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Old 28th February 2010, 09:00 PM   #46 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

W Woman,

You have my undying respect. The only way a cycle of violence stops is when someone says "I will not retaliate" or every opponent is dead. To me this is about as close to a proof of free will as there is. Every instinct for survival would seem to say I am going to finish them off before they can finish me off.

This is the true Christian ethic at it's core. One of the parts of the Bible that always brings me to tears is the picture in Acts of Stephen being stoned to death and yet praying "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

W Woman -- Thanks for letting your ethics overrule you hormones!

The Parson with tears in his eyes.
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Old 28th February 2010, 09:52 PM   #47 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

I echo Parson's comments Werewoman. Family members of mine were also assaulted -- sexually and otherwise -- as children, so I have a little knowledge of the kinds of things it can do to the innocent. That you have overcome these horrors says a great deal about your strength and character. I sincerely hope that the future brings better things for you and your family than the past has done.

I don't know that I can help overmuch with the legal points, as there are differences between jurisdictions. It's also been quite a while since I undertook any criminal defence work so to do anything comprehensive and accurate I'd need to spend some time on it. But basically, never forget that though people may raise things as defences, that doesn't mean those defences are accepted**, nor that they are complete defences to the crime. I personally haven't heard of any case where someone has cited 'ordinary' stress, for instance due to disability or ill-health or homelessness, as being an excuse for murder, and I can't believe it would ever be accepted as such. Mental health is different, though, because there are some people whose brains are so disordered they simply don't understand the difference between right and wrong any more than an animal would - hence they are not guilty by reason of insanity***. Their actions aren't excused, in the sense they are forgiven, but it is recognised that they can't be punished in the same way as a sane person, since they haven't the necessary mental capacity.

** In point of fact I once acted for a woman whose violent husband was threatening her. He ultimately killed her (in front of their son). The husband argued he was temporarily insane. His defence was rejected by the jury, I am delighted to say, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. (How much he probably served is another matter, regrettably.)

*** this can actually cover a wide spectrum of things, and gets very complicated very quickly, I'm afraid.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 06:33 AM   #48 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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Originally Posted by Peter Graham View Post
I think the problem with the "everything is predetermined" argument is that it assumes that there is only one possible response to each set of circumstances with which an individual is faced.

I think that this is palpable nonsense as every choice we make is affected by previous choices we and others have made. The permutations flowing from each choice are so numerous and so complex that for the predetermination argument to work, we would each be having to make millions (if not trillions) of predetermined decisions each and every day, with every decison we make prompting further "trees" of predetermined reactions on the part of others. We would be reduced to something akin to a complex Scalextric car.

I'm not sure that the nonsense is even very palpable. Wow, you go away for a few days, and look what happens!

The biggest issue I've noticed in this thread is That people seem to be assuming that it is necessary to "know" what you are doing when exercising free will. A friend of mine gave a talk (He's into meta-physics big time) and during this talk he gave a fairly astonishing statistic. (I trust his integrity in the researching of his facts). He said that the adult human brain processes roughly 60,000 thoughts per day, and the larger percentage of these thoughts are at a subconscious level. It's possible that we have forgotten all the "learning" we have done along the way, and things that were once first encounters are now everyday occurrences. Things that we learn when we are young become automatic, and now, we think about it so fast that it doesn't arise to the "surface" of our mind. (Walking up and down stairs, not touching hot burning things, etc.)

But seriously, if you had to think about the consequences that the world would experience every time you took an action, you would freeze up like an ice sculpture and never make a move. Just because you don't know half of the variables involved, or the possible outcomes, does not mean that you are not exercising free will. You are exercising "partially informed" free will.

We also live in societies now, which not only have rules, and laws that most of us are willing to obey as they are often to our mutual benefit. As has been mentioned, it doesn't stop everyone from breaking the laws and rules. Beyond the rules and laws, we also have what I call an "agreement reality". What I mean are things like the dictionary. We need a way to agree on what things are (what they're called) so that we can cooperate within these societies.

Finally, I want to address the "God knew what you would do before you did it" question. I suppose that is possible depending on your definition of "God", but to me that wouldn't be true free will. I believe that God gave us free will so we could find out what it's like. I don't believe anyone is excluded from God's love, and that it is only our limitations that keeps us from experiencing it. It depends on the choices we make in this world where we will start out in the next. It is because of statistics that I believe in God. What are the chances we would evolve to the state we find ourselves in if there were no meaning to it all? The is about a 1 in 100 quintillion chance that we'd end up with a brain that could ask the question "Is there a God?", and "If so, why does he allow people to suffer?"
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Old 2nd March 2010, 09:09 AM   #49 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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He said that the adult human brain processes roughly 60,000 thoughts per day, and the larger percentage of these thoughts are at a subconscious level. It's possible that we have forgotten all the "learning" we have done along the way, and things that were once first encounters are now everyday occurrences. Things that we learn when we are young become automatic, and now, we think about it so fast that it doesn't arise to the "surface" of our mind. (Walking up and down stairs, not touching hot burning things, etc.)

But seriously, if you had to think about the consequences that the world would experience every time you took an action, you would freeze up like an ice sculpture and never make a move. Just because you don't know half of the variables involved, or the possible outcomes, does not mean that you are not exercising free will. You are exercising "partially informed" free will.
There is an assumption in this: that because a decision is made in the subconscious mind, it isn't "informed". This may be true, but I'd need persuading (with evidence) that this is so. (Okay, we've probably all stumbled when walking up and down stairs, but I'm betting that the proportion of correct foot placings in the total far exceeds the success rate of our "conscious" decisions.) And as others have said, we often think we've made a "conscious" decision when in fact it's simply been delivered to the conscious mind, which then "back-reasons" (justifies) it.

I do agree, though, that it's free will, whether wholly decided in the conscious mind or not.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 03:22 PM   #50 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

What if God simply knows all the possible futures and choices?

Then we still have free will.

Since every choice makes another string of events, perhaps God just knows ALL of the events, ALL of the choices, and ALL of the outcomes.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 03:43 PM   #51 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

But if all the choices and outcomes are known then they could be said to have happened (in the all knowing eyes of god), and then what choice is there?

If I have a choice between turning left and right, and god sees the results of both choices, or the universe splits into one universe where I turn left and one where I turn right then what choice have I made? Ok the me in this universe will say I chose right, but the me in the other universe would say I chose left, so did I have the free will to choose or did I just follow all possible paths regardless of my will?

Personally I think we do have free will and that there isn't a God, but I don't really have any proof of either?

God may not exist, but its a beautiful idea.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 04:05 PM   #52 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

Maybe they do all happen, and we can only perceive one instance, and each instance we can perceive is simply a singular act that we, as humans, define based on our perception.

Its a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ever seen Sliders?

The Universes are much wider than human imagination.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 05:49 PM   #53 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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What if God simply knows all the possible futures and choices?

Then we still have free will.
This echoes Parson's earlier post. But it also doesn't deal with why, if there is a god, we have been given free will in the first place. This is where it all falls down for me.

Parson very gamely accepted that this is the point where it comes down to faith - if I understand him right, he can accept that sometimes the religious argument is all to pot in terms of logic, but because he doesn't profess to understand god's motives and wouldn't want to second guess them anyway, he's fine with that.

But for the non believer, this looks like a cop out (and no disrespect meant here - the perception and the reality are frequently poles apart). To the non-believer, claims require proof and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Faith equates to a belief without proof, which some just cannot accept.

So perhaps the free will argument comes down to three basic arguments, none of which can actually be proved until we sort this god thing:-

1. There is no god and therefore no controlling force. We live in a chaotic and largely coincidental universe and therefore have to be exercising free will as, in fact, that is pretty much all there is.

2. There is a God and he gifted us free will. We don't know why, but we don't really need to know why.

3. There is a God and all of our actions are predetermined for us by Him. We are running in our wheels like little lab rats.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 2nd March 2010, 05:53 PM   #54 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

Perhaps free will is like the supply of cheap drugs. One gets hooked and then the price goes up.


What an omnipotent - and, as has been mentioned, omniscient - entity might require from us poor mortals is another matter (or not) entirely.





*cough*
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Old 3rd March 2010, 01:27 PM   #55 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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... it also doesn't deal with why, if there is a god, we have been given free will in the first place. This is where it all falls down for me.

2. There is a God and he gifted us free will. We don't know why, but we don't really need to know why.
This subject can be driven into the ground without really getting anywhere. It is only within a human's own perception to decide for themselves (or not decide) what they believe.

I assert (once again), because it is what I believe, that God gave us free will to experience what it is like to exist without the guidance, awareness, and love that God has for all of us. It is possible for me (at times) to go within myself and sense God's presence, but I don't selfishly pray to him for things that I want. Life for most of us is filled with trials and tribulations, and the happenings in the world sometimes seem senseless. I believe that things are this way for our ultimate benefit, and this "realm" is not what it seems. We are here to learn spiritual truths, and take them with us to the next world. What matters most are the kind acts we commit in this life. Not how much money we make, or a name that we make for ourselves.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 03:36 PM   #56 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

An omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnitemporal god precludes free will. If that is not the case then god has limitations and he does not know what is happening or will happen in his/her/its universe. This is not the modern view of the current monotheistic religions consequently belief in the omni view of god must preclude belief in free will.

If no god and we began from an an initial set of theoretically repeatable positions then it is all a big science experiment and we are just complicated cogs. No free will there.

Free will is difficult to find. However, we have the perception of free will; I believe I could always take a different course of action, from inside my head it doesn't all look inevitable.

If we are our own gods then perhaps free will does exist and from minute to minute we create the universe around us in some sort of fever dream made real. However, there's little evidence for this and we are in essence back in the religious territory of belief but we do avoid (I think) the problem of omni powers of god. On the other hand many more problems are uncovered by this approach.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 04:02 PM   #57 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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This subject can be driven into the ground without really getting anywhere. It is only within a human's own perception to decide for themselves (or not decide) what they believe.
I absolutely agree. But I think the big issue - the thing that divides the believer from the non-believer, is that the believer is happy to trust to their perception without any need for empirical evidence. In other words, they have faith. One could be unkind and say it was this attitude that caused the Dark Ages and held western civilisation back by about a thousand years, but equally one could be kind and say that an individual's natural optimism (for example) is no more than an expression of faith - not in a deity, necessarily, but in the conviction that Everything Will Be Alright.

Quote:
I assert (once again), because it is what I believe, that God gave us free will to experience what it is like to exist without the guidance, awareness, and love that God has for all of us.
I respect your assertion and your belief, but I ask you the same question I asked Parson and DG- why would God do this, especially when the consequences of misusing free will tend to result in a very warm afterlife?

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Old 3rd March 2010, 05:25 PM   #58 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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I respect your assertion and your belief, but I ask you the same question I asked Parson and DG- why would God do this, especially when the consequences of misusing free will tend to result in a very warm afterlife?

Regards,

Peter
Ah, you have me confused with "those" people. I don't believe in that scenario. As hard as it is for me to imagine, the Bible was written at a time when people didn't respond to simple, peaceful guidance.

By the same token, I don't believe Jesus actually talked in a threatening way. I personally think the Romans got hold of the Bible and surreptitiously "moved a few words around" and possibly even added a few of their own making it possible to persuade people in a direction that the emperors preferred. Then during the seventeenth century, a guy named Dante came along and painted pictures conveying his ideas or interpretations of Biblical things. Then we end up with this distorted view of religion that seems rather pervasive. As far as misusing free will, I don't believe God punishes anyone for that. I believe that when they arrive in the next world there is an "accounting" for ones life, and any suffering the misuser feels is simply their own remorse.

Here is a Credo you seldom hear, but one I believe should be heard more often:

Religion should be the cause of fellowship and harmony in the world. If it is not, then it is not religion, it's politics.

The prime rule I follow is tolerance of every interpretation of religion that people wish to hold dear. I try to keep an open mind. I don't for a second claim to "know" for sure what it all means, but the process I use is to let ideas ruminate for awhile and see if they "feel" right; or you could also say "Do they ring true?" as the expression goes. I do have written sources but I dare not reveal them in this venue. Anyone wishing to know is free to send me a "PM."

Regards,

Chin.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 06:17 PM   #59 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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An omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnitemporal god precludes free will.
Not necessarily. I believe DG said it earlier. Perhaps God knows all of the possibilities, but doesn't interfere with the choices we make, and there you have it: free will.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 07:02 PM   #60 (permalink)
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Re: Does free will exist?

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Ah, you have me confused with "those" people. I don't believe in that scenario. As hard as it is for me to imagine, the Bible was written at a time when people didn't respond to simple, peaceful guidance.
As someone who regularly tries to convince people to do what is right and good for them at the same time without resorting to threats etc. I have sompe serious doubts that all that much has changed. I believe we pretend to be more sophisticated, but any real move toward more peaceful rational behavior is slim at best.

Quote:
By the same token, I don't believe Jesus actually talked in a threatening way. I personally think the Romans got hold of the Bible and surreptitiously "moved a few words around" and possibly even added a few of their own making it possible to persuade people in a direction that the emperors preferred. Then during the seventeenth century, a guy named Dante came along and painted pictures conveying his ideas or interpretations of Biblical things. Then we end up with this distorted view of religion that seems rather pervasive. As far as misusing free will, I don't believe God punishes anyone for that. I believe that when they arrive in the next world there is an "accounting" for ones life, and any suffering the misuser feels is simply their own remorse.
The Bible is not the Book of Mormon or the Quran which both came into being in a very short time and were almost always all together. The church was still fighting over which writings belonged in the New Testament a couple of hundred years after Christ. It is dubious in the extreme that any coordinated change to the New Testament witness could have been made in the early Christian era. Added to that Rome mostly wanted to eliminate Christianity not co-opt it. That move awaited Emperor Constantine in the early Fourth century.

Quote:
Here is a Credo you seldom hear, but one I believe should be heard more often:

Religion should be the cause of fellowship and harmony in the world. If it is not, then it is not religion, it's politics.

The prime rule I follow is tolerance of every interpretation of religion that people wish to hold dear. I try to keep an open mind. I don't for a second claim to "know" for sure what it all means, but the process I use is to let ideas ruminate for awhile and see if they "feel" right; or you could also say "Do they ring true?" as the expression goes. I do have written sources but I dare not reveal them in this venue. Anyone wishing to know is free to send me a "PM."

Regards,

Chin.
I like the idea of religion becoming politics when it is not a cause of fellowship and harmony. On the whole I agree with it.

But I am utterly committed to evangelical Christianity and so I must always ask myself the questions "When does my toleration become duplicity in propagating a lie? Are people losing their chance for eternal salvation because I did not want to offend someone?" Ian Leitch, a great Scottish evangelist once said: "Ninety-five percent of Great Britain is going to hell unoffended." I hope he's wrong about that, but I worry about things like this.

The rule I try to live by in interpersonal relationships is a simple golden one: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Which would sometimes include hauling me up short, looking me in the eye, and saying "Think about what you've just said."
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