October 17, 2023

I feel compelled to disagree.

I'm reading "Robert Sapolsky Doesn’t Believe in Free Will. (But Feel Free to Disagree)/Shedding the concept 'completely strikes at our sense of identity and autonomy,' the Stanford biologist and neurologist argues. It might also be liberating" (NYT)

The interviewer asks, "So, whether I wore a red or blue shirt today — are you saying I didn’t really choose that?"

Sapolsky answers:
Absolutely. It can play out in the seconds before. Studies show that if you’re sitting in a room with a terrible smell, people become more socially conservative. Some of that has to do with genetics: What’s the makeup of their olfactory receptors? With childhood: What conditioning did they have to particular smells? All of that affects the outcome.

And what of those of us who have lost all or most of our sense of smell? Is this random affliction making me liberal?

Asked "Do we lose love, too, if we lose free will?" he says:

Yeah. Like: “Wow! Why? Why did this person turn out to love me? Where did that come from? And how much of that has to do with how my parents raised me, or what sort of olfactory receptor genes I have in my nose and how much I like their scent?”

Lacking a sense of smell, am I more free? I know, he'd say I'm not free at all. I lack this factor that affects other people's decision-making, but that just leaves me disproportionately affected by the remaining factors.

It seems clear, based on the whole article, that believing there is no free will makes people more liberal. You won't think people deserve the rewards and punishments that come their way. But you don't have free will to decide not to believe in free will. First, comes the desire to justify the status quo and to punish wrongdoers, and then comes the belief in free will. Take that away, and you'll run into the arms of Sapolsky.

98 comments:

Fredrick said...

I wonder what he would say about what just happened in Israel. No free will, so ...?

Leland said...

The whole of it is absurd.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

If there is such a thing as the benefit of the community, it may become desirable to enslave, lock up or kill people, whether they have free will or not. If they lack free will, there may be little point in trying to educate them. If their behavior is shaped by the environment, there is something to be said for crude methods that stop short of education.

The anger of partisans generally implies: you have freely chosen evil. It doesn't follow that the most likely alternative is live and let live.

rhhardin said...

That's why there's the axiom of choice.

TheDopeFromHope said...

Just another way for the left to absolve criminals and condone criminality. "We're all just animals! We have no control over what we do!" Which is how the left perceives certain groups already anyway.

typingtalker said...

Always learning ...

It's not simple. Wikipedia has a very long article that covers many flavors of predestination ... which sort of disproves the concept.
Wikipedia -- Predestination

More interesting is the clockwork universe ...
In the history of science, the clockwork universe compares the universe to a mechanical clock. It continues ticking along, as a perfect machine, with its gears governed by the laws of physics, making every aspect of the machine predictable.
Wikipedia -- Clockwork Universe

tim maguire said...

The question will never be answered because things only happen in those exact circumstances once. So we can’t know if they could have played out differently than they did. That said, I am unimpressed with arguments I’ve seen so far that free will isn’t real.

Bad smells make people more conservative, therefore people didn’t choose to be more conservative? That’s like saying a bright sun makes you put on sunglasses. No, bright suns, bad smells, childhood experiences—these things are influences. None of them force you to do anything, none of them compel you to the point where your will is an illusion.

Enigma said...

And here we put a scientific veneer on old and unanswerable religious and philosophical questions of "predestination" versus free will. Some said that God set your destiny and your consciousness merely opened pages in a finished book. Others said you must confess, repent, and mend your evil ways. Both views got twisted and abused: (1) many justified selfishness as foreordained and unavoidable, while many also (2) judged when people failed to choose the right things and then tortured or killed them (e.g., the Spanish Inquisition).

The mere fact that we hold these discussions suggests there's something to free will, even if only a label applied to a random unconscious outcome after the fact. But randomness has the functional value of free will when 51% or 23% or 99% end up in one category or another.

The useful question is how much about behavior can be repeatedly and objectively tested -- science is very, very good in specific domains but useless in others. Let the non-science part of life be treated as random, free, or the organic grayness of being human.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

How Presbyterian.

Quaestor said...

Althouse writes, "I feel compelled to disagree."

Clomipramine will settle the argument.

Dave Begley said...

Another liberal whack job. But NYT readers will agree.

iowan2 said...

This nothing but navel gazing. Made ONLY possible in academia. I'll put money on the fact this person as never created/given, anything. Only taken.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The argument that there is no free will is self-refuting. If there is no free will then where you stand on the question is pre-determined and there is no point in arguing about it. Or anything else for that matter.

The idea of good and evil goes out the door also, and the argument that society is justified in constraining the rights of "criminals" by locking them up cuts both ways. What if society decides your rights, including the right to not by killed, need to be restrained for whatever arbitrary reasons society, which has no free will remember, comes up with?

No free will is just an attempt by strict materialists to come up with an explanation for something that appears to have no strict materialist cause. They also claim that consciousness is an illusion.

iowan2 said...

Of all the gifts God gave man, the greatest is free will.

Wilbur said...

So, whether I wore a red or blue shirt today — are you saying I didn’t really choose that?"

Sapolsky answers:
Absolutely. It can play out in the seconds before. Studies show that if you’re sitting in a room with a terrible smell, people become more socially conservative. Some of that has to do with genetics: What’s the makeup of their olfactory receptors? With childhood: What conditioning did they have to particular smells? All of that affects the outcome.
----------------------------------------------------------

I object, the answer is non-responsive and ask that it be stricken from the record and jury instructed to disregard it.

re Pete said...

"Well, I took me a woman late last night

I’s three-fourths drunk, she looked uptight

She took off her wheel, took off her bell

Took off her wig, said, “How do I smell?"

Sally327 said...

So more of a Arminian than a Calvinist then?

boatbuilder said...

Was he somehow compelled to come up with this theory and study about it? Or did he give it some thought?

The answer seems to undercut his thesis.

Jamie said...

How Presbyterian.

Staying with Presbyterian friends this week - thank you for my first laugh of the day!

Kit Carson said...

Isaac bashevis singer was asked: do you believe in free will or determinism? He replied: "Of course I believe in free will. What choice have I!"

tim in vermont said...

The way it should be looked at is that if society executes a murderer who only committed his crime because he had no free will, well, society had no free will in deciding to execute him either. It was fated from the Big Bang. The "free will" argument only applies to punishment if you carefully choose which aspects of it you are going to apply. If you can overlook a murder, you can overlook an execution.

"If I look at the world a certain way, then it proves what I have always believed!"

Not to mention that the whole argument begs the question. It assumes what it purports to prove. What if the sensible thing to do in the presence of a bad smell is to act conservatively? If we automatically pull our hand away from a hot stove, does that prove we have no free will? No, it just proves we have a subconscious mind that helps guide us through life, having distilled through evolution millions of generations of experience.

Jonathon Haidt is right. Liberals simply don't understand conservatives and likely lack the emotional intelligence to understand conservatives, so they keep coming up with all of these hare-brained theories. Of course Dunning-Kruger says that they will misjudge which side of the line they are on, imagining that it is we who are so simple-minded that we can't understand our own motivations, which must, of course be programmed into us, since we are just brutes compared to them.

PJ said...

I’m paywalled — do they cover how even in the absence of free will, Donald Trump and his supporters are still deplorable?

SeanF said...

I believe that I have free will.

If I'm right, I don't want to change my mind.

If I'm wrong, I couldn't change my mind even if I did want to.

lamech said...

"Studies show that if you’re sitting in a room with a terrible smell, people become more socially conservative"

Why hasn't the smell of human feces and urine throughout the city of San Francisco had such an effect?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

"All of that affects the outcome."

You can make the argument that a photon emitted from a red-giant sun over 30 million light years away 3 billion years ago affects the outcome as well. That some things influence people to behave in a particular way is not a new discovery. It does not disprove free will.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

In his Man Cave last night Scott Adams says that he quit all bread and grains a while back and his inflammation has gone away inn ways he can feel - less achy, more energy - and that his smell has returned, he thinks because his sinuses are less inflamed - and he asked for volunteers to try it for a month and report in - wants to see if it's just him - will report results back to you when they come in.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The strictest version of this argument is that if you could know the position of every particle in existence in the universe you would be able to predict all future events. Then quantum mechanics happened.

Quayle said...

I guess it takes a lot of deep thoughts at Stanford University, to discover that there’s a physical side to our existence. When I smell bacon, I get hungry you can pay $60,000 a year and get this kind of education if you are genetically pre-programmed to do so.

But he is right - it’s liberating in one sense. “It’s not your fault!” You can be liberated from feeling bad about anything you’ve done to anybody.

And conversely, his being at Stanford means absolutely nothing - zero positive meaning - because he certainly didn’t do anything to get there. It just happened, no credit to him.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

With freedom comes responsibility. With free will comes great personal responsibility. Some people want to relieve themselves or others from the burden of responsibility. Beware advice from this medical researcher. I’ve never smelled snake oil but now I know what it sounds like.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

The more absurd modern education becomes the more I appreciate the wisdom of Adam Smith, who seems to have had a clearer understanding of human nature and behavior than the whole of psychology.

MartyH said...

IIRC, physicists have largely rejected the deterministic model of the universe. If the material world is not deterministic, how can consciousness be?

Patrick Henry was right! said...

Ann, what is your fascination with all this NY Times weirdo crap? I mean, what is it that attracts you to all this oddness? Is it free will? With your natural intelligence and charming glibness, that can't be it, can it?

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

"It can play out in the seconds before. Studies show that if you’re sitting in a room with a terrible smell, people become more socially conservative."

Science!

Wince said...

"Free will, it is a bitch."

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

Progressive leftists are a lot like Hamas terrorists. Propaganda works with the hive.

Kate said...

Benedict XVI's Regensburg address disagreed years ago.

tim in vermont said...

By "beg the question," what I meant to say that just because an impulse is pre-conscious, does not mean that it cannot arise from a free will. For all we know there is some being in our pre-conscious mind making all of our decisions for us, and it has a free will.

Wince said...

"Studies show that if you’re sitting in a room with a terrible smell, people become more socially conservative."

Rusty said...

How very................Islamic.
Boetheus would beg to differ.

Howard said...

Sapolsky says empathy is the cure for stress

Get it straight from horses mouth, not filtered by English majors. He doesn't really even believe the no free will theory himself. His claim is that if you believe there is no free will then you will have more gratitude and empathy which will improve your mental health.

The primary reason people cannot be empathetic is because they are under tremendous stress and are in pain. Since the algorithms are currently programmed to maximize eyeballs and click-throughs based on inducing stress and pain, it's no wonder that our society is becoming less and less empathetic and more mentally ill.

FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss uses tactical empathy to win negotiations. His recommendation is to be sharp in business negotiations practice empathy at every opportunity all day long every day.

tcrosse said...

Inshallah.

Josephbleau said...

Not having free will has two advantages, you can be an asshole and you can’t blame or punish the other assholes. But there are lots of disadvantages if you are a nice person.

MadTownGuy said...

Is there any scientific basis for his assertions? By scientific, I mean, tested, independently verified, falsifiable and peer-reviewed. Otherwise, it's just conjecture intended to convince some people that we're all enslaved by our biochemistry.

MacMacConnell said...

This is the shit Sam Bankman-Fried’s "brilliant" garbage parents teach.

TickTock said...

Wonder if he believes in quantum mechanics?

planetgeo said...

Regarding free will, one of our wisest philosophers, Yogi Berra, observed: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Tom T. said...

Martin Gardner argued that free will is an illusion. Either the choices you make are determined by the totality of your life experiences up until now, or they're random. There's no third alternative. Which path represents free will?

rhhardin said...

A choice is philosophically a moment of madness when you take responsibility for something.

It's what makes a vote differ from a poll question.

Ann Althouse said...

"he quit all bread and grains a while back and his inflammation has gone away"

I don't know about "inflammation," but I did a very low carb diet for at least 6 months back in 2019 — no grains at all — and it had no effect on my anosmia.

I've also tried a no dairy diet with no improvement.

"Inflammation" seems to be one of those words used by New Age-ish people. It's like "energy" and "toxins." Doesn't seem too scientific.

I remember Adams talking (years ago) about some drug he had to take having the side effect of curing his anosmia (and he found out he actually hated sushi (remember that?)).

Amadeus 48 said...

Lots and lots of youths on the West Side of Chicago showing their total freedom from free will all the time. Sometimes they even hijack cars in other, richer neighborhoods through their lack of free will.

And this jamoke is right--the bad smell coming from all this is making many people more conservative. They are showing this by moving to Indiana and Florida--but they definitely are not showing free will.

iowan2 said...

"Inflammation" seems to be one of those words used by New Age-ish people

"Inflammation triggered by allergies" seems to be the wordy way of saying "I don't know"

Scott Patton said...

Cause and effect. Nothing happens without a combination of causes. If there is a causeless thought or action, why did it happen? Where does the free will come from? It would have to be supernatural or an as yet to be discovered force, etc..
That's just my understanding of the arguments. I'm not swayed one way or the other.

Sebastian said...

"You won't think people deserve the rewards and punishments that come their way"

So they also don't deserve access to other people's bank accounts, correct? I mean, whatever happens to them just happens to them, and that's a fact, and why should anyone choose to care?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

He, and most people, mis-state the issue.

I believe that my thinking/decisions/actions are determined by a combination of the laws of physics and random chance, neither of which sound much like free will.

And yet I am free to choose whatever I want. That's because that combination of deterministic and random processes are a part of me. They are how I freely decide what I think and what actions I take.

rcocean said...

We have free will. People aren't forced to do anything. It doesn't matter that God or whatever predisposed them to act in a certain way, they can still override that.

Its one of those philosophical arguments that are meaningless.

I'd be suspicious of anyone who says we dont have free will, because they're probably using it as excuse to do something bad, and then say "Hey, I was forced to, don't blame me".

The Devil made them do it.

Original Mike said...

""Inflammation" seems to be one of those words used by New Age-ish people. It's like "energy" and "toxins." Doesn't seem too scientific."

I don't think that's true. Inflammation is real, and it is associated with bad effects. However, non-invasive self-diagnosis of "inflammation" is dodgy.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

I’ve seen this guy on YouTube.

Original Mike said...

I believe most physicists consider quantum mechanics to be deterministic. The Schrödinger equation is certainly deterministic. It comes down to the measurement problem, which is unresolved.

Most physicists also seem to reject free will. Personally, I think this is nuts, and I think the problem lies in a faulty view of irreversibility and entropy. Ilya Prigogine developed a fascinating alternative but my understanding is that the current state of this work is bogged down in the math.

JAORE said...

Mental masturbation. Common enough on campus. Who knew it was such a valuable commodity?

Scott Patton said...

One of the stories is, by using fMRI it was shown that decisions are made subconsciously x number of milliseconds before the decision is consciously realized by the person "making" the decision.
Basically, the decision happens (in the one way that it could happen, based on everything that came before), then a short time later, we make up / rationalize why we made that decision.
Whenever I hear or read that story my internal dialog shouts, "So what if it's subconscious? That's still me!"
It doesn't disprove the existence of free will. It's such a weak argument coming from extremely smart people that I must assume I'm missing something.

Scott Patton said...

Interesting and entertaining portrayal in "Devs" on Hulu

jim said...

For practical purposes freewill is the ability to make our own decisions and act on them.

These ideas of humans just being parts in some huge machine is blithering idiocy from people who should think about something else.

We have freewill if we want it, and use it.

Certain religious nutjobs, and not just Moslems, do not.

I suppose many agnostic consumers also lack freewill, just carried along whatever society tells them to do.

Original Mike said...

The physics argument for determinism, i.e. the lack of free will, is that the state of a particle is fully determined by its initial conditions and the laws of physics. If you know a particle's initial conditions you know all future states of the particle. And we are just a bag of particles.

Like I said, I don't buy it.

tim maguire said...

Scott Patton said...Whenever I hear or read that story my internal dialog shouts, "So what if it's subconscious? That's still me!"

And also, we don't have the ability to measure what this test supposedly measured. When you made the decision vs. when you became aware of the decision, when you weighed the factors vs. when you became aware that you weighed the factors. Science fiction.

iowan2 said...

Did Eve, eating from the forbidden tree, have free will?

MikeD said...

That's the basic tenet of Islam, no free will, all is ordained. Also, shorthand for "it's not my fault"!

n.n said...

Unlike secular authorities ("gods"), God does not force compliance, but rather advises a behavior for a functional state ("fitness"). Unlike secular Choice, God does not deem life unworthy of life, but rather defers to Nature ("evolution" or chaos) and freewill.

MadisonMan said...

How interesting to be paid to create such a stream of thought. And he can't be disproven!

Duty of Inquiry said...

I believe in free will because I am a Christian and I believe in God, I believe in redemption, and I believe in salvation. If I am not responsible for my actions, if I do not have agency I don't need redemption or salvation. I reject that possibility.

I am sure there are arguments against my beliefs, I haven't heard them and I doubt they would change my mind.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Didn't read the article. But I'm betting that Sapolsky would tell you that if anyone is close to having free will, it's him.

America's academic class has become narcissistic and petty.

Ampersand said...

Sapolsky is a wonderful lecturer who has taught 6quite a bit about neurological function.

Free will versus determinism is a false dichotomy because it is built around an unknowable entity -- an essential pristine self. Nobody has access to what they would be like if they had not been affected by the trillions of accidents that have contributed to their Identity.

Smilin' Jack said...

“I believe most physicists consider quantum mechanics to be deterministic. The Schrödinger equation is certainly deterministic. It comes down to the measurement problem, which is unresolved.”

Many physicists (I among them) are coming to believe that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is the best resolution of the measurement problem (aka Schrödinger’s Cat). Sidney Coleman gave an excellent talk on this years ago which anyone with a basic familiarity with QM can follow. Google “Quantum Mechanics in Your Face” on YouTube.

The bottom line for the free will debate is that you don’t decide to do anything; you decide to do everything. Coleman explains how that works.

Robert Marshall said...

Your post heading: "I feel compelled to disagree" (italics added).

Sounds like you're endorsing Mr. Sapolsky's point of view, no free will.

Bob Boyd said...

Is there another parallel dimension where we do have free will?

And how about the space aliens? Do they have free will?
For example, maybe they could decide to give up abducting and probing terrified Earthlings, but they're like, Oh hell no. We're doing it.

If abducting you is wrong, I don't wanna be right
If being right means leaving without you
I'd rather live a wrong doing life
Your mama and daddy say probing's a shame
It's a downright disgrace
But long as I got you in my ship
I don't care what your people say

Original Mike said...

"Many physicists (I among them) are coming to believe that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is the best resolution of the measurement problem"

FWIW (worth nothing, I know) I also consider the many-worlds interpretation to be nuts. It's slavishly following the math (IMO).

There is something fundamental about many-worlds I don't understand. I usually see it portrayed as a particle not following one path or the other, but following both paths. But this is binary, whereas particles have a very large (infinite?) number of possible paths. Most are low probability, but they're not zero-probability. So the particle must follow them all, no?

And why do we end up living in the universe where, most of the time, the particle takes the most likely path?

Paul Sand said...

Physicist Sean Carroll made an argument about choosing what shirt to wear that stuck with me: Try saying: "Well, I'll just stand here and let the atoms in my body do whatever they were deterministically going to do anyway."

Wait as long as you need to before you're convinced that that the atoms in your body aren't gonna get that shirt-picking job done for you. Or go to work bare-chested. Your call.

Richard Dolan said...

"First, comes the desire to justify the status quo and to punish wrongdoers, and then comes the belief in free will."

What a confused mess this discussion has become. It's certainly true that people often have reasons and preferences which impact what they do, and those reasons and preferences can sometimes explain why a person made a particular choice. But any competent speaker of English knows how to distinguish reasons from causes, and knows as well that talk about what caused a person to take some action is often just a discussion about particularly forceful reasons for doing something. Discussions of psychological 'causation' works like that, for example. Very rare to see see people talking about causation as it relates to human activity in terms of cause-and-effect as a physicist or chemist would use those terms.

It's just as true that people are physical beings and everything we do can be described in physical terms. But much harder (better, impossible to find the words) to describe in physical terms what we feel, see, think or dream , even if it were possible to describe some physical state that was needed to give rise to those feelings, etc. Those realities are manifest in the different ways of talking about human activity, one of which is very well developed (moral discourse) and one of which isn't (human-as-robot). The language we use in talking about human activity in those two ways is not compatible -- no one talks about a neuron's free will when it interacts with another cell, just as no one talks about a person's preference for history over poetry in terms of cellular biology.

So, it strikes me that talk about a "belief in free will" only makes sense at the level of Hume's statement that no one observes a cause for any effect -- physical laws are just deductions from many repeated observations. Same with free will -- live long enough and you will have observed enough to conclude that it accurately describes what you're seeing.

loudogblog said...

I believe that most people have free will when it comes to important decisions. (Little decisions can usually be put on auto pilot.)

I also believe that there are some people who do not have free will. They may have deep psychological issues or have given into addictions. Those people tend to be very unhappy.

This debate reminds me of that DEVO song, Freedom of Choice.

Oligonicella said...

'If you know all the variables.'

That's the bullshit fallback used by mathematicians arguing against free will. Might work linguistically but they ignore that all the variables cannot be known. Quantum mechanics sees to that. As all variables cannot be known, you cannot determine 'where the will' will point.

Free will's a thing that can only be argued with hypothetically.

(If dup, beyond my control. Blogger hosing again this morning, showing you can't know the variables. And, since that's even an unknown.....)

Oligonicella said...

jim said...

These ideas of humans just being parts in some huge machine is blithering idiocy from people who should think about something else.

The concept isn't idiocy if you understand that machines ofttimes do unplanned for things. The more complex the machine the more frequently.

But, the entire "debate" is idiocy if you want to pursue that word as is most philosophy.

Scott Patton said...

"MadisonMan said...

How interesting to be paid to create such a stream of thought. And he can't be disproven!"

I think that's the point. As of today, he can't be proven or disproven. The general assertion among most humans is that there exists something called free will. Science says prove it. So far... nada.

He is an interesting, highly intelligent, and learned fellow.
Human Behavioral Biology (Robert Sapolsky) 25 lectures

Brian McKim and/or Traci Skene said...

Utterly embarrassing. It's the same drivel every college freshman comes home with on Thanksgiving break after having taken Philosophy 101.

M Jordan said...

I guaren-damn-tee you I have a free will.

But your mileage may vary.

NMObjectivist said...

Free will IS a problem in the philosophical community. That is due to thinking free will means your mind can't control what you do because every action is determined by previous state of the universe. That is the billiard ball theory of causality. And that is an error.

But Ayn Rand had a different view, which is free will is a choice to focus your mind, and to choose what to think about. I recommend further reading.

Smilin' Jack said...

“There is something fundamental about many-worlds I don't understand. I usually see it portrayed as a particle not following one path or the other, but following both paths. But this is binary, whereas particles have a very large (infinite?) number of possible paths. Most are low probability, but they're not zero-probability. So the particle must follow them all, no?”

Yes. This is the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, pioneered by Feynman in the 1940s, and now used in most textbooks on quantum field theory.

“And why do we end up living in the universe where, most of the time, the particle takes the most likely path?”

Again I recommend Coleman’s lecture, where he explains this quite clearly.

PresbyPoet said...

Several data points:
My subconscious has a mind of its own. It has better reflexes. Note the pull finger from fire thing. It does most of the driving, but I need to tell "him" where to go. Since most of what we do is habit driven, it is not surprising that what our subconscious wants is what we do. This explains the microsecond actions. We need to override our subconscious if we want to do something different.

If our subconscious has a mind of its own, then we have two free will brains operating. Both working together in partnership, like marriage. Both partners with free will, but working together in a joint free will? "Where do you want to go to dinner?" "I don't know, where do you want to go?" Who decides?

Finally, predestination and free will are both 100% true at the same time. Think about that paradox.

john mosby said...

83 comments and no one’s mentioned Neil Peart!

JSM

Oligonicella said...

Blogger Original Mike

It's slavishly following the math (IMO).

The math really didn't point anywhere as the concept goes back 2000 years. It's been more like they're inventing the math to explain the comic book concept, ala Sheldon.

The Flash #123 (1961) “The Flash of Two Worlds”

It's where Barry (now Flash) meets Jay Garrick (Golden Age of comics Flash) but it's not Earth.

Oligonicella said...

Blogger Tom T. said...

Martin Gardner argued that free will is an illusion. Either the choices you make are determined by the totality of your life experiences up until now, or they're random. There's no third alternative.

One man's pedantic assumption that only bifurcation applies doth not the truth make.

Oligonicella said...

Original Mike said...

The physics argument for determinism, i.e. the lack of free will, is that the state of a particle is fully determined by its initial conditions and the laws of physics. If you know a particle's initial conditions you know all future states of the particle.

Unless said particle intercepts some other particle, the initial conditions of which are unknown to you.

Math does not define the real world, it can only describe it.

Oligonicella said...

n.n said...

Unlike secular authorities ("gods"), God does not force compliance, but rather advises a behavior for a functional state ("fitness").

You might wanna ask Abraham's wife about that.

Josephbleau said...

“Martin Gardner argued that free will is an illusion. Either the choices you make are determined by the totality of your life experiences up until now, or they're random. There's no third alternative. Which path represents free will?”

No, depending on what you remember or what you emphasize at the moment you would weight your prior experiences differently so on different days you’ll make different choices in the same situation. That is not randomness, but a calculation with different coefficients. This creates impulsive behavior. So neither totality of life experience nor randomness makes your decision for you.

This discussion demonstrates the uselessness of talking about free will.

Gospace said...

Pre-determinism is, and always has been, nothing more then an excuse to not punish evil, for the evil couldn't help but do it.

It was human agency that built the pyramids, all the world's canals, made all the world's art, and took down the World Trade Center and destroyed a Christian hospital in Gaza. All activities done by free will. Nothing is pre-determined. Unless the game is rigged.

Mary Beth said...

I have watched ( a few times) a series of his lectures that are available online. I really enjoy them. They did make me question what I believed about free will.

My own opinion is that we do have free will but most of the time, most people don't exercise it. Genetics, hormones, and environment point us in certain directions and it requires thought and effort to make our choices an exercise of free will.

The lectures on YouTube are of mixed sound/video quality. At one time Stanford had them (and many other subjects) on their website, but then they removed the free lectures. I can't remember the reason, I think it was something like people were insisting that all of the free lectures have sign language closed captioning or something. Since the expense for that was too much, they just took them all down instead. (I'm not positive about the reason, but I am fairly sure it was a "if everyone can't access it, then no one should be able to" sort of thing.)

Original Mike said...

"Again I recommend Coleman’s lecture, where he explains this quite clearly."

OK, I'm finding an hour long lecture from 1994. I'll watch it. Please wave me off if you meant something else, and THANKS!

Original Mike said...

"Yes. This is the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, pioneered by Feynman in the 1940s, and now used in most textbooks on quantum field theory."

I understand this, but I don't understand what it means for the many-worlds hypothesis.

I will watch the Coleman lecture.

Zev said...

sounds like Ariely nonsense

Original Mike said...

"When British naturalist Charles Darwin sketched out his theory of evolution in the 1859 book "On the Origin of Species" - proposing that biological species change over time through the acquisition of traits that favor survival and reproduction - it provoked a revolution in scientific thought.

Now 164 years later, nine scientists and philosophers on Monday proposed a new law of nature that includes the biological evolution described by Darwin as a vibrant example of a much broader phenomenon, one that appears at the level of atoms, minerals, planetary atmospheres, planets, stars and more.

It holds that complex natural systems evolve to states of greater patterning, diversity and complexity.

"We see evolution as a universal process that applies to numerous systems, both living and nonliving, that increase in diversity and patterning through time," said Carnegie Institution for Science mineralogist and astrobiologist Robert Hazen, a co-author of the scientific paper describing the law in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Titled the "law of increasing functional information," it holds that evolving systems, biological and non-biological, always form from numerous interacting building blocks like atoms or cells, and that processes exist - such as cellular mutation - that generate many different configurations. Evolution occurs, it holds, when these various configurations are subject to selection for useful functions."


https://www.reuters.com/science/scientists-propose-sweeping-new-law-nature-expanding-evolution-2023-10-16/

Ilya Prigogine. I'm tellin' ya.