Do we fear determinism for the same reason we fear atheism?

A rambling post today. Fuzzy brained and foot loose!

 

  I was recently thinking about the concept of free will. It's an idea that has always bothered me, like a tickle at the back of the throat. I firmly believe in cause and effect. I firmly believe in the laws of physics and what they imply. So without an outside force, it makes sense that everything is controlled very directly by these laws. Including us. The logic behind it is fairly simple. I'm guessing it's the complexity of existence and the relative simplicity of our minds that makes choice such a plausible illusion. But an illusion is what it must be.

 

   This used to scare me. Deep down, I do not actively enjoy the idea of being so mundane and effectually predictable. Trapped. And in my mind, nothing special. Accepting that there's nothing beyond death was easy. Accepting the fact that I am a huge equation was much harder. After all, I chose what I valued and valued choice for itself.

 

  I spent a long time letting the idea sink past my emotions and into my more rational core. Eventually I decided that it didn't matter. How I make a choice, be it simply chemical predetermined or an active and separate process, matters much less than what my choice does. If my actions make the world better in some way my goal has been accomplished. And thinking back on this fear now, I can understand the desire to reject the idea of determinism altogether. Anything that removes our safety nets and makes us feel small tends to be met with the same resistance. Science gets the brunt of this reaction, but determinism falls right in with plenty of people.

 

   So with all this in mind, I wonder what other people think on the subject. Is it frightening to think of yourself as an eventuality? Has anyone come across anything contrary to the idea of determinism? Do we perhaps agree? Thoughts, please!

Views: 211

Tags: determinism, fate, free, will

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 1:23pm

I'm actually reading a very enlightening article regarding the subject now regarding free will at least being heavily constrained by brain chemistry. 

Alan T. Williams does not appear to be a physicist or a scientist, and I'm not spending time reading the link since he is as unqualified as I am to have a valid opinion on the matter.

What would you consider a "level" of an intertwined reality?

Comment by Kirsten on June 20, 2011 at 3:32pm
I step away for the weekend and come back to lots of responses; nice!

Reading through this, I only have a few comments.

As to determinism = no point in talking about it: why would it matter..? Even if I'm just a pre-written part playing out the lines, it doesn't *feel* like it to me. That's what makes this so incredibly interesting.

As a human, I have feelings, and that is what allows me to live beyond my genetic desire to reproduce. Because I know that is the why of my existence. Self replication leads to self replication. So determinism doesn't seem any worse to me than that fact.

Also; if quantum randomness is true and not just part of a larger and undiscovered pattern (I'm thinking this is more likely, but I am no physicist), what part does that play in human cognition? Does it upscale to directly allow for free will, or partial free will, or have no measurable effect at all? I'm guessing it will be a while before they can do more than say it's possible, maybe.

I'm sticking with "knowable" reality as far as this question goes. Otherwise epistemology is going to rear it's glorious head and turn all our thoughts to mush. Heck, maybe you're all just my dream! Or whatever. I'll let you know how my learning to fly by will alone goes. =p
Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 3:54pm

Interesting article :)  In my doctoral level Neuroscience class we covered in great detail anatomy and neurochemistry and how these inter-relate and the manifestatons of various states of each.  There is much that we do know and so many of these observations and theories are well documented within the scientific community.  I would suggest doing some searches on neuroimaging and anatomical variations in people with specific personality traits (like ones mentioned in your article).  It is surprising what we do know...and what we do not...lol 

 

In addition to Kluver-Bucy Syndrome, you might want to look into Phineas Gage's story.  We learned much about the role of the frontal lobe from his case.  

 

Personally, on a separate note, I am particularly fascinated with the amygdala and the hippocampus.  :)

 

As far as the link to Alan T. Williams' site.  I agree that we do not know what his credentials are, however, I felt comfortable linking it because his presentation of the theoretical science is solid and he has decent sources (presented at the bottom of this page) as well as an obvious thorough knowledge of the scientific theories as they relate to the topic at hand.  Much like a Wiki article, I liked it because it was a good one-stop spot for the information we were discussing.  I trusted your ability to weed out anything that he might present as his personal theory formed from the accepted theory he presents. He presents well-known theories by "credible" peeps and the page is a great launching point for further researching on the web from sources you may trust regarding those theories.

 

"What would you consider a "level" of an intertwined reality?" - Well, the first thing that comes to mind is more of an intertwining of dimensional levels, but I didn't intend that in my initial statement.  I should have more accurately stated, "we can often expect to see similar mathematical models applied across scientific disciplines and their study/exploration/qualification/quantification of [the one] reality."

 

I really do try to communicate well...hahaha...just keep pressing me if ever I am ambiguous in what I present.  I don't mind clarifying as needed  :)

 

@ Kristen - "Even if I'm just a pre-written part playing out the lines, it doesn't *feel* like it to me. That's what makes this so incredibly interesting."  Check out the role of the amygdala and how it relates to all of this.  Like Arcus was saying, this is the aspect of this conversation in which you may be specifically interested.  Try searching terms like, "role of amygdala", "free will", "consciousness", "neuroimaging", "origin of emotion", "pathological manifestations" etc, etc...you might find some interesting stuff.  If you still can't find much, let me know and I will be happy to see if I can't find some cool stuff for you.  :)

 

"Also; if quantum randomness is true and not just part of a larger and undiscovered pattern (I'm thinking this is more likely, but I am no physicist), what part does that play in human cognition? Does it upscale to directly allow for free will, or partial free will, or have no measurable effect at all? I'm guessing it will be a while before they can do more than say it's possible, maybe." =  Great questions!  And, I am also guessing that it may be a while...lol...

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 4:54pm

"Well, the first thing that comes to mind is more of an intertwining of dimensional levels"

That is quite unrelated to reality. It is still within the same reality, it's just a different field in the reality. Perhaps your other non-intertwined reality which operate by the same divinity is typing the same thing to another version of me in the same place but the temperature is -298 Kelvin? ;)

Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 6:02pm

"That is quite unrelated to reality. It is still within the same reality, it's just a different field in the reality." = You do realize you contradict yourself in this statement.  A different field within the "same reality" would naturally be related to that same reality.  I think we already agreed that there is only one reality despite its composition. Anyways, you are quite entitled to your perspective if that is how you see it.

 

"...your other non-intertwined reality..." = Not sure where in our conversation you are getting this from.  I thought we agreed that there was only one reality and I never suggested there is another "non-intertwined reality".

 

"...which operate by the same divinity..." = Not really sure why you are bringing the word "divinity" into this conversation, much less, suggesting this "divinity" is mine since I have not alluded to any such preposterous notion.  

 

"...-298 Kelvin?" = Ahh, well...not really sure what you are getting at with the reference to absolute zero, however, I can say that for the sake of this thread, I am more than happy to relegate our future interaction to the same state as every particle which finds itself existing at this temperature. 

 

Feel free to clarify your above statement if you think it will be productive, no worries if not.  :)

 

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 6:12pm

"A different field within the "same reality" would naturally be related to that same reality.  I think we already agreed that there is only one reality despite its composition."

I become entangled because I don't see why the application of mathematics to different fields within the same reality would come as a surprise on anyone. There's only one reality, and I don't understand what you mean by "levels" of reality. Is it like reality version 1.45 build 346 you are thinking about? If so, I'm sorry to report that there is only reality version 1 and it is just one program running. The Great Programmer does not provide hotfixes it seems.

It's like creationists talking about "kinds of animals", I just don't understand what they are referring to because it doesn't make any scientific sense.

Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 7:15pm

"...I don't understand what you mean by "levels" of reality." = Did my attempt to clarify fail => "Well, the first thing that comes to mind is more of an intertwining of dimensional levels, but I didn't intend that in my initial statement.  I should have more accurately stated, "we can often expect to see similar mathematical models applied across scientific disciplines and their study/exploration/qualification/quantification of [the one] reality."

 

"...I don't see why the application of mathematics to different fields within the same reality would come as a surprise on anyone." = I don't either.  So, what exactly is the source of confusion for you?

 

"Is it like reality version 1.45 build 346 you are thinking about?" = No.

 

"The Great Programmer..." = Are you saying that you believe in a "Great Programmer"?  Maybe this is where confusion is entering into your understanding.  If so, is this "Programmer" at the center of your reality?  If not, then who is?  

Comment by Philip Jackson Armstrong on June 20, 2011 at 7:27pm
Does it matter? Life is what it is. I keep telling people I see my life like I'm riding a bottle rocket. I can kind of control where it is going but I don't have total control, so I don't worry about it and just enjoy the ride.
Comment by Atheist Exile on June 20, 2011 at 11:50pm

Hi Chris,

It is one thing to point out alternative ideas or theories: quite another to explicitly represent them as established fact.  We atheists are sticklers for rational integrity; so misrepresentation is likely to draw snide remarks (depending on the remarker's mood).

If the point you want to make is that hard determinism (absolute causality) might be a reality, then that's the line of reasoning you should have pursued.  The issue is a matter of opinion at this point.  Just because the greatest quantum mechanics experts think that quantum randomness is real doesn't mean it's proven to be yet.  In fact, they are the first to admit it.

Science, as far as I can tell, is the height of human endeavor in the physical world.  Technology, on the other hand, is a different matter :-)  You appear to love science.  Perhaps you should embrace it's "spirit" even more.  It could lead to your deconversion :-)

Comment by Atheist Exile on June 21, 2011 at 1:35am

@Arcus,

I just read the article you cited, "The Brain on Trial" and it was fascinating.  What I kept thinking all the way through it was that he's talking about self-determinism: that our heredity and experience limits the scope of our actions (I'm grouping biology under heredity).  Everything about that article is completely consistent with what I've written about self-determinism.  The free will he challenges looks so illusory because it is.  Free will, as traditionally perceived, does not exist.  The best term I've come up with for our ability to pursue our own purposes is self-determinism.  Self-determinism isn't fixed.  It's determined by the "self" involved: his heredity and experience.

The article really makes mincemeat of traditional free will.  But sprinkled throughout it, the author (David Eagleman) speaks of rewards, incentives, biofeedback, and other voluntary methods of behavior modification.  In many cases, medication is the preferred method but he acknowledges that most of us (the lucky "normal" ones) can control our behavior to a significant degree.

The abnormal cases he used for illustration involved "unhealthy" brains.  Evolution may produce a wide array of brain characteristic but obviously there's no evolutionary advantage to making everybody, or must of us, mentally unhealthy.

I'm sure that almost all of those unfortunate people who can't control certain actions can control other actions.  Having Tourette Syndrome or epilepsy needn't stop you from conceiving and executing a plan.  One can lack control in some ways but exert control in others.

Whatever your abilities or lack thereof, you're self-determined.  If you're successful at self-determinism, it's nearly indistinguishable from free will.

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