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    The Gravity Of Free Will
    By Johannes Koelman | February 19th 2011 09:29 PM | 328 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Johannes

    I am a Dutchman, currently living in India. Following a PhD in theoretical physics (spin-polarized quantum systems*) I entered a Global Fortune

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    Some subjects I try to avoid in this blog. But this one seems to become increasingly difficult to escape. Since my interview at Philosophy-To-Go, I regularly get questions about the physics of free will. These questions range from
    "Does free will exist given that the laws of physics are deterministic?"
    to the more suggestive
    "Is our free will based on quantum indeterminism?"
    and the more confrontational
    "Should physicists not worry given that their theories are incapable of accommodating free will?"
    These are all valid questions, but also tricky questions. Simple reason is that topics like 'consciousness' and 'free will' can send us down a muddy track that leads straight into meta-physical quicksands. 

    Simply put, there is no physics theory of free will. Physics has a lot to say about the world around us, but contributes little to poorly-defined subjects such as free will. As I stated in the interview at Philosophy-To-Go:
    "When it comes to issues like free will and consciousness, physics simply has no answers."
    Modern physics has delivered consistent and well-tested theories for many complex phenomena. Not so for free will. Lacking even a generally accepted definition for the very concept of 'free will', physics can not contribute much. However, that does not mean physics is necessarily at odds with free will.  So let me give you here my personal perspective on the question: "Are the laws of physics compatible with the concept of free will?" I do not claim to be an authority on 'the physics of free will', but having read (and tossed away) a few papers on the subject, I really wonder who is.

    A lot of confused reasoning has been penned down. No doubt many will judge my present contribution to contribute to the overall confusion. That is fine. You can all comment to this more speculative blogpost, and all constructive criticism is welcome.

    So here goes.

    Quantum Hopes

    Newton's laws of physics are perfectly deterministic. Cause and effect work out such that Newtonian dynamics always leads from a given initial state to a unique final state. Multiple possibilities for a final state never emerge, let alone a choice between multiple final states.

    One state at a given time yields one state at a later time. Add Einstein's relativity to the mix, and nothing changes: 'now' and 'then' remain in a one-to-one mapping. All of classical physics (covering Newton's laws and their relativistic extensions) is ruled by determinism. And in a fully deterministic world, free will can not exist. Or at least that is how the standard argument goes.

    Those who accept this reasoning tend to turn their hopes to quantum physics. Funnily enough, the dynamic laws of quantum physics are unitary. This means that quantum dynamics - just like classical dynamics - realizes a one-to-one mapping between initial and final states. Quantum dynamics is fully deterministic.

    Wait a second, what about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle? Doesn't this principle clearly state that quantum physics is indeterministic? Sure, the uncertainty principle specifies an indeterminism present in quantum physics, but this indeterminism has nothing to do with the dynamics of quantum systems. This is an important observation relevant to the present discussion. There is no indeterminism in the evolution of quantum systems. Indeterminism enters the description only when the quantum system is assumed to interact with a classical system.

    This is what presumably happens in a measurement device, and what leads to the infamous measurement problem in quantum physics. Many people seeking a safe place for the concept of free will in 'the house of physics' seem to be content with this place in the cellar where the measurement problem is hiding. As long as quantum physics contains an element of indeterminism, there is supposedly enough room for free will to emerge.

    There are a number of problems associated with this approach. Most important issue is that the indeterminism associated with the measurement problem in quantum physics takes the shape of random indeterminism. And adding randomness into the picture only brings us further from free will. A random selection between multiple choices can hardly qualify as free will. 

    One might object that some (as of yet undiscovered) dynamics can be hidden in the randomness associated with the measurement problem. A bit like the digits of pi which, although following from a deterministic computational process, appear random in any test. This measurement dynamics could in some way be coupled to consciousness or to anything that conceivably is related to free will. All of this is very vague and hand-waving and goes against current theories. But more importantly: assuming such a speculative free-will dynamics to hide behind measurement indeterminacy does not bring us closer to marrying physics with free will.

    As John Conway and Simon Kochen have shown, if there is such a thing as a freedom of choice that results from measurement indeterminacy, then this freedom is a feature that not only humans but also electrons and other elementary particles get their share of.  This result makes it pretty difficult to accept a freedom of choice that could be associated with measurement indeterminacy as explanation for free will. This brings us back to square one.

    Gravity to the rescue

    If the indeterminism in quantum physics is not going to help us, we are forced to focus once more on the incompatibility between determinism and free will. Are these two concepts really incompatible? 

    The relevant question to start from is: given the deterministic laws, can we predict the behavior of arbitrary complex systems? You might answer: "if the system under study is really complex, it would require a computer considerably larger than any existing computer. But yes, when given the means to build a large enough computer, we could - at least in principle - predict the behavior of any system no matter how complex."

    But the truth is we can not. Not even in principle. There are systems that are too complex for their behavior to be predicted. And this limitation does not constitute a practical limitation, but a very fundamental one. This was discussed in my previous blogpost God, Godel, Gravity. The point is: predicting the system's behavior requires us to compute the future state more quickly than nature does. For that, we need to build a computer that outpaces nature. If we would attempt building a computer capable of doing so, we would soon discover that this computer collapses and forms a black hole long before it reaches the required size. And this constitutes not just a practical problem, but is the inevitable fate of any attempt to outpace nature. No matter from which components we would built the ultimate computer, and no matter whether this computer uses electrons or photon for processing, we will always run into the same problems.

    The thing is: given the fundamental laws of physics, for a system of sufficient complexity you can not predict its future. For that to happen you need a shortcut to describe the deterministic evolution of our universe. However, such a shortcut does not exist. It takes the computing power of the whole universe to 'play out' the universe. Outperforming this computation would require an amount of computing power that simply can not fit into our universe.

    Key factor in the above argument is that the system needs to be 'sufficiently complex'. In practice this means that he system needs to have a strong tendency of amplifying tiny causes into large effects. A human brain - with eyes and ears connected to it - certainly has that tendency. As a result, the brain in a living human being can not be assumed to be isolated from the rest of the universe. To predict its behavior, you need to predict the future of the universe in all its details. This, as we have seen, is a fundamental impossibility.

    Faking free will

    Now you might interject: "Right, complex systems like human brains might be too complex to predict, but that leads us at best to a fake free will. There is still these underlying deterministic laws of physics that determine what the future states of the brain will be."  This remark represents a misconception and a gross underestimation of the fundamental nature of unpredictability. There is absolutely no way one could ever distinguish between 'fake' and 'real' unpredictability. And if it is fundamentally impossible to distinguish between the two, the two are operationally the same. Unpredictability is unpredictability, no matter if there is an underlying deterministic dynamics or not. And unpredictability is free will. What else could you want to have as basis for free will?

    You might try another route to escape the above logic: "Even if we can't outpace the universe and therefore can not predict the behavior of a complex system, surely we can postdict it. Such a prediction-after-the-fact would still reveal the underlying determinism and allow us to distinguish 'true free will' from 'fake free will'. Again, this represents a misconception. If prediction of the universe is not possible, neither is postdiction.

    The point is that in your simulation you can not start from an arbitrary state. Obtaining such a state for the universe in all its details would again involve colossal energies and lead to to a gravitational collapse. Also here, nature shows us the most efficient way to obtain a certain state: start from the very beginning - the big bang configuration - and 'play it out'.  But if you have to start from the big bang, you will never reach 'now' the moment you want to predict after the fact. To reach this point in the simulation would require a simulation at least as big as the universe. A fundamental impossibility.

    The conclusion is inevitable: there is no basis for the postulate that free will is at odds with determinism. Free will and determinism are fully compatible. This is akin to the description of an object as a particle and a wave: since the advent of quantum mechanics we know these are two compatible sides of the same coin.

    These were today's thoughts from the armchair. Now, if you don't mind I get back into my hammock to think about real physics.

    ----------------------
    The Hammock Physicist on: What's Wrong With E=m.c2?, What's Wrong With 'Relativity'? Entropic Gravity, Entropic Force, Shut Down LHC?, Game Theory, Metric Vs Imperial, Big Bang, Dark Energy, Chaos And Time's Arrow, The Grand Arena, Square Root Of The Universe, Physics In A Nutshell, The Longest Path, Hotel Boltzmann, Quantum Telepathy, Quantum Viruses, QHD, Fibonacci Chaos, Counting A Black Hole, Entropic Everything, God, Godel, Gravity, Holographic Automata, Who Is Today's Einstein?

    Comments

    blue-green
    “Is physics (aka determinism) compatible with ….
    [[insert something that humans notice about the world or do]]?
    This is a ridiculous form of question. If the answer is “no” to something that is inserted in the question, then every time that thing happens, physics is violated. Physics is never violated, nor is chemistry or biology or even psychology. Try the following question: Is science compatible with the existence of religions? If you say “no”, then every time an incompatible religious event occurs, science is out of the loop. The practices of physics or chemistry need not be the most efficient tools to address 99% of the situations that humans face, however, that doesn’t mean that physics cannot lend some information and insight to each and every situation. If you are dying in a hospital, you probably want doctors and the comfort of friends and inner peace. That doesn’t mean that the ongoing physics and chemistry is somehow incompatible. Perhaps the problem here is one of semantics. Our hammock physicist likes to think about gravity, computation and gravitational collapse. By “physics”, I mean as it was defined in 1971 for the tome Gravitation (page 1196): “A computing machine calculating ahead step by step the dynamical evolution of [gravitational collapse to a singularity] comes to the point where it can not go on. Smoke, figuratively speaking, starts to pour out of the computer. Yet physics surely continues to go on if for no other reason than this: Physics is by definition that which does go on its eternal way despite all the shadowy changes in the surface appearance of reality.” The question for which you are appealing to physics for counsel is the following: “Is free will real or an illusion”. Physics/determinism says “Yes”, chemistry says “Yes”, because Avogadro’s number is so immense. If there were only a dozen objects in your universe, you would not be free. Physics has a whole bag of tricks for dealing with complex (and simple) things that are not predictable. It is not the most practical tool for the subset of unpredictable things that we attribute to free will, and yet, the physics goes on.
    "Physics is never violated, ... By “physics”, I mean as it was defined in 1971 for the tome Gravitation (page 1196)"

    This is a completely wrong (physics = the laws of physics as known in 1971) or a completely empty (physics = the dreams about the ultimate laws back in 1971) remark.

    blue-green
    Hello officer. You are using a different definition. You are arresting me for a rule you just made up! Forget about “physics”. Consider what people mean by chemistry. It is certainly, not just the state of one’s understanding of chemistry or what is taught at a particular place and time. The term for your way of defining things is “deconstructionism”. Consider a different yet related word to physics and chemistry. Try Alchemy! Below is a use of “alchemy” cited in the Oxford English Dictionary. “A glorious morning gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy." (year 1600, Shakespeare). This alchemy is compatible with free will, regardless of how poisonous the practice of alchemy was for Newton. Alchemy, as Shakespeare is using it here, is inviolate, just as is physics when it is defined as “that which does go on its eternal way despite all the shadowy changes in the surface appearance of reality.” This definition honors the unitary dynamics and conservation laws at the heart of physics. The deterministic aspects melt away when dealing with a great many particles and the amplification that can result from decisions, whether they are deliberate, whimsical or unconscious.
    "Try the following question: Is science compatible with the existence of religions?
    If you say “no”, then every time an incompatible religious event occurs, science is out of the loop."

    How can anyone sensible answer that question with a "no"? Psychology explains very well why religions exist. Science is fully compatible with *the existence* of religions.

    Gerhard Adam
    And unpredictability is free will. What else could you want to have as basis for free will?
    What does that mean?  Are you suggesting that when a person exercises "free will" they don't have a reason for their choice?  If they have a reason, then how can it be unpredictable?

    However, more to the point, what is the "will" supposed to be "free" of?  Is anyone suggesting that given a particular set of circumstances (including the biochemical state of an individual's brain), that they somehow have the ability to supercede their choices? 

    "Free will" is an illusion, because no matter how often we discuss it we are faced with two elements of reality that are undeniable.  In the first place we never feel that a particular action is without reason.  Therefore whatever prompted our initial choice, that is always one that we expect is an explainable action.  The illusion comes in, because we can envision a similar circumstance in the future where we might make a different choice.  However, that isn't free will, because it is an attempt to replay history into an alternate future.  In other words, it is simply a story we tell ourselves.  It has no basis in any reasoning we may partake in.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    "what is the "will" supposed to be "free" of?" Free of being predictable. Nothing more, nothing less. I am redefining 'free will' as 'fundamentally unpredictable'. The same fundamental physics that every particle in your body follows renders the total of these particles utterly unpredictable. You call this an 'illusion'. That's fine, but I have no idea how you would operationalize that term. What measureable consequences follow from attaching the label 'illusion' or 'fake' to the term 'free will'?
    Gerhard Adam
    The same fundamental physics that every particle in your body follows renders the total of these particles utterly unpredictable.
    I'm not sure what the point is, since you certainly can't be suggesting that the body functions are unpredictable.  I'm sure you would agree that the circulation of blood, respiration, cell metabolism are all highly predictable.   The Krebs cycle certainly doesn't work because it is unpredictable.

    Similarly, you aren't likely to argue that one can "will" away a broken bone or an infection, since there is a biological cause which has rendered a physical response.  It isn't likely that you would argue that one can "will" away schizophrenia or autism, or OCD, since these are also well known predictable responses to biochemistry.  We also can't "will" away our responses to chemically altering drugs, nor do we find that our responses to stimuli are unpredictable.  We don't see something sad and arbitrarily laugh or get hungry.

    You certainly wouldn't suggest that you were surprised that when you sat down to write this article you were pleased that you didn't suddenly compose a song or paint a picture.  In other words, your behavior was completely predictable regardless of what the interaction of various particles is.

    So the question remains.  "Free will" cannot be unpredictable, since by definition, the requirement is that it be controllable by the subject.  If not, then it is incapable of being differentiated from something that is random, for which there is absolutely no evidence.  In addition, being "unpredictable" doesn't provide any information since it simply argues that you either don't know, or can't know.  Once again, there is no evidence to suggest that an individual doesn't know what choices they have.
    What measureable consequences follow from attaching the label 'illusion' or 'fake' to the term 'free will'?
    None, since you cannot measure something that doesn't exist (i.e. free will).  How do you measure centrifugal force, since it too is an illusion?  There are many possible illusions, but that doesn't mean that we can arbitrarily assign meaning to them.

    If you worry about something, can you arbitrarily "will" yourself not to?  You can suppress some of the feelings, but you can't simply exercise "free will" in any manner you choose. 

    Engage in a thought experiment for a moment where a child is raised so that every time someone says "Hello" they are to respond by slapping that individual.  In the absence of any other information this response will then occur.  It is only by observing others or being provided with alternatives that the individual can then choose to behave differently.  One cannot exercise a choice that isn't already present in the brain.

    In short, we don't need to worry about the physics of "free will" since we already know the chemistry works.  Regardless of what the behavior of individual particles is, there is nothing to suggest that biological organisms operate with that kind of flexibility or freedom.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    Gerhard -- it seems you want to get a lot more out of this than I do. My goal is rather modest. I want to demonstrate that the observable fact that a housefly is less predictable than say a pebble, is compatible with deterministic laws of physics. There is no need to declare physics inapplicable to houseflies or to introduce a reality outside physics that is relevant to houseflies and not to a pebbles. Now I do realize that many see 'free will' as a deeper notion, but as a physicist I want to stick to observable facts. Based on observable facts the only meaningful definition of 'free will' is to declare it synonymous to 'fundamentally unpredictable'. I am not saying that houseflies or human beings are in every aspect unpredictable. But it is undeniable that the position of housefly buzzing around my head is less predictable than that of a pebble thrown towards my head. And it is not possible to predict if I will duck or in what direction I will duck to avoid collision with the pebble. All of this is not at odds with laws of physics that at their deepest level are fully deterministic. That's the whole message.
    Gerhard Adam
    Thank you and I can fully appreciate what you're saying.  One of my concerns is that we already have far too many people that want to invoke quantum physics as a mystical tool to describe human behavior. 

    Perhaps instead of saying that the housefly or the human are "fundamentally unpredictable" it would be more accurate to say that their behavior is "externally unpredictable" because whatever deterministic actions occur exist only within the system of the object displaying the behavior.  In other words, it is part of the property of being animate versus inanimate.  There is no internal system at work with the pebble, therefore it can only react with predictability to external actions.
    Mundus vult decipi
    >>>"Free will" is an illusion<<<

    Said the random grouping of particles.

    No matter how many times I hear someone spew out this nonsense, paradoxically with huge helping of arrogance, my jaw drops. Its just embarrassing that someone, whose response he's scientifically certain is not *His own, would think he has successfully "one up'd" his seemingly inferior opponent--who also is a random particle grouping with no choice but to be inferior--when that thought has no more chance of being "Truth" than the random grouping of methane I just blew our my arse.

    At what point does the person arguing that his thoughts are meaningless become arrogant that they are meaningless? Im starting to think people who think they have no freewill have actually arranged their thoughts in such an incoherent way that they've become what they think they are. There is no other way to explain a person who doesnt think he's a person. 2 people arguing they have no freewill is like watching 2 computers typing out random text to eachother. If you dont see how hysterical it would be for one of the computers to get snippy about the other one not getting his random point then comedy is not your strong suit.

    If your not making choices you have not chosen an opinion.....period. Your worldview has boxed you into absurdity

    Gerhard Adam
    Now THAT is an absurd argument.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Free will and determinism are fully compatible."

    Umm, no.

    So your argument goes like this: a) the nature of the universe is deterministic b) it's all unpredictable (either truly or seemingly so) and presto!: c) so unpredictability= free will (ta da!). WTF?! Where and/or how does unpredictability= free will? Where is that ever explained/argued??

    Sorry, but your conclusion is very weak, to say the very least. Just because the universe is unpredictable (either in the sense that we are unable to sufficiently predict its actions/measure its state in terms of our tools, or that nature is fundamentally simply so), does -not- suggest free will. Secondly, a deterministic universe could -never- be compatible with free will. How could this ever make sense? This is a complete contradiction to the meaning of determinism (as in nature is deterministic). You say yourself that physical theory is deterministic.

    And your whole long rant about computers seems to be a moot point. Computers are useless without perfect, absolute, universal measurements to initially process. The uncertainty principle ensures this impossibility. Secondly, computers -may- be able to do it (though by giving up empiricism) because of the fact that the universe/physics may be reducible to very simple components. Thirdly, computers, and the physical calculations they run, represent a greater level of organization than much of the other structures in nature. You don't need an entire star in order to calculate a star's gravitational effects. I'm not saying this latter part is correct, but that it may be so.

    JP

    Johannes Koelman
    Where to start... It seems you have missed my point altogether. I have defined 'free will' as 'being fundamentally unpredictable'. You seem to have a different (as of yet undisclosed) definition of free will. Can you share that definition here? Let me react to one of your remarks, as this helps me to further explain my point: "You don't need an entire star in order to calculate a star's gravitational effects." Sure. The gravitational attraction of a star is quite predictable. Now take that fly that is buzzing around your head. You are attracted to this fly (gravitationally of course). Can you calculate and predict this gravitational effect? What will that gravitational attraction be in 5 minutes time? For that you need to predict the fly's position. And to predict where the fly will be in 5 minutes time, you need not just the entire fly, but all events in the fly's past lightcone. That makes the fly (in contrast to a star) fundamentally unpredictable. The difference being that a fly contains lot of hierarchical structure capable of amplifying tiny causes into huge effects.
    Plus, I think gravitational attraction is infinite in space time (basically, you can't reduce things to parts). So, I would tend to agree with the computational impossibilities argument.

    Now, the centre of your confusion is the fact that your notion of determinism is wrong. Determinism refers to --causality--. That the universe is ruled by causality. It is --not-- about humanity's ability to ever predict the future. It is about the fundamental nature of the universe (being causal). This is why I mentioned that your whole argument about computers was entirely moot. Humanity's inability to predict things is entirely independent of the fact that there is no free will in a deterministic universe. It's ok, you're not the first one to misunderstand the meaning of the word, "determinism". Just to re-iterate, it is not about being able to determine the future, but about the fact that the universe is causal in nature and so is fundamentally incompatible with us ever experiencing free will. Free will, I suppose, is the wish that we have some capacity to somehow, magically, be/see/act outside this causal chain.

    See here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism

    JP

    If a computer could predict everything in the universe by making a terrible lot of calculations, then it has to predict its own calculations too. That is: Present the result of the calculations before it starts calculating!

    It seems to me, that there is an infinite regress in this?

    At least it seems plausible, that you cannot calculate a future state of the universe quicker than the universe itself does. Which means that a prediction is impossible, even if the universe is 100 pct. determinated.

    Maybe the information processing taking place in the universe represents the quickest possible calculation of the future?

    Johannes Koelman
    "Maybe the information processing taking place in the universe represents the quickest possible calculation of the future?" Exactly. There is no shortcut to 'playing out the evolution of the universe starting from the big bang'.
    David Yerle
    I think it's an interesting point. In fact, Stephen Wolfram suggests something similar, he calls it the "Principle of computational irreducibility." Basically, he states that some systems (he calls them "programs", because for him everything is a program) are so complex that the only way to predict what they will do is to actually run them.
    However, I have my doubts about humans being irreducible programs. That is because our behavior is in fact quite predictable. If you think about it, we guess each other's actions all the time! We go like: "if I call her, she will think that I'm desperate and not call me, so I'll text her, then she'll reply..." etc. War tactics are based on this ability, amongst other things.
    This suggest we have an operational model of a human inside our heads that allows us to make probabilistic predictions about the actions of other humans. And this suggests that it may be possible to somewhat "compress" our information, though maybe not much.
    I'm just speculating too, so don't take anything I say too seriously. Just an idea in case you find it interesting or useful or just amusing.
    David Yerle
    Johannes Koelman
    "... our behavior is in fact quite predictable. If you think about it, we guess each other's actions all the time! We go like: "if I call her, she will think that I'm desperate and not call me, so I'll text her, then she'll reply..." Now she hurls the ashtray to your head. Did you see that coming? Let's do a small experiment here to see how predictable humans are. If you react to this post by predicting whether my next reaction to this thread will be all in caps or not, I will obey by reacting to your message (the way you predicted or not). :)
    David Yerle
    I did not mean we can predict people's reactions: what I said is we can make good guesses about them, and the probabilities they have. And that amounts to some compression.
    I don't know if she will throw the ashtray at me and I don't know how you will reply to my message, but I can bet it probably won't be in Russian and I know with almost absolute certainty she won't say "I apples twisted bore remember". That's a certain amount of predictability, though by no means total. But it should allow for some compression.
    By the way, of course after reading it won't be in Russian you might be tempted to write it in Russian. Don't. I only understand Russian on wednesdays.
    David Yerle
    David Yerle
    Actually, in one of your articles you speak about Shannon entropy: this is a bit similar! We can say our next action is not completely random, but is confined within some parameters. Therefore, we possess some information about the system. Our actions are not a perfect coin toss in the space of all possible actions, so a compressing algorithm would do a good job with us!
    David Yerle
    Johannes Koelman
    David - you introduce a very relevant point. This indeed is all about entropy, and more specifically about Kolmogorov complexity. The point is that a description of 'the big bang state' plus the fundamental laws of physics provides us with the shortest possible description of the universe. There is no better compression algorithm. So you need to 'play it all out' to observe what happens. At the most fundamental level, the term 'prediction' is meaningless.
    Gerhard Adam
    Bear in mind that "free will" destroys the concept behind your pain article, since there can be no excuse for feeling pain since we have the ability to exercise "free will" to redirect our minds towards alternative ways of feeling and expression.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    If you react to this post by predicting whether my next reaction to this thread will be all in caps or not, I will obey by reacting to your message...
    I'm not sure what someone's external prediction has to do with the ability of an individual to exercise "free will" internally.  I think you've created an artificial condition that is irrelevant to the argument.  "Free will", such as it is, only needs to be predictable to the individual exercising it, since there is no requirement that "free will" has any interaction with the outside world.

    Therefore, the point is whether an individual can ever look at something they "chose" and argue that they "never saw that coming".  If that were the case, then you might have a point.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    "the point is whether an individual can ever look at something they "chose" and argue that they "never saw that coming".  If that were the case, then you might have a point." Gerhard -- why would that be a requirement? As my unpredictable life evolves I get presented with zillions of surprises, and I am sure so do you. My rationalisations and my acts are both part of the same physics and are equally unpredictable. That does not mean that both are uncorrelated. On the contrary, my acts will typically correlate strongly with my rationalisations.
    Gerhard Adam
    As my unpredictable life evolves I get presented with zillions of surprises, and I am sure so do you. My rationalisations and my acts are both part of the same physics and are equally unpredictable.
    I don't believe we're talking about the same thing.  When you are presented with a particular event to react to, I'm sure you may have an opportunity to contemplate a choice, or you may simply react.  However, it is equally likely that you won't be surprised by your action (whatever it is) because it will make perfectly rational sense to you and be completely "predictable" in the sense that you could see how you arrived at your decision.  Certainly someone external to you would have little to "predict", but within yourself it wouldn't be difficult at all which is where the concept of "free will" occurs.

    In your example of the ashtray you were suggesting that the unpredictably pertained to someone external to the individual making the choice, which (in my view) doesn't have any relevance to the discussion.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    Indeed, we haven't converged to full agreement yet. (Might be partly due to differences in terminology, let's see.) My point is that *you* can not predict my actions and neither can *I*. No one can, and no growth of technology will ever make this possible. The fact that in most cases I see my own actions coming before you do, does not mean that I can predict my actions. Me 'seeing it coming before others do' is rather a signature of the fact that my actions evolve such that first my brain processes get triggered (don't ask me about these, I readily admit I know very little about these) and subsequently my actions become visible to others. I think where we differ in opinion is that I see A) my own internal rationalizations of my actions, and B) my external actions, as two sides of the same unpredictable coin. If I understand you well, you see your rationalizations as a true cause of your external actions, right?
    Gerhard Adam
    In effect, I see it as a reconstruction of the event sequence.  However, I won't beat this philosophical horse to death, because you've introduced another very slippery concept here (and I suspect you didn't intend to).

    In particular:
    The fact that in most cases I see my own actions coming before you do, does not mean that I can predict my actions.
    This raises the question of defining why you consider the conscious component "I" as being separate and distinct from the actions you attribute to it.  After all, if the actions originate with you, it's a bit difficult to argue that "you" don't know they're coming.  To suggest otherwise implies another agency at work, which isn't where I think you're going with this.

    The distinction here isn't that of "free will" but rather "conscious awareness", which I don't believe is a necessary condition for action to occur.  Once again, this is something that is readily apparent in most living organisms whether they are assessed to have consciousness or not.  So, in the end, the question becomes mired in whether the "conscious" component is the illusory piece that suggests free will. 

    The reason why I say it is illusory, is because it typically occurs as an "after-the-fact" rationalization.  Unless one is taking time to make an informed choice (in which case free will has nothing to do with it), most actions are rationalized after they occur and consequently create the illusion that things could've been done differently.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    Gerhard -- you have a tendency of introducing vague concepts into the discussion without any help in the form of a definition. The latest being "conscious awareness". If you define that for me in objective terms I am most interested to talk about that. In absence of an operational definition, I can only reiterate: "When it comes to issues like free will and consciousness, physics simply has no answers." Again, that does not mean deterministic physics is at odds with free will. I hope you agree that deterministic physics leaves plenty of room for the emergence of all the observable facts that we associate with the vague notion of 'free will'.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, I don't know how objective such a definition can be.  "Consciousness" applies to the idea that you are aware of taking some action, as opposed to being unaware (as in the case of managing your heartbeat for example).   "Awareness" is recognition of yourself as an entity that is capable of taking such an action.  For example, we can certainly consider bacteria to be "aware" of themselves in relation to others, but we wouldn't argue that they were "conscious" because it seems implausible that they would assign an identity to that awareness.  This is usually reserved for those organisms that possess a nervous system and are capable of some degree of abstraction.

    Therefore when you indicate that "I" am taking an "unpredictable" action through the agency of "free will", it doesn't make any sense, since it is "you" that is taking the action, so how can you be unaware of it?  The concept of "conscious awareness" is recognizing that you exist, and that you are aware that you are taking the action.

    Certainly if an action is unconscious, then you cannot argue that it has anything to do with "free will" since it is occurring outside of your control.

    Deterministic physics may not be at odds with "free will", but certainly most philosophers are, so it's a bit hard to fathom how physics can add anything to the definitions.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Human behaviour is incredibly predictable, provided you know some key information about the individual you're predicting. That's true of anything you want to predict about. Predictability doesn't warrant uniformity across non-uniform entities, like humans and their individual biochemistry.

    Johannes Koelman
    Rhett -- are you in for a challenge? We take a human you are allowed to study for an hour, and a rock of the same size that I am allowed to study for an hour. We are then both tasked to predict the objects of our study 5 minutes ahead. We repeat as often as needed to get reliable statistics on success rates of the predictions. You think you have any chance?
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Maybe, if the human is dead and the rock is in Christchurch, New Zealand.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Johannes Koelman
    I rest my case... :)
    The cause of determinism is actually worse than you state. You cannot even create a clone of a current state to pre-or postdict under classical dynamics.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 210601 (2002) [4 pages]
    Classical No-Cloning Theorem
    http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v88/i21/e210601

    A classical version of the no-cloning theorem is discussed. We show that an arbitrary probability distribution associated with a (source) system cannot be copied onto another (target) system while leaving the original distribution of the source system unperturbed. For classical dynamical systems such a perfect cloning process is not permitted by the Liouvillian (ensemble) evolution associated with the joint probability distribution of the composite source-target-copying machine system.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<

    Actually, what this paper says is that if you try to make a clone of a state, you have to get rid of the original entropy of the "object" that will receive the copy of the state. You might have to disperse the equivalent of MC^2 of entropy/energy in some heat bath to run your cloning machine. And the state you have to clone is the causal light cone of the system you want to predict.

    Johannes Koelman
    Thanks, that abstract looks very interesting and most relevant to the present discussion. Unfortunately, the paper is not available to us who have paid for the research... (I checked arXiv). Will try to contact the authors.
    Johannes Koelman
    Andreas Daffertshofer was so kind to send me the paper. Haven't read it in detail yet, but I am (pleasantly) surprised that such a classical no-cloning theory seems to hold. This makes classical arguments in favor of uncomputability much stronger. I was surprised such a no-cloning theorem could be derived as reproduction is observed in complex dynamical systems such as the game of life. Yet there is no contradiction as Daffertshofer et al rely on the Liouville theorem to derive their no-go theorem. And the game-of-life is irreversible and therefore obviously non-Liouvillian. Thanks very much for the reference!
    Interesting, science in action.

    Aitch
    Seems to me that both the 'measurement problem' and the 'free-will problem' are, in reality the same problem....Physics interference....ha ha

    Every time someone tries to 'box-up' in a container, something which IS the container of the prescribed box, it fails.....I wonder why? [not for long, though]

    That is also why many religions cannot say the name of god

    That which is all-encompassing cannot be encompassed....

    ..........or put another way, variety is the spice of life, and since necessity is the mother of invention, I can only deduce that it is not necessary.................yet

    Could be that our collective human consciousness, itself, has no need of a definition that is so elusive, and maybe even temporally linked to a yet-to-happen-event......?

    Aitch
    The nearest I have to a definition of Free Will is: I could have done something different. Because I (none of us) can go back in time I cannot prove my statement. So it is simply the inexorable passage of TIME that kills the proof rather than time-based ideas like determinism.
    Is it still there even if I can't prove it?
    The great thing about matters that can't be proved is they can be argued about with great(er) freedom. I may be complex but that complexity is increased by far more than three if, say, three people are arguing. What's more we, unlike one person, CAN do things differently.
    So, together we can prove Free Will. How many of us it needs is open to argument!

    Johannes Koelman
    "The nearest I have to a definition of Free Will is: I could have done something different" As you make clear in your remark, this definition can not be operationalized. There simple is no (and there can not be) any observable consequence linked to the statement 'I could have done something different'. Physics tells us to throw away any concepts that can not be operationalized.
    Gerhard Adam
    Once again, I suggest that this is looking at the wrong thing.  Comedians (and numerous others) make their living because of the predictability of responses. 

    So the only conclusion one could arrive at is that there is nothing demonstrable that could be called "free will".  It isn't that it is unpredictable, but rather that it doesn't exist.

    While I can certainly agree that the operation of the brain and the various states it maintains are complex and perhaps impossible to predict with any degree of precision, there is nothing in that operation to suggest that there is any phenomenon called "free will".  The very nature of the proposed phenomenon is suspect since we have no reason to believe that the brain (regardless of its complexity) is anything except deterministic.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Acknowledging that this is a bold topic to post, I suggest that you, Gerhard, are probably the nearest to an exercised free will I've ever encountered that denies its existence.....a sort of inbuilt dichotomy....obviously your mirror doesn't work properly, and only reflects the shell of your being....however your free will enjoys the limelight too much to not exist, and splatters itself all over this forum
    No doubt you have a different explanation, but surely a step towards a definition is better than non-existent will exercised freely, and in evidence.....lest your intent is to be an anomaly? ;-)

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but confusing the freedom to choose among options with the nebulous concept of "free will" simply misses the point.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    OK, carrot duly digested.....the missed point is....?

    For someone who professes to not like word games, you're a player, and I don't think we'll ever have a straight talk

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    If you would care to make a point, I'd be happy to respond.  However, if all you want to do is toss around nebulous concepts and mysticism, then I'm afraid I have little to contribute.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Well,  obviously when I exercise my free will in an attempt to communicate with you on equal terms, you end with an unexplained
    I query it, and you get critical of my style as being nebulous and mystic
    So my option for simplicity, concluding an expected non-communication, is to determine that you don't insult out of free will, so it must just be bad habit...shame...just a closed path of enquiry in your Scientific repertoire....

    OK, if ever you remember the rest of humanity, let me know....maybe we could share/exchange ideas?....maybe not....it IS hard work with you....and I don't enjoy your insults, ....I can't un-be mystic, and unlearn nebulous concepts to suit your narrow perspective, though some seem to find it 'interesting', as nebulousness seems to be a major part of the universe I live in and relate to, so I don't quite see where you are, relatively speaking

    So I don't think free will is affected by gravity, other than the gravity imposed on it by narrow-mindedness.....
    I wonder if the collective human narrow-mindedness causes physical gravity....there's an experiment waiting to be tested, eh?

    Aitch


    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry that you consider my request for something besides anecdote, insulting. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    ....and I'm sorry that you consider my attempt to elicit an answer from you to your undisclosed 'misses the point' point as an anecdote to insult, instead of a legitimate question deserving a straight answer .....but, hey ho, that's free will for you Aitch
    Gerhard Adam says:
    "Sorry, but confusing the freedom to choose among options with the nebulous concept of "free will" simply misses the point".

    This is simply false. Free will means nothing over and above the ability for ones self to choose from alternatives.

    If you do not think this then how on earth do you define "free will"?

    Hopefully you will not adopt the tactic of Dawkin's and other like minded atheists when they dream up an naive asinine concept of "god" and then show how unreasonable it is to show such a "god" exists!

    Gerhard Adam

    This is simply false. Free will means nothing over and above the ability for ones self to choose from alternatives.
    How are you saying anything different from what I said?   My only point is that if the choice of alternatives is all that is used to define "free will", then it is a trivial concept.  While I don't have a problem with that, most of the other posters were suggesting something much more grandiose.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I have a few remarks to make from a philosophic perspective. I hope what I say is reasonably accessible to anyone with access to wikipedia.

    "Physics tells us to throw away any concepts that can not be operationalized."
    First, I would warn against confusing scientific methodology with semantics. If you're saying that the meaning of our terms are constrained by the criterion of operationalization, then that's a fundamentally flawed way of doing semantics (as the Logical Positivists found with their verification criterion for meaning).

    Second, I worry that even within physics the rejection of any unoperationalizable concept is too strong. The appeal to operationalization was in response to tying free will to the idea that that "I could have done otherwise". Indeed, this is commonly taken to be a necessary condition for free will in philosophic literature (the alternative compatibilist condition is "I could have done otherwise HAD I CHOSEN to do otherwise"). Presumably it's the modal nature of the claim (the appeal to what is possible) that is problematic for operationalization. I just want to point out that standardly, notions like "causation" are taken to have a modal component as well. For instance Hume's characterization of causality involved the idea that there is a "necessary connection" between the cause and the effect. It is this modal component that allows us to differentiate between causal chains and mere correlations. If this is right (there is, however, much more to be said of course), then physicists ought not use the concept of causality according to your principle. Perhaps you'd be happy with only correlation, but I take this to at least be controversial.

    Next, when you concede "When it comes to issues like free will and consciousness, physics simply has no answers," it is puzzling that you continue to talk about free will at all. I would have thought that would be an appropriate place to stop talking about free will in a physics context. But instead what you do is redefine the term into "fundamental unpredictability". In itself that's all well and fine - you can define your terms however you like. But I fail to see the point of talking about "free will" at all, since what you do is argue determinism is compatible with fundamental unpredictability of a system (by another system within our universe).

    That's fine, but note that you haven't shown that free will, as the rest of us use the term, is compatible with determinism. If you take yourself to have shown that, then you seem to have fallen prey to the first worry (the conflation of scientific methodology with semantics). Similarly, if you think to draw any conclusion about, say, moral responsibility, then you've made the same mistake. The connection is between free will (as ordinarily conceived) and moral responsibility, not the technical notion you introduce (or at least you need to argue that there are those implications, rather than assume your redefined notion automatically has them by virtue of your calling it "free will").

    The upshot is, I think, that if you want to talk about a natural language term, you would do well to dive into the philosophic method of clarifying and precicifying it, or else the application of physics may turn out to be idle rather than constructive.

    Johannes Koelman
    Eric -- a few points in reply to your reaction: Insisting on a description in terms of operationalizable concepts is a hard requirement in all of physics. Where philosophers miss that point, it is exactly where they go astray. Causation is operationalized in physics in a mathematically rigorous way in the form of a unitary transformation. I am not aware that Hume has contributed anything to that concept. But yes, it is precisely this unitary transformation that gives us a connection between cause and effect. Don't get me wrong, it is fine to start a discussion with some terms still being vague in operational context, but such a discussion can only be meaningful when its focus is on how to operationalize these. Where I say "When it comes to issues like free will and consciousness, physics simply has no answers" I am referring to the fact that physics can not contribute to vague concepts. It would be utterly wrong to stop there, as the problem is not with physics, but rather with the vagueness of the concepts commonly referred to as 'free will'. (In hindsight I should have pointed that out explicitely in the article.) That situation begs for an operational definition of free will (you may call it a 'weak form of free will') in terms of 'fundamental unpredictability'. Doing so allows me to debunk the widespread myth that deterministic laws of physics are incompatible with the observation of 'free will'. There is simply no basis for such a statement. It should be clear that 'free will', when operationalized as the 'weak form of free will', is fully compatible with deterministic laws of physics. Of course it should (and does) remain unclear whether any non-operational definitions of 'free will' (or as you put it "free will, as the rest of us use the term" - which begs the question "who is us?" - if anything, this thread has made it very clear to me that there is no "the rest of us") are compatible with deterministic laws of physics. That is OK, as long as there are no observations associated with the concept perceived by "the rest of us". On 'moral responsibility': you must have noticed that I have refrained from even using that term, let alone drawing any conclusions about it. That is not without reason. Finally, I hope that my article is constructive in the sense that it might build some feeble bridge between 'free will deniers' and 'free will defenders'. (Both groups being abundantly present in this thread.) I challenge both groups to investigate 'free will' not by introspection, but rather by observing people arround you. It is undeniable that there is a component of unpredictability in the behaviour of people around you. An unpredictability that is absent in inanimate objects. Is there anything beyond this unpredictability that could be classified as 'free will'?
    Gerhard Adam
    An unpredictability that is absent in inanimate objects.
    Sorry, but based on what?  The weather certainly consists of inanimate objects and yet isn't predictable in any appreciable way.  There are many examples of chaotic systems that are fundamentally unpredictable and are inanimate.  Why would you consider that the external behavior is unpredictable when the internal operations that elicit that behavior are deterministic?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    "There are many examples of chaotic systems that are fundamentally unpredictable and are inanimate."  Chaotic behavior is child play compared to 'fundamental unpredictability', and we should not confuse the two. Chaotic systems are perfectly predictable, albeit with an accuracy that deteriorates exponentially. The more you invest in computational capability as well as in terms of determining the initial conditions, the further in the future you can extend your predictions. Nothing stops you from predicting these systems as deep in the future as you want. Fundamental unpredictability is different. No matter how much resources you bring in, you can not predict the future of such a system. I argued that bringing gravity into the considerations transforms complex systems into fundamentally unpredictable systems. In one of the above reactions Robvs made the point that a recent result on the 'classical non-xerox theorem' accomplishes the same. I should make the remark on animate vs inanimate systems more precise. The comparison is meaningful only between objects of similar size (and similar number of degrees of freedom). For instance a hummingbird and a die. Both have similar number of elementary particles. Yet one I would classify as 'fundamentally unpredictable', and the other as 'hard to predict' (chaotic) but not unpredictable.
    Gerhard Adam
    I should make the remark on animate vs inanimate systems more precise.
    That's a very fundamental problem, because ultimately animate systems consist of inanimate processes.  There is no "life force" or some super-natural phenomenon that distinguishes life from non-life. 

    Basically if we take the functions of a cell and the chemistry involved, then there is no instance of where it operates outside the normal definitions of chemistry and physics.  Certainly random elements may occur and noise may be present in the system, but ultimately it translates into a macro-world representation that is (for all practical purposes) deterministic.

    This is even more problematic when one considers that the boundaries between the animate and inanimate aren't nearly as precise as usually assumed, especially when we examine forms like viruses and prions.  The point being that if we can't really separate the two processes from each other except to say that "life" does X, while non-life does not, this doesn't do anything to advance the argument towards being unpredictable versus predictable.

    Certainly one has many more interactions that we don't have complete knowledge of, but that doesn't necessarily preclude us acquiring that knowledge.  Would the argument work if we understood the behavior of a single neuron precisely?  If we understood the chemical triggers?  If one neuron is predictable then why shouldn't a billion be predictable?  At which point does unpredictability get introduced, since it cannot be intrinsic in the individual components.

    After all, the point of "free will" is that it is controllable and directed by the subject and not simply random or subject to noisy interference. 

    In fact, it would seem that the primary arguments supporting "free will" in humans carries the requirement that "free will" is a fundamental part of particle behavior in the first place.  So, it seems that the idea of determinism and "free will" is a non-starter.

    See also the "Free Will Theorem"
    / Conway-Kochen theorem and its criticism.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    "See also the "Free Will Theorem" / Conway-Kochen theorem and its criticism." The criticism is to an earlier version of the 'Free Will Theorem'. The Conway-Kochen paper you refer to is the same that I refer to in the above blogpost: it is a later article (sharpened - partly in reaction to the criticism). Not sure how I should interpret you referring to Stapp. You haven't made a U-turn towards quantum mysticism, have you?
    Gerhard Adam
    Not me ... :)

    I'll have to look again, but I think I screwed up the link that I intended to include.
    Mundus vult decipi
    From the perspective of a future observer there is no free will in the past.
    From the perspective of a past or current observer there is always free will in the future.

    You can of course argue that cars on the street are not the result of free will. Only the unavoidable result of universal physics and evolution. And genetics predict our behaviour exactly according to physics.

    Discussing 'free will' therefore adds nothing to this discussion at all ;-) . "Physics interference" only creates more free will, adding non formalism.

    To predict my behavior, you do not need to calculate the current and future states of the universe, only of me and my inputs. This is a much smaller subset. It may still be intractable.

    BUT my free will may not be in my particles and energy, but in my software. It may be in the way my brain is programmed. You physicists may be off the hook.

    Johannes Koelman
    "To predict my behavior, you do not need to calculate the current and future states of the universe, only of me and my inputs. This is a much smaller subset. It may still be intractable." Imagine all your inputs: the world you have observed, the planets and stars you have looked at. Others you have interacted with, who in turn have interacted with... etc, etc. This is your 'past light cone' and your whole universe. "BUT my free will may not be in my particles and energy, but in my software." And where is that software stored?
    Surely the phrase 'Physics tells us to throw away any concepts that can not be operationalized' might be better rendered: 'Physics can't handle concepts that cannot be operationalized.'
    Althought a physicist, I am not keen on Physics being preached like a religion. I doubt Johannes Koelman meant it that way but I am happy with the idea that Physics is limited - self-limited, that is.
    I also understand, as a newcomer, that blogs and replies on Science2 need to stay within physics/science. What we have here with Free Will - a philosophical question of long standing - is the need to define it somehow within Physics so we can discuss it within Physics.
    I like to think I don't have to do that if I don't want to!

    And where is that software stored?

    In my computer -- er, brain! (I have no degree but I have worked with computers for 30-some years. That may have colored my outlook.)

    blue-green
    <!--[if gte mso 9]> Gerhard, your body functions are predictable to a degree ... as is also where you’ll be with your next step. A thousand steps ahead is not predictable. A computer programmed with all the algorithms to predict your singular behavior which you call “reasonable” would collapse behind a horizon before it could tell you when you’ll die. So you can never know and work with that knowledge. You just have statistics to serve as a guide …. and you’ll never know just how lucky or unlucky you might be. You agree with that so far? Why can you not let “free-will” be a subset of unpredictable phenomena and be quiet? You say free-will doesn’t exist. You deny that it is surrounded by a much larger class of free and unconscious objects …. like weather. It is true that we don’t say that the weather has free-will. What we do acknowledge is that there is a freedom in atmospheric physics and also in human affairs that makes it impossible to predict exactly even a modest way out. It is impossible because to do so would require a computation the result of which cannot be given to you; it is shielded behind a horizon. You can’t go over the horizon to get it and come back to use it. Just because we are conscious that we are free (with thanks to fundamental physics for showing us this fact), just because we know we are free, that doesn't make us unfree. Freedom: it's an inalienable right.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...your body functions are predictable to a degree
    To a high enough degree to where it can be considered deterministic.  There is little doubt that each component operates within the parameters necessary to make predictions.  While that doesn't preclude malfunctions, it most certainly isn't random nor probabilistic.  The fact that there are so many possible interactions between different biological components will certainly increase the complexity, but that doesn't mean that any given component isn't operating in a deterministic manner.
    What we do acknowledge is that there is a freedom in atmospheric physics and also in human affairs that makes it impossible to predict exactly even a modest way out
    You're mixing up concepts.  Freedom is not the issue, but rather the ability to exercise one's "will" (whatever that is supposed to mean) freely.  If the point is simply that we have the ability to make choices, then it is both uninteresting and trivial.

    Once again when you indicate that you cannot predict the future, this presents a trivial problem and doesn't say anything regarding "free will".  By that definition, you could argue that amoeba exercise "free will" since their future would be equally difficult to predict.
    Why can you not let “free-will” be a subset of unpredictable phenomena and be quiet?
    Why can you not see that if it is unpredictable, then by definition, it cannot be free to be exercised by the subject.  We're not talking about some degrees of freedom, we're talking about the individual being "free" to exercise their will in whatever manner they choose.  However, since it involves some conscious effort, it cannot be regarded as unpredictable.  It may be unknown to an external agency, but it cannot be unknown to the individual exercising it.  Therefore the whole concept of being unpredictable makes no sense in this discussion.  How else would one interpret "unpredictable"? 
    You deny that it is surrounded by a much larger class of free and unconscious objects
    …. like weather.
    Once again, what does this have to do with anything?  If your only point is that physics cannot define a deterministic path to how our brains operate, then once again, the point is obvious, since no one knows exactly how our brains work in that respect.  However, to argue that it is arbitrarily unpredictable without quantifying whether it is simply because there aren't enough data points or whether it is fundamentally unknowable doesn't provide any additional insight.

    In general the argument is circular by stating that "free will" must be "free" because it is "unpredictable" and it is "unpredictable" because we don't know how to predict it.  Unfortunately no one as actually made the case as to why "free will" needs to be either predictable or unpredictable and what element of "free" that is supposed to represent.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The basic flaw of argument claiming consistency of determinism of determinism and experience of free will is the identification of experience of free will with the inability to predict. I cannot calculate what will happen to me or the world tomorrow but I do not experience this inability as free will. Free will is something much more active. It involves selection between options and also intentionality, which is much more than a mere choice between a finite number of alternatives.

    State function reduction is the obvious starting point when one tries to understand free will in terms of quantum theory or it generalization. The basic problems are well-known and the attempt to resolve them leads to the following big picture.

    a) The non-determinism of state function reduction is inconsistent with the determinism of Schroedinger time evolution. This problem is resolved by replacing quantum states with counterparts of the entire time evolutions of Schroedinger equation. Also the geometric past changes in quantum jump: this conforms with the classical findings of Libet that conscious decision is preceded by neural activity.

    b) One must replace state function reduction with quantum jump involving unitary process (something more general than unitary time evolution) followed by state function reduction. Unitary process would create superposition of worlds of quantum states and would be the genuinely creative aspect of free will. The first guess is that state function reduction chooses one state among the eigenstates of measured observables.

    c) The chronon of subjective time is identifiable in terms of quantum jump but one has to understand the relationship of subjective time to the geometric time of physicist. These times are not same (irreversility of the subjecitve time contra reversibility of geometric time). This leads from the usual positive energy ontology to zero energy ontology (ZEO) in which quantum states are pairs of positive and negative energy states with opposite conserved quantum numbers assignable to the future and past boundaries of causal diamond CD (analog of Penrose diagram) defined as intersection of future and past directed light-cones.

    The identification conforms with the crossing symmetry of QFT but predicts deviations from positive energy ontology. In ZEO one can understand how the arrow of subjective time is mapped to that of geometric time and also the localization of the contents of contents of sensory mental images to a finite and rather short (about .1 seconds) time interval: memories are about the region of entire CD and means totally new view about how memories are realized. ZEO allows maximal free will since any zero energy state can in principle be achieved from given one by quantum jumps.

    e) The natural variational principle for consciousness is what I call negentropy maximization principle (NMP). The fundamental observable would be density matrix characterizing the entanglement between system and its complement and characterized by entanglement entropy. NMP states that the reduction of entanglement entropy in state function reduction is maximal. This is consistent with standard quantum measurement theory but state function reduction would always lead to a state with vanishing entanglement negentropy in standard QM. Optimal situation would be no information at all. Something more is needed.

    f) Skeptic can also argue that the outcome of state function reduction is random so that no genuine free will can be assigned it. I believe that this is the case in standard quantum theory. The existence of number theoretic variants of Shannon entropy making sense for rational and even algebraic entanglement probabilities saves the situation: the replacement of probabilities appearing as the arguments of logarithms in Shannon entropy with their p-adic norms for any prime p leads to a modification of Shannon entropy satisfying same defining conditions. The negentropy is maximal for a unique prime.

    This entropy can be negative and the interpretation is in terms of information carried by entanglement: the information is not about whether cat is dead or alive but tells that it is better to not open the bottle;-). In this framework the outcome is not anymore completely random and entangleed state can be stable against state function reduction. p-Adic physics is unavoidable outcome and has interpretation in terms of correlates of intention and cognition. p-Adic space-time regions would be the mind stuff of Descartes. The natural hypothesis is that life corresponds to negentropic entanglement possible in the rational intersection of real and p-adic worlds (matter and cognition).

    Second law generalizes: quantum jumps can create genuinely negentropic subsystems but the price paid is
    the creation of subsystems with compensating entropy: by looking around and seeing what we have done one becomes convinced about the plausibility of the generalization;-).

    This is just the basic vision. Working out the details requires considerably more lines of text: see my
    homepage.

    Aitch
    At last....some under/over/standing of free will Thank you Aitch
    I seriously doubt that free will exists, at least as some mystical magical nondeterministic thing. Let's face it. Our brains are not particularly introspective. Sure, we can reason consciously, but we do an awful lot of unconscious thinking, and that includes unconscious deciding. The fact that we are unaware of this thinking, at least until a decision is presented, does not mean that it is not taking place or somehow violates some law of physics.

    Neurologists study this. They deal with all sorts of weird stuff, like blind sight, in which people avoid obstacles that they cannot see in the sense of being able to describe their presence. They study how stroke victims can semi-consciously "rewire" themselves through neural recruitment to restore cognitive function. They can watch neural clusters firing, and have learned that for muscle motion, the brain usually makes a decision to move 50ms before one is consciously aware of the decision. They know that the brain has a specific section for analyzing motion, and a similarly structured one for color. They know that there is a section just dedicated to recognizing faces, and this is recycled in literate cultures for recognizing writing which is why we don't have to reason out who someone is or what glyph we are looking at.

    I've never gotten a handle on what people mean when they talk about free will, save in the legal sense of not being subject to undue influence which is kind of circular, but that's why we have courts and laws and lawyers. One exciting area of study is the theory of mind, in which scientists study how people, and many animals, reason about other creature's behavior. Needless to say, this is very important for predators and social animals for whom such modeling offers many advantages, like meat, not having to fight all the time, sex, cooperation, and the like. Obviously, we aren't all that unpredictable or we wouldn't have developed theories of mind. Why waste the neural mass when it could be used for something better? Obviously it doesn't work perfectly, but that doesn't matter. When philosophers discuss free will, whatever that is, they rarely imply it only applies to correct or optimal decisions.

    Ladislav Kocbach
    Dear Kaleberg, two instances of 'free will' are (1) the fact that you wrote what you wrote and (2) my reply in this form. No computation, simulation, etc ... could predict our two comments at the moment when Johannes wrote the article. Two results of two free wills.
    But one thing is serious: the number of people, including you, who so easily give up their basic human qualities. "Free will", freedom etc, they are the torches of our culture. What pessimism you display! 

    On the other hand, there are only about 50 people who wrote up to now  anything at all as a reaction to the wise words of this writing of Johannes. Perhaps hundreds - or thousands - feel the need to have free will - and do not want "science" to take this from them. "Science" which does not make place for human values would lead us to futures we probably do not want. As Johannes so well explains: physics has no "theory of free will", but physics can and has been made compatible with our ideas and ideals including free will. The biologists should join instead of overfocusing on how today genes tomorrow chemicals (or something else) determine our behavior and make free will a historical misunderstanding. 

    I want to have my free will, you speak for yourself.

    To Johannes: very good article, but think about this: how could you re-write it to prevent so many basically dissenting comments? 
    That's a pretty broad definition of "free will". I am loath to take away anyone's freedom or sense of freedom, but I have never set myself in defiance of the laws of physics, as attractive as idea that might be at times. I consider my reply to have been in my general vein as a materialist. What exactly I wrote, and am writing now, is not horribly unpredictable. Sure, it is not predictable to the letter, but people have personalities, foibles, predilections, characteristics, callings, occupations and the like, all of which are used to simulate, predict and expect.

    You shouldn't be so alienated from the physical world. It is one's animal nature in this life that ties us to the earth, to other creatures, to each other and, for better or worse, to the laws of physics and rigors of mathematics and logic. That one's actions are determined by understandable mechanisms rather than mystic force do not demean or confine them. I never expect to fully understand my brain or that of others, but I find my mysticism within the realm of understanding rather than outside it.

    P.S. You shouldn't be afraid of simulation. I remember the SIAM 100 Digit Challenge which involved predicting the position of a point mass billiard ball in a rectangular grid of circular bumpers. The physics were trivial. The winner used Mathematica, and the program increased the precision of the calculation until the simulation was stable. To get 100 digits they needed to use several thousand. All simulations must make approximations, and anyone who has studied the black art of numerical analysis knows how quickly the error accumulates.

    Johannes Koelman
    "You shouldn't be afraid of simulation. I remember the SIAM 100 Digit Challenge..." Interesting that you mention the SIAM challenge. (I have the book written by members of the various teams that solved all ten problems - a fantastic tour of human ingenuity.) This simulation challenge provides an interesting way to illustrate 'unpredictability': You and I are many-zillion-digit SIAM challenges in a universe that does not allow for simulations exceeding a zillion digits. We can only marvel at the complexity generated by these many zillion digits interacting, knowing that while we witness this complexity unfolding, we will never be able to predict it.
    Gerhard Adam
    Two results of two free wills.
    What is the basis for asserting that there are "two free wills", besides the trivial argument about having choices?  What act of "will" was incurred and what made it "free" from your own brain's biochemistry? 

    In other words, while you may claim that it is unpredictable, the question that needs answering is whether there was any part of your brain's biochemistry that behaved in a non-deterministic manner.  If not, then the entire process by which the thoughts originated and the response written was completely predictable if all the data points were available.

    I don't know why people are so obsessed with the notion of "freedom" intrinsic in this type of discussion because there is no basis for asserting it.  It's as if people believe that somehow they simply become robots, but if so, robots to what?  Their brain? 

    No matter how you dissect it, your actions came from your own brain processes and your own brain processes followed all the normal "predictable" laws of chemistry and physics.  So unless someone wants to postulate how a completely unique, "unpredictable" and yet "free" aspect of the brain's operation occurred, I submit that it is simply the illusion we maintain because we recognize our ability to "change our minds" in the future.  For those that disagree, please provide an example of what is "free" in any aspect of your brain's operation.

    I don't believe that you can argue that "you" can make a choice, because who are "you" if not the product of the brain you say is "free". 


    Mundus vult decipi
    Johannes Koelman
    Thanks Ladislav -- I was trying to make the article as uncontroversial as possible, but that doesn't mean I am not ok with some stiff discussion. In fact, I would hate to see an article like this to 'pass by' without any discussion. In summary, I make two claims in the article: 1. The only meaningful definition of 'free will' is 'being fundamentally unpredictable', any other definition leads to I'll-defined and/or unobservable concepts. (In particular, definitions of 'free will' in terms like 'I could have taken the road not taken' are meaningless constructs.) 2. Thus defined, 'free will' is fully compatible with deterministic physics. In particular there is no need to invoke vague arguments about quantum indeterminacy, or worse, arguments in favor of 'something outside physics'. If you look at the various reaction in this thread, it is clear that some feel I should have gone further and declared 'free will' nonexistent, while others feel I have reduced 'free will' to something trivial and not a worthy description of the 'free will' they perceive. I know how I could have prevented any dispute and any dissenting comments. Leaving out the term 'free will' and limit the discussion to 'unpredictability' would accomplish just that. Yet, that would not have done justice to the subject. But perhaps you had something else in mind?
    Aitch
    Ladislav, thanks,..... we are not alone as free wills in an imagined/feared world of non-existence, as some here see I personally like Johannes's description of free will as 'being fundamentally unpredictable' ......demonstrated [without knowing of the description] further down the thread, as "bananacake with rhubarb!" Sums it up, for me.... Aitch
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Free will or free Willy, is there really much difference? I think that lack of 'free will' has a lot to do with enforced captivity, containment, indoctrination and oppression, probably even if you are a quantum particle. But I also think that there are layers of 'free will' between every deterministic layer that can possibly be created, even if it is simply the freedom of every conscious organism to willingly attempt suicide. I've seen animals do this and I've read that many captured dolphins do this and as a Lifeline counselor I have spent a lot of time trying to persuade suicidal people not to do this, but at the end of the day, however grave this might be, it is our free will to choose whether to live or to die.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...it is our free will to choose whether to live or to die.
    As I mentioned in other posts.  What is "free"?  Are you suggesting that it isn't our brains that form our identity and control our actions?  If so, then what part of the brain's operation is non-deterministic and gives rise to this "freedom"?

    How does such a choice get made?  If the brain makes the choice, then how is it "free"?  If our brain doesn't make the choice, then what function performs it?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I would imagine that the 'free will' part of us is the part of us that says 'ergo cogito sum' or 'I think therefore I am' which gives us our consciousness but in this case it would be 'I think I don't want to be' or 'I think I don't want to think' the will to be free from that consciousness and existence.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...but if it's part of us, what is it "free" from?  You're saying that we are the source of the consciousness, but then saying that somehow we're also free to act independent of ourselves.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Surely our thoughts are our free will, no one can contain them or prevent them, they may not even belong to a body or a soul. All we know is that we think therefore we exist in some capacity. Take that one step further when we think freely we must be utilizing our free will to do this, no one can stop us, contain us or determine our thoughts in any way, unless they stick a 'thinking cap' on our head, no I'm only joking, not even then. Even if and when people hear voices in their heads these are still separate to their thoughts and their own free will to think those thoughts.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    You're mixing up concepts.  Why would you think "free will" has anything to do with someone else stopping you from something.  There's no question that your thoughts originate in your brain/mind.  The only question is whether you actually have any direct control over your brain.  If so, then how is it manifest?  The point being ... can you describe a situation where you are somehow able to override what your brain is telling you.  If not, then how can you justify claiming "free will" if your brain is the vehicle that is directing you and also the same vehicle that is supposed to provide you the control mechanism?

    If you're claiming something outside of yourself then what might it be?  Where might it be?  Do other animals possess it?  What is it?  More importantly, why does anyone feel that it has to be outside the body and doesn't that introduce an unnecessary metaphysical element to things?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    You're mixing up concepts.  Why would you think "free will" has anything to do with someone else stopping you from something.
    Because that's the difference between 'free will' and 'imprisoned impotence' one is achievable and the other is being stopped or prevented from happening in a deterministic fashion.
    There's no question that your thoughts originate in your brain/mind.
    Really? How do you know that? All that I know for sure is that I exist in some form.
    The only question is whether you actually have any direct control over your brain.  If so, then how is it manifest?  The point being ... can you describe a situation where you are somehow able to override what your brain is telling you.
    That's not your only question, you have plenty of questions just in this comment :) Yes, I can describe a situation where I was able to override what my brain was telling me. When I was 15 a hippy guy that we knew, offered my girlfriend and I some LSD at a party, and we said 'no thanks'. About half an hour later after we had both eaten a ham sandwich that he had kindly prepared and offered to us, he announced that we had both eaten a part of an LSD tab in the sandwich.

    For the next few hours we were 'tripping' and couldn't rely much on anything our eyes were telling us. My girlfriend who was normally the sensible one of the two of us, completely freaked out, but for some reason that I still don't understand, I was able to remain quite detached and calm most of the time and just watch the hallucinations unfold, knowing that they couldn't really be true and reminding my friend from time to time.

    It took us several hours to hitch a ride to the next town with a dragon with a frog in the back of his car and then to cycle around our very familiar small town trying to find our way home in the dark, as very little was recognisable to either of us, but I'm happy to say that I was always able to override what that hallucinating part of my brain was telling me, even if I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. Funnily enough, even when it had worn off I could still see the amazing faces that I had seen in my floral bedroom curtains, if I squinted my eyes a bit.
    If you're claiming something outside of yourself then what might it be? Where might it be?  Do other animals possess it?  What is it?  More importantly, why does anyone feel that it has to be outside the body and doesn't that introduce an unnecessary metaphysical element to things?
    I don't know what free will might be or whether other animals possess it too or whether its in or out of the body and/or metaphysical, but I can imagine it as an energy form that can reside in a body, astral project away for a while or even leave the body if it dies. When I was a teenager I was in an accident and was trapped and unconscious for quite a while. During that time I felt that I left my body and went to my father, who was asleep a few kilometers away, to get help.
    At the same time which was approximately 2am he woke from a rather symbolic nightmare convinced that something bad had happened to me. My mother, aunt and uncle got up and made him a cup of tea to calm him down and I have a vague memory of looking down on them in the kitchen, sitting in their dressing gowns, drinking their tea.

    Maybe it was a hallucination but it was a funny coincidence with witnesses at both ends to confirm the timing. Maybe I was trapped by the deterministic events that occurred but used free will to leave my body, maybe I just had concussion and confused memories or the knock to my head had started me 'tripping' again?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Take that one step further when we think freely we must be utilizing our free will to do this,...
    OK, then analyze that statement.  What do you mean "think freely"?  Where does such a "free" thought originate?  How would you recognize a "free" thought versus a "forced" thought?  Which organ will tell you the difference?

    How often have you thought about a problem and later when you were thinking about something else the answer came to you?  Were you able to direct or control your brain's behavior?  When you feel sad, are you able to "will" yourself to feel happy?  I'm not talking about suppressing sadness, I'm talking about actually changing your mood by a sheer act of "will".  After all, why not, since if "free will" exists, you can "will" yourself to feel anything you like.

    More to the point, then when people are sad or angry or suicidal, then in the absence of actual brain damage, they're simply being lazy because they have "free will" with which to override those tendencies.  No more pain, because this is simply an act of self-indulgence if "free will" is something that you can invoke to direct how your brain behaves.

    In reality if you examine it more closely you'll find that you have very little control over what your brain does, except when you have a specific thing you might want to think about or explore, but that can't be sustained for too long.  It's sort of like controlling your breathing.  You can do that for a time, but you must do it within the required parameters of your body's respiration needs.

    Go ahead ... "will" yourself to not think of an elephant.  When you read this (or any other post), are you directing the thoughts that flood your brain, or is your brain responding whether you're ready or not? 

    As I said before, for some reason people have this idea that they must be "free" before they can have original thoughts or ideas, but what does that even mean?  How many decades of information have been fed into your brain so that you can feel "free" to be original?  Ask an artist or a song-writer where their inspiration to create comes from and the last thing you'll hear is that it is an act of the "will".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yesterday I had a hot dog. I thought about whether to have mustard with it. I decided not to. No one else influenced that decision.

    My understanding of the free will question is whether or not my thought process in making that decision was the result of my genetics, environment and history or whether I really could have decided otherwise. Physics gets involved because my DNA and environment can be viewed as calculable physical entities. Coercion is not part of this problem.

    Can we even *know* if we have free will? As with Berkeley's tree, perhaps the answer doesn't matter.

    I want free will. I want to steer my own ship. I wonder if it is cultural? Americans are notoriously independent. Do Chinese, with a greater emphasis on family and group membership, also feel this desire to have free will? Someone suggested that the desire for free will is the result of consciousness. Where is Experimental Philosophy when you need it?

    Tom of the Sweetwater Sea

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    More to the point, then when people are sad or angry or suicidal, then in the absence of actual brain damage, they're simply being lazy because they have "free will" with which to override those tendencies. No more pain, because this is simply an act of self-indulgence if "free will" is something that you can invoke to direct how your brain behaves.
    Actually, I think you are right, sometimes they are being lazy and self-indulgent simply because they do have the free will to do exactly that. I have talked to suicidal people who during the conversation have consciously altered their mind-set, stopped feeling suicidal and even started laughing, I've had some of my biggest laughs with people who rang because they were suicidal and probably just wanted to be cheered up.
    In reality if you examine it more closely you'll find that you have very little control over what your brain does, except when you have a specific thing you might want to think about or explore, but that can't be sustained for too long.  It's sort of like controlling your breathing.  You can do that for a time, but you must do it within the required parameters of your body's respiration needs. Go ahead ... "will" yourself to not think of an elephant.  When you read this (or any other post), are you directing the thoughts that flood your brain, or is your brain responding whether you're ready or not? 
    Sorry I don't agree with the 'very little control' part of what you are saying however I do agree that both have voluntary and involuntary control mechanisms. Thoughts are only under our voluntary control when we have the free will to do so, and yes they can be interrupted briefly by the image of an 'elephant' but I freely chose to read that text and think of the elephant, no one can force me to do that. Someone could walk into the room and yell 'elephant' and if I was concentrating on something I probably wouldn't hear them, but if I did it would only be a brief interruption, free will doesn't have to be continuous. If that person kept yelling 'elephant' I would habituate to the word and stop taking notice, unless I was on the African Savannah!
    As I said before, for some reason people have this idea that they must be "free" before they can have original thoughts or ideas, but what does that even mean?  How many decades of information have been fed into your brain so that you can feel "free" to be original?  Ask an artist or a song-writer where their inspiration to create comes from and the last thing you'll hear is that it is an act of the "will".
    I never said we have to be free to have original thoughts and ideas and I don't agree that you need decades of information either.  Babies and toddlers are often very original in their thoughts and ideas, paintings and making up of songs, if anything that originality is gradually drummed out of them over the decades. This might explain why brain damaged people suddenly become more inspired to paint as mentioned in Andrea's article 'The Neuroscience Of Creativity And Insight—The Good, The Bad,&The Absolutely Ridiculous'. I paint and write songs and I do this with my free will, I'm not painting or composing by numbers and I'm normally oblivious of everything around me when I'm doing it, including people yelling 'when's dinner?'
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    First of all, the Free Will angle is a red herring. What is meant is "Soul" in some incarnation of "The ultimate mover of the person". The religious overtones are deliberate, as this is as much a discussion about "Why humans are more than matter?" as about physics. Definitions of Free Will tend to place it outside of the material world.

    But we can go a very long way without poking into that hornet's nest.

    The basic tenet is about (pre-)determinism in the old religious, Calvinist, sense:
    1 Everything you will do in your life is already present at the moment of your conception

    2 Everything you will do in your life is knowable at the moment of your conception

    Ad 1: This is reverse causation. Every action you take has exact causal chains that go back to the start of time. So when you are born, there are causes active that will directly lead to your death many decades later. That is determinism, every effect has causes and the whole chain is unitary. And no-one is arguing with that.

    Ad 2: Now we make a leap. We silently assume that an entity that has a catalog of all the causes at your conception can follow them through and actually predict what will happen to your until and including your death. This is a leap of faith.

    The counterarguments are three-fold:
    1 Any calculation of a non-trivial future that has to be faster than real-time will have to include so much information in a small space that the entity will collapse into a black hole. Any results of the prediction cannot be communicated anymore.

    2 If the real universe is Turing Complete, and as there are Universal Turing Machines in the real universe, it is, then there are no shortcuts for non-trivial futures. To know the result of a dynamic evolution, you have to run the dynamic system in exactly the same way as the original. This means, that if you want to pre-/post-dict the future of a person, you need to clone her and her world (causal light cone) perfectly, and run this clone universe long enough to see what the future is.

    But what you have done now is, you have made a perfect, really perfect, clone of the person and her world, and you have left this person live her life. You recorded her choices. Determinism requires that the two clones will have lived identical lives in identical "universes".

    But the question now is, which of these two clones is the real one? Because, they are identical down-to every virtual photon pair. Instead of pre- or post-dicting one life from another, you have simply recorded a single life in duplicate.

    3 So pre-/post-dicting a life means you have to clone the person and her causal light cone onto some substrate and run her life inside this simulation. That is, you have to clone the statistical state of a fraction of the universe. There is a quantum no-cloning paradigm that says you cannot duplicate a state. You either do not duplicate it, or you transfer the state to a new object and destroy the state of the original. So, quantum mechanically, you cannot even make your clone person. You "might" be able to do it classically. However, the paper I cite above tells you that this is not a straightforward operation, if at all possible. If you would be able to copy the state of the original person into a new person, you have to get rid of the original "second person". That is, you start with two "persons+universe" and end up with 2*one "persons+universe". Thermodynamics interprets this as a huge decrease of entropy.

    To get this cloning done you need to increase the entropy of something else, say the Universe. So you have to discard of ~mc^2 of energy to even make the copy. And this energy has to be discharged OUTSIDE the causal light cone of the original person or else it will mess up the prediction (I can predict your imminent demise by killing you now). This requires faster-than-light travel which is just as "unlikely" as communicating out of a black hole.

    To summarize, even if we bring back the Free Will debate down to the statement that "God knows your future now", we can show that this "God" must be outside of the laws of physics. No entity that is bound by the laws of physics can 1) predict your future without cloning your life 2) can clone your life and communicate about it without breaking the laws of physics. So, if 1) succeeds, you just lived your life twice in identical fashion, but then 2) makes sure no useful information will reach the current you EVER.

    Johannes,

    Thank you for writing this -- it is an important contribution. I'd like you to write more.

    I know physicists and other scientists shy away from discussions of free will, consciousness, and so on, but you shouldn't. It leave important work to be done, and often by shysters. You are probably best equipped of all the illiberal arts to tackle this project.

    After all, someone has to build a bridge over that meta-physical quicksand.

    Aitch
    To those who say free will doesn't exist.....bananacake with rhubarb! For those who say that free will is an act of or by the brain's biochemistry......confusion certainly is, but that does not lead to either free will nor lack of it......it is not biochemistry typing on this PC, it is a finger or two, but they are merely directed actions of my body....I still need to will them to do it, freely, meaning I am not forced or coerced into doing it It seems the notion of self is also being alluded to without being specified, and the current naysayers in this thread are exercising what this self sees as other selfs, using free will, yet denying they are doing it... So, explanation time.....if you are denying free will but have posted in this thread, ......what is the instrument of your posts, if NOT free will? It leaves me puzzled and bemused btw: bananacake with rhubarb, demonstrates free will, in being totally unrelated to any issues being discussed, just because I can! OK? ;-) Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    I still need to will them to do it, freely, meaning I am not forced or coerced into doing it.
    Your statement makes no sense.  Is your heart "forced" or "coerced" into pumping?  Is your stomach "forced" into digesting food? 

    You're simply expressing a dualism that doesn't exist.  Who would "force" you?  Your brain?  Yet you claim your brain can act "freely".  What is acting "freely"?  Who are you, if not originating in your brain?

    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Well, Gerhard....the only correct answer to the question you pose is - I am that I am! The dualism exists as that which I am, and other ......and that which I am is most definitely NOT originating in my brain, as I have posted before - it is YOU who assert that my brain can act freely, not me, my brain is merely the body's computational device, and my mind's residence mind - some greedy thing which makes demands of me My Self is far greater than mind or mere brain's capability, ....my Heart is part of my 'full body process integrity' over which I have no conscious control, it is self regulating and for my temporary occupation, and I work in partnership with its nature, as best as possible, for peaceful co-existence ....you REALLY need to get out of your head.....there is so much more......but up to you to find.... 'that which is not lost' Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    As I thought ... more mind/body dualism.  So much for the science part.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    So what then, are you of the "Science has evidence of the 'body as mind' singularity school?" Just because your version of Science can't deal with Esoterics doesn't make them not exist....it just means you can't explain or even define what you have no concept of....and everything else is closed doors.....back at you..."As I thought" Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    My version of science?  Esoterics?  What journal might that be in?  or do I have to be initiated first before someone will tell me the secret?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    The journal of the inner teacher A first requirement is a recognition of being 'full up' leaving no room for learning anything Initiation is by a combination of curiosity and self-awareness, and perhaps the secret you need is, that you don't have curiosity of your self-awareness, because you are already 'full up' in the belief that you already know enough? A little 'flexible' movement room is required Aitch
    Proposition: Study first e.g. Prof. Wolf Singer, Brain-Research and Neuro-Physiology. There are foundations for basics of perception and awareness.
    And Prof. Karen Gloy, Philosopher, who found different peoples (ethnology) to have different conceptions e.g. of time.
    In US there is certainly research in this field, so you can get your information there.
    The question rised in your article in this perspective of knowledge is not as simple, as common sense relies on. Please be curious. This is extremly important and interesting!
    yours George

    Three misunderstandings seem to dominate the discussion about consciousness and free will by theoretical physicists. The misunderstandings are basically due to lack of basic notions of philosophy and this in turn is due to the long lasting "shut up and calculate" tradition.

    a) Free will is identified with non-predictability-genuine or effective- without even caring to mention the fact that free will is also a genuine conscious experience and that one should also understand why the inability to calculate future should create the feeling "I want this" for this identification to make sense. At deeper level this means the reduction of consciousness to a mere epiphenomenon. This is scientific materialism and has led to desperate attempts to identify things like conciousness module in brain. In neuroscience the attitudes have been changing in this respect during last two decades dramatically but unfortunately most theoretical physicists have missed the train.

    b) It is taken as granted that for all practical purposes living matter can be described as a deterministic system. The accumulation of data suggesting macroscopic quantum coherence in biosystems however suggests that one should take seriously the non-determinism of quantum world. Unfortunately colleagues are not interested on what happens at the frontiers of biology and neuroscience because they regard these sciences as advanced taxonomy.

    c) A further mis-undersstanding is the belief that accepting genuine free will and non-determinism and consciousness) as something real is in conflict with the laws of physics. In the above posting I tried to explain how the generalization of the notion of state function reduction to a quantum jump between entire deterministic time developments solves the conflict between determinism of Schroedinger equation and non-determinism of state function reduction. I also mentioned Libet's findings as one particular support for this view. It however seems that theoretical physicists are not mature to take seriously the quantum measurement problem. This is tragic since an enormous progress in the understanding of both quantum physics and consciousness is waiting just around the corner.

    Perhaps we should not wait for slow-minded theoretical physicists to wake up: biologists and neuroscients are intelligent folks and could learn the basic concepts and tools of quantum physics by oneself and initiate the revolution without the blessing of theoretical physicists who have more than enough problems with the stringy landscape;-).

    I'd just like to affirm what Matti says. I myself am a slow-minded, immature theoretical physicist who has missed the train, and I hold the viewpoints indicated as a, b and c above. And ever since I can remember, I have regarded consciousness as an epiphenomenon.

    Aitch
    Wikipedia -
    Philosophy of mind and psychology An epiphenomenon can be an effect of primary phenomena, but cannot affect a primary phenomenon. In philosophy of mind, epiphenomenalism is the view that mental phenomena are epiphenomena in that they can be caused by physical phenomena, but cannot cause physical phenomena. In strong epiphenomenalism, epiphenomena that are mental phenomena can only be caused by physical phenomena, not by other mental phenomena. In weak epiphenomenalism, epiphenomena that are mental phenomena can be caused by both physical phenomena and other mental phenomena, but mental phenomena cannot be the cause of any physical phenomenon. The physical world operates independently of the mental world in epiphenomenalism; the mental world exists as a derivative parallel world to the physical world, affected by the physical world (and by other epiphenomena in weak epiphenomenalism), but not able to have an effect on the physical world. Instrumentalist versions of epiphenomenalism allow some mental phenomena to cause physical phenomena, when those mental phenomena can be strictly analyzable as summaries of physical phenomena, preserving causality of the physical world to be strictly analyzable by other physical phenomena.[1] Free will According to epiphenomenalism, free will having an effect on the physical world is an illusion, as physical phenomena can only be caused by other physical phenomena. In weak epiphenomenalism, there is free will to cause some mental effects, allowing for mental discipline that is directed at other mental phenomena.
    My free will is not listed or defined here, however... I concur Matti, but feel it is not just theoretical physicists, as evidenced by the exchanges here
    Thank you for your insight

    Aitch
    regret, this must be engineering and not physics. Don't think, physicists mix up microscopic quantum-systems and real existing macroscopic many-body-systems. As Wolf Singer offered good ideas about "free will", which seems to be determined by the brain "construction" (if you like, this means chemical and physical, but on a higher level this means connections of cells ) there is no sense in refusing personal responsibility. Free will and responsibility go together, this was illuminated by the experience of Philosopher Karen Gloy, who researched unknown people in Papua. Although never confronted with our culture, a chief managed not to kill her. His free will was tamed by his sense for responsibility. Here you cannot construct a supercomputer, who determins the result. Sure, this is not possible. However some think, this might theoretically be possible. Thats right. Theoretically. As parable may be a wormhole, some feet long to kreep through, you will need about ten times the energy of the whole known universe to create this wormhole. Conclude: the mechanistic view of the world does not hold true. This rules can be applied only to certain macroscopic systems.Therefore they were constructed once. Now we look to thermodynamics. The everincreasing entropy. Life is capable of decreasing entropy in a certain region by increasing the entropy in annother region. Sorry, stop here. yours Georg

    A key point here seems to be that a brain is too complex a system to predict, and therefore is indeterminable. No real problems there. I'll grant it.

    Riddle me this. Does 'indeterminable' necessarily imply 'undetermined'? If not, there's no reason to presume free will.

    Johannes Koelman
    "Does 'indeterminable' necessarily imply 'undetermined'? " Rhett -- can you define both terms in an operational way? Or at least give examples of what you mean by 'indeterminable' and 'undetermined'?
    And if the claim is that indeterminable implies undetermined, that just seems a little presumptuous. Rather like claiming that Neptune didn't actually exist until we observed it in 1846..

    blue-green
    Gerhard, you do not seem to agree that not knowing when you will die has anything to do with free will. Please consider the opposite alternate. Suppose you had written down in stone the time and place of your death. This would be your Fate, your Destiny. No matter how you tried to wiggle out of it, you would meet your appointed hour just as it is written. This prediction of your death wipes out your free-will, whereas … if the fates could be tricked, as is often done in Drama, then you have free-will. (Yesterday my Internet went down unexpectedly … there is now so much text in these comments, that I cannot do it justice while also getting ready for company to arrive). Gerhard, you clearly see no point in letting unpredictability being related to or defined with free-will. I have tried to explain, and so has Johannes, that it is a matter of degree. The unpredictability of weather and amoebas is of a different degree than that of humans. This is because humans can vastly LEVERAGE their actions. You are dismissing that. It is also a matter of degree because unpredictability has to do with the number and variety of interacting particles. When it gets down to less than one hundred, unpredictability vanishes and there is no worry of a computation of the interactions suffering gravitational collapse. The dissenters here, like Gerhard, are completely ignoring the Gravity of the situation where Holographic principles do in fact shed light on the emergence of free-will. As I noted in a thread with Sascha, the number of particles present can change the very nature of past and future. This was discovered by Feynman and Wheeler in their studies of action-at-a-distance without fields. Here is an excerpt of what I quoted earlier: “The starling conclusion that Dick Feynman and I reached, which I still believe to be correct, is that if there were only a few chunks of matter in the universe—say only Earth and the Sun, or a limited number of other planets and stars—the future would, indeed, in reality, affect the past. What prevents this violation of common sense and experience is the pretense in the universe of a nearly infinite number of other objects containing electric charge, al of which can participate in a grand symphony of absorption and reemission of signals going both forward and backward in time. The mathematics told the two of us that in the real world, the myriad of signals headed back in time, apparently to influence the past, miraculously cancel out, producing no net effect.… Of course, no miracles are involved. It only seems that way. The conclusions are all there in the equations, waiting to be ferreted out.” Again, a matter of degree ... I’ve been mulling over the possibility of the future affecting the past and realizing that in human affairs, we actually do our best to fulfill future events on our calendar which determine our daily course of action. At the same time, we try to make our pasts mostly irrelevant, especially if it is a past we wish to leave behind. In other words, we do our best to be influenced by things yet to come and not to be perturbed by water under the bridge. This phenomenon is sometimes called social mobility. It contrasts against a caste-like system in which your place in society, even your birth and death, is fated. When it comes to their personal affairs, people prefer the UNCERTAINTY, wildness and adventure of free-will over predestination every time. When it comes to ruling over others, whether its rigid parents over their children or hardened rulers over their subjects, the belief (unsupported by physics) is that the overlords are simply acting out a theater of events that was ordained in the past (even if it is just convention). The subjects are destined to serve, live and die according to their appointed hour and fates. The gravity of free-will is showing us yet another way to get over that poisonous vision.
    blue-green
    Are you sure Gerhard, that songwriting is not a matter of willfulness? For publicity purposes, the songwriter may say that his or her creation comes from inspiration … or his audience … or his times .. yet, you know full well that that 99% of it is hard work and perspiration. Practice practice practice and you too, if you are self-driven enough to do the work to be a professional musician, will discover that song writing comes naturally. Creativity, Risk and Uncertainty all come in the same basket. Also lurking in that basket, contrary to what Gerhard believes, is willful, and premeditated behavior. Suppose you wish to drive into Mexico, or sail into the seas off Somalia … just imagine … IF you choose to drive the Porsche Cayenne, or to pilot the family yacht ... you are going to invite a huge amount of RISK in an environment notorious for self-driven and independent rogues willing to defy the law. Willfulness and risk are like hand and in glove ... whether from the pirates’ perspective of the risk of committing murder ... or your decision to forge onward into dangerous waters. The greater the risks, the greater the potential rewards … or danger … to your highly leveraged and willful behavior.
    Gerhard Adam

    "The causa sui is the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far; it is a sort of rape and perversion of logic. But the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. The desire for ‘freedom of the will’ in the superlative metaphysical sense, which still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated; the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and, with more than Baron Münchhausen’s audacity, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness."  

    (Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.
    (Albert Einstein,The Merging of Spirit and Science)


    A human being is part of the whole called by us universe , a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty .. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
    (Albert Einstein)

    Aitch
    Neuroscience found, evolution supplied us with means to survive. These rules are mainly stored in brain achitecture. Some by heredity, others later by experience. This enables a being to predict future and to react that way, to survive. Higher organized beings can reflect their reactions. Sometimes not. If you ever stood in a suddenly arising fire, you experienc the instinct. Then there is no free will. You will run. Your legs move and you are wondering, why. However, in more complicated situation your Unterbewusstsein tells you the solution and same time a bundle of arguments, why this solution is correct. If you consider this, one could conclude, will is not free, because the Unterbewusstsein rules. I think, the conception of "free will" is not at all helpful. Some decades ago, after thinking for some thousands of years, philosophers found, the concepts of reality, truth or justice do not hold. Perhaps they hold for a small, personal vicinity. Personal and small, this is the new way, things are re-constructed now. We do not want to abandon all of our knowledge, but puberty just has arisen. Let us go on in the task of rebuilding new concepts. We must do it ourselves.

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, it is interesting to see how few posts are necessary before we start invoking the mystical and supernatural definitions.

    In a philosophical sense, "free will" is intimately linked to the concept of "moral responsibility" and the one of the underlying principles invariably involves mind/body dualism.  Now you can believe what you like, but unless someone actually has some data, there is absolutely no evidence that the mind is separate or operates anywhere except in the brain.  I know there will be enough people waving their arms around and sputtering in disagreement, but unless you can define where the mind is, it is an irrelevant point in the discussion.

    Similarly one of the problems in "free will" is that in order to have full moral responsibility then one must have full capability of creating themselves.  So, this is precisely what Nietzsche was addressing when he indicated that we would deny everything external to us as having a role in our creation just to maintain the illusion that we have freedom of the will.  So therefore, if you have created yourself (and no one or nothing else is involved), then the question becomes, what were you that you could create yourself?  What was your state that you were complete enough to create yourself?

    In other words, it becomes an infinite regression towards personalities and individuals, each farther down the line that is responsible for creating the individual that exists.  However, "free will" doesn't arbitrarily begin at some cut off point.  We either have it without qualification, or we don't.  Therefore if we have it, then at which point in time did we create ourselves by exercising our "free will"?

    By making such a claim, then (in the absence of physical defect), you've denied both nature and nurture as causitive agents in forming the individual, since you've placed all power and control within the mind as "free will".

    For those interested in a more scientific perspective, perhaps it might be worth examining some of the controversy around Benjamin Libet's work in establishing that most actions begin in the brain before conscious awareness.  His view suggests that we are constrained to "veto" power.

    Of course, part of the problem is the intrinsic bias associated with moral responsibility, because if we don't truly have "free will", then how can we be "morally responsible"?  After all, its easier to believe that whatever we consider to be an act of "evil" be rationalized as something that could've been stopped if the individual had only exercised their "free will". 

    But, then again, it's good to see that all the "free will" advocates then have no problem in taking full responsibility for all their actions and feelings.  No more pain, or anguish, or suffering, since all of those are obviously willful acts that can be controlled.  Therefore if you choose to feel sadness or happiness, it is purely through an act of will and has nothing to do with your brain/mind.  Similarly if you haven't developed any significant breakthroughs or insights in your particular field of endeavor, then that is equally your choice, since everything produced by your brain is under your control and subject to "free will".

    It does make it interesting to consider the "dust up" that occurred recently on another post, because according to the majority of people here, any issue of having feelings hurt or being insulted was intentional since it requires an act of "will" for that to occur.  Presumably that means that no one will be offended by future posts, since for that to occur requires an act of "will" to indulge oneself.  It should be interesting ....
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    It is also interesting that there were at least two posts that suggested that the brain's biochemistry could be "overridden" by "free will", so that basically extends the idea that there can be no such thing as depression or any number of other psychological problems linked to the brain's chemistry.

    After all, if we aren't subject to its control, then it must be subject to our control. 

    Bear in mind that "free will" doesn't allow for any constraints, since that would restrict its freedom.  
    Mundus vult decipi
    I know nothing, but I think we are making too much of "free will." Having free will (having control of my decisions rather than they be determined by past history) does not mean that I have perfect control of myself. I am still the jerk I always was, I just that I am not predetermined to be that jerk.

    The idea of when I acquired free will (I did not have it as an infant, but I have it now.) is interesting. The answer is probably like the answer to when are you an adult: 5 years after you think you are and 5 years before your parents think you are. I.e., it depends.

    I think you are giving too much power to free will. It is not a thing, but an attribute of our mind/brain. We didn't create it, it developed.

    Interesting discussion.

    Tom

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually in philosophy, the reason why there is so much focus on "free will" is precisely to determine the degree to which "moral responsibility" can be assigned.  If you don't have perfect control of yourself, then you are assigning constraints to your "will".  Similarly if you acknowledge that it simply developed, then you have the problem of considering what constitutes "development" of such a thing and what if it goes awry?

    The point being that once we begin to constrain "free will", then we are subject to considering how much of an influence nature versus nurture has on the individual.  Is your personality your own creation or was it created by numerous other individuals and experiences?  If the latter, then there is no point in arguing that you are "free" to be someone other than who you are. 

    As I said before, this is closely tied to our sense of "moral responsibility", so that when someone commits an act we consider "evil", we like to imagine that they had the control to do otherwise.  After all, the argument goes ... how can you be held responsible for something that you didn't have the means to control the outcome of?   Unfortunately, the problem is that perhaps you can't be held responsible in a "moral" sense, although you can certainly be held responsible in a social sense.  Is a serial killer intentionally committing his crimes or is he simply "wired wrong"? 

    In my view, we actually maintain a whole range of choices (options) in our brain for a variety of conditions that we've been taught or experienced.  As a result, which ones we act on are "pre-determined" in the sense that we've either given ourselves "permission" to use them or not.  As a result, there can still be moral culpability for an act.  In other words, the difference between the serial killer and others, is that the serial killer has given themselves "permission" to translate their thoughts into actions and thereby they acquire the "moral responsibility" for their acts.  Once again, the lack of "free will" doesn't result in compulsive behavior, but simply behavior that has been set and developed by all the learning and experience we've engaged in throughout our lives.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    "Does free will exist given that the laws of physics are deterministic?"
    "Is our free will based on quantum indeterminism?"
    "Should physicists not worry given that their theories are incapable of accommodating free will?"
    "When it comes to issues like free will and consciousness, physics simply has no answers."
    If quantum particles do have 'free will' then physicists at CERN might be spending an enormous amount of time, energy and money observing, statistically analyzing and producing graphs of these quantum particles behaving in a variable but unpredictable manner, like children in a playground.

    Is it possible that 'free will' could be the energy fueling an infinite multiverse with infinite big bangs over an infinite period of time and may also provide the energy for the life of living organisms and quantum particles? Physicists can observe the observable universe and compartmentalize it into smaller deterministic sections and learn and apply the local laws of physics for that section but the whole multiverse and the life forms and quantum particles in it may always exhibit 'free will' and remain ultimately unpredictable and indeterminable.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch


    Natural Mystic - Bob Marley

    It has to be felt....not analysed

    Aitch
    Nice song. How do we know whose feelings are correct?

    Aitch
    Well, the 'we' has to be a collective of free wills, and a balance/ratio to see which has the greatest appeal/survivability, maybe? Feelings that are nice tend to propagate faster than pain, I find Try laughing in company, for example, then compare against crying in agony..... Aitch
    So we "vote", in a sense, on what is truth?

    Aitch
    You asked, "How do we know whose feelings are correct?" I replied....yet now you introduce voting and truth I was only hinting at gut feelings How to vote or question the truth of it?....you either get it....or don't.... Aitch
    I do not see no deep reason why free will should be absolutely free: statistical determinism is not in conflict with free will. There are also conflicting wills: the will of collective/higher levels of consciousness contra will of individual which tends to leave for the individual only the choice between given options by choosing the quantization axes.

    Standard argument is that the standard rules of quantum measurement theory mean randomness- I am not sure. I however believe that the replacement of Shannon entropy with its number theoretic counterpart making sense for rational (and even algebraic) entanglement probabilities could be essential in making possible genuine entanglement negentropy stable against Negentropy Maximization Principle (quantum computationalist would be happy if I turned out to be right;-). NMP looks to me quite an attractive as a variational principle of consciousness since it is like second law and implies it at the level of ensembles. Perhaps negentropic entanglement is essential for consciousness with intelligence since negentropically entangled states can be interpreted as associative rules with instances represented by state pairs in the superposition.

    I think that physicists should learn to be careful with "existence". Materialistic view assigns only single meaning to it so that consciousness remains a mere nuisance with no causal powers.

    A more colored view about existence as a trinity of objective, geometric and subjective existences is suggested by the mathematical structure of quantum theory. Quantum states (quantum time evolutions) are naturally the counterparts of what one could call objective realities and expressible as quantum superpositions of space-time geometries which in turn would represent the geometric aspects of existence. Objective reality would not be something unique and in-mutable as Galilei cheated us to believe but re-created again and again in quantum jumps defining the subjective existence. This would be the mystic, creative aspect of existence since one cannot reduce the dynamics of quantum jump to any deterministic rule. Theory-reality duality disappears since there is no need to assume that there is "physical reality" behind quantum states representing them: observer with the pain in toe and concluding from this the existence of the stone is in the quantum jumps between them. This kind of holy trinity allows to resolve the basic puzzle of quantum measurement theory since the causality of laws of physics is not anymore identifiable as the causality of volition.

    Aitch
    Nice! - I could live with that kind of approach Aitch
    If you ascend from first quantisation to second and do the very task to get third, forth and so on quantisation, every step ruled by the aleatic principles, you recognize: the free will will also be aleatic. In this view there is no determination within causality. This is contrary to common sense. So I should like to say, Kanitscheider, who proposed to live "as if". He found out, it does not depend. We just do, as if there was free will or not. To me this seems, the concepts of free will do not hold. The idea implicates contradictions and paradoxes.

    A summary of determinism:

    The outcome of any computation is fixed at the start. But this outcome will only be known after the computation has actually been completed. No computation no result.

    In the same way your choices might follow from causal chains going back to the start of time. Still, they will only be known after you maee them. Even to "god".

    I am taking calculus again after 30 years. With the mistakes I make, the outcomes of my computations are pretty random! :-D

    Tom

    blue-green
    Gerhard, you have merely erected a strawman. Since you missed it, I will show it to you. I’ll start with your quote from Beyond Good and Evil: “The desire for ‘freedom of the will’ [is] the desire to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society [blah blah]” >Who swallowed that free-will would mean 100% dissolution of outside forces? You did. “one of the problems in "free will" is that in order to have full moral responsibility then one must have full capability of creating themselves.” There’s the 100% strawman that you adopted, this time in your own words. Here it comes again: “if you have created yourself (and no one or nothing else is involved)” Come on now, Gerhard, does free-will have to be 100% control to be relevant? You gonna pull yourself out of your own vagina? Here comes your virus again: “all the "free will" advocates then have no problem in taking full responsibility for all their actions and feelings. No more pain, or anguish, or suffering, since all of those are obviously willful acts that can be controlled.” Yes big man, the 100% strawman is easy to not knock down. Repeat the error enough times and you have BRAINWAHSED yourself into writing that to accept free-will one must deny nature and nurture. You did it. Here comes your strawman to knock down again: “everything produced by your brain is under your control and subject to "free will". Who implied that it has to be everything? You did, because that is the only way for your argument to survive. Smash the idol you have created. Remember, all the philosophical musings from more than 5 years ago were clueless as to where gravity comes into the play. Funny how you creatively refuse to accept this fact, and yet, it is at the heart of Johannes' non-mystical argument. Get real!
    Gerhard Adam
    You were the one using "free will" as an argument.  Now you want to introduce constraints, which no longer renders it "free".

    In fact, most of the comments have ranged from having "free will" because it is unpredictable (apparently even to those exercising it), and to having the ability to override the brain's biochemistry as well as some mystical higher consciousness.

    The points I made are logical consequence of an unconstrained "free will".  If you want to introduce some boundary conditions beyond simply arguing that it is "unpredictable", then perhaps you might have a point.  As it stands, I'm the one that argued that there could be no such thing, because everything in the brain had to be resolvable to a deterministic biology.

    What you fail to grasp is that the problem "free will" presents is to consider how you became the person that you are.  If external influences "created" or helped create that individual, then there is some element that is constrained from changing and therefore cannot be "free".  In other words, those same forces that "created" you are also going to be responsible for having taught you the choices you are capable of making.  There is no higher authority to appeal to to make you someone other than you are.  So whoever you are, either you had to create yourself, or you were created by others (in addition to what you learned).  Take your pick, but the latter introduces constraints that YOU had nothing to do with, therefore you weren't FREE to elect to implement them.

    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    Frankly Gerhard, if your vision of no-free-will was physically true, then experimentation would not even be possible, and the calculus of many variables would have no connection to reality. One could not vary one parameter while leaving the rest untouched, which is what scientific investigation is all about. An experimenter is free to set the polarization axis of a photon or a stream of photons in whatever direction he chooses, at the last instant, long after the photons are already “in flight”. He cannot however, change their energy (unless he makes yet another choice to boost his frame of reference). In fundamental experiments of this type, some of what is to be experienced is built-in, some of it hinges on the free last second choice on the experimenter (or the devices s/he has programmed). Clearly, it isn’t going to be all or nothing with your free-will arguments. You need to rise to the much more difficult challenge of most everything being a mixture of nature, nurture and free-will, as the legal system already understands well enough. You are a passionate defender of science. The fact that you have managed to do so without accepting free-will in the way an experimenter implicitly uses partial differential equations to employ the scientific method way is yet another testament of your creativity.
    Gerhard Adam
    You don't have to be "free".  You are automatically constrained by what is contained in your brain.  You cannot do something that is outside your education or experience.  If a novel idea surfaces, then it was hardly directed.  It was the result of some random interaction in your brain, but you can hardly claim that you directed the "randomness".
    One could not vary one parameter while leaving the rest untouched, which is what scientific investigation is all about.
    What does that have to do with anything?  No one is arguing that your brain can't be modified by information or that you don't have choices.  "Free will" argues that there are no constraints, which is clearly false.  However, without "free will" there is recognition that you are constrained by the ideas, knowledge, etc. that is in your brain, and you are only "free" to the extent that you can choose something that was previously put in.  Certainly some of what is in your brain may be due to observations or other sources of information, but it must be there to be usable.

    It is apparent in virtually everything we encounter.  Whether it be a scientific discipline, or a musician, or a martial artist.  Everyone is engaged in acquiring information that is put into the brain.  Whether it be coordination or raw information, there is an incredible amount of work and practice that goes into developing skills, precisely because we know that we cannot choose something that isn't in our brain already.  The musician can perform because he has more choices than the non-musician in how to treat his instrument (besides developing physical dexterity). 

    Once again, every step of the way is completely deterministic and is constrained by the data that has entered the brain.

    You are not "free" to be other than you are. 

    So, once again, I ask .... what part of this is "free"?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    It is apparent in virtually everything we encounter.  Whether it be a scientific discipline, or a musician, or a martial artist.  Everyone is engaged in acquiring information that is put into the brain.  Whether it be coordination or raw information, there is an incredible amount of work and practice that goes into developing skills, precisely because we know that we cannot choose something that isn't in our brain already.
    So Gerhard, how do you explain the fact that new born babies are born with skills or 'primitive reflexes' in their brains that they then lose over the next few weeks and months? For example, without acquiring any information they are able to exhibit walking, swimming, grasping, turning and sucking skills just to mention a few.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    There's nothing to explain that wouldn't already be addressed in the same way as "instincts".  In other words, it's "hard-wired".  You certainly couldn't argue that it was do to "free will".

    I'm assuming we aren't considering brain functions that are innate (such as digestion, breathing, etc.).  Similarly the ability to acquire information isn't something that needs to be learned since that is the function of the brain/senses.

    I'm not clear on why you think that babies "lose" this skill.  What's your basis for that?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I'm not clear on why you think that babies "lose" this skill.  What's your basis for that?
    Wikipedia claims that Primitive reflexes are 'reflex actions originating in the central nervous system that are exhibited by normal infants but not neurologically intact adults, in response to particular stimuli. These reflexes disappear or are inhibited by the frontal lobes as a child moves through normal child development'. They include the following :-
    • Moro reflex
    • Walking/stepping reflex
    • Rooting reflex
    • Sucking reflex
    • Tonic neck reflex
    • Palmar grasp reflex
    • Plantar reflex
    • Galant reflex
    • Swimming Reflex
    • Babkin reflex
    They call them reflexes but they are also skills that a baby is born with in my opinion. Later on they lose them and then spend the next few months and years relearning them. Even though they are a reflex, the baby is also able to do these actions voluntarily, I can remember my newborn babies doing some of these actions without any obvious stimuli. There are videos on Youtube of weird parents demonstrating their newborn babies abilities to swim around a pool, the same baby a couple of months later would drown and/or get water in its lungs, so there is an example of a skill that a baby has when it is born that is then lost.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    OK ... I don't get it.  What's the point, since you can't be claiming this is the result of "free will". 

    I'm not sure what a baby doing these actions "voluntarily" is supposed to mean, so I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Look Gerhard, I was probably just being pedantic. But you said the following :-

    you don't have to be "free". You are automatically constrained by what is contained in your brain. You cannot do something that is outside your education or experience.

    However, without "free will" there is recognition that you are constrained by the ideas, knowledge, etc. that is in your brain, and you are only "free" to the extent that you can choose something that was previously put in.

    Whether it be coordination or raw information, there is an incredible amount of work and practice that goes into developing skills, precisely because we know that we cannot choose something that isn't in our brain already.

    Once again, every step of the way is completely deterministic and is constrained by the data that has entered the brain.
    and I was trying to show that newborn babies have reflexes that are also voluntary 'free will' skill sets available to them at birth, that don't necessarily fit these criteria. If 'free will' is an energy which is a bit like dare I say it 'a soul', then maybe when it enters a body, it brings old skills with it from the past that it then loses. It was just an idea.

    Near death experiences and astral projection also support this notion of an energy that can enter and leave a body, that has its own innate free will, regardless of the anatomical structure that it resides in. Particle colliders, quantum mechanics and 'missing energy' or 'missing momentum' might also be pointing in this direction. Something that can't be accurately determined and predicted and quantified because it has something akin to a 'free will' and is therefore a problem for scientists and physicists and the laws of physics.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm sorry, but you can't just use a word like "energy" (which is a measurable quantity) and invoke some mystical element.

    As I've said before, you can certainly believe what you like, but in science we are constrained by evidence.  Something like a "soul" or "free will" must reside someplace without becoming a supernatural force. 

    If you venture off into the "mysteries" then we can only elect to believe it on faith, or we must admit that we just don't have the knowledge.  There's nothing wrong with the latter position, but it also means that we can't just make stuff up and suggest that it must fit someplace.

    I know that there have been criticisms about not being open minded, but idle speculation doesn't create knowledge.  If there is an idea, then it must be testable.  There must be a basis for considering how it might be tested, even if the technology to achieve it isn't available.  If the only thing we do is create "mysteries" then we accomplish nothing.

    Even the supposed "mysteries" in physics aren't speculation, but are the result of trying to make calculations work within the existing framework of physics.  Therefore, people are trying to come up with explanations to account for what is known.  In the case of something like the "soul" or "free will", some of the posts have been postulating things that have no basis in any existing knowledge and consequently there isn't even a framework against which they can be evaluated.

    While some will argue that just because science doesn't know something doesn't make it false, that is an irrelevant argument because there are many things that science will never be able to answer.  Even if something is ultimately true, that doesn't make it scientific.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen, but unless they can be made logically consistent with what is already known and resolve existing issues, then they are immaterial.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Actually, I have not said that this 'free will' energy is a mystical or a supernatural force, I like to think of it as something that can be measured scientifically. Let's say I develop a hypothesis that an energy force exists in a person that enables them to exhibit 'free will' and not be totally predictable to science and scientists, based purely on the physiology and life experiences of the body that it is currently residing in. Say that I also hypothesize that this energy enters a baby at some point and leaves a person when they die or have a near-death experience or that it can somehow astrally project itself out of a body at its own free will.

    What experiment can I devise to gather data to prove this and where am I going to get volunteers? How am I going to measure the 'missing energy' when it leaves and returns to the body? Not easy, I know that experiments were done along these lines by the Nazis but obviously they were very unethical and definitely unrepeatable.

    In some ways this may be similar to the problems the CERN physicists are having trying to measure the missing energy at CMS and ATLAS?
    Who knows where the missing energy they are creating is going and what it is doing to the delicate magnetosphere of the planet that is shielding us from cosmic radiation. Why have the North and South poles started moving on average 50 kilometres a year ever since we started doing particle collider experiments in the 80's and 90's, when they were pretty static for decades before that? How ethical is it to be risking the planet's welfare when we are not sure of what we are doing to the planet with these particle collider experiments? Could the missing energy take the form of 4th flavor or generation, massive, sterile neutrinos which head straight to the earth's magnetic core and somehow alter it's flow? Especially as no one really understands how the magnetic core works well enough to know if it has changed or even been affected.

    Its possible that people who are dying could volunteer to be measured and tested as they die and/or are being resuscitated but again that would also probably be very unethical and difficult to justify or organize. Especially as it so difficult for people to even be allowed to perform voluntary euthanasia in most countries and anyone with them can be charged and go to prison for simply being there and/or not resuscitating a person. People who claim to be able to astrally project out of their bodies at free will are probably the best candidates to be subjects for this experiment.

    You could say that there is some evidence to support my hypothesis because newborn babies have these primitive reflexes or skill sets without the learning experiences to support them, which are later lost and replaced by newly learnt skill sets in a healthy child. In brain damaged adults the reverse can happen, which could also be used as evidence for this 'free will' energy existing in the body. People criticizing the experiment could say, they are not skill sets they are reflexes and I could say in reply they are not just reflexes they are also 'free will' skill sets.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but you lost me with the astral projection part. 

    How can something enter the body as a baby, and be a necessary part of that person's life (as you assert) and then be able to leave it to go traveling?
    I would also go easy on the "missing energy" since it doesn't mean what you think it does.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I would also go easy on the "missing energy" since it doesn't mean what you think it does.
    OK so what does missing energy mean? Missing energy at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_energy says that :-
    In experimental particle physics, missing energy refers to energy which is not detected in a particle detector, but is expected because of conservation of energy and conservation of momentum. For example, if an electron and a positron collide head-on at equal speeds in the lab frame, any net momentum of outgoing particles indicates missing energy in the opposite direction. Missing energy is generally attributed to particles which escape the detector without being detected, although apparent missing energy may be caused by mismeasurement of the energy/momentum of detected particles.
    I have read dozens of papers referencing jets and 'missing energy' and not one of them has really explained what it means. The best I've found is at http://xxx.lanl.gov/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1101/1101.1628v1.pdf which says that 'Jet mismeasurements, caused by possible detection inefficiencies or by non uniformities in the calibration of the calorimeters, are the dominant source of large missing transverse energy E/Tin events from QCD multijet production'. I would be grateful if you could shed some light, even though according to Sascha Vongehr, light doesn't really exist!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    "Missing energy" simply means that it has not been accounted for by the measurements or was absorbed in an unmeasured or unknown reaction.  It doesn't "go" anywhere else.

    Imagine if I struck two billiard balls but only measured the energy of one of them.  The "missing energy" would be presumed to have been absorbed by the second ball (because of conservation of mass and energy). 

    This is why your Wikipedia entry explicitly states that the "missing energy is generally attributed to particles which escape the detector without being detected", or by mismeasurement.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The gravity of it all or "Why not simply gödelize the whole issue"? two humble tries:

    Hannes states without any strings attached that there's nothing like a free will.
    or
    Hannes is willy nilly forced to admit the existence of free will.

    PS: I admit I am a lousy and lazy reader. But I did read the first and the last paragraph.

    regards

    smo

    blue-green
    I’m sticking with A MIX of nature, nurture and free-will. You insist “every step of the way is completely deterministic and is constrained by the data that has entered the brain.” Then show me the initial conditions and differential equations for your life. Or at least point to some proof that such a thing could even exist. Let’s say someone is doing some gambling. S/he wills herself to put a huge pile of chips on #64 … A truly random quantum process decides whether it’s a big win or a bust. End of determinism. The entire outcome of the rest of the person’s life is altered and leveraged by this choice for #64, the choice of which, by the way, could have been done through a random process of selection. People are PARTLY constrained by their nature, and PARTLY constrained by their nurturing. The rest is undetermined, unplanned, unconstrained. Before you insist that the constraining is 100%, you had better consider how easy it is to come up with counter-examples, as I have just done. Or you need to show one heck of a bullet-proof proof. Just saying that god doesn’t play with dice is not enough.
    God doesn't play with dice. God IS dice.

    Just saying that god doesn’t play with dice is not enough. Seems dice are playing with god. Both ways Einstein didn't believe in. About 50 Years he tried to refute. No clue found.

    Gerhard Adam
    Then show me the initial conditions and differential equations for your life.
    Actually, I don't need to.  Since you're the one making the claim, you'll have to demonstrate that there is something in my brain that is indeterminate.  In addition, you have to establish how such indeterminacy translates into "free will".

    However, if you're claiming some other source of the data in our brains besides whatever our genes and intrinsic brain structure provided, then you will need to suggest where that source might be.  In every instance, I've said that we are constrained by the determinism of our biology and how our brains are structured.  Therefore there cannot be any extra- or super- form of our psychology that allows us to operate outside of those parameters. 

    Don't confuse the absence of "free will" as predestination, since I never claimed any such thing.  I simply said that we cannot have "free will" since our brains are constrained to operate based on their genetics, and our experiences in filling them with data.  We cannot override that operation and we will be the "person" that those experiences and genetics have built.  We can not be otherwise.

    Your example regarding gambling makes no sense, since no one is claiming that the world or our circumstances are pre-determined.  Regardless of what happens in a person's life, you have not demonstrated that the person themselves has changed one iota, regardless of winning or losing.

    You've already admitted that "free will" is not free and is subject to constraint.  Now you place the additional constraints of nature and nurture on it, and then round it out by claiming that it is undetermined and unplanned.  What does that even mean?  Why not simply call it random?

    However, in the end, you'll simply have demonstrated that it can be none of those things and still be under our control so that "free will" represents anything meaningful that we can control.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Don't confuse the absence of "free will" as predestination, since I never claimed any such thing. I simply said that we cannot have "free will" since our brains are constrained to operate based on their genetics, and our experiences in filling them with data. We cannot override that operation and we will be the "person" that those experiences and genetics have built. We can not be otherwise.
    Now I see why you irk me so!
    In insisting that everything is to do with our brains, you automatically deny emotional responses, and Oh So Much Of My Feelings About This Topic ARE Emotional Free Will

    Please keep your 'we' to yourself
    ...I find your view both boring and scary

     Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    ...I find your view both boring and scary
    I would expect nothing less from your brain.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    On the basis that ....
    we cannot have "free will" since our brains are constrained to operate based on their genetics, and our experiences in filling them with data. We cannot override that operation and we will be the "person" that those experiences and genetics have built. We can not be otherwise.
    ......I am bound by my brain's genetics and experience of you to make a totally predictable response to your brain, as you expect it........and I cannot do otherwise as you have taken free will away by your determinism

    Don't you find that scary, too?

    Are you sure you wouldn't prefer some more Bob Marley?

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    ...you have taken free will away by your determinism.
    Nothing has been taken away (especially if you never had it).  This doesn't mean that there is only a zombie-like response.  We are the product of everything that's ever gone into our brains (for good or ill).  This is what produces the unique personalities that we are.  Why wouldn't you recognize that such a constraint is inevitable since we can hardly have experienced everything in the same way that someone else has.  This is what makes us the people that we are.

    As a result, we are constrained (or defined, if you wish) to be the product of all those things.  It should be obvious that we don't know what we don't know and consequently we can't choose what we don't know (hence the constraint).

    That doesn't mean that there isn't a huge amount of variability in what we can choose, it simply means that we cannot act as an independent agent to create ourselves.  In other words, there is no "uncaused cause".

    In a completely deterministic universe then there is no possibility of "free will", however adding the unpredictable or random processes from quantum mechanics doesn't help either, since nothing in the concept of "free will" can tolerate being unpredictable or random.  For "free will" to be meaningful it must be completely deterministic so that our intentions to act in a particular way can produce completely predictable outcomes.  This is the inconsistency.

    As a result, it is much easier to recognize that we are the products of our brains and what we put into them, in the same way that our physical bodies are the result of the food we eat and the exercise we do.  How could it be otherwise?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    In a completely deterministic universe then there is no possibility of "free will", however adding the unpredictable or random processes from quantum mechanics doesn't help either, since nothing in the concept of "free will" can tolerate being unpredictable or random. For "free will" to be meaningful it must be completely deterministic so that our intentions to act in a particular way can produce completely predictable outcomes. This is the inconsistency
    .....But I don't live in a completely deterministic universe, nor is my free will constrained to predictability.....that's your limited concept of me, and mine

    You're entitled to perspective, but not control

    Nothing inconsistent that I can see, other than the idea that current theories are fact

    Aitch
    Ladislav Kocbach
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laplace's_demonWe may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

    (.... if such intellect would exist ... )
    This is a translated quotation from a work of Pierre Simon Laplace from 1814, nearly 200 years ago. For some people writing here it seems the time has stood still. 

    We others have heard about Poincaré, chaos, complexity, quantum theory in many versions and many different interpretations, some even about the various forms of causality as we can imagine it. As Johannes says in other words, in that world more complex than a large clockwork there is definitely room for processes which we should like to interpret as acts of free will. 

    Why should we choose such "free will" interpretations over the ones (too) often expressed in the present discussion - the naively deterministic ones? Mainly because we can not live if we really follow the idea that everything is determined. You can come with heroic statements about how you do not care about such 'romantic nonsense' - but fortunately the really deterministic part of your existence will force you to exercise your free will - you must make choices. And yes, even you can not determine what your choice is going to be before you make them. 

    And all this is perfectly compatible with any physics. Compatible, but not derivable. But Johannes explained all this already.

    Gerhard Adam
    And yes, even you can not determine what your choice is going to be before you make them.
    That's simply not true.  Despite the controversy surrounding the interpretation of Benjamin Libet's experiments, the evidence strongly suggests that the brain is already processing the choice up to 500 msec before there is conscious awareness in the subject.  As mentioned previously, Libet's interpretation is that we have conscious "veto" power over our brain's actions. 

    This is also supported by work like Paul Ekman's in detecting lies.  In this case, the work is based on determining that all humans share the same emotional expressions and given the number of muscles involved they simply cannot be consciously controlled with any degree of precision.  As a result, it is possible to detect deception because of the need to consciously try to suppress what the brain is doing on its own.  Once again, this doesn't argue for "free will", it simply indicates that we have the constraint of operating against choices in our brain.

    Similarly, the argument about "unpredictability" is simply irrelevant, because it fails to take into account the ability to measure.  While there are huge gaps in our knowledge about how the brain works, there is a fair amount of work that indicates that when the brain is measured, it is predictable how it will react, up to and including what an individual may be visualizing.
    http://www.ncsconline.org/D_research/stl/June06/Heeger.pdf
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=can-you-read-my-mind

    While this research and the applied technology are obviously still in their very early stages, and it is quite possible that they can never fully resolve everything in the brain, it makes a strong argument that the brain isn't nearly as "unpredictable" as is being bandied about in these posts.

    Obviously any unmeasured behavior is going to be unpredictable, but that is no indication of any intrinsic unpredictability.
    Mainly because we can not live if we really follow the idea that everything is determined.
    Sorry, but this is just a privileged a view as imagining the Earth as the center of the solar system.  It doesn't appear that anyone has any problem considering that every other animal on this planet operates within such constraints, but instead they want to assert that humans maintain some kind of privileged status in that regard.  There is no question that humans are cognitively different from most other animals, but it would be erroneous to assume that it is a trait that operates outside of deterministic biology.

    Make no mistake, since life is ultimately about chemistry, to assert that something "special" is happening requires that somehow the laws of chemistry are different when applied to the functioning of the brain.  That the firing of neurons and the triggered brain chemistry, are somehow different to give rise to something which is indeterminant (assuming that measurements actually confirm that it can't be determined).
    ...you must make choices...
    This is true, but what extends this to become "free will"?  The possible choices that I can make are already in my brain and represent one set of constraints.  It would be impossible to make a choice that I am unaware of (except not acting at all).  In fact, what we find is that when a person is startled, or reflexively responds, that the brain is quite capable of reacting without any conscious intervention at all.  Once again, this supports the idea that the brain is already making the choice before the subject is consciously aware that it is occurring.

    In fact, it is readily recognized that the default set of responses are "fight, flight, or freeze". 

    In addition, it is clear that our brains can be manipulated by images, drugs, and suggestions, which once again, provides strong evidence that our "will" is subject to the direct internal control of the brain and not some separate agency.

    In short, I'm somewhat surprised at the naive interpretations that have accompanied the "free will" discussion.  After all, the fact that the brain operates with variable outcomes shouldn't come as a shock.  We can clearly recognize that the nature of the brain, coupled with accumulated data over several decades can promote a huge amount of variability and yet for some reason, the argument reduces down to a robot or zombie like behavior.  This is simply absurd.

    There is no need for "free will" given the wide range of variable responses our brains can store and choose from. 

    There was an earlier comment that indicated that a housefly would be less predictable than a pebble, but this is an erroneous comparison since the housefly represents a system of interactions versus a pebble which is fundamentally static.  Therefore a more appropriate comparison would be to compare the behavior of a pebble against the behavior of a particular neuron or chemical reaction.  I would suggest that when such individual components are examined they are completely predictable within the context of whatever forces or energy are applied.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ...the really deterministic part of your existence will force you to exercise your free will - you must make choices.

    Isn't that self-contradictory? Isn't that also the whole point - that what we think are "free choices" are really determined a la' Laplace?

    BTW, chaos and complexity don't change anything, they just make the calculations more difficult.

    Tom

    Ladislav Kocbach
    Apparent contradictions, complementarity of views, Piaget's development stages .... Holberg's Erasmus Montanus. In 18th century _Ludvig Holberg wrote a comedy about "Rasmus from the Hills" who declared himself Erasmus Montanus and since then applied elementary logic (as he mis-understood it) to everything, showing that his mummy is a stone. _Piaget is known for _theory of cognitive development, showing how we slowly - and in stages - develop our concepts.

    I dot imply that your logic is quite like that of Erasmus Montanus, but pretty near. It is naturally necessary to master elementary logic, but when I try to look back at my own understanding of things which seem contradictory, I must admit that it took me some time, like years, and some effort and concentration to be able to appreciate various views, ways of describing various views. Thousands of philosophers and writers have thought through these things (Thanks again, Johannes).

    The problem with discussions like this is that everybody wants to "solve the problem" mainly at the level of Erasmus Montanus. Instead, I try to show some connections - look at all those quotation marks I use - each time I use them, I open a parenthesis to pages and pages and days and days - alternatively they indicate that a clear simple statement there would necessarily be imprecise.  With this in mind, you would see that there is no real contradiction in what I wrote.

    Also, I do not see any such reservations in your comment.... It is very clear - and unfortunately not quite relevant. 
    blue-green
    You have so many whoppers in here Gerhard that I suggest that you take just one of them and run it to its logical extreme. It is always interesting to see how people can twist things …. Posting here and having causal conversation elsewhere is as much a lesson in the foibles of psychology as anything else. I’ll leave with just one question for you Gerhard. How do you think it is possible that so much of fundamental physics is unitary, and yet, we hear so much about how its operates using statistical methods and that its random process are the very ideal of what a random events could be? According to mainstream quantum physics, for every photon (and impulse) encountering a membrane or potential barrier in your brain, there is a fundamental uncertainty as to whether that particular intersection is going to be a penetration, a reflection or a partial absorption with heat generated. There is no basis in fundamental physics for your claim that your brain is fundamentally deterministic …. unless you’d like to face up to the conundrum that fundamental physics is both unitary and statistical. The determinism that you see is emergent … it’s all part of the decoherence imposed by the whole framework, which includes your heat sinks and energy inputs. Without it’s environment, your brain would be no-brain, so stop pretending its hermetically sealed in a jar. >When you deny every operation of the second law of thermo, then yes, there will be no statistics and no uncertainty and no arena possible for free-will to live and breathe. That’s a lot to dismantle to win an argument. As Johanness has said, perhaps it was unfair to bait all of this uncertainty with a definition of free will linked to unpredictability. Mind you Gerhard, there is nothing circular in making a definition like that.
    Gerhard Adam
    Your problem is that the uncertainty you're describing is not what is actually experienced.  We don't have any uncertainty when we access a memory or when we construct a sentence or when we apply our thoughts to a problem.  While there may be some random fluctuations, the net effect is not one of unpredictably, but quite predictable behaviors which is what we expect of ourselves.

    We do not find ourselves wondering how we did something or dealing with uncertainty when it comes to our brain's functions.  In fact, it is precisely this emergent property that makes us believe we have "free will".

    This is the fundamental contradiction in your assertion that "free will" exists, because you want to couch it in terms of uncertainty and unpredictability, and yet your claim for "free will" depends on absolute determinism in being able to control it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    "We do not find ourselves wondering how we did something or dealing with uncertainty when it comes to our brain's functions."

    Alas, I'm not perfect as is this "we" of whom you imagine. With every grand mistake I have made, mind you, these mistakes come in steady waves, I'm am getting no wiser, I have entertained follies  with each and every decade ... Each time I wonder much later how I could have been so dumb, deaf, blind and capricious. I cannot even control myself.
    blue-green
    "We do not find ourselves wondering how we did something or dealing with uncertainty when it comes to our brain's functions."

    Alas, I'm not perfect as is this "we" of whom you imagine. With every grand mistake I have made, mind you, these mistakes come in steady waves, I'm am getting no wiser, I have entertained follies  with each and every decade ... Each time I wonder much later how I could have been so dumb, deaf, blind and capricious. I cannot even control myself.
    blue-green
    Ha. Look at that. An unintended double post. See. I really cannot control myself, not 100% of the time as can Gerhard.
    Gerhard Adam
    Then why are you claiming "free will"?  If you can't control yourself (as you say), then you are obviously incapable of exercising any control that could be construed as affecting the "will". 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Ha Ha

    blue- green .... Are you related to Werner Heisenberg?

    Aitch
    “Do I have free will?”

    Not only is there much disagreement and confusion in these posts about what we mean by free will, there seems to be a wide variation on what we mean by ‘I’.

    If my brain makes a decision to act before I am conscious of it the decision is still made by me. It seems clear it is not made by anyone else but some posts seem to think it is made by something else. They seem to suggest that this thing is not part of me or, rather, not part of the ‘I’ in the original question.

    Does it not reveal some latent mysticism when materialists want to define ‘I’ as separate to ‘me’, ‘my brain, etc having some sort of existence, independent of me, but having no free will?

    If, however, ‘I’ is thought of as ‘I am the manager of a department called me’, the department can be seen as the ‘entity’ in question. There is some experimental evidence (mainly Libet) that although a decision to initiate an action occurs in the brain before I am conscious of it, a decision to rescind it before making the action is done concurrently with my consciousness of it. This suggests we may have more ‘free won’t’ than free will (and why religion is so full of prohibitions) but it could also be that ‘I’ delegate the first decision, usually a trivial action thought up by some experimental psychologist, to the juniors in my department while a rescind decision has to be taken by the president!

    But am ‘I’ to be identified only with the president?

    A lot seems to depend, therefore, on who the hell I think I am.

    You got it. The concept of "free will" is like haze. Mechanics suggest causality, quantum mechanics show aleatic results.
    So: forget that concept. Or just believe.

    I'm inclined to think that we only have free will as long as we don't look beyond the appearance of free will.

    If we prove we are brainbots and genes are just switches that not only determine physical but also behaviours

    then, we can't be responsibile for anything and some of our most cherished social concepts - like a just legal system - are out the window

    we know having currents directed at parts of the brain will make your body move - brain injuries can change personality

    but this is one area where I don't think we really want to understand because we are not going to like the answer

    and maybe not be able to function as well afterwards

    so, let's just be functional free will addicts instead.

    Gerhard Adam
    then, we can't be responsibile for anything and some of our most cherished social concepts - like a just legal system - are out the window
    Actually those concepts aren't actually challenged.  What is challenged is our perception of them.

    In other words, we do not have to be morally responsible for our actions for society to deem our behavior to be dangerous to other people.  Society has every right to protect itself against those that would operate against it (regardless of whether they know what they are doing or not).

    Moral responsibility and free will only enter the debate because we want to believe that people could be otherwise and therefore we want to hold them responsible for their choices.  Basically it allows us to consider others as evil instead of automatons.

    It makes us feel better to imagine that Charles Manson is evil, rather than to consider that he's simply screwed up mentally.  After all, what's the point in punishing someone that is simply "wired wrong".  It doesn't change the fact that he would be locked up, the only thing that changes is our perception of the situation.

    It would be like punishing a rabid dog, rather than recognizing that it isn't behaving normally.  We still put the dog down, but we don't blame it for what it does.

    Don't get me wrong, since I'm not suggesting (nor advocating) that people don't have the ability to make choices, but when someone gets screwed up (especially early in life), it is legitimate to ask how much choice they actually have regarding how they behave later as adults.  Certainly we want to imagine that they have all the normal choices, but we also know that this isn't really true.  Someone whose parents routinely beat them, can't possibly view the world the same way as someone that grew up in a loving household.  So we do recognize that we are a product of our environment, but somehow we don't want to extend that understanding to someone that commits a crime.  Instead we want to assume that they intentionally behaved in an evil fashion.

    Understanding someone's crime doesn't excuse it, nor does it create a need for special dispensation or consideration.  It's simply acknowledging that (for whatever reason), this person isn't normal and will likely never be normal.

    Instead of performing the legal gymnastics surrounding "insanity", isn't it clear that the majority of people that commit crimes such as "murder", etc. are obviously "insane"?  They certainly aren't normal (or at least weren't normal when they committed their act).

    Once again, this doesn't mean that they didn't have knowledge of their guilt, or were unaware that it was wrong.  It simply means that at the time they acted, they likely were no more able to control their brain and prevent their actions, then you can stop the digestion of your food after a meal.

    In fact, I would argue that it is the panic that occurs after a crime has been committed that typically suggests their level of guilt because it is an "after the fact" acknowledgment that what they did was wrong.  However, that doesn't change the fact, that they behaved in a manner that was likely outside of their control and the only thing they could control later, was their response to an untenable situation.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Excellent points Gerhard

    I guess it's not really what you do before or during a criminal action - but what you do after.

    Coming forward and confessing on your own is accepting the responsibility

    but people who only come forward after a public shame campaign or when you are arrested - isn't really taking that responsibility - quite likely because you can't understand it

    then there's the criminals in jail with long records who never accept responsibility and push the blame on others.

    there are times when an action like killing a person is defensible - you killed in order to protect yourself or someone else. But there's also a question of Protect from what - was it a measured response?

    I agree, a person committing a murder is at least at the time of the murder, not sane. they may well have been pushed into the insane action or their past trauma, brain chemical inbalance, is putting them out of their regular mind.

    perhaps what we should be assessing then, is not IF they did the murder, but rather, what amount of culpability do they have?

    I think that imaging certain people as evil and other people as good/saintly - is how we convince ourselves that we aren't capable of exceptional evil or good - so it takes away a lot of pressure and responsiblity. and makes people who do exceptional things (evil or good), separate from ourselves.

    Gerhard Adam
    I think that imaging certain people as evil and other people as good/saintly - is how we convince ourselves that we aren't capable of exceptional evil or good - so it takes away a lot of pressure and responsiblity.
    That's certainly one aspect of it, but consider that if we aren't truly culpable for being evil, then we can't actually claim much credit for being saintly either.  In a real sense, our behavior is largely determined by how we are "wired" and what we consider to be valuable.

    As I said before, that doesn't mean that we don't have choices in how we behave, but they cannot exist independently of what we are as individuals (i.e. what we already believe and know).  So in that respect our choices are constrained by our experiences (nature and nurture).
    Mundus vult decipi
    As a philosopher who has done a significant amount of work relating to free will, consiouness and ethics, I feel the need to way in on this muddy topic.

    There are a great number of philosophers looking to quantum physics and brain neurology to answer these long standing questions of free will, but the problem is that things like determinisim and indeterminism have different meanings when you cross different methodological lines.

    So I'll pose a questions to the physicsts first (call it a thought experiment, which is something philosophers like)?

    Assume we see an event any event will work that has some sort of physical nature to it, and since so much of this discussion is around quantum indeterminism let's say that event is at the quantum level (yes in a thought experiment we imagine a way in which this could be witnessed), in which only two outcomes are possible (will call the outcomes X and Y). The event occurs and we are presented with outcome X now if we had a magical remote control and could rewind time then watch the event again would the outcome always be X?

    To be clear we are not simply rewinding like a video feed but litteraly going back in time and watching the event as if it is new.

    Just a hint: what we conclude here is going to be a major determiner in the possibility of free will, I'll allow for responses before following up.

    Aitch
    I'm not a physicist, I maybe a philosopher, but based on the given parameters, to me, I'd have to say,
    "The outcome can be either X or Y......unless I could willfully influence the outcome to be Z, or some other alphanumeric/Greek representative of variables.... "  ;-)
     
    Aitch
    "To be clear we are not simply rewinding like a video feed but litteraly going back in time and watching the event as if it is new.
    Just a hint: what we conclude here is going to be a major determiner in the possibility of free will, I'll allow for responses before following up."

    This is the point. If the tape is rewinded and played again, everything will come back as before.
    On the other hand, in quantum world, the intrinsic properties of the observed quanta, determined by experiment are unpredictible, if not prepared prior to experiment . Prepared means, the QS ist forced into a defined state.
    That means: Prepared: predictable. Not prepared: unpredictible. Nevertheless may be made some statements about possibilities of the result. When prepared, the possibilities of the result are "certainties". If not prepaired, the results may only described by "possibilities". All results except the measured value got the possibility "zero", the measured value gains the possibility "1" = Certainty. STOP End physics.
    However, our brain, some 10 ^ 20 cells, connected with some 2000 connections per cell to some others is capable of constructing an "inner world", which enables us to survive. Some of this "inner world" may be inherited, some may be gained by experience. This experience comes from the "outer world" and you decide wether to pay attention to or to neglect.
    I should like to say, your free will will be developped by strong effort. And not by some erratic quanta-phenomena.
    In this highly complex nonlinear brain-construction unpredictability is almost sure. So wonder why we can live together and life goes on. Positivism would state, if it was not like this, we could not ask those questions.

    thanks for the ideas, hope we continue.

    Gerhard Adam
    This experience comes from the "outer world" and you decide wether to pay attention to or to neglect.
    How would this be decided?  If your brain is the source of the decision-making process, then what is being decided for whom?  Can you be making a decision if you are under the influence of drugs?  Can you make such a decision when you're sleeping?  Would your decision be influenced by your mood?  What about the ability to make decisions in the event of brain injury?

    My point here is that if you consider that injuries, drugs, or emotions may influence our behavior, then we have the opportunity to consider whether there is a boundary condition under which "free will" can occur or whether these other factors will always control our behavior. 

    I suspect that many people consider "free will" too closely with "rationality" and consequently they believe that if effort is expended to remove extraneous distractions or exercise "control" that somehow we move into the realm of "free will".  However, I would argue that this is further evidence of how little "free will" we actually possess, since we are quite adept at rationalizing our actions and decisions, without actually being able to explain what lead us to them in the first place (beyond some vague examples like choosing what to eat or how to move).

    This is clearly illustrated when we examine people whose brains operate on the fringe, such as savants or genius.  They obviously have absolutely no control over the behavior being dictated by their brains and yet we somehow want to conclude that others do.  We don't control our intellect, our talents or aptitudes, our memories, our senses, etc.  Instead a strong case can be made for evidence against "free will" just in examining how unreliable our memories are, which demonstrates how readily our brain is prepared to "fool" us into accepting our rationalization for what we recall.

    If you make the effort, you'll easily see how little awareness we have of our own bodies in three dimensional space.  We may be cognizant of a particular movement or action, but if you try and concentrate you'll see that the majority of your actions (and consequently "choices") are well outside your ability to maintain conscious awareness of your decisions and how they were determined.  This is even more apparent when one considers that the only choice we can actually make is one that we are consciously aware of making.  Therefore unless we are capable of 100% conscious awareness and control of all our circumstances, we can't possibly claim that we have the "free will" to override any of those actions.

    In effect, "free will" attempts to argue that we are capable of operating without constraint (mentally), however no one would suggest that we can "will" ourselves to choose or do anything that we are not already aware of (i.e. the idea already resides in our brain).  Therefore whatever we have learned (nature or nurture) will represent the constraint that our brains operate under.
    If our will is constrained, then it cannot be "free", since these are mutually exclusive conditions.

    Some arguments try to suggest that "free will" is limited, however that's like arguing that a prisoner isn't actually constrained in his prison cell because he is capable of walking around in it.  Such a condition simply isn't possible.  Our will is either "free" to operate without constraint, limited only by the direct control we exercise over it, or it is constrained by the brain to which we have a limited ability to respond. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    You surely know, our conscious awareness arises, after our unterbewusstsein made all decisions and supported all arguments.
    I am not common with insane persons. But I do believe, there are, who cannot develop free will. These should be treated different. This is a challenge for society.

    Prof. Wolf Singer (emerit.) needed about one hour to explain, what he meant free will was. After a lifetime of research. And unconventional, because emerit.

    So I do not believe, we can find out the solution here. To me it seems, this concept does not hold, as there are too much contradictions.
    Nobody will consider every-day actions as free will, wake up, wash, brakfast, go to work and so on. When is free will claimed? If you decide "I do not go to work today!" ??

    Free will can only be achieved by strong effort. There is one lifetime for everybody.

    The point is to limit the number of outcomes so only two possibilites is the best way to work to we could reference the charge of a particlar being eith positive or negative thus nothing you could do could ever create a result outside one of those two outcomes. Second of all that predicts then that events are causally indeterminant that while the the prior events to the we have witnessed remain unchanged the event we witness "can". Hence event A plus event B regardless of what they are are not causally deterministic in the outcome of X or Y. As was posed in the article this is inconsistent with Quantum theory and its mechanics.

    Again I will wait for a few more responses before going to my next piece.

    Nice thought experiment. Surely you know, the result of a quantum experiment can be determined by previous preparation of the quantum system. If you do so in the first experiment, you can go back in time and the result will always be the same. If you do no preparation in your first experiment, the outcome may be deliberate when you go back in time and repeat. This is a central finding of quantum theory. When you study physics, you learn the principle of strong causality and you learn also this principle like dice, aleatic.
    So if you don't prepare the system, the result is unpredictable.
    I do not like to tell unpredictibility is free will, it is just unpredictable. As i do not like to say predictibility is not free will. It's just predictable. This paradoxon again teaches, the concept of "free will" does not illuminate.

    Hold on though if we observe an event that is prepared or not if we rewind time and rewatch the outcome only what difference does preparation make. If an unprepared event results in X then going back in time and watch the outcome of the event there is still no change. Because simply put the events prepared or unprepared that lead to the observed are the consequence of other determinant events.

    This is hard free will determinism at it's best.

    "Because simply put the events prepared or unprepared that lead to the observed are the consequence of other determinant events."
    You may be right, we do not know. That's why we discuss. No doubt, the prepared will lead to the same result. The unprepared will not lead to the same result. The intrinsic properties of the observed quanta do their own thing.
    This is the difference between quanta-world to common sense.
    Never mind this. During my studies of nonlinear systems I found out, the dynamic behavior of those highly nonlinear systems do not always depend on initial conditions. They depend on the system itself. Some systems are like chaotic, others show some "logical" or "causal" behavior. I prefer to think, the non-chaotic systems are able to help us surviving in the real world.
    So arises the new question, wether the construction of our brains determines free will, and not the quanta.
    As stated earlier, I believe strong effort will lead to free will and not some quanta- or brain-structures.
    This may be possibly derived from the nonlinear systems, when you introduce resposibility and perception.

    Additional: There is some conception called "responsibility". A healthy person accepts "responsibility" for its actions taken by its "free will". Should we load the question wether free or not to the responsibility, wether free or not? What instance is the one to respond? More and more questions arise...

    Gerhard Adam
    Responsibility doesn't actually matter except as a social rationalization (or justification).  If you are a dangerous person, then society has the option of removing you from other people for their own protection.  We can choose to believe that you are "evil" by claiming that you intentionally chose your actions, or we can suggest that you're psychopathic/sociopathic whether you had a choice or not.  Moral responsibility is largely irrelevant to the considerations for how society behaves, but it has ramifications in how we view those actions and fix blame.

    After all, if we can't blame people for being "evil", then we equally can't claim credit for being "good".  Both represent constrained behaviors that we established by the nature/nurture experiences that populated our brain with ideas and information.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Some insane persons cannot be blamed. These are teh consequences, society has to get along. If they are not at all able to develop the social desired behavior and develop the adequate "free will" society makes some limitations.

    "This means that quantum dynamics - just like classical dynamics - realizes a one-to-one mapping between initial and final states. Quantum dynamics is fully deterministic."

    Yes, there is a time development function. Which is deterministic. But you first must prepare the initial state, as mentioned above. This initial state is prepared by your "free will". If the initial state is not prepared, the result of an experiment will be deliberate. It could be described by a probability, but the result of an experiment is not a probability, but a concrete measurement value.
    Although the deterministic time development of the probabilistic system is well known, the result of an experiment shows a certain value. This certain value can only predicted, if the system prior to measurement is prepared.

    btw: unitary means, the "value" is not stretched or squeezed, it remains conserved. 1:1 mapping is concerning mapping one manifold to another.

    The free will debate has two components.

    First Determinism vs Indeterminism, this is a discussion about how the universe works "free will" events our choices are no different then any other physical event the mind is not some separate thing, even if concieved as a non-physical thing, we are not talking about a "soul". Thus the mind and our free will decisions are consequences are far smaller events even quantum ones that occur. These drive neural synapsis and thus brain chemistry and choice your mind is the consequence of physical events.
    Determinism vs Indeterminism ask whether these physical events are deterministically casual in subsequent events. This doesn't rule out if one event changes that the outcome will be different. So if the world is deterministically causal my choice to tell the truth is the result of the physical events in my brain acting on one another in a causal way leading to a result, in indeterminism the prior events can be exactly the same but the outcome can change. So I reason the exact same way with the same brain states resulting from the same quantum states but instead of telling the truth I lie.

    The Second component of the debate centers on "Compatibility" is either model of reality compatible with the concept of free will. In determinism because of prior events I can not have done otherwise, compatibilists here are argue that is about access alternatives exist but because of prior events I simply don't have access. The case is then made under a possible world argument which says in a possible world I do otherwise. In-compatibilists argue that the very nature of determisim strips me of my ability to have done otherwise thus, no free will.
    Indetermism in short means that the outcomes of my reasoning are actually random, some say this is better then no variablity at all, I tend to disagree because now morality is random.
    I come down on the side of determinism and simply accept a limited concept of free will driven by access.

    "I come down on the side of determinism and simply accept a limited concept of free will driven by access"

    Maybe. We are discussing those problems. To me it seems, every human beeing has possibilities do develop some "free wil", it may be achieved by strong effort. All your life you learn. Learn to walk, learn to speak, lern to ride bike, learn - learn - learn. Try learning free will.

    Effort by definition is still the consequence of neuro synapis and variuos chemicla brain states, that wait for it follow from other quantum implications, "effort" means nothing as it is still bound up in all the same issues of deterministic causality. And your desires to "try" are a consequence of not only brain chemistry but also external event , experiences and those far removed events you are unaware of. Don't forget the "spooky connections" that lead to particles acting on one another at a distance.

    Think of it like this ever event you are aware of or unaware of acts in in a causal way of effecting the next nearest event, but these effects compund such that events far removed from in a very wide chain act in a deterministically causal way such that they cayuse the outcome of every choice you make. Thus if not for those events you do not have a mind you do not exist.

    Causality and predictability.
    Causality does not leave room for free will. Predictability does not leave room for free will.
    Un-causalality does not leave room for free will. Un-predictibility does not leave room for free will.
    If there is causality there is predictability.
    But what is the concept of free will?
    ???

    Take a ball, or the best, ever man-made ball, which is from silicium, manufactured for some purpose of defining physical and chemical constants. This ball seems perfectly round. But by elaborated observations you find out, there are single atoms on the surface, so it cannot be perfectly round. The concept "ball" is in your mind.
    So is the concept "free will".

    Right there you are dead on, Free-Will is a concept but more aptly a trick of lanuage and the human experience. We claim free will because it is our perception that we and others make choices, as active agents in the world, but we don't not at least in the eyes of pyhsics and science.

    Free Will: Is the state in which we may attribute to an agent, that a given agent is the sole source of their actions.

    This is an abridged definition of "Free Will" as Philosopher "generally" percieve it or at least this is the requirement for a robust version of "Free Will", and it is this definition that fails in the face of physics.

    Sorry to say regardless of how you approach the physical world unless you can prove that the mind is a non-physical force that exists in a dualistic relationship that can act causally on the physical world but is not effected by the physical world, the argument for free will is done. By thye way that requires proving the existance of the soul, and that somehow our brain states are not predictive of our actions. Which if that is true someone will have to inform the psychiatrists of the world that anti-depressants and there ability to change the moods of their patients is just an illusion.

    I think you're missing the real reason a lot of people ask this. "Free will" is an important concept in Christianity, because it's their only excuse for why their God created such a messed up world. If we really don't have a choice (and an infinitely powerful being could have predicted all of our actions), then God punishing us for how our lives turned out makes no sense.

    Gerhard Adam
    If we really don't have a choice (and an infinitely powerful being could have predicted all of our actions), then God punishing us for how our lives turned out makes no sense.
    That's kind of a strange thing to say.  After all, how much choice did you have in being born?  How much choice did you have in committing "original sin"?   Would you tempt an alcoholic with a drink?  Yet, we're to believe that a deity thinks its interesting to tempt people just so he can condemn them.

    Bear in mind, that a deity must be capable of predicting all of our actions, since that is what being omniscient means.  To claim otherwise would mean that we were capable of surprising God and doing something that he couldn't predict.

    The irony of the religious view is that God supposedly created humans to have "free will" and exercise their perogative to follow his laws, but correspondingly we're all born sinners because of an act committed in the Garden of Eden for which we are still culpable despite having had nothing to do with it.  In my view, the religious argument about "free will" is simply a distraction, since to consider any alternative, we would have to acknowledge that God created (and is responsible) for someone like Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler.  On the other hand, if we accept the "free will" argument, then Manson and Hitler are responsible for their own behavior and that lets God off the hook.  However, the problem remains, because that also means that humans are capable of acting in ways that God is unaware of, which effectively renders him somewhat impotent as a judge. 

    Sorry, but none of that makes any sense.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I wasn't meaning to support the Christian argument, just trying to point out that the people who care most about free will would be unsatisfied by this argument.

    The real question isn't literally "Can we build a computer that predicts the future?", but "Could someone with unlimited resources, time, and not restricted by the physical world build a computer that predicts the future?" I think very few people who actually understand the science would claim that we could or ever would be able to build such a machine (gravity isn't the only problem, there's also a limit on energy in the universe). A lot of people would argue that God building a machine is logically possible, which I think makes the question more interesting.

    Even though I don't subscribe to any religion, I sometimes find it interesting to consider what an all-powerful being would logically be capable of.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...I sometimes find it interesting to consider what an all-powerful being would logically be capable of.
    I think that's the point.  An "all-powerful being" couldn't be logically consistent with the universe and therefore all manner of contradictions must occur.  Every action of which they would be capable must preclude them creating or doing something that would be impossible for them.  Therefore if they couldn't create something that was impossible for them, then it imposes a constraint on what they can do (i.e. can you make a rock so heavy you can't lift it). 

    These aren't simply frivolous examples, but they represent a logical limit on what it means to be "all-powerful" because that term includes everything and yet it can't include the negations of the very things that being would be capable of, thereby imposing a constraint.
    Mundus vult decipi
    These aren't simply frivolous examples, but they represent a logical limit on what it means to be "all-powerful" because that term includes everything and yet it can't include the negations of the very things that being would be capable of, thereby imposing a constraint.

    I think even most Christians will accept that God can only do what's logically possible, so it's less of a problem than you think. Although, they do exist and it's sometimes funny to talk to people who will insist that God can microwave a burrito so hot that even he can't eat it.

    I guess you do have to decide where the limits of logical and "physically possible" lie though. For example, some people would claim that God can travel faster than the speed of light, but relativistically speaking, a speed faster than the speed of light just doesn't make sense.

    .. And I don't know why quoting isn't working for me.

    Gerhard Adam
    I agree, but my point is simply that once we introduce constraint, then it becomes legitimate to question how far such constraint extends.  After all, the original premise of "all-powerful" or effectively unlimited power is no longer valid.

    After that, one is forced to examine the question of whether there are fundamental limits to such a deity's power and what does something like that mean?  I'm simply indulging in some biblical speculation here, but an intriguing question involves the issue of Armageddon in Revelations.  After all, why fight a battle if the conclusion is already established?  Instead, if there are limits to power, then perhaps that "conclusion" is more hype that guarantee, in which case it raises the interesting question of what that means in the conflict between "good and evil".

    Consider that the original premise of "good and evil" is based on the idea that there was discontent which gave rise to a rebellion leading to the expulsion of Satan, so if one accepts these ideas, they are not trivial questions.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I do not wan to even contemplate how many people have been executed in gruesome manners for asking questions like the above. ;-)

    "If we really don't have a choice (and an infinitely powerful being could have predicted all of our actions), then God punishing us for how our lives turned out makes no sense."

    How illogical it might seem, there is a creed of Christianity in the Netherlands (Calvinism) that believes exactly this. The believe in pre-destination:

    "Predestination, in theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others.[1] Explanations of predestination often seek to address the so-called "paradox of free will", that God's omniscience is incompatible with human free will."

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Predestination

    My reaction to these theological struggles is that they are all attempts to rationalize incompatible, contradictory, and illogical existing believes.

    And indeed, "Free Will" is just an euphemism for soul and has inherited all the contradictions of the parent religion.

    "they are all attempts to rationalize incompatible, contradictory, and illogical existing believes. "

    100% agree.

    Beste Johannes,

    A comment from the couch: I'm missing a step in your argumentation that we cannot in principle predict the future of a sufficiently complex system. I believe that 'sufficiently complex' should be replaced by 'a system capable of adapting on the basis of it's simulation'. Please allow me to explain.
    Even If we were to have an incredible, lightning-fast machine to scan your brain so that the complete atomic state can be known at any given time, and then simulate that model, the two 'realities' will immediately peel apart, as the sensory input to your real brain cannot be replicated. Only if the machine were to scan and replicate your brain on-the-fly, in real time, would it be able to keep stead with your real emotions and thoughts. But crucially, it can never extrapolate from that, as there is a necessary time-delay
    between the two, and there can *always be interaction between the model and the real brain* (by looking at a display of the simulation for instance) within that delay that causes the system to screw up the simulation. I believe that this 'feedback' loop is crucial for a precise definition of 'sufficiently complex'.

    hartelijke groet,

    and thanks for all the fish !

    Jochem van der Spek

    "Even If we were to have an incredible, lightning-fast machine to scan your brain so that the complete atomic state can be known at any given time, and then simulate that model, the two 'realities' will immediately peel apart, as the sensory input to your real brain cannot be replicated."

    The theoretical issue dealt with by Johannes is when we copy brain+body+enough of the environment to simulate the behavior of the individual. If we can scan every protein in the brain, we could think of the next step and simulate the whole room. Or the house, or the planet. Johannes is looking for the theoretical limit.

    And the theoretical limit says that you cannot simulate using a "machine" much smaller than the reality that you are simulating because the machine would end up in a black hole. And for real size simulations, other limitations kick in that prevent full blown prediction or simulation.

    I understand Johannes is looking for the theorectical limit, I merely wanted to point out that, given such a machine (wheter "the theoretical limit says that [...] the machine would end up in a black hole" or not), the real problem lies in the fact that anynecessarily complex system that can view the simulation unfolding, can react to and anticipate it in such a way that the simulation will go awry. Imagine such a simulator that trains it's camera onto you, and it can predict your every move, and you can see this prediction. The you can, based on this prediction, alter your behaviour so that the prediction will not be correct. It seems to me that there is some sort of 'information leak' between the scene that the camera sees, and what you perceive of the simulation and what the simulating machine can know about that loop, which leads to the impossibility of such a machine giving a correct prediction. Otherwise, could you please explain why the theoretical limit says that such a machine would end up in a black hole.

    J

    "the real problem lies in the fact that anynecessarily complex system that can view the simulation unfolding, can react to and anticipate it in such a way that the simulation will go awry."

    I think I see the problem. If I want to predict the weather, I would not change the weather, but simply read of the necessary data and run my simulation of the atmosphere for the required time.

    If I want to predict a persons behavior, I would take great pains not to disturb the world the person is living in. The scenario would be something like me copying all information, send it with the seed of light with my machine while simulating the person's behavior, reach a prediction, and speed back to act on it. All the time trying to keep out of the "causal light cone" of that person. There are many fundamental reasons why this cannot work. Johannes discusses only one of them.

    I might be able to isolate the person I am predicting from the prediction. In that case, I have to make a copy of the world she lives in down to the elementary particles. Even if that would be possible, the amount of information needed requires an amount of energy with a mass that would require the same room as the original system. If I try to compress that information into a smaller volume, I get below the Schwartzschild radius and create a black hole.

    The reason I need so much information is that classical dynamical systems are chaotic, even the smallest pertubation grows exponential in time. In the end the conclusion is that my simulation will be an exact copy of the original world I want to simulate with at least the size of the original, and takes at least as much time to run as the original. And then there are several laws of physics that kick in to make it impossible to copy the world exactly.

    surely youk now the No-Cloning-Theorem (William Wootters and Wojciech Zurek 1982). So it is simply not possible to copy a quantum-system. Therefore predictability cannot work at microscopic scales.

    MikeCrow
    This type of simulation would need to replicate the branching of the one to many world view of QM, and then like Watson pick the most likely world to select. The further into the future you go the larger the number of worlds you have to account for.

    Now you might be able to abstract the size of the smallest action you simulate to, for instance in most cases you could ignore the weak force, most of the world we live in sees very few effect of it at the macro level. So maybe you include it only for your simulated smoke detector. Tricks like this are done all the time in electronics design, but does bring up the issue of fidelity, you have to carefully model your abstraction to match real behavior or you introduce errors in your results. The more abstract your model is, the further into the future you can go, but the more error you accumulate in your results. At some point the results are just made up. BTW this is the root of my issues with GCM's and their predictions.

    But, just simulating the number of required worlds to some arbitrary time in the future would always exceed the computers capacity.
    Never is a long time.
    blue-green
    According to anonymouse: “Free Will: Is the state in which we may attribute to an agent, that a given agent is THE SOLE SOURCE of their actions. This is an abridged definition of "Free Will" as Philosopher "generally" perceive it … a non-physical force that … can act causally … but is NOT AFFECTED BY THE PHYSICAL WORLD” Sole source??? Not affected? Give me a break. Who says it has to be the Sole source? Your made up dictionary? As long as you experts wheel in one ABSOLUTE after another, you’ll never get real. Give us a list of ABSOLUTES that one must consider as being real. Let’s start from there. Lay down your cards … While you are at it, you can also show which infinities are absolutely physically real. The truth resides in the middle .... shades of grey ... any cat knows that ... anything less is a toy mouse.
    To the above sorry I didn't mean to leave the listing as anonymouse, so I'll explain the above explanation you seem to not understand is the generally excepted definition of "Free Will" not that I endorse that the truth is that the very nature of physics percludes you or anyone else from having any semblance of Free Will, you are the consequence of the deterministic causality of your brain states. Nothing more, you cannot have done otherwise because you lack access.

    To have a robust "free will" we must be to unicumbered source of our action to the extent that we are not the notion of free will is an illusion, a product of how we experience the world.

    "To have a robust "free will" we must be to unicumbered source of our action to the extent that we are not the notion of free will is an illusion, a product of how we experience the world."

    Please, explain this expression. I do not understand.

    You an I experience the wold through the predication of our brain states and as I argued earlier these are the results of far more infintesmile quantum events. We are do not experience these things because they happen far to fast we experience their result. In many studies we have seen that our brains reach conclusions far faster then we are aware the decision has been made.

    We want to believe that we are the source of our decisions, this implies "free will", that I am the source of my actions that reason to them and take them. In some way this version of free will is accomplished in a slightly removed way from the state of the world, quantum spin states do not over ride my choice.

    This seems reasonable by our experiences because it feels that way, but its not the case, unfortunately these quantum states "roll up" to brain states and ultimately our choices.

    The Illusion of free will for some people is scary it means that I and others are not responsible for our choices. I disagree, even if free will doesn't exist it doesn't mean the responsibility doesn't exist. Whether I could have chosen to do otherwise does not remove the existence of other possibilities, physical causality may remove access but the possibility exists and thus justifies responsibility.

    It's a tough pill to swallow I know but it is what science has shown.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...even if free will doesn't exist it doesn't mean the responsibility doesn't exist.
    It doesn't matter since responsibility is irrelevant to the discussion.  Responsibility is simply the means we use to rationalize why we take actions against individuals criminally and it helps us rationalize why we consider people to be "evil" or "bad". 

    Of course, there's no prohibition from removing a dangerous individual from society (ie, into prison) and it certainly doesn't require the argument of moral responsibility to do that.  Instead we want to feel that people that are "bad" are being so intentionally because then we can claim credit for when we think we're being "good".

    After all, if there's ultimately no responsibility, then we can't blame people that are bad any more than we can claim credit for when we're good.  While many people will balk at that, it isn't any different than claiming credit for being born with intelligence versus someone that is mentally challenged.  We certainly wouldn't think of assigning blame to someone that was mentally deficient, although (despite knowing better), we still like to give credit to an individual 's intellectual achievements as if they actually had any control over those innate abilities.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Responsibility is simply the means we use to rationalize why we take actions against individuals criminally and it helps us rationalize why we consider people to be "evil" or "bad". "

    The colloquial use of "responsibility" can be of help here. We do say that a certain machine or program is responsible for good or bad outcomes. If we find a program to be responsible for bad outcomes, we will change the program if we can, or change the inputs, or if that does not help decommission the program.

    We might even project the moral feelings we have of good and bad onto machines or programs. Note that we hold the machine or program responsible for its actions even though we do know that there is nothing in there that can be blamed in a moral sense for the outcomes. Responsibility is not the same as blame.

    We treat people the same way (actually, we treat machines like people ;-) ). If people do not "function right", we try to repair them with teaching. Or we change the inputs with incentives, fines, punishment, and threats. If that does not help, we "decommission" them by isolating them from society.

    Excellent way of explaining the "responsibility" component of free will. Physical causality a determinism may perclude us from having the Free Will we cwish we had, but it doesn't mean individuals are not responsible, they are just not responsible in the waya robust version of free will would lead us to conclude.

    Larry Arnold
    Can't remember the details of the arguments this morning, but I do recall that it is still Philosophy to the rescue.

    I would advise the final Chapter of Neil Levy's Neuroethics which discusses why free will need not be abandoned.

    http://brainethics.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/levy-publishes-book-on-neuroethics/
    It was Yakir Aharonov who commented on this problem recently...
    "Q. Your recent paper in Physics Today (co-authored with Jeff Tollaksen, also at Chapman, and Sandu Popescu of the University of Bristol) suggests that the universe might have a fully determined final state as well as a beginning state. Does that cause you to wrestle with the idea of free will?

    A. I don’t have any problem with that because free will means you are only freed from the past. You’re not freed from the future. If somebody would know your future, but not tell you about it, and we would not use (the information) in any way, it’s as if we waited till the future came.
    If something comes back from the future, like this destiny state, to the present, but it is not available to to tell you what this future is, you’re still free from the past. You can change your mind. If you change your mind, you change your fate, and it will be the new state."
    http://sciencedude.ocregister.com/2011/01/01/toying-with-time-yakir-ahar...

    Maybe we all have only a "tragic connection" with our past mistakes only after we make them from which we can learn from the consequences in the hope that the future can be "conditioned" to turn out the way we want... in reality there is a certain amount of random chance about all of it. They say the road to "Hell" is paved with good intentions!

    I beleive Johannes has the correct conclusions. If the oposite of free will is predictable destiny, then the debate can be placed on a sound theoretical basis.

    Destiny depends on information in the form of entropy as was described several times in reqard to gravity and holograms. The information can be thought of as bits of data contained on a surface or in a local volume at the scale of Planck units. So there is a reasonably good way to calculate how many bits of data can be contained. Another calculation can be made about how many bits of data are needed to support different extents of determinism.

    Many different cases of these calculations show that there is enough data storage capacity to support the conservation laws of things that must propigate to distant places. It is rather easy to show that there isn't enough data storage capacity to control everyone and everything to a predetermined destiny.

    I think of it like a type drama or a symphony where the outline is well defined on a large scale, but the performers are allowed to improvise at various places in the script.

    Destiny cannot control everything, becase the universe cannot contain all of the information that would be required. It isn't just a guess or some hand waving, the result can be calculated, and the results remain the same when the inputs are changed in various ways.

    At some point on a small scale determinism breaks down from lack of resources, no matter how you set the flags and switcvhes. Ulla Mattfolk has an essay on this topic in a contest at fqxi.

    http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/938

    The information capacity can be extended with hidden dimensions, other universes, dark physics, or any way you please. It still remains finite and becomes saturated with information at some scale of size and time.

    Finite information cannot describe unbounded systems. This is just what Johannes is saying. I believe it is appropriate as a topic for physics, because physics can give an answer that will withstand opposition.

    Something like free will does exist in a context of limitations called laws of nature. It could be nothing more than unpredictability, but I beleive is could be the chance for creative thinking.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry but there is no correlation.  Since when does the lack of free will translate into the equivalence of predestination?  There doesn't need to be any external predictability.  A system can be completely deterministic internally and still lack the means of being externally predictable.

    The brain operates in a completely deterministic manner for all practical purposes.  There is nothing which can take place in thinking which does not have a cause.  There is an initiating action and there is a result.  These aren't random and using "unpredictable" is a meaningless concept in this context.  It may be completely unpredictable to you what I may type next, but it certainly isn't unpredictable to me. 

    When I concentrate on a mathematics problem, I expect complete predictability from my brain's behavior.  I don't expect to begin reciting poetry or composing a song.  I expect to be able to direct my brain to solving the problem.  If I lack the knowledge (i.e. the information isn't stored in my brain), then no amount of will power can cause it to appear.  The answer also won't appear by some unpredictable or random process.  If the answer is there, then it will be found by a completely deterministic operation of my brain.

    More to the point, if you're prepared to argue that free will is little more than unpredictability, then you'd have to concede that it exists in virtually every form of life that exists.  At this point, you'd have reduced the concept to be meaningless.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard, I don't like what you just said! I LIKE free will, I WANT free will. I THINK I have free will. Maybe by considering the brain as a computer hardware and software I can make a case for 2 deterministic systems (hardware and software) together producing free will, but I doubt it.

    Dang!

    "More to the point, if you're prepared to argue that free will is little more than unpredictability, then you'd have to concede that it exists in virtually every form of life that exists. At this point, you'd have reduced the concept to be meaningless."

    Why? Are there no other living things that can have free will?

    The point of this discussion is not that unpredictability itself is equal to free will. But that to have a free will presupposes that your choices are not predictable. There are schools of thought that claim that your future choices are in principle predictable. Therefore, they claim, you cannot have a free will.

    Johannes claims that your future choices are even not predictable in principle, and this discussion supports him to a large extend. To be able to do so would violate a host of laws of physics. Therefore, you CAN have a free will. But there is no law of nature that says you should actually have a free will.

    Gerhard Adam
    Why? Are there no other living things that can have free will?
    Not at all, but as I said ... it renders the concept meaningless.

    Can we predict the future behavior of a bacteria?  If not, then in principle "free will" is not excluded from the bacteria's behavior.  However since the bacteria has no brain, then the point of merely being unpredictable renders the concept of a "will" a meaningless trait (since even a brain isn't required).  At which point, the question can legitimately be turned around and argue that is it the "will" that is "free" or merely the unpredictable of the stimulus to which the organism reacts?

    If the latter, then it is completely deterministic being established by events outside the organism.  In other words, without the outside world, is there anything to exercise your "will" against (bacteria or human)?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    OH dear....feels like 'Clash of the Titans' again..... I TOTALLY disagree with your take on free will being a brain-directed function, or that willpower can or cannot cause information to appear, or that the concept can be reduced to be meaningless It only appears meaningless to those who don't get it! I get information appear to me a lot, which has absolutely nothing to to with my will, free or otherwise....it arises due to my ability to allow 'information' to enter my mind, as if I had opened the joint between the 2 halves of my brain, and allowed the 'information' to stream into me from some non-terrestrial source above the sky [NOTE: I did NOT say or intend alien!!] That information could come from a different dimension of human existence, for all I know, or a religious experience, or a Guru, or a dead person....I do not judge WHERE it comes from, I just allow it to occur.....as is my Free-Will-right so to do.....it does me no harm, nor does it engender me to harm others, and for the main part, I find it 'Spiritual' and pleasant to have as an 'intuit'....which is what I believe it to be...though others, like you, dispute it However, it is, for me, a personal choice....a million miles from 'brain fixation' and very little to do with the current discussion about predictability, though, in a sense, it IS unpredictable, as I NEVER KNOW what's 'coming down the pipe' I suppose the main difference between your take and mine, Gerhard, is, that you ONLY have thinking in your head, whereas I have free will, with its bonuses, which aren't me, or generated by me, but which guide and assist me, in mine I get a distinct feeling that you are actually in denial, and get your own intuits, but don't like to admit to it, in case you get laughed at, or because of old strict religious lingerings How about it....? Don't you REALLY get 'intuits' that AREN'T your 'brain powered thoughts' that help you solve puzzles, even whilst you sleep, perhaps?.....or that you know who's calling you when the phone rings/door knocks....eh? Aitch
    "Not at all, but as I said ... it renders the concept meaningless."

    There may be some animals with meaningful free will -- Dolphins, elephants, some primates, etc.

    Tom

    Gerhard Adam
    I can understand the sentiment, but the question remains ... where would this "freedom" come from?
    Mundus vult decipi
    I don't know yet, but it would come from our consciousness (whatever that is) making decisions and not being "forced" into those decisions by the physical processes of the brain, memories, emotions, sensory inputs, etc. The more I think about it and the more I write, the less likely it seems.

    My ego finds it hard to let go....

    Tom

    Gerhard Adam
    I understand completely.  Even your comment about the ego raises the question of where "that" comes from. 

    Even though I realize that artificial intelligence doesn't exist, and that computers don't actually resemble the brain, consider it as a thought experiment.  If a computer was built that truly possessed artificial intelligence (to whatever degree you care to imagine it), then we would have to acknowledge that as an intelligent being, it would be capable of "free will" (if we possess it).

    At this point, the question would become ... what part of the computer would be responsible for "freeing" it from the components that make up its being a computer?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    My ego finds it hard to let go....
    It's interesting that you should mention your ego, because I don't see any reason for us to feel helpless simply because we don't possess free will.  We already know what our behavior is and we already know how we interact with the world, so knowledge about whether we have "free will" or not, certainly wouldn't change the world we experience or even how we experience it.

    The only thing we have to recognize is that we are not truly free agents in determining who we are as people.  That was determined by our parents, our educators, our experiences, etc.  In short, everything that ever left an impression on our brain is ultimately responsible for what our brain is configured as, and consequently who we are as people.

    The only option we have to introduce change, is to introduce more information.  How that information is organized is a fundamental part of our belief system (which I argue is how our brain architects its data).  After that information will be accepted or rejected based on whether it is part of our belief system or not.  Anything that is, can be integrated as possible choices for future action.  We certainly wouldn't argue that new information can be used to change the past, so it is pointless to argue that we could've behaved differently in the past.  The lack of "free will" simply means that we are the product of our current state of knowledge and how we elect to apply that knowledge to future events.  Whatever we did in the past cannot be undone and it can't be rationalized away as something we could've chosen to do differently.

    Therefore our notion of "free will" demands that we be free agents in our behavior, be we already know that we can't behave with any additional knowledge or information than we currently possess.  Our belief system provides the architecture for that data, while our choices will be governed by the interrelationships of those elements.  In other words, while I may have knowledge of how to kill someone, if my belief system precludes that as a legitimate choice, then it won't be used. 

    Every step would be completely deterministic and there would never be a situation where you could claim that you had absolutely no idea what drove a particular action or choice.  (Admittedly you might not like to admit it, but there are no instances of where people simply don't know why they did something).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The only thing we have to recognize is that we are not truly free agents in determining who we are as people.  That was determined by our parents, our educators, our experiences, etc.  In short, everything that ever left an impression on our brain is ultimately responsible for what our brain is configured as, and consequently who we are as people.
    Sorry Gerhard, but I still don't agree. I believe that our brains have the potential to decide what will leave an impression, and even selectively erase past impressions. Its probably not easy and maybe very few people ever manage to do it, but I believe that some people like Buddha for example, yogis and even female yoginis, have managed to do this in the past through forms of meditation and self-analysis, in order to experience their own ultimate 'free will', even if it is only briefly. I hope to spend time trying to do it one day, even if I am in a nursing home at the time!

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I understand what you're saying, but it's a contradiction.  You're arguing that our brains can decided what to do, etc. and yet it's your brain that you're trying to override by "free will".  It your brain decides what will leave an impression, then how does it represent "free will"?

    You may claim that "you" decided, but who are you, if not the product of your brain?  That's the problem.  It's a recursive claim because you're saying the brain can control the brain to control the brain.  There is no defined agent that can be considered "independent" of the brain that could possibly offer an opportunity to exercise free and independent action.  Without that agent, there is no argument.  It's all an illusion.

    However even in your consideration for people like Buddha, etc.  you have acknowledged my original point which is that you cannot do something that isn't already in your brain.  Meditation is precisely the exercise to try and gain the experience and training to be able to achieve "enlightenment" which is only a choice after you've been trained.  You cannot "will" it into existence.

    In other words, if you have to be taught, then it satisfies my argument that nothing can originate in your brain that hasn't been placed there.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I should just say let's agree to differ because I don't want to get involved in this discussion again right now, as I'm too busy to give it the attention it needs to respond sensibly. However (!), back to my original earlier comments, I believe that a soul enters and leaves a body at its own 'free will' and that while it is in the body it uses the impressionable and plastic brain, a bit like the controls of a vehicle, to drive the body.

    The amazing primitive reflexes of a new born baby and other animals implies to me that the soul or life force has usually driven a similar vehicle or body before and can go through the rudiments of driving the next new body again, immediately after birth. These skills then disappear for humans and some other animals and the soul and its new brain are in the back seat in a baby capsule for a while, as it relearns many of these conscious skills specifically for this new body and its new environment.

    I think that the soul or life force is still driving the brain and can leave or detach itself from the body and its brain through learned techniques such as meditation and biofeedback but also intuitively for some people with other methods like astral projection and maybe dreaming and of course through death and near-death experiences.

    Obviously I have no empirical evidence only my own subjective experiences of memories of what seems to be a previous life, experimenting with astral projection, nearly dying and having a near-death experience once and witnessing the birth of my children and several deaths of people and animals that I have loved. These experiences incline me to believe that all animals have a soul or life force that can occasionally exhibit 'free will' independently of the current life experiences and the effects of the neural mechanisms that it is currently controlling or driving.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    By the way ... as another recursive thought experiment, consider "who" decides that you've succeeded in your objective?  Your brain?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    If you manage to astrally project yourself up to the ceiling of a room and look down upon your body with its resident brain then whatever is astrally projecting itself into that position can decide that it has succeeded in its objective.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch
    By the way ... as another recursive thought experiment, consider "who" decides that you've succeeded in your objective? Your brain?
    .....more brain fixation....
    Put another way, are you arguing, Gerhard, that a human, you, are ONLY your brain, and/or its contents?
    I find that astounding! You just seem to be confusing who YOU are, with your EGO!
    Whilst it is obvious from your posts that you have a large ego, I would be surprised if, with all the knowledge you have acquired and accumulated, that there's enough room for YOU and your EGO to occupy your brain.....AND decide which shall consistently hold the reigns of power when doubt or fear enter the arena, or when love causes your heart to flutter and demand you travel half the world to find a long lost lover, or rage blinds you behind the red mist, or unforeseen circumstance cause you to trip and break a limb, or fall off a horse, or over a cliff, or lightning strike and make the very ground you stand on sizzle with electricity making your hair steam,, or you just happen to live in a tsunami's path.....or, or, or.....
    I could go on, but I think even you must get the point....?

    We just are who we are.....which is so much more than brain......if only we allow it

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    ...when love causes your heart to flutter and demand you travel half the world to find a long lost lover...
    Yeah, that's a ringing endorsement of "free will".  You seem to love engaging in all kinds of emotional discussions despite not claiming that any of it actually exists within you.  Instead you keep invoking all kinds of external agents. 

    Apparently your view is that your brain is an inadequate organ to make you a person.  Although you don't seem to offer much explanation for those that have suffered injuries and no longer have the same personalities and consequently aren't considered the same person. 

    Just by way of example:
    http://www.ehow.com/facts_5708410_personality-change-due-head-trauma.html

    But, according to you, the brain can't do any of these things.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Well despite throwing your best projections at me.....no!
    I never said anything of the sort.....it is you who are brain fixated as I said in my post on 03/23/11 | 20:57 PM, which you haven't responded to
    The example you give of people who have had accidents/brain damage 'no longer have the same personalities and consequently aren't considered the same person' is only as observed by others
    Sure, if you suffer an extreme accident or bodily damage, many would feel themselves to no longer be the same person, but only due to the LOSS of free will to do what they could previously do, however, they remain, most definitely the same person, but with impairment, just as you are the same person who used to be around 18" tall, and weighed around  12 lbs - change does not make you cease to be 'the same person' in essence, although..... if you are just being typically picky, then no-one is EVER the same person, since the person is only defined in space and time, both of which referents, change, therefore by that perverse logic, no-one should be liable to get paid, pay taxes, be legally responsible, or anything else that the 'system' holds people to be, since they are no longer the people who did any work, committed any offence, etc, so.....I think even you will have to agree, continuity of the person is intact.....?

    However, I believe I now understand your earlier comments about being constrained by your brain.....since you exhibit a lack of individual thought, being only capable of exuding whatever your brain has 'swallowed' from elsewhere.....and yet it is you who project onto others  that they invoke 'external agents'

    So, where does original thought come from?
    Please don't attempt to say - the brain, as that means you are only a subservient to a physical thing/part of your body....it just doesn't explain where all human inspiration to 'go beyond constraint' comes from, if the model is itself reliant upon constraint - it must logically be flawed....
    see also this astounding video, of a 3 year old, with no cerebellum

    http://bcove.me/z8h3m3e3

    Not a 'headless chicken', and most certainly alive.....though perhaps shouldn't be by definition of 'brain-dead'

    I'm not a signed up 'wayseer' but I totally understand and appreciate the vision, and will continue to rebel against the limited nature you seem to believe to be the 'be-all and end-all' of it, and will always exercise my free will and allow whatsoever internal or external agents may be available to assist me on my path

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    You keep insisting that I misrepresent what you say, but you never try to express your thoughts beyond vague ramblings.  You've provided zero evidence for any of your assertions and seem to think that you're beyond something as mundane as providing some sort of scientific basis.

    Of course, you tend to ridicule scientists for being too wrapped up with silly things like facts and reproducibility.  So, I don't know what to tell you.  You can obviously believe whatever you like, but that doesn't make it true.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    I have tried  twice, and at length to respond, but for some reason, it keeps self-deleting....

    You say, 'You can obviously believe whatever you like, but that doesn't make it true.'
    The counter being, 'You can obviously believe whatever you like, but that doesn't make it false'.

    Perhaps instead of accusations and ad hominems you could level the playing field, and respond to my specific un-vague rambling, asking you to respond to my earlier post
    Here's a link

    http://www.science20.com/comments/64050/Re_Gravity_Free_Will

    If you continue to project, you only show yourself up as lacking in mystical awareness, whilst yearning the experience which is self-forbidden by your own Scientific constraint-mind-world model, and I am reminded of an earlier post I made which you dissed!
    The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.(Albert Einstein,The Merging of Spirit and Science)
    So, perhaps you are as good as dead, and haven't realised it?

    Did you adopt Science as a substitute for a religion and yet find yourself missing 'true religiousness' as alluded to by Einstein?

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    ...you only show yourself up as lacking in mystical awareness...
    What is that even supposed to mean?  I know you aren't interested in science, but I can't imagine why you insist on advocating this stuff with nothing except your own personal anecdotes. 

    I know, you'll argue about how you know your experiences and your world and your whatever that keeps you grounded or flighty, or whatever the hell you experiencing at the moment.  However, it seems like you intentionally don't want to engage in anything resembling science, and when you're called on it ... you want to argue that science is all some constrained system that doesn't want to see the world as it really is (at least according to how you see it).

    I'm not interested in arguing your beliefs, nor am I interested in presenting my own.  I couldn't care less if you and the universe are on a first name basis.  I'm only interested in whether you can contribute something factual to this discussion, which you either won't or can't.  You want to roll everything up into some mystical parody of science and think that such a process would produce results.  Information is difficult enough to evaluate and assess to determine if it is applicable in a scientific way.  The last thing I care about is everyone's personal mystical experiences entering into the discussion to produce even more nonsensical speculation.

    Let me be clear.  Even your invocation of Einstein doesn't sway me, since I'm not interested in his theological or religious views either.  People spend all manner of time in speculation, and mystical pursuits, embracing all manner of beliefs and ideas.  However, it is only through science that we can begin to find the truth of these beliefs and determine whether there's anything of substance here or if it is strictly a personal perception. 

    In truth, all your mystical and religious talk (and even Einstein's quote) has done more to imprison people that any one scientific fact.  Mystical views and beliefs are the worst kind of elitism because they allow people to pat themselves on the back for their "achievements" while basically condemning everyone else for simply not trying hard enough or having enough "faith".  You may think that you are more than your brain, but without that, you're little more than a chemical bag of protoplasm.  While you may think you're so "connected" to the universe and the mystical "life forces", the reality is that "they" (such as they are) are totally indifferent to your existence and will readily recycle your chemicals when you can no longer use them.  It's no different than the "nature lovers" that think that "Mother Nature" is some sort of Walt Disney movie, instead of recognizing that it will just as readily turn you into a meal as provide one for you.  That doesn't make it hostile.... just indifferent.  If you don't know what you're doing in nature, then "Mother Nature" doesn't feel obligated to teach you.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    If you don't know what you're doing in nature, then "Mother Nature" doesn't feel obligated to teach you.
    That's about the only thing I can agree with you on, since you clearly maintain the Scientist's right to define anything other than what you know or can reproduce, as non-factual, including other people's experiences, and then wonder why I get upset at your narrow-mindedness, as you keep asking people what this freedom is, whilst insisting you remain in your self delusional prison, projecting your frustrations onto others, because your view is somehow more 'right' than anyone else's.....

    ...and again you attempt to tell me I'm not interested in Science, and that what I have to offer is just 'anecdotes' [accusative tone], whilst 'not understanding' a simple statement - with, 'What's that even supposed to mean?' --- how many times do you post THAT phrase....?
    Do you honestly believe YOU are as indifferent as  the Nature you talk about?
    Far from it, you come across more as an insulting Science bigot, and I'll thank you to STOP telling ME what I say, think, feel, believe,  or do !!

    It's no wonder Mother Nature won't reveal herself to you!! ......You think you know her already, by your reductive analysis.....yet you cannot reproduce her in all her beauty, nay I think beauty is the bit you miss the most!!

    Both chaos and order are primeval conditions. The I Ching recognizes both as fundamental, each containing the seed of the other. It has been too long since I read Loa Tzu, but I seem to remember a parable about branches: they must be sufficiently strong to provide support, but sufficiently flexible to bend in the wind.

    Science IS a branch of Mysticism, like it, or not, and Mysticism is flexible enough to support it, but not, apparently, per contra

    ....and again you ignore answering my question, by sideswiping

    Aitch
    blue-green
    From where would this freedom come? Ah Gerhard, the very flaw in your question is that you think there is a reason, part, place and time for everything. We are familiar with religious people claiming that there is a reason for everything, as if that were a comforting thought. Translation: it’s all God’s Will. What if there is not a part and place for everything. What if everything does not click together as a tight causal structure as you imagine? What if nature were more economically designed with a few less working parts or laws than you … or even Einstein have imagined. It could well be through the absence of parts …. holes in the puzzle …. that free will enters the picture, seemingly from nothing. If there is no module to plug into your human or computer or cat …. to account for free-will, ego and all that rot … then maybe you should be considering that it arises from the very lack of such parts, rules or lines of code. There is an inherent looseness in the way the world operates. There is no reason to believe it is so tightly ruled as you say. Dreams, ideas and entire belief systems can be made up out of whole cloth. Do you really believe Gerhard, that there is a reason for everything? If a friend of yours accidentally dies tomorrow, or wins a lottery, do you really think that there are a priori reasons for such events that COMPLETELY explains them … or are you not Monday night quarterbacking explaining things after the fact, from the comfort of your armchair? Funny that I used to not be able to sign-in to my account here. I suspected that the upgraded version of Mozilla that I had accepted was getting in the way, so I deleted it and reverted back to an older and less invasive version of Mozilla. Now I am free to sign-in or to not to sign-in. Less code, more freedom, it's that simple. Less is more.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...or are you not Monday night quarterbacking explaining things after the fact, from the comfort of your armchair?
    Perhaps it's you that is rationalizing the "freedom" of will after your brain has decided on a particular course of action.  That is the nature of illusion.

    I do find it interesting that the primary criticism is that I'm relying on the brain functions to control the brain.  It seems that the only rationale someone can provide to argue for "free will" is to introduce external mechanisms.  Of course, it seems like no one can explain what those external mechanisms might be, so I get accused of requiring that everything have a time, place, definition, etc. 

    Don't know about you, but it seems that this is the epicycles argument all over again.  I realize that such an explanation won't be accepted, but at this juncture the onus is on you folks to explain where such extra-normal phenomenon comes from.  Perhaps you're content to leave it unexplained, which is fine, but then it is irrelevant to the discussion, because if it can't be defined, then it can't be included in any scientific way.

    It is interesting that not one of you has addressed the issues of how a brain injury can radically alter the original person, or how brain damage from other causes can create all manner of unusual behaviors (that the person clearly can't control).  As mentioned already, there is no explanation for savant syndrome or any myriad number of other traits that are clearly manifest by the brain.  Instead, people want to cling to some vague idea about making choices and instead of crediting their brain with truly marvelous functions, it is to be turned into something akin to a radio receiver, totally incapable of performing without some external agent turning the knobs.

    I know I'll hear about how not everything can be explained scientifically, but then you're on thin ice, because there's no point in discussing what essentially constitutes individual beliefs and anecdotes.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, I am not in any way saying that the brain is not an amazing organ just as the steering wheel, dashboard and engine of a formula 7 racing car are amazing to me too, its just that I think without the driver the car can only just tick over like a person in a coma. When people become brain damaged, hey presto the primitive reflexes return often better than ever:-
    Primitive reflexes are primarily tested with suspected brain injury to test the functioning of the frontal lobe. If they are not being suppressed properly they are called frontal release signs.
    If you stand next to a dying person or animal and witness them die, the difference between the living and the dead in a matter of seconds is staggering. They don't seem to be in a coma they seem to change radically within a minute or two to a dead, lifeless body that has no presence or 'soul'. That life force or energy must go somewhere as energy cannot be destroyed, maybe it too becomes 'missing energy' and like a neutrino, it oscillates into different flavors or forms, who knows? Look at the life force in this horse compared to a dead horse.

    I don't think that 'free will' is something that is generally available to everyone and everything, but I do think it becomes evident at these strategic times in all of our lives. It's difficult to prove which came first, the chicken, the egg or the life force and whether that life force freely willed its presence into or out of either of those forms at some point. If you chop the head off a chicken apparently it can live for some time without the head and brain I once read, so maybe the chicken life force sometimes freely wills to remain without the brain? Ha ha, sorry Gerhard, there goes your brain controls everything hypothesis :)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    That life force or energy must go somewhere as energy cannot be destroyed...
    Sorry, but that simply isn't true.  While the person may be dead, their body certainly isn't.  It's the body system that is dead.  This is precisely why after death we can harvest organs and transplant them in others.  This is why the criteria for human death is brain death.
    ...so maybe the chicken life force sometimes freely wills to remain without the brain...
    Once again, not true because you're overlooking the nervous system which is quite capable of responding to random signals (hence why a frog's leg can be made to contract with applied electric current).
    When people become brain damaged, hey presto the primitive reflexes return often better than ever:-
    I think you're not really thinking about this.  If you've ever seen someone talking to people that aren't there, or if you've ever seen the hallucinations (visual and audio) of the schizophrenic, then you wouldn't think that "primitive reflexes" are returning in any form.  That's a romanticized image of the reality of brain damage.  This is another reason why people with mental disorders that are on medication feel that it affects their brains and leaves them in a fog, which is precisely why it is often difficult to ensure that people with such conditions are taking their proper medications.  Even something as simple as ADHD (the real condition) presents a radical difference in the individual (including personality) with proper drug treatments.  None of this would be possible if the brain weren't the center of the person and the means by which the entity you think of as "you" originates from.

    I'm sorry, but despite how nice it sounds, there is no such thing as a "life force" as some separate entity.  There's no question that a healthy organism, with all of its components operating optimally isn't fully alive and perhaps quite vibrant.  However, this doesn't translate into some separate "life force" that travels around.  These are quaint folk tales that people tell each other, but there is absolutely no scientific basis for claiming their existence.

    I'd be happy to hear any arguments to the contrary that explain either extra energy or some external agent that controls things, but there aren't any such propositions. 

    Basically I'd like to see some links to scientific work that suggests otherwise.  If you insist, I'm sure I can find plenty of links to explain my biological processes, however instead of speculation in return, I'd like to see something remotely credible to back up the claims being made here.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, both Mike the headless chicken and organ donors who are kept alive on life support machines until their organs are harvested, are still alive, they are not dead. I had to do the frog muscle twitch experiment as part of my psychology degree and the frog's leg was not alive. We stimulated the frog's muscle with an electric current, just as an electric current can make an electronic gadget move or vibrate without it being alive, it can also make dead and live creature's muscles twitch.

    Q: What is the difference between Mike the headless chicken and a dead chicken?
    A: One is alive with the life force present minus a head and brain and the other is dead!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I think you're being a bit too flexible in your definition of "alive".  The organs are being kept alive by continuing the mechanistic processes of the body (i.e. breathing, heart, etc.).   However the individual is NOT alive and by no definition could be considered alive.  Any dispute with that definition is strictly legal and not biological.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Are you saying that Mike the headless chicken was not alive for 18 months?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Although most of his head was severed, most of his brain stem and one ear was left on his body. Since basic functions (breathing, heart-rate, etc) as well as most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_the_Headless_Chicken

    I'm saying that Mike wasn't actually headless (or more precisely; brainless).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes but was he alive? Not so according to your earlier definition regarding organ donors? His life force was definitely present and some primeval instincts were driving his body but he would have failed the US brain death test and passed the UK one, based on the brain stem being active, even though it is unlikely that he could experience any consciousness :-
    Medical science argues that a permanent cessation of electrical activity indicates the end of consciousness. Those who view the neo-cortex of the brain as solely responsible for consciousness, however, argue that electrical activity there should be the only consideration when defining death. In many cases, especially when elevated intracranial pressure prevents blood flow into the brain, the entire brain is nonfunctional; however, some injuries may affect only the neo-cortex. During the death process, brain function can be lost gradually. When going through such a change, a small proportion of subjects have reported a variety of "near-death experiences".
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Someone has just emailed me this link to a site called 'wayseermanifesto.com' about people rediscovering their 'free will' and their their 'life force' in the form of 'the way' which is shown to people who are having problems finding it by 'wayseers'. I have never heard of or seen this website before now, but if you can put up with listening to the religious sounding rantings to music of the guy that founded the movement, he says a few interesting things about the brain, mental disorders, drugs, indoctrination and free will, that seem relevant to what is being discussed here. It looks as though a 'wayseer' movement is being founded on almost anarchistic principles and the prefrontal cortex of our brains and its indoctrination is accused of being the Gestapo and fascist dictator of our lives, preventing us from seeing the way. What do you think about these claims Gerhard?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I think it's humorous and ironic.  While people want to embrace "free will", they seem to never run out of excuses as to why their behaviors aren't actually "free".  It is interesting that people with "free will" need to be told what they are.

    In truth, this is simple marketing for all those people that will never achieve any of the things they claim partial to.  You can be assured that all the people they were referring to in the video didn't need to see this video to make their own way through life and follow their own desires.

    This is a classic case of ordinary people no wanting to expend the energy to do something differently, so they make themselves feel better by the illusion that they're just like all those people that actually do things.  I find it funny to see images of skateboarders when he's talking about "risk-takers" as if half of those listening wouldn't simply kill themselves before they succeeded in such a job.  Do they have the potential to do it?  Certainly, but you don't need a video to tell you that if you're interested enough, devote enough time and energy to train, and concentrate on your objectives that you can't succeed.

    Instead, they want to paint a picture as if it's your brain's fault (interesting argument if you believe in "free will") that is holding you back.  Of course, right behind that thought is the implicit idea that it is your education, your experience, your parents, etc. that are actually to blame for producing the person you are today.

    Needless to say, that such movements are a waste of time and intended to simply make piles of money for the founders of such movements by people that can't figure out for themselves that they must put forth some effort on their own to accomplish anything.

    Now, before that gets all twisted into an endorsement of "free will", I want to be clear that none of this requires a "free will".  Our brain is a phenomenal organ that is capable of absorbing all manner of information, which can be categorized according to our beliefs and reviewed for other interpretations.  However, it is our brain that does this and not some mystical external agent.  The more information we feed into our brain, the higher the quality of the results that it can produce.  Garbage in, garbage out.  That applies equally to our brain.

    The interesting part of the "free will" argument is that people believe that they require such "freedom" from themselves in order to make decisions, and yet nothing could be further from the truth.  We make decisions and choices based on the information we have already stored and evaluated.  So, as I indicated, the quality of those decisions is based on the quality of information that we have provided for our brains.  No "free will" is necessary, especially since no one seems to be able to define what they think it should be "free" from.

    You cannot "will" yourself out of mental disorders or damage.  That's a dangerous suggestion.  The idea of therapy is that you can potentially learn enough and introduce enough new information into your brain so that you can begin to "heal" yourself.  Once again, the point is that the information must be introduced before it can be acted on.

    Indoctrination is simply lazy thinking.  People that don't want to bother to use their brains, and simply accept whatever information they are given and integrate it into their belief systems or worldview. 

    Our brain has the ability to work with and analyze the data it has been provided with.  It can even contemplate itself, but it cannot act beyond itself.  Whatever your brain does cannot be overridden by the brain.  Therefore if you want to change, you must ensure that adequate information is provided for that change to be realized.  Without it ... you're simply a hamster on a spinning wheel.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Instead, they want to paint a picture as if it's your brain's fault (interesting argument if you believe in "free will") that is holding you back. Of course, right behind that thought is the implicit idea that it is your education, your experience, your parents, etc. that are actually to blame for producing the person you are today.
    Actually they blame a part of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex for being the Gestapo-like fascist controller of the rest of the brain, which I think is an interesting concept. This is an area of the brain that they claim is being conditioned and possibly indoctrinated from birth by societal environmental and life experiences.

    What they also seem to be suggesting is that drugs and 'wayseers' can show themselves and other people how to fight this internal Gestapo-like control and indoctrination, to then free themselves and their life force from these constraints allowing them to see 'the way'.

    This fits in quite nicely with the similar notion of meditation cleansing and freeing the mind from conditioned, intrusive thoughts and mental and physical constraints allowing yogis and yoginis to also achieve total enlightenment and to see their way. Is 'enlightenment' or 'the way'  really just another way of describing the 'free will' of the life force once it has been released from the effects of these brain conditioned, earthly constraints and control? Was the life force of Mike the headless chicken experiencing true enlightenment and free will, so it decided to stay?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...free themselves and their life force from these constraints allowing them to see 'the way'.
    That's the problem.  It is ludicrous because it suggests that the brain is somehow preventing you from living your natural life, and then proceeds to the ultimate absurdity by suggesting that there is a particular "way" that is to be followed.  What makes this so silly is that, by implication, anything not on "the way" must be definition, be moving astray.

    I personally don't trust anyone that purports to tell me that they "KNOW" something special and if I send them money, they'll be willing to share it with me.  It's a con and they can dress it up all they like, but in the end it comes down to the same thing.  You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard's determinism is retrospective rather than forward looking. Things may be cause to happen, but many potential causes do not result in a happening.

    The universe is not able to contain enough bits of data to make everything deterministic in the forward looking direction either internally or externally. Many essential things are deterministic. A lot of other things are not.

    On a small scale decoherence marks the end of determinism, and you can call it what ever you like.

    Shakespeare had words for it.

    Gerhard Adam
    On a small scale decoherence marks the end of determinism, and you can call it what ever you like.
    Are you suggesting that the "choices" that everyone seems to think mark "free will" aren't deterministic?  Would that mean that a choice may be made without a cause for it?   If such processes aren't deterministic, then how would you characterize them?
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    Gerhard, in response to my post you wrote: "It seems that the only rationale someone can provide to argue for "free will" is to introduce external mechanisms. " Gerhard, where did I introduce additional parameters, inside or outside? Where? I explicitly stated that there are fewer parts, even entire gears being left out from what you are imagining. I am doing the very opposite of introducing epicycles. So why the twisting on your part? You completely made up your misinterpretation of my post. I take your 180-spin of my words as evidence of your free will operating regardless of your denial of its existence. You can't fool Mother Nature. There is a looseness in Her that I am happy to explain more. You evaded the following question. Do you feel that there is a reason for everything? Here is another way of putting it: Do you feel that a "standard model" for particle physics will ultimately be able to derive the existence of every particle, flavor, quirk and mass from first causes? ~ sorry for the brevity, need to tend to chores ~
    Gerhard Adam
    You're doing the same thing as everyone else.  Where they introduce external agents, you're attempting to argue that it is some "gap" that allows for free will.  None of this explains anything, except as a speculative exercise in trying to explain the illusion.

    What evidence do you have that everything you've said isn't simply the illusion of your brain attempting to cling to an idea you've adopted earlier in life?

    Your concept of a looseness, only adds indeterminacy or randomness,  neither of which are characteristics that people would associate with "free will". 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Are you suggesting that the "choices" that everyone seems to think mark "free will" aren't deterministic? Would that mean that a choice may be made without a cause for it?

    After a choice is made, a cause for it is usually found or created.

    By determinism I mean the clasical physics definition. It says that knowledge about the state of a system and the dynamics of the system can predict a future state of the system unless additional factors are encountered.

    In decision making on a human scale additional factors are continually beoing encountered. so there is no expectation that a predictable result would occur every time. Some times it does occur, but not always.

    I don't regard free will as the necessary result of decohehence. On the contrary I regard free will to be an opportunity that occurs because of decoherence and the break down of classical determinism in the physical world.

    Electrons are on the border between determinism and non deterministic events. Electrons hold our bodies together and transmit all of our thoughts and impulses, so there is no way to say that any biological system is completely deterministic. The physical evidence of microstates suggests that we are made of a blending of deterministic and indeterminate factors.

    This debate has occurred before about every 500 hundred years.

    Determinism prevailed in the dark ages and ended with the Renaissance when Shakespeare and others pointed out that people are held responsible for actions even if they feel powerless and the witches foretold it.

    Gerhard Adam
    Here's a question:

    Early scientific investigation was conducted on the basis of building a logical argument and it was deemed sufficient to reach conclusions about how the world worked.  Centuries later it was determined that we needed something more and the scientific method was developed to help that process along.

    So, why do we need a scientific method?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    For those that support the idea that the brain isn't the center of control, perhaps you'd care to explain this particular case example from Oliver Sacks?
    http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/proj/res_meth/rmvl/case_psych.html

    Also, perhaps you might explain the symptoms associated with Korsakoff's syndrome.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korsakoff%27s_syndrome

    Especially in the first instance, it would be hard to consider "free will" when the patient cannot even recognize his own age.
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    Can you play Gerhard, with the possibility that the entire universe has free will? Could that free-will trickle down to us mortals. Remember, I am not considering free-will as an added ingredient, instead I am treating it as a consequence of there being fewer ingredients than your no-free-will model would require. Here is a grand question posed by Einstein to which I would like to hear Gerhard’s response: “What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world.” What I am doing Gerhard is allowing for meaningful choices. They are not based on randomness and free-parameters alone. One needs also the structure of our bodies, brains, memory, feelings ... all of that ... to turn this looseness into a meaningful exercise of free-will. Beats me why you would discount that or require me to state it. Don't let the "trickle-down" phrase blind you. I could more accurately have said "side-ways", yet it would not have been as funny. If you don't like the semantics in Einstein's query, and I am sure you do not, then you can try again to address the question I already posed: Do you feel that a "standard model" for particle physics will ultimately be able to derive the existence of every particle, flavor, quirk and mass from first causes? Or try it this way, "Do you think there can actually be a Theory of Everything? Do unresolvable choices get in the way of such ambitious programs?
    Gerhard Adam

    “What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world.”
    That would be the ultimate argument for no "free will".
    Can you play Gerhard, with the possibility that the entire universe has free will?
    Once again, that really doesn't make any sense, because if one of the objectives of cosmology is to explain the "big bang" and before, then it would also be arguing for completely determinacy in the creation of the universe.
    Do you think there can actually be a Theory of Everything?
    Yes, but confirming it could be a problem.  This is sort of the difficulty when many explanations in physics, where they can be made to work mathematically but there's no particularly compelling reason to consider that they're actually true.  However, as additional experimental data comes to light, then presumably this would provide additional information with which some of these ideas and theories could have some basis for verification.
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    Lot to pick and choose from here and to critique … Let’s go back a bit and revisit this one: According to Gerhard: “No "free will" is necessary, especially since no one seems to be able to define what they think it should be "free" from.” As a "no one", I’d say that people wish to be free from tyranny and totalitarianism. So instead of wasting your time Gerhard with the nobodies here, why not enlighten the freedom seekers in the Middle East to the fact that they are chasing an illusion. Tell the Western governments meddling in their affairs to stop worrying about the dictators and monarchs set on the map by fiat. Gaddafi’s freedom destroying powers are a mirage. A despot can’t take away freedoms that people don’t actually have. Call it what it is, even if it is a dirty word. The “freedom” fighters are régime changers. They seek a change in their conditioning. Any cry for "Freedom" is a vain hope, a will-‘o-the-wisp. Get real.
    Gerhard Adam
    As a "no one", I’d say that people wish to be free from tyranny and totalitarianism.
    You're joking, right?  If you're not, then this could be the evidence to suggest that the brain really does produce arbitrary and random thoughts.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "So, why do we need a scientific method?"

    Early methods of logical deduction produced some interesting ideas about science, but the scientific method is needed with experimental data to decide between competing conclusions. Theoretical physics has gotten rather far removed from experimental proof with competing theories claiming validity from mathematical consistency. Mathematics is established by logical deduction, so that part of science does appear to be reverting to the original Greek view of science.

    Fortunately not everyone accepts concliusions in the absence of data, so we get a type of balance by visiting several web pages.

    Johannes always writes the best articles. On this page I believe Gerhard contributed a lot to the understanding of the topic, getting the opoinions more clearly defined. There seems to be a firm theoretical basis for free will and expermental data to support it. In fact without the many volumes of experimental data on microstates, the argument from Seeker T could not be made at all. So at least one person in the discussion really needs the scientific method. Without it all we would have is a argument and some opinions.

    "Especially in the first instance, it would be hard to consider "free will" when the patient cannot even recognize his own age."

    Mental incompetence has long been treated as an exception to the responsibility for actions.

    Gerhard's examples show that not everyone has free will at least not at the level of competency that readers might prefer.

    The data bit counting method of Seeker T doesn't require that everyone be perfectly endowed with free will from the moment of birth utill end of life. A lot of old people have lost track of age, but in retrurn they sometimes get remarkably good memory of long past events.

    Free will is a capacity we can develop from potentials that become available to us in the physical world. It is an accomplishment not a guarantee. The scientific method places measurable limitations on the cosmos, without which logical deduction could not answer the question about free will.

    Gerhard's question was a very good one at this point in the discussion.

    In previous centuries, the argument was decided by force of arms to reinforce opinions and arguments. This is the first time period that can have a resolution from the scientific method.

    Gerhard Adam
    Mental incompetence has long been treated as an exception to the responsibility for actions.
    I want to be clear in this example, that the individual is not incompetent and suffers from no defect greater than simply having no ability to store recent memories.  As a result, their behavior is completely normal and fully cognizant of everything they do, except that it occurs from the perspective of a 20 year old memory.

    There are numerous other cases like this, where short term memory has been compromised, but I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with respect to these individual's competence.
    Mundus vult decipi
    A theory of everything presumes that our society is close to knowing everything and lacks onl a stroke of genius to put it all together.

    I don't share that opinion. It seem sto reoccur from time to time most often just before a series of fundamental break throughs that make the previous opinions silly.

    There is a potential to move forward with some fundamental discoveries. I guess the best chance is in the 100 year star ship that is discussed on other pages.

    blue-green
    "100 year star ship" .... you have got to be kidding. Have you calculated the radiation its occupants would endure ..... ? > \/ < Here’s another gem from Gerhard to examine: “if one of the objectives of cosmology is to explain the "big bang" and before, then it would also be arguing for completely determinacy in the creation of the universe.” What is that even supposed to mean? It is obviously an objective of cosmology to at least shed some light on the nature of big bangs. Shedding some light is not the same as giving a complete explanation. The light that has been shed has given little indication that singularities are “completely deterministic”. In fact, they create HORIZONS which create unpredictability …. and according to some thermodynamic arguments … dark energy. This slipping of matter over horizons is one of the sources of the “gaps” or holes in my argument that Gerhard finds to be so annoying and unscientific. In the sixties, particle physics was a mess with way too many particles to “explain”. In the seventies and eighties, the theory of quarks and gluons seemed to have cleaned up the mess a fair amount, and yet, there were still plenty of unresolved issues and free-parameters. String Theory, Grand Unified Theories, Super Symmetry and fancy algebraic groups like E8 …. all of this mathematics is interesting ... IF you can grasp it or catch some light from it … yet no full explanations are forthcoming. With the Large Hadron collider now engineering collisions at 7 Tev and proton to proton interaction rates of 19 million per second (per Tommaso’s calculation), what we are getting is mountains of raw data, and a some light (a Luminosity rating of L = 2.4E32 cm^-2 s^-1), yet no complete explanations. A few more details will be resolved … while plenty more questions are raised. Without free-will, the scientific method would not even be possible, because without it, one could not EXPERIMENT !!! One could not hold certain variables constant while freely changing one or two other ones. The partial differential equations at the heart of mathematical physics completely depend on this ability to freely experiment, that is, to modify certain variables while leaving the rest constant. Without free-will, the ability to do CONTROLLED experiments would be an illusion.
    Gerhard Adam
    Without free-will, the scientific method would not even be possible, because without it, one could not EXPERIMENT
    Why would you insist on that as a result?  All manner of life performs "experiments" when it comes to solving problems, so there is absolutely no prohibition on one's abilities to explore different outcomes or to be analytical.

    In fact, for your experiment to be possible requires "determinism" and not "freedom" (although this would be a stretch when applied outside the "will" as we're discussing).  The more you emphasize freedom, the more you undercut the very ability you claim it provides; i.e. the ability to experiment and explore.  Nothing could be further from the truth, because all experimental data depends on the ability to predict, which means we must have a world that operates primarily in a deterministic manner, so that specific causes can be linked with specific effects.  Anything else is simply chaos.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "100 Year Starship"

    Blue-Green, the starship described here is long and cylindrical with large water tanks shielding the passengers and crew from radiation. That's why Jerry told Helen on another page that none of the disk shapes have enough radiation shielding to approach light speed.

    Free will in this context seems only to apply to old retired scientists who are no longer under the academic censorship of right speak. One such person is Halton C. Arp - www.haltonarp.com - giving very different opinions in retirement years than the standard models that were dictated during his professional career.

    Maybe free will does not operate everywhere for everyone all the time. For most people there is some degree of freedom within limits part of the time. The history of science describes occasional testing of limits and the consequences for those who do not conform to the prevailing opinions.

    This discussion of free will is a test for one of the limits.

    In public media star travel is largely discounted as too difficult. On the other hand in secret the government runs something called the Advanced Deep Space Transport Group. It doesn’t publish anything and doesn't even have a web site. A few of the members have been identified, mostly people who exercise free will in private when it isn't allowed in public.

    blue-green
    For animals that have NOT capitalized on the OPPORTUNITY for free will, testing and exploration can be lethal. Not many people would confuse experimentation by plants and insects with that by individual  scientist. For cats and humans, testing need not be a sacrificial or an evolutionary dead end. If cats have nine lives, scientists have nine thousand, many of which are consumed during childhood, teenhood, college and the post doc doldrums. They persevere, reproduce and publish with abandon. Anyone care to predict what will be the significant science articles published in 2011? What makes the scientific method work is the ability to REPLICATE experiments, regardless of person, place, time or orientation. The method is concerned with PROPERTIES that are INDEPENDENT of causal specifics. It uses only a portion of what is determined ... in a word ... symmetries ... not determinism.
    blue-green
    Gerhard’s emphasis on determinism has a quaint antiquarian ring to it. The number of applications where scientists use a purely deterministic approach is small and getting smaller. Yes, first year students in physics are taught how to do ballistics, yet in today’s armed forces, it is microprocessors (programmed up to the last split-second) that rule and make small and sometimes large corrections away from what the initial conditions originally dictated. According to Johannes countryman Eric Verlinde, Newton’s venerable F=ma formula, the very hallmark for determinism, can be derived from more fundamental thermodynamic considerations concerning information hidden by horizons and information gradients across equipotent surfaces. Is simple determinism used in medicine? No. Engineering? No. One instead works with general PROPERTIES and risk management … The more sophisticated and realistic an application, the less likely is one to find deterministic calculations being used in tackling its problems. Determinism has gone the way of Calvinism and astrology. Is determinism a sufficient tool for natural resource management? No. Waste management? No Education? No. Politics? No. Marketing? No. Military strategy? No. Foreign affairs? No. Local affairs? No. Financial planning? No. In what types of planning is determinism and its highfalutin predictive powers used? Next to none. I’ll grant that it a useful science for archers.
    Gerhard Adam
    ... microprocessors (programmed up to the last split-second) that rule and make small and sometimes large corrections away from what the initial conditions originally dictated.
    What's the point?  According to you there's no predictive quality at work any longer, so nothing can be determined by calculation.
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    There you go again Gerhard with your all or nothing assumptions. Gray is not an evil color. I didn’t say ‘there's no predictive quality at work any longer”. It is more like when you are driving your car … for short increments there is a simple vector to predict where you will be next … for longer increments, you are making guidance corrections for which predictability rapidly breaks down …. Sometimes I think we quibble over details while letting the more important points get buried. The following is worth bringing back to the top …. What makes the scientific method work is the ability to REPLICATE experiments, regardless of person, place, time or orientation. The method is concerned with PROPERTIES that are INDEPENDENT of causal specifics. It uses only a portion of what is determined ... in a word ... symmetries ... not determinism. The point is that we really need to stop this over use of "determinism". It does not play a large rôle in science and its applications. It has to be supplemented by other methods of a very different flavor. The truth lies in the middle.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I totally agree bluish-green (joke), shades of gray are so very important but unfortunately they bring with them complexity, its so much easier for people to see everything as simply black or white, even though perfect black and white don't even exist as true colors, they are also just mixtures or shades of other colors or alternatively a complete absence of color. I agree that by taking an all or nothing approach discussing many subjects and also by quibbling over details, quite often more important points do get buried. Am I even doing it now?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    OK ... I'm all ears.  Please explain how determinism can be discussed within the context of "shades of grey"?

    What is this alternative approach?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    OK ... I'm all ears.  Please explain how determinism can be discussed within the context of "shades of grey"? What is this alternative approach?
    Gerhard, well first of all if you really were 'all ears' you would look like this :-



    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    That's a pretty deterministic thing to say.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    OK, but in reality the ears in the photo are not your ears so therefore that is not a picture of you when you are 'all ears', it is a picture of roughly what you would look like if you were 'all ears'. So it is a shade of gray picture. I found this argument for determinism from cause and effect premise also interesting in that it tries to argue a black or white outcome for what is really still just more shades of gray :-
    Premise 1) All Effects are either Caused or not Caused.
    Premise 2) An Effect which is not Caused is necessarily random, as it does not owe any of its qualities to any other process or event.
    Premise 3) An Effect which is Caused is necessarily the only possible Effect that could have resulted from its Cause.
    Conclusion) Therefore every movement of every particle, every decision made, and every other Effect was either the inevitable result of the starting conditions of the universe or its causal chain, or was a random uncaused event which bears no relation to anyone’s intention, or to anything else.

    I think that the conclusion demonstrates shades of gray and not just the black or white conclusion that it is arguing, because every movement of every particle, every decision made, and every other effect was either the inevitable result of the starting conditions of the universe or its causal chain (black) or what I've been calling the 'life force' or energy, or it was a random uncaused event which bears no relation to anyone's intention ie the brain's intention or to anything else (white).

    If this is correct, then I think that there is inevitably a third type of event which is the combined effect of these two possible types of events accidentally interacting with each other throughout the universe and throughout time, which must occasionally occur and if the universe or multiverse is infinite then these events must then occur infinitely. These interactive events are examples of infinite shades of gray events lying between the black and white events within the causes and effects of determinism.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Dress it up however you like, but it's either deterministic or is indeterminant.  Your "gray" is nothing more than randomness or indeterminancy.  There is no other variation.  You can toss in words like "accident" and interactions all day long, but they either have a direct causal relationship or they don't. 

    You can certainly claim that the result is unknown, but that ultimately tells you nothing. 
    ...it was a random uncaused event which bears no relation to anyone's intention...
    I don't think you want to introduce randomness into a discussion about "free will".
    ...two possible types of events accidentally interacting with each other...
    What does that mean?  It's either causal or it's random (or indeterminant).  There is no such thing as an "accident" as a description of processes.

    To argue that all events are causally related to the origins of the universe aren't relevant, since we aren't tracing events that far back.  In other words, the history of the atoms that make up my body aren't relevant except as they relate to my existence.  What they were doing before that point in time has no bearing on anything to do with me.  Therefore there doesn't have to be a causal chain back to the "big bang".   Equally determinism isn't the same thing as "pre-determined".

    The point is that we already know from quantum physics that at the sub-atomic level events do not operate in a deterministic manner, but it would be erroneous to extrapolate that conclusion to the behavior of baseballs or billiard balls.  They certainly do behave in a deterministic fashion regardless of what the individual particles may do. 

    More to the point, the argument against "free will" has never been that processes occur randomly or with probabilistic outcomes.  Instead "free will" argues for the most specific types of determinism since it unequivocally depends on being able to direct an outcome, even at the point of being able to override the underlying biological mechanisms that control the brain.  It doesn't get any more deterministic than that.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The point is that we already know from quantum physics that at the sub-atomic level events do not operate in a deterministic manner, but it would be erroneous to extrapolate that conclusion to the behavior of baseballs or billiard balls.  They certainly do behave in a deterministic fashion regardless of what the individual particles may do. 
    I rest my case, baseballs and billiard balls are made up of quantum molecules which do not behave in a deterministic manner, they cannot be completely independent of their own molecules therefore they are also indeterminate shades of gray determinism. This is just one example of the inevitable interactions that occur between deterministic and indeterministic effects throughout an infinite universe and within infinite time.

    You are right, I should have said inevitable not 'accidental' in my previous post. Things might appear on the surface to be black or white but they are always shades of grey as there is no such thing as pure black or pure white in the universe. Every molecule and effect has a connection with every other molecule and effect in the universe and there is no such thing as complete nothing because if there was the universe would not exist, because that is the only truly complete nothing.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    If you say so....
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Oh dear i hope i haven't 'broken your spirit with my intellectual wranglings' again, I'll have Hank after me. I know, you are just a gentleman or alternatively you think I'm too stupid or obtuse to continue discussing this subject with, or maybe it is shades of gray between them all?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Helen, think about this for a moment.  For centuries (even millennia), people assumed that the universe was completely deterministic, to the point of arguing that if someone knew the position of every particle at the origin, then everything could be determined from that point.

    Why do you suppose that was?

    The short answer, is because everything that was observed and measured behaved in a completely deterministic way and no matter what experiments were done, they always came out that way.

    Suddenly we have quantum mechanics enter the scene and it throw physics a curve ball because suddenly we discover that at the subatomic level things aren't deterministic, but more importantly we discover that there are even limits to what we can know, so it would be impossible to establish the most basic criteria for knowing everything about the universe.

    However, what is important here is that the rest of the universe didn't suddenly become indeterministic.  It behaves as it always has, which is completely deterministic at the everyday level of experience.  Billiard balls and baseballs are NOT subject to measurable quantum effects and consequently Newton's laws operate just fine.  Chemistry still works, physics works, biology works.  Every one of these sciences still works whether or not quantum mechanics exists.

    So when we're talking about macro objects (even such as nerve cells), we aren't talking about quantum effects with respect to their operation.  When we stimulate a nerve cell, we expect and get the same stimulus response that we've always gotten.  We see the same chemical reactions and interactions that we've always seen.  In effect, at the operational level of the cells, there is nothing that indicates that the quantum world even exists.

    More to the point, the only effect that the quantum world adds is the fact that events are "unknowable" in the absolute sense and can occur randomly.  This indeterminism is exactly counter to what we need and expect for "free will" to exist in the brain.  We aren't looking for unknown causes or effects.  We're looking for precisely controlled causes and effects.  So quantum mechanics can't come to the rescue in establishing the existence of "free will". 

    So, we're back where we started, with a brain that is self-contained (i.e. nothing is in it that isn't put in it, and no external sources of data or control).  Therefore if the brain chemistry behaves in a predictable fashion (which it does according to drugs) and the nerves behave in a predictable fashion (according to MRIs, etc.), then we must conclude that our brain operates in a deterministic fashion.  Nothing that comes out of the brain occurs without a cause.  So if the brain is deterministic, then we are back at the original question which is ... what is "free will" supposed to "free" us from, and what is the basis by which the brain is supposed to be capable of overriding itself.  Where or what is the controlling agent that is supposed to represent "free will".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    ...we are back at the original question which is ... what is "free will" supposed to "free" us from, and what is the basis by which the brain is supposed to be capable of overriding itself.  Where or what is the controlling agent that is supposed to represent "free will".
    Gerhard, I did think about it for a moment, and I can see what you are saying but can you see what I am saying? Even a brain has got cosmic rays and neutrinos and god knows how many unknown particles passing through it all of the time, causing unknown and undetermined effects.

    Yes, the brain is a highly functioning organ which is an accumulation of everything that has been put into it, and there are many factors affecting its functioning, diet, genetics, hormones, blood supply, gravity, minerals, vitamins, nutrients, drugs, toxins, neural input, energy flow, temperature, conditioning and life experiences, so obviously 'free will' as you perceive it cannot exist in the brain in an indeterminate fashion.

    However, I do believe that it is possible that an energy like the life force, can enter and leave the brain and/or body, probably from my experiences through the Ajana or third eye chakra, at its own 'free will', but there is no way of proving this without doing Gestapo-like experiments on dying people, meditating yogis and/or yoginis, brain damaged and drugged people and astral projectionists.

    In order for this life force to enter or leave voluntarily the brain probably has to voluntarily or even involuntarily switch off the thoughts being generated by the parts of the brain that have been determined by all these cumulative factors, which opens it to the 'free will' of the energy force, usually by meditating, taking drugs, becoming brain damaged or dying.

    This is probably the closest that any brain can get to experiencing 'free will', as either enlightenment, astral projection, brain damage or even death. To me, it also explains 'near-death' experiences and primal reflexes. So I do agree with you that there is probably no such thing as true 'free will' in the normal, conscious fully functioning brain. Maybe what I have been describing is 'free will' in a brain that is free of will, or at least free from interfering thoughts?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Even a brain has got cosmic rays and neutrinos and god knows how many unknown particles passing through it all of the time, causing unknown and undetermined effects.
    None of that is relevant, since it can only result in random or unknown results.  This is not what we experience, so regardless of whatever effect it may have, it is not a component of anything we would consider "free will".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I'm not trying to say that it is, I'm agreeing with you OK?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch
    Gerhard, well first of all if you really were 'all ears' you would look like this :-     .......



    Courtesy: http://www.kaitaia.com

    Aitch
    Aitch
    ... in a word ... symmetries ... not determinism. The point is that we really need to stop this over use of "determinism". It does not play a large rôle in science and its applications. It has to be supplemented by other methods of a very different flavor. The truth lies in the middle.
    Symmetries - Sounds remarkably like Nature's 'balance' ?
    I think in terms of pattern recognition....and very often you see something like a+b=c+d, where 'the different flavors' can even be obtained by different experiments in different pots, but combine to make 'an omelette' ;-)

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    You're just playing semantics games.  Everything you're describing, including one's ability to replicate an experiment is explicitly based on determinism.  For some reason you think that determinism must equal universally so that for me to predict a particular outcome, I have to do so for the entire universe.

    The alternative to determinism is that things are indeterminate.  There is no middle ground.
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    Determinism itself comes in many shades, so if we are going to make a book out of this corner of the Internet, we had best have Gerhard state as clearly as possible just which flavor of determinism he is using. Below are 4 flavors among the rainbow of possibilities. #1: Laplacian Determinism. This is classical determinism whereby with well-posed boundary conditions and a set of differential equations, every intermediate state is determined. #2: Quantum Mechanical Determinism aka Unitary Evolution. Here the states or “kets” are a different animal from those of classical physics. The initial conditions are also of a different order. #3: Cookbook Determinism. Follow the recipe exactly and the end result will be as predicted. Here we are working with PROPERTIES. #4: Thermodynamic Determinism. Here we work with entropy gradients. The more pronounced the gradients, the surer we can be as to what the progression of states might be. Entire books have been written to spell out more carefully what each of the above entails ... and continue to be written ... because many subtleties are involved.
    Gerhard Adam
    No different than what you're requiring.  Since "free will" requires that if I decide "X" then "X" happens, it doesn't get any more deterministic than that.  Although it appears that you're trying to deny that anything deterministic happens within the brain, even though you require it for your idea of "free will".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerard wrote "The alternative to determinism is that things are indeterminate. There is no middle ground"

    Sophie's Choice: I am forced to decide between the life of my son or daughter. If I do not make the choice, they will both be killed. I am forced to act in a way that goes against my desire as a parent, yet I must decide. How do I decide? What experience in my life could possibly have prepared me for this terrible moment?

    Jump or not: I am deeply depressed and am standing on Golden Gate, my pain in unbearable, there is no hope or meaning to my existence. I can end the pain by jumping to my death or decide to give it one more day, one more chance, possbily I'm mistaken. What do I do? If I jump, it will be last decision I make on this earth, If I wait one more day, there is hope, but I feel no hope, only uncertainty and yet I'm desperately looking for certainty. What do I base my decision on, what experience in my life has prepared me for this moment?

    Examples of choices, terrible choices clearly , but they demonstrate a quality inherent in my experience of making decisions, in that they are my decisions and not someone else's and they seem to be awash in middle ground, uncertainty, self doubt and no clarity about what the decision is, that is, until I make the decision. My life experience may "inform" me of the choices, the pros and cons, the emotional content of A or B or C, but will say nothing about the moment of decision. That is mine and only mine.

    Gerhard Adam
    Nobody's arguing that they aren't your choices, but who are "YOU" if not the product of your brain.  Therefore it is your brain that is deciding, so what part of your brain is capable of overriding your brain's actions in making these choices?

    That's what "free will" represents.  Without it, we can acknowledge that we are a product of everything that's been put into our brains from childbirth on.  Therefore whatever choices we make are equally a part of that process, however there is no "extra" agency that can override what our brain determines.  Choices are only those elements that already exist within your brain.  There's nothing extra involved.  Therefore it can be completely deterministic and still have sufficient room to make choices based on the data we already possess.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Nobody's arguing that they aren't your choices, but who are "YOU" if not the product of your brain. Therefore it is your brain that is deciding, so what part of your brain is capable of overriding your brain's actions in making these choices?
    That's what "free will" represents.....
    I disagree with your representation

    That's where you're arguing illogically!
    Why so fixated on the brain?....a whole person is not just a brain, and it is nonsense to suggest a part of a brain is over-riding the [whole] brain, just as it is nonsense to suggest the brain is the person, the 'who', or, that the brain makes the choice
    The free will is the choice, and it is spontaneity personified, not some materialistic 'being'
    I've said before, there are multiple paths to a human which are part reflex, part 'old geezer'/stone age [embedded] man, the human survival instinct, the lover, the natural being, humour, adventure, chance, fear, old tired images, unknowns, ......and many more....all manner of things which flash through the mind, at the moment of decision affecting it....and ONE,  just one may be the path which brings about change, though more commonly, people repeat actions/choices, based on previous decisions, memories, 'shoulds' and 'shouldn'ts' that have been conditioned in.....very rarely does a choice happen in the spontaneous freshness of free will......
    Change is the key to free will, not hobson's choice of determinism or indeterminism
    .....which is probably why you know so little about it, and can't accept it, even vehemently deny other's experience of it as anecdote, or mystical .....
    nonetheless, it IS my experience of it, and I'm glad to have experience of it
    Sad that you don't, but no matter how often you pose the same wrong path for it....it remains the wrong path
    Until change is part of your decision process, what are YOU really deciding? How do you know you aren't merely following in someone else's footsteps? How do you know you actually made a decision at all? What makes the choice that is made YOURS?....and not a brain's that you occupy temporarily in just one lifetime.....are you only that shortlived? Do you know nothing of your own timeline through the ages?
    Then what is the point of life, if not to truly discover your SELF - that spiritual free will decision-maker, from the random noise of humanity, and know your dignified place amongst all that is?

    Rise above brain, and be free

    Of course, there's always the zen illustration    ;-)

    http://xkcd.com/706/

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    It is also important to recognize that the choices you presented represent irrevocable options once they've been selected.  We can't change our minds.  In Sophie's Choice, she didn't actually make the decision and, in effect, it was made for her by her reflexive actions.

    In jumping from a bridge, it will be an option that we can't undo once we're committed by having let go.  As to what you base your decision on?  In truth, you don't.  It will be determined by the state of your brain chemistry (i.e. depressed, happy).  You certainly can't argue that you're thinking clearly, so it is clear that many conditions will have been met (well beyond your control) that put you in that position in the first place.

    We like to think that we're 100% in control, but that almost never happens.
    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    Gerhard, where did I say that nothing deterministic happens within the brain?  I don’t even know what your statement means without you trying much harder to clarify what sort of determinism you are embracing. Did you say you want all flavors at once to be included in your definition of determinism? If you are going to widen it that far, and even include contradictory versions, then fine, everything is deterministic … you might as well say that everything is God’s irrevocable way. No difference. Your model of the brain is no different than a sealed box of marbles. Where in the medical profession is such a model used? In what way is your toy brain NOT like an isolated box of marbles? The billiard table model of physics is fine for teaching first year physics. In real world applications, it is almost never used (unless it's nerds dissecting sports or watching a tsunami smashing cars and houses). Where is the set of differential equations and boundary conditions for modeling your self …. or the full impact of Japan’s nuclear disaster? Who would even use F=ma to model such things? You baffle me. I know what you are trying to say, and it is not entirely wrong. The way you go about making your case however, is riddled with misstatements. Your catch-all net for determinism comes across as being little more than an insistence that nature be logical. If I probe and ask just what formal system of logic you are using, you’ll vaguely include all systems, presuming that that is even possible or logical.
    Gerhard Adam
    We're not building a model, nor are we discussing the neurophysiology of "free will".  It's simply whether there is any basis for considering where a system like the brain would acquire the "freedom" to behave differently from what it does.  It doesn't matter what the deterministic model is, it only matters whether there is a mechanism whereby a directed activity can occur that doesn't originate in the same place that is to be controlled.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Reply to Gerhard:

    Agreed, stark examples of decision making,not healthy, and depending on the decision, irreversible. But that's irrelvant I think. Equally irrelevant is the quality of the information I use (my brain you would say) to make decisions. The relevant idea is that we do make decisions. Making decisions is central to believing in "free will". If you don't believe we make decisions, you can't really accept free will - no matter where you think it exists, in the brain or where ever. I'm simply saying making a decision implies the possibility of non-causal events. I don't think you can draw a causal chain of events that get's me to the bridge and explains both why I jumped and why I didn't jump. You could certainly create two seperate causal chains that would lead to each possible outcome, but in essence you would be describing two separate events, but not a decision point. If you accept we make decisions you have to consider the possibility that decisions are not simply the progression of a program, but describe the ability to stop and redirect that program toward a - not predetermined - new goal.

    Gerhard Adam
    Certainly we make choices, and equally those choices are not predetermined (as in a distance future).  However, whatever choices we make must already be available within our brains.  We, obviously, cannot choose something of which we are unaware.  Secondly, what we are predisposed to choose will depend on our state of mind (i.e. brain chemistry, mood, etc.).  

    Ultimately the argument of "free will" is based on whether we could have chosen to act differently than we did.  In other words, whatever all the elements are that have come together for a particular choice ... "free will" argues that we could modify that outcome.  The lack of "free will" merely states that whatever all the conditions are that have come together, they will produce a determined result and there is nothing we can do to override it. 

    Bear in mind that all the conditions that come together will be a combination of our brain chemistry (mood, attitude, other influences) as well as the actual neuron activity that will articulate our thoughts.  However, if each one of these operates in a biologically deterministic manner, then how can we override that?  We can only pursue what we are already inclined to pursue anyway.  The point is that we are a constrained system that cannot operate outside the bounds of what is already in our brain.  If I am depressed I can't "will" myself to be happy.  Each possible choice is already been determined (by ourselves) as either acceptable or not.  The suicidal individual doesn't commit suicide because it's their only choice.  They commit suicide because that's already been considered as an acceptable solution to their problems.  In other words, they've already given themselves "permission" to make that a viable choice.   Therefore when choosing from column "A" or "B" or "C", then it has as much likelihood as coming up as any other choice. 

    Consider it like this.  Which comes first ... my brain chemistry telling me I'm depressed or the depression (or happiness or sadness, etc.)?  If the latter, then where does it come from if it isn't already in the brain?  If the former, then how can I override it (note that I can choose to ignore it or downplay it, but I can't "make it not there")?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well Gerhard, even within your highly constrained model of human decision making, you still need to choose between the selection of predisposed solutions. You seem to be suggesting a random "wheel of fortunate" process, at least here you do, is this correct? "Therefore when choosing from column "A" or "B" or "C", then it has as much likelihood as coming up as any other choice." How do you see this working? I get to a point where a decision is needed then what?. Let's take something more mundane like deciding which sandwhich to have for lunch: California Club or Cucumber Hummus. I'm conscious of thinking through the pros and cons, then I decide to go with the Cal Club, no wait, maybe the Cucumber woud hit the spot, oh heck, I had the Cal Club yesterday it tasted good I'll have it again, or, nah, I want something different today and go with the Cucumber Hummus, or no wait, I love avocado, so rich and creamy.....this could go on for some time, but there are people in line and I have to make a choice. I get both. I'll eat one now and the other for dinner.

    Gerhard Adam
    That's fine and in the end, you'll have a reason for your choice, and that will have established the "cause" for the resulting "effect".   The point is that it is all completely predictable within the constraints of your choices and no act of "will" is required. 

    When I used the example of column "A" or "B" or "C", I didn't mean that the choice was random, but rather that it was constrained by the options that already existed in our minds.  Our state of mind would determine which choice was the most suitable, but choices don't require an act of "will". 
    ...even within your highly constrained model of human decision making...
    What's highly constrained?  You cannot make choices you're not aware of.  Therefore if you're aware of them, then they represent the limit (or constraint) of what your options are. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    So my definition of you model: Highly constrained because you limit the agent and possible choices to the given brain state. You model isn't really a decision model, but a model of a program running to it's conclusion. You then also assert that it is all completely predictable, as if it is self evident, but you show no mechanism that would demonstrate the complete predictability. On the other hand, Johannes makes a pretty good case for it being not completely predictable and possibly because of that, indistinguishable from "free will", and maybe rendering the whole question meaningless because the whole program is still running.

    You also assume a causal chain after the fact, but you can't really show all the steps in the chain either, you just expect there to be one based on the assumption that there must be a causal chain. But you do so only because you have already decided that everything that is relevant to the answer can be found in the "brain" organ.

    It is difficult to "square" your model with the actual decision making experience, which says that under the same circumstances I could have decided differently. The phenomeon we are trying to model is the experience. The only reason we believe free will exists is because we have the experience of free will. If we didn't we would not be having this discussion. The problem with proving free will is it doesn't want to fit neatly in the causally constrained models we have built of the brain, the universe and everything. To really talk about free will, you must go over to the dark side and consider there may be more than meets the materialistic human eye. But then your stuck and can't prove it, but damn, that experience of free will and being able to define the course of ones life just won't go away.

    I guess you could say the experience is an illusion but then you could claim anything which is difficult to explain must also be an illusion, or mabye just admit that some things exist but can't be explained by us humans.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...which says that under the same circumstances I could have decided differently.
    In part that is the illusion, because it is based solely on history.  We believe we could have done something differently than we did, yet we rarely consider why we would've done something differently or if the means were truly available to us.  More precisely this raises the question of how we could've done something differently because it should be clear that we decided to pursue a particular course of action (and typically rationalized it after the fact).

    Part of the reason why I mention this is because we can see examples of precisely such behavior when we consider the effect of drugs on the system, as well as people that are being treated with drug therapies.  It is clear that we are initiating a particular cause/effect relationship and this is generally done precisely because the individual cannot simply "will" themselves to think or behave differently.  Changes are created by the therapies.  This is true even when we only deal with talking therapies, where the therapist's role is invariably to create a set of "tools" that the person can employ to try and give themselves different choices with which to respond to particular conditions.

    When we consider specific conditions such as OCD, or schizophrenia, or depression it becomes even more clear how little control we actually have over what our brain does.  While it may be difficult to consider how this works when one is healthy, it becomes easier to see that any imbalance or damage results in abnormal behaviors that are impossible to control.  This failure is another indication that something like "free will" is not present nor is there an agent that allows an individual to override these signals from the brain.

    Many of the cases from Oliver Sacks present even more interesting instances because many of these people have no difficulties in performing all manner of tasks and suffer from no mental deficiencies, and yet because of the failure of some part of their brain, they are incapable of responding properly.  In the link I provided, here's a perfect example of an individual that is perfectly normal in every respect except for their memory.  There is no evidence or indication that the person is capable of exercising something called "free will" with respect to how they interpret the world.  The brain does the interpretation while they continue to make their choices and decisions as if it were reality.

    This is precisely what happens in the case of hallucinations, where the brain indicates what reality is and no exercise of "free will" is possible to determine what is actually occurring.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It's quite possible you either do not experience "free will" or have a very different experience of it than I do. I don't think anyone can provide solid prove that I would have or would not have done something differently. I believe in the potential that I could have, because the experience of decision making has within it the property of being open ended. However, if you believe it is an illusion then so be it, it is your believe and there is no point in debating it.

    Free will, at least to me, does not equal complete control over my brain state. So, if I'm feeling sad or under the influence of a drug, I'm unlikely to be able to change that, all I could do is pretend to ignore it, deny it, or work around it, or kick back and enjoy it. But then that's not any different then, let's say, tying me up and saying, see now you can't move therefore I've shown you can be constrained to such a degree you are unable to act with total freedom. I'll grant you we are physcial beings in the physical world and that is a constraint on us. There are similar constraints on the mind (as opposed to the physcial constraints on the brain) such as unconsicous behaviours and the complex non-verbal and emotional processes that are continually running along side our conscious awareness,not to mention the communall and inherited modes of being and thinking that are encoded in our hereditary DNA. We clearly do not invent ourselves at birth, we are born with a lot of pre-existing baggage both usefull and not so usefull. But, within all those constraints we do have the ability to direct our actions, not completely but enough to make a difference. I'll admit that is my believe and rests on my experience and nothing else.

    A property of experiental phenomena, such as free will, is that they are a singular data point, revelant to the individual and perhaps to those who have similar experiences, but totally irrelevant to those who have disimilar experiences.

    Here is an experience I'll share with you. A part of me is certainly the current sum total of all the interactions of my hereditary traits and the specific historical course I have taken in my lifetime. But I have also experienced a different sense of myself, a self that is quite literally independent of this accumulated sum total life experience, a layer of myself that is underneath, independent, and permanent regardless of what experiences I have had or will have, and regardless of what choices I make or will make. Now I can't prove this to you. You either experience it or you don't. It is real however.

    Gerhard Adam
    It is real however.
    That's the dilemma isn't it.  After all, it isn't likely that you would think it wasn't real, even if it were a total illusion.  Just as the insane person or the individual hallucinating thinks what they are experiencing is real.

    However, in the final analysis the only thing we know definitively is that our brains are the sole source of information and interpretation of the world around us.  If the information is incomplete, our brains have no problem in "lying" to us to make it seem complete.  If details are missing, our brain will gladly provide them, even if they don't exist.

    So, unless there is some function, process, or "agent" that resides someplace that can operate outside of the parameters that govern our brain's behavior, I don't see how we can conclude that there is any independence there.  It's certainly very flexible, but it is constrained nonetheless and consequently it cannot be "free" to operate without those constraints.


    Mundus vult decipi
    But Gerhard, if I were to offer such an agent, you wouldn't buy it because it exists outside of the "parameters that govern our brain's behavior". I believe that I govern at least some of my behavior, does that count as an agent, the "me" part of the I? But I think you would not buy that either, because the "me" is in my brain and is constrained by the parameters that governs its behavior. So I think we are pretty much stuck here. You think I'm fooling myself and I think you are hopelessly tangled up in the set of "governing parameters" as the sine qua non of explanations.

    Gerhard Adam
    I don't have a problem with the fact that you may believe that to be the case.  What is relevant to me, is that in virtually every discussion about "free will", invariably the result is some external agent or source is required to explain what happens.  Whether that answers anyone's questions or not isn't the issue, but it helps me in understanding the phenomenon (whether you agree with my conclusions or not).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Then explain to me please what it is that is being constrained by the "parameters that govern our brain's behavior". What is the IT in your conception of the illusion of free will, which the parameters are constraining and deterministically channeling to one and only one choice? You cannot not have an agent, because if you assert the brain is constraint by it's parameters, then you are also asserting an IT is being constraint, otherwise there is nothing to constrain in the first place and no need to have a constraining function of any type. What do you think is that IT then and what is its purpose? It IT only exists to be contrained by the organ in which it is located, what's the point, we don't really need IT, because the brain is already simply doing what it does, and cannot be influenced by IT. By your own model, IT cannot possibly influence the brain because IT is constrained from doing so, then what does IT represent?

    Gerhard Adam
    In my view, the brain needs to formulate a complete picture of "reality" so that we can engage with it, regardless of how imperfect our information may be.  As a result, the brain will fill in gaps in information and form artificial constructs (i.e. like a belief system) that allow it to determine how data should be analyzed.  For example, a noise in the woods will likely trigger the idea that an animal may be nearby, rather than trying to consider every possible cause of noises (including ghosts, demons, etc.).  This provides a constraint on how information is processed, and the more knowledge and experience we acquire, the more choices we have in how that data should be interpreted.

    In addition, our brain uses an internal language component that allows us to name things and relate them contextually with our emotional experiences (i.e. feel good, bad, indifferent).  This is what also helps us identify the world around us.

    As a result our brain is perpetually filling in the gaps of the reality we experience and interpreting events as filtered through our senses to present this complete representation of the world.  The illusion of "free will" occurs because we always think that we could have (historically) acted differently than we did, which opens up the opportunity to learn for the future. 

    The appearance of making choices is based on a variety of criteria.  It could be as simple as determining whether to eat a burger or pizza.  What's the basis?  How do they make us feel?  Are we hungry?  Is this a rewarding experience or not?  Which is available?  How much money do I have?  These will all be factors that determine our choice, but it doesn't require any specific act of "will" any more than one is required for your dog to determine what it chooses to chew on.

    In more complex situations (such as you described previous), then our brain will be attempting to resolve emotional conflicts rather than intellectual ones.  For example, the ideas of suicide or love are not based on knowledge but rather our emotional connections and are directly linked our "reward/punishment" mechanisms.  Invariably it is a conflict in these areas that requires us to try and work through the difficulties and part of what makes it so hard.

    It would appear that our brain may well have a kind of "veto" power over choices, but it doesn't seem to be more than that.  This is readily demonstrated by individuals that suffer from compulsions.

    Many people have difficulty considering this because they perceive this illusion that there is some master control function (i.e. themselves) that somehow receives information from the brain and it is this master control function that is making decisions and determining actions.  However, it is fascinating to see how people with Alien Limb Syndrome have to deal with such problems because there is a clear cut case of where one portion of the brain fails to communicate with the other (vocal side) and consequently they don't recognize what this "alien" limb is doing.  This communication is necessary for the language side to identify objects and place them into context.  Failure to do so also causes the individual to be incapable of identifying objects held in their "alien" hand because the necessary communication doesn't occur.  This clearly indicates that it is our language center which is responsible for creating the illusion of "master control", because without that communication link, the body part (or external objects) are impossible to identify.

    The same thing occurs with a phenomenon like face blindness, where the individual is simply incapable of remembering the patterns that make up a face (potentially including their own).  Once again, this is a strong argument that there is no extra "agent" that is responsible for interpreting data and making decisions, but rather it is the integrated operation of a normally functioning brain that creates the "illusion" that this is occurring.

    Note that I don't mean illusion in the sense that we are being deceived, but illusion only in the sense that it appears to be one thing while it does something different.

    Mundus vult decipi
    You don't need to stipulate a requirement to have a "complete picture of reality" for us to function succesfully in the world. If anything we tend to be very fuzzy thinkers, and are happy with close enough and good enough in the majority of what we need to do to get by. In fact I would say we are specifically suited for living in a world with an incomplete picture of reality to go on.

    You also don't need a function for generating illusiory experiential phenomena to let us know "I could have done that differently, if I had to do it again", because you can get there without the illusion of "free will" by simply stipulating that we act in accordance with the current environmental constraints, and we will by force act differently if these constraints are changed. Which you actually do stipulate.

    In short, you shouldn't have to explain any of these unclear concepts to define a being that will sucessfully navigate the wiles and dangers of its environment. They are not necessary.

    The only reason you have actually try to explain them is that these phenomena do exist. But calling them illusiory is a failure of the model, not an illusion, and is no different than calling the Sun illusiory.

    Gerhard Adam
    We tend to be fuzzy thinkers because our brain creates the illusion of a complete picture.  This is precisely why we can gain experience with even a single encounter, because we are not required to analyze or assess probabilities.  Certainly we can do so in a leisurely abstraction, but it isn't a trait of how we behave.  The brain will fill in the gaps to create a complete picture, regardless of how illusory that is.  That's the point.  Our brain can't help it, and incomplete thinking is simply not allowed.  We will fill in the details and we will formulate a story, even if it is a complete fantasy.  This is exactly demonstrated by mental disorders where memory has been impacted.
    ...we will by force act differently if these constraints are changed.
    That's true, but the illusion of being able to do it differently is a necessary condition to recognize that alternative or new choices may be possible in future circumstances.  This is how we learn.  This is a direct consequence of the human ability to abstract reality.  While many animals may have the ability to solve problems, humans are unique (in my view) in being to analyze or solve problems that don't actually exist (and may not exist in the real world). 

    The point is that we do need these illusions because we are often operating outside of present day reality.  In fact, this is often a problem with people because they keep focusing on the past or the future when they need to pay attention to the present.  This is why knowing that we "could have done it different" is important, because we're the only animal (as far as I know) that can consider such a future scenario where that knowledge might be applicable again.  Neither is real.  The past is gone and the future doesn't exist.

    In my view this is what is strikingly different between humans and most animals, is because the latter may gain a particular experience, but they don't necessarily think to apply to future situations until that situation actually occurs.  Now I certainly can't "know" that for sure, but that would make sense if we don't believe animals have the ability to abstract time.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard, I dont' know what you mean by "incomplete thinking is not allowed". I'm trying to take you seriously but I can't because you throw out these assertions and beliefs willy nilly (seems to me). Take my word for it, I'm full of incomplete thinking, meaning uncertainty, and huge plot holes in my not "complete picture" of reality. I don't know what these concepts correspond to in real life (meaning my life of course). So, let me make a free choice and stop this dialog until you have defined your terms a bit more consistently. I think your theoretical model building would benefit if you allowed for the possibility that you might be wrong - because face it, you don't and I don't have the complete picture, we just have our best approximations of the moment.

    Gerhard Adam
    Your confusing abstract uncertainties with the reality of your life.  The things that you're uncertain about don't really have anything to do with the reality you're experiencing at the moment.  You are quite certain about yourself and your own history.  You know and recognize the people around you (and their history with you).  You have a complete picture of your home and other items around you.  The point here is that you aren't dependent solely on what you can directly see and experience, but all the range of things that aren't immediately available to your senses ... these form a complete world picture for you and nothing is incomplete.

    When most people consider uncertainty, it has little to do with "reality" and more to do with the future and their expectations.  It is highly unlikely that you would be sitting at a table, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper and retain any uncertainty about that "reality".

    A striking example occurs when people suffer from memory loss where they don't know their own history, or when they fail to recognize people close to them.  These situations leave gaps that their brain attempts to fill in with stories or information (whether it is real or not).  That's my point about "incomplete thinking". 

    You have a certain expectation of how the world works and how it behaves, which is a complete reality constructed by your brain.  You don't have to evaluate it every day.  In the case of Capgras delusions, the point is that the brain has constructed a complete "reality" based on the assumption that people close to you have been replaced by duplicates.  Instead of considering that such a thing is implausible at best, these people have been lead to believe (by their brain) that not only is it possible, but that this is their reality.  There is no "uncertainty" in their conjecture.  More importantly these people aren't mentally deficient in some way where you could argue that they are simply insane.  Instead, there is a breakdown in the brain chemistry that prevents the normal constructs of "reality" from occurring and as a result, this demonstrates precisely how the brain makes up stories to create our "reality".  It isn't incomplete and it isn't something that is uncertain, however it is completely wrong.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Michael
    I think you'll find Gerhard's speciality is projecting 'his model' onto other people and telling them, what they are doing/thinking or believe....which of course fit into the category of 'unknown/unknowable'...and he's invariably wrong
    I find it like arguing with a jelly, but a bit more frustrating
    No doubt he'll have an answer...though I see his next post is 'true to form' already

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    Why bother?  Go ahead and sprinkle your fairy dust and hold hands in your make-believe world.  You can believe what you like, but that still won't make it true.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Neither will your 'insistence'

    Who wants to be true anyway?,... I want to be spontaneous!

    Aitch
    Ok Gerhard, you suckered me back for one more reaction. The video links you provided are interesting, I don't have time to see them all at the moment, but I will view them because they deserve some quality time. Here is something I urge you to reflect on. On the one hand we have data points, while on the other hand we have the interpretation of what those data points mean. Without the assigning of meaning to the information, we just have meaningless events and results. In the case of your model, it's the brain which perceives and processes those data points to define what they mean. Except that for you, the brain is extremely prone to never allowing an incomplete thought (whatever that is) and,therefore, extremely prone to always needing a "complete picture of reality" (whatever that means) which leads it to fill in the missing bits with made up, reasonable sounding information, which it then assumes to be reality. I ask you, if you start out with the assumption that the product of our experience cannot be trusted, how can you ever trust the interpretation of the available data that your brain produces? If in general you can't trust your own experience, who's experience can you trust? In a sense then you too are sprinkling fairy dust in your make believe world.

    Gerhard Adam
    When you see people where that function isn't working properly, you'll see exactly that your experience ultimately CAN'T be trusted.  It is the interactions of others that can help validate what is occurring.  This is quite common such as when you see or hear something you're not sure about, you ask someone else if they also experienced it, just to ensure you aren't "imagining" it.

    In these videos, you will see people that are missing information and it is something that is both profoundly disturbing to them, and affects who they are as people.  Similarly when certain parts of the brain fail to communicate, the individual's reality is altered and they no longer interpret the world the way everyone else does.  So what should be trusted?

    You mention trusting your own experience, and yet I'm sure you've had the circumstance where you've related some event to someone and they respond by indicating that what you're describing didn't happen that way at all.  It is not an uncommon phenomenon.  It doesn't usually have much impact because it is a relatively tiny event out of millions.  Yet, if this occurred consistently, then how would you establish that YOUR reality was correct versus the individual that was challenging it?

    You take for granted that when you wake in the morning that your surroundings and the people in your life will be known to you and that your concept of a personal history will be intact.  Imagine now that you experienced retrograde amnesia so that the last 20 years of your life were missing.  What reality do you trust?  Your own experience is irrelevant, since it is something that is retrieved from your brain (real or not).  Therefore there is no such thing as your "own experience" except to the extent that you can trust what is being presented to you (by a presumably reliable memory).

    The only point of the "incomplete thought" is that when you experience your world, there aren't gaps in it regarding your expectations.  You expect that things will behave the way they did yesterday, and that there aren't any "blank" spots in your daily experiences.  My point about separating that from abstract thoughts, is that such abstractions have little to do with our experience of reality.  I don't need to consider photons when I observe sunlight.  I don't need to understand physics to walk across the street.  I have a complete expectation of how the world will behave and how information will be presented.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    An additional thought experiment to consider:

    Suppose that you woke up in the morning and all the grass and trees were red instead of green.  What would strike you as odd is that the history of your "reality" doesn't match what you are presently seeing.  Without that history there would be no contradiction.  Now let's further assume you mention this to someone else, and they indicate that it looks the way it always did.  Now who's reality do you trust?

    Let's further assume that you determine to test whether the grass is really red instead of your perceptions being at fault, so now you run some tests and determine that it actually is reflecting red light.  What does this do to your sense of reality?  Suddenly your entire historical notion of the color of grass would be thrown into question (especially if no one else thinks it looks unusual).

    You may try a variety of explanations and tests to determine what happened, but inevitably without any additional data you'd have to conclude that your brain had been deceiving you regarding your historical understanding of grass' color.  What does that do to your experience of reality?

    This is precisely what happens to people with these injuries.  Where suddenly someone they've known for 30-40 years becomes a complete stranger to them.  Where they fail to recognize objects despite a feeling that they should know what it is.  Where a part of their body suddenly seems completely alien to them (to the point of where they want to amputate it).  These are all significant indicators that the "reality" we are so fond of, is the strictly interpreted result of the "story" our brain tells us. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    So you are buidling a model based solely on the exceptions? While it is true that sometimes I verify something I did not hear or see clearly, for the most part I have no problem with the information my brain processses. The exceptions are interesting and they do illuminate ways in which the machinery goes wrong and how we compensate successfully or not, but you are still intepreting what that actually reveals about the internal reality experienced by that person. You have to agree surel that for the most part, we all agree on grass being green, and more importantly we all agree based on our individual experience of seeing grass. Why is that fact less important to you than the exception? Surely you need to account for both and I would argue that for the most part we do not "delude" ourselves and for the most part we can trust our experience of the world and of ourselves.

    Gerhard Adam
    The point is that the exception illustrates what is taking place when things are normal.  In other words, the brain is successfully processing the sensory information and connecting it as we expect.  As a result, we have a "comfort" level that everything is quite normal.  The exceptions let us see that this sense of being "normal" is quite tenuous and depends explicitly on these things working quite together.

    Now what the exceptions strongly suggest is that there is no "external agency" that is capable of creating reality.  Instead, we find a direct correlation between an injured part of the brain and a corresponding loss of that particular "reality".

    I suspect that your difficulty is in the use of the word "delusion" or "illusion".  Yes, we all agree on many aspects of "reality" and we certainly trust our experience of the real world.  However, that doesn't make it any less a product of our brains.  What we consider normal, is that (1) there is a general consensus about what is "real", (2) our encounters (in the world) with what our brain is telling us seems to confirm this,  and (3) we don't have any reason to doubt our experience (we haven't encountered a conflict).

    My point isn't that the brain is deceiving us, but rather that the brain is a specific biological organ that is interpreting information based on sensory input.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Our brain is providing information (and interpretation of sensory input) that enables us to survive.   As a result, we cannot postulate the existence of some "higher" authority or power that can control our brain's operation, or our actions.  We can see by the exceptions, when there is a breakdown in the brain, it fails in a precise fashion (given our limited knowledge of all its functions), and consequently there is every reason to believe that it is self-contained.  In other words ... there is no mind/body dualism at work here.

    In addition, we have to be careful in what we mean by "reality", since what we experience is specifically suited to humans, but that doesn't make it "real".  We don't see other E-M radiation outside the visual spectrum because it isn't relevant to us.  So, in that sense, we aren't truly seeing "reality".  We don't see in the infrared, so is a snake's view more "real" than ours?  Of course, the question is meaningless.  However, it still points to the fact that we are getting a specifically tailored view of "reality" based solely on our senses, our brain's interpretation, and the data that is necessary for human survival.

    The exceptions don't define the model, instead they let us see what happens when "normal" breaks down.  As a result, it helps us begin to see how much we take for granted and how much we don't even pay attention to until we see it in an exception.  This forces us to take stock of what we assume and reassess whether it is actually true or not.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "I suspect that your difficulty is in the use of the word "delusion" or "illusion". Yes, we all agree on many aspects of "reality" and we certainly trust our experience of the real world. However, that doesn't make it any less a product of our brains. "

    You seem to be redoing the discussion of what Bertrand Russell already present quite eloquently in
    his chapter VII THE ULTIMATE CONSTITUENTS OF MATTER of his collection "Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays".

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25447/25447-h/25447-h.htm

    It often clears things up when you re-read the classics.

    RobvS - thanks for the reference, will read the essay just as soon as I'm done with the one on causality.

    Gerhard - we are clearly apples and oranges at this point. Even if you belief, as you say you do, that I am simply fooling myself into thinking I am free to make decision differently, you still have to deal with this actor in your system who is fooling himself or herself in this way. I don't see a need for you to have such an actor, if all you end up doing is to tie the actor up in your constraints against free will. I do not believe that physics, or any other computational mode of explanation, can adequatly hope to model what this experience of free will really is. I do understand that in most cases it leads scientists to say that it is just an illusion, because you can't arrive there on just a materialistic journey alone. I think the more realistic approach is to say, this is something which cannot be properly explained at this point, and probably can never be properly explained in a computational manner. You need to apply a different mode of explanation and understanding to talk about it in a way that reflects the veracity of the experience without having to dismiss it. Or, if you can't do that, simply exclude it from consideration.

    Gerhard Adam
    I think you misunderstand that the elimination of mind/body dualism isn't simply turning the brain into a computational model.  There's no question that the entire nervous system and emotions are an integral part of that process, which is ultimately what produces what we call the personality.  Interestingly it is this lack of integration with emotions that is the primary cause of failure to produce real progress in "artificial intelligence", because that is just a computational engine.

    This has been amply studied with strong evidence that indicates how the lack of an emotional connection produces irrational behavior and how it is the integrated functionality of the entire process which gives rise to who we are as "persons".  In fact, I would argue that it is precisely because of this emotional connection that we have a vested interest in maintaining the "illusion" that we are in control.  However, there isn't a single bit of evidence to support the idea that there is something in "control" beyond the synergy of all the attendant parts working together.  When any one of those is disrupted or destroyed, our behavior clearly becomes modified according to that portion of the brain that has been impacted.

    Given such a relationship between regions of the brain and the resultant behavior, it is hard to argue that somehow the "normal" brain is exempt from those influences and is somehow capable of rising above that operation to produce something you call "free will".  If it isn't present in those suffering such damage, then it is clear that it must either "reside" in that damaged area, or it cannot exist as a separate entity.

    For some additional information you might examine Antonio Damasio's book "Descartes Error".

    I'm not clear on why you're stuck on the idea of deception or "fooling yourself".  The brain routinely does this and you don't have a problem with it, so why in this area?  If your brain is the seat of "who you are", then why the need to have some extra component?  I'm not even sure why this should make sense.  Suppose that we found a specific portion of the brain that could arguably be called the "control center" and it was determined that this was the seat of "free will".  How would this change anything?  It would still be a part of the brain, and it would still be subject to the influence of brain chemistry and neuronal firing, in addition to the effects of damage to that area.  So what changes?

    The only way that "free will" can be manifest in the way being discussed is if it doesn't have a physical existence, which simply makes it a mystical extension of the brain.  However, that creates the problem that you have something that is non-physical somehow capable of exerting a physical influence on the brain.  At this point, it simply becomes a "ghost in the machine" argument.
    Mundus vult decipi
    My last comments did not post. I'll try one more time.

    RobvS - thanks for the link, plenty interesting, will read the suggested essay and a few others that strike my fancy. I recommend the Logicomix biography on Bertrand Russell, fascinating especially for non-math heads like me.

    Gerhard - I had posted a well considered reply to you, but as mentioned, it never showed up, so I'll paraphrase -
    Stop wasting your time with 'free will' in your model, you will never be able to adequatly account for the experience in a computational model of it. All you will be able to do is what you have in fact done, which is to dismiss it as an illusion, in your case you even argue it is a necessary illusion. Why bother?

    Gerhard Adam
    All you will be able to do is what you have in fact done, which is to dismiss it as an illusion, in your case you even argue it is a necessary illusion. Why bother?
    In my own opinion, the illusion is a byproduct of our ability to abstract into various "realities".  In other words, we can operate in the past or in the future, so our brain creates the illusion as a point of context.  In other words, all living things need a fundamental mechanism to identify themselves and we are obviously no different.  However to conceive of ourselves in an abstract "reality' we must necessarily have a means of referencing ourselves.  Consequently this "illusion" persists as a self-referential means of communication in our brains.

    This is not intended as an explanation of consciousness, but rather a simple consideration as to why we have the concept of "I" in our thoughts.  As a practical matter, this concept is rarely actually considered in normal activities, but when we are prone to thinking about it (specifically in abstractions), then it becomes clear.  In other words, it would be unusual and quite rare to imagine someone actually thinking:  "I am moving my legs.  Now I am turning my head.  Now I am balancing my body and sitting down."  In fact, it is difficult to actually think about ourselves as an agent of activity without intentionally thinking of it and specifically drawing attention to it. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    In other words, we can operate in the past or in the future, so our brain creates the illusion as a point of context. In other words, all living things need a fundamental mechanism to identify themselves and we are obviously no different. However to conceive of ourselves in an abstract "reality' we must necessarily have a means of referencing ourselves. Consequently this "illusion" persists as a self-referential means of communication in our brains.
    Good job this is only your opinion, as you don't seem to consider the 'I' Self having a reference nowness, against which to reference past and future illusions- Why is that?
    Don't you experience nowness, ....ever?
    In other words, it would be unusual and quite rare to imagine someone actually thinking: "I am moving my legs. Now I am turning my head. Now I am balancing my body and sitting down." In fact, it is difficult to actually think about ourselves as an agent of activity without intentionally thinking of it and specifically drawing attention to it.
    What WOULD be very rare would be a certain Scientist having an awareness of something, and saying to himself, "I knew that 'as an agent of activity without intentionally thinking of it and specifically drawing attention to it' ."

    In the other thread on ESP, ESP is dismissed because the brain didn't show a difference between ESP and non-ESP stimuli, and in this thread Free Will is dismissed

    Do you ever say to yourself, "Gravity sensory awareness keeps me upright" .....and yet you stay upright

    What part of the brain does this....or is there a greater sensory mechanism in the carcase/nervous system, which is my view?

    The title of the piece is 'The Gravity of Free Will' ....but the only connection repeatedly cited by you is the brain.....so, .....is your brain heavy, or more affected by gravity from having so much in it??

    The missing ingredient in this 'discussion', for me, is 'balance'

    In order to know certain things about our nature, including our perceptual nature, balance is an essential ingredient, and over-emphasing the brain, seems imbalanced, to me, and unnecessarily ignores 'the remainder of the person'

    Is there a Scientific basis for this, some unmentioned facts requiring it, or is this just personal preferential bias?

    Aitch
    MikeCrow
    In other words, it would be unusual and quite rare to imagine someone actually thinking:  "I am moving my legs.  Now I am turning my head.  Now I am balancing my body and sitting down."

    This would depend on what you're doing. These tasks are so ingrain, we no longer have to think about them.

    But doing something new like learning to ride a Motorcycle, this kind of thought is very common, and it's why we warn new riders to stay with smaller motorcycles. At speed, if you have to think about all the tasks at hand in an emergency, it's quite easy to get yourself killed. But as time progress, these actions become automatic, and you no longer have to devote much, if any thought to them.

    This is also how certain racers are described, their 'racecraft' allows them to devote their conciousness to setting up an attack on the guy in front of them, not just trying to control their vehicle at speed.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    You're missing the point.  I'm not suggesting that you don't focus on the task at hand, but rather that you don't expressly think about yourself ("I") as being the individual performing the act.  In fact, I would suggest that such a special focus is probably the first thing one would be distracted by. 

    There's no question that we can formulate strategies or deal with a variety of circumstances and tasks, but we rarely explicitly consider "ourselves" as performing those actions.  That is almost implicit in the thought process and is rarely considered in explicit terms or thoughts.
    Mundus vult decipi
    What is presented here is nothing other than a definition of 'free will' as being the same thing as unpredictability. If you define it that way, well, by definition you can't be wrong. But most people understand something different from the idea of 'free will'. It is the idea that we make choices that are not slave to fixed rules. And if this idea is at odds with physics, the conclusion can only be that free will is an illusion.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Beautifully put Anonymous.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    I seem to be stuck being able to access comments only up to 4/2, the comment counter is stuck on 307 since then, at least that's what is displayed on my version of the page. Anyone have any idea what might be going on? If so, please send me PM at m.goeller@sbcglobal.net. Thanks in advance for your help.

    The author of the article says:

    "And unpredictability is free will. What else could you want to have as basis for free will?"

    I'm afraid this is complete nonsense. Predictability (and unpredictability) has absolute nothing whatsoever to do with free will. One can predict with confidence that a poor man, on spotting a £50 note on the ground, will stoop down, pick it up, and put it in his pocket. But to say that he doesn't have free will because his behaviour is predictable is quite frankly absurd.

    It would also entail that the more you get to know someone, so that his behaviour becomes more and more predictable, then the less free will he has.

    No, free will simply means that ones consciousness is causally efficacious.

    Could we have causally efficacious free will AND determinism?

    Let's say I (the rational, thinking, conscious "I") have a decision to make. I gather evidence, I consider the positive and negative outcomes of my choices, I examine my emotions concerning each choice and outcome, and I then make and implement my choice. Lets say that I have fulfilled every requirement of a freely-willed decision. Now let's say that my actions and choices were determined by the prior state of the universe. I have met all the requirements of causally efficacious consciousness (I like the sound of that!), it is just that my meeting those requirements was determined.

    Thanks.

    Gerhard Adam
    Let's say I (the rational, thinking, conscious "I") have a decision to make. I gather evidence, I consider the positive and negative outcomes of my choices, I examine my emotions concerning each choice and outcome, and I then make and implement my choice.
    OK.  Where does this "I" reside?  Where does the evidence you gather get stored?  Where does the evaluation take place? and then were does the decision take place?

    In every instance, it is your brain that is central to the process.  However, we know that the brain specifically operates through the firing of neurons and the release of chemicals, so your statement simply claims that your brain is free to "freely exercise" its choices which are also in the brain.  So, the conclusion is that your brain is free of your brain. 

    Even in these circumstances, you're considering a very specialized case because you've specifically selected something where there is an opportunity for longer term evaluation (i.e. gathering data, etc.) which is not what 99% of the brain's operations consist of.  Then again, that is one of the primary reasons for possessing a brain in the first place (i.e. the ability to abstract), so I'm not clear on what is being claimed to be "free" of what.  The problem isn't making the choice.  The question of "free will" comes into play because it suggests that once all the factors that have gone into making a choice (not just data evaluation, but mood, circumstances, etc.), that an individual could've acted differently under identical circumstances.  In other words, that there is a mechanism that would allow an individual to "override" their brain and act as an independent, "free" agent over the decisions made.  The gist of the matter is to consider whether any decision you've made in the past could've been changed, given the identical set of circumstances (i.e. NOT an "if I knew then what I knew now" scenario).

    I don't think we have to have a completely deterministic universe for this to occur.  We only need an organ (the brain) that operates in a deterministic manner.
    Mundus vult decipi
    M. reza Tirtgan

    "According to de Broglie, a particle in motion is accompanied by a wave, the wavelength of which is given by <!--[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]-->' Where, <!--[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]-->is Planck's constant, <!--[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]-->is the mass of the particle and <!--[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]-->its velocity or <!--[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]-->its momentum. Moreover, de Broglie did not specify the physical nature of the wave"http://www.signaldisplay.com/deBroglie.htmlIntroduction. deBroglie's wave concept is manifest in numerous most beautiful experiments of interferences and diffraction using electrons and neutrons". "deBroglie reemphasizes the physical nature of his wave" http:// www.Springerlink.com/context/vh17115v4314q2mj  Introduction.  a mass-body at rest state has also a stationary matterwave counterpart that leading to its gravitational field. Similarly, the matter-wave counterpart of a moving object or particle also leading to gravitomagnetism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitomagnetic. A theory of gravity can be postulate based this matter-wave counterpart. Factually a particle, e.g. photon, electron, beats like the heart. During its expansion, it emits particle nominating expandon that expands in spatial medium at right-handed manner of spin (or better to say path-length) of +2h-bar. At its contracted mode of particle, it emits a left-handedly contracting particle nominating contracton of spin -2h-bar that transfer within a tunnel (an alternate to wormhole) towards mass medium through spatial medium spontaneously. Similarly, a mass-body has also beats that its frequency is depended directly on its mass, and it is more higher than a particle like photon to be measured experimentally. As a result, the instantaneous contractons transfer through spatial medium between interacting mass-bodies or particles is leading to gravitational forces (spontaneous action at a distance). Noteworthy, the expandons emitted by mass-bodies in spatial medium propagate at finite speed equal or less than light speed c. Therefore, constructing the gravitational potential of mass-bodies along its role in expansion of normal vacuum medium. Resuming, this theory of gravity doesn’t contradicts Einstein’s theory of gravity. In other words, the curved space-time acts as trajectory of interacted particle or mass-body (or track texture) in gravitating spatial medium. Thus,contractons are emitted in the direction of space-time curvature towards the interacting mass-bodies.

    Tirgan
    I want to summarize.
    Free will and determinism are physically indistinguishable.
    Most people are interested in the reality or lack thereof of metaphysical free will. A computer not subject to our laws of physics, in some super-universe, may be able to predict people. If it can't, we have metaphysical free will.

     
    Whether free-will exists or not is an entirely different matter from deciding whether physics is compatible with it.
     
    Frankly, as a firm believer in free-will  I must first play devil's advocate. The idea of free-will serves two purposes. 

    One is to rationalize the impression that we make our own decisions. As usual this leads to an infinite regress: a soul pulling our physical strings and something else pulling our soulish strings etc...
     
    The second is to rationalize the idea that we are responsible for our actions. At the extreme, most people, no matter how legalistic, would agree that some people have damaged brains and cannot help their anti-social behaviour. But even if we are whole and normal, in what sense do we deserve punishment or reward? Forget the social benefits of a justice system, what does holding us responsible for our actions mean if we are mechanical? A psychopath may not be able to change his inherited make-up, but if I decide to jump a red light, I'm still just as much a machine pressing on the pedals. 

    Free-will is not a coherent concept unless the laws of physics are broken within the brain and even then the thing that breaks them cannot be a machine. Sometimes a single level of regression is necessary. That's OK for religion as it is always banging on about a different world, usually one that is more important than the physical. The atheist/agnostic has no such escape and cannot, in my view, believe in free-will coherently at all. Whether it is an external entity or some emergent property that is not model-able under any circumstances is beside the point (edited: - To be pedantic I suppose a free-will believing materialist might believe in a magic law causing free will to emerge.)
     
    What situations it operates in is another matter. The rationalization of our subjective impression would lead to it working all over the place "What shall I have for breakfast?" Oh yes, I am going to have porridge [my brain tells me]. But wait a minute! My free-will says "toast and marmalade!" So toast and marmalade it is. However, there's no reason to assume that that theory is even slightly true.
     
    From the religious/moral PoV, there does have to be some entity or aspect of our brain that is not physical, and Johannes is quite correct to say that it is no use just picking on any old thing that might give us a bit of randomness. It has to give us a real choice that is ours.

    [personal view]
    Since I do not wish to rationalize the subjective impression of free-will, you will not be surprized to learn that I don't think it operates where there is no moral choice. (At least I have no motivation for thinking it does. It might if the mechanism is overkill for the job.) Furthermore I happen to believe that there is something incorrigibly corrupt about our nature which means our will is nowhere near as free as some people would like to think. Rather conveniently this makes free-will a rather rare phenomenon :) 

    What matters for this discussion is whether the few cases where we might make a significant moral choice (one that overrides our physical nature) could ever be detected by experiment - and if so could they be distinguished from random events? I suspect it is not possible to concoct an experimental situation in which a true moral choice has to be exercised. Fooling the experimental subjects may not be enough - it depends how smart the free-will entity is - my personal view is that the will is only truly free when God makes it so, and you'd have a job fooling Him.  And that, in fact, He's more concerned with the decisions that relate directly to Himself, thus further cutting down our free choices.

    [/]
    In case anyone is confused by this, I am not proposing a theory that every choice we make involves a miracle, I am saying that, even with the highest motivation for defending the concept, I don't think most of our choices are free at all.

    Sorry to waffle on, but why anyone should cling to the idea that we have free-will other than for religious reasons I cannot fathom. After all we've managed to ditch the idea of "time flowing" and the "Big Bang exploding into space".

    Haven't we?

    Ah. Okay.