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Hard Determinism and Freewill

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posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 12:23 PM

I want to give the viewers my conclusion at the beginning because I know how much time you guys spend reading lengthily ATS threads without being able to draw any solid conclusions. So here it goes:

Question: Do we have freewill?
My short answer is: No

Another short answer is:
The very idea of freewill is a non-existing and self-contradicting idea. So, it's not like Freewill is something that exists but we don't have it. The problem is that there's no such thing as Free will. It's a fallacious concept to begin with. Like an object that is both bigger and smaller than you at the same time. It's a non-existing idea.

Now, that you know my conclusion without having to read a long boring thread, you can either choose to close this thread or continue on reading.

Before I start I have to set some rules:

1- This thread assumes that all religions known to man are made by and only by man. Any arguments from any religious perspectives will be politely ignored.

2- This thread doesn't aim to disprove 'a creator' of the universe, nor does it aim to prove it/him/her. However, the claims in it automatically disproves the idea of the mainstream Abrahamic God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

3- This thread will only use logic and scientific facts and data that is currently known to man, which is subject to change in the future.

Let's begin...

We all know that any event has a cause and effect. This is a scientific observable experiment-able fact that can't be wrong or partially correct or anything other than completely correct; 100% of the time. Let's pick a random event like throwing a rock at a window. The cause is the force applied by your arm to the rock and the effect is a broken window. Wars are caused by political conflicts and their effect is millions of people dying. But when you think about it, you will find that causes themselves are nothing but effects to events which are caused by other causes, those causes are effects of events that are caused by causes. So, in our first example, where:

Cause: force applied by your arm

Event: throwing a rock

Effect: a broken glass

the cause itself, which is the force applied by your arm, is an effect of the event of you deciding to do that, which is caused by the cause: you felt like destroying something. And, feeling like destroying something is caused by being raised in an improper environment that allowed such behavior to be acceptable to you. Such environment is caused by, say, your parents having very little time to spend with you to tell you right from wrong because they are busy with whatever is happening in their life. This is what is called: a causality chain.

But this is putting it simply. The fact of the matter is that the causality chain is an unbelievably complicated network that connects events with their causes and effect that if you try to illustrate it you will see a crazy meaningless chaotic set of lines that will make it impossible to trace the all events back to their original cause. The big bang of causes. If very simplified it will look something like this:

This internet map gives you a very basic idea of how the causality chain may look like. It's not a linear chain. Now, why am I telling you about how complicated this chain is? Because it's a key factor to why we can't break the illusion of freewill. Everything you did, do, and will do... said, say, and will say, thought, think, and will think... everything about you... is a part of this gigantic chain. It has a cause and effect, and its causes trace back, along with other things, to the mother cause... the big bang of causes, the one single cause which sparked our universe into existence... whatever it is.

Now, knowing that everything you do is part of that chain, here comes the big question: can those chains be broken? The answer is, simply enough: depends on how strong the chain is. Well, how strong is it? What is the glue that holds this chain together? Well, it's the strongest glue we know of... laws of physics. Let's take an example.

Here is a causality chain:

You throw a rock at a wall -> the rock hits the wall and causes a loud sound -> the rock lands on the ground scattering all over the place.

Let's try to break that chain. But, what do I mean by breaking it? I mean let's see if there's any point where something else, other than what actually happened, might have happened.

Now, if you successfully throw a rock at a wall... is there any possible outcome other than it hitting the wall? and if it hits the wall will it sometimes cause a sound, and some other times not? No. Every time you throw the rock it will hit the wall and every time it hits it, there will be a sound. If you repeat that experiment a million times you will get the same results every time. So, what does that tell us? It tells us that laws of physics are so consistent and reliable that we build our whole science on that beautiful consistency. If laws of physics worked randomly we wouldn't have any science. It would have been chaos.

What does having freewill mean?

It means that we, humans, have the ability to violate laws of physics and infringe its consistency, by our choices. It means that, even though we are bound by causes, we can, every once in a while, ignore those causes and act the way we feel unaffected by the system. And this, my friends, is where all the whole freewill thing falls apart.

Let's introduce the definition of freewill now:

Wikipedia: Free will is the apparent ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints.

There's also that: The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion

My argument, in the light of those two definitions is:

You have no ability to make choices because you are not free from a certain kind of constrains which is being part of an enormous causality chain that can't be broken at any stage due to the scientific fact that laws of physics are infinitely consistent and its impossible to "choose" the effect whether you are a human or a rock because humans are not any more alive than rocks because they both adhere to the same laws, which are the laws of physics. Humans, as a result of this conclusion, are nothing but very intelligent robots and the whole universe is nothing but a highly complex clock. The key here is: you can't choose the effect of the things you do, because physics does that, or even choose the causes of your actions, just as much as you didn't choose to come to this world.

What does all that mean? It means fate is actually very real, but not in a religious context this time, a scientific one. It also means that the future is 100% predictable to the finest most tiny detail. That doesn't mean that we will necessarily be able to do that, that's why I said predict-able. It's possible to whoever has the power to do the extremely complicated math to predict the future given the initial conditions and the laws of physics. Likewise, it is possible to regenerate the whole past and create a video that shows everything that happened since the beginning of the universe (if such a thing exists).

Now, here is where it gets ugly. Let's say that I am wrong and that even though we are all bound by laws of physics and causality, we can somehow break those rules and act freely ignoring those causes. That will mean that we some of the time or even all of the time act independently in a random way that is impossible to predict. Doesn't that itself mean that we are not free? We do random stuff for no reason?
edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 12:24 PM
If you act randomly, then you are still not in control of your own actions because your actions are random. Imagine a computer program that generates random numbers every time your run it. The inconsistency of the generated numbers is itself nothing but a sign of unguided random decisions that you can't be held responsible for. You didn't design the program to 'choose' the numbers it generates. It just generates them blindly. Do you call that free?

And, we're either affected by causes in our choices or we're not. There's not a third possibility. And in both possibilities we do not have freewill. Because in both of them we don't get to 'choose' our actions. In the first scenario we are completely biased by prior conditioning and in the second one we don't even get to choose, we just act blindly. And that's why the very idea of freewill is nothing but a logical fallacy that has no meaning at all.

But, where does that extremely strong illusion come from? The feeling that I am able to choose? As I said, our inability to see through the complex causality chain that completely blinds us from knowing how our actions originated. There is another reason for the illusion. The fact that you are the one who takes actions makes you feel that you are responsible for those actions whereas it's causality that it responsible for them.

If you design a program that adds numbers. You write the program deciding what the machine should do with the input, then after you're done you try. You put two numbers: 1 and 4. The machine adds and the results is: 5. Now, who added the numbers? You? No... the machine did. But, did the machine have any choice but adding them? Could it subtract them for example? No. That's impossible. You designed it so it will add numbers and nothing else. Can we say that the machine has freewill just because the machine is the one doing the math? Of course not.

So, how does that apply to us? The rules of physics are the program, the programming code that we can't break. Who wrote that code? This question is irrelevant. The code is there and we can see it. Knowing who wrote it doesn't change the fact that it's there. It could be the creator of our universe, if there's one. Could be anything. It doesn't matter. The code is there and we're abiding it and that's all that matters. And, we're the ones making the choices. We didn't choose to do it, we're forced to do it, just like the machine is forced to add numbers.

Now, everything I just said generates tons of questions. Like:

How does that affect our daily lives?
Does all this mean that criminals shouldn't be punished for their crimes?
And of course, endless questions from ATS members that I will do my best to answer.

It doesn't affect your life in anyway. In fact, knowing all this and believing it or not will have no effect on your future decisions. The universe including you and your choices is nothing but a giant video that is being played and we are nothing but actors in that film. And, criminals will be punished for their crimes regardless of how we think the universe works because knowing about how it works is itself nothing but a part of the chain. So, we won't actually get the chance to decide what to do with criminals, we will do what we have to do with no choice.

I end that by saying that I don't claim all this to be an absolute fact, it's what I think how the universe works and it's all up for discussions and I might end up changing my mind about all this, if someone comes with a good argument. Also, this is all based on our current knowledge which, as I said before, is subject to change. We could discover something astonishing in human nature that makes everything I just said nothing but a mountain of bull$h!t. Before I end this... I want to say that I am aware of the so called random behavior found in the sub-atomic level where stuff behaves in a way that is contradicting to our logic. But to that I say something very simple:

Isn't our whole universe built from those illogical atoms? How come that when adding billions of illogical and inconsistent things you get at the end something logical and consistent like reality in our scale? Doesn't that mean that we just can't figure out the logic and consistency at that level, yet?

Thanks for reading,

edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 01:03 PM
reply to post by TheAlmo

First of all, very nice post and interesting read. I agree with you, nothing can be self-caused, even chance has a cause. I don't know if a human mind could fathom the math needed to predict the future but it is a nice idea.

Since everything has a cause, i suppose it would be safe to say that the grand causality chain has been happening infinitely forever, since even something like the big bang would need a cause. What do you think?
edit on 9-10-2011 by NiNjABackflip because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 01:08 PM
reply to post by NiNjABackflip

Well, this is where all you can do is believe and not actually know. So, if you wanna know about my 'beliefs', I do believe that something caused the big bang, and I 'believe' that there's some kind of a creator or a creating entity to our existence. I can't say that it's a fact.

Thanks for reading

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 01:15 PM
reply to post by TheAlmo

Yes of course. But wouldn't a god or creator have to be something self-caused? Or would it actually be the result of another cause?

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 01:22 PM
Exactly why wouldn't a creator be subject to the same laws as us? And therefore require creation itself.

Can there be a finite starting point of the causality chain? It's a thought so unfathomable and complex, that without infinite knowledge it becomes pointless and irrelevant... Except to the chin stroker

Great thread btw determinism and freewill are some of my favorite topics

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 01:22 PM
reply to post by TheAlmo

Now, here is where it gets ugly. Let's say that I am wrong and that even though we are all bound by laws of physics and causality, we can somehow break those rules and act freely ignoring those causes. That will mean that we some of the time or even all of the time act independently in a RANDOM way that is impossible to predict. Doesn't that itself mean that we are not free? We do random stuff for no reason?
Maybe not randomly. Maybe in accordance with a higher reality.

Do we deny order? Do we not percieve order in this sea of randomness you describe or is that perception only randomness with the illusion of order a byproduct in one little phase or segment of the randomness?

It is not hard to percieve this perceptible aspect of reality as mechanistic, but by ruling out anything but the mechanical is there not the reference to free will in the very act of choosing to view things this way. Does the rock question its own lack of freedom?

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:02 PM
Free will is not a thing, it is a potential. We all have potential will, it is not absolutely free, it is limited, but there is freedom when it comes to physical movement, otherwise we would not have the freedom to move, it also has the freedom to think and breath and see, otherwise we could not do those things, but absolute freedom, no, we can not do that as human bodies, but the mind can contemplate the inner truth which transcends time and space and that is true freedom.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:09 PM
while i agree with you about the importance of the consistency of physics, there is a glaring error in your logic which you may not be aware of.

the energy/momentum/mass equation of Special Relativity (E2 = p2c2 + m2c4), which always requires a square root and yields two solutions:

- a positive solution (+E) which describes energy that diverges from past causes;

- a negative solution (-E) which describes energy that diverges, backwards in time, from future causes.


the negative solution of this equation is selectively dismissed by physicists because it "doesnt fit" with what "appears" to be true about cause and effect. and the positive solution, which we are all quite familiar with, has been one of the most scientifically productive and metaphorically resounding statements of the past century. mind you, the negative solution is proven true by the same maths which produced the positive solution, and there is no scientific justification for its dismissal.

so, while the inverse of entropy may not have a proper place within "scientific methods as we now know it" (or however you phrased it), it most certainly has a place in a metaphysical discussion about free will. the conclusion being, of course, that you just wrote a fairly lengthy and yet pointless OP which appears to be nothing more than a reinforcement of your own personal bias.


posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:19 PM
Let us use your rock throwing example.

What happens to the theory if a sudden gust of wind comes up and for once the rock missed the window?

That is free will,
a sudden gust of wind that is unpredictable and not in the chain of your theory.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:32 PM
reply to post by NiNjABackflip

Yes, you are referring to the very top of the chain. I don't know if there's a top of the chain, like a self caused creator or a caused creator that is caused by something else which also needs explanation for its existence. The chain could have no top, pretty much like a circle has no beginning and no end. So, I can't answer your question or even begin to speculate. The creator could be self caused or caused by something else. I have no preference here.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:41 PM
reply to post by TerryMcGuire

I am not sure if I understand correctly but I will reply as I understand your reply:

We do perceive order. And, I don't think we behave randomly, not in a segment of a randomness or the whole randomness. The mechanistic nature of reality, if I understand what you mean by it correctly, is the only aspect of reality we can perceive. If we know nothing about any other aspects, then, saying that there are other aspects of reality is like saying Santa Claus exists. Yes, Santa could exist... we can't disprove his existence, but, until we see him or see signs of his existence, we will choose to assume that he doesn't exist until he proves otherwise. My entire thread is based on that reasoning. I am aware that we are currently limited to certain visions and paradigms as a result of our humble understanding of the universe. But, we shouldn't assume anything until we actually uncover more of the universe's secrets.
edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:51 PM
Great thread, OP! S+F.
I think I have come to accept and believe, after years of strong and painful resistance, that free-will does not exist. I think it might be better to not try and fight the world all the time; that's what trying to use my "free-will" has felt like for all this time. Certain things just feel like they are supposed to happen sometimes. I think it might be better to just let it all happen because you can't stop it anyway. It only leads to frustration and mental anguish.
A few questions though. Do the laws of physics apply to my mind? Can I have free-will in my head? Do you believe every thought I have ever had was already planned for me to think? I don't know about that.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 08:55 PM
reply to post by filosophia

I, obviously, am not talking about freedom of movement and the physical limitations of our body. You can have absolutely no freewill and move perfectly fine just like robots do. If you program a robot with a very sophisticated program that helps it move around, talk to people, is it free? Even though it does make choices, it is not free. How does it have choices? Well, you can talk to a robot and say: Hi. The robot has the choice to reply with: Hi... or punch you in the face, or even not do anything. Those are things it is capable of doing because you programmed those actions for other inputs, yet, it can't do anything other than what its program tells is to do. You might think that when you walk around, you have a choice.

Let's say you're home watching TV, and you smelled something delicious coming from the kitchen. This will create the idea that you wanna go to the kitchen to get some of that food you just smelled. But, you're too lazy to get up and you're very comfortable sitting on your couch. And, now you have a choice between your comfort and getting up to get your delicious food. Now, you might think that taking this decision is up to you... and it most definitely not. If you choose to go to the kitchen, then the other choice was an impossibility... it's a non-existing probability. Because everything in your life and all the experiences you had in your lifetime contributed to that very decision. Those experiences are like the code that operates the robot. All the electrical signals in your brain and the chemical reactions work the same way as they do in a robot or even the food you cook. It has no choice but to adhere to the universal laws. Human beings are nothing but highly complicated robots that run on an automatically updatable code that is their lives and experiences and due to their complexity, they appear like they have freewill.
edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 09:10 PM
reply to post by tgidkp

I am aware that math has a lot of stuff that contradicts our existence and only exists as theory or ideas. We don't need the "energy/momentum/mass equation of Special Relativity" to know that. Even something simple like negative numbers, zero, or infinity are theoretical ideas. How do you get -2 apples? It doesn't make sense. But those concepts are there because they aid us with our math, and I am talking about experimental reality like positive numbers, chemical reactions, mechanics, gravity.

We talk all the time about the 2D shapes and they all exist in our imagination only. Everything is 3D. 2D shapes are non-existent. I was very interested in your reply until you said:

you just wrote a fairly lengthy and yet pointless OP which appears to be nothing more than a reinforcement of your own personal bias

The thread can't be pointless. Every reply here, even yours, expands my horizon and makes me learn more, and it's what ATS and any other forum is all about. The only thing pointless here is your unnecessarily impolite remarks.
edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 09:19 PM
reply to post by MissPoovey

The example assumes that no wind will change the rock's direction. And, if a sudden gust of wind came and changed the rock's direction, this wind will not come out of nowhere. It will come because there is a very explainable scientific reason for that. You want to say the wind is something out of the system and it wasn't expected. But every time you say wind or anything similar I will keep saying that the wind or whatever you are going to say has a reason to be there. And saying so, I am not crazy because neither I nor you or anyone that has ever lived tried something else. Everything has a cause. Everything. The wind, your choices, and the way you're thinking right now.

Claiming that you have freewill is exactly like saying: some things has no cause. some stuff happens, just like that with no reason. If the physical laws allow that, we wouldn't have them in the first place, we wouldn't have science. We would see stuff exploding for no reason and buildings falling apart, stuff appearing out of no where and we have no clue how it all happened.
edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 09:23 PM
reply to post by devildogUSMC

Your answer is here

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 09:24 PM
The wind may be in the forcast but is not predictable of exactly where and when.

That is freewill.

In the forcast but not predictable of where and when it will strike. You may say it will be windy today, you may even say it will blow west to east at approx. 10 miles an hour.
You may not say it will hit you at a particular time and place with what gust.

That is freewill.
It strikes when and where it will.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 09:34 PM
reply to post by MissPoovey

Our lack of knowledge of wind patterns doesn't mean they are not caused by something. It only means that we don't have the technology to predict it accurately, yet. In the future we will have better technologies that will aid us with that. Likewise, our decisions are very hard to predict because we don't have the knowledge that aids us in doing that. In the future, we will be able to predict every single act that is produced by humans. In fact we can already know throuhgh MRI scans whether the person in the MRI machine is going to choose left or right 6 seconds before the person himself knows.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 09:39 PM
reply to post by TheAlmo

In that video, it would appear to the person in the MRI that he is able to change his choice in the time between the machine successfully predicts his choice and actually making the choice (6 seconds). But, in those 6 seconds, the person can NOT change his decision. After the machine reads his mind, and tells us his choice before he himself knows about it, he can't choose something else. It's impossible.
edit on 9-10-2011 by TheAlmo because: (no reason given)

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