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Let's talk a little bit about probabilities...

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posted on Nov, 10 2010 @ 06:28 PM
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Originally posted by madnessinmysoul
To quickly point out a new point. People bring forth all sorts of 'probabilities' for our universe existing in the manner it does and being able to support life etc.

...Well, I figured out the probability yesterday, with the help of a mathematician I know.

1 in 1.

Why?
Well, what's the number of observed universes? 1
How many universes have we observed that have life-supporting, stable, etc properties? 1

Therefore, the chance of our universe being able to support life is 1 in 1. 100%


Exactly right! Only one reality exists and has been observed to exist. So tired of hearing about multiuniverse's or parallel realities. They're all bunk and based off faulty math based off black hole thermodynamics, which is also based off faulty math. Not one single thing based off these theories has ever been observed and yet we applaud and recognize people who produce nothing of value as our generations greatest minds. Awfully disgusting isn't it? It's like giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for having an idea on how to achieve a goal he has yet to set out to achieve. The state of people's intelligence and ability to think critically is gone, just doesn't exist in this day and age anymore.

Curious how it will turn out? Watch Idiocracy.




posted on Nov, 11 2010 @ 05:00 PM
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I wasn't able to follow some of the vocabulary and the quantum ideas; but I must ask, what is the definition of "random" being used here? Some of the posts seemed to state that randomness doesn't exist. If no event is random, then can't every event be predicted?

I can toss a coin, but I cannot predict the outcome 100% of the time. Isn't the result of that coin toss random?



posted on Nov, 11 2010 @ 05:20 PM
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Originally posted by qisoa
I wasn't able to follow some of the vocabulary and the quantum ideas; but I must ask, what is the definition of "random" being used here? Some of the posts seemed to state that randomness doesn't exist. If no event is random, then can't every event be predicted?

I can toss a coin, but I cannot predict the outcome 100% of the time. Isn't the result of that coin toss random?


I think that ''random'' is the fancy way for us to describe something that we haven't ascertained the cause for, or for something that we can observe, but can't find a discernible way of accurately predicting the outcome, other than a rough percentage ''guess'.

The coin toss, for example, could be predicted accurately if there was a supercomputer that could read all the different variables, such as the coin's properties and the trajectory and velocity of the throw, and give an instant reading as soon as the coin was in the air.

As the outcome of the toss can't be worked out yet, then it can just be said that there's a ''random'' possibility of it landing on heads or tails, or roughly a 50% chance of it landing on each.

I'm another person that believes that ''chance'' and ''randomness'' don't really actually exist, but only exist as concepts that we use to explain something that is beyond our current understanding, or that we are unable to accurately predict.

I don't think that ''chance'' could ever be proven, unless we could go back in time and observe the particular experiment again.



posted on Nov, 11 2010 @ 08:29 PM
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Originally posted by Sherlock Holmes

I'm another person that believes that ''chance'' and ''randomness'' don't really actually exist, but only exist as concepts that we use to explain something that is beyond our current understanding, or that we are unable to accurately predict.



So if I understand you correctly, you would say that the outcome of a coin toss could be predicted if all of the variables involved are known, and therefore the outcome could not be considered random?

What about before the coin is flipped - while it is still in the hand before any momentum is applied? Can the meaning of "random" be applied to the 'potential' outcomes?



posted on Nov, 12 2010 @ 01:45 AM
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reply to post by qisoa
 


What about before the coin is flipped - while it is still in the hand before any momentum is applied? Can the meaning of "random" be applied to the 'potential' outcomes?

A star for this most perceptive question. What would your own answer be?



posted on Nov, 12 2010 @ 01:53 AM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
reply to post by qisoa
 


What about before the coin is flipped - while it is still in the hand before any momentum is applied? Can the meaning of "random" be applied to the 'potential' outcomes?

A star for this most perceptive question. What would your own answer be?


A star for you because, I'd like to see the result of the post you just starred! Hopefully, we can cause a starred sensation from great perceptive questions!
edit on 12-11-2010 by Wookiep because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 12 2010 @ 10:01 AM
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Originally posted by qisoa
So if I understand you correctly, you would say that the outcome of a coin toss could be predicted if all of the variables involved are known, and therefore the outcome could not be considered random?


Yes, I would say that the outcome and the result of a coin toss is 100% predictable, yet we can't accurately predict the outcome, therefore we assign the outcome to ''randomness'' and statistical probability.

The statistical probability of an evenly-weighted coin landing on heads is obviously in the region of 50%.

The problem with statistical probability, is that it can only be applied to a series of events, rather than a one-off event, such as one particular coin-toss.

Just because we can't accurately predict the outcome of this coin-toss, doesn't mean that it's genuinely ''random''.


Originally posted by qisoa
What about before the coin is flipped - while it is still in the hand before any momentum is applied? Can the meaning of "random" be applied to the 'potential' outcomes?


No, I don't think that ''randomness'' can be applied to the outcome of the coin-toss before any momentum is applied, and here is why:

We are talking about the result of the next coin toss; I could flip it with my left thumb and index finger, I could flip it with my right thumb and index finger, I could flip it while holding my arm under my right leg, under my right leg etc etc.

There are no stipulations on how the coin-toss can be made.

The ''choice'' of how someone makes the coin-toss is also 100% predictable, if you factor in all of the genetic and environmental variables of the coin-tosser and every single thing that preceded him.



posted on Nov, 12 2010 @ 10:39 AM
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Originally posted by Sherlock Holmes

The ''choice'' of how someone makes the coin-toss is also 100% predictable, if you factor in all of the genetic and environmental variables of the coin-tosser and every single thing that preceded him.


That statement brings two thoughts to my mind.

1. The number of variables that would have to be considered in that instance is staggeringly large. I doubt that any human could identify all of the variables, especially if there are characteristics of our reality that have yet to be discovered. If a being were to successfully perform that task, he would be considered a god compared to us. In that sense, identifying the concept of randomness as meaningless would be a meaningless task in itself. Since we lack the ability to perform holistic prediction, 'random' should serve adequately as a description.

2. If you extrapolate your statement, every action that occurs is determined by another action that precedes it, which is itself determined by a previous action, and so on. That would imply that everything that has occurred in the universe has been caused by whatever began the universe: Big Bang, God, whatever, whoever. That would mean that our concept of 'free will' is just a concept and not reality.



posted on Nov, 12 2010 @ 10:35 PM
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reply to post by Sherlock Holmes
 

At the smallest scales we can measure, there is a fundamental unpredictability to the processes of nature. In a sample of radioactive material, individual atoms, identical in every way that we can detect, will decay at different times. No power on Earth can predict when each atom in the sample will decay. This quantum unpredictability was mathematically formalized by Werner Heisenberg in his famous Uncertainty Principle.

Because of this fundamental uncertainty, it is impossible--not just very hard, but impossible, 'illegal' in terms of the laws of nature--to analyze physical interactions down to a set of predictable, basic components. At some point, everything breaks down, and the world becomes fuzzy and unpredictable.

Given that deterministic actions cannot, finally, be analyzed into deterministic, fundamental components, would you still say there is no such thing as a random action?



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 05:57 AM
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Originally posted by qisoa
1. The number of variables that would have to be considered in that instance is staggeringly large. I doubt that any human could identify all of the variables, especially if there are characteristics of our reality that have yet to be discovered. If a being were to successfully perform that task, he would be considered a god compared to us. In that sense, identifying the concept of randomness as meaningless would be a meaningless task in itself. Since we lack the ability to perform holistic prediction, 'random' should serve adequately as a description.


I don't think that a human would be able to accurately predict the outcome, either.
I'm not disputing that we can describe processes beyond our current comprehension or interpretation as ''random'', if we can not accurately predict the outcome of any given event that that term may apply to. What I'm disputing is the notion held by some people that these processes are genuinely ''random'', as in the human concept of that term.


Originally posted by qisoa
2. If you extrapolate your statement, every action that occurs is determined by another action that precedes it, which is itself determined by a previous action, and so on. That would imply that everything that has occurred in the universe has been caused by whatever began the universe: Big Bang, God, whatever, whoever. That would mean that our concept of 'free will' is just a concept and not reality.


This is why, from a logical perspective, I'm strictly agnostic.

No valid explanation for existence has ever been put forward, and it's my belief that any accurate explanation ( if there is one ) will be far beyond human comprehension.

If you go down the cause and effect route ( which I partially do ), then you are faced with the insurmountable problem of infinite regression.

If you think that everything always existed, then you are left with the ''why was there something instead of nothing ?'' question, that can only really really be answered by ''because it just is''. Which isn't really a valid or falsifiable explanation.


I don't believe that we have ''free will'', and that the idea is just an illusion. However, most people ( myself included ) delude ourselves into believing it exists, because it's a much more agreeable concept than the alternative - which is that we're all just glorified robots, ''programmed'' by our DNA.



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 06:50 AM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
At the smallest scales we can measure, there is a fundamental unpredictability to the processes of nature. In a sample of radioactive material, individual atoms, identical in every way that we can detect, will decay at different times. No power on Earth can predict when each atom in the sample will decay. This quantum unpredictability was mathematically formalized by Werner Heisenberg in his famous Uncertainty Principle.


There is only a fundamental unpredictability, as far as we can ascertain. Similarly, these atoms are only identical as far as we can detect.

The only way that we could know whether the decaying process of each atom was truly random, would be to go back in time and watch the experiment on exactly the same atom several times, and see whether the time of decay on this one particular atom was any different to the initial experiment conducted upon it.


I realise that my views on this aren't following the scientific method, as I am basing my view on the assumption that there are underlying, and so far undechiphered hidden variables. However, I'm usually quick to point out that this is my personal take on the subject, and while it's based on scientific observations, I'm not attempting to put forward my view along purely scientific lines.


Originally posted by Astyanax
Because of this fundamental uncertainty, it is impossible--not just very hard, but impossible, 'illegal' in terms of the laws of nature--to analyze physical interactions down to a set of predictable, basic components. At some point, everything breaks down, and the world becomes fuzzy and unpredictable.


But these ''laws of nature'' are only defined by humans; the same humans that are incapable of accurately predicting a coin-toss.

I believe that it is only ''fuzzy and unpredictable'' because of the human mind's limited capacity.

The human mind consists of traits that were advantageous to survival, and survival didn't consist of analysing atoms and theoretical physics. The point being that we not even hold the ability to accurately determine things on this scale, if the mental processes required to accurately analyse them weren't useful to our ''real world'' survival.


I am of the view that we have just about reached the very limit of human comprehension in terms of theories for existence, and plenty of recent hypotheses put forward by theoretical physicists appear to be clutching at straws ( and yes, I do know what ''theoretical'' means
).

While my above statement, on the face of it, may not appear to bear much relevance to decaying atoms, the point is that the ability to analyse atoms, whereby the difference that causes them to decay at different rates can be determined ( if such a difference does exist ) may also be beyond current human comprehension.


Originally posted by Astyanax
Given that deterministic actions cannot, finally, be analyzed into deterministic, fundamental components, would you still say there is no such thing as a random action?


Yes, I would say that there is no such thing as true ''randomness''.

Just because all of the fundamental components for an action cannot be analysed, does not mean that they are not there. Of course, it also doesn't mean that there are any there.

But, as I've previously stated, I'm aware that my personal views on this issue don't follow scientific guidelines, but I normally use scientific discoveries as a reference point to form my views on a subject around, rather than basing my entire views around wholly objective observations.

I'm not saying that my approach is in any way ''right'', but I'm just explaining how I come about forming my opinions on this subject matter.



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 11:55 AM
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Originally posted by Sherlock Holmes
I don't believe that we have ''free will'', and that the idea is just an illusion. However, most people ( myself included ) delude ourselves into believing it exists, because it's a much more agreeable concept than the alternative - which is that we're all just glorified robots, ''programmed'' by our DNA.


Side question: what does 'agnostic' mean for you?

The big problem I have with denying free will is the total disregard for human life that can lead to. If we have no free will, then we are not responsible for our own actions. I could rape, rob and plunder without fear of consequence or accountability. Joy is not real. Wonder is not real. That doesn't seem like a very pleasant existence.



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 11:59 AM
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reply to post by Sherlock Holmes
 

Good reply. It follows from what you say that the world is ultimately determined, and therefore at some level--possibly one that transcends the human--comprehensible. Most science is done from this perspective, because it is concerned with the macroscopic world--which seems to have a baldly deterministic nature. However, the rigorous and experimentally validated dicta of quantum mechanics would have it that solid reality is a lot flimsier, more provisional and open to random alteration, than it would seem to be.

Since you aren't necessarily going with the scientific evidence on this, I won't attempt to force such a line of argument on you. It may be absurd to speak of differences between atoms of the same element (since the properties of an atom of that substance are what define the element), but what the heck; it's the internet.

I don't believe science really has a horse in this race. Individual scientists, and thinkers of all stripes, tend to. I agree with you that we are limited perceptually by the way we have evolved as life-forms; the main difficulty ordinary folk have with twentieth-century science is that its concepts are already straining the limits of their world-picture; look at how people strain their brains to understand relativity. And twenty-first century science is even worse. Theoretical physics, in particular, seems to be losing its way, in part because, conceptually speaking, it is moving beyond the limits of what can be proved--perhaps, what can ever be proved--by experiment and observation. These limits may prevent us from ever arriving at the final truth about anything; it may well be that such truths do not exist, that the universe presents itself to each different life-form according to its nature, that reality wears a trillion faces. In that case, we may never know whether true randomness exists or not.

But I think it does exist. Not just the apparent randomness of events whose myriad causes cannot be accurately tracked and collated, but the real randomness of pure bloody-minded chance. It plays second fiddle to causality, for sure, but its part is essential all the same. Chance is often the grease that helps the universe shift gears, making alternative futures possible. More often, it's the grit that causes things to wobble, crack, sieze up or spin out of control. More alternative futures are born that way, I think.

Imagine a univese absent chance; how boring for God.



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 12:29 PM
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reply to post by qisoa
 


The big problem I have with denying free will is the total disregard for human life that can lead to.

I can testify from personal experience, since it is many years since I believed in the existence of free will, that it leads to nothing of the kind. My regard for human life is not one whit diminished by my lack of belief in free will.

Yet, for arguments sake, let's concede the charge that determinists are gradually and insensibly transformed by their philosophical position into psychopaths. Say this were true. Say it were also true that there is no free will. Will you still reject it, and embrace a comforting and dangerous lie, because you fear the consequences of its truth?

And if there were no free will, could you possibly do otherwise?


If we have no free will, then we are not responsible for our own actions. I could rape, rob and plunder without fear of consequence or accountability.

Why not responsible? Was it not your hand that held the blade? Were those not your loins on fire as you held her down? Was it not your mouth that watered at the sight of the diamonds on the velvet inside the safe?

'You couldn't do otherwise.' Yes, but everyone else could, and did.

Whose hands, then, shall we hold responsible? Whose loins, whose tongue? In whose brain were those crimes engendered? Who enjoyed the gains ill-gotten? You say you are not responsible? Who then? I? SkepticOverlord? Adam? They didn't do it; you did.

And besides, you may do it again.

No, naturalism is not a free ticket for criminals and immoralists.


Joy is not real.

Why not? Joy is a feeling. Why should it not be real? Feelings are real enough--you can feel them for yourself.


Wonder is not real.

Why not? Why should a lack of free will take away your sense of wonder? Have you ever been snorkling or scuba diving along a tropical coral reef? Do you think not believing in free will would make such an experience any less wonderful?


That doesn't seem like a very pleasant existence.

Believe me, nothing really changes when you give up on free will. Because you can't stop feeling and acting like you have it. Besides, your apparently independent, yet in fact determined actions are also part of the great warp and weft of causality. If you didn't take responsibility, if you didn't try, if you didn't feel guilt or shame, your lack of self-motivation would simply set off a different chain of effects. You can't get out of the game, so you might as well play it with all your might.



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 05:19 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax

Whose hands, then, shall we hold responsible? Whose loins, whose tongue? In whose brain were those crimes engendered? Who enjoyed the gains ill-gotten? You say you are not responsible? Who then? I? SkepticOverlord? Adam? They didn't do it; you did.


If there is no free will, then I am not responsible for my actions. Anything I do is simply a reaction in a long list of chain reactions leading back to the beginning of time.

And my intent was not to say that all persons would act irresponsibly, but I do think that some people would use that as an excuse for morally repugnant behavior.

However, I do believe that free will exists and that randomness exists.



posted on Nov, 13 2010 @ 11:24 PM
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reply to post by qisoa
 


If there is no free will, then I am not responsible for my actions.

If my house becomes infested by termites, should I refrain from calling in the exterminator because the termites, lacking free will, cannot be held responsible for their destructive actions?

Moreover, the foreseeable consequences of actions we contemplate help determine what we eventually do. If I know I may go to jail for stealing your car, the knowledge may dissuade me. By holding individuals responsible for their actions, rewarding and punishing them accordingly, we create the social conditions under which the majority of individuals will act in an acceptable manner.

What I am saying here is that free will is not a precondition for individual responsibility. Many belief systems, such as Islam and Calvinism, reject the first but insist on the second. According to the Calvinist doctrine of election, there can be no free will, because God in His omnipotence already knows what we shall do, and has determined our future reward accordingly. As Romans 9:21 has it, 'hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?'

You must explain why you predicate individual responsibility on the existence of free will. The connection is not, as you seem to think it, self-evident. Free will and individual responsibility.


My intent was not to say that all persons would act irresponsibly, but I do think that some people would use that as an excuse for morally repugnant behavior.

People who need an excuse to behave badly will always find one somewhere. That is irrelevant; the question is whether the doctrine of free will is true or false.


I do believe that free will exists and that randomness exists.

The existence of randomness in the universe does not support the reality of free will; if anything, it denies it, by making indefinite the linkage between cause and effect on which the very idea of willed action is predicated.


edit on 13/11/10 by Astyanax because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 14 2010 @ 06:48 AM
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Originally posted by qisoa
Side question: what does 'agnostic' mean for you?


I mean it to extend beyond just a neutral stance on whether God or gods exist or not, but to convey my belief that any explanation for existence is unknown or unknowable to the human mind, or that any explanation on existence is just a human created concept to define the undefinable.


Originally posted by qisoa
The big problem I have with denying free will is the total disregard for human life that can lead to. If we have no free will, then we are not responsible for our own actions. I could rape, rob and plunder without fear of consequence or accountability. Joy is not real. Wonder is not real. That doesn't seem like a very pleasant existence.


I absolutely agree with you.

This is why I go around life acting ''as if'' free-will exists, while deep-down believing that it doesn't.

It's a far more agreeable view to hold.



posted on Nov, 14 2010 @ 05:13 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax



What I am saying here is that free will is not a precondition for individual responsibility. Many belief systems, such as Islam and Calvinism, reject the first but insist on the second.


For me, 'free will' and 'individual responsibility' go hand-in-hand and are not mutually exclusive. (And I am neither Islamic nor Calvinist in my own beliefs.)


You must explain why you predicate individual responsibility on the existence of free will. The connection is not, as you seem to think it, self-evident.


My apologies. The connection is self-evident for me simply because I cannot comprehend the idea that 'free will doesn't exist.' I can accept that others believe it, but I cannot conceive it.


The existence of randomness in the universe does not support the reality of free will; if anything, it denies it, by making indefinite the linkage between cause and effect on which the very idea of willed action is predicated.


I will try to clarify my earlier statements. The following are statements based on my world view.

Randomness: Given a set of possible outcomes, any outcome is probable. Probability does not ensure that a given outcome will occur, only that it might occur. An example: any two molecules of air may or may not come in contact. You can say that it might happen, but you can't say that it will happen. (Relevance to the original post: the probability of the random occurrence of the correct sequence of events necessary to create the world as we see it now is so small it may be considered impossible.)

Randomness: A flipped coin can only land on heads or tails (or edgewise if you're standing in mud). The outcome for each flip is random. To accurately predict the outcome based on all conceivable factors involved is so far beyond the ability of any human that it may be considered irrelevant.

Non-randomness: There are some events which are inherently predictable because of manipulated circumstance. The light bulb in my desk lamp is always going to emit a whitish-yellowish glow because of its construction.

Free will: Humans have the ability to choose their actions. (This does not consider functions deemed autonomic such as heartbeat, breathing, etc.)

Free will: A person's choice of action is not predetermined by any outside influence.

Free will: A person's choice of action can be influenced by circumstances, be it physical limitations, moral upbringing, societal law, etc.



posted on Nov, 15 2010 @ 02:43 AM
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reply to post by qisoa
 

I see your position on this topic is one based on faith. In such case, you would not be open to countervailing arguments based on reason, so I shall not waste my time and yours advancing any. I hope you felt confident enough in your faith to read in the link I provided in my earlier post; if you had, you might reconsider your position on the assumed link between free will and responsibility.

However, you have already implied you would privilege a socially beneficial lie over the truth, so my hopes that you will read the linked material are not high. Beware, my friend; he who acts from motives of faith, while at the same time giving credence to the useful lie, is as morally compromised as it is possible for a human being to be. I accuse you of nothing, yet it is of such compromises with truth that popes, swindlers, torturers and secret policemen are made. Look--if you believe you have one--to your soul, before it is too late.

edit on 15/11/10 by Astyanax because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 15 2010 @ 08:36 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax

I see your position on this topic is one based on faith. In such case, you would not be open to countervailing arguments based on reason, so I shall not waste my time and yours advancing any.


That's a rather presumptive and somewhat insulting statement. If I were not open to discussion, I would not be here in the first place. I enjoy discussion because I also enjoy learning.


I hope you felt confident enough in your faith to read in the link I provided in my earlier post; if you had, you might reconsider your position on the assumed link between free will and responsibility. However, you have already implied you would privilege a socially beneficial lie over the truth, so my hopes that you will read the linked material are not high.


I did read that material and found it to be rather interesting and informative. However, there was nothing there that enticed me to change my beliefs. I am neither a determinist nor a metaphysical libertarian; those systems of belief are untenable for me.


Beware, my friend; he who acts from motives of faith, while at the same time giving credence to the useful lie, is as morally compromised as it is possible for a human being to be. I accuse you of nothing, yet it is of such compromises with truth that popes, swindlers, torturers and secret policemen are made. Look--if you believe you have one--to your soul, before it is too late.


That's not an accusation? I assure you that I exercise none of those professions, and I have allowed you to voice your beliefs without personal slurs. So I am curious: are those statements a result of causal determinism or indeterminism?





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