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Professors Coyne and Miller clash on free will

Professor Jerry Coyne has recently written a highly critical post entitled, Ken Miller, confused, finds free will in quantum mechanics, in which he attacks Professor Miller’s invocation of quantum physics to rescue free will. In a recent Youtube video, made on March 23 of this year at the New York Academy of Sciences, and featuring theologians John Haught and Nancey Murphy, Professor Miller elaborated his views:

At its finest level, matter has an inherent unpredictability, which certainly doesn’t explain free will, but certainly gives the lie to the notion that any inherent mechanical system is ultimately predictable. And I don’t think we are predictable: I think that capacity to make choices is ultimately wired into the circuity of our brain, and that’s how we become autonomous beings; that’s how we make judgments; that’s how we decide to seek the truth and how we make moral decisions. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

Quantum unpredictability: necessary but not sufficient for free will

Professor Coyne was incredulous that Miller could make such a claim:

What? Quantum mechanics to the rescue! … The obvious problem is that Miller equates unpredictability with free will. I’m willing to grant that perhaps events on the quantum level would lead to two universes, started off at the exact same physical configuration, winding up at different states in the future. What neither I nor any other competent thinker is willing to concede is that quantum unpredictability has anything to do with “free will”. A “decision” does not become free if it’s merely the result of the unpredictable movement of an electron somewhere in our brain. How can anyone believe that stuff?

I have to say that I was mystified by Professor Coyne’s failure to understand the simple point being made here by Professor Ken Miller. Professor Miller nowhere equated unpredictability with free will; indeed, he explicitly stated that unpredictability doesn’t explain free will. What he said was that unpredictability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the existence of free will. No philosopher or scientist claims that a decision becomes free simply by virtue of being unpredictable; hence when Professor Coyne remarks that “A ‘decision’ does not become free if it’s merely the result of the unpredictable movement of an electron somewhere in our brain,” he is merely attacking a straw man.

Professor Coyne will probably want to know precisely how quantum physics makes free will possible, if the former is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the latter. In my post, How is libertarian free will possible? (July 14, 2011), I provided a detailed model which attempted to address this very question. I discuss this model below. Professor Coyne is welcome to critique my model if he so wishes.

There is one thing that Professor Coyne gets absolutely right, however: genuine free will is incompatible with determinism. He and Professor Miller agree on this point, against philosophical compatibilists (such as Professor Daniel Dennett) who argue that our actions can be completely determined and yet fully free. I critiqued Dennett’s view in my post, Battle of the two Elizabeths: are free will and physical determinism compatible? (14 August 2011).

Is emergentist materialism sufficient for genuine freedom?

In the Youtube video I linked to above, Professor Miller went on to say that our capacity to make choices is wired into our brains. Evidently he is an emergentist materialist:

We are collections of not just the molecules that make us up, but also the cells that make up our bodies. These collections have emergent properties – and what I mean by emergent properties is: the 100 trillion cells that make up a human being together are capable of doing things that no-one in their right mind would ever look at a single cell and say that cell is eventually able to do. I’ve never looked at a cell under an electron microscope and said, “You know, that’s the cell that can compose a symphony,” or “That’s the cell that can hit a baseball,” or do just about anything else. And I think out of these emerging properties comes not just the ability to make moral decisions, but the ability to basically, as an organism, made up of all these different parts, to try to ask questions like, “What is the truth, and why should we seek it?” (Emphases mine – VJT.)

On this point, I would have to respectfully disagree with Professor Miller: I would say that our non-deterministic brains allow us to make free choices, but that brains themselves are incapable of freely choosing anything. In my post, Why I think the interaction problem is real (July 13, 2011), I explained why higher-level emergent properties of the brain cannot account for freedom:

It might seem tempting to say that higher-level bodily actions can bring about lower-level bodily actions. That’s fine, so far as it goes. However, if we are to have genuine freedom, then these higher-level bodily actions must be just as ontologically fundamental as the lower-level bodily actions that they determine. For if these higher-level actions are determined by lower-level bodily actions occurring at a previous time, then we are back at square one again: we are once more the prisoners of our body chemistry, and bottom-up causation rules.

If you’re going to argue that higher-level emergent processes occurring in the brain can explain human freedom, then you’ll have to argue that these processes were not determined from below at a previous date. But can brain processes be free?

Arguments against mechanistic materialism

In my post, I then provided links to some short, highly readable philosophical posts (see here, here, here, here and here) demonstrating that a purely bodily action could not possibly qualify as a free choice. (See here for a more serious paper by the late Professor James Ross.) However, I realize that Professor Coyne is distrustful of philosophical reasoning, as he considers it to be based on unverifiable armchair argumentation, so today I’ll try a different tack. Instead, I’d like to suggest that Professor Coyne have a look at a non-technical mathematical paper by the Oxford mathematician J. R. Lucas, which was read to the Turing Conference at Brighton on April 6th, 1990. It’s an argument based on Godel’s theorem, which aims to show that mechanism is false. Lucas originally developed the argument in an article entitled, Minds, Machines and Godel (Philosophy, 36, 1961, pp.112-127). In his subsequent 1990 paper, Lucas elaborated his argument and defended it against some common criticisms.

I can move the neurons in my brain

There are some philosophical dualists (e.g. Professor Edward Feser) who have argued (see here) that the “interaction problem” is a pseudo-problem. In my post, Why I think the interaction problem is real, I argued that interaction between persons and their brains really occurs. I went on to defend the view that persons (not brains) make choices, and that it is simply “a basic fact of human nature that whenever I perform the non-bodily action of deciding to move my right arm, region ‘X’ of the motor homunculus in my brain (i.e. the area in my brain which governs right arm movements) is activated, and whenever I decide to move my right leg instead, region ‘Y’ of the motor homunculus in my brain (which governs right leg movements) is activated.” This was a deliberate oversimplification: I further acknowledged that “the mechanics of voluntary movement [described above] is grossly oversimplified, as it overlooks such things as feedback, forward modeling, fine motor-tuning and proprioception.” In the same post, I also criticized the view (commonly known as Cartesian dualism) that “that mind and body are two things, and that the former interacts with the latter in a purely mechanical fashion – as if the mind were like a ‘spiritual billiard ball’ that could somehow set ‘physical billiard balls’ (i.e. neurons in the brain) in motion.”

How is quantum physics related to free will?

I wrote about the relation of quantum physics to free will in my post, How is libertarian free will possible? (July 14, 2011), in which I provided a detailed model of how a non-bodily act of top-down causation transforms a non-deterministic brain into the executor of a free choice made by a person. Here is the relevant excerpt from my post:

Reasoning is an immaterial activity. This means that reasoning doesn’t happen anywhere – certainly not in some spooky Cartesian soul hovering 10 centimeters above my head. It has no location. Ditto for choice. However, choices have to be somehow realized on a physical level, otherwise they would have no impact on the world. The soul doesn’t push neurons, as Eccles appears to think; instead, it selects from one of a large number of quantum possibilities thrown up at some micro level of the brain (Doyle’s micro mind). This doesn’t violate quantum randomness, because a selection can be non-random at the macro level, but random at the micro level. The following two rows of digits will serve to illustrate my point.

1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1
0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1

The above two rows of digits were created by a random number generator. Now suppose I impose the macro requirement: keep the columns whose sum equals 1, and discard the rest. I now have:

1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

Each row is still random, but I have imposed a non-random macro-level constraint. That’s how my will works when I make a choice.

For Aristotelian-Thomists, a human being is not two things – a soul and a body – but one being, capable of two radically different kinds of acts – material acts (which other animals are also capable of) and formal, immaterial actions, such as acts of choice and deliberation. In practical situations, immaterial acts of choice are realized as a selection from one of a large number of randomly generated possible pathways.

On a neural level, what probably happens when an agent decides to raise his/her arm is this: the arm goes through a large number of micro-level muscular movements (tiny twitches) which are randomly generated at the quantum level. The agent tries these out over a very short interval of time (a fraction of a second) before selecting the one which feels right – namely, the one which matches the agent’s desire to raise his/her arm. This selection continues during the time interval over which the agent raises his/her arm. The wrong (randomly generated quantum-level) micro-movements are continually filtered out by the agent.

Facts are stubborn things. If the facts suggest that materialism is wrong, then it is time to look for a better model. In this post, I have attempted to describe a top-down, “person-body” dualist model which addresses the nuts and bolts questions relating to free will, and which explains how quantum indeterminacy makes it realizable within an organism with a human body.

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19 Responses to Professors Coyne and Miller clash on free will

  1. Though not as clear as your explanation Dr. Torley, this video is in the same direction as you:

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? Stuart Hameroff – video
    http://www.vimeo.com/29895068

  2. Here’s the way I look at the free-will/consciousness arising from matter question.

    Presumably, on the assumption that consciousness arose sometime after the Universe began, all arrangements of matter blindly and obediently followed physical law (quantum mechanical or otherwise) before it appeared. Presumably, according to materialist metaphysics, all arrangements of matter continued to blindly and obediently follow physical law after consciousness arose.

    Given that consciousness in and of itself thereby made no difference to the behavior of arrangements of matter, it is impossible to see why it should bother to “emerge” at all. It makes no difference to anything, cannnot cause anything that wasn’t perfectly able to take place without it, and therefore is not even implied by considering the physical state of things alone. No explanation that says in effect: “This unconscious thing interacted with that unconscious thing and that’s why consciousness ‘emerged’.” can even be coherent. A physical explanation of consciousness is thereby a logical impossibility. Unless consciousness can act as a separate cause of things its “emergence” can only be a non-sequitur.

  3. I found another ‘logical impossibility’, from empirical evidence, as to consciousness being ‘emergent’ from a material basis:

    (Double Slit) A Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser – updated 2007
    Excerpt: Upon accessing the information gathered by the Coincidence Circuit, we the observer are shocked to learn that the pattern shown by the positions registered at D0 (Detector Zero) at Time 2 depends entirely on the information gathered later at Time 4 and available to us at the conclusion of the experiment.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....ly-web.htm

    (i.e. This experiment clearly shows that the detector is secondary in the experiment and that a conscious observer, being able to know the information of which path a photon takes with local certainty, is primary to the wave collapsing to a particle in the experiment. The act of a detector detecting a photon at an earlier time in the experiment does not determine if the wave will be collapsed at the end of the experiment. Only the availability of the information to the observer is what matters for the wave to collapse. That is what he meant by ‘we the observer are shocked to learn’)

    It is also very interesting to note that some materialists seem to have a very hard time grasping the simple point of these extended double slit experiments, but to try to put it more clearly; To explain an event which defies time and space, as the quantum erasure experiment clearly does, you cannot appeal to any material entity in the experiment like the detector, or any other 3D physical part of the experiment, which is itself constrained by the limits of time and space. To give an adequate explanation for defying time and space, such as also had to be done when the hidden variable argument was refuted by Alain Aspect, one is forced to appeal to a transcendent entity which is itself not confined by time or space. But then again I guess I can see why forcing someone, who claims to be a atheistic materialist, to appeal to a non-material transcendent entity, to give an adequate explanation for such a ‘spooky’ event, would invoke such utter confusion on their part. Yet to try to put it in even more ‘shocking’ terms for the atheists, the ‘shocking’ conclusion of the experiment is that a transcendent Mind, with a capital M, must precede the collapse of quantum waves to 3-Dimensional particles. Moreover, it is impossible for a human mind to ever ‘emerge’ from any 3-D material basis which is dependent on a preceding conscious cause for its own collapse to a 3D state in the first place. This is more than a slight problem for the atheistic-evolutionary materialist who insists that our minds ‘emerged’, or evolved, from 3D matter. In the following article Professor Henry puts it more clearly than I can:

    The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, Physicists shy away from the truth because the truth is so alien to everyday physics. A common way to evade the mental universe is to invoke “decoherence” – the notion that “the physical environment” is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in “Renninger-type” experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The universe is entirely mental,,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    Astrophysicist John Gribbin commented on the Renninger experiment here:

    Solving the quantum mysteries – John Gribbin
    Excerpt: From a 50:50 probability of the flash occurring either on the hemisphere or on the outer sphere, the quantum wave function has collapsed into a 100 per cent certainty that the flash will occur on the outer sphere. But this has happened without the observer actually “observing” anything at all! It is purely a result of a change in the observer’s knowledge about what is going on in the experiment.
    http://www.lifesci.sussex.ac.u.....tm#Solving

    i.e. The material detector is completely removed from any possibility as to being the cause of quantum wave collapse in the experiment.

    Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,,,
    Walt Whitman – Miracles

    That the mind of a individual observer would play such an integral, yet not complete ‘closed loop’ role, in instantaneous quantum wave collapse to uncertain 3-D particles, gives us clear evidence that our mind is a unique entity. A unique entity with a superior quality of existence when compared to the uncertain 3D particles of the material universe. This is clear evidence for the existence of the ‘higher dimensional mind’ of man that supersedes any material basis that the mind has been purported to emerge from by materialists. I would also like to point out that the ‘effect’, of universal quantum wave collapse to each ‘central 3D observer’ in the universe (Wheeler; Delayed Choice, Wigner; Quantum Symmetries), gives us clear evidence of the extremely special importance that the ’cause’ of the ‘Infinite Mind of God’ places on each of our own individual souls/minds.

    Psalm 139:17-18
    How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

    Music:

    Show Me Your Glory – Third Day with lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRP8ErNo7d4

  4. THis all goes back to the other recent post about the quantum cat problem. As we pointed out in that thread the observer is a fundamental local point of ALL quantum physical events. Therefore, i nthe beginning when our brains and their activity is forming in an unpredictible physcial expansion, those events lead us into a world of choices that WE then have to make. Given how we develop in our DNA/biology and the nuturing of it effects our eventual choices, and our choices overtime mount and directly effect our life-line. So not only does our observation directly effect the world around us, and not only is there an inherently unpredictable nature to the physical struture of the reality we are comprised of and surrounded by but OUR CHOICES directly effect what will happen to us next.

    This is why things like homosexuality cannot scientifcally be dertermined. It is because in human beings there are many things than can influence our decisions and development, but when it comes to decisons and choices, given ALL the vairables, and the nature of Qm physical reality, they elude a purely physical mechanical explanation.

    And if you doubt me think of this. Qm says anything we observe changes in the make up of its physical manifestation just due to our observation alone. Thus, even if you thought we DID have a sufficent explanation of ANY finely tuned choice realted event- THAT EXPLANATION ITSELF is then automatically called into question by our own inherent uncertainty in the matter that we use to understand and form that theory/explanation.

    This is what heisenberg and Bohn understood. That is why they said there is NO quantum reality- but only a quantum physical explanation of a physcial reality that we CANNOT truly know.

    Heisenberg said “the world is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we CAN think.” Ad that is because we are not the masters of this universe but merely players in it relying on our best understandings and faith to guide us though the darkness.

    The ONLY THINGs that are safe from the uncertainty of QM variation are those things that be believe in FAITH, because faith is where you reach out to the unknown and accept it as truth. And the decison of what you CHOOSE to believe in, WILL directly effect the outcome of other subsequent events in your life. In that sense what we put our faith in BECOMES our reality.

    That is why proper education is so important.

    And prayer as well.

  5. Excellent food for thought, as usual.

  6. 6

    A little off-topic, but:

    I have been arguing at Elizabeth Liddle’s blog for several days now about the simple, necessary assumption that humans can deliberately discern true statements. If, under the materialst/determinist paradigm, deliberacy (free will, choice) is nothing but a description of a sensation that accompanies an action, then it cannot be used as the causative agency for the action.

    I “chose to” or “deliberately did” become incompatible as the causative explanation for the action under materialism/determinism. It would be like saying “I felt nauseous, so my fist hit his face” or “I imagined a unicorn, so the hammer head hit the nail.” Associated images or sensations do not provide causal explanations for an action.

    They argue that humans cannot deliberately discern true statements (because “truth” is unavailable to us as subjective entities, or because no “free will” actually exists). I ask them if they are presenting that as a deliberately discerned true statement about what humans can and cannot do, and if they are expecting me to be able to deliberately discern that their claim is true via the argument they present.

    It seems odd that so obvious a repudiation of materialism/determinism can simply be denied. One cannot live or argue as if they do not have true free will; even arguments against it necessarily implicate that we have it and that it is a sufficient causative agency in and of itself, or else we could not be expected to deliberately discern the truth of any argument.

  7. I think it is a very dangerous subject to move into. The danger is exactly the one ID opposes: falling into the trap of a mechanistic/naturalistic view. We should leave room for mystery. How can immaterial entities be explained or forced into any reasoning scheme? E.g. how can my attitide to ones I love be reduced to chemical reactions in my body? For one, Schroedinger ended up driving towards pantheism in his deliberations on free will.

    BTW, if we want to defend a theistic stand in the origins controversy, we must also be aware of this danger: God is independent of any reasoning and cannot be forced by necessity. So I think it is impossible to prove or disprove that God exists.

  8. My own view is closer to Miller’s than to Coyne’s on this issue. I do agree that Coyne has misinterpreted Miller when he says “Miller equates unpredictability with free will.”

    The real problem with “free will” debates, is that there is little agreement on what we even mean by “free will.”

  9. as to this comment of Miller’s:

    At its finest level, matter has an inherent unpredictability,

    Actually at ‘its finest level’, matter with an inherent unpredictability is merely an illusion that we have apriori forced onto the evidence, for at the ‘finest level’ of reality we find that there is in fact information not matter!!!

    In the beginning was the bit – New Scientist
    Excerpt: Zeilinger’s principle leads to the intrinsic randomness found in the quantum world. Consider the spin of an electron. Say it is measured along a vertical axis (call it the z axis) and found to be pointing up. Because one bit of information has been used to make that statement, no more information can be carried by the electron’s spin. Consequently, no information is available to predict the amounts of spin in the two horizontal directions (x and y axes), so they are of necessity entirely random. If you then measure the spin in one of these directions, there is an equal chance of its pointing right or left, forward or back. This fundamental randomness is what we call Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
    http://www.quantum.at/fileadmi.....t/bit.html

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.” Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:
    http://www.metanexus.net/Magaz.....fault.aspx

    Further note:

    Zeilinger’s principle
    The principle that any elementary system carries just one bit of information. This principle was put forward by the Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger in 1999 and subsequently developed by him to derive several aspects of quantum mechanics.
    http://science.jrank.org/pages.....z17a7f88PM

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    i.e. Whenever Miller, or anyone else, mentions ‘matter’, to support a reductive materialistic position, they are merely referring to a imaginary mental construct that is not truly the basis in reality, for reality at its basis is shown to be information, i.e. Logos, The Word of John 1:1.

    further note:

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Excerpt: A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-entangle/

    Quantum Entanglement and Teleportation – Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5705317/

    quantum teleporation has shown that atoms, which are suppose to be the basis from which functional information ‘emerges’, in the neo-Darwinian framework, are now shown to be, in fact, reducible to the transcendent functional quantum information that the atoms are suppose to be the basis of!

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistrywo.....ammeup.asp

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    How can functional quantum information/entanglement possibly ‘emerge’ from any material basis of atoms when atoms are now shown to reduce to a transcendent basis of quantum information in the first place? i.e. It is IMPOSSIBLE for the ’cause’ of transcendent functional quantum information to ‘emerge’ from, or reside within, material particles!

    Moreover neo-Darwinists have yet to deal honestly with the fact that purely ‘material’ processes have NEVER been seen producing ANY functional information!

    Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information – Abel, Trevors
    Excerpt: Shannon information theory measures the relative degrees of RSC and OSC. Shannon information theory cannot measure FSC (Functional Sequence Complexity). FSC is invariably associated with all forms of complex biofunction, including biochemical pathways, cycles, positive and negative feedback regulation, and homeostatic metabolism. The algorithmic programming of FSC, not merely its aperiodicity, accounts for biological organization. No empirical evidence exists of either RSC of OSC ever having produced a single instance of sophisticated biological organization. Organization invariably manifests FSC rather than successive random events (RSC) or low-informational self-ordering phenomena (OSC).,,,

    Testable hypotheses about FSC

    What testable empirical hypotheses can we make about FSC that might allow us to identify when FSC exists? In any of the following null hypotheses [137], demonstrating a single exception would allow falsification. We invite assistance in the falsification of any of the following null hypotheses:

    Null hypothesis #1
    Stochastic ensembles of physical units cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function.

    Null hypothesis #2
    Dynamically-ordered sequences of individual physical units (physicality patterned by natural law causation) cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function.

    Null hypothesis #3
    Statistically weighted means (e.g., increased availability of certain units in the polymerization environment) giving rise to patterned (compressible) sequences of units cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function.

    Null hypothesis #4
    Computationally successful configurable switches cannot be set by chance, necessity, or any combination of the two, even over large periods of time.

    We repeat that a single incident of nontrivial algorithmic programming success achieved without selection for fitness at the decision-node programming level would falsify any of these null hypotheses. This renders each of these hypotheses scientifically testable. We offer the prediction that none of these four hypotheses will be falsified.
    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/2/1/29

  10. footnotes:

    Quantum Computing – Stanford Encyclopedia
    Excerpt: Theoretically, a single qubit can store an infinite amount of information, yet when measured (and thus collapsing the Quantum Wave state) it yields only the classical result (0 or 1),,,
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....tcomp/#2.1

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

  11. Reading your response, I couldn’t help but smile and think: “If the mind is pre-determined, then how is it possible to be arguing (i.e., have two separate positions) about what free will consists of.” You have to chuckle a bit here.

  12. Well thought out, and well stated. Bravo!

  13. I think a simple rebuttal to Coyne’s position is the reality of “out of body” experiences.

    These are now very well-documented.

    In one instance, a person born blind, had an out of body experience and later described what they “saw”!!

    Thus, as you argue, vjt, the mind is obviously “immaterial”, and hence, associated with our bodies through ‘agency’, but not bound by the demands of this ‘agency’.

  14. Dr. Torley:

    Quantum unpredictability: necessary but not sufficient for free will

    The false premise in there is that “unpredictability” is true. More precisely, unpredictable is not the same as unknown. Something is inherently unpredictable only if it is inherently unknowable and can never be sufficiently measured or observed. We often use the word “random” as a euphemism for unpredictable, when in fact what seems random is often insufficiently measured.

    Brownian motion of molecules is not a “random walk”, rather its lack of predictibility is directly related to the lack of measurement of the kinetic energy and direction of each impinging molecule. A hugely complex system to measure precisely with existing technology, but measurements are theoretically possible and hence what seems random is theoretically predictable.

    At quantum levels, as recent experiments *prove*, what was presumed unpredictable was merely unknown; it was observed (measured) in the past when the observations need to be, albeit surprisingly, in the future of what is to be predicted. I.e., past quantum unpredictibility becomes quantum certainty by observing the quantum future.

    The point is that what is presumed to be inherently unpredictable, likely is merely misunderstood and inadequately measured.

    Further, I can choose at will with complete and unrestricted freedom to either mimic, complement, or ignore (make no choice) the output of a quantum random number generator, thus demonstrating that my free will is independent of whatever quantum “randomness” impinges upon the generator. i.e., my choices are neither determined by any other agent nor by macro, micro, or even quantum environmental factors.

    Coyne and Miller are both wrong. Quantum unpredictibility is neither fact nor relevant.

    … it [the soul] selects from one of a large number of quantum possibilities thrown up at some micro level of the brain (Doyle’s micro mind).

    Whatever the soul/mind is, I highly doubt it operates at quantum resolution, i.e., it seems implausible the soul sits at quantum control board simultaneously selecting from a near infinitude of quantum possibilities and then has the “granularity” to select just one (or a group of many) for some kind of feedback. However the immaterial “person” (soul/mind) interacts with the physical brain, the “macro” level of thought in our conscientiousness would seem to argue against a level of control finer than the motor/sensory homunculus. Our conscientious thoughts give us no hint of thinking (even autonomic feedback) at quantum levels. Even immature, developing minds (young children) with no concept of quantum levels are as adept at voluntary motor skills as most adults. While we learn to throw a ball accurately, we learn at macro feedback levels, not fine-tuning quantum possibilities.

    The mind/soul need interact (whatever that mechanism) with the brain at a level no finer than the brain’s voluntary functions, the mapping of which we don’t yet understand very well, but it plainly seems several levels above quantum. Just because that interaction has an immaterial component does not justify a corequisite of quantum randomness.

    </my2cents>

  15. Materialists undermine their own philosophy each time they try to persuade us that free will doesn’t exist.

    If, as they insist, matter is the sole determinant of our beliefs and actions, then their arguments do not have the capacity to take us on a path other than the one which nature has determined?

    If, on the other hand, they think that they can, through the power of words, persuade us to take a path other than the one nature has determined, then materialism has obviously left the building.

  16. I, too, have reservations about trying to explain the unfathomable mystery of the relationship between the immaterial human soul (which includes the faculties of mind and will) and the material brain (an organ, albeit the noblest of organs) through quantum indeterminancy). The fact of the relationsip is evident, but the how is, in my judgment, a mystery that will always remain unexplained.

  17. Charles a very well put two cents; And what you have stated is what bugs me about Hameroff’s quantum microtubules (see post #1). For though he undermines the materialistic understanding of neurons with his quantum microtubule model (which he now has empirical support for), his model does not, by itself, provide empirical support for ‘top down’ cause of, nor causality from, the mind. Yet there is a line of evidence, that I have seen Hameroff mention in his writings, that does provide empirical support for at least a ‘beyond space and time’ cause for the mind:

    Top down cause of mind is supported here;

    Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

    As well, the extreme plasticity of the brain also argues very forcefully for a ‘top down’ cause for the mind:

    Miracle Of Mind-Brain Recovery Following Hemispherectomies – Dr. Ben Carson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994585/

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives:
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining; In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08.....lives.html

    If that wasn’t enough, at the molecular level, the cells of the brain are found to be extremely ‘plastic’ to changes in ‘activity in the brain’;

    DNA Dynamism – PaV – October 2011
    Excerpt: “It was mind-boggling to see that so many methylation sites — thousands of sites — had changed in status as a result of brain activity,” Song says. “We used to think that the brain’s epigenetic DNA methylation landscape was as stable as mountains and more recently realized that maybe it was a bit more subject to change, perhaps like trees occasionally bent in a storm. But now we show it is most of all like a river that reacts to storms of activity by moving and changing fast.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-dynamism/

    Whereas, though I haven’t seen Hameroff mention it, Top down causality ‘from’ the mind is supported here:

    Quantum Coherence and Consciousness – Scientific Proof of ‘Mind’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6266865/

    Particular quote of note from preceding video;

    “Wolf Singer Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (Frankfurt) has found evidence of simultaneous oscillations in separate areas of the cortex, accurately synchronized in phase as well as frequency. He suggests that the oscillations are synchronized from some common source, but the actual source has never been located.”
    James J. Hurtak, Ph.D.

    Brain ‘entanglement’ could explain memories – January 2010
    Excerpt: In both cases, the researchers noticed that the voltage of the electrical signal in groups of neurons separated by up to 10 millimetres sometimes rose and fell with exactly the same rhythm. These patterns of activity, dubbed “coherence potentials”, often started in one set of neurons, only to be mimicked or “cloned” by others milliseconds later. They were also much more complicated than the simple phase-locked oscillations and always matched each other in amplitude as well as in frequency. (Perfect clones) “The precision with which these new sites pick up on the activity of the initiating group is quite astounding – they are perfect clones,” says Plen
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-399098

    In The Wonder Of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind, Eccles and Robinson discussed the research of three groups of scientists (Robert Porter and Cobie Brinkman, Nils Lassen and Per Roland, and Hans Kornhuber and Luder Deeke), all of whom produced startling and undeniable evidence that a “mental intention” preceded an actual neuronal firing – thereby establishing that the mind is not the same thing as the brain, but is a separate entity altogether.
    http://books.google.com/books?.....8;lpg=PT28

    “As I remarked earlier, this may present an “insuperable” difficulty for some scientists of materialists bent, but the fact remains, and is demonstrated by research, that non-material mind acts on material brain.” Eccles

    “Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder.”
    Heinrich Heine – in the year 1834

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiment, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your non-existent god around?”

  18. Although empirical support for a transcendent cause of, and from, the mind is very important to establish, perhaps the most important empirical finding, of recent science, is that ‘non-local’ (beyond space and time) quantum information is found in molecular biology on a massive scale, for this provides solid support for the ‘mechanism’, for the theistic belief, of a transcendent soul of man that lives beyond the death of his body:

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA & Protein Folding – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    It is very sobering to realize just how ‘spooky’, to use Einstein’s infamous word, it is to find quantum information/entanglement on a massive scale in molecular biology:

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    And this ‘beyond space and time’ quantum information/entanglement, found on a massive scale in molecular biology, does indeed provide a very plausible mechanism for the transition to a ‘eternal dimension’ upon death, as is commonly held by Theists:

    Moreover, reality itself offers evidence for a ‘eternal dimension’ to be transitioned to!

    Please compare the similarity of the optical effect, noted at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, which was put together by two Australian University Physics Professors, who used a supercomputer to make the video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as an observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light, with the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ reported in very many Near Death Experiences:

    Traveling At The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/

    Here is the interactive website (with link to the math at the bottom of the page) related to the preceding video;

    Seeing Relativity
    http://www.anu.edu.au/Physics/Searle/

    And here are some ‘typical’ Near Death Experience testimonies from Judeo-Christian cultures:

    The NDE and the Tunnel – Kevin Williams’ research conclusions
    Excerpt: I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.(Barbara Springer)

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel – video
    http://www.vimeo.com/29021432

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    Moreover time itself, becomes eternal at the speed of light:

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein – The Einstein Factor – Reader’s Digest

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    Experimental confirmation of Time Dilation
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....nfirmation

    And this ‘eternality’ found for physical reality, is confirmed in Judeo-Christian Near Death Testimonies as well:

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    Mickey Robinson – Near Death Experience testimony

    ‘When you die, you enter eternity. It feels like you were always there, and you will always be there. You realize that existence on Earth is only just a brief instant.’
    Dr. Ken Ring – has extensively studied Near Death Experiences

    ‘Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything – past, present, future – exists simultaneously.’ – Kimberly Clark Sharp – NDE Experiencer

    ‘There is no way to tell whether minutes, hours or years go by. Existence is the only reality and it is inseparable from the eternal now.’ – John Star – NDE Experiencer

    verse and music:

    Luke 23:42-43
    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    Matthew West – Strong Enough (Official Music Video)
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FFFFEMNU

  19. I am often puzzled by people who claim that science refutes free will. Science itself depends of making choices so as to thoroughly test possible alternative explanations. And if we don’t have free will, I wonder how scientists make those choices.

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