The Instigator
hect
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Mathgeekjoe
Con (against)
Winning
2 Points

Free will is an illusion

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Mathgeekjoe
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/1/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 899 times Debate No: 72747
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (2)

 

hect

Pro

1st round is acceptance only
2nd round arguments only
3rd round rebuttals and arguments
4th conclusions and rebuttals only

If you wish to discuss the rules make a comment in the comment section
Mathgeekjoe

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
hect

Pro

It should be known that free will rests on two assumptions, the first is that each of us possessing free will would have been able to think and act differently than we did in the past which must mean that an individual can consciously choose one path over another e.g. strawberry over chocolate or doctor over fireman.
The second assumption is that you are the conscious source of your thoughts and actions e.g. you feel like you want to stand up so you stand up.
Both of these assumptions are false as I shall argue.

The first problem with free will is that we live in a world of 'cause and effect', every thing that could possibly constitute your will is either the product a long chain of prior causes and you're not responsible for them or it's the product of randomness and you're not responsible for that, or it"s some combination. Free will makes no sense no matter what the combination.

Take for example a murderer his 'choice' to commit his last murder was preceded by a long series of prior causes, a certain pattern of electro-chemical activity in the brain which was the product of prior causes, some combination of bad genes and the developmental effects of an unhappy childhood whatever other influences on the day of his crime, when we see the chain of causes that precede a conscious experience and that reach back into childhood or out into the world, then the sense of culpability disappears along with his free will. As disturbing as I find that person"s behavior, I have to admit that if I traded places with him atom for atom I would be him, and would behave exactly as he did and for the same reasons. There"s no extra part of me that could have resisted the impulse to victimize innocent people.
If we could see how the wrong genes were being relentlessly transcribed, if we could see how his early life experience had sculpted the micro structure of his brain in just such as way as to give rise to violent impulses, the whole conception of placing blame on him would erode along with any notion that he had free will.

The problem of free will is deeper than cause and effect, this is evident as if we pay attention we realize thoughts just emerge in consciousness were not authorizing them. We can't choose them before we think them; that would require we think them before we think them which is obviously impossible. If you can't control your next thought and you don't know what it will be until it appears, where is your free will? For example you may be reading this and trying to pay attention and all of a sudden you find yourself thinking about fighting an army of witches, you didn't choose this thought it just appeared. Now If you are confused about what I am saying you didn't create that state of confusion similarly if you understand what i'm saying and are interested you didn't create that either.

Now for a little test so everyone can grasp what i'm saying; pick a movie any movie and say it aloud, first of all we have to eliminate any movie you have not heard of as obviously you could have no picked one of them. Now any movie that you have heard of but it did not come into your conscious mind such as the Wizard of Oz most people have heard of this but did not pick it so eliminate all the movies you have heard of but did not come into your thoughts.
Now you are left with the few movies that you originally thought of and the one you picked. Say for example you thought of 50 shades of grey and harry potter and you chose Harry potter. Why did you chose Harry Potter, someone may say because they like it more, but this doesn't solve anything. Why do you like Harry Potter more also where did the idea to pick your favorite come from why not pick the most resent movie e.c.t. as you can see if you dig deep enough to find a reason for the answer you will find yourself in darkness where you cannot answer the question. This is because thoughts only come about as a result of either randomness or from prior chain of causes and event.

With these opening arguments I fell I have put forth a strong enough opener to conclude that free will is an illusion.
Mathgeekjoe

Con

My arguments will be split up in two parts. The first part will go over how two people with all of the same inputs will still produce different out puts. The second part will show the possibility of there being a non-physical conscience (soul) that would impact someone's decisions.

Part one. The definition of free will is "freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention" (1) Based upon this definition, if there was no free will then a person with identical prior causes to another person would make the 'exact' same choices. I intend to prove that this is not the case. The reason this is not the case is thanks to randomness caused by quantum mechanics. Tiny little particles can exist as a wave function, when these wave functions collapse the particle is randomly in one place or the another. This randomness can causes changes in distribution of vibrating atom effectively making all the groups of atoms be at different temperature, yet still the average temperature is the same. These different temperatures of pockets of atoms causes them to have different outcomes chemically, These changes in chemical outcomes causes changes in the firing of signals in the neuron. These changes in the firing of neurons then result in changes in the decision made. No two people's choices will always be the same since they cannot have the exact same outcomes thanks to quantum mechanics. More importantly for this debate, decisions are not fully determined by prior causes thus there is free will by definition.

Part two. What my next argument is about cannot be proven or disproven with current technology. In the future my next argument may easily be proven false, but also in the future my argument may be proven true. Unfortunately, we do not know whether it is correct or incorrect at this time, so it is only a theory. This is the reason why I am not proving a non-physical conscience exist, but merely showing the possibility of existing and how it would do it. So how would something not physical impact something physical, it can't physically push it, move it, have an physical impact on it. But there is a possibility for this non-physical occurrence to control the probability of outcome. This isn't physically impacting the particle but it is changing the outcomes. So it is theoretically possible for there to be a non-physical influence on the physical word. Now lets say the non-physical influence exist in a person's brain and is determined by a non-physical conscience. This non-physical conscience or soul would be able to influence quantum randomness in the brain, allowing it to cause the brain to mirror the soul. Since this soul cannot be physically controlled by physical events, it allows a person to make decisions that are not completely dependent on prior causes or randomness. Effectively if the soul exist, 'conscience' free will would also exist.
Debate Round No. 2
hect

Pro

I shall start by refuting my opponent's points followed by more of my arguments.

"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." - Richard Feynman.
This quote comes from a well known, well respected physicists who had done considerable work in the area of quantum mechanics. Now I'm no physicist and I doubt my opponent is either but ill take Richard Feynman's word on the matter. However I shall still address the obvious flaws in my opponents opening argument and show how it infact supports my position.
"These changes in the firing of neurons then result in changes in the decision made. No two people's choices will always be the same since they cannot have the exact same outcomes thanks to quantum mechanics." So from what I gather this only means no two people can be completely identical therefore they cannot make completely identical decisions, even if this is true I don't see how this is a point, as its obvious there is something different that makes them non identical and I don't see how this automatically means someone has free will, I think my opponent has made quite a leap to get from how neurons get fired to free will, ladies and gentlemen this argument is a 'non sequitur'.
Also and this is where I feel my opponent only supports my argument as "randomness caused by quantum mechanics", now i'm not sure if my opponent read my opening argument but I clearly stated the first problem with free will is that we live in a world of 'cause and effect', every thing that could possibly constitute your will is either the product a long chain of prior causes and you're not responsible for them or it's the product of randomness and you're not responsible for that. Randomness being the key word here, so my entire opponents argument only supports my point as whilst quantum mechanics may refute the 'cause and effect aspect in this particular instance my opponents point it still rests on randomness which one has no control over, so at this moment I am only left to thank my opponent for giving me an additional argument.

To your second point I am baffled how you came to the conclusion that "it is theoretically possible for there to be a non-physical influence on the physical word" as you gave no argument to show how this was possible or even likely all you said was "So how would something not physical impact something physical, it can't physically push it, move it, have an physical impact on it. But there is a possibility for this non-physical occurrence to control the probability of outcome. This isn't physically impacting the particle but it is changing the outcomes". My opponent entire argument is extremely weak and rests only on the premise that IF there was a non physical influence than maybe that could somehow (down a if I may say rather confusing and unsubstantiated argument) lead to free will. And what's more my opponent made no attempt to prove how the IF is true.
Thus that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

My original opening arguments could be seen as a more philosophical argument now I shall show through scientific arguments that free will does not exist.
Neuroscientist Itzhak Fried implanted electrodes into the brains of participants in order to record the status of individual neurons " a procedure that gave him an incredibly precise sense of what was going on inside the brain as decisions were being made. His experiment showed that the neurons lit up with activity as much as 1.5 seconds before the participant made a conscious decision to press a button. And with about 700 milliseconds to go, Fried and his team could predict the timing of decisions with nearly 80% accuracy. In some scenarios, he had as much as 90% predictive accuracy. Now if free will was real how would it be possible to predict the actions of the test subject before they made them with as much as 90% accuracy it would be impossible.
Another scientific example which refutes free will is a study by John-Dylan Haynes in 2008. After putting participants into an fMRI scanner, he told them to press a button with either their right or left index fingers at their leisure, but that they had to remember the letter that was showing on the screen at the precise moment they were committed to their movement.
The results were shocking. Haynes's data showed that the BP ( or Bereitschaftspotential which is defined as "a measure of activity in the motor cortex and supplementary motor area of the brain leading up to voluntary muscle movement") occurred one entire second prior to conscious awareness " and at other times as much as ten seconds. (1)

As you can see now through evidence free will is merely an illusion
source:
1) http://io9.com...
Mathgeekjoe

Con

Just like to define free will since I forgot to give a source on my opening argument.
Definition- freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

So my opponent seems to have trouble following why neurons firing equals free will. Well when I neuron fires, it causes changes in how other neurons fire, these changes in other neurons firing causes a chain reaction that can have an impact on a the decision a person makes. Now this change in decision is free will because it isn't caused by a prior cause. The effect of quantum mechanics happens in the present not the past thus isn't a prior cause. I feel some may have trouble understanding so I will give an example.

Lets say we have two identical people in identical worlds, they have identical experiences, they have made identical choices in the past, they are even identical quantumly up to now. We now give them both a question. It is a question that the person may just as easily say yes as no. Now all prior causes have been identical, so if freewill didn't exist they would pick the same answer 100% of the time. They pick different answers sometimes because of differences in quantum mechanics in the present, not the past. So thus based on definition I gave earlier, there is freewill since decisions are not predetermined by the past.

My opponent has accused my second argument of being weak. I thought it was clear from my wording that it was merely a theory and didn't prove that 'conscience' freewill exist, just merely gave the possibility that it could. The purpose of this debate was whether freewill is an illusion, if my opponent accuses a theory to be an illusion then I am guessing he would also accuse the theory of multiverse and the theory of a universe to both be illusions since there isn't evidence of one over the other. "Thus that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

The research my opponent has gave is very interesting, unfortunately if you were to read the article you would find that it wasn't that a person never had freewill but that the brain has to prepare to make a decision.

Quote-He concluded that we have no free will as far as the initiation of our movements are concerned, but that we had a kind of cognitive "veto" to prevent the movement at the last moment; we can't start it, but we can stop it.- end quote. (1)

Notice that the sentence says that there is still a freewill to not make the movement, effectively the brain unconsciously ramps up to be able to make the movement, but then the person makes a conscience decision to do it or not.

Quote-Basically, the brain starts to unconsciously churn in preparation of a decision, and once a set of conditions are met, awareness kicks in, and the movement is made.-end quote. (1)

The person still has the free will to make the decision to press the button with the left finger or the right finger, but the brain unconscious ramps up before hand.

Now my opponent has claimed that ."Now if free will was real how would it be possible to predict the actions of the test subject before they made them with as much as 90% accuracy it would be impossible." I feel that my opponent hasn't understood what his research is saying. The research is being able to predict when a person makes a decision, not what the decision is. You could be able to predict that in .7 seconds that a person will make a decision to push the button or not, but the person could still have decided to not press the button. There is a difference between predicting when the decision is made and what is the decision. Also if there was no free will, ability to predict would be 100%.

I have not only proven that freewill exist as something not predetermined by prior causes, but also that there is a possible theory that 'conscience' freewill exist, even if the theory will be proven wrong in the future, as of now it is not illusional to believe in freewill just like it is also not illusional to believe that there is a multiverse or that there is only one universe.

1) http://io9.com...
Debate Round No. 3
hect

Pro

I shall rebutt and then conclude.

My opponent tried to give an example of the rather confusing neuron argument with the "identical people" scenario. Again you have just said they would pick different answers I see no evidence for this, as I have argued the decisions if these people were the exact same and had the exact same past, would be (guess what) the exact same. As I said previously it's a 'non sequitur' (definition: is an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises) and no amount of bizarre scenarios are going to help my opponent. My opponent's argument is like crossing a river with no bridge.

Now to you trying to defend your "weak" argument most theories can be supported with evidence however your's unfortunately can not. I can to create a theory, such as free will does not exist because apples are red. As you can see it's a theory that cannot be refuted but it means nothing.

Now to conclude I have giving an unbeatable philosophical argument and even proposed a 'test' via the 'movie scenario' which my opponent made no attempt whatsoever to refute, because it is true and cannot be refuted and it has supported evidence as you can test it out in your head. I also showed how prior causes and randomness determine our next move and how there is no free will in either.

My 'scientific argument' shows how scientists can predict the movement of patients even before they consciously know they are going to make them, again I see no room for free will here.

Thus as we have not found free will throughout this debate it must exist and is mealy nothing more than an illusion.
Mathgeekjoe

Con

Since my opponent has not disagreed with my definition of free will, I must assume that there is no disagreement that free will is "freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention", all I need to do for this debate is prove that choice is not solely produce by prior causes. If I am successful at proving something such as randomness, it would be evident enough to prove freewill existence by the definition I use.

My opponent doesn't understand how quantum mechanics can cause two identical people with and identical past to have the possibility to have two different answers. It comes down to that when the brain randomly picks an answer, it is much more susceptible to small differences in neuron activity. These small differences in neuron are caused from the randomness of heat, which are caused by quantum mechanics. Even with the exactly same past, the present is still different for the two subjects because of randomness caused by quantum mechanics.

My opponent compares my theory to free will not existing becauses apple are red. This is a very immature comparison considering that the theory I gave had explanations, I didn't just merely say free will exist because we have souls. I explain that it isn't impossible for something to influence quantum mechanics without being physical.

My opponent feels that his philosophical argument on 'movie scenario' wasn't rebuttaled because it was irrefutable. The reason why I made no attempt to refute it was because there was no need to, his argument supported freewill. Quote- This is because thoughts only come about as a result of either randomness or from prior chain of causes and event.-end quote. I have gave a definition of free will as anything that causes a decision other than prior causes and divine fate. My opponent said clearly in his first argument that there was randomness and that it wasn't merely caused by prior causes.

Now to conclude, free will exist because there is randomness to decisions, they cannot merely be determined by prior causes. There is also a possibility for a something to influence the probability of decisions without any other physical influences. This influence on the wave function of a quantum particle can cause changes that end up effecting the outcome of the decision. I have proven my argument that free will by definition I used exist.
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
The conversation here on plagiarism, has lead to another debate: http://www.debate.org...
Posted by Kozu 1 year ago
Kozu
I don't think it's that big, it was just from one round. I think Ragnar is right in giving Con the conduct point, I don't believe the entire debate should be ignored though.
Posted by hect 1 year ago
hect
so call the cops lol
Posted by Kozu 1 year ago
Kozu
Plagiarism is illegal though. Regardless of DDO's ToU.

Does that warrant a FF of the debate? I'm not so sure.
Posted by hect 1 year ago
hect
I feel I should point out there are no rules against plagiarism on DDO
Posted by Mathgeekjoe 1 year ago
Mathgeekjoe
Well using two computers to write arguments seems to be a bad idea, I just accidentally erased my argument online by using my computer with the old copy, but I think the new copy is still on my home computer so I should be still able to post it.
Posted by Mathgeekjoe 1 year ago
Mathgeekjoe
I know, I just didn't know if you forgot.
Posted by hect 1 year ago
hect
I'm a busy man
Posted by Mathgeekjoe 1 year ago
Mathgeekjoe
Hect, only 14 hours left to respond. Please don't miss the deadline.
Posted by Mathgeekjoe 1 year ago
Mathgeekjoe
Hect, how was my opening arguments?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Death23 1 year ago
Death23
hectMathgeekjoeTied
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro plagiarized much of his case from a speech on free will by Sam Harris. Pro is shameless about this in the comments section.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
hectMathgeekjoeTied
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: PLAGIARISM. Several scanned for lines in the first round directly copied, such as "The first problem with free will is that we live in a world of 'cause and effect', every thing that could possibly constitute your will is either the product a long chain of prior causes and you're not responsible for..." adding a couple little marks around 'cause and effect', doesn't change the problem, nor does replacing the occasional word in several other cases. In the second round providing the source you plagiarized from, without putting stolen words from it into quotation makes. The behavior is utterly unacceptable. http://embed.player.cdn.vioapi.com/Transcript.axd?mediaId=645594ea-38e4-4867-b6c0-e4e8a0da3103