The Instigator
randomcracker
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
Ragnar_Rahl
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

Free will is an illusion

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/4/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 972 times Debate No: 6783
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (4)

 

randomcracker

Pro

Free will is an illusion.

We live in a world of cause and effect. And as such, all future actions are influenced by the past. For every choice you make that you can say "I did it for reasons A, B, C", it cannot be free, and given the same conditions A, B, and C and holding all other conditions identical, the same "choice" would be made over and over again. We do not make choices any more than a computer is not bound by its programming. For those who would argue that we live in a quantum world, and thus randomness is inherent in our reality, that just means free will is due to randomness, and again, not you.

Mind over matter: But do we make conscious choices?
For instance, Professor John-Dylan Haynes and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany report the findings of an extraordinary experiment which seems to show that "free will" - the most cherished tenet of humanity, which decrees that Man has total control of his own actions - may, in fact, be little more than an illusion.
For in their experiment, the scientists found that we may not be making conscious choices at all.
Rather, our subconscious minds may be dictating our actions, long before we realise.

In his experiment, volunteers were asked to view a stream of letters on a computer screen and told, at some point, of their choosing, to press a button either with their left or right index finger - and remember the letter that was on the screen when they did so.
The volunteers were also connected to brain-scanning MRI machines which were able to monitor and analyse brain patterns.
These "mind-reading" scanners could recognise when the brain had decided on a course of action.
To the researchers' astonishment, it turned out that the volunteers' brains would reach a decision about pressing one of the buttons several seconds before the volunteers actually thought they had made up their minds.
The implications are hugely significant, because the experiment suggests that what we think of as a "conscious decision" may, in fact, be no such thing.
The traditional "folk science" picture of the mind has our "conscious self" as a little man sitting in our heads, pushing buttons and pulling levers, filing "thoughts", receiving messages from eyes and ears and making our muscles move.
What Prof Haynes's experiment seems to show is that we need a new picture; instead of that little man pushing and pulling levers, he is merely a passive observer, lazing back in his chair and watching it all happen.
It is as though what we are actually aware of is no more than a film show, and the decision-making is made purely unconsciously.
It is a disturbing picture, because it reinforces the view that we are mere machines, pieces of biological clockwork that have no more free will than a Swiss watch.
This sounds counter to common sense, but the more you think about it the more it is clear that much of what we do is done on "autopilot" and that free will is rarely necessary.
If you regularly drive to work, for instance, at the end of your commute tomorrow try to remember the details of your journey.
The chances are you will not be able recall more than the basics. When top tennis players are asked to think, consciously, about every stroke and every movement, their game falls to pieces.
Studies of elite sportsmen show that at the top of their game they are performing in a sort of semi-conscious fugue, purely on autopilot.
The "will", if there is any, comes during the training process, not during the match.
Ragnar_Rahl

Con

Free will is defined as the existence of alternatives in reality in which multiple possibilities occur for what will be, where which among those indeterminate possibilities does occur is determined by an entity through means other than chance.

"
We live in a world of cause and effect. And as such, all future actions are influenced by the past."
The statement "every event has a cause" does not imply that that cause is necessarily another event.

"For every choice you make that you can say "I did it for reasons A, B, C", it cannot be free, and given the same conditions A, B, and C and holding all other conditions identical, the same "choice" would be made over and over again."
This is essentially a straw man, because condition "A" is chosen goal. Every action I make is made because of, not just the conditions of reality, but also what I seek to achieve in that reality-- or more specifically, whether I seek to achieve-- seek to live.
Yet people commit suicide. I do not, because I value my life, the notion of value without choice is meaningless of course.

"We do not make choices any more than a computer is not bound by its programming."
Humans do not have a programmer, this is invalid.

I'm highly concerned that you haven't seen fit to provide a link to your experiment, fortunately, I've encountered it before:

http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org...

It is really a laughable conclusion from the data, frankly-- first of all, it measures an artificial dilemma in which there are no possible value judgments for picking one over the other, then, it claims that a set of signals which predict a decision with SIXTY PERCENT accuracy (chance would be fifty percent) constitutes "decision." At best, those signals are indicators of only some small set of the considerations involved for the entity.

Even if the experiment were accurate, it still would not tell us that the source of free will does not exist in the subconscious mind-- which, since most of consciousness is ITSELF a choice (it requires active effort, it will not occur in default without my initiative, it is entirely within my power to become less conscious) is quite likely. It also doesn't tell us that we don't consciously say (metaphorically) Data about levers here: Value criterion (from free will) here: Subconscious, go!

"
It is a disturbing picture, because it reinforces the view that we are mere machines, pieces of biological clockwork that have no more free will than a Swiss watch.
This sounds counter to common sense, but the more you think about it the more it is clear that much of what we do is done on "autopilot" and that free will is rarely necessary.
If you regularly drive to work, for instance, at the end of your commute tomorrow try to remember the details of your journey.
The chances are you will not be able recall more than the basics. When top tennis players are asked to think, consciously, about every stroke and every movement, their game falls to pieces.
Studies of elite sportsmen show that at the top of their game they are performing in a sort of semi-conscious fugue, purely on autopilot."
The extent to which certain routine tasks and certain athletic tasks are best performed while not devoting too many resources to brainpower is, of course, not an establishment that free will doesn't exist, indeed how one would pick a place to drive to or decide they want to win in the first place without a value criterion, the means for such decision making, is beyond me.

To realize free will, simply sit still, in a quiet room, and reach out and touch something with one hand, then with the other. Or vice versa. Keep alternating. Notice that no external variable compels you to pick a hand. It's all up to you, to do it, or not do it at all.

Now ponder why you have your job-- if you can't trace it to a choice you made about whether to value your life, what reason do you have for it? If you don't have one, quit and find out :).

Perception, I'm afraid, is the only evidence possible in the free will debate, direct perception, much like one can't "prove" trees exist except by documenting photos-- and it is not, it happens, posisble to take "pictures" of a persons direct consciousness at this time.

But, every reader her has their perception nonetheless (or they wouldn't be reading!). Use it, it's the only source of information that you have in the matter, Pro certainly hasn't provided evidence that contradicts it.
Debate Round No. 1
randomcracker

Pro

I am sorry i will explain my point better this time..

FREE WILL- The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.
The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

Now my belief is in a way all our choices are fate.. I do not like this word though instead i think of it as how things

are calculated.

Everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen is one long chain of events. Just like

Isaac Newton said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Our minds are not exempt from this rule. Every

thought that enters your mind is provoked by some other force, either a previous thought or outside stimulus. Free

will may feel real, but it is actually just an illusion.

For instance, what makes people play sports.. is it because they freely choose to play them or is it due to

certain situations they have been put into that lead them to sports. Is it because they freely choose to be fit and

strong and fast or because they have or do not have natural talents and abilitys. Will people that have asthma and

that are other weaknesses generally end up playing sports..

If everyones will was truely free there would be no such thing as stereotypes. Why are we all so similiar,

why do we all fit into categories, because our subconcious controls our will, thats why.

We believe we have choices (the illusion) but are those deciscions really controlled by a free, untampered

will. The answer is Undoubtedly NO.

Responses:
CON: To realize free will, simply sit still, in a quiet room, and reach out and touch something with one hand, then

with the other. Or vice versa. Keep alternating. Notice that no external variable compels you to pick a hand. It's

all up to you, to do it, or not do it at all.

PRO: Now i ask you what your motives are for this, you may answer "because, i have free will, i can do whatever i

want." But in fact you are merely falling into a rebelious stereotype, you are doing this because someone said you

cant. An external force said you couldnt so you did. I know that is a really simplified answer, but think about

it.

CON:Now ponder why you have your job-- if you can't trace it to a choice you made about whether to value your life,

what reason do you have for it? If you don't have one, quit and find out :).

PRO: I dont understand the structure of this arguement. But i think ive said enough... Your turn
Ragnar_Rahl

Con

"
For instance, what makes people play sports.. is it because they freely choose to play them or is it due to

certain situations they have been put into that lead them to sports. Is it because they freely choose to be fit and

strong and fast or because they have or do not have natural talents and abilitys. Will people that have asthma and

that are other weaknesses generally end up playing sports.."

People with asthma and other weaknesses do frequently play sports. They do not play them at a high level, but the exist of a limit on actional possibilities does not establish that there is only one such possibility.

"
If everyones will was truely free there would be no such thing as stereotypes. Why are we all so similiar,

why do we all fit into categories, because our subconcious controls our will, thats why.
"
The entire point of the concept "Stereotype" is that it's a BAD generalization. If no one was free, stereotypes would apply perfectly. They do not. We do NOT all fit into such categories, and when some do, they are able to fit into multiple categories. The same person can be either a Punk or an Emo or something else entirely, which is all too frequently in their power.

Influence =/= determination.

"We believe we have choices (the illusion) but are those deciscions really controlled by a free, untampered

will. The answer is Undoubtedly NO.
"
You have yet to provide evidence for this. Assertions without any sort of evidence do not constitute debating. You have rephrased it, but that does not constitute establishing it.

"
PRO: Now i ask you what your motives are for this, you may answer "because, i have free will, i can do whatever i

want." But in fact you are merely falling into a rebelious stereotype, you are doing this because someone said you

cant."
As a matter of fact I'm not doing it at all. For someone who claims that everything is predetermined, you don't have a lot of prophetic power to back it up :). Further, it is also within my power to obey rather than compel.

"An external force said you couldnt so you did."
An "external force" saying I COULDN't would mean that I couldn't-- like gravity tells me I can't fly without a certain amount of physical prerequisites. There are external forces which impede it, but obviously they don't tell me I "Can't." People might, but people's words are not a force in the sense you're using it here.

"
PRO: I dont understand the structure of this arguement."
In other words, any action taken by a determinist self-refutes their assertion that free will does not exist-- the belief in determinism necessarily implies nihilism, which, if determinism were true, would be a sufficient cause of doing nothing. Nevertheless, people do have the power to do that which they believe to be pointless, despite the belief that something is wrong being an external force which, if it had full power, would dictate not doing it.

"But i think ive said enough..."
Describing your position and providing ignoratio elenchis, which amount to what you've said, is never enough :)
Debate Round No. 2
randomcracker

Pro

randomcracker forfeited this round.
Ragnar_Rahl

Con

A is A, a forfeit is a forfeit, and lack of evidence is lacking in evidence.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by threelittlebirds 8 years ago
threelittlebirds
i love these debates. too bad mine got deleted
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Which is a debate in of itself.
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
You really should include an explicit definition of free will.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by threelittlebirds 8 years ago
threelittlebirds
randomcrackerRagnar_RahlTied
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Vote Placed by philosphical 8 years ago
philosphical
randomcrackerRagnar_RahlTied
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Vote Placed by s0m31john 8 years ago
s0m31john
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Vote Placed by KRFournier 8 years ago
KRFournier
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