Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 

Questioning ... Er ... Philosophy


Jerry Coyne is riffing on Victor Stenger's HuffPo article on the compatibility of science and religion:

So here's one more thing to encode in our neurons: a theistic god is indeed a god that can be examined with the tools of science and reason. Every good theologian knows that—the people who don't are the scientific organizations who have made the "god-is not-testable" statements: the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Center for Science Education.
The next few days at work do not permit me to spend much time to address either Jerry or Stenger but there is a question I have to ask ...

If, as Jerry asserts, determinism is true, just how do we go about 'encoding' anything in our neurons?

Intelligent people want to know.
.

Comments:
I might be wrong, but I was not under the impression that determinism precluded people performing actions.
 
I believe it does preclude the ability to decide to take that action, as deciding is an illusion - the result of our decision has already been predetermined, we just don't realize it.
 
I can't help thinking they must be wrong.
 
An interesting take here

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/caa4f212-688b-11e1-a6cc-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1pBTuqF8e
 
Your statements point to you operating with a different definition of "deciding" than the determinists are using, and then harping on the determinists because it doesn't fit your personal framework.
 
Or, we could say that the determinists are using a different definition of "deciding" than the non-determinists, and the the determinists are forcing a particular definition onto non-determinists because that definition jibes with their overall agenda.
 
One quick question to you:

Can a computer decide anything?
 
Quick question back: Are people the same as computers? Are they exhibiting emergent properties yet?
 
And, if our positions are predeterminted, what use is it to debate?
 
Can a computer decide anything?

No. A computer can only pass electrons from one place to another. GIGO. Most importantly, in terms of this discussion, it cannot evaluate whether it is getting garbage in. The thing that annoys/amuses people like me is that these same people extol the value of science and it superiority to other "ways of knowing" when, in fact, they deny the ability to discern science from any other garbage in.
 
"Can a computer decide anything?"

No more than can a slide rule. Or the MIT Tinkertoy computer "decide" on a move in tic-tac-toe, a pachinko ball "decide" which path to take or a flipped coin which side to land on.
 
I'm in rough agreement with John here. If we weren't rational beings, with the capacity to evaluate evidence and revise our beliefs in light of evidence, we wouldn't be able to do any science at all.

Which is, ironically, a point often brought up at Uncommon Descent and related venues.

The difficulty lies in figuring out how to theorize our capacity for normativity and rationality without endorsing full-blown "Platonism". That's a Tall Order.

But for Us Naturalists, it would be disastrous if our rejection of "Platonism" led to a whole-scale rejection of the very concepts that are presupposed by our capacity to engage in science.
 
A computer can only pass electrons from one place to another.

And just what can my brain do beyond that?
 
Using a computer as an analogy for the workings of a brain is useful, and programming them to mimic the actions of the brain can certainly help us understand the workings of the brain.
But there's a huge gap between saying a brain is like a computer and saying a computer is equal to a brain.
It's no where near settled science and it's reasonable to examine the motivations behind people who insist the are equal.
So far, many of the people I've heard who insist are also invested in the idea of determinism and exclusivist atheism. That's not an opinion based on any scientific findings, but it is a curious coincidence.
Do they hold that position because of the evidence they've found or are they interpreting evidence in such a way as to bolster that position?
 
And just what can my brain do beyond that?

If Coyne's version of determinism is correct, neither I nor anyone else could possibly decide that question.

My point is not that there is a "soul" or for some other ghost in the machine, but that naive determism is self-defeating at a very basic level.
 
well if nothing else your posts on this topic are fairly deterministic.
Intelligent people want to know.
Intelligent people would also like to know whether physical systems that are non deterministic, non random and non probabilistic exist and before they attribute "free will" to them.

but that naive determism is self-defeating at a very basic level.
Which ofcourse has no bearing on whether it is true. The naive part also seems to refer to people who interpret no free will as - we can predict all actions and everything humans have done or know is useless and can't be trusted.(Mr Spock - Vulcans can only be logical so logic must be useless)
 
@Carlos
If we weren't rational beings, with the capacity to evaluate evidence and revise our beliefs in light of evidence, we wouldn't be able to do any science at all.
But this is not what determinism says. You can change based on a different input or different state (i.e. memory) in a deterministic system - so additional "evidence" leading to a different "choice" is not an argument against determinism or free will.

But this whole science and reason being the cause to reject determinism is rubbish. Did humans always practice "science" - did we have free will before that? Do animals choose? (especially the apes who do show learning abilities).
 
Which ofcourse has no bearing on whether it is true.

Which, as you know, I've said often.

The naive part also seems to refer to people who interpret no free will as - we can predict all actions and everything humans have done or know is useless and can't be trusted.

I'm not sure I can parse that but, if I have, that would mean that religion, as one of the things humans have done or "known" (not being able to decide between what is "known" and what isn't) can't be said to be useless and untrustworthy.

You can change based on a different input or different state (i.e. memory) in a deterministic system - so additional "evidence" leading to a different "choice" is not an argument against determinism or free will.

Sure. But how can you "know" that the way you have changed is a "better way of knowing" than the way religious people report having been changed? The point has never been that determinism doesn't allow change. It has always been about how certain people who profess to be determinists also claim to "know" that their change is to the better.

Did humans always practice "science" - did we have free will before that?

That has the argument exactly backwards. The point we're making is that, if the naive determinists are right, we have never, to this day, practiced "science," if we cannot make choices between good evidence and bad, between good arguments and bad, between logic and illogic.

Do animals choose? (especially the apes who do show learning abilities).

OMG! The creationist "argument" that there is a "gulf" between humans and "animals"?

While I'm no expert, all the great apes seem to choose behavior, along with dolphins/whales and many species of birds. Am I really supposed to be frightened off from, or think it somehow less likely, that humans have something called "free will" because we might share it with "animals"?
 
It has always been about how certain people who profess to be determinists also claim to "know" that their change is to the better.
That has nothing to do with determinism or free will. How do people who believe in free will claim to know their change is for the better?

you know from evolution that you can have a basic trust of your senses (though they can be fooled) - and from that you can trust when someone flies in an airplane you are indeed seeing that, from that you can infer that you have indeed worked out some of the laws of aerodynamics. Can you be 100% certain - no you can't . but I can't be certain Im not in the matrix or in a coma dreaming this or even whether Im the lead in the Harry Truman show for extraterrestrial aliens.

if we cannot make choices between good evidence and bad, between good arguments and bad, between logic and illogic.
a choice is always made - the question has always been can you make any other. You can evaluate some choices (Denetts example of if you couldn't have basic trust of your senses your ancestors would have been food for predators) . And even then broadly your statement is true. Its is not that you make a good evidence based argument and lo and behold a creationist accepts evolution i.e. yes people cannot differentiate a good argument from a bad one and you could explain this in both a deterministic world or one in which there is free will.
so again no bearing on the topic.

Am I really supposed to be frightened off from, or think it somehow less likely, that humans have something called "free will" because we might share it with "animals"?
No you didn't get the point. You and Carlos (and chris) seem to repeatedly use science , reason (literature, art) as things that somehow make the argument for determinism weak. Whereas if you believe as I do that animals exhibit similar characteristics where they appear to choose like humans then science, literature , art etc should have no bearing on the determinism v/s free will argument because animals that appear to choose just like us do not perform any of those activities.

And FYI it is your style of argument that is similar to the ID one. try to point out flaws in the argument while simultaneously making no claim or providing no explanation for what you believe.
 
How do people who believe in free will claim to know their change is for the better?

Again, not the issue. It might be true that "science" is a crock. The question is how we can justify "science" and, at the same time, deny the ability to discern good from bad arguments.

you know from evolution that you can have a basic trust of your senses (though they can be fooled)

But Coyne claims you can't decide anything and just how doesn't that include any "basic trust" in senses or anything else?

You can evaluate some choices (Denetts example of if you couldn't have basic trust of your senses your ancestors would have been food for predators).

But how do you "know" that what we "know" about evolution is true without the ability to choose what is good evidence or bad? According to Coyne, you can't.

Whereas if you believe as I do that animals exhibit similar characteristics where they appear to choose like humans then science, literature , art etc should have no bearing on the determinism v/s free will argument because animals that appear to choose just like us do not perform any of those activities.

Really? Care to give any scientific studies that demonstrate that whale songs aren't art or that chimp use of tools isn't science or that what parrots do isn't language? Or are you just passing hot air again?


... try to point out flaws in the argument while simultaneously making no claim or providing no explanation for what you believe.

On this subject, I don't "belive" anything ... but thanks for letting us know that you do.

The difference, my dear, is that I am not claiming that my argument is "science" ... unlike the determinists or the IDers. All I'm asking is that you be consistent.
 
Actually, I consider it strong evidence for the Coyneian view that a rational argument has been brought before them countless times, demonstrating clearly that deliberation is required in order to employ Reason (lest we fail to distinguish it from Superstitious Error)--and that they have failed to differentiate it from the quite irrational argument that Reason happens all by itself, like a river rolling to the sea (because, evolution, doncha know). Therefore No Free Will, QED.
 
... I consider it strong evidence for the Coyneian view that a rational argument has been brought before them countless times...

But, then, we'd have to assume that they're anymore rationial than the people they denegrate which, in turn, would require us to believe that some people make decisions to be more more rational than others that would mean ... oh, the heck with it!
 
Again, not the issue.
But exactly. Whether you live in a universe with free will or determinism - science and reason have the same problem. You seem to jump up and down that determinism implies problems for reason - but so does free will.
Say you are deliberating something and you have two alternatives.
If you have "free will" you may choose option 1. If you could go back in time to the exact same state you "could" choose option 2. If there is no basis for your choice and you could just as well choose either option then where lies reason? how do you know you chose correctly? So if your objection to Coyne is that he doesn't follow through with the implications of determinism - well neither do you.
You are actually complaining that we don't have any true objective standards/observers. And that has nothing to do with free will v/s choice.

But Coyne claims you can't decide anything
No - the claim is always that you will decide the same way.


Really? Care to give any scientific studies that demonstrate that whale songs aren't art or that chimp use of tools isn't science or that what parrots do isn't language? Or are you just passing hot air again?

Unless you think my point is humans are exception ergo determinism your response makes no sense. Lets try again. If animals also appear to choose - then you must see whats common between us and them. So far as we know most do not practise anything similar to what we call science (but some use tools). So far as we know animals do not tell each fictional tales (if you wish to claim otherwise the onus of proof is on you , not me). So when you try to introduce science / literature as arguments against determinism I can simply say what about species X which appears to choose but does no such science/literature activity. Hence introducing science / literature into the free will argument is just a useless muddying water tactic.

On this subject, I don't "belive" anything ... but thanks for letting us know that you do.
Really ? you don't believe anything on this subject?
Suit yourself.
Me - my views are the same as before - what you(per coynes definition) call free will , if it exists , is what I see called random everywhere else. Till you can actually explain how free will is different from randomness
you are no different from someone who tells me "its a miracle!"

The difference, my dear, is that I am not claiming that my argument is "science"
Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn what you claim your argument is - you haven't yet provided a coherent version of free will . Perhaps unsurprising because you don't believe anything on this subject.
 
If you have "free will" you may choose option 1. If you could go back in time to the exact same state you "could" choose option 2. If there is no basis for your choice and you could just as well choose either option then where lies reason? how do you know you chose correctly? So if your objection to Coyne is that he doesn't follow through with the implications of determinism - well neither do you.
You are actually complaining that we don't have any true objective standards/observers. And that has nothing to do with free will v/s choice.


Except that I think there are objective standards called "science" and "reason." It's just that they require an ability to choose. That's my belief on the subject. It's also Coyne's professed belief on the subject. He just can't be consistent.

Hence introducing science / literature into the free will argument is just a useless muddying water tactic.

Well, I have to confess that your point is now so covered in mud that I can no longer see it, if I ever did. Oh, wait a minute! You don't believe there is such a thing as reason ... ergo no point is necessary!

Till you can actually explain how free will is different from randomness you are no different from someone who tells me "its a miracle!"

So, basically, you are just typing random words? Expecting reason or science out of you would be a miracle?

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn what you claim your argument is

Then why are you here? Oh, right! You can't help yourself and have no ability to reason.
 
Except that I think there are objective standards called "science" and "reason."
But you aren't an objective observer - so how do you know for certain if the standard is objective?(even if you do have free will).
It's just that they require an ability to choose.
You keep saying that - wheres the proof? For e.g. if you look at reasons cousin logic
a. All crows are birds
b. Some crows are black.
Do you have a choice when you conclude some birds are black? - if all of our brains evolved to *always* conclude that some birds are black given the above statements then would that mean logic no longer exists or has no value?
So, basically, you are just typing random words?
Don't attribute your conclusion to me. I have maintained that free will(by Coynes definition, not the more sophisticated ones) is indistinguishable from randomness - that doesn't mean I'm saying that our behavior is random (it could be or it could be deterministic or a combination)

Then why are you here? Oh, right! You can't help yourself and have no ability to reason.
Do you bother reading complete sentences? I said I don't care what you claim your argument is - i.e. whether you label your argument science or not. Your argument doesn't magically become a better argument by not calling it science.
And again I say our brains are reasoning engines (Some better than others) - and I don't think choice is necessary for that. Reason as we like to think of it runs into problem whether we are deterministic or we have free will.
 
But you aren't an objective observer - so how do you know for certain if the standard is objective?(even if you do have free will).

But isn't that true of Coyne, even more so given his determinism, when he says the same thing?

if all of our brains evolved to *always* conclude that some birds are black given the above statements then would that mean logic no longer exists or has no value?

Since there will always be variation within species (of course, assuming we have something called "knowledge" about species), there is no value in talking about my "logic" being better than anyone else's ... which Coyne also does a lot. If you have no choice how do you chose science over theism as "valuable"?

indistinguishable from randomness - that doesn't mean I'm saying that our behavior is random

Now that's interesting. How does a naturalist explain why something that is indistinguishable from another thing is not the same thing?

Your argument doesn't magically become a better argument by not calling it science.

[Sigh] I'm not going to bother to go back though the whole thing to elucidate my point. I'll just note that Coyne's doesn't either by calling it scientific, especially since he has no choice in the matter.

And again I say our brains are reasoning engines (Some better than others)

How did you make that choice? You say that you don't need choice but how did you (let's use another word) "conclude" that some are better engines and some are worse? Naturally, you also have to explain how you "conclude" which are better and which are worse.
 
Do you have a choice when you conclude some birds are black? - if all of our brains evolved to *always* conclude that some birds are black given the above statements then would that mean logic no longer exists or has no value?

Evolution cannot be invoked as a satisfactory explanation for the human ability to make logical choices for at least two reasons:

(1) Once natural selection has been claimed as the explanation for correct use of logical argument, we are left wanting an explanation for the failure to use logical argument. Evolution cannot explain both, unless we wish to abdicate its explanatory power altogether (like Goddiddit). If brains "evolved" to think logically, they also quote obviously evolved to think illogically, since there is abundant evidence of both.

(2) More importantly, we know that (biological) evolution occurs too slowly to account for any cultural phenomena that have emerged over the last several thousand years--a time period during which both formal logic and science have developed. There is simply no symbolic logic before roughly 500 BC. A genetic explanation for the mechanics of formal logic would therefore be somewhat ... illogical.

John is not arguing (nor do I see any compatibilists arguing) that we have the "freedom" to make logically contradictory choices, like choosing to vote on a day that no election is held. Some things are constrained by physics (we can't fly or change our blood type) and some are constrained by our ability to construct meaningful propositions (as with the election example. Or buying pork chops in a kosher deli. Or getting your tail waxed.) So-called "Free will" has no power to to overcome these obstacles, and no one is arguing to the contrary.

The question is whether we can choose any behavior or disposition whatsoever. And if we cannot, if intentionality has no role in our cognitive life (which is ruled out by Hard Determinism), how are we to talk about our reasons for believing in anything at all, even incompatibilism? It cannot be a matter of applying science or reason to the matter, since this would violate the absence of choice (yes or no to incompatibilism) that we are trying to demonstrate.

Put another way, if you embrace Coynian Hard Determinism, your only possible response to the question "what is your reason for embracing it?" is that it is due to forces beyond your control. The fact that Coyne's argument appears to be plausible, rational, or scientific *must* be ancillary to your response, since the part of you that apprehends such things cannot participate in your selection of behavior and dispostion--that would be a violation of determinism and an exercise of your non-existent free will.
 
@John
But isn't that true of Coyne, even more so given his determinism,
Yes it is true of Coyne - but it isn't more so. You have the same problem with free will that's why your objection is meaningless - you cannot have reason as we think of it even with free will.

Since there will always be variation within species
Assume it - just like humans have brains assume that the brains are perfect logic engines. Does that make logic superfluous? As long as logic is something that exists independent of humans , the answer would be no. Its the same for reason

there is no value in talking about my "logic" being better than anyone else's
But the question was - does logic exist/ is useful even if your brain can only arrive at one logical conclusion (i.e. you don't have the freedom to conclude anything else). The better or worse only comes into play because we don't have perfect logical brains.


How did you make that choice?

Processes in my brain. (neurons, dendrites and other things that I should have paid attention to in my biology class)

that some are better engines and some are worse
Thats what my brain came up with. Now I could explain what my brain considered to reach that conclusion - but you could keep asking why and I would have to finally shrug and say something in my brain.
where does choice come in?
 
@Chris
Evolution cannot be invoked as a satisfactory explanation for the human ability to make logical choices
Huh? Didnt know you were a theist.

So-called "Free will" has no power to to overcome these obstacles, and no one is arguing to the contrary.
But Im not asking you to do the impossible like fly. the point of the logic example was to show that determinism doesn't render logic (and similarly reason) useless. But I could ask you to exercise your free will to undo what your brain has reasoned (e.g. Sarah Palin is smart!). Can it? if not isn't your brains reasoning deterministic?

is that it is due to forces beyond your control
No , thats where awareness comes in , but yes if you keep asking why you will reach forces beyond my control.
For e.g.
I love my wife . Why? I could list down the reasons. But if you ask why those reasons and why no other I'd have to say that's the way my brain is wired. You can do this for any important to you question. And if there is no free will for the important questions - then why do you need free will ? to choose between vanilla or chocolate ice cream?
 
Yes it is true of Coyne - but it isn't more so. You have the same problem with free will that's why your objection is meaningless - you cannot have reason as we think of it even with free will.

Please explain why. All I've seen is that you assert we can't be objective, which is begging the question.

Processes in my brain. (neurons, dendrites and other things that I should have paid attention to in my biology class)

So, how do you know those processes don't permit us to choose within the limits Chris and I are talking about?

does logic exist/ is useful even if your brain can only arrive at one logical conclusion (i.e. you don't have the freedom to conclude anything else).

But people choose something else all the time ... they are illogical (to the extent we can choose to recognize their illogic) all the time. So logic is not "useful" unless I can choose it over illogic.

Thats what my brain came up with. Now I could explain what my brain considered to reach that conclusion - but you could keep asking why and I would have to finally shrug and say something in my brain.
where does choice come in?


In other words, you don't know how it would work under hard determinism. So how do you know hard determinism is true? Faith?
 
No , thats where awareness comes in...

And how, I wonder, is "awareness" able to influence the question of whether or not you embrace Coynian Hard Determinism? Doesn't Libet tell us that we make decisions *before* becoming aware of them--before (or concurrent with) our reasoning about such decisions?

but yes if you keep asking why you will reach forces beyond my control.

Now we're getting somewhere. So you would agree, then, that you cannot take credit for any of your triumphs, since they were essentially predestined by past events, and that all your noble efforts in bringing them about were not something you could have shirked in any event. In other words there is no *moral* difference between success and failure, say for example in designing effectively child-proof caps for toxic medicines, because there was no possibility (given the laws of physics) for any other outcome. Do you agree?

For e.g. I love my wife . Why? I could list down the reasons. But if you ask why those reasons and why no other I'd have to say that's the way my brain is wired.

It's lucky for her that you love her, then, wouldn't you say? And if you brain was wired to pretend to love her, or to cheat, or abuse her, would you shrug and say then too "that's just the way my brain is wired?"
 
Evolution cannot be invoked as a satisfactory explanation for the human ability to make logical choices
Huh? Didnt know you were a theist.


Are non sequiturs regularly the result of "logic engines"?

Here's the argument as I see it (assuming, for the moment, we are not meat puppets unable to choose between arguments, evidence, etc.):

The measure of evolutionary success is "differential reproductive success".

Theists far outnumber atheists. Furthermore, theists seem to outbreed nontheists (check, for example, the increase in population between heavily Muslim countries and secularist countries like Sweden).

By evolutionary standards, theism is much more successful than atheism.

Are we then to conclude that theism is much more logical because evolution has shown that theism conveys differential reproductive success?

If not, we have no reason to believe that evolution will construct "logic engines" either.
 
Here's the argument as I see it

Yep, this is what pretty much what I meant. Plus the fact that logic and secularism are too recent to be biological, genetic developments (natural selection can't work that quickly).
 
@John
All I've seen is that you assert we can't be objective,
Sigh . are you, John Pieret, an objective observer?
how do you know those processes don't permit us to choose within the limits Chris and I are talking about?
What limits? You have steadfastly refused to say anything about your position. So go ahead tell me - when can you choose and when cant you? (and why those specific limits). What causes these limits (shades of macro/micro evolution)?
And stop portraying it as impossible choices. It's impossible for you now to choose to believe the age of the earth as 6000 years - but it isn't an impossible choice. Creationists do it all the time(if it is a choice) and if someday you "choose" to become a fundamental religious nut you might believe that (or if your childhood was different). But right now you cant choose to be a creationist. So why does that limit exist ? (Note your previous answer of you'd have to undo everything you know is a determinist view - the state i.e. memory of your brain and the structure of it is determining your choice)

So logic is not "useful" unless I can choose it over illogic.
See but that's the catch when it comes to reason. Say you take a controversial subject abortion or not for e.g. You reason and come to the conclusion that pro-choice is the reasonable position (and pro-life is unreasonable). Per free will you could have reasoned that pro-life is the reasonable one. At no point are you saying pro-life is unreasonable and Im choosing it. In both cases the "choice" you make is the reasonable one - according to you - and the other is the unreasonable one. In which case you are just contrasting two positions - the reasonable one is just the label you attached to the one you chose.

In other words, you don't know how it would work under hard determinism.
For me , determinism is true or it isnt - I dont care about hard , soft or gel like consistency. I assume the brain *could* work like every other physical system we know - that's an assumption . Its better than the alternative which is we have free will , we dont know how, why , under what circumstances it works.
Since you have claimed that you don't know how free will works (And even claimed by analogy that it is not necessary to know how something works for it to be true ) you can read your own response in some previous post for this part.

Are non sequiturs regularly the result of "logic engines"?
Every capacity your brain has , has evolved. Directly or Indirectly everything we do is tied to evolution. The alternatives are theism or a nobel prize. When chris gets a nobel prize Ill withdraw the theist
remark.


The measure of evolutionary success is "differential reproductive success".

By evolutionary standards, theism is much more successful than atheism.
Does that answer your question? Logically using differential reproductive success as a measure of "success" in general seems to be illogical - it relies on the emotional response to the word success. I have no problem thinking that being a theist has some reproductive advantages (or that some capacity in the brain that increases reproductive success is correlated to belief in the unknown).

You wont see most non-believers as stars in shows like "18 and counting" will you now.

And with that I have to abandon this thread.
 
@Chris
So you would agree, then, that you cannot take credit for any of your triumphs, since they were essentially predestined by past events
No I cannot - But you know, way back when I believed in choice , I didn't think I could take credit either. My place of birth, my parents, my friends , my education were all things that I had no control over. I was fortunate to be where I was. Heck I can't even take credit that I exist. If you go back far enough you have no choice.

And if you brain was wired to pretend to love her, or to cheat, or abuse her, would you shrug and say then too "that's just the way my brain is wired?"
Yes its luck. Brain wiring and upbringing and culture all interacting with the brain changing its state. (why are Indians less likely to divorce than westerners- is it because westerners are more likely cheaters or abusers? - note this is a consequence of your reasoning not mine I dont hold any of the above)
Do you believe otherwise for your loved ones? Did you choose your parents? Did you in this world of 6 billion plus people somehow choose to be born in proximity of your loved ones, so that you could choose to love them?
 
are you, John Pieret, an objective observer?

100%? No. Never claimed to be ... nor is it necessary for the kind of free will Chris and I am talking about. All we have to be is objective some of the time and in the circumstances when it counts the most, such as when to choose any particular logic over illogic.

when can you choose and when cant you?

Why should I have to be that specific when you say about determinism that "I'd have to say that's the way my brain is wired."? You can't impose a demand on me that you aren't willing to meet yourself. My point is that your position refutes itself under the rules of logic that you yourself appealed to when you called us "reasoning engines".

You reason and come to the conclusion ...

How do I do that without the ability to make a choice?

... the reasonable one is just the label you attached to the one you chose.

Yes, that is exactly the inevitable result of hard determinism ... and the point that Chris and I have been making. If Coyne is right about determinism, he is wrong about science and/or atheism (which he tends to confuse) being more reasonable, more logical, than theism.

Logically using differential reproductive success as a measure of "success" in general seems to be illogical - it relies on the emotional response to the word success.

Empirically, there are more theists than non-theists. You can just deny that, exactly why? Because you have a different emotional response? So empiricism itself is just a predetermined emotion? Bye, bye science!

And with that I have to abandon this thread.

I can't say I blame you for the feeling.
 
P.S.

Are non sequiturs regularly the result of "logic engines"?
Every capacity your brain has , has evolved. Directly or Indirectly everything we do is tied to evolution. The alternatives are theism or a nobel prize.


Talk about a Discovery Insitute-like "false dichotomy"! You make a claim about what evolution does and someone, on the basis of evolutionary theory, disputes that. You then claim that that proves they are a theist because they disagree with you.

I may have to put you in the Quote Mine Project.
 
Logically using differential reproductive success as a measure of "success" in general seems to be illogical - it relies on the emotional response to the word success.

Are you suggesting there is some more objective, less "emotional" metric biologists use to measure natural selection, apart from differential reproduction?
 
It's impossible for you now to choose to believe the age of the earth as 6000 years - but it isn't an impossible choice.

You are correct that once a person has reasoned their way to a choice or decision, it can sometimes be very difficult to find a valid reason for the alternative choice. But you seem to be arguing that such decisions are really just whims, so that choosing to believe the world is billions of years old, not thousands, is the same as choosing to wear a purple hat or eat jam sandwiches every day. But a whim is not a "choice" in the sense we mean here. Perhaps that's where the conversation is breaking down? Let's make it explicit so we all agree: not every behavior entails making a choice, though in many cases we could, if we had stopped to reflect, made a choice to behave differently.

Nobody here is arguing for what Sartre called "total freedom." The question is not whether everything represents an equal possible choice, but whether, through reasoning, any capacity exists to influence our own behavior.

Having said that, I can decide to imagine what it might feel like to believe the earth is 6,000 years old, or that God exists, and I have in fact done this. Once inside such a thought experiment, one has a chance to evaluate anew whether the old way of seeing things is still the correct one. Perhaps one will notice something one did not notice last time. Perhaps not.

If such a possibility seems absurd it is because you have set it up that way with your example of young and old earth. Not every disposition is so simple, so cut and dried. Is there nothing in your worldview that you struggle with, nothing that doesn't quite fit right? Perhaps you go back and forth on string theory, or whether the individual mandate of the ACA is an undue restriction of freedom (there are critiques from the left on this, just as from the right.) Perhaps you have doubts about Peter Singer's proposal to farm non-living animal flesh. If we chose any of these examples (or one form your own experience), instead of Young Earth vs. Geology, it might not seem so silly to talk about revisiting one's choice of belief.
 
[DS]Every capacity your brain has, has evolved. Directly or Indirectly everything we do is tied to evolution. The alternatives are theism or a nobel prize.

[JP]Talk about a Discovery Institute-like "false dichotomy"!


It is truly a fallacy of Creationist proportion. But even removing the last sentence, and keeping the much more reasonable assertion that both superstition and reason are faculties endowed by evolution, the question remains how (on those grounds alone) we can say that reason is superior to superstition.

We can't. We need some other criterion. Otherwise, the Nobel prize is just something some apes give to other apes for ... who knows why?
 
Otherwise, the Nobel prize is just something some apes give to other apes for ... who knows why?

Heh!
 
@John Pieret
Yes, that is exactly the inevitable result of hard determinism ... and the point that Chris and I have been making.
Sigh. Did you miss the part where the example said if free will is true.

So once more. Say some thing that you are "reasoning" has two possible options A and B that you can "choose"

1) If determinism is true , your reasoning will always lead you to say Option A . You will always think option A is reasonable (but someone else like me might reason option B to be the more reasonable one ). we have issues here as to which option is objectively the reasonable one. as well as if you can only come up with one conclusion where lies reason?

2) If free will is true , then you could choose option A and you will then think option A is the more reasonable one. If you could wind back the clock again , you could now choose Option B and you will think option B is the more reasonable one. You have the same issue as to which option is objectively the reasonable one. You also have the same issue that if you could choose either option and both after the choice appear to be the reasonable one , then where lies reason?

You seem to be blind to the implications of free will and you don't recognize the irony in insisting that determinists have the same issue.
 
If free will is true , then you could choose option A and you will then think option A is the more reasonable one. If you could wind back the clock again , you could now choose Option B and you will think option B is the more reasonable one. You have the same issue as to which option is objectively the reasonable one. You also have the same issue that if you could choose either option and both after the choice appear to be the reasonable one , then where lies reason?

For one thing, I might have "chosen" option A originally foolishly or without much thinking about it ... have you never regretted something you "chose" to do? You are begging the question again. You are assuming that a person with free will would necessarily think that what they did was resonable, which is just asserting your premise.

The point of science and reason is that we can do better at how we think about things than we might otherwise do. If we can't then there is no such thing as science and reason.

Coyne has again illustrated the problem:

Some readers at this site have argued that the whole issue [determinism] is a semantic one, lacking any substantive conclusions or consequences for human behavior. I have always disagreed with that: how we conceive of the source of our actions has enormous consequences for how we punish and reward other people's actions.

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/free-will-sam-harris-vs-dan-dennett/

What "conclusions" if we have no choice but to believe what we believe? And how would hard deterninism allow room for "consequences" of how we "conclude" anything? It's just meat puppets acting out as they have to do.
 
You are begging the question again. You are assuming that a person with free will would necessarily think that what they did was resonable, which is just asserting your premise.

That's one half of the fallacy. The other half is imputing to compatibilists (or to John and I specifically) a "libertarian" free will that no one is defending. (Recall that metaphysical libertarianism arose in the 18th c. as an attempt to *refute* determinism, so it can hardly be part of the effort to reconcile determinism with free will).

Choices are not whims; they require reasons. Making a reasoned decision is qualitatively different than, say, a spoiled princess "choosing" which pony to ride each morning. Since your model elides the actual reasoning process, of course it appears that choices A and B are being made capriciously.

The hard work is to include the reasoning process behind A and B in your description, and then show that said reasoning is actually extraneous to the decision being made. Until then, you are merely, as John says, re-asserting your premise, without logical or empirical support, that belief in free will requires that reasons are arbitrary.

(Libet thought he had demonstrated such a principle, but he made a huge leap of induction by applying limited instances of (apparent) decision bypassing reasoning as though they could account for all such cases. He also failed to examine the role of unconscious thought in the reasoning process--a concept that might be scandalous to 18th-century metaphysical libertarians, but not to anyone with a passing familiarity of 20th and 21st century psychology.)
 
@John Pieret
have you never regretted something you "chose" to do?
Obviously and Precisely. What caused you to regret the choice other than additional data/experiences (which doesn't contradict determinism)?

You are assuming that a person with free will would necessarily think that what they did was resonable, which is just asserting your premise.

Well no way to prove it till someone invents a time machine. I'm basing this on the fact that when we change our choice , we think the current choice is reasonable. The other possibility would be that you think one option is reasonable and you still choose the other one. That doesn't fit with my experience. Does it with yours? (yes this has an assumption that reason is the only factor that comes during the choice but you can substitute reason with reason + faith + instinct + whatever else you want)

What "conclusions" if we have no choice but to believe what we believe?
You keep getting caught up in language. It's fairly routine for me to hear the (computer) system concludes or the program chooses.
The word choice/conclude/decide is used to indicate that out of two or more alternatives one is picked.

Oh and incidentally
X or Y => false Dichotomy
X or Y or (not (X or Y)) => not a dichotomy.

@Chris
The other half is imputing to compatibilists (or to John and I specifically) a "libertarian" free will that no one is defending
Since neither you nor John make clear what you believe you can hardly blame me. Coyne provides a specific definition of free will (which is what is commonly thought of by non philosophers) and says free will of that sort doesn't exist. You disagree with Coyne , therefore?


Choices are not whims; they require reasons.

Which is a determinist position. Since the reasons (And state of your brain and your brain itself) will be the same at the same point in time => at any given point in time you can only do one thing.

Russell Blackford phrased it as "I could choose differently if I wanted differently" , true enough - without ever going into what would make him want differently for the exact same circumstances.

And there was never an argument that you could redefine free will to be compatible with determinism (but then go ahead convince the lay people that your definition is the one they should use). What was always being argued was free will as defined by Coyne.
 
Obviously and Precisely. What caused you to regret the choice other than additional data/experiences (which doesn't contradict determinism)?

The fact that I did not apply reason to my original decision despite knowing that I should have.

Giant unaddressed elephant in the room: Is the point of science and reason that we can do better at how we think about things than we might otherwise do? If so, how does that fit in with hard determinism?

You keep getting caught up in language. It's fairly routine for me to hear the (computer) system concludes or the program chooses.
The word choice/conclude/decide is used to indicate that out of two or more alternatives one is picked.


Not based on the "truth" of either option but based only on the predetermined forces of and the vector and velocity of the matter in the universe. Coyne and you are no closer to the "truth" than any theist?

X or Y or (not (X or Y)) => not a dichotomy

That's not what you said:

Every capacity your brain has , has evolved. Directly or Indirectly everything we do is tied to evolution. The alternatives are theism or a nobel prize.

X or Y or a totally unrealistic (sorry, Chris, no Nobel for you) option is still a dichotomy.

Coyne provides a specific definition of free will (which is what is commonly thought of by non philosophers) and says free will of that sort doesn't exist. You disagree with Coyne , therefore?

Since he is the one positing it, then he should work out the implications of what he is asserting and deny the existence of science and reason. He doesn't and, in fact, keeps insisting that there are such things and that they effect our behavior.

without ever going into what would make him want differently for the exact same circumstances.

I want to lose weight but I also want that ice cream cone. Again you are assumming determinism ... that there can be one and only one thought, one reason, one motivation in anyone's head at any one time.
 
(sorry, Chris, no Nobel for you)

Holding out for that Latin Grammy...
 
Since neither you nor John make clear what you believe you can hardly blame me.

Not true--I've said many times, here and elsewhere, that I don't subscribe to libertarian free will.

Coyne provides a specific definition of free will (which is what is commonly thought of by non philosophers) and says free will of that sort doesn't exist.

I'm not here to defend folk concepts of free will; I'm here to point out that Coyne's position is problematic. There's a difference.

To again return to the example of gravity: if most people believed that gravity resulted from the yearning of all matter to be reunited after the Big Bang, and Coyne responded that gravity was inconsistent with the other laws of nature, and therefore an illusion, I could criticize Coyne's reasoning without committing myself to the prevailing folk view.

[CS] Choices are not whims; they require reasons.

[DS]Which is a determinist position.


Maybe this is a good time to remind you that I'm not an anti-determinist?

But more importantly, I think we want to be careful not to confuse causes with reasons. Causes are elements of the determinist picture. They exist "in the world." Reasons are explications, elements of logic, not nature.

Since the reasons (And state of your brain and your brain itself) will be the same at the same point in time => at any given point in time you can only do one thing.

This sounds good in theory, but it's not so easy to cash out, which suggests the theoretical model may be flawed (and neither you nor Coyne have any evidence, just assertions of the principle. Sort of like saying that determinism must apply on the sub-atomic level, just because.)

Missing from your model is the fact that we have the capacity for conscious reflection. I grant we don't have a simple account of how any organism can begin to introduce new causes into the causal chain, but the concept isn't ridiculous on its face--no more so than the concept that with the genesis of life, matter begins to organize itself in an anti-entropic manner. Or the concept of a threshold where Newtonian mechanics begin to apply to interactions of matter. Emergence is a respectable concept in physics and biology.

It's--yes--speculative, but no less so than hard determinism, which can't be empirically proven (we can't rewind the tape) and which has all the problems we've been discussing in how you preserve any meaning or value for science and reason.
 
One word more on reasons versus causes, Deepak, because it really is crucial. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that our entire civilization is structured around reasons. If, to use Russell's example, we fail to save a drowning child, we will be asked for the reasons for our actions, not the causes. Why didn't you save our child? Maybe there are mitigating factors, but these exist in the real of reasons not causes. We cannot answer "my neurons fired in such a way based on my neural state, which was the effect of a causal chain going back to the big bang." That would be a bit of a non-sequitur.

What becomes of our culture--what becomes of human relationships?--when we begin to substitute causes for reasons?

Now ask the really hard question (that John has been getting at), what is our *reason* for replacing reasons with causes, and how is it not self-refuting?
 
The fact that I did not apply reason to my original decision despite knowing that I should have.
Hmm? So you originally made a choice , without applying reason and knew it , but still went ahead with your choice. Some time later(with no additional information, experience etc) you reversed your choice, because this time , magically, given the same set of data you decided to apply your reason.That's how your life works, is it?

Is the point of science and reason that we can do better at how we think about things than we might otherwise do?
Perhaps it is of reason (I wouldnt phrase it this way for science). But I have already told you , I see as much of an issue for determinism as I do for free will when it comes to reason.

If so, how does that fit in with hard determinism?
I would think that beings able to evaluate a set of propositions and come up with a course of action (even if given the same set of propositions they will come up with the same course of action) have some evolutionary advantage conferred on them. The course of action only needed to be objectively right some of the time (e.g. avoiding a predator) , not all of the time.

Coyne and you are no closer to the "truth" than any theist?
If truth is an objective standard , then that doesn't hold. If there are two programs that perform mathematical operations , its not out of the ordinary that one provides better answers than the other. The key would be how to evaluate such a position and in the universe we are , there is no objective standard. Does the theist (e.g. our favorite Miller) believe he is being unreasonable? So you and I non - theists use "reason" and believe our position is reasonable. Miller uses his "reason" and believes his position is the reasonable one. Prove him wrong if you can.

X or Y or a totally unrealistic (sorry, Chris, no Nobel for you) option is still a dichotomy.
hmm. is this an example of you not applying reason to your decision?. Let me spell it out.
Either every capacity in our brain is evolved (X), or you believe in some supernatural interference (Y) or you have some(any , includes every other possibility) other brilliant hypothesis(not (X or Y) ) which if proven will give you the nobel prize. Since Chris appeared to disagree with X and hasnt yet got his Nobel , ergo Y. Also I'll add that I know that Chris isn't a theist (sarcasm anyone)

I want to lose weight but I also want that ice cream cone. Again you are assumming determinism ... that there can be one and only one thought, one reason, one motivation in anyone's head at any one time.
Aw Phooey. the point is that you can have all these contradictory motivations , something will win and determine what action you take, but the same something will win without additional data/experience/input/change. You keep demonstrating that you don't have a clue as to what determinism actually means.
 
So you originally made a choice , without applying reason and knew it , but still went ahead with your choice. Some time later(with no additional information, experience etc) you reversed your choice, because this time , magically, given the same set of data you decided to apply your reason.That's how your life works, is it?

And you've given a better explanation of how life works, exactly where? According to you "something will win and determine what action you take." Now there's a satisfactory explanation! Let's not forget that it is you and Coyne that are proposing hard determinism. Chris and I are saying that it isn't a good explanation, given all that relies on it (including that there is something called "reason" which we both, apparently, accept). Whose burden is it to show that hard determinism is true?

I wouldnt phrase it this way for science

I find that really strange because what is science but a way to organize reason when applied to what we empirically find (assuming we have any choice to believe what we have and have not empirically found)?

But I have already told you

But I have equally told you that you have not explained it satisfactorily. Am I supposed to take what you say, like some prophet, without any good explanation?

I would think that beings able to evaluate a set of propositions and come up with a course of action (even if given the same set of propositions they will come up with the same course of action) have some evolutionary advantage conferred on them.

But, again, the only measure of "evolutionary advantage" that has ever been proposed is "differential reproductive success," by which measure, no matter how you slice it, theists win, despite being called by Coyne (and you) "irrational." Please make up your mind.

The course of action only needed to be objectively right some of the time (e.g. avoiding a predator) , not all of the time.

Yep. Just like "free will" only has to work some of the time.

If truth is an objective standard , then that doesn't hold.

But how do you or I know what is an "objective standard" is we have no choice?

If there are two programs that perform mathematical operations , its not out of the ordinary that one provides better answers than the other.

How do I know which is "better" if I have no choice? The empiric evidence, so far as we can know it, says the theists have the "better" answer.

... in the universe we are , there is no objective standard. ... Miller uses his "reason" and believes his position is the reasonable one. Prove him wrong if you can.

Under hard determinism, we can't. Which is the point we've been making all along. Then Coyne, if he was "rational" should shut up about religion ... assuming he could only work out the logical implications of his premise ... which he can't because he's just a meat puppet.

You keep demonstrating that you don't have a clue as to what determinism actually means.

That's only because you meat puppets are unable to rationally explain what "determinism" is supposed to mean.

P.S. Also I'll add that I know that Chris isn't a theist (sarcasm anyone)

IOW, it was never a serious third option (which I recognized ... sarcasm anyone?). So why did you argue it wasn't a dichotomy? ... other than you can't help being contrarian because you're a meat puppet?
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
IOW, it was never a serious third option (which I recognized ... sarcasm anyone?). So why did you argue it wasn't a dichotomy?

Not to mention that position X is still being misrepresented. Position X is properly the following:

(1) If evolution is the explanation for human behavior, it must be the explanation for all human behavior, not just the parts we like. That means that superstition is every bit as Darwinian as reason.

(2) Logic cannot be a trait in the Darwinian sense. It is too recent a development. Evolution cannot, on its own, explicate logic and reason.

That's position X.
 
And you've given a better explanation of how life works, exactly where?
That's not an answer to what I asked is it. I either know some incident or data or circumstance or just experience which made me change my mind(or in some cases I dont know). Recount that you give a particular life incident when you say you became an agnostic - not that you realised you didn't apply reason.

Whose burden is it to show that hard determinism is true?
Whose burden is it to show some limited free will is true? - the statement I make is that determinism can be understood , as can randomness - free will(per coynes definition) is incoherent and also that most compatibilists are determinists who stop short of asking some questions.

I find that really strange because what is science but a way to organize reason
I would say science is discovery of facts about our universe. It doesn't mean you become a better thinker - just means you know more.

Am I supposed to take what you say,
Nope - only that this is a stalemate so there is no point reiterating it. Neither are you a prophet that I must take your word for it.

by which measure, no matter how you slice it, theists win,
What win? religion may have an evolutionary advantage. So might have xenophobia. Do xenophobic people "win" ? Evolutionary advantage is orthogonal to reason.

Just like "free will" only has to work some of the time.
Sure. Lets restrict the discussion to when it works. got any examples?
Specific examples instead of the generic "reason".

But how do you or I know what is an "objective standard" is we have no choice?
How do you know the standard is objective when you have choice? I have already accepted you can never know for sure (the difference is only that I believe this is the case irrespective of free will)

Under hard determinism, we can't.
No thats not what hard determinism says (there might be an input which causes miller to rethink).
But YOU are not a hard determinist , neither is Miller presumably. So go ahead YOU make the case. Then you can conclude that Miller , knowing what is reasonable, still exercises his "free will" and "chooses" irrationality - or that Millers brain , inspite of there being an objective standard of reason , somehow comes up with a different definition of reasonable.

I could simply conclude that Millers brain is not quite good enough to figure this out and chooses the unreasonable option for the same data.

it was never a serious third option
But as long as it covers all other possibilities its not a dichotomy.
John Pieret is a male or female or a (poorly written) AI program or an Alien or (....) => the latter options might be unrealistic but are not false dichotomies.

@Chris
Not to mention that position X is still being misrepresented
Is the capacity to reason evolved or not? Is there anything that the brain can do, directly or indirectly, that has not, according to you, evolved?
 
Is the capacity to reason evolved or not? Is there anything that the brain can do, directly or indirectly, that has not, according to you, evolved?

I've already answered this.

The genetic *capacity* for reason is a given. But capacity is not fulfillment.

In classical terms the genetic capacity for something is a necessary but not sufficient cause.

Formal logic had to be invented. Its invention required as a precondition that there be a genetic capacity for it, which is why humans and not banana trees were the one to do the inventing. However, once invented, evolution has had exactly zero involvement in its propagation in the culture.

We also have a genetic capacity to dance the Macarena, but I don't think you would suggest the Macarena emerged in the popualtion via a genetic mutation which was spread through sexual propagation. The Macarena is "something that the brain can do," and it has not biologically evolved.
 
Part I

That's not an answer to what I asked is it.

I don't care. You can't shift the burden of demonstrating that hard determinism is true by simply asking me questions. As to the burden itself, the vast majority of people believe that they can, at least in part, influence their own behavior, including Coyne unless we assume his constant statements about applying science and reason are just random babble ... which raises the additional problem that these are the same people who are claiming that science and reason are illusions, so why should we believe their claims that science and reason show that hard determinism is true?

However ...

Recount that you give a particular life incident when you say you became an agnostic - not that you realised you didn't apply reason.

I became an agnostic when I thought about how to reconcile an omnipotent, omniscient god and free will and I realized that I couldn't. But I "chose" to try and "chose" the conclusion that I had failed because my original musings were not logical. That led me to "choose" to formulate what was necessary for there to be such a being and "choose" the conclusion that the kind of omnipotent, omniscient god that my logic lead to was, in principle, unknowable. While, of course, I had information and experience that led me to that point, there was none that I am aware of that made me come to the conclusions I did ... just as you cannot recount all the causes of all your actions. But I can say that the only "life experience" involved was "thinking."

I would say science is discovery of facts about our universe. It doesn't mean you become a better thinker - just means you know more.

Bullhocky! I suggest you read David L. Hull's Science As a Process. The point of science is that collaborative thinking leads to better thinking than thinking by any one person (no matter how brilliant). No matter how much we "know" (however we do that without making choices), an essential part of science is thinking about what we "know."

this is a stalemate so there is no point reiterating it.

Then why do Coyne and you keep doing it? Oh, right, you're meat puppets. But those of us who believe that there is logic and science have an understandable motive to keep reiterating that your position is inconsistent in hopes that, even if hard determinism is true, we might be an "experiences" that will effect your behavior.

What win? religion may have an evolutionary advantage. So might have xenophobia. Do xenophobic people "win" ? Evolutionary advantage is orthogonal to reason.

It was you who gave evolution as a basis of "reason." If evolution can't deliver reason, what does, other than "choice"? Again, I am willing to accept the possibility of hard determinism if you are willing to accept the nihilism it implies. Coyne doesn't but maybe you will.
 
Part II

Lets restrict the discussion to when it works. got any examples?

Again an attempt to shift the burden but I've given one.

How do you know the standard is objective when you have choice?

If I have a choice to evaluate what we "know" and what we don't "know," then I can "chose" what works and what doesn't work. If I can do that, I can, at least, approximate what is objective and what isn't.

there might be an input which causes miller to rethink

What does the term "think" mean if you have no choice but to "think" what the velocity and vector of the atoms in your brain happen to be?

Then you can conclude that Miller , knowing what is reasonable, still exercises his "free will" and "chooses" irrationality - or that Millers brain , inspite of there being an objective standard of reason , somehow comes up with a different definition of reasonable.

Umm ... yeah. If you believe people have free will you also believe they can be wrong. I can also be wrong. So? If I have the ability to chose, then I at least have the ability to apply reason and may get it right while hard determinists don't have that possibility other than randomly.

I could simply conclude that Millers brain is not quite good enough

No, if you're right, you can only report the present velocity and vector of the atoms in your brain.

John Pieret is a male or female or a (poorly written) AI program or an Alien or (....) => the latter options might be unrealistic but are not false dichotomies.

Oh good! We can tell the Discovery Institute that ID is not unconstitutional because they aren't pushing religion through a false dichotomy where they claim any argument (no matter how bogus) is an argument for god, since the "Designer" could be an alien or time traveling human biologist! If that is the kind of "thinking" hard determinism leads to, why am I even bothering with you?
 
The Macarena is "something that the brain can do," and it has not biologically evolved.

Another good one!
 
@Chris
if the capacity to dance is an evolved trait , then every dance is indirectly an evolved trait(no evolution , no dance , no macarena). The capacity to speak/communicate are evolved - you don't need to point to a brand new word and say not evolved.
 
@John

I became an agnostic when I thought about how to reconcile an omnipotent, omniscient god and free will and I realized that I couldn't. But I "chose" to try and "chose" the conclusion

But that indeed is the problem. can you choose differently even now? can you hark back to when you made the decision and see what could have made you choose differently?

I suggest you read David L. Hull's Science As a Process.
Hmm . So is David Hull a prophet now? Anyway I added the book to my hold.

is that collaborative thinking leads to better thinking
Not necessarily and not all the time - but I suppose it depends on how you define "collaborative". Im not convinced but Ill reserve judgement.

If evolution can't deliver reason, what does, other than "choice"?
Sigh. What delivers choice then?

What does the term "think" mean if you have no choice but to "think"
Since you say free will is "limited" - so is all thought under free will ?

since the "Designer" could be an alien or time traveling human biologist!
As soon as they can perform some experiments and get proof , sure they can teach it as science(e.g. panspermia). My problem with ID isn't that it is unconstitutional , its that it's unproven. For e,g, if you are a UK citizen which doesn't have a constitutional protection , would you say it's ok to teach ID in public schools? I would also go so far as to say its (scientifically and morally) wrong to teach ID in a private school. But you, with your constitutional blinders can't , can you? (and if you can , whats your reasoning)
 
@John
so since the thread must end - I don't understand why you think the ability to choose (heads or tails, left or right , chocolate or vanilla) implies the ability to evaluate right/wrong - good/bad - reason/unreasoned etc. It seems to me that this does not follow.
 
if the capacity to dance is an evolved trait , then every dance is indirectly an evolved trait(no evolution , no dance , no macarena). The capacity to speak/communicate are evolved - you don't need to point to a brand new word and say not evolved.

I'm perfectly happy to allow that all traits are "indirectly" evolved in this sense, Deepak. I'm not sure where it gets you, though.

The point you were trying to make, I believe, was that reason has been programmed or coded in into our genes by evolution. Yes? So let's follow some of the implications of this.

Natural selection has only one concern: differential reproductive success. It would follow, then, that any instructions coded into us on this basis would have to lead toward this outcome, just as any other adaptation must lead there, or be cleansed from the population.

An immediate problem arises. Human beings engage in a massive number of endeavors that would reduce fitness in strict Darwinian terms; these need explaining. Altruism toward unrelated organisms, for example, has not been shown by anyone (AFAIK) to improve fitness, at least according to selfish gene orthodoxy. Altruism toward the elderly, in particular, has no possible fitness-enhancing potential.

If our reason were coded in us at a genetic level, we would expect it to be devoted to our biological imperatives, the way that our instincts are. In fact, the very fact that our reason and our instincts are so often at odds is a great illustration of the problem.

You could argue, perhaps, that reason is a spandrel. But with this we are back to begging the question. If reason has little to no evolutionary value, then we need to look elsewhere for reasons to valorize it. These reasons are many, but to accept them we need the capacity to accede them value. Survival value has just been ruled out. So on what grounds, then, do we praise it?

We need an explanation for morality in every instance that it deviates from the logic of the selfish gene, from nature red in tooth and claw, which is still the reigning evolutionary model. If it's true that human biology has been wholly determined by nature, according to evolutionary laws as we understand them, then it should not theoretically be possible to question the inherent morality (such as it is) of differential survival at the organismic level. (Haldane's joke that he would not save a brother from drowning, but that he would save "two brothers or eight cousins," would be a true ethical precept).

This goes to my point about cultural developments being too new to be genetically coded, despite the fact that we have a genetic "capacity" for them. If we were constrained to have only the thoughts our genes allowed us to have, we would have a great deal less reason to trust the illuminative power of our reason, since any rational possibility that was not directly in the interest of our survival would not compute--it would be outside the program. This is where Plantinga is coming from--the reason he is wrong is that our reason is *not* genetically determined on a real-time basis. We are "free" to use logic and reason in new ways, to discover new truths and overturn old ones, without any change to our genetic inheritance.

We also, it should be reiterated, have the genetic capacity to believe in delusions, to commit atrocities, to be selfish, dogmatic, fearful, bigoted, and slothful, and to rationalize all these dispositions in highly elaborate ways. Do you agree with me that these are all morally deprecated ways to live? And yet the genetic capacity for them is no less real. Which is why capacity is not enough when looking at the question of why we do what we do.
 
so since the thread must end - I don't understand why you think the ability to choose (heads or tails, left or right , chocolate or vanilla) implies the ability to evaluate right/wrong - good/bad - reason/unreasoned etc. It seems to me that this does not follow.

Out of context, it's hard to connect a flavor of ice cream to such weighty concerns, yes.

But what if: You found chocolate far more delicious than vanilla, but you also came from a family that suffered migraines for which chocolate was a trigger, but you are just 25 and the onset of migraines hasn't hit you yet (your other family members started getting them in their mid 20s), plus you're on a first date with someone you really like who has just said that people who like vanilla cones are lacking in depth and imagination, plus the chocolate vendor insists there's no real chocolate in his ice cream anyway, but the sign says otherwise, plus you just read something about vanilla bean farmers being exploited, but you also know that the chocolate cone has more unhealthy fat and sugar in it, plus it's really hot out...

Perhaps World War III doesn't hang in the balance, but there's enough here to develop definite ideas about which options were good or bad, right or wrong, and to what degree.
 
@Chris
with reference to the chocolate example.

Lets start with only two considerations and then you can keep adding.

So chocolate or vanilla (Your *unchosen* preference is chocolate because of some wiring in your brain). Your family is prone to migraines when they eat chocolate (Also due to some wiring in your brain or genetics , not chosen).

Your brain will decide chocolate or vanilla based on these conflicting requirements - and perhaps it will give not having pain preference more and hence *choose* vanilla. Since the wiring in your brain held not suffering more important than taste, then given the exact same scenario , it will always choose vanilla.

Now add that perhaps migraines in the family only occur after 25 and you aren't 25. Now if your brain has this as an acceptable risk it might now choose chocolate. (but again given the same circumstance , it will always come to the same conclusion). i.e. you do not control whether taste + acceptable risk > potential migraine pain for your brain.
You can keep adding as many conflicting requirements , the only thing determinism implies is that your brain will always evaluate them in the same way (but changing inputs may change the evaluation because the circumstances are similar , not the same).
Determinism doesn't say the brain doesn't reason , it says the brain is constrained to reason in the same way (for the same data and same brain).
 
But that indeed is the problem. can you choose differently even now?

Why not? My thoughts (if I may call them that) on the subject have changed.

can you hark back to when you made the decision and see what could have made you choose differently?

Can you hark back to when you made any "decision" and see what prevented you thinking differently?

More importantly, I received no input on the issue at the time. I wasn't reading philosophy at the time; I discussed it with no one; I wasn't in conflict with anyone about the subject; I wasn't even in conflict with my nominal religion (Catholicism); there wasn't (as far as I can tell, of course) anything other than my own thoughts that influenced my "choice" on the subject. Naturally, if nothing but my my thoughts can influence my choice of beliefs, then something like "free will" exists. I chose to think and thinking somehow affected the output of the substrate of my physical brain.

So is David Hull a prophet now?

I'm just trying to add to your experiences. Not that you can "choose" whether or not to read him.

What delivers choice then?

I don't know. But if you don't know what delivers reason, you have no right, by your own "rules," to assert it exists either. Nihilism is the only choice.

Since you say free will is "limited" - so is all thought under free will ?

That kind of depends on what you call "thought." Probably most of it isn't.

My problem with ID isn't that it is unconstitutional , its that it's unproven.

How did you choose to conclude it is unproven? How does "knowing" something is unproven involve no choice as to what "proof" is?

I don't understand why you think the ability to choose (heads or tails, left or right , chocolate or vanilla) implies the ability to evaluate right/wrong - good/bad - reason/unreasoned etc. It seems to me that this does not follow.

Besides your choice to believe it does not follow, what difference do you see between choosing heads/tails, left/right and choosing between right/wrong; good/bad; reason/unreasoned?
 
Determinism doesn't say the brain doesn't reason , it says the brain is constrained to reason in the same way (for the same data and same brain)

In other words, your brain can only report the "reason" that, deterministically, it is constrained to report. So your brain will report its workings as "reason" whether or not it is. Your brain cannot help but think what it is doing is "reasonable." It cannot "step outside" itself to choose what is reasonable or not. You are as blind and unjustified in your beliefs about "reason" as theists are about their beliefs. And none of us can mediate who is right because we all suffer from the same disability.
 
@John
there wasn't (as far as I can tell, of course) anything other than my own thoughts
Did your thoughts act upon a vacuum?

Nihilism is the only choice.
No it doesn't follow. neither from determinism nor from reason (reasons in some other thread)
(and the logic being used by you here is the same as no God => nihilism)

So your brain will report its workings as "reason" whether or not it is.
So you believe in some limited free will (whether or not I do is immaterial). You believe you have chosen the more reasonable proposition of agnosticism. Miller believes he has chosen the more reasonable proposition of a catholic - theist. There are others who believe both are wrong. Still others who believe both are right. All report their "choice" as the more "reasonable" one. How is this different from where you end up with determinism.
 
All report their "choice" as the more "reasonable" one. How is this different from where you end up with determinism.

It's true, there is no cosmic judge to settle these things. We must rely on persuasion in the court of public opinion.

Not everyone is interested in the logically or rationally superior argument. It's a lot of work. Philosophy is a thankless job. Some people just want to believe what the Pope tells them to believe. Or Fox News. Or Richard Dawkins. Or whoever.

But this does not mean there is no such thing as a superior rational argument. It just means you can't *make* people understand it. Some will try, some won't. Some will have the right intellectual training, some won't.

The only solution is for people that disasgree to make an attempt to remain open to the arguments of their disputants, in good faith. But even that's no guarantee.
 
@Chris
But this does not mean there is no such thing as a superior rational argument.
But that's not the dispute (or even in question). If a big problem with determinism is that you cannot know if you have reasoned correctly and if that problem exists even with "free will" then its not really an objection for determinism.
 
If a big problem with determinism is that you cannot know if you have reasoned correctly and if that problem exists even with "free will" then its not really an objection for determinism.

That's not what you wrote. The way you phrased it earlier was about agreement, about getting someone to see they are wrong. This is not mutually exclusive from knowing you are right.
 
The way you phrased it earlier was about agreement, about getting someone to see they are wrong.
Well not just that. Everyone thinks their (mutually exclusive) position is reasonable (assuming that's the criteria , but you can have others). Its not that everyone agrees a particular position is reasonable and then "chooses" something else.
 
Did your thoughts act upon a vacuum?

According to hard determinism there are no such things as thoughts, just the vector and velocity of subatomic particles on their way out from the big bang.

Anyway, I specifically said that that I had information and experience that led me to the point of considering the nature of a possible god. But what were the supposed experiences/influences that made me make the "choice" I made inside my own head, without external input?

the logic being used by you here is the same as no God => nihilism

You're the one who is arguing that we cannot tell the difference between reason and unreason, logic and illogic. How can you tell what my logic is?

We can't even choose to have vanilla or chocolate ice cream for dessert. We are nothing but meat puppets. If that isn't nihilism, what is?

And, by the way, to argue that we can't be 100% sure we are right about what is reason means we are in the same boat as hard determinists who deny any such thing exists is the same move that YECs make against science.

As Chris points out, we "know" that some people simply choose not to use reason. I can confidently "choose" to believe that my reason is better than their non-reason on that subject.

I don't have to be 100% certain that my reasoning is right or that the very idea of reason is right in order to have confidence in them, as long as I have at least a limited free will, just as I don't have to have 100% certainty in a scientific proposition or the very process of science in order to have confidence in them.

All report their "choice" as the more "reasonable" one. How is this different from where you end up with determinism.

So, you agree that when Coyne says (as he often does) that science and/or atheism are more reasonable, rational, logical than theism, he is saying something inconsistent with his own belief in hard determinism. At least Chris and I are consistent in our beliefs, even if we don't know how it works (any more than we know how gravity works at a distance).
 
@John
According to hard determinism there are no such things as thoughts, just the vector and velocity of subatomic particles on their way out from the big bang.
Didn't we cover this? You admit that most thoughts do not come under free will/choice - What are those thoughts then?
But you are behaving like someone being told that a diamond is actually carbon and carbon is actually electrons, protons and neutrons in some combination.

But what were the supposed experiences/influences that made me make the "choice" I made inside my own head, without external input?
Memory(i.e. your brain is a stateful system).

You're the one who is arguing that we cannot tell the difference between reason and unreason, logic and illogic.
Nah I'm saying you cannot objectively tell the difference.(the only reason to argue that is because you think that's some terrible gotcha for determinists - considering that
a good deal of compatibilists accept determinism thats actually funny.)
Subjectively of course you can.

is the same move that YECs make against science.
So? poisoning the well , huh?

I can confidently "choose" to believe that my reason is better than their non-reason on that subject.
Heh. Can you choose to believe that your reason is worse than their non-reason on that subject?

At least Chris and I are consistent in our beliefs,
I can agree that some of Coynes language is inconsistent (but then that's not a big deal to me - I don't have an issue with people redefining free will or choice or reason to describe behavior).
But what a curious tack to take. YEC's are more internally consistent than theistic evolutionists ergo something.
 
Deepak,

It's time to get empirical. You have suggested, matter-of-factly, various neuronal mechanisms explaining behavior that to my knowledge have no basis in scientific research.

In your telling of the chocolate and vanilla ice cream story, you write that the brain's "wiring" holds that "not suffering is more important than taste." Please explain how the brain was able to encode this rubric. Not genetically, surely. The gene for a propensity for migraines (if there is one) does not come with an instruction set to avoid migraine triggers, just as a genetic propensity for diabetes is not accompanied by a reduction in desire to eat a high carb diet. People have to *learn* how to keep from overstimulating their glycemic response.

Perhaps through Pavlovian conditioning, then? We can imagine for example, a dog who gets horrible headaches every time he eats chocolate Alpo, and through a process of conditioning learns to curb his desire for chocolate Alpo. But in our example, the choice maker has no such trigger to fall back on. It is the idea, not the personal experience, of migraines, that gives the person pause. What, then would be the trigger for the Pavlovian response?

Well, let's say for the sake of argument that the trigger is a horrible anxiety attack every time a migraine trigger is mentioned. This could do the trick, though we'd have to put aside for the moment our objection that most cases of moral reasoning ("what ought I do?") is not accompanied by anything of this nature.) Letting it pass muster for the moment, now we add in our tertiary concern: wanting to impress out date. And our quaternary concern: wanting not to exploit foreign workers. And our quinary concern: not wanting to harm one's health through consumption of sugar and fat.

It would be quite a perfect storm of Pavlovian events for us to have a conditioned response that took all of these concerns into account. And yet such a perfect storm would have to exist for each decision we make involving more than two factors.

Heredity cannot explain our decision, and conditioning cannot explain it. To my mind that leaves only one possibilities: that we actually have to figure out the problem in real time, using reason. Perhaps there is new science I am not aware of that explains how we can code in our brain the answers to a near-infinite level of complex problems we haven't encountered yet. Making broad references to "some wiring" in the brain without explicating how this might align with known neuro-behavioral science is not only playing tennis without the the net, its playing with an imaginary ball too, that hits the court wherever you say it does.

I know you believe determinism mandates "same inputs/same outputs," and I'm not unsympathetic to your logic here. But the science of how we have thoughts and how we make decisions does not support your account of how this deterministic behaviorism would work.
 
@Chris
It's time to get empirical
Cool. I look forward to various studies that demonstrate (and hopefully define) free will.

Please explain how the brain was able to encode this rubric.
Oh I have no idea - that's why i say it isn't a conscious choice. To recap
a. What you like as taste (chocolate or vanilla) isn't a choice - You agree?
b. If chocolate causes you a headache that isn't a choice - You agree?
c. When you "choose" between these two conflicting forces , there is no measure , no way to say right/wrong or which way is "better" - but you will "choose" one option. So in what sense is this a choice(other than the trivial - one alternative is 'chosen' )?
The brain is aware of a) and b) - but how does it reason what to do ? how do you answer the question other than wiring in my brain?

To my mind that leaves only one possibilities: that we actually have to figure out the problem in real time, using reason.
Again , on what basis would the brain reason? Is taste preferred over discomfort or not? what is the reasoned choice?
 
As you may have gathered, I've grown bored by this "argument" (characterized by your constant changes of position) and actually have a life elsewhere.

I'll only touch on one thing: to say that your reasoning is the same as creationists is not "poisoning the well."

Read up on it:

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

I never said you were a creationist or even, as far as I can remember, a hard determinist.

I said the logic was the same ... just as gnus accuse liberal theists of being "enablers" of fundamentalists by using the same arguments for revelation as a source of knowledge.
 
Oh I have no idea - that's why i say it isn't a conscious choice.

To be clear, you are saying that you have no explanation for how the brain causes the behavior that we call choosing or decision-making? The hypothesis is yours, but you cannot articulate it? Isn't that a little bit superstitious?

When you "choose" between these two conflicting forces , there is no measure , no way to say right/wrong or which way is "better" - but you will "choose" one option. So in what sense is this a choice(other than the trivial - one alternative is 'chosen' )?

The metric, as I've stated, is based on a rational prioritizing and balancing of the factors we have itemized.

We've both earlier agreed that reason is possible--we both agree that a reasonable choice can be made, though you would argue that the "brain" makes it, and I argue that the whole person makes it.

The question we are trying to answer now is how each of these would work in practice. You are now telling me you have no idea how a brain would make such a decision (given that I have ruled out both genetics and conditioning) which, it seems to me, supports the argument that conscious reflection is needed if we are to act in a way that transcends instinct.

If you don't have an intelligent response to that, I can only conclude you are arguing from ideology (hard determinism *must* be true) rather than logic and evidence.

If your assertion is that the brain makes complex decisions without the influence of conscious thought, then it is yours to explain how that is possible, since it would violate all we know about biology and psychology. Unless you are privy to some recent science I am not aware of.
 
@John
to say that your reasoning is the same as creationists is not "poisoning the well."

Given that you could "choose" to point out the flaws in reasoning - saying it is the same as a YEC's is an attempt imo. It doesnt need you to imply im a creationist , it only needs you to imply that i think like one.

(characterized by your constant changes of position) and actually have a life elsewhere.
Don't feel obligated to respond. it wont hurt my feelings, honest.
 
@Chris
To be clear, you are saying that you have no explanation for how the brain causes the behavior that we call choosing or decision-making?
No , Im saying that If I keep asking why , I usually reach a no explanation point. Choose chocolate over vanilla - sure . Why? Because I like the taste. Why do I like the taste?
Its true of almost everything we "decide". You seem to be satisfied knowing just the answer to the first why.
 
Given that you could "choose" to point out the flaws in reasoning - saying it is the same as a YEC's is an attempt imo.

Ummm ... I did explain why I thought it was like creationist reasoning: "to argue that we can't be 100% sure we are right about what is reason means we are in the same boat as hard determinists who deny any such thing exists is the same move that YECs make against science."

If that wasn't clear enough, go read some of Ken Ham.

Don't feel obligated to respond. it wont hurt my feelings, honest.

Same here ... except this is my blog. I'll be happy to leave you the last word on yours.
 
No , Im saying that If I keep asking why , I usually reach a no explanation point.

And, as Chris has pointed out, you can't give one either. But you keep insisting your/Coyne's assertion is somehow "true" ... even though it is equally lacking in evidence (in your account, at least). Choose your ground for once!

If you can't justify determinism it is just as "failed" an idea as "free will." If not, explain what logic and evidence makes you able to "choose" the "correct" conclusion.
 
No , Im saying that If I keep asking why , I usually reach a no explanation point.

I'm not sure what the difference is between "not having an explanation" and "reaching a no-explanation point." But that aside:

Choose chocolate over vanilla - sure . Why? Because I like the taste. Why do I like the taste?
Its true of almost everything we "decide". You seem to be satisfied knowing just the answer to the first why.


You continue to evade the distinction I have made between predilections, many of which are beyond our control (liking chocolate ice cream) and moral reasoning that takes into account these predilections. What do we do when our interests come into conflict with each other? We employ reason. I've asked you to explain how this is possible, if our conscious process of deliberation is actually an illusion, as you contend.

You reply you have no idea, which I can only interpret as meaning that you have no logical or scientific argument for your position, just an ideology that it "must" be true.

When John said he had grown bored I suspect it's because you won't defend your assertions. I've suggested to you that deterministic "reason" is an impossibility. In response you just throw up your hands. Is that really the best you can do?
 
Ummm ... I did explain why I thought it was like creationist reasoning
Umm you didn't explain why it's wrong.
Science approaches truth , but can never claim to have achieved it , correct?. The flaw in the YEC's argument is not that science is imperfect or the empirical method is imperfect - it's that his position has either no data backing it up or has been proven wrong .. so far as we know. if we do get proof tomorrow , we will have to revise what we know.

But you keep insisting your/Coyne's assertion is somehow "true"
The assertion I have made (and I'm not Coyne) is that both determinism and randomness are concepts that can be understood and defined - and that we see numerous such systems - so it's not out of the ordinary to believe that the brain , which is also a physical system could behave the same way.

However free will as commonly specified doesn't make sense.

As before - given a black box which has various inputs and various outputs when can such a system be said to have free will ?
so that we may compare it to humans/machines and see where it leads us.

Almost all such attempts lead us to a) machines have free will b) we don't have free will.

The only way to avoid the machines have free will is to throw awareness/consciousness into the definition - but awareness stands on its own - it doesn't need choice.
 
As before - given a black box which has various inputs and various outputs when can such a system be said to have free will?

When a religious person argues something like the Cosmological Argument or the Ontological Argument, we might say in response, OK, then what about the Euthyphro problem, which would seem to follow logically, given the existence of both God and morality. In a rational argument, the religious person would then attempt to address this logical consequence of his original assertion. It would be non-responsive to simply repeat the original argument, or to say that naturalism doesn't makes sense because (for example) you can't get something from nothing. That's not how dialogue works (much to the chagrin of Creationists).

Whether or not your assertion is true about black boxes, certain things follow from this, as John and I have both outlined. The way people interested in truth and knowledge respond in such cases is to engage these logical consequences, and see where the conversation ends up. The way dogmatists respond is to change the subject, insist there are no other alternatives, repeat the original assertion, or employ various logical fallacies.

These are ancient questions. If there were simple answers, they would have been solved long ago to any reasonable person's satisfaction. Long before computers and "black boxes" the ancient Greeks were aware that a causal, determined universe caused problems for a doctrine of free will. There have been numerous non-dualistic responses since that time, probably the most notable being Kant and his successors. The implications for each side are complex and well articulated, and any conversation on this topic needs to take that into account.

If you aren't even curious about how reason is possible in a deterministic universe, why even engage in the conversation? Why not just play Angry Birds instead? If you aren't interested in the consequences of your own beliefs and assertions, why should anyone else be? Honest question.

Now about black boxes. Nothing in determinism precludes that the development of self awareness (which you agree, we somehow have) can emerge as a new "input" in a closed system. When we are talking about the human brain, we are talking about the most complex system in all the universe (that we know of.) There is no reason to rule out that it might have properties that simpler systems lack, especially since we know numerous examples in nature of emergent properties.To argue that because a hypothetical (and idealized) black box cannot be self-influencing then neither can a human being is akin to arguing that because one proton and one electron make hydrogen gas, therefore arsenic and osmium cannot exist.
 
@John

Same here ... except this is my blog.

You are the guy arguing that you have a life. I suppose having the last word on your blog matters more than the life you have.

And, as Chris has pointed out, you can't give one either.
Sure. But I'm not the person arguing that reason is so important to the free will/choice discussion. Since it is your argument that it is , you must be able to justify how/why/what factors make you reason- instead of my view that some things are just the way my brain is wired, some influences(parents,teachers etc) are just things that have happened to me without choice and my brain is wired to react in that way.
 
@john
If you can't justify determinism it is just as "failed" an idea as "free will."
Oh but I have kept it to I understand what determinism states and means - and where applicable pointed out your misconceptions about it (every time you post questions like "just how do we go about 'encoding' anything in our neurons?" you illustrate that you dont understand what determinism implies).
The problem is that people haven't done anything remotely close to stating what free will is (and especially how it is different from randomness) , much less proving it exists and works.
And then there are others who believe in determinism but that a redefined free will nonetheless exists (sort of god is omniscient but there is free will or god is omnipotent except he cant do logical impossibilities)
And that's my last word.
 
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