Yesterday, while seated, I began to reach down for my backpack when a fly landed on my knee.  My reach was instantly interrupted as my hand froze beside me just slightly higher than my thigh. All my intention became focussed on swatting that fly, and my hand began to move ever so slowly and evenly towards the fly on my knee, maintaining a perfectly consistent distance above my thigh of about three inches.

As my hand slowly glided forward I realized that my breathing had slowed to a near stop and I had the vivid impression of a sensation in my thigh that mirrored the position of my hand above it.  As my hand neared, the fly showed no awareness of its impending doom and had not yet bent its knees to get into a jump-ready position - and then SLAP!  My hand suddenly made the final lurch so quickly that it almost shocked me, and I realized that I hadn't actually given the order to attack.  Yes, this was the plan on my mind as my hand was creeping forward towards the fly, but I hadn't made the final movement consciously; it just sort of happened.

This reminded me of some articles I've read about some neurology experiments in which it was shown that our consciousness is not a direct agency of movement.  Obviously our consciousness can direct us - for it's not as though one decides to scratch one's wrist but instead punches oneself in the face.  On the other hand, our consciousness isn't typically aware that one hand has begun moving towards the other until after it has happened.

This brought me to think of a cat poised to pounce on a human hand scratching the carpet before the cat's nose.  The cat observes the action and an emotion is triggered - suddenly the cat finds itself scrunched up, poised to pounce, but seemingly paralyzed to do so.  How long will it wait?  Maybe the cat doesn't even know - maybe it just happens, triggered by highly evolved wiring in the subconscious of cats.

How often do we only become aware of our actions after they have been initiated without a conscious thought?  I've often joked, when asking a server to take away my plate, that I am not hungry but my hand just keep crawling over to the plate and trying to sneak a few more fries into my face.  What then of thoughts?  Is it possible that some thoughts just keep passing through my mind even though I do not care to consider them at this time?

It has long been my contention that I am not 'the decision-maker' in my life but, rather, I am my decisions themselves.  Those who subscribe to the religion of Alcoholics Anonymous would likely agree strongly with this idea.  On the other hand, I often do consciously weigh my options and select a course that can be a struggle to maintain - such as trying to eat a healthier diet.

We obviously have some conscious control over some aspects of our lives - but I sometimes think that we have delusions of much greater control than really exists.

P.S. - I completely missed the fly.



Views: 638

Comment by Davis Goodman on July 16, 2014 at 5:38pm

That's okay. You don't have to expose yourself to anything that challenges your extreme absolute and certain view if you don't want to unseen.

Comment by Unseen on July 16, 2014 at 5:58pm

@Davis You have read all of these books but apparently can't summarize them in any way hinting at a solution. All they have to do is get past the notion under which all science labors that things happen because of other things that preceded them.

I'm waiting for a "we have free will because (blah blah blah)" but only after you give a definition of free will that actually makes sense and conforms to common usage.

Until then, you're not really accepting the challenge of my view but instead are assuring me that some other guy MAY (not DOES) provide proof that we have free will.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on July 16, 2014 at 6:04pm

Free will?

We require evidence for god(s). Why do some of us not require evidence for free will?

I quit Catholicism 60 years ago and found free will as easy to ignore as other dogmas.

That was because by then I had come to see imprisonment not as punishment for crime, but as a means to separate criminally-inclined people from society.

That our law-dispensing system -- it is not a justice-dispensing system -- requires verdicts of "guilty" in criminal cases to justify punishment is not evidence for free will.

So, where is the evidence?

Comment by Unseen on July 16, 2014 at 6:18pm

Black energy and black matter are NOT physics problems; they are cosmology problems.

And cosmology stopped being a branch of physics when?

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on July 16, 2014 at 6:27pm

Cosmology is not a branch of physics; it's a branch of  astronomy.

According to a major league dictionary I consulted several years ago -- I didn't note its name or publisher -- cosmology is a blend of astronomy and metaphysics.

I right away looked up "metaphysics" and found woo.

Comment by Unseen on July 16, 2014 at 8:15pm

@Tom You can't be a cosmologist and not be a physicist. That is the sense in which cosmology is a branch of physics. Or, maybe better, an application area of physics.

Metaphysics asks questions about the nature of reality. I don't think that automatically makes it woo, though some metaphysicists may be spouting woo.

Comment by Gregg R Thomas on July 16, 2014 at 9:24pm


"Anything we think or decide is just a duplicate of something that happened before we were aware of it happening."

Nice claim, where's is your peer reviewed proof?

Comment by Unseen on July 16, 2014 at 10:29pm


Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain

Abstract: "

There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively
‘free’ decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of
time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded
in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s
before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects
the operation of a network of high-level control areas that
begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it
enters awareness."

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on July 16, 2014 at 11:56pm

You can't be a cosmologist and not be a physicist.

If you say so, U. How soon will we see your specs for the world?

Comment by Unseen on July 17, 2014 at 1:05am

non sequitur much?


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