wave needs to collapse. What does the collapsing? I call that the "will"...

Without getting into the different interpretations (e.g. Copenhagen), which unnecessarily complicates this, let's just keep it general. So what is the "will" that causes a wavefunction to collapse into a specific state? If I run the EPR do I will the spin state (or polarization state, depending on precisely what I'm doing) or is that out of my hands entirely? (hint: we do not know, cannot know, and cannot control which of the two quantum particles assume which of the two states possible to them)
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Math is a product of your brain.

I disagree. The symbology is a product of human brains. "9" means what it does because humans have created that symbol and assigned a specific meaning to it. But regardless of the symbols used, 2x9=18 is a fact that is completely independent of whether humans ever existed. If 9 asteroids 5B years ago collided and split in two (each), you then have 18 asteroids...and 5B years ago there were no humans. Or back it up to 12B years ago and there almost certainly was no organic life anywhere. I believe it is a subject of much philosophical debate, but it appears that math (which is arguably the language of logic) is innate to the universe. It is independent of our brains, and is mostly discovered by us.

Not to put words into your mouth, but I think you assume your brain IS trustworthy unless proven otherwise

Sort of. I have to proceed in that way because there's really no practical alternative. But I know that may brain is unreliable. And so is yours. And Brian's. And benjd25's. They deceive and/or fail us routinely. I can be aware of that, and still proceed on the assumption that my brain is processing sensory input and reaching adequate conclusions to keep me from walking off a cliff.

Yes, I lead my life as if free will exists because there isn't a viable alternative. Further, I cannot know all the of the influences that have put me here, and you there, interacting in this forum, so that beyond the next few seconds I cannot predict where any of this will go in detail. So it appears I have free will (and you do) because I simply don't know what comes next. If I had perfect knowledge I could predict what will happen (outside of quantum effects, of course). But I don't, so it's all a "surprise", and my reaction to it is not anticipated until it happens. Looks like free will, but I don't think it is.

If I assert that I "feel" nauseous and you claim my feeling of nausea is false and I am delusional, who has the burden of proof?

I'm not asserting you don't. I'm saying I have no evidence, and the burden is on your to prove otherwise. This overlooks the magnitude of the claim. If you say you're nauseous, I'll be inclined to take your word for it. I know people get nauseous. I know what that is. And there is very little risk in my taking your word for it. It's a trivial claim, and I would be prone to accept it at face value. Same if you said you had a dog named Jim. People have dogs, people name dogs, and 'Jim' is a name one could give a dog. Fine. On the other hand, make an extraordinary claim such as "god loves you, and you have to obey these rules", I'm gonna require more than just your say-so. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence for that claim needs to be. The burden is definitely on the person making such claims.

Not clear to me that "no free will" makes fewer assumptions than free will.

Just to reiterate, my position is that I don't believe there is free will, NOT that I believe there is no free will. The claim that it's a property of matter would have to be demonstrated. Other than that, there is physics and a causal chain of events stretching back at least 13.8B years. If there is anything additional, it is not yet in evidence.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Are you asserting that a lump of iron (matter) is conscious?

In the same way that I would say a lump of iron is magnetic or has gravity. The characteristic is there but at low levels relative to other factors. But align the iron atoms and the magnetic properties begin to dominate. Increase the mass and you increase the influence of gravity. Arrange the material with appropriate complexity and the impact of consciousness becomes more noticeable.

In any case, it is interesting that you bring up iron. John Conway is a professor of mathematics at Princeton University and one of the authors of the Free Will Theorem. He made this statement in an interview:

"...The spin of an electron combined with its electric charge means that it behaves like a little magnet. In some metals the electron spins all point in opposite directions and their magnetic fields cancel out. "But in a ferromagnetic material, the cancellation isn’t as good as it usually is," says Conway. "If the magnet is 51% of the electrons pointing one way to 49% pointing the other, although it very nearly cancels, it’s a very strong magnet."

Conway believes that the free will decisions of particles in most objects, like tables and chairs, or even parts of our bodies such as our arms and legs, cancel out in a similar way to the cancellation of the magnetic fields of electrons in nonmagnetic materials. "But I think our brains evolved in a clever way. There is some special part of the brain where the cancellation isn’t so perfect as it usually is, because it’s useful for animals to have a certain amount of free will."...
https://plus.maths.org/content/john-conway-discovering-free-...

It appears consciousness is more of an emergent property, not an innate property.

Does that mean you believe consciousness can arise de novo from the non-conscious? If that is the case then it seems equally plausible that free will can arise from stuff that is completely determined. That would be a possible answer to your "where did it come from?" question.

So what is the "will" that causes a wavefunction to collapse into a specific state?

Like dark matter, "will" is defined by the effect it is postulated to have. The "will" is what collapses the wave function like dark matter is what is causing the universe to expand.

If I run the EPR do I will the spin state (or polarization state, depending on precisely what I'm doing) or is that out of my hands entirely? (hint: we do not know, cannot know, and cannot control which of the two quantum particles assume which of the two states possible to them)

What you can "will" is the resolution of the quantum state of your brain, which is how you choose what and how to measure in your EPR experiment.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Does that mean you believe consciousness can arise de novo from the non-conscious?

That does appear to be the case.

Not unlike life arising from lifelessness. C, H, N, and O are just atoms. A mol of them is just a lump of coal and three containers of gases. Put them together and you can get life (disclaimer: I always remember "CHON" for organics, but there may be other things required of which I am unaware...never took organic chem).

If life can arise from complexity, then I see no reason awareness cannot also. I don't think "life" is a part of matter any more than "awareness" is.

I don't see how "free will" is an analogue to that. "Free will" arising from complexity? It seems "free will" violates causation, or at least most versions of "free will" do. I'm allowing that there may be definitions out there which do not, so as with all things of this nature, definitions do matter. :-)

I seem to recall benjd25 had to abandon his definition a year or two ago when his wife stuck a pin in it. I won't speak for him, and I don't know if he resolved that or adopted a softer definition. But definitions do matter as to whether it's coherent or logical or possible.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I seem to recall benjd25 had to abandon his definition a year or two ago when his wife stuck a pin in it.

That wasn't abandoning a definition, that was existential despair at feeling alien. Never resolved....just kind of accepted.

So, yes, apparently most people will misunderstand me when I talk about deciding or choosing to do something. *shrug*




Inigo Montoya: "Are you the Miracle Max who worked for the king all those years?"

Miracle Max: "The King’s stinking son fired me, and thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?"
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
If life can arise from complexity, then I see no reason awareness cannot also. I don't think "life" is a part of matter any more than "awareness" is.

I think there is a huge difference. Remarkable as life is, it still reduces to a collection of chemical pathways. The same matter and energy present in "non-life" is seen in life, just in a more complex pattern. So we can take life apart and recreate the different chemical processes required in the laboratory. And we understand the mechanics of living things enough to create virtual life in computer simulations, substituting algorithms for biological pathways.

Consciousness is a whole different ball game because the central feature of consciousness, subjective thoughts, has no counterpart in the non-conscious world. Subjective experiences are only associated with consciousness. We can't reduce it to smaller bits or recreate portions of consciousness in the lab or in a computer.

All the physical processes observed for life can be found in the non-living, so it is relatively easy to see how life could emerge from a more complex arrangement of non-living elements. In contrast it is extraordinarily difficult to conceive of how subjective experience could emerge from starting material that is solely objective.

I don't see how "free will" is an analogue to that. "Free will" arising from complexity? It seems "free will" violates causation, or at least most versions of "free will" do.

Look at the evolution of the brain. As the brain grows in complexity, behavior becomes more plastic and variable, less constrained by genetics-directed instinct. There appears to be a strong fitness advantage to animals for behavior that is less predictable but still purposeful (i.e., nonrandom indeterminacy). In other words, a selective advantage for behavior that approaches the characteristics of free will with increasingly complex brains the evolutionary pathway to achieve that end.

I believe that human beings are capable of behaving in a manner that is completely consistent with the expectations of free will. I don't believe anyone has demonstrated otherwise. If human behavior is indistinguishable from what one would expect from the exercise of free will, then for all practical purposes free will exists in humans regardless of whether it seems contradictory to you.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Sorry...didn't mean to do the paper cut and lemon juice. It's just that you seem to have thought and read on this topic more than most people. More of an "authority" than I.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
In contrast it is extraordinarily difficult to conceive of how subjective experience could emerge from starting material that is solely objective.

Perhaps. However, I would be somewhat surprised if we don't end up creating an AI that becomes self-aware within the next few decades, possibly even in my lifetime. Though more likely in my daughter's lifetime. Obviously conjecture, but that would throw your position into the proverbial cocked-hat. While I do see your point about chemical processes and life, I don't agree that sufficient complexity won't give rise to self-awareness (consciousness). I think we are very close -relatively speaking- to proving that in-fact by creating such an AI.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
However, I would be somewhat surprised if we don't end up creating an AI that becomes self-aware within the next few decades, possibly even in my lifetime. Though more likely in my daughter's lifetime. Obviously conjecture, but that would throw your position into the proverbial cocked-hat. While I do see your point about chemical processes and life, I don't agree that sufficient complexity won't give rise to self-awareness (consciousness). I think we are very close -relatively speaking- to proving that in-fact by creating such an AI.

Remember, I'm the one suggesting panpsychism. I think we live in a conscious universe where consciousness is a property of matter so I am not sure why you think an AI with self-awareness would surprise me. I'm saying that the position you've taken that consciousness emerges mysteriously from non-conscious complexity is more magic than science.

I posted somewhere about the Big Bell Test but I can't remember. In any case, the first results from a large-scale study provides further evidence that local realism can be violated such that either information can travel faster than light or in the quantum world objective reality doesn't exist until someone observes/measures it. This article describes how the methodology of the experiment has interesting ramifications to causality and free will:

"Their conclusion is that there needn’t be an explanation for every action. “If human will is free, there are physical events with no causes,” say Mitchell and co. Their research uses evidence-based science to link the metaphysical concept of free will with basic physics for the first time... https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611159/how-the-nature-of-...
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
...so I am not sure why you think an AI with self-awareness would surprise me.

It would arise from complexity, not from additional bits of (slightly-conscious) matter. It's the complexity that appears to be the key component. I cannot claim you are wrong, but I haven't seen any measurements of how much consciousness is associated with our sun (just to pick the biggest thing within about 4 light years of here). So I remain skeptical that the universe is in any way 'conscious' or self-aware, even as organisms within it may be.

...evidence that local realism can be violated such that either information can travel faster than light or in the quantum world objective reality doesn't exist until someone observes/measures it.

Sure. That's EPR (among other things), and I think you mean the Bell Inequality (just being pedantic). I know I posted something on the relatively-recent use of quasars as the trigger for observations, thus eliminating the human "choice" to measure at a given moment. Quantum entanglement and non-locality. Those are really odd, to be sure, but not really new to me. I may no longer be in research, but I still try to pay attention to interesting things like that.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
It would arise from complexity, not from additional bits of (slightly-conscious) matter.

Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts? From complexity one can get enhanced properties but I know of no instance where a completely novel property emerges. Physical stuff that one can measure is completely different from subjective thoughts that cannot be measured. I don't see how one can get the subjective from the physical unless the physical contains elements of the subjective.

I cannot claim you are wrong, but I haven't seen any measurements of how much consciousness is associated with our sun (just to pick the biggest thing within about 4 light years of here). So I remain skeptical that the universe is in any way 'conscious' or self-aware, even as organisms within it may be.

To make this statement you must have some way of detecting whether some one or thing is conscious. I am curious to know what your "consciousness detector" might be.

That's EPR (among other things), and I think you mean the Bell Inequality (just being pedantic)...Those are really odd, to be sure, but not really new to me. I may no longer be in research, but I still try to pay attention to interesting things like that.

You misunderstood my post. I'm sure you are familiar with EPR and Bell. I was referring to a specific experiment colloquially called the Big Bell Test whose methodology was based on the assumption that human free will provides a greater level of unpredictability than mechanical or physical methods of randomization. From the Nature paper:

"...Bell himself noted this weakness in using physical setting choices and argued that human ‘free will’ could be used rigorously to ensure unpredictability in Bell tests. Here we report a set of local-realism tests using human choices, which avoids assumptions about predictability in physics... https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0085-3

It is a pretty cool experiment based on the premise that human behavior goes beyond simple determinism.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts?

Consciousness.

Now you're going to say that this is a component of matter, but without actual evidence we are at an impasse. I can measure the mass of something, its reactivity, its magnetism, etc. I can't measure it's consciousness (at least not yet, if such is in fact a property of matter). Without that ability it appears consciousness is a possible by-product of complexity.

I am curious to know what your "consciousness detector" might be.

I could ask you the same. You're making the assertion that consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. Where does that show up on the periodic table? How could you measure it?

Various tests have been proposed to determine consciousness, notably the Turing test for machine intelligence.

The Big Bell Test is really just a version of the EPR verification using quasars. The photons arriving here from the quasars were generated long before this planet even formed, and so should not have been entangled with the photons being measured in the experiment. As I read the summary of the test you're referring to, they assumed free will and considered that a basis for randomization. I think that is a fatal flaw in that we do not know if free will is a real thing. I agree it was pretty cool, but from the rigorous science aspect the quasar version is more solid because there are fewer assumptions.

Now you might argue that the two experiments agreeing bolsters the assumptions in the BBT. And maybe so, or maybe it was enough that the lack of entanglement was present in both situations regardless of freedom of will.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts?

A gazillion of them.

miles per gallon
floating point operations per second
tempo
musical key
bits per second
frames per second
volume (sound)
attendance
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 4
Nice, concise summary of the problem for materialism. It saws off the branch it is sitting on.




I think this was covered years ago here, but materialism is not the same as determinism. If one claims materialism to be untrue, then one must make some testable claims about the existence of something which is not matter/energy. I think the existence of random subatomic events is enough to eliminate determinism.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I think the existence of random subatomic events is enough to eliminate determinism.

True, but that doesn't help against bdhinton's anti materialism argument. If deterministic thinking results in conclusions that can't be relied on then adding in some randomness doesn't help.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I haven't seen a valid anti materialist argument.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
...but without actual evidence we are at an impasse...

Recall my position. I contend that one should generally trust conscious experience unless there is good evidence against, otherwise it is really hard to live a normal life. Like me, you've said that you experience free will and now you say there is no "actual evidence" for or against.

So why do believe you lack free will in the absence of "actual evidence" against?

I can measure the mass of something, its reactivity, its magnetism, etc. I can't measure it's consciousness (at least not yet, if such is in fact a property of matter). Without that ability it appears consciousness is a possible by-product of complexity.

How is it possible that stuff that can be measured can give rise to something that cannot be measured? At very least, it is no more-or-less plausible for the "unmeasurable" to arise from measurable complexity (your position) as it is for it to be a general characteristic of matter (my position).

I could ask you the same.

You could, but I am not asserting something isn't conscious as you are with a lump of iron or the sun. I am suggesting that consciousness is a property of matter and can only be detected by personal experience. I am wondering what your claim is based on.

The Big Bell Test is really just a version of the EPR verification using quasars.

The Big Bell Test assuming free will gave the same results as "the EPR verification using quasars". This indicates that human choices are at least as unpredictable as astronomical methods of generating randomness, which strongly suggests that human choices are not predictable by classical determination.

Back to nonrandom indeterminacy.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I haven't seen a valid anti materialist argument.

Depends on how you define "material". Are quantum probability waves material or are they something different with the potential to be material?

Stuart Kauffman talks about the "poised realm" that sits in the interface between relativity and quantum mechanics.

"If quantum can convert to classical and classical can convert to quantum via decoherence and recoherence, then there may be an entire new "Poised Realm" between quantum and classical worlds. Why? Well, it takes time for a quantum system to decohere, often on the order of a femtosecond, or 10 to the -15 seconds...Conversely, presumably, but not surely, it takes time for recoherence to happen. No data are available, but lets say a femtosecond. During these intervals, the quantum system is losing coherence in some or all of its "quantum degrees of freedom", or recohering with respect to some or all of its quantum degrees of freedom. Thus, there must be time periods where the system is in my "Poised Realm. https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2010/03/is_there_a_poised_...

He then suggests that the poised realm is indeterminate but not random, what he calls nonrandom lawlessness and I call nonrandom indeterminacy.

"Second, the most radical part of this article proposes that the quantum classical interface is not always describable by a law: specifically in a special relativity setting, no function, F, maps the present state of the system mind-brain into its future. In its place is a nonrandom yet lawless process. I seek in this non-random yet lawless process a source for a responsible free will." https://arxiv.org/abs/0907.2494

Obviously speculative but to my limited mind plausible.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Like me, you've said that you experience free will and now you say there is no "actual evidence" for or against.

So why do believe you lack free will in the absence of "actual evidence" against?


How can I discount my subjective experience? Because I’m scientifically trained, like you. I know that the subjective is inadmissible. I’m not quite sure why you make an exception for “free will”. I do not. (note: reading that it may sound harsh or condescending…I hope not as that was not my intent in any way) I would love to toss in a genetic analogue to this, but alas it’s too far outside my field. Suffice to say that if your “subjective experience” of some experiment told you one thing, but your actual measurements (from some instrument you’re using) said something else, you would -I’m sure- publish the instrument reading. As you should.

As I believe I said earlier, I know my brain lies to me. Yours lies to you. It’s part of how it functions. I “go with it” because I don’t really have much other choice (absent instrumentation, which isn’t common in daily life). Obviously it does reasonably well as I haven’t walked off a cliff when I thought I was crossing a street.

As for burden of proof, that is on you. You are claiming a new property of matter. Not I. The burden is on you to justify that claim if you want to take it any further than a moderately interesting discussion on a message board. It is an extraordinary claim, and is going to require some extraordinary evidence. I’m more than open to it in the presence of such evidence, but otherwise I must take the “I don’t believe that” stance. Doesn’t mean I can’t be swayed with data. I can be. I’m not saying “I believe matter does not possess free will”, but rather “I don’t believe matter possesses free will”.

I don't let theists get away with it when they "feel the presence of the lord", and I can't let you get away with "I feel that I have free will". To me those assertions are comparable.

How is it possible that stuff that can be measured can give rise to something that cannot be measured?

There's probably a really good explanation for that, but I do not know what it is. The best I could do is what benjd25 did, and give you a list of examples.

This indicates that human choices are at least as unpredictable as astronomical methods of generating randomness, which strongly suggests that human choices are not predictable by classical determination.

Or that the entanglement isn't affected by the original notion posited by Bell with respect to EPR. Difficult to know if it says the randomness is equal, or the lack of relevance is equal. Bell was just positing a possible problem with entanglement and trying to measure/gauge it. It was never a certainty that his objection was actually a problem. At least not that I'm aware of. As I recall it was more of a possible variable that should be eliminated "just in case".
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I know that the subjective is inadmissible. I’m not quite sure why you make an exception for “free will”.

It is not inadmissible. It is evidence. For example, first thing your doctor will do is ask for your personal experiences: how you are feeling, where it hurts, etc. Subjective experiences are data.

Suffice to say that if your “subjective experience” of some experiment told you one thing, but your actual measurements (from some instrument you’re using) said something else, you would -I’m sure- publish the instrument reading.

Fine, but what I have continuously asked and have received no answer from you is what is the measurable evidence against free will. If you don't have any, and I think it is now clear that you don't, then why do you assume your personal experience of free will is wrong?

As for burden of proof, that is on you. You are claiming a new property of matter. Not I. The burden is on you to justify that claim if you want to take it any further than a moderately interesting discussion on a message board.

Not quite right. I propose that consciousness is a property of matter. I claim that there is as much evidence for that as there is for your contention that consciousness emerges from complex interactions of the non-conscious. My claim is that both our positions are equally supported (or not) by the evidence, but mine has the advantage of being consistent with personal experience.

Or that the entanglement isn't affected by the original notion posited by Bell with respect to EPR. Difficult to know if it says the randomness is equal, or the lack of relevance is equal. Bell was just positing a possible problem with entanglement and trying to measure/gauge it. It was never a certainty that his objection was actually a problem. At least not that I'm aware of. As I recall it was more of a possible variable that should be eliminated "just in case".

Prior to the Big Bell Test, tests of Bell's inequality were done with physical generators of randomness, like quasars. The conclusion from these studies was that if these spontaneous physical events are free from determination, the outcomes of measurements on entangled particles are similarly free. The Big Bell Test used human choices as the source of unpredictability and the conclusion is now that if human free will exists, entangled particles are similarly free.

At this time, the preponderance of the evidence argues against local realism and classical determinism. The characteristics of a particle are determined when the choice of what to measure is made independent of events prior to that choice. This is something one might expect with free will.

This was not a trivial result done "just in case". A 100,000 people were involved with the Big Bell "freedom of choice loophole" study with inequality tests performed in twelve different labs on five continents.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
Fine, but what I have continuously asked and have received no answer from you is what is the measurable evidence against free will. If you don't have any, and I think it is now clear that you don't, then why do you assume your personal experience of free will is wrong?

I have answered it. A few times. The answer is "it's not my burden". As I explained in detail last time. You are making the extraordinary claim that matter has consciousness. You are the one tasked with providing evidence to support your view. Just as it's on the theist to prove the existence of angels (or gods, or whatever). It's not on my to prove there isn't a god, especially if I'm saying "I don't believe there is a god" as opposed to "I believe there are no gods". The latter I may have to assume at least some burden, but not with the former.

Same here. I'm not making an extraordinary claim about consciousness. The most I've done is say that it appears to arise out of complexity as an emergent property. That is hardly original to me, and has been the thinking in this field (to my knowledge) for quite a while.

This was not a trivial result done "just in case".

It was not trivial. However, non-locality and entanglement was already pretty solid. Even I learned about it over 25 years ago.

As for "classical determinism", I believe it holds for classical bodies. Like us. No one ever claimed (at least not recently) that it held for quantum particles, which is what they were measuring. Quantum has never been deterministic. Planetary accretion, thermodynamics, gravity, etc, pretty much all are deterministic. It would be a stretch to say a fetus is both male and female until observed. Etc. Given sufficient information (which often is impractical) we can predict many of those things. The polarization state of photons in an EPR? Not so much.

Also, I disagree that the subjective is evidence. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. It may be a starting point to investigate further, but the doctor is NOT going to put you on chemo because you say your head hurts. He'll do it if there is a mass on the MRI image, and then subsequent biopsy shows it is malignant. The original complaint is quite insufficient to reach the conclusion "cancer".
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I have answered it. A few times. The answer is "it's not my burden". As I explained in detail last time.

Okay, so let me make sure I understand your position. You have personal experiences of both consciousness and free will. You have no other evidence supporting or denying the existence of either. You believe you have consciousness but do not believe you have free will. In other words, even without evidence of any sort, you would rather believe your brain is lying to you about free will and that you have no conscious control of your behavior. Do I have that right?

You are making the extraordinary claim that matter has consciousness.

I am saying consciousness is a property of matter. This is based on the observation that a universe that only contains matter also contains consciousness. Why is that extraordinary?

Quantum has never been deterministic.

And there are many in science who believe that some aspects of brain behavior, particularly those involved in conscious thought, are quantum mechanical phenomena. If so, then I gather you would agree that such behaviors would not be deterministic.

I disagree that the subjective is evidence.

I find this a really odd statement and perhaps it stems from different definitions of subjective. My definition of subjective is anything experienced by the conscious mind. Perceiving a stop sign while driving is subjective, as is the perception that it is my free will choice to decide whether to stop or not. I bet you rarely question the many things you subjectively perceive while driving, because if you did it would be very difficult to drive (...should I trust my subjective perception of that traffic light?...). If so, then despite what you write here to resist having free will, the fact is that in every day life you usually assume the subjective is evidence of what exists in the real world.

...but the doctor is NOT going to put you on chemo because you say your head hurts. He'll do it if there is a mass on the MRI image, and then subsequent biopsy shows it is malignant. The original complaint is quite insufficient to reach the conclusion "cancer".

Sorry to be blunt, but that is a pretty weak example. It simply shows that the doctor requires more information to make a diagnosis. It doesn't demonstrate that the doctor doubts the subjective perception of the patient. Just the opposite, the doctor trusts it enough to look for the objective cause of that subjective perception of pain.

You need to work on your analogies.

Seriously, think about it for a moment. Sure the human brain makes mistakes, but if our subjective perceptions weren't accurate about reality the great majority of the time I doubt the human species would have survived this long. We would be running away from imaginary predators while ignoring real ones.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 3
Do I have that right?

Mostly. Though it's not "what I would rather". And there is oodles of evidence that our brains lie to us. Two people standing next to each other witness a hit-and-run and then can't agree on what color the car was. A parole board is harsher before lunch than after lunch. There's a plethora of examples. We believe we perceive everything correctly, and think things through rationally, but the fact is that we really don't. At least not reliably. The beauty of the scientific method is that it doesn't rely on any of that (at least not much), and so gives us reliable results in spite of ourselves.

I am saying consciousness is a property of matter. This is based on the observation that a universe that only contains matter also contains consciousness. Why is that extraordinary?

Well, as benjd25 pointed out, there is mpg (for example) in this universe. Is that a property of matter? You're not using your scientific rigor here, IMO.

If so, then I gather you would agree that such behaviors would not be deterministic.

Of course. They'd be probabilistic. Which still isn't "free will", but would no longer be deterministic either.

I bet you rarely question the many things you subjectively perceive while driving, because if you did it would be very difficult to drive...

Absolutely correct. As I stated previously, I know the human mind is flawed but it's what I have to work with so I just go with it out of necessity. So far it hasn't walked me off a cliff (as the example I gave previously). I agree our interpretation of sensory input does appear to be a reasonable facsimile of reality (as you say, we'd have gone extinct if it wasn't). However, it also fools us often enough that we cannot say that all of our perceptions are accurate. Just because there was a Pontius Pilate does not mean that the story of his involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus/Yeshu is accurate (or that Jesus was even an actual person). The Bible getting one thing right doesn't indicate it gets everything right. Each point has to be demonstrated.

It doesn't demonstrate that the doctor doubts the subjective perception of the patient. Just the opposite, the doctor trusts it enough to look for the objective cause of that subjective perception of pain.

It's consistent with my statement that subjective perception is a starting point for investigation, not the end point. You're starting with subjective perception and saying "there ya go! free will and consciousness is a property of matter!". You could be correct, but not because of subjective perception. That only gives you a starting point for investigation.

We would be running away from imaginary predators while ignoring real ones.

Somewhat tangential, but that partially is what happens. We fear and run away from the unknown, and have forever. It's a survival thing. We don't know what the rustling in that bush may be, therefore we fear it and run (because while it could be a rabbit it also could be a bear). We don't ignore real ones, but we definitely run from imaginary ones.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
And there is oodles of evidence that our brains lie to us.

No doubt but irrelevant to the central question of why do you believe you are conscious but not that you have free will? In what way is the evidence for consciousness better than the evidence for free will?

Well, as benjd25 pointed out, there is mpg (for example) in this universe. Is that a property of matter? You're not using your scientific rigor here, IMO.

I don't get this at all. MPG is simply a rate, a relationship between volume and distance. Both concepts exist in mathematics and so it is not magical that one can get a higher order relationship that starts with distance and volume to now give distance/volume. But note what you don't get. If you increase the complexity of concepts like volume and distance together you don't get Spanish. What emerges from complexity is not completely unrelated to the starting products. Increase the complexity of air molecule interactions and what emerges is a tornado, not mpg or a chicken pot pie. Emergence is not magic in that it doesn't create a property from stuff that completely lack the essentials of that property.

Here is a more apt analogy. Dark matter. Like consciousness, dark matter cannot be directly measured. Because it cannot be directly measured, dark matter (like subjective experience) seems to be very different from classical matter. Because of that difference, it doesn't seem likely to me that non-baryonic matter (dark matter) can arise from baryonic matter. Similarly I question how subjective experiences or qualia can arise out of the non-conscious.

It's consistent with my statement that subjective perception is a starting point for investigation, not the end point.

This is like pulling teeth, but I think we are making progress. If subjective perception is valid enough to be a starting point then I think it has to qualify as evidence of something being real. We now have common ground.

I agree our interpretation of sensory input does appear to be a reasonable facsimile of reality (as you say, we'd have gone extinct if it wasn't). However, it also fools us often enough that we cannot say that all of our perceptions are accurate.

Again progress. You now agree that the great majority of our conscious perceptions are accurate. We now have more common ground.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 3
I don't get this at all. MPG is simply a rate, a relationship between volume and distance. Both concepts exist in mathematics and so it is not magical that one can get a higher order relationship that starts with distance and volume to now give distance/volume. But note what you don't get. If you increase the complexity of concepts like volume and distance together you don't get Spanish.

Wow. Spectacularly missing the point.

You asked: Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts?


MPG is something that arises out of the complexity of automobiles with properties that are totally absent in the component parts. Steering wheels don't have MPG. Neither do tires. Nor does steel or aluminum bolts or iron molecules. It's a routine feature of the way we humans look at things. The idea that neurons can be unconscious while conscious thoughts occur when lots of neurons interact in particular ways is no more magical than the idea that iron bolts and plastic moldings can be mpg rating-less while mpg ratings occur when lots of car components interact in particular ways.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
You asked: Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts? MPG is something that arises out of the complexity of automobiles with properties that are totally absent in the component parts.

The bolded part is demonstrably not true.

Can you get MPG from any collection of parts? I don't think so. No matter how much you mix and heat flour, yeast, eggs, and water, you are not going to get an SUV or a product where miles-per-gallon is relevant. Similarly, while automobile parts can be combined to give you MPG it will never lead to the emergence of bread.

So while the whole might be greater than the parts, fact is that the parts are limited in what wholes they can produce. That limitation is based on the properties of the parts. In other words, what can emerge from a collection of parts is dependent upon and limited by the properties of those parts, and that is because those properties contribute toward and are essential for the end product.

I'm sure if you think about it you will see that MPG is dependent on the parts having certain properties like combustibility, mobility, the capacity to withstand heat, etc. Tires have properties more relevant to MPG than chicken eggs do. This is why tires are often associated with MPG while eggs are not.

Bears repeating. The properties of the component parts matter, even with emergence. That's because the properties of the components are essential to the whole that is produced. MPG doesn't exist without a liquid that can readily produce energy being one of the parts.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 3
The bolded part is demonstrably not true.

Can you get MPG from any collection of parts? I don't think so. No matter how much you mix and heat flour, yeast, eggs, and water, you are not going to get an SUV or a product where miles-per-gallon is relevant. Similarly, while automobile parts can be combined to give you MPG it will never lead to the emergence of bread.


benjd25 is more than capable of retorting, but I have to say "wow" again. Somehow you've missed the point twice, and in the process used an argument that I heard very recently from a young Earth creationist!

Wow. Never thought I would see that from someone who so skillfully eviscerates creationists.

Note that you actually agreed with benjd25 in your second sentence, and in so doing conceded the point (inadvertently, I presume). No, you cannot get MPG from a random collection of parts. It is not a property of those individual parts. Put them together in particular ways, and voila! - MPG.

QED.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
It is not inadmissible. It is evidence. For example, first thing your doctor will do is ask for your personal experiences: how you are feeling, where it hurts, etc. Subjective experiences are data.

It hurts here isn't treated. You have nerves, it indicates an area of pain. The body in pain or out of healthy equilibrium isn't subjective unless its hypochondria. Tests are run, uh oh, the gall has run amok. The doctors then address health issues with a gall bladder. If it is hypochondria, then those subjective experiences aren't productive data.


Fine, but what I have continuously asked and have received no answer from you is what is the measurable evidence against free will.

I don't have any measurable evidence against ghosts. So what? For folks who insist they are real, the burden is on them.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
No, you cannot get MPG from a random collection of parts. It is not a property of those individual parts. Put them together in particular ways, and voila! - MPG.

It IS a property of those particular parts as well as how you put them together. Replace the gasoline part with onion soup and suddenly there is no MPG. The properties of the parts matter. Replace the tires with gefilte fish and again there is no MPG.

It is pretty obvious that the properties of the parts matter.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Strawman.

I never said the properties of the parts don't matter. I (and benjd25, and now I assume NigelGlitter at least by inference) said MPG is not one of those properties. There is nothing about a piston (or the steel used to make it) that is "MPG". Even the gasoline...no MPG. Energy content, certainly. But how that energy is utilized is independent of the gasoline, and yet is part of the measure "MPG".

Step back a moment. Seriously. You're starting to sound like a YEC, except replace "Jesus" with "free will". You were never one to construct strawmen before, nor to mis-assign the burden of proof. You've always been rock-solid rational with logical arguments and actual data. Not sure why this particular topic has struck some sort of nerve with you such that you are engaging in YEC-like argumentation now. But you're not arguing up to your usual standards in these last few posts. And I say that with no malice or insult intended. Simply the observation that you seem to have more invested in the answer than usual for you. You're not furthering your argument constructing strawmen and trying to say "you can't prove me wrong". (disclaimer: that last is not a direct quote from you, but is clearly implied when you say I/we have no evidence that consciousness is not a property of matter; or that MPG is not a property of the steel used to make a piston.)
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
It hurts here isn't treated. You have nerves, it indicates an area of pain. The body in pain or out of healthy equilibrium isn't subjective unless its hypochondria. Tests are run, uh oh, the gall has run amok. The doctors then address health issues with a gall bladder. If it is hypochondria, then those subjective experiences aren't productive data.

The bolded part is your error. The conscious feeling of pain is subjective experience regardless of hypochondria. The objective part is the neuronal activity associated with pain. But the conscious feeling of pain is subjective, it is a perception of the conscious mind. If Dr. 1poorguy tells you to ignore the feeling of pain because his brain often lies to him, you should get a new doctor.

I don't have any measurable evidence against ghosts. So what? For folks who insist they are real, the burden is on them.

Do you have any reason to believe in ghosts? I suspect not. Do you have a reason to believe you are conscious? I suspect yes and it is because you consistently EXPERIENCE consciousness. It feels real to you. I am arguing that if you have a similar experience of free will it is reasonable to believe it unless there is other evidence against. And 1poorguy has demonstrated that there is no evidence against.

I would bet that if you consistently experienced dead people as that kid in the Sixth Sense did you would be far more inclined to believe in ghosts. Experience may not be proof, but it ain't nothing.

As for who has the burden of proof, I'll give you a hypothetical. Suppose I claim that consciousness doesn't exist for the same reason ghosts don't exist, no measurable evidence. Is the burden on you to prove you are conscious since you are the one insisting consciousness is real?

Now I don't know your answer but mine would be no. And the reason would be that for me, personal experience counts for something. It is evidence and so the burden lies on those who assert your experience is false.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Strawman...Step back a moment. Seriously. You're starting to sound like a YEC, except replace "Jesus" with "free will".

There is a delicious sort of irony for someone to claim strawman while bringing up stuff like YEC and religion.

I never said the properties of the parts don't matter.

Good. So now the rest of the argument becomes easier. Since the properties of the parts do matter this means there is a relationship between those properties and what emerges. So to get back to the main point, you are not going to get consciousness from non-conscious parts regardless of complexity unless those parts have certain properties needed for consciousness. Once you get to this point it is a short step to "consciousness is a property of matter".

There is nothing about a piston (or the steel used to make it) that is "MPG".

To be honest, the MPG analogy is a dumb one. MPG is a mathematical relationship. The mathematical factors for this rate relationship are certainly in the parts. What we want to talk about is the emergence of stuff from different kind of stuff. MPG ain't stuff. The stuff in the mpg analogy is the car. The components of the car certainly share properties with the car. For example, the engine is a component of the car. It's relationship to mpg is obvious (that's the gallon part). As is the drive train (that's the miles part). As we go stepwise down in complexity the components clearly share properties with the previous level of organization.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
It IS a property of those particular parts as well as how you put them together. Replace the gasoline part with onion soup and suddenly there is no MPG. The properties of the parts matter. Replace the tires with gefilte fish and again there is no MPG.

It is pretty obvious that the properties of the parts matter.


Of course. Similarly, if you replace neurons with onion soup you end up without consciousness. It doesn't mean that mpg is a property of gasoline and it doesn't mean that consciousness is a property of matter.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
What we want to talk about is the emergence of stuff from different kind of stuff. MPG ain't stuff.

Neither is consciousness.


The stuff in the mpg analogy is the car. The components of the car certainly share properties with the car. For example, the engine is a component of the car. It's relationship to mpg is obvious (that's the gallon part). As is the drive train (that's the miles part). As we go stepwise down in complexity the components clearly share properties with the previous level of organization.

Consciousness is just a subset of mental processing that we have labeled. All other mental processing we know of is done by physical component parts interacting mindlessly. Whether it's a transistor, a set of transistors in a calculator, a worm brain, etc.

For example:

https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-put-worm-brain-in-le...
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
I think I'll let you deal with him. You're much more concise. :-)

He's not even seeing his strawmen, and now is accusing me of it. No point in continuing for me.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Neither is consciousness.

That is the issue in question. I think consciousness and the subjective are "stuff" in the same way as magnetism, gravity, and dark matter. And as stuff, it can influence the physical brain.

If consciousness isn't material then what is it? What's left?

Consciousness is just a subset of mental processing that we have labeled. All other mental processing we know of is done by physical component parts interacting mindlessly.

You need to rephrase this as the definition of mental is "relating to the mind" so it is hard to see how mental processing can occur mindlessly. When you say "All other mental processing we know of is done by physical component parts interacting mindlessly" what examples did you have in mind?

In any case, I consider "mental processing" or data processing to be a physical process, part of the material universe. That being the case then according to your view that consciousness is just a subset of such processing, consciousness is also a physical process and therefore material. Given that, I am not sure why you disagree with my contention that consciousness is a property or characteristic of matter.

If it is not material then by definition it is immaterial. Is that really the direction you and 1poorguy want to go...consciousness as an immaterial entity that emerges de novo from complexity?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
He's not even seeing his strawmen, and now is accusing me of it. No point in continuing for me.

Sorry to see you go. Here is why I don't think I offered a straw man argument. Instead I think you are missing the point.

Put simply, your mpg example is arranging parts to create something more organized. Translating the mathematical relationship MPG to stuff, one gets using liquid-fuel-to-create-energy-to-move. The engine is the component that creates energy from liquid fuel and the drivetrain/wheels allows movement.

Point is that MPG, this property you assert is novel to the end product, is just a derivative of the properties of the component parts when arranged a certain way. You use MPG as an example of creating something new, but it is new only in a trivial sense...the properties of the components better organized. What I am trying to point out using onion soup and gefilte fish is that MPG isn't a new property emerging from the unrelated, rather it is the individual properties of the parts arranged better. It isn't new, it is derivative.

And that is the problem with going from non-conscious to conscious. Unlike MPG you can't break down consciousness to see what properties must be present in the non-conscious component parts for the emergence of consciousness. Consciousness is like dark matter, we know it exists but we can't measure it and it is hard to envision how it might arise from classical matter. More likely that they coexist with classical matter, which could occur if consciousness is a property of matter.

So I believe that increasing brain complexity enhances an already existing consciousness, much like organizing atoms will increase magnetism. Both are innate properties of matter.

You believe consciousness arises de novo out of complexity, but isn't material and doesn't actually do anything.

Honestly don't see why your position is either more likely or better supported than mine.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
Have you read the paper yet? My guess is no. Please read the actual paper.

I'll try when I get a chance, but I do have a day job. I still wonder though what point you are trying to make about this paper and where it is you think we disagree.


It was your assertion in your initial and subsequent posts that the review concluded that Libet's study "had significant methodological errors and/or suffered from experimenter bias." The review makes no such claim. The review seeks to answer the question: Has anyone who has claimed to reproduce Libet's study done so? The answer is that it's messy, at least in part due to the fact that every following study made significant changes to the experimental design.

I don't understand why it naturally follows that a Go program has free will. I mean it might but I don't see how it naturally follows from "acting at one's own discretion". Can AlphaGo choose to make a Go move "at its discretion" that it has assessed will lose the game?

What does omniscience have to do with free will? It is pretty easy for me to imagine having free will in the absence of complete knowledge about intentions.


Keep in mind that I was responding to your question: Are you arguing Libet and other have disproven free will? As I said, it depends on how you define free will. Clearly, there are lots of opinions about what free will is. At the extremes, I think it's fairly easy to tell if the Libet data is consistent or inconsistent with the models. In the middle, the definitions seem to get very squishy and/or subjective, and they become essentially unprovable and undisprovable. Those aren’t particularly helpful definitions. That’s why I’m trying to understand precisely what you mean by nonrandom indeterminacy. I don’t feel like I’m making much headway.

You say later: ” It is possible to test whether something is determined (caused by something else). It is also possible to assess whether an event is at least likely to be random.” Returning to AlphaGo, when the program makes a decision, that decision is being made by its own neural net, so it isn’t being caused by something else. I think it’s pretty clear its choices are not random. Therefore, it seems to have “nonrandom indeterminacy.”

You asked if AlphaGo can essentially choose to lose. Does it matter? Can you make a choice that makes you fundamentally unhappy (i.e., one that doesn’t provide some form of happiness now or an expectation of happiness in the future)?

Maybe that begins with asking questions, such as: If you don't really know why you do something, can you still have free will?

Seems to me the only thing you really need to know is whether you are doing what you consciously chose to do.


In the era of optogenetics, that seems to be an untenable position. If someone or something is tweaking your neuronal activity to skew your decisions and you aren’t aware of it, most people would say that you didn't really have free will in those decision. And, yet, from your perspective, you would “know” that you were doing what you consciously chose to do. There seems to be a clear disconnect here that needs to be addressed.

I think animal evolution can be seen as moving from strictly mechanical or instinctive behavior that is non-conscious to that which is increasingly discretionary (freer) with choices becoming more dependent on conscious deliberations.

I guess you could view it as such, but that is a view that I think that most biologists would scoff at. It’s a very human-centric way of looking at things. It’s also chock-full of assumptions about how nervous systems work, things that we don’t yet understand. You could say that some animals have greater abilities to remember, to form associations, to plan ahead, to predict what other individuals will do, etc. The mechanics are far more complicated, but it’s still possible that in the end that it all boils down to mechanics.

So from my point of view, the observation that there are subconscious or non-conscious factors that influence conscious decisions is not surprising. What I don't see the need for is to assume these factors are so pervasive that one should believe there is no free will.

Once again, it depends on how you choose to define “free will.” You are aware that are many definitions or views of free will, aren’t you? So, if we’re going to talk about “free will,” we first need some solid definition or at least bounds on what we’re referring to. For instance, in a later post you wrote:

It isn't my idea. For example, the Free will Theorem was published in the Foundations of Physics and states that "... if we have a free will in the sense that our choices are not a function of the past, then, subject to certain assumptions, so must some elementary particles." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will_theorem

So it would appear that if free will exists, it is universal.


The definition of free will that they are using seems to be fundamentally different than the one you’ve described. In fact, I don’t think the one used above would be invalidated by the Libet experiment.

Suppose after its next update AlphaGo did achieve the capacity for conscious free will.

You’ve yet to demonstrate that the current version AlphaGo does not meet your definition of free will. Can you behave outside the expectations of your programming?

And if you truly believe that your brain is deceiving you about something as fundamental as the experience that your mind can make willful choices, then I wonder what experiences can you trust. You feel no free will is more believable than free will. How do you know that belief itself isn't a deception? Things gets pretty confusing once you assume your brain is untrustworthy.

We know our brains aren’t trustworthy. Eye witness accounts are notoriously unreliable: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-.... And, I’ll bring up the example of parole board decisions once again: the judges are making what they think are perfectly rational decisions all while factors outside of their awareness dominate the actual decision. 90% of their decision can be ascribed to low blood sugar!

Consciousness is a whole different ball game because the central feature of consciousness, subjective thoughts, has no counterpart in the non-conscious world. Subjective experiences are only associated with consciousness. We can't reduce it to smaller bits or recreate portions of consciousness in the lab or in a computer.

Consciousness seems to arise from a non-conscious world. Are cockroaches conscious? Do they have subjective experiences? The last statement is one hell of a claim. If a computer or a dish of neurons had subjective thoughts or was conscious, how would you know?

Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts?

Life.

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
The Big Bell Test used human choices as the source of unpredictability and the conclusion is now that if human free will exists, entangled particles are similarly free.

I'm not sure what the experiment really shows or its implications, but I do find it amusing that a computer algorithm was used to train the participants to generate "random" strings of 1's and 0's.

-Anthony
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
It was your assertion in your initial and subsequent posts that the review concluded that Libet's study "had significant methodological errors and/or suffered from experimenter bias." The review makes no such claim.

I admit to still not reading the paper but I still think my characterization is justified based on the likely assumption that the authors know how to write an abstract. An abstract describes succinctly the main points of the paper. Here are for me two relevant sentences from the abstract: "...Overall, we found substantial variation between studies. While the Libet paradigm may be useful for examining how stimuli affect temporal judgments, the link between this and free will or moral responsibility is not clear..."

The first sentence indicates that the authors feel there is an issue with replicability and the second that the Libet-type studies relevance to free will is unclear and overstated. Their final sentence indicates their concern about the methodologies used: "Being aware and critical of the methods used to gather results is important when applying scientific experiments to complex, abstract phenomena."

That’s why I’m trying to understand precisely what you mean by nonrandom indeterminacy

Not sure why it is so hard. Let's take your alphaGo software. The program selects for the "best" move based on algorithms...this is the determinative part. When the algorithms don't lead to a clear choice, the program allows for a random decision...this is the indeterminacy part. Assuming no free will, the frequency of the random choice will follow a probability curve defined by the parameters of the program. If free will exists, then the choice becomes nonrandom and deviates from the expected probability.

Since this is a virtual system, it is in principle possible to repeat the exact same conditions many times to generate an observed frequency distribution and compare that to the expected.

Stuart Kauffman is a biology theorist and one of those genius MacArthur Foundation awardees. I was happy to see that he came up with something similar to nonrandom indeterminacy (non-random lawless):

"...the most radical part of this article proposes that the quantum classical interface is not always describable by a law: specifically in a special relativity setting, no function, F, maps the present state of the system mind-brain into its future. In its place is a nonrandom yet lawless process. I seek in this non-random yet lawless process a source for a responsible free will." https://arxiv.org/abs/0907.2494

We know our brains aren’t trustworthy.

Sure, but you are exaggerating. Millions of people, I suspect even you, drive cars. To drive a car the brain must make thousands of decisions every mile. One cannot drive a car safely without the assumption of the brain being >99% trustworthy. We operate heavy machinery, fly in human-piloted planes, eat human-produced food, and use human-created and prescribed medicines. If the average human brain is not >99% trustworthy we would all be dead now.

You’ve yet to demonstrate that the current version AlphaGo does not meet your definition of free will. Can you behave outside the expectations of your programming?

Well that's the question. And as noted above, it is testable. Complete knowledge of the program should allow one to calculate the probability of program choices under all conditions. Deviations from that probability would be evidence of acting outside the program.

And, I’ll bring up the example of parole board decisions once again: the judges are making what they think are perfectly rational decisions all while factors outside of their awareness dominate the actual decision. 90% of their decision can be ascribed to low blood sugar!

Which leaves 10% of their decision due to free will even when hungry! Not sure why you think it is so surprising that certain conditions will be less conducive to the expression of free will than others. The existence of free will doesn't mean it is the only factor in decision-making.

Are cockroaches conscious? Do they have subjective experiences? The last statement is one hell of a claim.

Is it? There is lots of speculation out there by scientists in the field. For example: "...Here we propose that at least one invertebrate clade, the insects, has a capacity for the most basic aspect of consciousness: subjective experience..." This is from a recent article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. PNAS is a pretty legitimate journal. https://www.pnas.org/content/113/18/4900

Not saying this is necessarily true. But I'm just pointing out that such claims are being made regardless of how extraordinary you think they might be.

I guess you could view it as such, but that is a view that I think that most biologists would scoff at. It’s a very human-centric way of looking at things.

They might disagree, but I doubt they would scoff. Too much scientific speculation on this topic exists. For example, the evolution of complex cognition (can we say conciousness?) has been linked to the Cambrian Explosion..."The Cambrian Explosion and the Origins of Embodied Cognition" https://philpapers.org/rec/TRETCE
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
Do you have any reason to believe in ghosts? I suspect not. Do you have a reason to believe you are conscious? I suspect yes and it is because you consistently EXPERIENCE consciousness. It feels real to you. I am arguing that if you have a similar experience of free will it is reasonable to believe it unless there is other evidence against. And 1poorguy has demonstrated that there is no evidence against.

It's the same thing except free will and consciousness are now, not 500 years ago when scientists of the time were trying to prove through logic and reason that demons caused illness. Just because we have a first person subjective experience doesn't mean that concepts that were developed long before any actual data on brain function, physiology, and chemistry were available to explain that experience, have any merit.

I have no reason to believe I am conscious or capable of free will under archaic concepts of what those are. I'd rather wait for a better understanding of what is actually going on.


Suppose I claim that consciousness doesn't exist for the same reason ghosts don't exist, no measurable evidence. Is the burden on you to prove you are conscious since you are the one insisting consciousness is real?

Under the current understanding, it might not exist. It's a philosophic argument, not a scientific one, and the devil is in the definitions.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
Just because we have a first person subjective experience doesn't mean that concepts that were developed long before any actual data on brain function, physiology, and chemistry were available to explain that experience, have any merit. I have no reason to believe I am conscious or capable of free will under archaic concepts of what those are. I'd rather wait for a better understanding of what is actually going on.

The irony to your statement is that I am the only one in this thread bringing up new conceptions of consciousness and free will based on quantum mechanics. benjd's argument is based almost entirely on classical definitions of what libertarian free will might be, 1poorguy repeats what benjd says but with more words, and adonsant defends the methodology of the 30 year old Libet experiments that most currently believe have only limited relevance to the free will issue. Fact is that there is enormous resistance to new ideas on this board because of a fear of anything that even hints at theism.

The point is that "actual data on brain function, physiology, and chemistry" currently provide no explanation for consciousness or evidence against free will. In contrast, "first person subjective experience" is sufficiently reliable for the human species to be pretty successful. The assumption of human free will is the basis not only of most laws but of most human interactions not involving infants or the mentally infirm. That is actually pretty decent evidence that human behavior is substantially "free" relative to other living things.


Me: Suppose I claim that consciousness doesn't exist for the same reason ghosts don't exist, no measurable evidence. Is the burden on you to prove you are conscious since you are the one insisting consciousness is real?

NigelGlitter: Under the current understanding, it might not exist. It's a philosophic argument, not a scientific one, and the devil is in the definitions.

Are you really suggesting that you believe you may not be conscious? You may be taking skepticism one step too far...

In any case, my definition of free will is the capacity of the conscious mind to choose in a manner that is unpredictable but does not conform to a random probability distribution. Seems testable in principle.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
benjd's argument is based almost entirely on classical definitions of what libertarian free will might be

That is the free will you consistently defend. Something only counts as free will for you if the agent could have done otherwise.



my definition of free will is the capacity of the conscious mind to choose in a manner that is unpredictable but does not conform to a random probability distribution.

Like I said.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
That is the free will you consistently defend. Something only counts as free will for you if the agent could have done otherwise.

And you have a first person subjective experience that "the agent could have done otherwise" is contradictory. Your argument against free will is not empirical but rather conceptual, like Zeno's paradoxes.

Why should your conceptual issues have any bearing on reality?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 3
Your argument against free will is not empirical but rather conceptual, like Zeno's paradoxes.

Why should your conceptual issues have any bearing on reality?


?

Zeno's paradoxes claimed to show that readily observable things didn't happen and then tried to misuse mathematical infinite series or infinitesimal times to prove it.

Self contradictory concepts like 4 sided triangles or married bachelors or libertarian free will are non-starters. You can't have a shape that simultaneously has 3 sides and 4 sides. You can't have a person that simultaneously is married and not married. And you can't have a choice that is simultaneously determined by the factors making up an agent and not determined by the factors making up an agent. It results in gibberish. Saying something is both true and not true is saying nothing at all.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
The point is that "actual data on brain function, physiology, and chemistry" currently provide no explanation for consciousness or evidence against free will.

Exactly. Kind of like there is no proof of ghosts or demons causing illness.

In contrast, "first person subjective experience" is sufficiently reliable for the human species to be pretty successful.

I'll agree that our brain has made us successful. You're adding in your own special sauce.

The assumption of human free will is the basis not only of most laws but of most human interactions not involving infants or the mentally infirm. That is actually pretty decent evidence that human behavior is substantially "free" relative to other living things.

Gonna bust your cork here, but I'd like to recommend you invest a little time in cognitive animal behavior and studies. We articulate our laws through language. We also enforce social rules through violence, shunning, physical responses, etc., just like all social animals, and in particular, all social mammals do. Laws are evidence of language, not free will. Our social behaviors are just that, social behaviors. We invented words like morality to make ourselves feel good, but mores are just current, accepted social behaviors. Believe me, I wish you were right. I wish our consciousness and free will really did separate us from the rest, but I'm handing my kids a world that is polluted, has way too many humans living on it, and has dwindling resources. How are we different than a herd of elephants over eating an acacia grove?

Are you really suggesting that you believe you may not be conscious? You may be taking skepticism one step too far...

My skepticism here is simply on the definitions you use in any given post. I'm in the we are all biological machines group. Free will and consciousness can't make you a musician if your brain doesn't "hear" it, can't make you brilliant if you are average. Consciousness and free will clearly have very strong limitations, if they exist as you are defining them, at all. We are all born into a box, and notions of free will don't allow for busting out.

But, most folks take a much more human centric view, and define consciousness as a minimum amount of neural activity to allow for it. That's kind of absurd when a classic argument is how many nerves do you need to feel pain, then how many do you need to be "aware" you feel pain, then define your minimums in a way that a dog, or cat isn't "aware" that they feel pain.

So what's your take, that we can exercise free will in what percent of our choices? That consciousness allows us to replay and loop information that makes us better equipped to make decisions inside the box we are born into? You're claiming these attributes are at the root of human success, not simply a bigger brain. Exactly, what do you think they have done for us as we pell mell into a mass extinction event that took massive geologic upheaval or cataclysmic bombardment from outer space to achieve in the past?