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William J. Murray Shines

In this exchange with Elizabeth Liddle, William J. Murray gives one of the most succinct and insightful rebuttals of determinism I have ever seen:
Murray’s Argument:
Determinists are no more capable of framing a determinist argument without using libertarian assumptions and phrases than Darwinists are capable of framing discussions of biology and evolution without using design assumptions and phrases.
The determinist uses “we”, “I”, and “our”, and the acts of such agencies, as if they are libertarian commodities – first sufficient causes in and of themselves, ignoring the necessary causation of what produces the sensation of personhood and the sensation of choosing and the sensation of making contingent models.
The sensation of self, thought, act, concept, reflection, choice and meaning are all entirely self-referential to the same thing – sensations produced and experienced by the actual sufficient and necessary cause in the determinst’s world – the ongoing interactions of physical matter.
IOW, the monists view is entirely self-referential, and thus incoherent. X means X, or means Y, or means nothing if the aggregate physical interaction (API) results in it “believing” that is what it means. Incoherent arguments are soundly logical if the API (which is all logic is, logic being a mental construct, and thus the product of the API) says so. Up is down, right is left, and a barking dog makes more sense than Aristotle, if the API so dictates.
And thus, by the only arbiter of sound logic and good arguments, since my API says “you’re wrong”, then you are wrong by the only arbiter there is of such things, from the determinist perspective. I don’t even have to tender an argument, or logic, because logic and arguments are not “more valid” than any other expression of the API.
If all things are consumed by the API, and the API is all we have to evaluate the API by, then I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all the debate I need make here by the determinst standard.
Nobody with any self-respect and intellectual merit actually argues that way, which would be the necessary consequence of determinism. Except, of course, if determinism were true, then you couldn’t help arguing in a way that is based on your argument not actually being true (and being forced by API to not recognize the intellectual dishonesty inherent in your argument), any more than leaves can help rustling in the wind (and perhaps thinking they were making sound arguments, if the API so directed).
This is one of the reasons I don’t believe everyone has free will; they are actually leaves blown by the API wind, saying and believing whatever self-refuting nonsense their aggregate physical interactions dictate.
What is truly ironic is that Elizabeth argues for a model of reality where she couldn’t hope to know (other than as self-referential programming) if she was being intellectually dishonest or not (since she would just be programmed by physics to believe one way or another), so she cannot actually be “intellectually dishonest”, since there is no independent and sufficient “Elizabeth” in existence to moderate, check, supervene or arbit what the aggregate physical interaction knowns as “elizabeth” says and believes.
IOW, Elizabeth argues that we are arguing with a programmed computer simulation (a biological automaton) that is incapable of independent reflection and examination. The only thing the machine has to check its programming with is .. its programming.
Of course, if we were to accept Elizabeth’s assertion that we are all just programmed biological automatons forced to believe and say and do whatever the aggregate physical interaction commands, why bother arguing with anyone? Why bother debating? We have no means by which to independently arbit truth or reality.
According to the determinist perspective, are necessarily material solipsists, our sensations, interactions, beliefs, views and ideas all individually generated and inescabable, with no way of knowing or discering what – if anything – is true and real.
The API produces both the madman and the scientist, Gandhi and Hitler, kindness and cruelty with equal belief each is true and right; that makes them all true and right by the only arbiter of such thing – what physics actually produces.
Dr. Liddle reponds:
Have you actually read my argument? I’m saying that “I” is a great deal more than “a collection of materials and interactions” or can be, if we choose to do so. If set the boundaries of the self so close that the “I” – the agent we assign responsibility for our actions to – is a mere spectator on a surge of material interactions, then, sure, we have no moral responsibility, but, by the same token, we have defined ourselves almost out of existence.
Murray responds:Unless drawing larger boundaries and mentally taking responsiblity for more stuff factually transforms “materials in a deterministic process” into something else, calling it “a great deal more than a collection of materials in a deterministic process” is the very essence of equivocation, because under determinism that is all you can ever be, regardless of what you think, believe, or do.
Or, perhaps you are just saying we should lie to ourselves, like a rock saying “I’m a great deal more than just a rock!” when, in fact, it’s just a rock.
You’re sneaking in the stolen concept again. You having nothing other than “collections of materials in a deterministic universe” to work with or to end up with, regardless of what kind of mental gymnastics and equivocations you use to hide the facts of such an existence from yourself.

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77 Responses to William J. Murray Shines

  1. Thanks for posting this, it’s de ja vu all over again.

    For the past several weeks debating Dr Liddle over the existence of information, I have had this particular argument rolling around in the back of my head. This is not the first time that WJM has posted on this topic, and I have read his writing before. He made these same observations in the past referring to another of UD’s infamous opponent figures.

    I knew it was WJM whom I was trying to recall, but I just couldn’t get my hands around specifically what he had said. I’ll try to do a better job of commiting it to memory this time.

    Instead of placing Dr Liddle’s very own words in front of her and asking her to do anything that might be remotely construed as intellectually honest, I will simply have to adopt the belief that her API sees nothing whatsoever of the obvious and numerous contradictions she piles up over time, and hold her accountable to no standard whatsoever.

    Apparently that is what would be best for her blood pressure.

  2. Assuming a completely deterministic world, I’d be compelled to write the opposite of “thank you” for this discussion, if I bothered to write anything at all. Here’s why.

    First, this discussion would be as meaningful as the robotic interaction between the internal parts of a mechanical clock. Thus, it would be insane for any sentient, self-aware person to bother participating.

    Second, the clock would sadly wind down as a result of the conversation. The dissemination and evaluation of even the illusion of information would *hasten* its homogenization. No one would ever disagree with anyone else or be surprised by anything. The result would be crushing boredom, the heat death of the mind . . .

    But obviously we don’t believe that do we? ;-)

  3. “The API produces both the madman and the scientist, Gandhi and Hitler, kindness and cruelty with equal belief each is true and right; that makes them all true and right by the only arbiter of such thing – what physics actually produces.”

    Is it weird that this statement actually makes me think that this is the kind of world we live in. After-all, truth is an impossible goal, both ID proponents and Evolutionists think they are genuine and correct. I don’t think that Hitler thought he was doing anything wrong. Is he saying that the world is not like this?

  4. (Note – I’m William J. Murray. I currently have to post under two different names (work and home) for technical reasons I’m trying to resolve.)

    First, I appreciate the honor of having my comments selected to open a thread on UD.

    Forjah: I’m saying that for many people, IMO, this is the world they live in; the determined, ongoing, aggregate physical interaction. Have you ever listened to conversations where what people say don’t seem to have any correlation? As if each person is just wound up to say whatever they have to say, regardless of what the other person actually asks or contributes?

    Of course, we all know people who do the same thing over and over, expecting different results and blind to the fact that they are not changing course, apparently unable to implement reasonable changes in behavior.

    I liken the whole thing to the Star Trek “Holodeck”, where real people go in and interact with sophisticated holograms that are simply running on interactive programming. How else to explain Dr. Liddle and others who are certainly not “evil” in any common use of the term; they certainly believe they are being rational; they are even quite polite and apparently intelligent and, as far as actual actions are concerned, apparently kind and considerate … but, they keep insisting on the same blatant absurdities and incoherencies as if they are absolutely rational and factually true.

    How else to explain the “theory” of “universes from nothing”? Turning a blind eye to obvious design and the equivocal avoidance of design arguments that drive them to accept absurd ad-hoc, incoherent, self-defeating explanations? How is an appeal to chance ever a scientific “explanation”? How else to explain those who think morality based on a subjective “good” can lead to any meaningful morality?

    Willful ignorance? Intellectual dishonesty? Those seem to be rather uncharitable interpretations that personally lead to breakdowns in civility and charity.

    I choose to believe these entities (I call them NPC’s – non-player characters) are actually what they claim to be – biological automatons, because it alleviates frustration and engenders a great deal of patience. It changes my interactive dynamic from one of trying to get them to understand, to one of marveling at them for what they appear to be (exceptionally designed interactive nodes existing to provide the opportunity for deep, meaningful free will choices that would not otherwise be available), and using their contributions here and in other forums to expose faulty arguments and metaphysics to actual free will agents that might be observing and searching for intellectual and rational grounding.

    Of course, I don’t know that they are just biological automatons, and I do believe that there are many people out there who do have free will, so it is incumbent upon me to treat them as if they are real souls with free will when it comes to moral and ethical questions. I also believe that many people that have free will have hidden it from themselves for one reason or another, and such arguments might possibly help them to recover their soul, so to speak.

    If I were to believe in a deterministic universe, I would stop debating anyone about anything, and accept that their religious and spiritual beliefs were exactly as valid as my beliefs, indemnified by the only thing that generates any belief – physics. Why bother trying to change anyone’s mind? It would be like a mesquite tree arguing that it is wrong to be a pecan tree. What’s the point?

  5. Dr. Liddle has previously stated that she does not believe the universe we inhabit is deterministic.

    Is she now arguing as if she does believe that the universe we inhabit is deterministic after saying clearly that she believes it is not?

  6. Current models suggest that it isn’t, although at least one theoretical physicist thinks it might be (Gerard t’Hooft).

    My position is that I don’t think it has any bearing on the free will issue either way.

  7. You can construe what you like, but I am as honest as I know how to be.

  8. Questions for those that believe that free will requires something other than material processes:

    Does a virus have free will?
    Does mitochondria have free will?
    Does a cell have free will?
    Does a Sponge have free will?
    Does Bacteria have free will?
    Does a Tapeworm have free will?
    Does a Fish have free will?
    Does a Salamander have free will?
    Does a Rat have free will?
    Does a Lemur have free will?
    Does a Monkey have free will?

  9. Yes I now realize that even though your comments don’t integrate with one another, you are honest because there is no actual standard to judge otherwise.

  10. Willam J Murray writes:

    Determinists are no more capable of framing a determinist argument without using libertarian assumptions and phrases than Darwinists are capable of framing discussions of biology and evolution without using design assumptions and phrases.
    The determinist uses “we”, “I”, and “our”, and the acts of such agencies, as if they are libertarian commodities – first sufficient causes in and of themselves, ignoring the necessary causation of what produces the sensation of personhood and the sensation of choosing and the sensation of making contingent models.

    Using “libertarian” language is not the same as using “libertarian assumptions” any more than using teleological language to describe function is to assume that there was an external designer.

    I use “we”, “I”, and “our” because those are words we use to think with, and they have a referent. My interest is in trying to understand that referent – to understand why we regard ourselves as agents, as we do, and as, IMO, we are fully justified in doing. I certainly do not “ignore” the causation of what produces this capacity, as I would regard it as.

    The sensation of self, thought, act, concept, reflection, choice and meaning are all entirely self-referential to the same thing – sensations produced and experienced by the actual sufficient and necessary cause in the determinst’s world – the ongoing interactions of physical matter.

    IOW, the monists view is entirely self-referential, and thus incoherent. X means X, or means Y, or means nothing if the aggregate physical interaction (API) results in it “believing” that is what it means. Incoherent arguments are soundly logical if the API (which is all logic is, logic being a mental construct, and thus the product of the API) says so. Up is down, right is left, and a barking dog makes more sense than Aristotle, if the API so dictates.

    And thus, by the only arbiter of sound logic and good arguments, since my API says “you’re wrong”, then you are wrong by the only arbiter there is of such things, from the determinist perspective. I don’t even have to tender an argument, or logic, because logic and arguments are not “more valid” than any other expression of the API.

    If all things are consumed by the API, and the API is all we have to evaluate the API by, then I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all the debate I need make here by the determinst standard.

    Nobody with any self-respect and intellectual merit actually argues that way, which would be the necessary consequence of determinism. Except, of course, if determinism were true, then you couldn’t help arguing in a way that is based on your argument not actually being true (and being forced by API to not recognize the intellectual dishonesty inherent in your argument), any more than leaves can help rustling in the wind (and perhaps thinking they were making sound arguments, if the API so directed).

    This is one of the reasons I don’t believe everyone has free will; they are actually leaves blown by the API wind, saying and believing whatever self-refuting nonsense their aggregate physical interactions dictate.

    You won’t be surprised to hear that I find the above profoundly misguided. First of all, let’s get something straight: what I have to say does not depend on determinism being true; a stochastic term in the model makes no difference, IMO, to whether mind is independent of brain, or the product of it. My position is that mind is a product of the brain.

    I will try to explain my view as briefly as I can: I think that brains are model-makers. That is entirely consistent with a mechanistic view of the brain, and we already have robotic devices that do the same – model the world, and parse it in to objects that appear to belong to some category. Some CCTV systems do this, I believe.

    They can also model the world – a robot can construct a map of its environment as it explores it, and can learn its way around. It also places itself on that map (in other words it “knows” where it is). While I do not argue that robots are conscious (at least in any way in which we would recognise consciousness) I do argue that a robot (or at least some robots) have some kind of internal representation of themselves – where they are located, where their boundaries are, how far they have to reach to grasp an object, etc. They can also produce predictive models, that are subject to constant updated. And it is perfectly reasonable to suppose (it may have already been done) that such a robot could categorise itself as one of a number of objects in its world that are agents, and which would also include its human handlers.

    And we can certainly construct robots who will use a word to describe themselves in a very crude language. So if a robot says: “I made you a cup of tea but your husband drank it”, which, I would argue, is well within the capacities of a modern Japanese robot to do, that robot is ascribing agency to a category of object to which both the robot and your husband belong. And “I” seems a perfectly reasonable word for the robot to use. Similarly, “I” seems a perfectly reasonable word for a person to use.

    And where I think William goes wrong is to dismiss the referent, in the case of the robot, as merely an “API”. The robot is no more means “aggregate physical interaction” when it uses the word “I” than you or I do, or even than you or I mean “aggregate physical interaction” when we say “lightning bolt”. We might, on reflection, account for the lighting bold in terms of an “aggregate physical interaction”, but that will scarcely do to describe it, and will certainly not do to describe a human agent, and probably not even a robot. A description of the “aggregate physical interaction” would be a useless model. In other words we parse the world into objects, and we use language not only to describe those objects but to predict their behaviour, and, indeed, to guide their behaviour, according to both proximal and distal goals – yet another model.

    And this is where I take issue with reductio ad absurdum arguments about both materialism and free will – with the idea that a materialist (for want of a better word -I think it is a poor one) reduces things to their constituent parts and interactions. No, we don’t. If we did so, the world would cease to make any sense. We can parse the world at different levels to address different questions. Parsing it at the level of the lepton may address some kinds of questions – but to understand the behaviour of macroscopic objects, and, in particular, macroscopic objects with brains, including ourselves, we have to parse them at that level. They cannot be reduced and still function as predictive models.

    What is truly ironic is that Elizabeth argues for a model of reality where she couldn’t hope to know (other than as self-referential programming) if she was being intellectually dishonest or not (since she would just be programmed by physics to believe one way or another), so she cannot actually be “intellectually dishonest”, since there is no independent and sufficient “Elizabeth” in existence to moderate, check, supervene or arbit what the aggregate physical interaction knowns as “elizabeth” says and believes.
    IOW, Elizabeth argues that we are arguing with a programmed computer simulation (a biological automaton) that is incapable of independent reflection and examination. The only thing the machine has to check its programming with is .. its programming.

    No, I’m not arguing that at all. I’m arguing that self-reflection, is exactly what human brains enable us to do – by producing forward, and indeed, backward models of the brain-owner.

    Of course, if we were to accept Elizabeth’s assertion that we are all just programmed biological automatons forced to believe and say and do whatever the aggregate physical interaction commands, why bother arguing with anyone? Why bother debating? We have no means by which to independently arbit truth or reality.

    um, I made no such assertion!

    According to the determinist perspective, are necessarily material solipsists, our sensations, interactions, beliefs, views and ideas all individually generated and inescabable, with no way of knowing or discering what – if anything – is true and real.

    The API produces both the madman and the scientist, Gandhi and Hitler, kindness and cruelty with equal belief each is true and right; that makes them all true and right by the only arbiter of such thing – what physics actually produces.

    Well, this certainly isn’t my view.

    Dr. Liddle reponds:
    Have you actually read my argument? I’m saying that “I” is a great deal more than “a collection of materials and interactions” or can be, if we choose to do so. If set the boundaries of the self so close that the “I” – the agent we assign responsibility for our actions to – is a mere spectator on a surge of material interactions, then, sure, we have no moral responsibility, but, by the same token, we have defined ourselves almost out of existence.
    Murray responds:Unless drawing larger boundaries and mentally taking responsiblity for more stuff factually transforms “materials in a deterministic process” into something else, calling it “a great deal more than a collection of materials in a deterministic process” is the very essence of equivocation, because under determinism that is all you can ever be, regardless of what you think, believe, or do.

    Yes, drawing larger boundaries certainly transforms us, and our perceptions. This is not equivocation at all, it is literally true. A person who takes responsibility for her actions behaves differently from one who does not. How is that not transformative? The problem I think is that you are dividing the concept of the self into two meanings, and then taking the view that I am equivocating between them. My point is that “I” refers to one thing, whether you are think brains create minds, or whether you don’t – it is the word that an agent that chooses uses to refer to itself as an agent that chooses. All I’m doing is saying that that capacity (to choose, and refer to yourself as an agent) is endowed on us by our brains.

    Or, perhaps you are just saying we should lie to ourselves, like a rock saying “I’m a great deal more than just a rock!” when, in fact, it’s just a rock.
    You’re sneaking in the stolen concept again.

    And my point is that it is not stolen. It is there for the taking. All I’m doing is cutting out the middle man.

    You having nothing other than “collections of materials in a deterministic universe” to work with or to end up with, regardless of what kind of mental gymnastics and equivocations you use to hide the facts of such an existence from yourself.

    But “mental gymnastics” is precisely what our brains do! It’s why they are so clever! There is no equivocation here – human brains are model-generators capable of generating models of themselves as agents. Those models are not delusions, or a lies, they are completely valid models. Therefore there is no equivocation :)

  11. I think that brains are model-makers. That is entirely consistent with a mechanistic view of the brain, and we already have robotic devices that do the same – model the world, and parse it in to objects that appear to belong to some category. Some CCTV systems do this, I believe.

    And we can certainly construct robots who will use a word to describe themselves in a very crude language.

    This is entirely irrelevant, as is the rest of your post. The all-important point continues to elude you.

    My rebuttal begins with the assumption that everything you describe (reiterate for the umpteenth time) is true; that physics programs brains to make models and think and feel and talk and hold beliefs and choose. My point is about what that – everything you describe as “what is going on” – would mean if true.

    Your entire construct cannot escape self-referential incoherency because of where it comes from, what it is made of, and the limitations it cannot overcome because it has no foundation or recourse to do so. IOW, if physics commands you to believe that you have made the choice to expand your responsibilities and feel like you have transformed your life and have just laid out a very compelling argument for that view, but in physical fact, concurrently, all you have actually done is bark like a dog, urinate in public, drool like a loon and slap your own face repeatedly, then that is what will occur.

    If physics commands you to make an absurd argument and concurrently believe it to be entirely rational, that is what you will do. (In fact, that is what you are doing.) Only if physics happens to command you think a thought and that thought happens to correspond to an actual fact will anything you utter be a truth; only if physics happens to program you to make an actually logical argument will it occur (though it seems the vast majority of arguments that physics produces in the world are not logical, one wonders why you should think yours is, or should be, or why you think anyone should consider it to be so).

    In fact, physics produces quite a few people enamored of their own absurd views, wouldn’t you agree? They believe their insane positions to be the very models of logic and reason. But you have no resource, other than that same producer of absurd arguments, to attempt to evaluate your argument or mine. Such an unresolved conundrum!

    You fail to provide me with an arbiter I might hope could be valid, Elizabeth. If physics produces both your argument and belief and mine (and Hitler’s, and Jeffrey Dahmer’s, and Rachel Maddow’s), what shall we use to arbit our differences, that is not the very same stuff that produced all those arguments, feelings and beliefs in the first place?

    IOW, without an objective, transcendent first/sufficient cause (uncaused cause) “I” that can supervene, examine, arbit and insert its uncaused will, then there is logically no means to distinguish a raving lunatic Elizabeth from a rational Elizabeth – or, a raving lunatic William from a barking dog or a fried egg.

    Repeating your position as if I do not understand your position is unnecessary; it’s not me that doesn’t understand the argument you are attempting or the implications thereof; it is you that is unwilling (oops … I mean, unable) to address the fundamental consequences of your position.

    To further demonstrate that you do not realize those consequences:

    My point is that “I” refers to one thing, whether you are think brains create minds, or whether you don’t – it is the word that an agent that chooses uses to refer to itself as an agent that chooses. All I’m doing is saying that that capacity (to choose, and refer to yourself as an agent) is endowed on us by our brains.

    The above shows that you do not understand the fundamental, dramatic difference between one kind of agency and the other, and the vastly different, necessary implications those two different kinds of agencies produce. Being so blind to the chasm that lies between a first/sufficient/uncaused agency, and entirely caused, determined agency, that you can claim that both are covered by the same use of the word “I” would be mind-boggling .. if I thought you had libertarian free will.

    Fortunately, my world-view provides an actual basis for truly discerning rational arguments from non-rational utterances. Like solipsism, yours does not, because the same fundamental process produces all effects – true, false, good, bad, rational, irrational – is all there is to monitor and judge the effects.

    You offer only self-referential incoherency that provides no meaningful basis for discerning any statement to be true or false.

  12. When a determinist uses the term “I”, they (supposedly) are referring to a particular thing (or things) in a particular location at a particular time; when a free-will libertarian uses the term “I”, they are referring to the principle of first/sufficient/uncaused cause, which is not a thing at a particular place at a particular time.

    They are two entirely differentconcepts of “I” with entirely different and necessary philosophical consequences. The problem is that the determinist often uses the term “I” in a way that requires it to be the latter and not the former, as if it is first/sufficient/uncaused cause and not just a happenstance collection of things at a particular location at a particular time doing whatever physics commands.

    To imply that “a particular thing at a particular location at a particular time” chooses, or willfully acts or thinks, or discerns (a rock rolling down a hill forming mental models of future choices and choosing each bump, slide and roll) is absurd, even if physics, by some miracle of quantum chance, makes the rock think and believe it is choosing its path down the mountain.

    But, this is stating what should be blatantly obvious to any reasonable entity – with free will, that is.

  13. LYO:

    If a HUMAN has not got sufficient freedom to really chose, s/he is programmed by genetics, nurture, chance etc, to produce whatever happens.

    This results in self-referential incoherence and the undermining of morality, through creating the false perception that it is amorality that is grounded on “knowledge” — which is fatal for communities of morally governed creatures. As Plato pointed out 2350 years ago

    Animals are not analysing and thinking through symbolised propositions on principles of logic, nor are they making decisions with moral import.

    We are.

    Big difference.

    And if your “a rat is a pig is a fish is a monkey is a boy” system of thought leads you to miss that difference, that is a further reason to see it as self-referentially absurd.

    Let’s start afresh with Haldane’s comment on the subject, and work our way upwards from there:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    If you want to plead “emergence,” or the like at any stage, kindly explain just what you mean. And if you want to argue that we make subjective choices but they are objectively determined by prior circumstances, then kindly respond to the exchange below as well:

    CRICK: . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.[The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994]

    JOHNSON: I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” . . . . [That is,] “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[In Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

    PROVINE: Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . . [Darwin Day address U Tenn, 1998.]

    BUTT: It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally as clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Mr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended . . . . [[However, i]f it is true that naturalistic evolution cannot provide an ultimate foundation for determining the difference between actions that are right and ones that are wrong, then the door is wide open for subjective speculation about all human behavior. [[Rape and Evolution, Apologetics Press, 2005.]

    Pardon, but I think you and your ilk have some fairly serious explaining to do.

    You will only succeed if you can tell us on solid grounds, why we should trust the deliverances of your mind, and why we should trust you with our sons and daughters.

    GEM of TKI

  14. F/N: Onlookers, I commented here on the a rat is a pig is a fish is a monkey is a boy inference. I struggle with this new threaded comments scheme.

  15. Mel:

    I think the concept that Plato used, the self-moved [with all that implies on self-transcending reflexivity], is significant.

    Let’s clip and follow his discussion:

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

    Notice, where he ends up, why.

    GEM of TKI

  16. Do our minds follow the laws of physics? Why or why not and how do you know?

  17. um, I made no such assertion!

    It’s weakly implied, at least according to those who don’t accept your position. The reasoning goes, “A is determined, I cannot therefore influence A, therefore what’s the point?” What the detractors miss is that even if A is determined, it’s determined by a process that works on an immense number of inputs — some of those inputs being the interaction with other agents. Just because agent B has no way to know how agent A will choose (even agent A may not know); this doesn’t mean that B has no influence.

  18. You fail to provide me with an arbiter I might hope could be valid, Elizabeth.

    Just because she hasn’t provided one doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. Time and selection provide that arbiter. A bridge that stands the test of time is better than one that fails under load. See Axelrod’s “The Evolution of Cooperation” for one way that behavior conducive to reproductive success can evolve.

  19. Does a virus have free will? YES
    Does mitochondria have free will? YES
    Does a cell have free will? YES
    Does a Sponge have free will? YES
    Does Bacteria have free will? YES
    Does a Tapeworm have free will? YES
    Does a Fish have free will? YES
    Does a Salamander have free will? YES
    Does a Rat have free will? YES
    Does a Lemur have free will? YES
    Does a Monkey have free will? YES
    Does a Human have free will? NO

    What is the point of asking whether those entities have “free will” if you, the asking party, don’t have free will?

    More to the point, what is the point of asking us to answer those questions if neither you nor I have free will?

  20. You’re kidding right? What current models?

  21. Kairosfocus:

    Indeed. When the determinist uses the term “I”, it means just another moved thing (no matter how “special” that moved thing might be); when the libertarian uses it, it means “unmoved mover”. Claiming that the term “I” refers to “essentially the same thing” when a libertarian uses the term and when a determinist uses the term is like saying that the term “white” can refer to both black and white; it betrays a fundamental incapacity to meaningfully discern what the free will debate is about.

    It doesn’t matter how fancy, subtle, well-programmed, complex, chaotic, loving, considerate, “responsible” (seeming), “moral” (seeming), broadly-circled, introspective or articulate a moved thing is, it’s still a moved thing. It is still the effect of something else. It is not an unmoved mover.

  22. WRF3:

    To pull up the old evolutionary materialism chance variation plus natural selection hat to try to pull man out of it like a magic rabbit, still does nothing to ground the credibility of either mind or morality on evo mat premises.

    The resulting self referential incoherence compared to our experience of ourselves and our need to trust our minds to even accept the thought patterns that lead to evolutionary theory, jointly show just how self-stultifying the thought frame of materialism is.

    Let’s expand a bit on the Haldane challenge above to see why, clipping from here:

    it is at least arguable that self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of evolutionary materialistic models of mind and its origin. This can be addressed at a more sophisticated level [[cf. Hasker in The Emergent Self (Cornell University Press, 2001), from p 64 on, e.g. here], but without losing its general force, it can also be drawn out a bit in a fairly simple way:

    a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

    b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

    (This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or “supervenes” on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure — the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. [[There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. "It works" does not warrant the inference to "it is true."] )

    c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains.

    d: These forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning [["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].

    e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

    f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely error, but delusion. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be an illustration of the unreliability of our reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

    g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

    h: That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence.

    i: The famous evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]

    j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt and (v) the “conclusions” we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or logical validity.

    (NB: The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)

    k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one’s beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.)

    l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.

    m: Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, “Billions and billions of demons,” it is now notorious that:

    . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [[materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    n: Such a priori assumptions of materialism are patently question-begging, mind-closing and fallacious.

    o: More important, to demonstrate that empirical tests provide empirical support to the materialists’ theories would require the use of the very process of reasoning and inference which they have discredited.

    p: Thus, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, as we have seen: immediately, that must include “Materialism.”

    q: In the end, it is thus quite hard to escape the conclusion that materialism is based on self-defeating, question-begging logic.

    r: So, while materialists — just like the rest of us — in practice routinely rely on the credibility of reasoning and despite all the confidence they may project, they at best struggle to warrant such a tacitly accepted credibility of mind relative to the core claims of their worldview. (And, sadly: too often, they tend to pointedly ignore or rhetorically brush aside the issue.)

    Until and unless evolutionary materialists can cogently answer this concern, they stand under a cloud of evident self-referential absurdity. And, that is multiplied by the challenge to bridge is and ought on evo mat premises.

    GEM of TKI

  23. If minds merely follow the laws of physics and/or chemistry — and such laws exactly do not explain the in-built algorithms of say a PC* the Haldane dilemma gobbles up rationality:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    ______

    * F/N: The functionally specific, complex information embedded in a PC comes from intelligent, knowledgeable, skilled designers, not merely “human” designers; such use the properties of materials and forces found in nature but do that in ways that transcend the mere brute forces and materials involved . . .

  24. Yup, as I have expanded above.

  25. Meleager:

    I think that brains are model-makers. That is entirely consistent with a mechanistic view of the brain, and we already have robotic devices that do the same – model the world, and parse it in to objects that appear to belong to some category. Some CCTV systems do this, I believe.

    And we can certainly construct robots who will use a word to describe themselves in a very crude language.

    This is entirely irrelevant, as is the rest of your post. The all-important point continues to elude you.

    Well, I beg to differ. I think it is extremely relevant, and directly addresses the point that you think is eluding you :)

    My rebuttal begins with the assumption that everything you describe (reiterate for the umpteenth time) is true; that physics programs brains to make models and think and feel and talk and hold beliefs and choose. My point is about what that – everything you describe as “what is going on” – would mean if true.

    Yes, I know, and I think you are wrong about that, which is my point – the one you think is “irrelevant”.

    Your entire construct cannot escape self-referential incoherency because of where it comes from, what it is made of, and the limitations it cannot overcome because it has no foundation or recourse to do so. IOW, if physics commands you to believe that you have made the choice to expand your responsibilities and feel like you have transformed your life and have just laid out a very compelling argument for that view, but in physical fact, concurrently, all you have actually done is bark like a dog, urinate in public, drool like a loon and slap your own face repeatedly, then that is what will occur.

    And what I’m saying is that “if physics commands you to believe…” is what is incoherent. It doesn’t mean anything. Think about what it would mean – how could “physics” “command” anything? What is your referent for “physics” here?

    If physics commands you to make an absurd argument and concurrently believe it to be entirely rational, that is what you will do. (In fact, that is what you are doing.) Only if physics happens to command you think a thought and that thought happens to correspond to an actual fact will anything you utter be a truth; only if physics happens to program you to make an actually logical argument will it occur (though it seems the vast majority of arguments that physics produces in the world are not logical, one wonders why you should think yours is, or should be, or why you think anyone should consider it to be so).

    But “physics” isn’t doing any “commanding” or “programming”. I do realise that you think you are rebutting my argument, and that I am merely repeating the same argument that you have already rebutted, but from my PoV you are not rebutting my argument at all, but one you think I must be making. It is precisely my point that a brain (or rather an organism with a brain, because the brain needs its body to work) is not “physics” but a system – a very specific system, namely a brain-with-a-body. If you ignore this system, then sure, the argument is incoherent, but that’s not my argument.

    In fact, physics produces quite a few people enamored of their own absurd views, wouldn’t you agree? They believe their insane positions to be the very models of logic and reason. But you have no resource, other than that same producer of absurd arguments, to attempt to evaluate your argument or mine. Such an unresolved conundrum!

    You fail to provide me with an arbiter I might hope could be valid, Elizabeth. If physics produces both your argument and belief and mine (and Hitler’s, and Jeffrey Dahmer’s, and Rachel Maddow’s), what shall we use to arbit our differences, that is not the very same stuff that produced all those arguments, feelings and beliefs in the first place?

    Well, you are providing two types of arguments here: is arguments and ought arguments. The first kind is easy to arbitrate – good is arguments are predictive. The better the argument, the better the fit will be between events and model. The second kind is not so easy, but we can, collectively, develop yardsticks nonetheless. None of this is contradicted by the idea that brains produce minds: indeed my thesis is that the kinds of minds brains produces are minds that do exactly this.

    IOW, without an objective, transcendent first/sufficient cause (uncaused cause) “I” that can supervene, examine, arbit and insert its uncaused will, then there is logically no means to distinguish a raving lunatic Elizabeth from a rational Elizabeth – or, a raving lunatic William from a barking dog or a fried egg.

    Yes, there are loads of means. Indeed, it’s extremely easy to build a quite simple piece of software that will distinguish me from a fried egg.

    Repeating your position as if I do not understand your position is unnecessary; it’s not me that doesn’t understand the argument you are attempting or the implications thereof; it is you that is unwilling (oops … I mean, unable) to address the fundamental consequences of your position.

    Well, then we are down to duelling assertions then :) I think the same about you :) I don’t think you are understanding my argument or the implications, and that is why you have, IMO, mistaken the “fundamental consequences of [my] position”. Not sure how to get beyond this impasse :)

    To further demonstrate that you do not realize those consequences:

    My point is that “I” refers to one thing, whether you are think brains create minds, or whether you don’t – it is the word that an agent that chooses uses to refer to itself as an agent that chooses. All I’m doing is saying that that capacity (to choose, and refer to yourself as an agent) is endowed on us by our brains.

    The above shows that you do not understand the fundamental, dramatic difference between one kind of agency and the other, and the vastly different, necessary implications those two different kinds of agencies produce.

    Well, I understand that you think that I do not understand the difference. I certainly agree that there are different kinds of agencies, but I do not carve them at the joints that you do. I think the joint you perceive is spurious. I think the reason we are “free” to choose in a way that most, if not all, other organisms are not,is that our language capacity enables us to model the future, enabling us to entertain multiple scenarios and their likely consequences, and feed those consequences back into the decision making process.

    Being so blind to the chasm that lies between a first/sufficient/uncaused agency, and entirely caused, determined agency, that you can claim that both are covered by the same use of the word “I” would be mind-boggling .. if I thought you had libertarian free will.

    Fortunately, my world-view provides an actual basis for truly discerning rational arguments from non-rational utterances. Like solipsism, yours does not, because the same fundamental process produces all effects – true, false, good, bad, rational, irrational – is all there is to monitor and judge the effects.

    But I’m not talking about “fundamental” processes. I’m talking about the properties of a very specific system of processes, and that system is extremely well fitted for “discerning rational arguments from non-rational utterances”.

    The sort of frustrating thing, for me and for those who share my views, is that our views are so often parsed as “reductive”, and we are assumed to think that we are “merely” physics, not actual decision-makers. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we are (or I am, anyway) trying to convey is the idea that the system of physical interactions we call a human being has properties that are simply not possessed by any of its parts, and those properties include the property of being able to see the future consequences of her actions, not only for herself, but for others, and choose her actions accordingly. This is why we regard her as free – free from reflexive actions triggered only by proximal events.

    You offer only self-referential incoherency that provides no meaningful basis for discerning any statement to be true or false.

    Well, I disagree, for the aforementioned reasons :)

    Anyway, nice to talk to you, even if we are waving at each other from across a gulf :)

    Cheers

    Lizzie

    Post script: I do realise that “equivocation” is an accusation that is frequently leveled at me here. I understand it in a way, because where I probably fundamentally disagree with the position held by most posters here is in thinking that many of the distinctions that you guys see as key are “distinctions without a difference” – in other words I see you drawing cleavage lines that seem real to you, but which I see as artefactual.

    I want to put this out clearly, because what may, from the receiving end, seem like playing tricks with words, is, from my end, very far from that – it’s trying to point out that the two apparent referents for a word may in fact be one.

    And at all times I am quite sincere, whatever the impression may be to the contrary.

  26. EL:I think that brains [kidneys] are model-makers. That is entirely consistent with a mechanistic view of the brain [kidneys], and we already have robotic devices that do the same – model the world, and parse it in to objects that appear to belong to some category. Some CCTV [dialysis] systems do this, I believe.

    Is there really any difference between the original post and my tongue-in-cheek “correction” of it?

  27. … it betrays a fundamental incapacity to meaningfully discern what the free will debate is about.

    That statement is equivalent to the claim that they are too stupid to understand the falseness of their position and assertions.

    However, their problem is not that they are too stupid understand the matter or to understand the meaning of what they assert. Rather, their problem is that they decline to understand abd assert the truth of the matter; or to put it in other words, they are fundamentally intellectually dishonest.

  28. But I’m not talking about “fundamental” processes. I’m talking about the properties of a very specific system of processes, and that system is extremely well fitted for “discerning rational arguments from non-rational utterances”.

    What specific system of processes would that be, considering that most people cannot discern rational arguments from non-rational ones?

    What we are (or I am, anyway) trying to convey is the idea that the system of physical interactions we call a human being has properties that are simply not possessed by any of its parts, and those properties include the property of being able to see the future consequences of her actions, not only for herself, but for others, and choose her actions accordingly. This is why we regard her as free – free from reflexive actions triggered only by proximal events.

    Postulating that people have properties unlike the properties of that which generates them is irrelevant unless such additional properties are not caused by physics. However, emergent properties that are caused by physics cannot be said to also not be caused by physics, unless one postulates that certain physical conditions reveal uncaused, transcendent properties. (For example, some view gravity as a transcendent, prescriptive law that physical conditions reveal, so in this sense “an emergent property” would mean “revealing the existence of gravity” and not “causing gravity”. However, since such a use of the term “emergence” would indicate that some human bodies/brains only serve to reveal a transcendent, uncaused, prescriptive mover, I doubt this is what you mean.)

    That’s the point where you transfer from the determinist object-location “I” to the libertarian unmoved-mover “I”; you want to bestow unmoved-mover-ness upon your caused “I” via the term “emergence” and “special properties” and equivocate the vastly different potentials of the nature of the terms by saying that the object-location “I” can “choose” and “make models” and “believe” that is “freely sorting future options”.

    The only way that your “I” can be free of material programming (causation by physics) and not be a biological automaton (the functional output of physics, “emergent”, unique properties or not) is if it is not caused by physicsor anything else.

    A thing cannot be both caused by physics and not caused by physics at the same time; a choice cannot be both free (not caused) and not free (caused) at the same time. Whatever else you say about your “I” is irrelevant to the answer to the question: is the “I” caused by physics, or is it not caused? Is it moved, or not moved?

    Saying it has unique “emergent properties” is an utter irrelevancy to the argument unless those “emergent properties” are not caused by physics. In your deterministic system, do physics ultimately cause all choices or not? Do physics ultimately cause all beliefs or not? Do physics ultimately cause all intentions or not? Thowing the term “emergent property” in between physics and the “I” does not change the fundamental causal relationship one iota; the “I” is either caused by physics, or it is not.

    What “free” must mean is, if a choice is determined (generated) by physics (including chance and chaotic factors), then it is not free; if a choice is not determined but is generated by an unmoved mover that cannot be caused to make any choice, it is then free.

    Determinism cannot subsume free will for the same reason that the term “black” cannot subsume “whiteness” without some sort of equivocation or intellectual dishonesty.

  29. Ilion said:

    However, their problem is not that they are too stupid understand the matter or to understand the meaning of what they assert. Rather, their problem is that they decline to understand abd assert the truth of the matter; or to put it in other words, they are fundamentally intellectually dishonest.

    I don’t ascribe to such entities the free will capacity to meaningfully decline anything, because I don’t believe they have free will. If you mean “stupid” in the sense that flowing water and an advancing hurricane stupidly perform whatever act physics commands, then I can’t disagree with that assessment. I consider it an uncivil way of expressing the point, though.

  30. Yes.

  31. Yeah, just like there is a fatal flaw in my “You are the proof that God is” argument … not that you will ever bother yourself to actually identify either.

  32. The term “emergence” can mean one of two things:(1) materials in a deterministic system combining and producing characteristics not found in the materials or in the process, but is still assumed to be caused by physical laws acting on those materials; or (2) that such a physical interaction/condition reveals a property that is not caused by the underlying, foundational physics.

    If one’s position is (2), then one has referred to a transcendent, “unmoved-mover” property. If one’s position is (1), then expositions about the character of the emergent property are nothing but diversions from the salient point that physics is still generating (causing) the property in question.

    Will that is entirely caused by physics is not free. Will that is only revealed by physics is free.

  33. Kidneys are not brains just like clocks are not computers. Turing machines can do the types of operations that are necessary for constructing mental models; clocks cannot.

  34. Well, I wrote my response. Didn’t you get the link?

    But to elaborate on my response above: brains and kidneys don’t do the same job. Brains make forward models; kidneys don’t.

  35. What specific system of processes would that be, considering that most people cannot discern rational arguments from non-rational ones?

    Brains-in-bodies.

  36. No, I didn’t get any link.

    Brains make forward models; kidneys don’t.

    Really? You’ve asserted that “brains make models”; when I, in response, asserted that “kidneys make models” you reply, “No, that’s not it at all; you see, brains make models!”

  37. If minds merely follow the laws of physics and/or chemistry…

    So I take it your answer to the question is “no, our minds do not follow the laws of physics.

    and such laws exactly do not explain the in-built algorithms of say a PC*

    In fact, they do. The laws of physics explain how NAND gates work (as one example). Software is just the flow of electrons through an arrangement of NAND gates. For example, NAND gates wired one way can implement addition. NAND gates wired another way can implement something that can recognize whether something is an adder or not. And so on. All software is both a mental construct and an arrangement of NAND gates (or neurons).

    Man is a complex software object. How that software came to be is a different question from whether or not that software follows the rules of physics.

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically.

    Arguments from (in)credulity carry no weight — from either viewpoint. The answer to Haldane’s argument is that some beliefs correspond better to the way the external world works and those minds that can better deal with the external world are more likely to pass those beliefs on. Furthermore, all of us have some beliefs that simply aren’t true (see the objection linking kidneys and minds). We still manage to function, some better than others.

    but do that in ways that transcend the mere brute forces and materials involved . . .

    Does a digital circuit that adds “transcend” the laws of physics?

  38. Bear in mind, Meleager, that I am not a “determinist”. As far as I know, the universe is not deterministic. I just don’t think it makes any difference to my argument.

  39. Uncivil? What in the Hell?

    You’re asserting that these people don’t even exist — which is quite a different thing from pointing out that their own assertions assert that no one at all exists — and you’re worried about “an uncivil way of expressing the point”?

    Or, to critically examine what you’ve said, you are saying that you both do and do not “ascribe” agency to “such entities” … for, after all, only any idiot imagines it is even possible to be uncivil to robots/zombies.

  40. And, that is multiplied by the challenge to bridge is and ought on evo mat premises.

    Artificial intelligence can show where the is-ought divide comes from in the first place (see: The Is-Ought Problem Considered as a Problem of Artificial Intelligence).

  41. Do we agree that brains-in-bodies makes both rational arguments and irrational arguments, and also generate the concurrent confidence in both situations that one’s argument is rational?

    I assume we both agree that there are at least an equal amount of “brains-in-bodies” that believe their irrational arguments are entirely rational?

    So, when you say that brains-in-bodies are:

    … extremely well fitted for “discerning rational arguments from non-rational utterances”.

    … do you mean, except for the at least equal amount of “brains-in-bodies” that are not extremely well-fitted for such discernments, thus producing irrational arguments?

    Since “brains-in-bodies” are obviously capable of producing an irrational argument along with a concurrent confidence that one has produced a rational argument, how would such a “brain-in-body” even recognize that there is a problem?

    IOW, if a brain-in-body can take an irrationality and make it appear to be rational, how would the brain-in-body even recognize a problem exists, much less go about fixing it?

  42. Here’s the definition of determinism from Dictionary.com:

    1. the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.
    2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.

    How does your position disagree with the definition?

  43. Meleager,let me ask you a question:

    Let’s say you are faced with a choice between making a donation to charity and buying yourself a donut: what, in your view, distinguishes a free choice from a forced choice?

  44. I’m not asserting that they do not exist. I’m not even asserting that they don’t have free will. I don’t know if they do or not; but I choose to provisionally accept them at their word because it helps me (1) be a good person, and (2) enjoy my life. I have many provisional beliefs that I would never attempt to assert and defend as true; those beliefs are simply conveniences.

    Since I don’t know if they have free will or not, then I’m obligated to treat them in as civil a manner as possible, because they might be free will agents. Not all situations allow civility, but I don’t think debate in an online forum is a reason for uncivil language or behavior.

  45. Elizabeth:

    If the choice is entirely or sufficiently caused by physics, it is forced by physics. If the choice is made by an uncaused, self-moved intentional agency, it is free.

  46. note: “sufficient”

  47. 1) Your mind is an uncaused agency? If so, do you hold that your mind has always been in existance? If not, what caused it?
    2) What is a “self” and what causes it to move?

  48. “Brains make forward models; kidneys don’t.”

    And how is it that a forward modelling brain was favored for selection but a forward modelling kidney was not, since evolution deemed the kidney sufficiently important to evolve a backup kidney whereas organisms can clearly survive and reproduce without forward modelling brains, yet a forward modelling kidney that pre-empts anemia or diabetes would be life-sustaining?

    And what is the scientific evidence for the variation that gave rise to forward modelling?

  49. Perhaps you mean, how would I figure out if was making a free or forced choice?

  50. Since I don’t know if they have free will or not …

    To say that you don’t (or can’t) know that another person has (*) free will is exactly to assert that he does not.

    (*) everyone speaks of “having free will”, but that is simply very sloppy language, and thinking: we don’t *have* free wills, as though free will were a shoe, or even as though it were a foot. Rather, we *are* free wills.

  51. To say that you don’t (or can’t) know that another person has (*) free will is exactly to assert that he does not.

    I’d like to see the reasoning that equates “I don’t know if he is a free will or not” with “He is not a free will.”

  52. What difference does it make?

  53. No.

  54. You see, Elizabeth is never wrong, at best, she has created the wrong model.

  55. My brain does the same jobs as my kidney. This is especially true after reading one of Elizabeth’s posts.

  56. Well, since “thoughts”, as they are call in “folk psychology”, are but secretions of the brain, it stands to reason that brains and kidneys must do the same job.

  57. Meleager,
    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that in order for an entity to have free will, it must have some sort of decision making mechanism which doesn’t obey the laws of physics.

    Does this supernatural mechanism obey any laws or regularities? How does it make decisions? What rules does it use? What inputs? Does it learn? How?

    If it doesn’t obey any laws, and has no mechanisms for making choices, then can we consider it completely random? Does free choice for all practical purposes mean random choice?

  58. 58

    Sadly, Ilion is no longer with us.

  59. Well, let me ask a slightly different question: how would a free agent choose between these two options, and how would that differ from how a non-free agent would choose?

  60. I already answered that question above, Elizabeth; a free agent chooses freely; the non-free agent just produces whatever output physics generates.

    Perhaps you missed my earlier question. The following definition of Determinism is from Dictionary.com:

    1. the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.
    2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.

    You have said that you are not a determinist; can you tell me how your position differs from those definitions of determinism?

    Also, you have not addressed these very important questions:

    1) Are brains-in-bodies capable of concurrently producing, in the same person, an irrational argument and a sensation of confidence that the argument was soundly logical and conclusive?

    2) Are all behaviors, thoughts, argumens, etc. ultimately produced by physics?

    3) If the answer to #2 is “yes”, then if physics produces both the argument and sensation that X is true, and an argument and sensation that X is false, how are we to discern whether or not X is true or false, except by ralying upon that which has produced an error in the first place?

  61. lastyearon:

    As Ilion has said, a free will entity doesn’t “have” free will; free will is an intrinsic aspect of it. There is no “mechanism” involved; it is a fundamental property.

    Free will is axiomatically premised as a causal agency that is not lawfully mechanistic, nor is it random. It is intentional.

  62. Meleager:

    I already answered that question above, Elizabeth; a free agent chooses freely; the non-free agent just produces whatever output physics generates.

    Well, I’m trying to drill down below the apparent circularity (“a free agent chooses freely”) of that definition! What does it mean to “choose freely”? That’s why I phrased my question as it I did! My original question was:

    Let’s say you are faced with a choice between making a donation to charity and buying yourself a donut: what, in your view, distinguishes a free choice from a forced choice?

    Then I reposed as:

    …how would a free agent choose between these two options, and how would that differ from how a non-free agent would choose?

    And what I’m trying to get at is (trying again!): what would a free agent consider when making her choice, and how would that differ from what a non-free agent would consider?

    Perhaps you missed my earlier question. The following definition of Determinism is from Dictionary.com:

    1. the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.
    2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.

    You have said that you are not a determinist; can you tell me how your position differs from those definitions of determinism?

    Well “materialist” might be a better word for me than “determinist” – I think minds are the result of brains-in-bodies. But you can regard me as a determinist for all practical purposes, I just don’t know (and nobody does, yet) whether the universe is deterministic or not. It’s something that theoretical physicists still debate – whether events are intrinsically unpredictable or whether there is a fundamentally deterministic system underlies quantum uncertainty. I just don’t think the answer is germane to the question of whether we are free agents in any sense that is coherent.

    To be specific: the reason I ask my question above is: if there is an “uncaused cause” that determines our action, as you propose (and indeed, I did myself for most of my life) and which we refer to as “I”, presumably “I” takes into account many factors before deciding on a course of action? But then so does my postulated materialistic “I”. So how do they differ? It seems to me that when you drill down, it’s a distinction without a difference, because if the “uncaused I” is unbound by factors relevant to the decision, then it is not “free” so much as “random”; and if it is so bound, then it is not free. It seems to me that all you buy by positing an uncaused cause as “I” is a stochastic element to your decisions – an inner coin-toss, as it were, and that doesn’t seem to me so much “free” as “indeterminate”. And it seems to me that the thing one wants to ascribe moral responsiblity to is not a coin toss (the very reverse of moral responsibility) but an agent that duly considers all the factors relevant to a decision. “Freedom”, it seems to me, if is to mean anything other than simply “unbound”, i.e. if it is to denote moral responsibility, must surely mean freedom to consider more than just proximal self-benefit. And that is what our material brains give us. Adding an “uncaused cause” to the process seems to me only to add an irresponsible, morally neutral, element, not a morally responsible one.

    Also, you have not addressed these very important questions:

    1) Are brains-in-bodies capable of concurrently producing, in the same person, an irrational argument and a sensation of confidence that the argument was soundly logical and conclusive?

    Well, I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “concurrently” but, give or take a bit of temporal slippage, the answer is plainly yes.

    2) Are all behaviors, thoughts, argumens, etc. ultimately produced by physics?

    They are produced by a system of matter and energy that we call a brain-in-a-body.

    3) If the answer to #2 is “yes”, then if physics produces both the argument and sensation that X is true, and an argument and sensation that X is false, how are we to discern whether or not X is true or false, except by ralying upon that which has produced an error in the first place?

    By testing our models against data, and, if they don’t fit the data well, revisiting our premises.

  63. what would a free agent consider when making her choice, and how would that differ from what a non-free agent would consider?

    The term “consider” implies the presence of an agency beyond the mere physical computation of interacting physics. Non-free-will agencies do not “consider”; they compute, and produce whatever output the physical computation ends up with.

    Even if we allow the use of the term; the difference would be that the free will agent can consider anything; the non-free will agency can only consider that which physics allows. More on this important distinction after the next quote.

    It seems to me that when you drill down, it’s a distinction without a difference, because if the “uncaused I” is unbound by factors relevant to the decision, then it is not “free” so much as “random”; and if it is so bound, then it is not free.

    The problem with your statement lies in your use of the term “relevant”; in determinism (as defined above, sans any claim of predictability) what is considered relevant is generated by physics. We’ve already established that physics produces false beliefs, irrational arguments, and absurd ideas and claims.

    So,there is no warrant to believe that physics won’t produce a false view of “what is relevant” to the decision at hand. In fact, I’m sure we both have had many interactions with people who list considerations that are entirely irrelevant to the decision at hand, and consider them quite importatant.

    Unless one has access to an independent, uncaused capacity to consider, then all one can “consider” is that which an admittedly faulty system allows to be considered. An analogy would be, if physics tells you to choose A or B based on one of three considerations – X, Y, and Z then that is all you can do, because you “are” those physics, and nothing but physics, so all you can do is consider a choice between A and B based on X, Y, and Z, whether that is a complete representation of the actual or potential options and relevant considerations or not. Whether you are barking like a dog and drooling like an idiot while believing that you are considering relevant information and reaching rational decisions or not.

    If my will, however, is not confined as a product of physics, then I can search for different options besides A or B, and search for other considerations besides X, Y, and Z, because I am not bound by physics to such limitations. Under the libertarian scenario, I can search for and find relevant considerations and potential consequences beyond the capacity of physics to realize or compute.

    Under libertarian free will, physics cannot command me to bark like a dog, drool like an idiot, and (inclusively) concurrently believe I am making a rational argument and reaching sound conclusions. Physics cannot limit me to potentially erroneous considerations. Under determinism, you have no capacity whatsoever to avoid such potentials,because you are only what physics produces.

    It seems to me that all you buy by positing an uncaused cause as “I” is a stochastic element to your decisions – an inner coin-toss, as it were, and that doesn’t seem to me so much “free” as “indeterminate”.

    The ability to search for information, considerations, relevance, reasoning, and consequences beyond that which is available to the physics-limited computations of caused brain activity is as fundamental and non-stochastic and necesary to the concept of free will as an unlocked door is necessary to the concept of physical freedom.

    The difference between you and I is that you must do and believe whatever physics commands, and have no recourse but to do and believe those things, even if absurd; I have recourse beyond such physics to recognize such impulses or views as absurd and discern options and consequence unavailable to you.

    There is no limit to what is available to my consideration; you can only consider what physics commands, and must consider it as physics commands you, and must reach whatever conclusions physics commands, whether absurd or not.

    By testing our models against data, and, if they don’t fit the data well, revisiting our premises.

    I said, “other than by relying upon that which has produced the error in the first place”; your “answer” still relies upon that which produced the error in the first place – physics.

    Since physics has produced the contradictory results in the first place, how can we trust the product of physics to arbit any resolution?

  64. Meleager:

    You keep talking about “physics” as though “physics” were an agent, and moreover you keep citing what “physics” can and can’t do. I don’t know what you mean by “physics” in this context. We aren’t talking about “physics” in any sense of the word I am familiar with. A brain-in-a-body isn’t “physics”, it’s a beautiful decision-making-machine, with very specific properties that aren’t the properties (that I can see) of the entity you call “physics”.

    To take your points in turn:

    what would a free agent consider when making her choice, and how would that differ from what a non-free agent would consider?

    The term “consider” implies the presence of an agency beyond the mere physical computation of interacting physics. Non-free-will agencies do not “consider”; they compute, and produce whatever output the physical computation ends up with.

    Meleager, I am talking about a free-will-agent. My point is that brains-with-bodies have free will. And, indeed, they do what we describe as “consider”. You can call it “compute” if you want, but that is a very poor description of what brains-with-bodies do, IMO. Yes, the output is a decision, but that would be the same whether you use the verb “consider” or “compute” IMO, and “consider” seems to me to be the better term (brains-with-bodies are not very like computers).

    Even if we allow the use of the term; the difference would be that the free will agent can consider anything; the non-free will agency can only consider that which physics allows. More on this important distinction after the next quote.

    It seems to me that when you drill down, it’s a distinction without a difference, because if the “uncaused I” is unbound by factors relevant to the decision, then it is not “free” so much as “random”; and if it is so bound, then it is not free.

    The problem with your statement lies in your use of the term “relevant”; in determinism (as defined above, sans any claim of predictability) what is considered relevant is generated by physics. We’ve already established that physics produces false beliefs, irrational arguments, and absurd ideas and claims.

    Sure it does. And it can produce true beliefs and rational arguments and sound ideas and claims. It can also produce procedures for determining the difference between these. You seem to have decided that the thing you call “physics” has inbuilt limitation that your uncaused cause does not. I’m asking you to demonstrate this, with examples. I think you are underestimating “physics” (or brains-with-bodies) and hugely overestimating “uncaused causes”. My challenge is: how does an “uncaused cause” factor in more of what is relevant than “physics” does? And if it does, how is it then “uncaused”?

    So,there is no warrant to believe that physics won’t produce a false view of “what is relevant” to the decision at hand. In fact, I’m sure we both have had many interactions with people who list considerations that are entirely irrelevant to the decision at hand, and consider them quite importatant.

    Yes, indeed. I never said there were guarantees. There are, however, tests.

    Unless one has access to an independent, uncaused capacity to consider, then all one can “consider” is that which an admittedly faulty system allows to be considered. An analogy would be, if physics tells you to choose A or B based on one of three considerations – X, Y, and Z then that is all you can do, because you “are” those physics, and nothing but physics, so all you can do is consider a choice between A and B based on X, Y, and Z, whether that is a complete representation of the actual or potential options and relevant considerations or not. Whether you are barking like a dog and drooling like an idiot while believing that you are considering relevant information and reaching rational decisions or not.

    Well, I disagree. What you are dismissing as “physics” includes all the machinery we possess that enables us to to check our models against data, and, unless our brains are malfunctioning, to fix the models that don’t produce reliable predictions.

    If my will, however, is not confined as a product of physics, then I can search for different options besides A or B, and search for other considerations besides X, Y, and Z, because I am not bound by physics to such limitations. Under the libertarian scenario, I can search for and find relevant considerations and potential consequences beyond the capacity of physics to realize or compute.

    But “physics” isn’t bound by your “physics”! Our brain-within-our-bodies are exquisitely suited to doing precision what you insist they can’t! – of exploring the implications of alternative courses of action. Our imaginations are gloriously free – and what gives them their freedom is the beautiful “physics” that underlies them! Those billions of neurons and trillions of synapses that can route virtually anything to anything, creating further options as they do so.

    Under libertarian free will, physics cannot command me to bark like a dog, drool like an idiot, and (inclusively) concurrently believe I am making a rational argument and reaching sound conclusions. Physics cannot limit me to potentially erroneous considerations. Under determinism, you have no capacity whatsoever to avoid such potentials,because you are only what physics produces.

    Well, I profoundly disagree,because I do not share your view of the limitations that “physics” produces – indeed, my point is that anything an “uncaused” homunculus could add would be effectively nothing because the whole point of a moral decision is that it is caused – caused by information from multiple sources, including information generated by forward modelling of the outcomes of alternative courses of action. If we posit an uncaused cause as a factor, all we are adding is a loose wire.

    It seems to me that all you buy by positing an uncaused cause as “I” is a stochastic element to your decisions – an inner coin-toss, as it were, and that doesn’t seem to me so much “free” as “indeterminate”.

    The ability to search for information, considerations, relevance, reasoning, and consequences beyond that which is available to the physics-limited computations of caused brain activity is as fundamental and non-stochastic and necesary to the concept of free will as an unlocked door is necessary to the concept of physical freedom.

    And my point is that it is the “physics” that allows us “to search for information, considerations, relevance, reasoning, and consequences”. I am not seeing what your “uncaused cause” can possibly add. As soon as it is influenced by one of those factors (information, considerations, relevance, reasoning, consequences) it ceases to be “uncaused”, surely? So why even include it?

    The difference between you and I is that you must do and believe whatever physics commands, and have no recourse but to do and believe those things, even if absurd; I have recourse beyond such physics to recognize such impulses or views as absurd and discern options and consequence unavailable to you.

    And I say that my “physics” allows me to do all those things, and your “free will” allows you nothing in addition.

    There is no limit to what is available to my consideration; you can only consider what physics commands, and must consider it as physics commands you, and must reach whatever conclusions physics commands, whether absurd or not.

    Ditto.

    By testing our models against data, and, if they don’t fit the data well, revisiting our premises.

    I said, “other than by relying upon that which has produced the error in the first place”; your “answer” still relies upon that which produced the error in the first place – physics.

    Since physics has produced the contradictory results in the first place, how can we trust the product of physics to arbit any resolution?

    I really don’t know what you mean by “physics” here! There are lots of potential answers to your question, but they depend on specifics! For instance, if we take basic perception – the entire “physics” of sensory perception is basic on error-monitoring functions. Sure, they sometimes let us down, but in healthy people, there are layers and layers of checks and cross-checks so that if you make an error, you catch it, and can even check later to make sure you were right that it was an error.

    Ditto with reasoning – if you make a reasoning error, and your resulting prediction is not borne out by subsequent information, you check the reasoning, or the premises that underlay the reasoning. I’m really not seeing the difficulty, unless I’m really misunderstanding what you are characterising as “physics”.

  65. Elizabeth:

    You seem to have decided that the thing you call “physics” has inbuilt limitation that your uncaused cause does not. I’m asking you to demonstrate this, with examples.

    Ok, let’s go there.

    Above you wrote:

    whether the universe is deterministic or not. It’s something that theoretical physicists still debate – whether events are intrinsically unpredictable or whether there is a fundamentally deterministic system underlies quantum uncertainty. I just don’t think the answer is germane to the question of whether we are free agents in any sense that is coherent.

    And just now you wrote:

    Meleager, I am talking about a free-will-agent. My point is that brains-with-bodies have free will. And, indeed, they do what we describe as “consider”.

    Here’s a thought experiment for your “forward modelling brain”:

    Assume you use a hardware quantum random number generator (they are commercially available) to output a string of bits (1′s or 0′s) and then you decide or choose to respond to each bit with either “agree” meaning you choose to match the string as each bit is generated or “disagree” meaning you choose the opposite value of the generated bit, or “ignore” meaning you choose neither and wait for the next generated bit.

    The quantum hardware generated bit string is truely random, truely stochastic and reflects the quantum uncertainty of the universe in which we live. It is simultaneously truely unpredictible and can not be matched (its output predicted) by any parallel computation or device, and it is materialistic and deterministic in that its output is not intentional but determined by the materials from which it is constructed and the quantum events it samples.

    If your string of responses is strictly limited without exception to “agree”, then your brain isn’t forward modelling at all and instead is truely, both deterministic and stochastically random, just like the quantum processes that drive the generator.

    If, alternatively, your string of responses includes “disagree” or “ignore”, then your brain is free to “forward model” a non-random choice.

    You know you are in fact free to choose an unending, unbroken string of “agree”, or “disagree”, or “ignore”. You know you are in fact free to choose intentional patterns in your response, alternating “agree”, “disagree”, and “ignore”. You know you are free to choose to encode the prime numbers between 1 and 100 in your responses.

    But all the while the quantum random number generator is not free. It is a function of the materialistic quantum physics from which it is constructed and event samples from the quantum universe which determines its output. It can do no other. It is constrained to be materialistic, deterministic and random in the truest, deepest sense of those terms.

    Any unconfused, non-argumentative, intellectually honest person knows their choices are free to “disagree” or “ignore” the quantum randomness of the generator, and hence “disagree” or “ignore” the very quantum nature of their own brains and the universe in which they live. That very same freedom of choice extends to their “agree” responses as well, so even when they “agree” with random quantum events, they agree “freely”.

    The hardware quantum random generator and the events it samples are intrinsically unpredictable and fundamentally deterministic in every sense that is coherent. The generator has an inbuilt physics limitation which your uncaused cause self does not. You are free to intentionally self-cause your choices independant of the limited quantum nature of your brain or the universe.

    As challenged, the thought experiment demonstrates that. Brains-with-bodies have uncaused causative free will that is independent of the materialistic and deterministic limitations of quantum physics and the surrounding universe, in every sense that is coherent.

    By testing our models against data, and, if they don’t fit the data well, revisiting our premises.

    Dr. Liddle, scientist and self-avowed honest intellectual, now test your models against the data of the above thought experiment and revist your premises.

  66. Elizabeth:

    An after thought:

    And I say that my “physics” allows me to do all those things, and your “free will” allows you nothing in addition.

    Your physics are constrained as are the physics of the universe, the random quantum number generator, and your brain. The same physics applies equally to all.

    But it is uncaused-causative “free will” that added the ability to choose differently than the materialistic and deterministic random quantum events impinging upon your brain-in-a-body.

  67. Charles: Thank you for your thoughtful and challenging response! Here we go:

    Here’s a thought experiment for your “forward modelling brain”:

    Assume you use a hardware quantum random number generator (they are commercially available) to output a string of bits (1?s or 0?s) and then you decide or choose to respond to each bit with either “agree” meaning you choose to match the string as each bit is generated or “disagree” meaning you choose the opposite value of the generated bit, or “ignore” meaning you choose neither and wait for the next generated bit.

    The quantum hardware generated bit string is truely random, truely stochastic and reflects the quantum uncertainty of the universe in which we live. It is simultaneously truely unpredictible and can not be matched (its output predicted) by any parallel computation or device, and it is materialistic and deterministic in that its output is not intentional but determined by the materials from which it is constructed and the quantum events it samples.

    If your string of responses is strictly limited without exception to “agree”, then your brain isn’t forward modelling at all and instead is truely, both deterministic and stochastically random, just like the quantum processes that drive the generator.

    If, alternatively, your string of responses includes “disagree” or “ignore”, then your brain is free to “forward model” a non-random choice.

    You know you are in fact free to choose an unending, unbroken string of “agree”, or “disagree”, or “ignore”. You know you are in fact free to choose intentional patterns in your response, alternating “agree”, “disagree”, and “ignore”. You know you are free to choose to encode the prime numbers between 1 and 100 in your responses.

    But all the while the quantum random number generator is not free. It is a function of the materialistic quantum physics from which it is constructed and event samples from the quantum universe which determines its output. It can do no other. It is constrained to be materialistic, deterministic and random in the truest, deepest sense of those terms.

    Any unconfused, non-argumentative, intellectually honest person knows their choices are free to “disagree” or “ignore” the quantum randomness of the generator, and hence “disagree” or “ignore” the very quantum nature of their own brains and the universe in which they live. That very same freedom of choice extends to their “agree” responses as well, so even when they “agree” with random quantum events, they agree “freely”.

    The hardware quantum random generator and the events it samples are intrinsically unpredictable and fundamentally deterministic in every sense that is coherent. The generator has an inbuilt physics limitation which your uncaused cause self does not. You are free to intentionally self-cause your choices independant of the limited quantum nature of your brain or the universe.

    Yes, to almost all the above, and the only “almost” is a quibble that I think is irrelevant, so that’s fine.

    As challenged, the thought experiment demonstrates that. Brains-with-bodies have uncaused causative free will that is independent of the materialistic and deterministic limitations of quantum physics and the surrounding universe, in every sense that is coherent.

    And that’s doesn’t follow! Yes, brains-with-bodies ahve causative free will, but they aren’t “uncaused”! Or, at least, your thought experiment hasn’t shown that. What your thought experiment showed is that all kinds of “causes” factor in to the output of a brain, whereas only the mechanicss of the hardware RNG causes its output. That was my point to Meleager – to claim that because “physics” in one system produces meaningless, non-intentional output does not mean that “physics” in another system will, and a brain is a very special system.

    In fact I’ll bring up my quibble here, as it’s a nice example. If you present a human subject with a random series of, say, ones and zeros, but there are more ones than zeros (in other words, the sequence is random, but drawn from a probability distributionin which ones are more probable than zeros) and you give the human subject a point for for guessing each one correctly before it appears, most human subjects will guess both ones and zeros, with more “one” guesses than “zero” guesses. Interestingly, this is not a strategy likely to yield maximum points (the best strategy would be to guess “one” on every trial, even though you know that you will sometimes be wrong), but it is, nonetheless, what most people do. This is easy to explain in an evolutionary model – the world, on the whole, does not present us with random events from drawn from unchanging probability distributions, and a system that constantly updates its forward model in the light of recent events is, on the whole, more likely to generate useful predictions than one that keeps on responding mechanically, no matter what new data come in. So that is the first major difference between the “physics” of the quantum RNG, and the “physics” of a brain, and it turns out that it is very difficult to get human beings to produce truly “random” sequences, although they can be trained to do so! (pigeons seem to be able to do it more easily).

    So yes, brains-with-bodies have “causative free will” that means that we select our actions based on complex forward models – but it does not mean that our decisions are “uncaused”. Indeed we can model the causal chain in this kind of instance quite easily.

    By testing our models against data, and, if they don’t fit the data well, revisiting our premises.

    Dr. Liddle, scientist and self-avowed honest intellectual, now test your models against the data of the above thought experiment and revist your premises.

    Done, and model retained :)

  68. Well, what do you mean by “the same physics”? We are talking about radically different systems.

    Just because “the same physics” causes an ion in a beaker in a lab to move towards an electrode as causes an ion in a neuron to move through a membrane doesn’t mean that the beaker is like a neuron, and it certainly doesn’t mean the beaker is like a brain.

    A brain has completely different properties, and one of them is the capacity to forward-model.

  69. Sorry, still getting the hang of of the threaded format – the above was a response to your afterthought below. I think I have addressed your other point in my original response.

  70. Elizabeth:

    If you present a human subject with a random series of, say, ones and zeros, but there are more ones than zeros (in other words, the sequence is random, but drawn from a probability distributionin which ones are more probable than zeros) and you give the human subject a point for for guessing each one correctly before it appears, most human subjects will guess both ones and zeros, with more “one” guesses than “zero” guesses.

    Irrelevant. The experiment I posed demonstrates not an effort to guess at what will come next, but the ability to agree, disagree or ignore whatever came next. The experiment I posed demonstrates free choice. The experiment you pose demonstrates fallible quesswork. Guessing outcomes and choosing outcomes are not the same. One wonders at the intellectual honesty that would argue such a strawman.

    So yes, brains-with-bodies have “causative free will” that means that we select our actions based on complex forward models – but it does not mean that our decisions are “uncaused”. Indeed we can model the causal chain in this kind of instance quite easily.

    No, you can not model any such causal chain. If you could, you would always be in agreement with the quantum number generator, you could not disagree or ignore it as the “causal chain” (whether modelled perfectly or imperfectly) would limit your repsonse. If the causal chain of your brain is unbroken, there is no opportunity to disagree with or ignore the causal chain of the quantum random number generator.

    Just because “the same physics” causes an ion in a beaker in a lab to move towards an electrode as causes an ion in a neuron to move through a membrane doesn’t mean that the beaker is like a neuron, and it certainly doesn’t mean the beaker is like a brain.

    A brain has completely different properties, and one of them is the capacity to forward-model.

    Materialistically, deterministically, the brain at all material levels is subject to the exact same physics as is a beaker at all material levels. But if the beaker could demonstrate forward modelling, you would ascribe it to something beyond the matter from which the beaker is composed and the quantum particles impinging upon it.

    Likewise whatever “forward modelling” the brain does, arises from something other than its bio-electrochemical constituents and the quantum events impinging upon it. Just like you ascribe the intentional agency of a robot to something other than the chips & wires from which it is constructed. The robot’s “intentional agency” (and I do not grant you that a robot’s programmed “consideration” is anything like human “consideration”) did not arise from its silicon wafers and electrons.

    Yes, brains-with-bodies ahve causative free will, but they aren’t “uncaused”! Or, at least, your thought experiment hasn’t shown that. What your thought experiment showed is that all kinds of “causes” factor in to the output of a brain, whereas only the mechanicss of the hardware RNG causes its output. That was my point to Meleager – to claim that because “physics” in one system produces meaningless, non-intentional output does not mean that “physics” in another system will, and a brain is a very special system.

    What the thought experiement shows is that regardless of all kinds of “causes” (materialistic, deterministic and random) which determine, at the quantum level, the effects upon machines and living matter, the human mind is free to disregard all those causes.

    Your simple agreement that “brains-with-bodies ahve causative free will” and your incoherent disagreement that “they aren’t uncaused” is not sufficient. For your argument to prevail, you have to demonstrate that the physics of the beaker and the physics of the brain are different physics. The thought experiment demonstrates that at the quantum level, they are both subject to the same stochastic, materialistic, deterministic inputs. You have to demonstrate that while the bio-electrochemical processes of the brain abide by the same rules of physics and chemistry as does the beaker and quantum events, the brain regardless violates those very same rules to produce an intentional (free will) outcome that is nonetheless caused (not uncaused) by those very same quantum inputs.

    You can not pretend that quantum inputs are the same and effective for beaker and brain alike while simultaneoulsy arguing the brain can overule the same laws of physics and chemistry by which it functions materialistically and yet produce a “free will” output that is “caused” by very same quantum events and physics that it overruled.

    You can’t argue the brain is simultaneously subject to (i.e. that its output is not uncaused) and yet overrules those very same causes of physics and chemistry (i.e. that it has free intentional will).

    If the brain can somehow overrule its bio-electrochemical processes and the quantum events impinging upon it, then those overrulings are not “caused”.

    But if the brain’s output is entirely caused by bio-electrochemical processes and quantum events, then it does not have free will, rather its “choices” are artifacts of materialistic and determined physics and chemistry, just like a beaker (however complex a beaker or brain you may wish to argue), regardless, its material complexity will never be sufficient to overrule the material laws of physics and chemistry.

  71. Elizabeth,

    So yes, brains-with-bodies have “causative free will” that means that we select our actions based on complex forward models – but it does not mean that our decisions are “uncaused”. Indeed we can model the causal chain in this kind of instance quite easily.

    Charles replied:

    No, you can not model any such causal chain. If you could, you would always be in agreement with the quantum number generator, you could not disagree or ignore it as the “causal chain” (whether modelled perfectly or imperfectly) would limit your repsonse. If the causal chain of your brain is unbroken, there is no opportunity to disagree with or ignore the causal chain of the quantum random number generator.

    Charles is right, and nor could you ever hope to get outside the causal chain, to have an objective point of view to say that there is even a causal chain; all “conclusions” would die the same fate.

  72. You could exercise much more care in the statements you choose to make.

  73. Which models?

  74. Charles:

    Elizabeth:

    If you present a human subject with a random series of, say, ones and zeros, but there are more ones than zeros (in other words, the sequence is random, but drawn from a probability distributionin which ones are more probable than zeros) and you give the human subject a point for for guessing each one correctly before it appears, most human subjects will guess both ones and zeros, with more “one” guesses than “zero” guesses.

    Irrelevant. The experiment I posed demonstrates not an effort to guess at what will come next, but the ability to agree, disagree or ignore whatever came next. The experiment I posed demonstrates free choice. The experiment you pose demonstrates fallible quesswork. Guessing outcomes and choosing outcomes are not the same. One wonders at the intellectual honesty that would argue such a strawman.

    Well, no, it didn’t demonstrate that. There is no basis to “disagree” with a randomly presented digit. You are merely asking your hypothetical subject to play a game of their choosing. I merely suggested the game, and my point, though tangential, has some relevance, in that it reveals how people make forward models. Possibly I didn’t understand your experiment, but I am familiar with experiments in which participants have to, depending on conditions, move the finger instructed, or choose which finger to move. We know that different parts of the brain are implicated in each of those conditions. Different physics, if you like.

    Oh, and you can stop “wondering” about my intellectual honesty”. I am honest.

    So yes, brains-with-bodies have “causative free will” that means that we select our actions based on complex forward models – but it does not mean that our decisions are “uncaused”. Indeed we can model the causal chain in this kind of instance quite easily.

    No, you can not model any such causal chain. If you could, you would always be in agreement with the quantum number generator, you could not disagree or ignore it as the “causal chain” (whether modelled perfectly or imperfectly) would limit your repsonse. If the causal chain of your brain is unbroken, there is no opportunity to disagree with or ignore the causal chain of the quantum random number generator.

    I was talking about the causal chain in my example, not yours. But I see now reason why any causal chain should be limited in your example. It’s just that it would not be apparent to an external observer, at least until a behavioural pattern emerged.

    move towards an electrode as causes an ion in a neuron to move through a membrane doesn’t mean that the beaker is like a neuron, and it certainly doesn’t mean the beaker is like a brain.

    A brain has completely different properties, and one of them is the capacity to forward-model.

    Materialistically, deterministically, the brain at all material levels is subject to the exact same physics as is a beaker at all material levels. But if the beaker could demonstrate forward modelling, you would ascribe it to something beyond the matter from which the beaker is composed and the quantum particles impinging upon it.

    No, I wouldn’t, but it wouldn’t then be merely a beaker. I really do not see what you are getting at here, and clearly you do not understand what I am getting at either!

    I’m saying that brains aren’t any old beaker. They are very cool pieces of kit that make forward models on the basis of incoming data that enable the bodies that house them to collect new relevant data and thus navigate the world successfully.

    Likewise whatever “forward modelling” the brain does, arises from something other than its bio-electrochemical constituents and the quantum events impinging upon it.

    Why should it?

    Just like you ascribe the intentional agency of a robot to something other than the chips & wires from which it is constructed. The robot’s “intentional agency” (and I do not grant you that a robot’s programmed “consideration” is anything like human “consideration”) did not arise from its silicon wafers and electrons.

    It didn’t?

    Yes, brains-with-bodies ahve causative free will, but they aren’t “uncaused”! Or, at least, your thought experiment hasn’t shown that. What your thought experiment showed is that all kinds of “causes” factor in to the output of a brain, whereas only the mechanicss of the hardware RNG causes its output. That was my point to Meleager – to claim that because “physics” in one system produces meaningless, non-intentional output does not mean that “physics” in another system will, and a brain is a very special system.

    What the thought experiement shows is that regardless of all kinds of “causes” (materialistic, deterministic and random) which determine, at the quantum level, the effects upon machines and living matter, the human mind is free to disregard all those causes.

    Forget the quantum level, for now: in what sense is the human mind “free” to disregard all those causes, and in what sense would so disregarding them, render it “free”?

    Your simple agreement that “brains-with-bodies ahve causative free will” and your incoherent disagreement that “they aren’t uncaused” is not sufficient. For your argument to prevail, you have to demonstrate that the physics of the beaker and the physics of the brain are different physics.

    No, what I have to demonstrate is that they are different systems with different systems-level properties, which clearly they are, and have.

    The thought experiment demonstrates that at the quantum level, they are both subject to the same stochastic, materialistic, deterministic inputs. You have to demonstrate that while the bio-electrochemical processes of the brain abide by the same rules of physics and chemistry as does the beaker and quantum events, the brain regardless violates those very same rules to produce an intentional (free will) outcome that is nonetheless caused (not uncaused) by those very same quantum inputs.

    Well, it doesn’t violate them. What it does do is forward modelling, which enables people to take account of the likely consequences of their actions when selecting them, rendering them considered, not reflexive.

    You can not pretend that quantum inputs are the same and effective for beaker and brain alike while simultaneoulsy arguing the brain can overule the same laws of physics and chemistry by which it functions materialistically and yet produce a “free will” output that is “caused” by very same quantum events and physics that it overruled.

    No, well, I’m not arguing that.

    You can’t argue the brain is simultaneously subject to (i.e. that its output is not uncaused) and yet overrules those very same causes of physics and chemistry (i.e. that it has free intentional will).

    I’m not saying it over rules them. Perhaps you might re-read my earlier post?

    If the brain can somehow overrule its bio-electrochemical processes and the quantum events impinging upon it, then those overrulings are not “caused”.

    But if the brain’s output is entirely caused by bio-electrochemical processes and quantum events, then it does not have free will, rather its “choices” are artifacts of materialistic and determined physics and chemistry, just like a beaker (however complex a beaker or brain you may wish to argue), regardless, its material complexity will never be sufficient to overrule the material laws of physics and chemistry.

    OK, you do seem to have missed my point. I thought I’d made it reasonably clearly. Oh well.

    I’ll try again later.

  75. Sadly, Ilion is no longer with us.

    I’m sure he’ll accept a fake apology.

  76. Elizabeth:

    Well, no, it didn’t demonstrate that. There is no basis to “disagree” with a randomly presented digit.

    It demonstrates freedom to choose on *any* basis regardless of quantum uncertainty. A freedom to agree, disagree or ignore. The experiment isn’t about morals or reasons, it is about demonstrating the difference between the genuine free will of human consideraton versus the unfree, constrained, limited materialistic and deterministic randomness of a quantum universe.

    You are merely asking your hypothetical subject to play a game of their choosing.

    It demonstrates they are free to choose, even when quantum level materialism and determinism are taken into account.

    but I am familiar with experiments in which participants have to, depending on conditions, move the finger instructed, or choose which finger to move. We know that different parts of the brain are implicated in each of those conditions. Different physics, if you like.

    Still irrelevant. The experiment I posed is about free will, not the physio-kinetic motor responses that implement a free will choice. But you already knew that,

    Oh, and you can stop “wondering” about my intellectual honesty”. I am honest.

    and yet you persist in flagelating a deceased equine.

    I was talking about the causal chain in my example, not yours.

    Yes, for all your intellectual honesty, you deliberately spoke right past my example and substituted your irrelevant strawman in its place.

    But I see [no] reason why any causal chain should be limited in your example. It’s just that it would not be apparent to an external observer, at least until a behavioural pattern emerged.

    There is no behavioural pattern to emerge and be observed:
    a) If the subject agreed with every output of the quantum random number generator, there is *no* pattern – their behavior is truely random, yet indistinguishable from the quantum physics based causal chain that drives the generator.
    b) If the subject ignored or disagreed with every output of the quantum random number generator, perhaps even to encode the prime numbers between 1-100, then the emergent pattern has no correspondence to the causal chain of the quantum random number generator and their freedom is regardless unlimited and predictible only to the extent they so choose. If based on their first 50 responses, you think the subject’s behavior is to produce the prime numbers between 1-100, they need only deviate after that to prove your “pattern modelling” wrong. Again, they are free to do so or not, and you can’t predict their behavioural pattern nor the generator’s random output.

    And you don’t have any “causal chain” to model in your “uncaused decisions” example. That is the incoherence of your argument.

    I’m saying that brains aren’t any old beaker. They are very cool pieces of kit that make forward models on the basis of incoming data that enable the bodies that house them to collect new relevant data and thus navigate the world successfully.

    They are pieces of kit that are regardless subject to the laws of physics and chemistry, and you have yet to demonstrate how they simultaneously ahve causative free will, but they aren’t “uncaused”!

    Why should it? [ “forward modelling” arise from something other than its bio-electrochemical constituents and the quantum events impinging upon it.]

    Because the experiement demonstrates that pure quantum effects, physics and chemistry do not forward model.

    Forget the quantum level, for now:

    No. You have on other threads taken refuge in the quantum uncertainty as giving rise to freedom of thought, and yet here you reiterate that physics and chemistry are not violated (which at base are quantum processes with differing micro and macro effects). If physics and chemistry are not violated and since quantum events are truely random, a randomness which the brain can overule while limited to the laws of physics and chemistry, you have yet to demonstrate a materialistic, deterministic process by which brains “ahve causative free will, but they aren’t “uncaused”!

    You don’t get to argue And I say that my “physics” allows me to do all those things, and your “free will” allows you nothing in addition. and then dismiss the incovenient quantum physics and assert that free will is simultaneously caused and uncaused. That would be intellectually dishonest.

  77. Wait a minute. How do you know that this property that you term “free will” would choose differently from a brain that follows the laws of physics? The laws of physics clearly allow two different brains, obeying the same laws, to choose differently given the same external inputs.

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