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Old 08-06-2019, 09:23 AM
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Any atheists here who believe in free will?


I know we've had a bunch of free will posts on here, but I'm specifically interested in hearing from those who don't invoke "and then a miracle happens" as part of the argument. I remember being appalled by Richard Dawkin's comments in an interview wherein he said he believed in free will because "life would be intolerable otherwise" and that the notion of free will "is just an inconsistency we'd have to live with." I was stunned how little he had thought about it, and how much his ideas about free will sounded like the religion he so loathed.

Let's define free will as human action/feelings/thoughts being causally or absolutely determined as opposed to Daniel Dennet's Compatibilism which essentially defines free will as an internal sense of choice.

So are there any atheist Dopers out there who believe in free will who have an argument any better than "because life would be intolerable otherwise?"
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:30 AM
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Let's define free will as human action/feelings/thoughts being causally or absolutely determined
I'm an atheist and I believe "human action/feelings/thoughts are causally or absolutely determined".
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:33 AM
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So are there any atheist Dopers out there who believe in free will who have an argument any better than "because life would be intolerable otherwise?"
I've come across a decently large number of atheists who advocate free will.

The basic argument, as best as I can summarize it, is that there are holes in the chain of cause-and-effect that we see in our subjective experience and/or physics, and so those holes must get plugged arbitrarily moment by moment. There are constant new "first causes" seeping into reality all the time. These are uncaused by anything that came before, but nevertheless lead to effects that we see around us. These fountains of causation are everywhere, all the time.

*mumblemumblemumble* and our brain uses this process in some way, therefore free will.

I've seen people put quite a lot of thought into this. Not, like, high quality thought. A large quantity of thought, yes, but not care or consideration.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:43 AM
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Atheist, here, and I don't believe that humans have free will. What we do have, though, is a perfectly convincing illusion of free will- one so indistinguishable from actual free will as to be unfalsifiable.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:50 AM
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...

Let's define free will as human action/feelings/thoughts being causally or absolutely determined as opposed to Daniel Dennet's Compatibilism which essentially defines free will as an internal sense of choice.

....
The concept of free will makes no sense to me, so I guess I don't believe in it. Your definition doesn't seem like a definition of free will to me, though -- of course human action is causally determined -- what does that have to do with free will? I must be missing something.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:53 AM
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I'm an atheist, and as far as "free will" goes, I think it is complicated. The reason I think so is......complicated and possibly out of my control.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:53 AM
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I'm an atheist, and I believe in free will; but I don't think I can provide a coherent explanation, at least right now, as to why.

Will have to think about this one.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:59 AM
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I'm not an atheist but my theism is not located OUTSIDE of this discussion but squarely WITHIN it. (In other words no miracles and no references to God).

Causality is one way of looking at a sequence of events and explaining "why something occurred".

Intentionality is a different way of looking at them, and produces a different explanation.

I find both useful, in different contexts. So far we're not talking about absolute overarching truths here.

Arguments against free will assert the absolute overarching supremacy of determinism and causality. "You wrote this post because neurochemicals in your finger-muscles caused your fingers to strike the keyboard keys in this sequence". "You wrote this post because you were socialized into a culture that inculcated into you certain beliefs about free will, and when stimulated with the question du jour, you spouted forth the set of beliefs with which you'd been programmed". "You wrote this post because everything is a chain of cause-and-effect and prior events are the reason that any current event is taking place". These are all causal, or deterministic arguments and there is no reference to intentionality, no assertion that they were written "of the poster's own free will".

Intentionality arguments assume an active consciousness made choices and the choices are why the action took place. "You wrote this post because you wanted to express your opinion on the topic of free will, and to contradict people who were being Wrong on the Internet". "You wrote this post because you consider 'free will' arguments to be proxies for arguments about the soul or the appropriateness of holding people responsible for their actions, and this board is devoted to skepticism".

Intentionality, or "free will", arguments, rarely assert the absolute overarching supremacy of intentionality. That is, you don't commonly encounter arguments to the effect that "The galaxies spin around their center of gravity and assume a spiral shape because they like to twirl" or "The rocky mountain chain thrust upwards because it feels glorious to rise into the sky". So most of the action takes place around whether intentions, desires, etc, explain anything or can (and should) be discarded from our considerations as irrelevant and silly.

I don't actually like the term "free will" (because it is too tied up in long-ago arguments that someone else made) but there is intentionality; it is true that things occur because some consciousness wanted them to, and untrue that everything is simply a chain of prior events causing current events in a perpetual cause-and-effect chain. The exact nature and location of that consciousness is not simple, but not because I'm about to wave a "God" clause at you, but rather because we individual human folks are not the separate individuals we (at least in our current culture) tend to think we are, which has ramifications for where the consciousness is actually located.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:00 AM
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Debates about "determinism" vs. "free will" are characterized by sloppy definitions of both terms. When both terms are rigorously defined, it becomes apparent that there's no conflict whatsoever between them.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:05 AM
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Debates about "determinism" vs. "free will" are characterized by sloppy definitions of both terms. When both terms are rigorously defined, it becomes apparent that there's no conflict whatsoever between them.
If you're talking about the compatibilist definition of free will, the OP specifically excludes it.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:07 AM
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I'm an atheist who views the human brain as sufficiently complex and subject to so many random environmental inputs that trying to isolate a purely deterministic mechanism for how it functions may be practically impossible, hence we may as well operate under the working assumption that free will exists.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:11 AM
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I'm an atheist - I reject the notion that some supernatural being has predetermined my choices and eventual outcomes -I have free will to do as I choose - that being said the process that I use to make my choices is not one that I fully understand - some choices seem to not be much of a choice at all - other ones moreso.

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Old 08-06-2019, 10:14 AM
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Given that definition of free will I would say free will does exist. But only because it doesn't seem like physics is deterministic. Now to be transparent I'm not expert on the subject but it's my understanding that at a quantum mechanical scale this become probabilistic. So even with perfect information the laws of physics cannot tell exactly what happens next.

But that's not really what I think of free will being. I think of it being more as 'is your life on rails'. IE If some super-super-computer knew everything about the universe(I don't know what this would really mean) could it predict every decision you'd make? But this kind of gets to the core of how I really feel about free will. I think the concept of free will is ill formed and is meaningless. If something can predict what I would do based on all the information about me does that really mean I didn't have a choice? Or that the other thing understands me so well it can know how I would respond. If my decision making process is consistent, then if you know enough about me you would know how I would respond.

I have a little difficulty expressing the way I see it so maybe an example is easier. Imagine we believe in free will. If have a universe with a person in it who makes a series of decisions in their life. Then I duplicate that universe exactly. Would that person make the same decisions as the first one? Does that mean that the first one had free will but the second didn't? What if they were happening simultaneously? Who has the free will?

I don't know. It seems sort of meaningless to me unless free will gets much more strictly defined.

To answer the question more directly. I believe with sufficient knowledge and computational power you could predict with very high certainty the rest of my life and every decision I'd make.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:16 AM
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The free will/determined arguments I read here all stumble when they approach any semblance of a true scientific proof. They fail to define the terms and the consequences of the differences adequately. They fail to demonstrate experiments that would distinguish between the two. They do, unfortunately, start at the end with their conclusion and work backward to create an explanation.

We don't even have an understanding of quantum mechanics and how the collapse of the wave function happens. If such a matter of pure mathematics that controls the way the universe works can't yet be addressed then any argument that depends on outside cause and effect has a massive hole at its core.

In the same way, Libet's experiments that have brain activity starting before a "conscious" movement is also flawed, because we do not yet have an understanding of what consciousness is.

This is not a problem for atheists more than for those, I presume majority of, non-fundamentalist believers who don't merely wave away any rational thought with "goddidit." There is no way to act as if there is not free will. No one can make any action, including a lack of action, without willing it to be so. The clockwork universe was disproved a century ago; why it has been resurrected for this special case is a mystery to me.

I am not saying that "free will," whatever that is, must exist. I'm contending that the arguments are so flawed that they are currently meaningless. That the OP had to specifically exclude compatabilism is proof. The answers to many "either/or" questions turn out to be "both." We don't know if it is. All we can say for sure is that the argument was poisoned at the beginning.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:20 AM
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I'm an atheist who views the human brain as sufficiently complex and subject to so many random environmental inputs that trying to isolate a purely deterministic mechanism for how it functions may be practically impossible, hence we may as well operate under the working assumption that free will exists.
That's probably a better description of how I feel than kayaker's well phrased "it is complicated!"

I actually had a discussion about this recently w/ 3 other atheists. 2 of us were lawyers, so decent with words and argument. The other 2 were microbiologists, 1 of whom specialized in electrical and chemical transmissions within and among brain cells. His opinion was that as much as we know about what goes on in the brain, we don't know enough about every synaptic firing and every protein coding to support pure determinism. And there is enough "noise" or randomness in the process to limit predictability.

So yeah, "insert miracle here." As Lightnin' said, how do we distinguish between the illusion of free will and free will? And our observable universe might all be a dream, or a mote in the fingernail of some giant...
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:26 AM
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The thing about determinism is that it's like Schrödinger's Cat: after any decision is made, it's easy to look back and argue that it was pre-determined. But before the decision is made? Not so much.

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Old 08-06-2019, 10:27 AM
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Can someone explain what determinism has to do with free will? If quantum mechanics is rolling dice in my brain, what does that have to do with whether *I* (whatever that means) is controlling it? Free will, if I understand it at all, is that sentient beings have some ability to make choices that are separate from their underlying physics and chemistry. Just because it's impossible to predict what a being will do next doesn't mean that being has free will.

As usual, I like Bryan Ekers approach. But that doesn't mean that there's "free will".
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:33 AM
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I always thought atheists believed in free will. I thought it was a given. It's those religious types that didn't. Huh, learn something new every day.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:35 AM
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The free will/determined arguments I read here all stumble when they approach any semblance of a true scientific proof. They fail to define the terms and the consequences of the differences adequately. They fail to demonstrate experiments that would distinguish between the two. They do, unfortunately, start at the end with their conclusion and work backward to create an explanation.
Yeah, I don't think you can prove either free will or determinism. Not scientifically; and philosophically, you can only establish one or the other by starting from premises that are equally unprovable.

Where I think the OP is coming from is that, for many atheists, the premises they start from are those that lead to determinism. He's looking for people whose belief in free will is not compatible with determinism but is compatible with atheism.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:35 AM
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I always thought atheists believed in free will. I thought it was a given. It's those religious types that didn't. Huh, learn something new every day.
Yeah, I think you have that exactly backwards. Atheist: "Why does God permit evil or allow humans to do evil?" Apologist: "Because God allows humans to have free will so that they can make their own choices about salvation" or something like that.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:42 AM
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I always thought atheists believed in free will. I thought it was a given. It's those religious types that didn't. Huh, learn something new every day.
Religious types debate "free will" vs. "predestination," and argue over how/whether human free will is compatible with God's sovereignty or omnipotence and omniscience.

That's a somewhat different debate than free will vs. determinism, which is what this thread's about.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:50 AM
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That's probably a better description of how I feel than kayaker's well phrased "it is complicated!"
You had no choice but to say that, you know!
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:52 AM
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I’m not sure how what is understood by the common man as free will can exist n a deterministic universe. Waiting for a perfect definition of all terms will be a while since, if Pluto can be used as an example, categorizing things precisely is apparently hard.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:06 AM
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Can someone explain what determinism has to do with free will?

...

Free will, if I understand it at all, is that sentient beings have some ability to make choices that are separate from their underlying physics and chemistry.
Seems like you explained it yourself pretty well there. Usually in this context, "determinism" means that it's the result of physics, even if there is some quantum indeterminacy mixed in there.

For the definition of "free will" that the OP is asking about, otherwise called contracausal free will, that is incompatible with the workings of the brain being the result of physics. People who believe in this kind of free will think there is something more controlling your decisions other than the physical processes going on in your brain.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:10 AM
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The thing about determinism is that it's like Schrödinger's Cat: after any decision is made, it's easy to look back and argue that it was pre-determined. But before the decision is made? Not so much.
True. The argument that one didn't have a free choice to make because it wasn't made is sophistry at best. The question is why and how history happened not that it did. Would anyone direct that question to a lump of uranium and say that the decay of particular atoms was determined because those were the ones that decayed?

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Yeah, I don't think you can prove either free will or determinism. Not scientifically; and philosophically, you can only establish one or the other by starting from premises that are equally unprovable.

Where I think the OP is coming from is that, for many atheists, the premises they start from are those that lead to determinism. He's looking for people whose belief in free will is not compatible with determinism but is compatible with atheism.
Then I'm missing something about the OP. If the universe is fundamentally random down to the quantum level, then there is no determinism. Obviously, that's completely compatible with atheism.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:16 AM
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I'm an atheist who views the human brain as sufficiently complex and subject to so many random environmental inputs that trying to isolate a purely deterministic mechanism for how it functions may be practically impossible, hence we may as well operate under the working assumption that free will exists.
I think this severely conflicts with the atheistic view towards God. It is like arguing that because the universe is so complex that is impossible to develop a unifying theory to explain everything in it, we may as well assume God exists."

Why should we assume that the human brain is too complex to be able to predict it's decision-making? If there is too much randomness to account for, then should we not assume a stochastic model for human behavior than either a purely deterministic or a "free will" based one? Does a Free Will hypothesis strike you as especially parsimonious given our tendency to dismiss it's existence in our earthly brethren (i.e. all life forms excluding adult humans who aren't mentally handicapped, crazy, or intoxicated)?

I operate as if I have free will because an alternative operational mode is inconceivable. And yet I don't believe in it's existence, at least not in the current version of humankind. So I reject the notion that we may as well believe in free will. I think we do more harm than good by beating this primitive drum.

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Old 08-06-2019, 11:19 AM
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The concept of free will makes no sense to me, so I guess I don't believe in it. Your definition doesn't seem like a definition of free will to me, though -- of course human action is causally determined -- what does that have to do with free will? I must be missing something.
I second RitterSport, KidCharlemagne's definition of free will is in fact a compatibilist's definition. It would appear that KidCharlemagne is actually soliciting libertarians such as Tolstoy (if you reached the very end of War and Peace); he was thoroughly religious but I don't remember that coming into his discussion of free will and necessitarianism. God may have been mentioned in passing but it did not form a major part of his argument.

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Old 08-06-2019, 11:58 AM
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The concept of free will makes no sense to me, so I guess I don't believe in it. Your definition doesn't seem like a definition of free will to me, though -- of course human action is causally determined -- what does that have to do with free will? I must be missing something.
Causal determinism is generally considered in the philosophy of free will to be in accordance with Newtonian and quantum physics.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:02 PM
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I second RitterSport, KidCharlemagne's definition of free will is in fact a compatibilist's definition. It would appear that KidCharlemagne is actually soliciting libertarians such as Tolstoy (if you reached the very end of War and Peace); he was thoroughly religious but I don't remember that coming into his discussion of free will and necessitarianism. God may have been mentioned in passing but it did not form a major part of his argument.

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My definition is definitely not compatibilist. I'm not sure how you're deriving that from my post.

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Old 08-06-2019, 12:02 PM
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I always thought atheists believed in free will. I thought it was a given. It's those religious types that didn't. Huh, learn something new every day.
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Yeah, I think you have that exactly backwards. Atheist: "Why does God permit evil or allow humans to do evil?" Apologist: "Because God allows humans to have free will so that they can make their own choices about salvation" or something like that.
I agree with JAQ. As an atheist it would never occur to me to say "why does god" anything, since I don't believe in god. I believe in what I can see, and I can see that I get to make choices (i.e. free will). Other arguments in this thread about what constitutes free will make zero sense to me.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:16 PM
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My definition is definitely not compatibilist. I'm not sure how you're deriving that from my post.
You wrote: "Let's define free will as human action/feelings/thoughts being causally or absolutely determined as opposed to Daniel Dennet's Compatibilism which essentially defines free will as an internal sense of choice."

Compatibilism is any philosophy where determinism and free will both exist. You define free will human actions being determined. Perhaps you meant to write "not being causally or absolutely determined", but as it stands your definition of free will actually invokes determinism, therefore it is compatibilist.

~Max
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:16 PM
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I'm an atheist. And I think there's room for free will to exist through a juxtaposition of quantum mechanics and chaos theory (at least as I understand them). Quantum mechanics say that events at a certain scale can occur spontaneously and randomly. And chaos theory says that small scale events can have effects that propagate up to larger scales.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:24 PM
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I'm an atheist who views the human brain as sufficiently complex and subject to so many random environmental inputs that trying to isolate a purely deterministic mechanism for how it functions may be practically impossible, hence we may as well operate under the working assumption that free will exists.
Atheist, and same here. There are so many factors that it is impossible to predict what someone will do in a given situation, (including oneself) so that looks like free will. Unless the mind in question is being simulated, it is also impossible to collect enough information to figure out what you are going to do and why even post hoc.

However we clearly don't have totally free will, since people with phobias are blocked from certain actions.
The question is undecidable so I say the hell with it.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:40 PM
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Some here have said that the human brain is sufficiently complex that free will is possible. Free will, from a Newtonian perspective, would outright violate the laws of physics (let's forget quantum mechanics just for a minute). In order for there to be a decision via free will, some chemical reaction in the brain must have taken place that wouldn't have taken place otherwise. If it was simply reacting according to known laws, then it wasn't free will. I'm talking here about the very genesis of the decision, not the resulting chain of reactions (that may very well follow the laws of nature). But at that moment of free decision, some chemical reaction must have been stopped or started by something that violates the laws of chemistry.

That leaves quantum phenomena. Generally such phenomenum is considered random, but for the sake of argument, let's say it isnt, and that our brain can control it in some way, endowing us with free will. Since you presumably believe in evolution, do you believe that chimpanzees have free will? If so, do you believe it ends somewhere as we get to more primitive organisms? Where would it begin? Somewhere along the line there must have been a genetic mutation that caused free will because you either have it or you don't. That means there is some protein somewhere responsible for free will.

Do any of these possibilities really make sense to you?
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:43 PM
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I'm an atheist who views the human brain as sufficiently complex and subject to so many random environmental inputs that trying to isolate a purely deterministic mechanism for how it functions may be practically impossible, hence we may as well operate under the working assumption that free will exists.
It makes no sense to give the benefit of doubt to the argument that violates the laws of physics as we understand them. See my post directly above for details.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:45 PM
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I don't believe in free will, especially since there is strong evidence of reflex actions being taking without the involvement the cerebral cortex that are later rationalized by being a conscious choice. But I've made a conscious decision ignore all of that and to pretend I believe in free will in order to get on with living my life. Of course I recognize that I had no actual control over that conscious decision.

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Old 08-06-2019, 12:55 PM
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Causal determinism is generally considered in the philosophy of free will to be in accordance with Newtonian and quantum physics.
I don't believe that's true with regard to QM. If you check the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, you'll see that this is true at best only if "nothing ever interrupts Schrödinger evolution, and the wavefunctions governed by the equation tell the complete physical story," an interpretation hotly disputed by many.

To echo what I said earlier, people are trying to use words to develop new science, instead of using math. This never works.

I see your later posts, which are a wonderful example of using words to create pseudoscientific nonsense. First, you can't ignore QM randomness. Second, the output of a reaction, even given known laws, may be random or non-predictable. Nothing about free will is prevented or forbidden because we must work within the laws of physics. Or have you a solution to the three-body problem in your back pocket you're not telling anyone about? Third, you provide no definition of free will that makes it possible to know if other beings than humans have it. That's because you also have no definition of consciousness, which, as I keep saying, you need before you make any statements about free will. Nothing in your argument makes sense at all.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:05 PM
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Atheist here: I'm of the opinion that most of the confusion in the free will debate comes from badly-defined terms, which spring directly from the fact that the free will debate started as a religious discussion.

In religion, "free will" means "God isn't determining your choices and actions". The presumption is that in the absence of free will God, or the gods, or the fates, have tied magical puppet strings to you and are consciously manipulating events toward an end that they have determined should happen. Free will, on the other hand, means that you make your own decisions, which results in you at least partially causing your own outcomes.

Then you add atheists into the equation and they take God out of the equation, that puts a giant hole through the definitions. By a straight read of them the answer is "obviously we have free will; God/gods/fate isn't determining our actions because there aren't any God/gods/fate to determine our actions. We must be making our own choices because there's nobody else to do it for us".

Of course, this makes atheism sound better than theism, so we can't have that. Therefore we have to change the definition where atheists are concerned so that atheism sucks again. Well, that or the theists were so incredibly stupid back then that they really came up with the following stuff by accident:

To make atheism suck, or just because atheism really confused them, the decision was made to define "physics" as "god", swapping that into the definition.

Given a definition of "physics isn't determining your choices or actions", atheists have no choice but to honestly answer "Of course physics determines our actions; everything is physical and determined by physics." (Theists, of course, pretend that their brains are powered by magic which gets around this.)

The thing is, though, that definition is stupid. The real issue with free will is whether you're somebody else's puppet. But in the atheism model, the "physics" which determine your actions are your own body. By any non-idiotic interpretation of the situation, your body, your brain, is you. That's what any sensible compatibilist approach boils down to: noticing the obvious fact that, physical or not, our bodies don't have puppet strings sticking out of them. We say that free will is compatible with determinism because deterministic physics were never the problem to start with. The problem was God - external forces outside of us reaching inside and controlling us.

Atheists don't have that problem. Our brains are physical organic computers, which are demonstrably mostly or entirely deterministic in function. They control us, providing a will that is free of outside control. And that's that.

Last edited by begbert2; 08-06-2019 at 01:09 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:13 PM
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I'm an atheist. And I think there's room for free will to exist through a juxtaposition of quantum mechanics and chaos theory (at least as I understand them). Quantum mechanics say that events at a certain scale can occur spontaneously and randomly. And chaos theory says that small scale events can have effects that propagate up to larger scales.
Doesn't free will require some sort of agent that makes those decisions, though? Quantum mechanics and chaos theory may make the outcome uncertain, but it's still not decided by any agent. I don't have free will to turn left instead of right just because an electron is a wave and a particle, and my brain is super complicated.

KidCharlemagne, what I got from Bryan Ekers is that, due to complexities, etc., it looks enough like free will that you may as well treat it as such, not that there were actually any extra-physical forces acting on the brain.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:15 PM
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I agree with JAQ. As an atheist it would never occur to me to say "why does god" anything, since I don't believe in god. I believe in what I can see, and I can see that I get to make choices (i.e. free will). Other arguments in this thread about what constitutes free will make zero sense to me.
I think you misinterpreted my example. An atheist may say, "Hey, theist, if there is a god, why is there evil, etc. Huh?" and that's when the theist responds with the free will argument, or goes there by herself to understand why a tri-omni god would allow, say, the Holocaust. The other refuge is the mysterious ways one, of course.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:25 PM
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I agree with JAQ. As an atheist it would never occur to me to say "why does god" anything, since I don't believe in god. I believe in what I can see, and I can see that I get to make choices (i.e. free will). Other arguments in this thread about what constitutes free will make zero sense to me.
I don't know about you, but I see evidence of my "not free will" all the time. I make a myriad of decisions every day without thinking about them first. Hell, sometimes I don't even remember making them.

I wake up with thoughts swirling in my head that I did not consciously put there. Those thoughts are connected to my mood through mechanisms I am not in control of. And my initial mood no doubt sets the stage for all subsequent thoughts and moods.

Sure, like you I experience the sensation of free will quite frequently. But I also experience the sensation of not having free will--like when a brilliant idea pops into my mind out of nowhere or when I catch myself in the midst of a habit I am trying to train myself out of. So which sensation is the most accurate one? I don't know. I am not in the right vantage point to know. But I can offer a reasonable hypothesis that explains both phenomonen: I don't have free will, but because I have some awareness of my cognition, it seems as if I do. And sometimes I can see through the illusion because of that awareness.

I can also say that I author my choices without using the loaded term "free will". I made the choice to cross the street at the crosswalk this morning rather than between blocks. But I can't say that choice was made through free will since I cannot know with absolute certainty why I made that choice. I can tell myself a reasonable-sounding story, but that is all it would be.

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Old 08-06-2019, 01:29 PM
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I don't think that the universe - or our brains - developed as they did such that they could be understood by us at this point in time. I can say, "I don't know" without buying into a particular fairy tale.

So, do some respondents actually believe in strict determinism? Every thought and action of everyone is predictable? Do you envision yourself an automaton? When confronted by a choice, do you make an effort to simulate choosing?
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:32 PM
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That's the question that's been bugging me my entire life. The one I go yes and no but still and if; equivocate about and just can't seem to find a satisfying answer to. I'd describe my position as "very probably not, but I really really want to believe it exists, and in any case the strictly deterministic causality systems in play are opaque enough that you might as well act as if we were real people". That is to say, I fundamentally believe humans are meat engines strictly shaped by a combination of nature & nurture, that any "choice" we make is really predetermined from that combination and we only rationalize it as a decision post-factum, and that if an omniscient being knew the exact organization of every bit of matter in the Universe at the moment we were born they could predict the minutest aspect of our lives.
But since no such being exists and I lost my fucking phone again, why won't I just put a beeper on it or something ; then yeah, sure, free will exists for all intents and purposes.

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Old 08-06-2019, 01:33 PM
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I don't know about you, but I see evidence of my "not free will" all the time. I make a myriad of decisions every day without thinking about them first. Hell, sometimes I don't even remember making them.

...
The fact that some choices/mental states occur without apparent intentionality does not establish that NONE are intentional.

Yeah, there are tests when MRIs show that the brain fires to make a movement, BEFORE the brain fires to apparently DECIDE to do so. Doesn't necessarily establish that every thought/action is like that.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:36 PM
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So, do some respondents actually believe in strict determinism? Every thought and action of everyone is predictable? Do you envision yourself an automaton? When confronted by a choice, do you make an effort to simulate choosing?
I believe in strict determinism when it comes to cognition. Humans don't spaz out and do things randomly; they make choices based on their preferences. Human brains are all about collecting and assessing data, including internal data, and coming to conclusions based on that. There may be a random element that determines extremely close ties, on the rare occasion that they occur, but I don't believe that that's necessary - a "the first choice in the list wins" approach or something similar is equally possible.

And what on earth do you mean by "simulate choosing"? If you are given two options, and you pick one, you have made a choice. The approach you used to make this choice, be it deterministic or not, doesn't matter; a choice was still really made.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:46 PM
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I don't believe that's true with regard to QM. If you check the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, you'll see that this is true at best only if "nothing ever interrupts Schrödinger evolution, and the wavefunctions governed by the equation tell the complete physical story," an interpretation hotly disputed by many.

To echo what I said earlier, people are trying to use words to develop new science, instead of using math. This never works.

I see your later posts, which are a wonderful example of using words to create pseudoscientific nonsense. First, you can't ignore QM randomness. Second, the output of a reaction, even given known laws, may be random or non-predictable. Nothing about free will is prevented or forbidden because we must work within the laws of physics. Or have you a solution to the three-body problem in your back pocket you're not telling anyone about? Third, you provide no definition of free will that makes it possible to know if other beings than humans have it. That's because you also have no definition of consciousness, which, as I keep saying, you need before you make any statements about free will. Nothing in your argument makes sense at all.
The three body problem is still deterministic unless the universe is fundamentally random. Even if it is fundamentally random what is the mechanism of choice?
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:52 PM
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Believers in free will tend to be big believers in the notion that people can rise above their shitty circumstances and be "good" as long as as they work hard enough. So you can cry all you want about abusive parents, schoolyard bullies, learning problems, and lack of role models. If you will yourself to be good, you will always good. So don't point fingers at anyone but yourself.

I don't think this mindset is only found in theists. But I think it is a very common belief among theists--particularly those who believe that Hell is waiting for bad people. Because what loving God would fling a soul into a furnace for all eternity for being programmed the wrong way? Since God is the ultimate programmer, what sense would this make? So it is important to assume that all sinners choose to sin on their own free will. No one or no thing coerces them. They deserve whatever punishment they get.

An atheist may believe there are perpetually bad people--people who will always choose to be bad no matter how much love and nurturing you give them. But I think an atheist is far more willing to concede that this person is broken for biological/psychological reasons rather than spiritual reasons. The atheist will go to a medical label before he or she reaches for the "evil" one. So even though both theist and atheist may espouse a belief in free will, the two likely implement the idea differently. Instead of telling someone struggling with bad habits to "try harder" or "pray more", the atheist is more likely to suggest solutions that alter one's programming (therapy or medication).

In this way, it is possible for someone to be a free willer in thought but a biological determinist in action.

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Old 08-06-2019, 01:53 PM
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Of course, this makes atheism sound better than theism, so we can't have that. Therefore we have to change the definition where atheists are concerned so that atheism sucks again. Well, that or the theists were so incredibly stupid back then that they really came up with the following stuff by accident:

To make atheism suck, or just because atheism really confused them, the decision was made to define "physics" as "god", swapping that into the definition.

Given a definition of "physics isn't determining your choices or actions", atheists have no choice but to honestly answer "Of course physics determines our actions; everything is physical and determined by physics." (Theists, of course, pretend that their brains are powered by magic which gets around this.)

The thing is, though, that definition is stupid. The real issue with free will is whether you're somebody else's puppet. But in the atheism model, the "physics" which determine your actions are your own body. By any non-idiotic interpretation of the situation, your body, your brain, is you. That's what any sensible compatibilist approach boils down to: noticing the obvious fact that, physical or not, our bodies don't have puppet strings sticking out of them. We say that free will is compatible with determinism because deterministic physics were never the problem to start with. The problem was God - external forces outside of us reaching inside and controlling us.

Atheists don't have that problem. Our brains are physical organic computers, which are demonstrably mostly or entirely deterministic in function. They control us, providing a will that is free of outside control. And that's that.
I think you've got it all wrong. Laplace's demon was not motivated by theism, as he was evidently a deist.

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Old 08-06-2019, 01:57 PM
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The three body problem is still deterministic unless the universe is fundamentally random. Even if it is fundamentally random what is the mechanism of choice?
One possibility is to reject other minds, and hold that free will is the path through a quantum multiverse chosen by a nonphysical being - a form of superdeterminism.

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Old 08-06-2019, 02:24 PM
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I believe in strict determinism when it comes to cognition. Humans don't spaz out and do things randomly; they make choices based on their preferences. ...
So neither the word "choice" nor "preferences" implies any volition? The preferences are preloaded into the machine, and the choice is merely a switch flipping predictability IRT input?

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Believers in free will tend to be big believers in the notion that people can rise above their shitty circumstances and be "good" as long as as they work hard enough. ...

An atheist may believe there are perpetually bad people--people who will always choose to be bad no matter how much love and nurturing you give them. ...
Sure, they MAY. But there's a heckuva lot of territory between those two extremes. I don't know of anyone who inhabits either of those poles exclusively.

Could the "insert miracle here"/infinite complexity argument apply to determinists as well? Explain to me me what combination of nature and nurture is responsible for each apparent choice - large or small - I make day in and day out. Aren't you saying essentially that the choice MUST reflect some combination of my make-up and experiences?
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