The Instigator
AtheistExile
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
omelet
Con (against)
Winning
16 Points

Free Will is Real and Compatible with Determinism

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
omelet
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/7/2010 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 9,354 times Debate No: 11120
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (68)
Votes (3)

 

AtheistExile

Pro

Determinism Versus Free Will: The Difference is Options

In the determinism versus free will debate, determinists believe causality and choice are mutually exclusive – while compatibilists believe they are intimately intertwined. I will attempt to present a rational argument for my particular brand of compatibilism. Mine is a unique (I can't find my central tenet repeated by anybody else on the Internet) and forceful argument that explains how free will is compatible with determinism without contradicting it in any way.

Divergent Assertions:

Determinism asserts that causality is responsible for all events of the past, present and future. At the beginning of time, the Prime Mover kick-started this universal cascade of cause and effect. To most theists, the Prime Mover is God. To most atheists, the Prime Mover is the (inflationary model) Big Bang.

Compatibilism asserts that free will is compatible with determinism and that choice is its sole essential requirement. The central tenet of my particular brand of compatibilism emphasizes the observable and scientifically verifiable fact that animate beings respond to cause and effect differently than does inanimate matter. The ramifications of this fact holds the key to free will. Many determinists vehemently deny this fact because they sense it threatens their dogma. It doesn't. Free will is compatible with determinism without undermining determinism itself. I'll elaborate on this point, below (under, "Compatibilism – Logical Conclusions").

Determinism – Logical Conclusions:

Determinism is all about causality: cause and effect. Causality governs the physical laws that rule the universe. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Not only does effect always follow cause – the effect is always 100% predictable in every detail. In other words, for every action, there is only one possible reaction. Outside the quantum realm, causality is inerrant.

Determinism allows no uncaused effects. This means that if you could gather and understand all factors extant in a closed system (such as the universe) at a specific point in time, it would be possible to extrapolate, with absolute certainity, the state of that closed system at any other point in time (past, present or future). Not only is the state of the closed system predictable, but every factor within the system is also predictable – extending even to our acts and thoughts. Let's take a look at what happens when we take determinism to its logical conclusion.

Since the dawn of civilization, mankind's greatest, most monumental, achievements all required the planning and coordination of man-hours, brain-power, material resources, engineering and construction, etc. World Wars I and II are other examples of colossal efforts, logistics and events that (arguably) eclipse our greatest achievements. Take any of these, or all of them, and put them in a deterministic context.

In a deterministic context, the events of these achievements and wars were scripted at the beginning of time. Every last imaginable detail – even the thoughts of those involved – has always been predetermined.

Wait a minute . . . doesn't the Old Testament and Quran make the same claims? Hmmm, just a coincidence, I guess. Not! Hell, with a 13.75 billion year-old script so detailed, specific and inerrant, you might as well say God wrote it.

With absolute determinism, we don't have the slightest chance of exerting any influence on our own lives. We are at the mercy of destiny. Not as appealing as creating your own destiny . . . but better than no destiny at all.

May the force be with you.

Compatibilism – Logical Conclusions:

Free will and compatibilism have gotten a bum rap because of dogmatic materialism: a physical doctrine that denies the clear distinctions between inanimate matter and animate beings. For some reason, most determinists don't (or won't) acknowledge the differences between a living being and a lifeless rock.

I must confess: I was reciting determinist dogma whan I stated, earlier, that "Not only does effect always follow cause – the effect is always 100% predictable in every detail. In other words, for every action, there is only one possible reaction." That statement is actually false. The truth is: it is only inanimate matter that has only one possible reaction to an action. Inanimate matter has NO options.

Animate beings, on the other hand, react to causality with an entirely different mode of response. For every action encountered by an animate being, there is NOT just one possible reaction: there are variable numbers of reactions. In other words, with animate beings, causality leads to options – NOT a single, immutable, reaction. Unlike inanimate matter, animate beings have options.

I'm not certain that cause and effect, as a scientific prinicple, was ever formally extended to, or meant to include, living creatures. Regardless, the animate mode of response violates no laws of nature: it was introduced by, and is part of, the phenomenon called "life" – and I think we can all agree that life is quite natural. If the prevailing view of causality includes animate beings, without recognizing the animate mode of response to cause and effect, then it's the prevailing understanding of causality – not causality itself – that is false. If so, our understanding of causality needs to be expanded to acknowledge the animate mode of response to causality.

It's not as if causality, as an absolute, has to apply to everything. We already know that causality does NOT apply, at all, to the quantum realm; so it's positively NOT true that absolute causality applies to everything. Living beings, therefore, set no precedents by responding differently to causality. Causality produces variable potentials (causal options) when it encounters an intelligence with mastery over causality.

The advent of life introduced motility to the universe. Motility is simply the ability to move without the influence of an external force. Even single-celled organisms can move to avoid harsh or noxious conditions. The significant difference is that the movement is NOT 100% predictable. Unlike inanimate matter, there is more than just one direction the organism can take. Nor will identical organisms move identically under identical conditions. This is an undeniable departure from the precisely predictable reactions of inanimate matter.

Motility is just one obvious factor distinguishing animate beings from inanimate matter. Consciousness and intelligence are also factors. Their complex contributions introduce more variables, giving us more options to consider. Options are what it's all about . . . because options mean choices and choices means free will. Options and choice are as natural to intelligent beings as their lack is to inanimate objects. Animate beings need not react like inanimate objects in order to qualify as natural: that would be downright unnatural. Think about it!

A natural function of intelligence is to choose from the options that causality continually presents us. Our intelligence allows us to extrapolate causality into the future so that we can predict which option should be best to choose . . . and, therefore, guide our own "causal paths". This mastery over causality, combined with choice, gives us free will -- even if our choices lead us to unexpected consequences.

The advent of animate beings augmented causality with options. This is not unnatural or supernatural . . . it's just a different mode of response to causality: an evolution of causality, if you will. Intelligence includes the ability to learn from, adapt to, and harness causality for our own purposes. The mental process for this ability is not yet understood but appears to include a feedback mechanism. Humans understand causality and use it in self-directed ways. When causality meets intelligence, determinism becomes self-determinism. That's what free will is.
omelet

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for the debate challenge. I hope this will be an interesting debate for both of us (and maybe even for the audience).

My opponent has clearly defined what he means by free will, and I accept his definition. However, by this definition, free will does not exist.

My opponent claims the following things in the resolution:
1. That given a certain precise physical circumstance, a living being would be capable of choosing between multiple possibilities of how to react, rather than being led to one choice by deterministic forces.
2. That the above does not contradict determinism.

My opponent is wrong on both counts.

First I will respond to my opponent's arguments.

======
RESPONSE TO OPPONENT

I agree with my opponent's definition of Determinism: "causality is responsible for all events of the past, present and future."

My opponent claims that it is scientifically verifiable that "animate beings respond to cause and effect differently than does inanimate matter." This is not a scientifically verifiable fact - it is mere conjecture for which my opponent has provided no evidence. I ask my opponent to provide in his next round the scientific evidence that verifies his assertion.

My opponent makes the argument that "if determinism is correct, then that means the state of the universe could be calculated just based on the previous states of the universe," with the implication that "that's just mind-boggling." This is a thinly veiled argument from ignorance. "I don't understand how that could possibly be, therefore it is not." That's not good reasoning.

My opponent then makes an appeal to consequences. If the universe is deterministic, then he claims that we have no influence on our own destiny. He says that this is less appealing than creating our own destiny, with the implication that this is evidence against determinism. It is not. It is an argument from wishful thinking, which is not good reasoning.

My opponent notes that determinists don't accept that living beings can respond to a single specific situation in multiple ways. However, he gives us no reason to believe this premise. He simply claims that it is true, with absolutely no evidence.

My opponent notes that causality does not strictly apply to the quantum world. Actually, we don't know this. It's a ramification of the unproven copenhagen interpretation, which also says that the entire macroscopic world is determined by physics.[1]
It is indeed possible that quantum effects are entirely deterministic, but we simply do not know how to determine what variables will hold what values - that is to say, we do not have a full understanding of how quantum mechanics works. [2]
Also, I'd like to quickly note that while a non-deterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics contradicts determinism, it does not affirm free will as defined in this debate (that living matter is not subject to the macroscopic deterministic laws of science).

[1] http://abyss.uoregon.edu...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...

I'd like to note, before I get to making my own arguments, that my opponent has completely failed to provide actual evidence that free will exists at all.
Allow me to now give my arguments.

=========
CONTENTION THE FIRST: ARGUMENT FROM ATOMS

Humans, like all living matter, are composed of atoms. Atoms obey the deterministic laws of physics, and they are incapable of doing anything that physics does not dictate they do. Our thought processes are the result of atoms moving and creating effects on other atoms within the brain and body.

1. Atoms obey the deterministic laws of physics.
2. Atoms cannot act in a way other than the way physics dictates.
3. Humans are a complex machine made completely of atoms.
4. Humans act in accordance with the deterministic laws of physics and nothing else.

=========
CONTENTION THE SECOND: ARGUMENT FROM NEUROSCIENCE

Neuroscience has found that decision-making happens in anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, parietal lobe, and the areas of the brain that create the phenomenon of emotion [1]. These areas of the brain all receive and send signals based on chemistry and physics. In particular, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex seems to be responsible for calculating which of various potential choices is superior [2]. Thus, the portion of consciousness which appears to be capable of "choosing" between alternatives is just a lobe in the brain that chemically responds to signals from the rest of the brain. The rest of the brain is likewise composed of lobes that respond to each other and to input signals from the senses. There is no room for a mystical non-deterministic factor in decision-making.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org...

=========
CONTENTION THE THIRD: ARGUMENT FROM THE UNIVERSE

My opponent freely admits that nonliving matter acts in a deterministic way. I wholeheartedly agree with him on this issue. Let us examine what this entails, however.

Let us take the early universe into account. It contained no life, therefore by my opponent's own admission, it was entirely deterministic. Now let us consider what would have to happen for it to cease being deterministic at some time in the future. At some point, atoms would have to deterministically arrange themselves in some way that would later not have to follow the laws of physics. My opponent has provided no evidence for this very extreme claim. In any case, let us examine something else.

The earliest "lifeforms" were likely self-replicating strings of proteins. Hopefully we can agree that these did not act in a non-deterministic fashion. Later, cells developed. We likely also agree that cells do not have the ability to act in a way other than the one physics and chemistry dictate, despite rudimentary methods for responding to stimuli in complex ways. Plants certainly don't have the ability to decide anything, let alone decide anything using "free will." My opponent should probably revise his definition to be more specific about what things don't follow the deterministic laws of physics, and if he could, why or how they manage to become unentwined with the scientific laws of the universe.

=========
CONTENTION THE FOURTH: DETERMINISM AND FREE WILL ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE

Even my opponent, in his first round, notes that determinists disagree with free will and with the assertion that living matter is non-deterministic. This is quite true by definition - in my opponent's own words, "Determinism asserts that causality is responsible for all events of the past, present and future." This would indeed include the actions of living beings, and contradict the definition of free will used in this debate.

=========
FINAL WORDS

My opponent has not given us a reason to think that living beings are not governed by the deterministic laws of science. I have provided evidence showing that it is at least a much more reasonable assumption that we are governed by deterministic effects (see Contentions 1, 2, and 3).
The definition of determinism we are using also contradicts free will, a fact that contradicts the resolution. The resolution cannot be affirmed unless both its claims are true, and I have provided evidence that neither claim is true. Thus, I have negated the resolution.

Good luck to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 1
AtheistExile

Pro

Free will was, traditionally, a philosophical question, although science has begun pursuing the question more vigorously since the development of modern scanning technologies. There has not yet been any solid discoveries made about consciousness or free will. We know next to nothing about the emergent properties of consciousness and free will. I am reluctant to engage in a "citation war" when it's merely postulates and hypotheses – not evidence – that can be cited. Such a "he said, she said" effort is a waste of time.

Of my opponent's 7 "Responses to Opponent", 3 of them were Sock Puppet fallacies (putting words in my mouth). In all 3 cases, my opponent went "quote mining" to pull quotes out of context and put his own spin on them. I consider this practice to be less than honest. Here's the 3 Sock Puppet fallacies:

1.My opponent makes the argument that "if determinism is correct, then that means the state of the universe could be calculated just based on the previous states of the universe," with the implication that "that's just mind-boggling."
2.Also, I'd like to quickly note that while a non-deterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics contradicts determinism, it does not affirm free will
3.My opponent then makes an appeal to consequences. If the universe is deterministic, then he claims that we have no influence on our own destiny. He says that this is less appealing than creating our own destiny, with the implication that this is evidence against determinism.

#1). There was NO implication that "that's just mind-boggling". The mined quote is extracted from under the heading of "Determinism – Logical Conclusions:". I was simply expositing standard logical conclusions of determinism – as explicitly indicated by the heading of that section. I'm sure most of you have heard or read the same logical conclusion before. I was also setting up the following scenario in which the fatalism of determinism was emphasized (May the force be with you).

#2). Who said anything about quantum mechanics affirming free will? My point was, once again, clearly stated: "We already know that causality does NOT apply, at all, to the quantum realm; so it's positively NOT true that absolute causality applies to everything. Living beings, therefore, set no precedents by responding differently to causality."

#3). What consequences? This was an appeal to reason, not to consequences. Why would you deny the evidence of your experience, not to mention the enpowerment of free will, for the illusions and fatalism of determinism? The Sock Puppet part comes with the spurious and specious injection of the "with the implication that this is evidence against determinism" closing remark.

Of the remaining 4 Responses to Opponent, 3 are false and 1 is misleading. The false ones first:

1.My opponent claims that it is scientifically verifiable that "animate beings respond to cause and effect differently than does inanimate matter." This is not a scientifically verifiable fact
2.My opponent notes that determinists don't accept that living beings can respond to a single specific situation in multiple ways. However, he gives us no reason to believe this premise.
3.My opponent has completely failed to provide actual evidence that free will exists at all

#1). I said "verifiable", NOT "verifed". The animate mode of response is too observably obvious to bother with experimentation but I'll humor my opponent anyway . . . On a cloudless day, place 2 identical vials of water in direct sunlight and 2 identical twins in the same direct sunlight. I think we already know where this is heading. The 2 vials of water will heat up in unison but, because of motility, consciousness and intelligence, there's no telling what the 2 twins will do. One might strip off her clothes and sunbathe. The other might head for shade. Inanimate objects and animate beings have 2 different modes of response to causality.

#2). This is just plain ridiculous. Hello? What has my opponent been reading? Did I not emphasize it enough? Repeat after me: "The animate mode of response." Like I said, "For some reason, most determinists don't (or won't) acknowledge the differences between a living being and a lifeless rock."

#3). I repeat, "The animate mode of response". As I stated in my argument, "Options are what it's all about . . . because options mean choices and choices means free will." Admittedly, I didn't dwell on this point – because it's too self-evident (to me). I'll dwell on it now.

Free will is axiomatic to the act of planning. If you've ever made a plan and executed it, revised a strategy or out-maneuvered an opponent, then you've got empirical evidence of free will. You've learned from causality: adapted to it and extrapolated it into the future -- then chose your options accordingly. You've demonstrated the intelligent mastery of causality it takes to have free will. Everybody lives as if they have free will. They work, play, think and plan as if they have free will. That's a LOT of empirical evidence for free will. Conversely, what's the evidence for the claim that free will is an illusion?

And finally, the 1 misleading Response to Opponent.

1.My opponent notes that causality does not strictly apply to the quantum world. Actually, we don't know this. It's a ramification of the unproven copenhagen interpretation, which also says that the entire macroscopic world is determined by physics.

#1). Quantum mechanics is all about probabilities. Where to begin? How about the basics? My opponent needs to familiarize himself with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, quantum fluctuations, wave-particle duality, wave function collapse, quantum entanglement, Schr�dinger's cat, photon and radioactive emissions, etc.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org...

There is no consensus on what the Copenhagen Interpretation is, exactly. However, ALL those who developed it (Heisenberg, Bohr, Schr�dinger, Born, etc.) agree that it is probabilistic and indeterminate. Contemporary popularizers of quantum mechanics (Brian Greene and Michio Kaku) state outright that the quantum realm really is as bizarre, random and unpredictable as it seems.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org...

Could it be that the quantum realm is only bizarre because we don't understand enough? Possibly. But it appears to be genuinely random and unpredictable by nature.

See: http://www.dimaggio.org...

My opponent has forced me to waste a lot of time, effort and pixels fending off Sock Puppet fallacies and misrepresentations, leaving me little room to rebut his own arguments.

In my opponent's first contention, he is still denying the difference between a rock and a human without ever addressing the animate mode of response directly. It's denial to ignore the options causality presents animate beings. My example of the single-celled organism makes this point clear.

The "Argument from Neuroscience" is completely speculative at this stage and deals with brain activity, not consciousness and free will. My opponent's appeal to science is without evidential merit.

My opponent's "Argument from the Universe" continues to deny the difference between a rock and a human. The advent of life introduced new phenomena to the universe that clearly delineate the animate from the inanimate. Denial is not a strategy.

In the "Determinism and Free Will Are Mutually Exclusive" argument, my opponent is quote mining again. I explained determinism, under the "Determinism – Logical Conclusions" heading, for the benefit of defining my terms – NOT because it's my position or belief.

Final Words:
My opponent believes that denial is some sort of strategy. He has failed to address the animate mode of response. I challenge him to explain how humans and rocks are causally identical.
omelet

Con

=RESPONSE TO OPPONENT

My opponent claims that it is philosophy, not science, that should answer the question before us. Perhaps true a millenium ago, but not true in a world where we have abundant evidence that all macro-world processes are deterministic. Not in a world where we've studied the human decision-making process scientifically, and we have only confirmed the fact that things work deterministically therein.

The quantum world is the only thing for which there is a significant amount of scientific uncertainty regarding whether or not it is deterministic, and that is a thing that has nothing to do with our decision making process.

My opponent brings up issues with some of the things I said last round. I'll address those now.

=FIRST SET OF 3

#1. I claimed that my opponent was implying that the ability to calculate things (assuming a omniscient calculator) in a deterministic world was somehow evidence against it. My opponent says I am wrong. My bad, I was reading with the assumption that my opponent would be trying to affirm the resolution, so I must have read that into it. Now that my opponent has recognized it has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of the resolution:

#2. Again, I was assuming that my opponent was making a point for his resolution, rather than pointing out an irrelevant bit of data. Now that I know we agree that the possibility of randomness in the quantum world has no effect on how likely free will is to exist:

#3. My opponent claims this was an appeal to reason. Here's the "appeal to reason" in question quoted directly from his R1: "With absolute determinism, we don't have the slightest chance of exerting any influence on our own lives. We are at the mercy of destiny. Not as appealing as creating your own destiny . . . but better than no destiny at all." That's not an appeal to reason." That's not as appealing as creating your own destiny" is about the most blatant appeal to wishful thinking I've ever seen. I'll get to the "evidence of experience" in the next point.

=SECOND SET OF THREE

#1. My opponent says that the "animate mode of response" (the nondeterministic mode of response) is obvious, but he "humors" me with an example he thinks proves him right. It doesn't. His example is that two identical twins but beside each other in a field will not act the same. This is true, because the identical twins are not completely identical (they have different memories, different positions in space, etc.). My opponent's example fails.

#2. My opponent briefly insults me for not recognizing his argument: "animate mode of response." Too bad that's not an argument, it's a baseless assertion. My opponent has not shown that living beings determine their actions in nondeterministic ways. He has merely asserted it.

#3. Now my opponent decides to give us what he calls evidence for free will, for his "animate mode of response." At least he admits that before this point, he simply assumed we all agreed with him already rather than expecting an actual argument.

My opponent claims that the processes of learning and planning can't be deterministic. False. And my opponent does only that - he merely claims that it is non-deterministic rather than proving it in any meaningful way.

Here's an example of the deterministic nature of learning:
Let's say Bob is a novice driver. It's snowy and icy, but he decides to drive to his friend's house anyway. In his parking lot, he loses control of his car and nearly hits a nearby car. He then adapts his plan accordingly - he decides not to go out at the moment. He reads a web page on how to drive well in icy conditions without losing control of the car. Later, Bob decides that he can manage to get to his friend's house, even though the weather isn't any better. He gets in his car, and he makes a different decision on how to drive than he did originally. He manages to get to his friend's house without losing control.

Now, we have examples of planning and of learning in the example above. I will explain how they fit into a deterministic worldview. Bob originally decides to go to his friend's house, but once he loses control, he changes his mind. His senses feed his mind the information that he has lost control of the vehicle, and with this new information, he comes to a different conclusion. Determinism only says that an identical brain (identical in what information it has within it, all other aspects of its state etc) will make an identical decision in an identical situation. With new information, the brain is in a different state, and thus decides to make a different decision. Anyway, he then decides to read up on how to drive in this weather. With this new insight, he later decides to go back out to his friend's house. He once again changes his plan because he has new information, not because he's some unpredictable free-willed agent. Again, he gets in the car, but makes a different decision on how to drive than he did before - this is once again due to having new information. The outcome ends up different than the last time because of this.

Lastly, my opponent says that the fact that we act as if we have free will is evidence for free will. I will be generous and say that the way in which we act is how we'd expect whether free will is right or determinism is right. Thus, it lends no additional credibility to either of these opposed ideas (by my opponent's definitions, they are opposed).

=LONE ONE

#1. My opponent misunderstands me. I was saying that the Copenhagen interpretation is unproven, and that some other interpretations, such as a hidden variable theory, are just as likely. My opponent responds by assuming that I'm ignorant of all sorts of quantum ideas. I can only conclude that he has misunderstood me. The fact is that it matters not. Copenhagen interpretation may very well be true, and it would lend no additional credibility to my opponent's argument. So for the purposes of this debate, we'll say the Copenhagen interpretation is true and that quantum mechanics is nondeterministic. It really has absolutely nothing to do with whether free will or deterministic laws govern the decision-making process.

=MY CONTENTIONS

My opponent hardly addresses these, claiming that I've "made" him waste so much time with other things.

My first contention goes unanswered - my opponent simply claims again that the "animate mode of response" rebuts my argument. My opponent is wholly unable to show how it is even possible that certain atoms, based on simply having a certain arrangement, become immune from the laws of physics. Such a thing would shatter physics as we know it. My opponent also refers to "his example of the single-celled organism" - an unsourced claim for which my opponent has given absolutely no evidence. If single-celled organisms have been shown to have "free will" in the sense we are using the term, I challenge my opponent to provide a reliable source that shows this.

My second contention, neuroscience, shows that the decision-making process happens in the chemically-driven brain. My opponent has no response for this, so he simply asserts that consciousness and free will are not a product of the brain.

My third contention, the universe, and how deterministic events and objects that follow deterministic laws can assemble in a way that somehow becomes non-deterministic. My opponent gives no answer, he merely says I am ignoring the difference between rocks and people. Rocks and computers also react in very different ways to events, but that does not mean only one of them reacts based on deterministic science.

Lastly, the incompatibility of determinism as my opponent has defined it and free will as he has defined it. My opponent affirms that he was actually defining terms. Since he defined the terms, those definitions conflict, and the resolution says they don't, the resolution is negated.

I look forward to my opponent's final round.
Debate Round No. 2
AtheistExile

Pro

My opponent jumps right into the fray with an intentional, flat-out, self-serving misrepresentation. And I quote:

"My opponent claims that it is philosophy, not science, that should answer the question before us."

My opponent continues, unrelenting, in his dishonest tactics. What I actually said is a matter of record:

"Free will was, traditionally, a philosophical question, although science has begun pursuing the question more vigorously since the development of modern scanning technologies."

My opponent may feel it's insulting to be called out for dishonest tactics, but I say it's not an insult if it's deserved.

It appears that it's my opponents strategy to swamp me with Sock Puppet fallacies and outright misrepresentations of my words so that I'll have little room left to address his own arguments. I'm not going to make the same mistake twice (because I have free will), so I will leave it to the intelligence of the reader to spot my opponent's spin control . . . unless the transgression is particularly onerous. Then I'll defend myself.

As for science, absolute determinism and the macro world, causality rules the inanimate universe and greatly influences animate beings . . . but my opponent's claim that it's ALL deterministic is not the truth: it's dogma. Here's why.

Logically, what can be said of everything can be said of nothing. It's scientifically meaningless because it's NOT FALSIFIABLE. This is one major reason why absolute determinism is merely an opinion -- NOT a fact. My opponent is advancing the same old, worn out, determinist dogma: "Causality predetermines all events -- even our acts and thoughts." Based on this simplistic interpretation of causality, determinists then assert that the experience of choice, and therefore free will, is an illusion. Aside from illustrating that "what can be said of everything can be said of nothing", that argument is also recursive reasoning. It's circular logic that begs the question by paraphrasing it's conclusion as its premise -- "Our acts and thoughts are (i.e. "Everything is") predetermined, therefore our acts and thoughts are (i.e. "everything is") beyond our control." By denying the difference between a rock and a person, absolute determinism sets itself up as a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose farce.

Determinism is fine with me as long as it accommodates all facts: ABSOLUTE determinism is dogmatic and false. I've become convinced that absolute determinism is a surrogate religion for far too many people. It's a closed system, replete with all the trappings of religion: unfalsifiability, "cherry-picking", dogma, denial, fatalism, vehemently closed minds, appeals to authority and recursive reasoning. Oh yeah, and determinists get to keep their Prime Mover and absolution from responsibility too. I just can't understand what motivates determinists to deny the empirical evidence of their experience, not to mention the empowerment of free will, in favor of a worldview of unfalsifiable claims and debilitating fatalism.

It seems to me that, if determinists really believed what they claim, they'd be the laziest, least motivated and most venal people on Earth. Which leads me to believe that many philosophical determinists must be rebels and simply enjoy going against the grain. It's cool, man!

I notice that whenever my opponent uses phrases like: "my opponent was implying"; "my opponent has recognized"; "my opponent claims"; "he simply assumed"; etc., spin control is usually at work. Compare his claims to mine and spare me some pixels for more arguments.

This next example makes me wonder if, perhaps, my opponent's level of discernment is lower than I thought and the accusation of dishonest tactics was giving him too much credit. He seriously proposes that I claimed single-celled organisms have free will. Does anybody else think that? If so, then reread what I wrote. I said that:

"The advent of life introduced motility to the universe. Motility is simply the ability to move without the influence of an external force. Even single-celled organisms can move to avoid harsh or noxious conditions. The significant difference is that the movement is NOT 100% predictable. Unlike inanimate objects, there is more than just one direction the organism can take. Nor will identical organisms move identically under identical conditions. This is an undeniable departure from the precisely predictable reactions of inanimate matter."

So, is it my opponent's level of discernment or his dishonesty that would twist motility into free will? Once again, it's not an insult if it's deserved.

I was thrilled to face an 11-0 master debater but now find myself fending off arguments such as these. I'm disappointed with my opponent and the position I find myself in. In case my opponent has managed to confuse any readers, I will end with a summary of my position.

Final Summary:

The main claim determinists make is a dogma -- "Causality predetermines all events -- even our acts and thoughts." It's scientifically unfalsifiable because it admits no exceptions: what can be said of everything can be said of nothing. Additionally, it's also a logical fallacy known as "Begging the question". Begging the question is recursive, circular, reasoning that paraphrases it's premise as its conclusion.

But a dogma might still be true. Is absolute determinism true? Not as long as it makes no distinction between inanimate and animate modes of response to causality. If you look up "causality" in Wikipedia, you'll find that it takes many forms and that the animate/inanimate boundary separates the "causal realms" of biology and physics:

"The Fountain Theory of Realms of Science, part of the philosophy of science, says that the laws of physics describe cause and effect within physics, and can be seen as the underlying causes of biological events, but that the causal connections between the realms of physics and biology are rarely observed directly, and thus are not a major part of either science."

As this Wikipedia article illustrates, causality, and thus determinism, is NOT absolute in the sense that animate beings can't have a different mode of response than do inanimate objects. In fact, it's this difference in mode of response that separates physics from biology. Physics deals with the inanimate realm and biology deals with the animate realm.

As a lay person, my opponent might not understand what all scientists know: laws are not laid down once and for all, and especially not to dictate what we can or cannot think. They are tools for helping us think; and most of all, to be transcended if necessary. It's not reality that might be wrong, it's our interpretation that might need adjusting. Those who believe causality and determinism can't accommodate the differences between inanimate objects and inanimate beings need to adjust their interpretation to accommodate the facts. Absolute determinism puts artificial constraints on causality.

Because the advent of life introduced radically new kinds of objects (animate beings) to the universe -- objects that move without external force and even, in the case of humans, can extrapolate causality into the future to keep one step ahead of it -- a new mode of response to causality came along with life. Causality was no longer limited to single, fixed, reactions to actions. With intelligent life, causality causes a variable range of potential reactions, from which we make our choices. Our intelligence includes the ability to extrapolate causality into the future and make decisions (and adjustments to decisions) that can keep us one step ahead of causality.

Examples of human intelligence anticipating and exploiting causality for our own purposes include: sails, umbrellas, sunscreen, television, computers, sports, and just about any human invention or planned activity you can think of. When causality meets intelligence, determinism becomes self-determinism. That's what
omelet

Con

That's what most people refer to when they say determinism (just look at the dictionary and wikipedia definitions I gave), and it's the only definition you've given for "regular" determinism.

If you really think "determinism" just means "some things are governed by laws, but some things might not be" then I think you'll find the vast majority in disagreement with you on that. Certainly it is a weird enough definition that you would have had to establish it in the debate, which you failed to do.
Debate Round No. 3
68 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by omelet 7 years ago
omelet
AtheistExile: We don't have a temporal advantage. We literally, factually, undeniably use ONLY INFORMATION FROM THE PRESENT to make our decision. Due to our ability to store memories, this information in the present includes some rough information from the past. It also contains information about what we think might happen in the future, but we do NOT HAVE ANY INFORMATION FROM THE FUTURE. Having intellect capable of anticipating what might happen in the future based solely on present information is NOT a temporal advantage - there's nothing temporal about it.

I said you admitted that you didn't literally mean a temporal advantage. Which you did, and you continue to do. You admitted that it was figurative. So it is therefore not true in a literal sense. Therefore, it would be a bit ridiculous to assume that others would put the argument the same way you have, using the same figurative language you chose. You also expect other people to have explained things in the same vague and confusing terms you use. "Our ability to guide our causal paths (potential futures) by selectively anticipating causality" is an example. That's basically the same as saying "our brains evaluate outcomes and we use that information to make decisions." Wow, so revolutionary. And you also expect that others call our decision-making a mental feedback loop. It really isn't, as I already explained (you did not respond to that). Even if it was a mental feedback loop, this would be completely irrelevant.

Every part of your argument is either vague and figurative, isn't revolutionary in the slightest, or just plain isn't accurate. It's really ridiculous that you think you've stumbled on some revolutionary fact, when you're just rehashing well-known information with less precise and accurate wording.
Posted by AtheistExile 7 years ago
AtheistExile
gamemonk0,

You're no more compelling here than you are at TA.

By the way, I've completely changed my theory of free will but you've spouted your erroneous and biased opinion as if you actually know what's been happening. Your closed mind is on public display. You have no purpose here but to tear down.
Posted by gamemonk0 7 years ago
gamemonk0
Such childishness. I leave, come back, and find about twenty posts, none of which says anything new or substantive. Your last post is especially telling. You simply rehash your previous points as fact, and declare the problem solved.

Since you seem so keen on doing nothing but pointing out fallacies in posts, here's one in yours:

The Fallacy Fallacy. Just because you seem able to apply Logic 101 to someone's posts and pick out a fallacy you can find a name for, does not make their argument invalid. An argument presented in a fallacious manner is not by necessity untrue, and you would do well to leave your arrogance at the door. You haven't yet proved that any sort of temporal advantage exists as a result of our "superior imagination." However, you just keep trucking on, and call any call for backup "dogmatic." It's quite unbecoming, especially since you're just projecting your own faults onto your opponent.

Which (since I feel justified in returning your attempts to insult omelet and I in several places by association), by the way, is a hallmark of devout Catholics insecure of their faith.
Posted by AtheistExile 7 years ago
AtheistExile
I swear, Omelet, you'll deny anything that's not your idea.

Planning is, of course, a temporal advantage over causality. It takes intelligence to be able to anticipate causality in the first place. Humans are leagues above other animals in this regard. It's our imaginations that enable us to entertain varieties of potential scenarios, and our experience and intelligence that determines how well we evaluate those potentials. There's no doubt in my mind that you recognize how this influences our choices. THAT is the temporal advantage of our prescient imagination.

And I'm sick and tired of you using the Sock Puppet fallacy. Argue with me, not yourself. Don't take what I say, twist into something I DIDN'T say, then argue against your own words instead of mine. That's really dishonest and reveals no intention of fairness. Here's one example: "You yourself admitted that you didn't mean that we LITERALLY had some sort of temporal advantage, so are you faulting other philosophers for not using the same symbolic metaphor as you?" What can I say? That's pure distortion. You do it all the time. What I actually said is:

      "I was speaking figuratively. I guess I should have taken my audience into account. How about 'We MENTALLY go to the future'? The main thing is we imagine potential future scenarios as best we can, taking causality into account."

Only a child would think I was literally talking about going to the future. Do you need it explained that time travel is not yet available and may never be?

You know what? You're obviously not serious and want only to argue for argument's sake. My position on compatibilism has evolved over the course of many online discussions. I have solved the problem of free will in a deterministic universe -- without violating causality or determinism: in fact, laws of causality really forces the conclusion that our prescient imagination (cause) MUST influence our choices (effect). Determinism becomes self determinism.
Posted by omelet 7 years ago
omelet
It would just as aptly be put:

1. The laws of nature are deterministic.
2. Activity in a human brain is governed solely by the laws of nature.
3. From 1 and 2, activity in the human brain is solely deterministic.

4. The human brain is capable of digesting information, comparing it to known information, evaluating the likely effects of various choices, and making a choice based on this information.
5. Free will is the ability of agents to rationally decide what action to take.
6. From 4, the human brain gives humans the ability to rationally decide what action to take.
7. From 5 and 6, the human brain is sufficient to satisfy the conditions for free will existing.

8. From 3 and 7, free will exists and it can be solely deterministic.
9. From 8, free will and determinism are compatible.

Of course, I haven't concluded here that determinism is true, since that's not something we actually can conclude. In fact, it's very possible that determinism isn't true - as you have pointed out yourself. It's quite possible that the quantum realm is not deterministic and therefore determinism is false.
Posted by omelet 7 years ago
omelet
Planning, or whatever other flowery language you want to refer to it as, ISN'T A TEMPORAL ADVANTAGE OVER CAUSALITY. We're still in the present, we still are only capable of using information from the past and from the present. We have no actual advantage. Other philosophers would be flat-out wrong if they professed this. You yourself admitted that you didn't mean that we LITERALLY had some sort of temporal advantage, so are you faulting other philosophers for not using the same symbolic metaphor as you?

The fact that the brain is deterministic is something that every determinist believes by definition. Many philosophers don't bother bringing it up, because it is assumed that a compatibilist or determinist believes that ALL processes are deterministic - since that's part of the definition. You'll still find that a wealth of people speaking on this subject bring up the brain and its deterministic nature. I am just one of many examples of people who bring that up. It's also hardly something you could consider original from yourself, since before this debate you didn't even hold that position.

It's not a mental feedback loop that adds our forecasts into our decision-making process. Before we make a decision at all, our forecasts are already being considered.
1. Obtain information
2. Make forecast
3. Make decision based on 1 and 2
That's how it works. There's no point where we're making decisions without having a clue what'll happen next. Again, you're either plain wrong here or you're being needlessly confusing with your wording and for whatever dumb reason expecting other philosophers to have been confusing in the same way.

Self-determinism: http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Looks like even the dictionary got a hold of that. It's also completely covered by "brain is deterministic," as long as we note that the brain makes decisions.

The last part's pretty much covered in "brain is deterministic."
Posted by AtheistExile 7 years ago
AtheistExile
What is new is exactly what I said it is: putting together all the elements to explain HOW it works.

* The the temporal element (advantage of prescient imagination over causality)

* The inclusion of the brain and its processes in the causal elements (brain -- imagination = cause -- effect) that determinism requires

* The mental feedback loop which adds our forecasts into the mix of causal factors determining our decisions.

* The effect of prescient imagination: namely, self determinism . . . our ability to guide our causal paths (potential futures) by selectively anticipating causality.

* The entire process is 100% natural and deterministic and dictated by causality. This means that free will and determinism are NOT antithetical, as is claimed by hard determinists. The amazing part is that causality creates free will when it encounters human imagination.
Posted by omelet 7 years ago
omelet
I can't quote right from it, since it's from a scholarly journal I don't have access to. But it's about how our ability to plan gives us moral culpability and thus by most compatibilists' definition gives us free will.

What part in particular about your argument do you think is new? I was under the impression that you thought that "planning is the agency of free will" was the new thing about your argument, but I clearly showed that Dennet has alluded to the exact same thing. If you told me what in particular you thought was revolutionary about your idea, this might be a bit easier.
Posted by AtheistExile 7 years ago
AtheistExile
P.P.S.

Quote from the source . . . NOT a review of the source.
Posted by AtheistExile 7 years ago
AtheistExile
P.S.

And once you've found it . . . quote it for Christ's sake!
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Vote Placed by omelet 7 years ago
omelet
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Vote Placed by Grape 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by gamemonk0 7 years ago
gamemonk0
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