The Instigator
CalvinAndHobbes
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Nur-Ab-Sal
Pro (for)
Winning
11 Points

Existence of Human Freewill

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Nur-Ab-Sal
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/12/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 916 times Debate No: 21971
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)

 

CalvinAndHobbes

Con

Pro will argue for an existence of freewill.
Burden of Proof is shared.
1st Round is for acceptance.

This is not a semantics argument but the definition of freewill is provided below.
Freewill-"capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

I accept this debate. This seems like a fun topic. I will be arguing that free will does indeed exist.

I accept your definition and look forward to an interesting debate!
Debate Round No. 1
CalvinAndHobbes

Con

Determinism and Occam's Razor

All physical actions occur due to a previous reaction. Since thought is merely a chemical process of synapses firing, physical restrictions apply. Because thought is a matter of physics, a substance must be unbound by physics, yet have the ability to influence physical reactions. Occam’s Razor suggests whatever theory makes the least assumptions is the most likely to be true. Since determinism makes no assumptions other than the validity of empirical evidence, the logic of science, it must be assumed true when it is juxtaposed with another theory with a vast number of assumptions. Freewill makes a vast number of assumptions so Determinism must be assumed true.

Illusion of Independence

All human behavior is influenced by the existence of other forces. For example, the force of paradigm: A child raised by their parents assumes many of their parent’s values. These values effect the child’s behavior, thus the will to commit behavior is not originating from the child. Humans live multidimensional lives and thus have many outside variables influencing their behavior.

Occam's Razor http://www.britannica.com...;
Determinism http://www.britannica.com...;

Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

I thank my opponent for his interesting argument! I will take a moment to refute my opponent's claims.

Rebuttal 1: Determinism

This argument has completely fallen apart since the advent of modern physics. In Newton's time, and really until quite recently, everyone viewed the Universe and the bodies within as inherently deterministic: everything moved, everything acted, but some sort of equation. Gravity was of course bound by Newton's equation, light by Maxwell's equations, even the fundamental nature of energy and matter was described by Einstein in his works on Relativity. Your argument would be compeltely correct if this was the way nature acted.

However, as physicists began to study deeper and deeper, they began to find that at the smallest levels,quantum levels, nature acted randomly. I hope I won't confuse anyone here because I will just be giving a brief overview of this randomness.

At the smallest levels, particles are not particles -- they are waves of probability. Where nineteenth century scientists viewed a particle as a tiny bit of matter at a certain position in space, we now know that particles are really described by what is called a wavefunction -- a wave that can only tell you where a particle might be, and not where it is.1

It is not until this wavefunction is observed that the particle is forced to become the tiny bit of matter I described earlier. When we observe the particle, and yes, it is merely the act of observation, we collapse the wavefunction and make it one hundred percent probable a particle will be at a certain position.2 Before this, however, a particle is only described by probability -- a superposition of all possible outcomes in a wave. We know this mathematically by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: ΔxΔp ≈ h, or in other words the change in position and the change in momentum is roughly equals to Planck's Constant -- one is indeterminite, uncertain, if we know the other.

Before the randomness of quantum physics was discovered, you could say that if we knew everything about the brain, everything about each particle in the brain, we could effectively determine what decisions a person would make, because we could determine the motion of the chemicals and how that related to the outside environment (even if it was nearly impossible to do the mathematics, the point was that it was calculable. When physicists discovered the wavefunction, and the randomness at the smallest level, they discovered that predictability was impossible.

I really don't mean to confuse anyone with scientific jargon. This is the reason why determinism falls apart, and it is the reason why humans have free will; the wavefunction is uncertain until we collapse it.

Rebuttal 2: Illusion of Independence

This is a very interesting point. If I understand my opponent correctly, he is saying that because the environment has an effect on the human, the human's free will is reduced. This is an erroneous statement, and is a very famous philosophical debate: nature versus nurture. Nurture may have an influence; in fact, it does, but that only reduces the free will, not obliterate it.

While a person may have grown up in a 1930's Germany, and been influenced by Nazi propaganda, that only reduces their free will. It impacts them and their will to make decisions, but it is still them who make the decisions. The propaganda may influence the decision they make, but to reiterate, it is still people themselves that make the decision.

References

1. http://www.britannica.com...
2. http://www.fen.bilkent.edu.tr...



Debate Round No. 2
CalvinAndHobbes

Con


Determinism


My opponent misconstrues Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle saying that because the effect of a quantum particle cannot be calculated, this quantum particle cannot affect something. This statement is obviously erroneous. Furthermore, modern quantum mechanics simply acknowledge the possibility of random behavior of particles that are so small they don’t necessarily have mass in all instances. If pro intends to debunk the idea thought is caused by previous reactions by arguing that some reactions are random then he is arguing that human thought is merely random. Since this point actually weakens Pro’s argument for the existence of freewill, it is rendered irrelevant.


To elaborate on my previous argument regarding the absence of freewill, I would like to emphasize my point that for freewill to exist a substance must be unbound by physics, yet have the ability to influence physical reactions. Since my opponent has yet to claim that there indeed is something that is unbound by the laws of physics yet still can factor into physical reactions my argument still stands.


Illusion of Independence


Pro makes the concession that being influenced by Nazi Propaganda limits the freewill of a person.


“While a person may have grown up in a 1930's Germany, and been influenced by Nazi propaganda, that only reduces their free will.


The fact that a person is exposed to Nazi Propaganda is one variable that influences a person’s decisions. The fact that one variable can reduce a person’s freewill can be applied to the fact that there are an infinitive number of variables that can influence someone. Since each variable reduces a person’s freewill and there are infinitive variables, a person is therefore left with no freewill.


Reminder


I would like to remind Pro that since the burden of proof is shared, and Pro has currently yet to claim anything in support of freewill, there is no reason to assume an existence of freewill.


_____________________________________________________________________________


Randomness in Quantum Physics http://www.britannica.com...


Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

Why Determinism is Wrong

I do believe my opponent misinterpreted my argument. He states I am "saying that because the effect of a quantum particle cannot be calculated, this quantum particle cannot affect something." That is not what I am saying. I was responding to your argument that our decisions can be calculated, and I used the randomness of quantum physics to reinforce that argument. Of course quantum physics has an affect on our decisions -- that was my whole point, that they cannot be calculated.

I used the Uncertainty Principle as a mathematical representation of the indeterminate nature of the Universe at the smallest levels, because that is exactly what it is -- it describes the uncertainty of the quantum state of particles, because one cannot be certain of one of the two (position and momentum) without being uncertain of the other.

My opponent goes: "...modern quantum mechanics simply acknowledge the possibility of random behavior of particles that are so small they don’t necessarily have mass in all instances." No. Quantum mechanics has shown us that quantum particles are absolutely random -- they just get less random as they interfere with each other. This does not change the fact that they are still random. Everything in the Universe is random, it just seems orderly because of the intereference of wavefunctions.

Later: "If pro intends to debunk the idea thought is caused by previous reactions by arguing that some reactions are random then he is arguing that human thought is merely random." I am arguing, based on current scientific research, that all reactions are random, because all particles are represented by a wavefunction of probability, and are not predictable. Yes, I am arguing that human thought is random, but I am arguing that since we are the ones that collapse our wavefunctions, we are the ones who decide our decisions.

My opponent then quotes himself, "a substance must be unbound by physics, yet have the ability to influence physical reactions," which he stated under the assumption that the Universe is determinate. Since the Universe is indeterminate due to the probability of wavefunctions, this argument is negated.

Finite Influence on Free Will

I never said that free will wasn't limited, so thisis not a concession. I merely stated that free will is reduced by environmental factors, but, in the end, it is still the human that makes the decision.

My opponent apparently believes there are an "infinitive [sic]" number of variables that, when added up, reduce the free will to zero.

There are not and I repeat, not, an infinite number of variables. I apologize for going into science again, but in order to refute your supposed infinite number of variables, I will have to. Have a look at some of these statistics about the Universe:

1. The diameter of the Universe is about 93 billion light years.1
2. There are about 4×1079 atoms in the Universe
.2

Of course, this is the extreme; I am just trying to show that the Universe is finite, and thus the agents inside of it that could influence a person’s decisions are finite. When we actually try to determine how much of these agents actually affect a person’s decision, we must cut this number by an infinitesimally small amount, still a very finite number – leaving an amount for free will (this assumes the human brain has a capacity for all of these variables to begin with, which, simply put, is a ludicrous claim).

As I have shown, there is simply no way there are an infinite number of variables that could influence a person’s free will. Sure, there are advertisements, there are natural factors of the environment; we are even bound by our genetic code, but those are still very finite variables in their amount and in their influence.

Response to the Reminder

Well, there you go. They are no longer labeled as rebuttals.


References

1. http://books.google.com...

2. http://www.madsci.org...

Debate Round No. 3
CalvinAndHobbes

Con


Response to “Why Determinism is Wrong”

Determinism is the idea that all reactions are caused by previous reactions.

Indeterminism is the concept that reactions are entirely random.

My opponent makes a valid point that everything “seems orderly because of the interference of wavefunctions”.However, Pro then states the basis of his argument as “since we are the ones that collapse our wave functions, we are the ones who decide our decisions.

A valid possible solution does not imply that that solution is correct. If humans could collapse their wavefunctions the concept of freewill could be justified. Yet, why are we to assume humans have the ability to collapse wavefunctions.

An example of why this logic is erroneous:

Two men are contained in identical rooms situated next to each other. A one inch by one inch hole is drilled between the wall in between these two rooms. Every 24 hours an inspector checks in on both of the men. One day the inspector checks-in to find the first man dead. He suggests that the second man could have taken a gun and shot the first man through the hole in the wall, thus the first man was murdered by the second man.

Just because something is a possible solution does not mean it’s true. The same logic applies the idea that humans collapse wavefunctions to create free-willed thought. There is no reason to assume humans have the ability to manipulate wave functions, thus we cannot assume humans have freewill.

Response to Finite Influence on Free Will

My opponent argues that “the Universe is finite, and thus the agents inside of it that could influence a person’s decisions are finite”.

Simply stated, this assumption is illogical. For example; the variable of a person being exposed to a paper with a number written on it affects that person’s behavior. This might not be drastic in the long run effect on that person’s life but this paper could change a decision. This paper could have an infinitive range of numbers written on it, thus possibility for an infinite number of variables regarding this single piece of paper. Alone this is a minor concept, yet if you can arrive at an infinite number of possibilities for a single piece of paper, it is easy to justify the grand effect the aspects of the universe a person is exposed to, has on that person. Thus, this point still stands.

Pro also states; “this assumes the human brain has a capacity for all of these variables to begin with, which, simply put, is a ludicrous claim”. Pro seems to think that a human brain must keep track of all of its influences, this is an invalid assumption. If humans were mere computers with variable inputs for all the data we take in Pro would have a point. However, the human mind presumes it must create an action based on the circumstances it is exposed to. Since the human mind draws on presumed knowledge as supposed to keeping track of a massive list of the prescribed action for circumstances, it is illogical to worry about the human brain’s capacity. Thus, Pro’s objection must be dismissed.

A Note on the “Reminder”

I now realize that pro has been arguing for freewill, but has failed to provide positive evidence for his claim.

Pro’s argument for freewill has been this:

  1. A. The universe is capable of random actions, “wavefunctions”
  2. B. By closing these wavefunctions free-willed thought is created
  3. C. Humans can close wavefunctions thus they have freewill

The collapse of this argument is that Pro has yet to provide any evidence that humans do indeed have the ability to close wavefunctions. Because of this I urge all voters to vote Con.

Indeterminism http://www.informationphilosopher.com...

Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

Why Determinism is Wrong

My opponent gives two definitions, one for determinism and the other for indeterminism. He states that determinism is "the idea that all reactions are caused by previous reactions." I would like to expand on this a little before I explain the wavefunction argument. Dictionary.com tells us that determinism is:

1. the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.

2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.1

Additionally, determinism is obviously derived from the word determine, which means, in this context, “to conclude or ascertain, as after reasoning, observation, etc.”2 Again, determinism is the idea that everything can be determined – basically, everything can be predicted even if it was impractical and painstaking.

This idea is wrong, and has been proven wrong since the study of quantum mechanics, and the waves of probability that they really are. My opponent now states “If humans could collapse their wavefunctions the concept of freewill could be justified.” Well, let us go back to my Round 2 argument:

I said in Round 2, “When we observe the particle, and yes, it is merely the act of observation, we collapse the wavefunction and make it one hundred percent probable a particle will be at a certain position.” I apologise for not making this statement more clear: observation is what causes a wavefunction to collapse from probability to certainty.3

That last sentence is very important, there is actually a debate within the scientific community as to how consciousness plays a role in the collapse of wavefunctions,4 because so far our human act of observation is one of the only things that can cause it; and, like I said, since humans collapse wavefunctions to determine the future in an otherwise indeterminate state, we have free will.

Finite Influence on Free Will

My opponent attempts to refute my argument with his analogy of a piece of paper with a single number written across it. He states that: “This paper could have an infinitive range of numbers written on it, thus possibility for an infinite number of variables regarding this single piece of paper.” I am going to be honest, that is a very clever argument, however I will show how it is flawed.

He states that since there are an infinite amount of numbers that could be scribbled on this sheet (which, of course, the ink in a pen is made of atoms, so this is not possible but I will not do in depth on this) there are an infinite number of variables. Ah, but only one number will be written on the sheet, so there is only one agent influencing the person’s decision. The range of numbers that could be written has no influence, it is merely the certain number written that acts on that person’s decision – and again, there are a limited amount of atoms in the Universe, so there is a limited amount of influence on free will.

We then get back into the capacity of the human mind. He incorrectly states: “Pro seems to think that a human brain must keep track of all of its influences, this is an invalid assumption.” No. The human brain does not have to keep conscious track of its influences – but it still has a limited amount of information that can be stored. Consciously or subconsciously influenced, the human mind cannot handle an infinite range of influence on free will.

Conclusion

My opponent states: “yet to provide any evidence that humans do indeed have the ability to close wavefunctions.” Well, read my first section, as well as sources 3 and 4. Human observation is what causes wavefunction collapse.

References

1. http://dictionary.reference.com...

2. http://dictionary.reference.com...

3. http://goo.gl...

4. http://www.generativescience.org...

Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by renji_abarai 2 years ago
renji_abarai
Pro was more courtieus in round 1 and 2 while Con dove staright into Rebuttals and Arguments.

There was only one grammar mistake on Con's side and Pro's side so I put that as tie. I put these into Micrsoft word and determined the errors from there.

Pro made more convincing arguments as he offered definitions here and there and I was swayed onto his side.

Pro had more sources and they were creditbale and reliable
Posted by Nur-Ab-Sal 2 years ago
Nur-Ab-Sal
You have to remember, models and theories are still based on experimentation and observation (no pun intended).
Posted by Nur-Ab-Sal 2 years ago
Nur-Ab-Sal
Ah, yes. The Copehagen model (or interpretation). Although I agree there are other interpretations, the Copenhagen model is the most commonly taught (http://goo.gl...) and the most widely accepted (http://goo.gl...)
Posted by CalvinAndHobbes 2 years ago
CalvinAndHobbes
I find Nur-Ab-Sal's final point interesting considering his sources both refer to the idea that humans close wavefunctions via observation to be an "interpretation".
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by HeartOfGod 2 years ago
HeartOfGod
CalvinAndHobbesNur-Ab-SalTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: pro showed that quantum mechanics puts a whole in the determinism. This essentially puts a stop to the idea that free will must be an illusion.
Vote Placed by renji_abarai 2 years ago
renji_abarai
CalvinAndHobbesNur-Ab-SalTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: reasons in comments section