Ethics for Determinists

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Discussion by: Zeuglodon
Instead of arguing whether or not determinism or free will or some form of compatibilism is true, I thought it would be more interesting to discuss the actual implications of determinism on our ethics.
I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think determinism is becoming an increasingly stronger position to take, not only because it’s the most compatible with our current science, but because the opposing position has been revealed as unproven, unhelpful in understanding human nature, and too closely associated with moral virtue (religious, humanistic or otherwise) for people to take an impartial view of it. If you dispute this position, by all means let’s discuss it here, but it’s possible to have the alternative “implications of determinism” discussion here in a hypothetical sense, at least.
Also, first I want you to see these articles. They were posted by Jerry Coyne on his blog a few weeks ago. The first one is largely his take on the writings of Jim Al-Khalili when he tackled the subject:
A physicist gets muddled about free will
The second is a more direct challenge for those who reconcile determinism with free will (the article was originally aimed at those philosophers Coyne regarded as sidestepping the issue):
A Gedankenexperiment on free will
Generally, I find the first one a good critique of the problem of compatibilism, but the second one more interesting. In it, Coyne challenges some philosophers to address the implications of determinism rather than waste time salvaging free will with redefinitions and unhelpful equivocation.
That got me thinking. Through a deterministic lens, perhaps a lot of our ethics becomes clearer and brighter rather than muddier and bleaker. Perhaps embracing it, far from being the downfall of society, might to future generations appear no more controversial than defending heliocentrism or evolution.

Of course, one could argue that determinism nullifies ethics without free will and so on, and you are free to defend this position if you wish. I feel, though, that given the huge number of free will-determinism threads, and the fact that science is increasingly favouring the determinist’s position, that it would be more fruitful to move past that discussion (though I don’t exclude it outright), as Coyne recommends, and tackle the challenge he raises about determinism, even if it wasn’t necessarily directed at us.
A good set of starting points might be:
How determinism changes our system of dealing with criminals,
Whether culpability is a workable concept or something to be discarded in favour of an alternative,
How to communicate these implications to a skeptical audience,
Whether or not ideas associated with determinism are true,
If reductionism of any kind can help or hinder our understanding of a deterministic position,
And how we should treat the ethical choices people make in everyday lives.

63 COMMENTS

  1. While disagreeing with the basic premise, I’ll have a bite at just one of the starting points:

    How determinism changes our system of dealing with criminals,

    Probably it doesn’t. But it could be taken to mean:

    • criminal behaved that way as a deterministic consequence of nature and nurture. Lets not be too hard on him, poor chap, it isn’t his fault.

    • same thing only we’ll punish him severely, because that’s a consequence of our nature and nurture.

    • Does determinism make a nonsense of rehabilitation? Or is it just a matter of finding a workable re-purposing/re-programming of the offender?

    • if it’s considered mostly nature, we work to eliminate the offending genes, starting with the offender’s genes. Nothing personal, old chap, but we need you to go extinct.

    • if it’s considered mostly nurture, we work to eliminate that kind of nurture. Either the nice way – giving people better environments, teaching better ways, or the nasty way – war and genocide.

    In the end I doubt that accepting/adopting the determinist outlook will make the slightest difference, there is still plently of scope for differing approaches, determined by the (maybe pre-determined) world-view of those running the system.

    It does, however, seem to me to be a very bleak philosophy, and generally unhelpful. The closest thing to “Inch Alla” (deliberately mis-spelt) that you’ll get without That Kind of Faith.

    • In reply to #1 by OHooligan:

      It does, however, seem to me to be a very bleak philosophy, and generally unhelpful. The closest thing to “Inch Alla” (deliberately mis-spelt) that you’ll get without That Kind of Faith.

      I believe in a kind of determinism but I don’t see anything bleak about it at all. On the contrary, I think the only reason people may think it’s bleak is because they are clinging to out-moded ideas about free will that are legacies of religion and make no sense from a scientific world view. Of course human beings are going to behave according to the same laws of the universe as everything else. It’s only hubris to ever imagine that might not be so and there is no logical reason to get depressed by that obvious truism.

    • If we have no free will, than criminal behaviour is the result of processes operating in the brain ( either genetic or learned ) .

      Then I think the main question to ask is this :

      “What is the most efficient way ( costing fewest resources, the least suffering ) way to ensure an individual is discouraged from further criminal behavior ? “

      We are sitting in the back seat of a car, with an animal sitting behind the wheel.
      But if the car crashes, we are still responsible for it.

      In reply to #1 by OHooligan:

      While disagreeing with the basic premise, I’ll have a bite at just one of the starting points:

      How determinism changes our system of dealing with criminals,

      Probably it doesn’t. But it could be taken to mean:

      criminal behaved that way as a deterministic consequence of nature and nurture. Lets…

    • In reply to #1 by OHooligan:

      While disagreeing with the basic premise, I’ll have a bite at just one of the starting points:

      How determinism changes our system of dealing with criminals,

      Probably it doesn’t. But it could be taken to mean:

      criminal behaved that way as a deterministic consequence of nature and nurture. Lets…

      Being aware of it will change how you approach it.

      It isn’t his fault so we should isolate him from the herd but not punish him for the act. We learn if rehab does or does not work. Perhaps we augment his genetic makeup to eliminate the issue. I don’t blame trees for falling on my house or dogs for barking at night. Why blame a psychopath for killing. Punishment is the tool of religion and though consequence avoidance may work (according to my eldest daughter’s behaviour, it does not), it doesn’t fix the issue.

  2. If determinism means you can in principle predict the future precisely, then quantum mechanics says that is not so. There is a small amount of unpredictable fuzz introduced all over the place.

    If you have a computer program, the result is fixed before you even start. Presumably the brain is like that, even if it has pseudorandomisers in its algorithms. The question is “is there some sort of soul that can make decisions independently of the brain?” I think probably not.

    If by determinism you mean people’s behaviour is a function of current environment, past environment, genetics, then if you want people to change behaviour, you must changes these, not shout at them to be different. You will go off the rails if you start imagining humans are all that different from rats. Our religious heritage leads us to ascribe magical powers to homo sapiens. There has not been enough evolutionary time for us to become wildly different.

    Governments incarcerate people for five basic reasons:

    1. To seek revenge, to punish people for their bad behaviour.
    2. To modify their mental programming so that they will not commit more crimes.
    3. To keep them away from potential victims.
    4. To make money building and running prisons.
    5. To stop people from voting for a candidate you do not support.

    Sam Harris argues that reason (1) may well not make sense. Even if this reason is discredited, there are
    still four other reasons to incarcerate.

      • In reply to #4 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #3 by Roedy:

        Governments incarcerate people for five basic reasons:

        6 To deter others from copying criminal behaviour by illustrating unpleasant consequences.

        While it’s a common reason, I’m not so sure it works that way in practice.
        Those who don’t commit crimes usually do so because they understand WHY it would be wrong to do so, and those that commit crimes usually do so because they believe they won’t get caught and won’t have to face those consequences.

        I think more awareness of the reasons WHY we have those consequences set up instead “just because”, and in turn having consequences that more accurately reflect the crime and aid in rehabilitation, will do more to curb crime than just waving a stick around threatening to ‘hit you back twice as hard as you hit me’.

        When justice is reduced to nothing more than a threat of retribution then crime becomes the only obvious response and you perpetuate a culture where justice and crime feed of the threat of one another. When justice takes the form of a logical and productive solution to the problems that cause crime, then it doesn’t produce so much of a feedback loop.

    • In reply to #3 by Roedy:

      If determinism means you can in principle predict the future precisely, then quantum mechanics says that is not so. There is a small amount of unpredictable fuzz introduced all over the place.

      even classical systems become difficult to predict long term. Chaos and all that.

      If you have a computer program, the result is fixed before you even start.

      I take you haven’t tried building or debugging any large computer systems recently?

      Presumably the brain is like that,

      I doubt it. I bet there’s a lot of noise and analog approximations

      even if it has pseudorandomisers in its algorithms.

      I doubt there are many algorithms in the computer science sense.

      The question is “is there some sort of soul that can make decisions independently of the brain?” I think probably not.

      agreed

      If by determinism you mean people’s behaviour is a function of current environment, past environment, genetics,

      and noise

      then if you want people to change behaviour, you must changes these, not shout at them to be different.

      even shouting is a form of environmental change

      You will go off the rails if you start imagining humans are all that different from rats. Our religious heritage leads us to ascribe magical powers to homo sapiens. There has not been enough evolutionary time for us to become wildly different.

      Governments incarcerate people for five basic reasons:

      To seek revenge, to punish people for their bad behaviour.
      To modify their mental programming so that they will not commit more crimes.
      To keep them away from potential victims.
      To make money building and running prisons.

      governments make money out prisons?!

      To stop people from voting for a candidate you do not support.

      Sam Harris argues that reason (1) may well not make sense. Even if this reason is discredited, there are still four other reasons to incarcerate.

      1) makes sense if you consider the victims and there friends and relatives. Locking someone up may prevent other people from doing something else.

    • In reply to #3 by Roedy:

      If determinism means you can in principle predict the future precisely, then quantum mechanics says that is not so. There is a small amount of unpredictable fuzz introduced all over the place.

      John Searle makes that argument, defining free-will as something without antecedent. Sounds good to me. However, my physicist friends laugh and point. It’s semantics problem. “Random” means something very different in physics than it does in metaphysics. The concepts are not interchangeable.The ‘randomness’ violates the Conservation of Information, which not even Black Holes can do.

      • In reply to #38 by This Is Not A Meme:

        John Searle makes that argument, defining free-will as something without antecedent. Sounds good to me.

        Doesn’t to me. Tossing a coin is not being free. Quite the contrary, indeed.

        What do you think about absolute causality being a requisite for any knowledge at all? How can the Universe be knowable if causality ever fails?

        Exactly. Freedom implies determinism at human comprehension level. You need to be able to make predictions of the future, to be able to avoid them or fulfil them and be good at it.

        Let’s say I ask you which of your hands would you prefer to be chopped off : the left one, the right one, both or none. What would an ideally self-determined being choose ? Do you think an undetermined (“random”) answer would be a free choice in that case ? Would it be a free choice if you can’t foresee the consequences of having your favourite hand chopped off ?

  3. I don’t find the prospect of determinism to be a problem at all.

    The multitude of factors that go into determining any event or choice are so vast there is no way of us pre-determining much of anything, and that’s before we take into account quantum physics. In this sense, knowing that everything we think or do is predetermined is no different than understanding that all emotions are the result of chemical reactions in our brains, this doesn’t belittle the phenomenon, it simply explains it, what else were you thinking of when you asked for an explanation? God?

    Determinism effects only one thing, how we attribute blame and culpability, as as others have pointed out, there are various ways to do this, and the removal of absolute free will only excludes some of them.

    If anything, determinism revolutionizes this process. Revenge and punishment do nothing to resolve any wrong-doings, these are born from a personal, selfish desire for retribution and in no way reflect on the culprit of the crime. Empathy aligns us with the victims desire for retribution, but it robs us of our empathy for the accused, which I think is just as bad regardless of the wrong-doing, both victim and culprit deserve equal levels of empathy, even if in light of other factors we end up punishing them for their crime.

    I think when society as a whole becomes aware of this the justice system will fare a lot better, that punishment is not for our satisfaction, but that it is for the well-being of society as a whole and the culprit as an individual. Prison sentences without rehabilitation are pointless and sadistic, and in some cases only exacerbate the problem with increased re-offending rates. Programs that involve giving back to the community or repaying what the have taken from people (physical or otherwise) are surely the best way to deal with the aftermath of crime.

    • In reply to #5 by Seraphor:

      Determinism effects only one thing, how we attribute blame and culpability, as as others have pointed out, there are various ways to do this, and the removal of absolute free will only excludes some of them.

      If anything, determinism revolutionizes this process.

      I don’t think so

      Revenge and punishment do nothing to resolve any wrong-doings, these are born from a personal, selfish desire for retribution and in no way reflect on the culprit of the crime.

      are yes but my genes and environmental history make me want to inflict pointless revenge on wrong doers. I too am a slave of determinism.

      Empathy aligns us with the victims desire for retribution, but it robs us of our empathy for the accused, which I think is just as bad regardless of the wrong-doing, both victim and culprit deserve equal levels of empathy, even if in light of other factors we end up punishing them for their crime.

      I think when society as a whole becomes aware of this the justice system will fare a lot better, that punishment is not for our satisfaction, but that it is for the well-being of society as a whole and the culprit as an individual. Prison sentences without rehabilitation are pointless and sadistic, and in some cases only exacerbate the problem with increased re-offending rates. Programs that involve giving back to the community or repaying what the have taken from people (physical or otherwise) are surely the best way to deal with the aftermath of crime.

      I’ve heard these arguments before, that acceptance of determinism will in some way change how our justice systems work. I don’t follow the argument. Just because he had a bad childhood or whatever doesn’t necessarily make incarceration inappropriate. Should violent crime be dealt with within the community? If someone had mugged you would you really be happy to see him walking the streets every day?

      • In reply to #18 by nick keighley:

        In reply to #5 by Seraphor:

        Determinism effects only one thing, how we attribute blame and culpability, as as others have pointed out, there are various ways to do this, and the removal of absolute free will only excludes some of them.

        If anything, determinism revolutionizes this process.

        I don’t…

        As I alluded to in my subsequent post, a sadistic justice system becomes one of the determining factors that encourages violent crime.

        I never said everything should be dealt with in the community, certain crimes, predominantly violent ones, would certainly warrant removing the perpetrator from society, but incarceration without the proper rehabilitation is purely sadism. The criminal will resent the justice system and therefore society as a whole, viewing it as their enemy for ideological reasons and will likely re-offend.

        Determinism doesn’t mean the perpetrator was destined to commit the crime and shouldn’t be punished for it at all. It means that a myriad of factors drove the perpetrator to committing the crime and in order to prevent him and others committing those crimes we need to get to the bottom of it and eliminate some of those factors from society.

        One angle of those is a fairer justice system that isn’t resented by the people who feel they are it’s targets. Another angle is a better education of the purpose of the justice system and of the consequences of their actions.

        Determinism HAS to play a role in improving the justice system, otherwise we stop looking for solutions to the problem at “they have free will, they could have chosen not to commit the crime, therefore it’s their fault and should be punished” and nothing changes.

        It’s the equivalent of looking at climate change and saying “we all know the sun warms things up, it’s probably just the sun, lets carry on as we were doing before.”

  4. The problem, Zeuglodon, is that you always seem to have discovered determinism last week, whereas it is a pretty old idea. You can trace it back at least to Spinoza and probably to some Greek philosophers. And it is a pretty old idea because it is a pretty simplistic idea : “everything has a cause, therefore….” and you might be getting my drift. William Lane Craig could start a discussion with those words.

    The problem is, you can’t be just “determined” ; you have to be determined “by” something. But that something would itself have a cause, therefore determinism is opposed to self-determinism only if you postulate at some point a “cause without cause”, a prime mover. And I’m sure that you are now getting my drift : incompatibilism is a theistic opinion. Without a prime mover, you are obviously determined (simplistic idea), but you are not, ultimately, determined by anything. Therefore you are undetermined.

    If, as I suspect, the structure of reality is of a fractal nature (nothing is indivisible), then reductionism can be (and in fact is) locally efficient but would be globally futile. When you try to judge if a crime was committed for such or such reason (nature or nurture), you necessarily stop your deterministic reasoning at some arbitrary point, reducing it to a humanly comprehensible scope of the fractal. Outside of your human comprehension, you are back to a Goddidit-like loophole. Absolute determinism is a god of the gaps.

    And that is why it won’t change anything deep about justice systems. Replacing jail sentences by court ordered lobotomies will not be a humanistic progress. Our justice systems are already deterministic.

    Let’s be clear about something : we are free, to some degrees, and we can prove it. With reward and punishment, you can train a dog, a horse or even a tiger to do some work for you, but you cannot train it to fly like a bird, because it is not free to fly like a bird. Literally, it cannot do it. It cannot make that choice. Whatever lies at the root of our consciousness prior to any lived experience, our bodies and senses have evolved to “train” that thing by feelings of pain and pleasure. There would be no point in training a “thing” with punishments and rewards if that thing were not free to make choices.

    • In reply to #7 by Ornicar:

      The problem, Zeuglodon, is that you always seem to have discovered determinism last week, whereas it is a pretty old idea. You can trace it back at least to Spinoza and probably to some Greek philosophers. And it is a pretty old idea because it is a pretty simplistic idea : “everything has a cause,…

      You are right to say this is an old issue. However, like some other old issues (eg is there a God?), it’s not resolved to everyone’s satisfaction – hence the debates.

      For example, I am not sure we can prove we have freedom that easily. My thoughts are influenced by Sam Harris’s book ‘Free Will’, which has been discussed on other fairly recent threads. Briefly, neuroscience seems to show that, however we do take decisions it is not directly with our consciousness, as evidence shows that choices start to be put into gear before awareness of the choosing. This might not rule out freedom of any kind but it surely makes it more complex.

      Worse perhaps is the well rehearsed dilemma between freedom and the will. If we want to have free will, then we must be able to act in a range of ways to make a choice meaningful. Yet, that choice seemingly requires a freedom from determinism, at least in brain (mind) states. But, if determinism did not apply to brain states, how can we be sure that our choices are reliable? – we surely want determinism in our minds to we can weigh up options & then be sure our choices are made and stuck to. But if we have determinism in making our choices, how can we have freedom?

      The memory of training animals or ourselves to do new things could thus be the memories of the results of our unconscious or pre-conscious minds (Harris): that, is an illusion of choice. While the conceptual basis of ‘free will’ seems to me dubious in light of the freedom v will dilemma above.

      As others point out, this does not mean there would be no response to crimes. For example, criminals should be contained if they pose a risk to others. One might say that punishment may be deterrent, in that others experience of heating of punishments of others may inform their subconscious mind states so as to be part of the determined chain of mental events that does not include crime. However, one could counter that if there is not freedom of action for criminals, neither is there for those running courts: in which case, discussion as to what court officials might or might not do seems superfluous.

      For myself, I continue to assume that I do have free will and therefore I am responsible for my actions. The moral assumption of free will is probably weaker than some other common assumptions, such as the scientific (and day to day) assumption of the uniformity of nature, since the idea of free will may be inherently contradictory, whereas the uniformity of nature is ‘just’ unprovable. All the same, I don’t think I could manage daily life without assuming that I had choices.

      • In reply to #8 by steve_hopker:

        For myself, I continue to assume that I do have free will and therefore I am responsible for my actions. The moral assumption of free will is probably weaker than some other common assumptions, such as the scientific (and day to day) assumption of the uniformity of nature, since the idea of free will may be inherently contradictory, whereas the uniformity of nature is ‘just’ unprovable. All the same, I don’t think I could manage daily life without assuming that I had choices.

        From a human perspective, for all intents and purposes, you DO have free will, even if determinism is true, even if that free will is an illusion, because we can only qualify these things from a human perspective.

        Some other dilemmas similar to this are, as I mentioned earlier emotions as a biological process, and also subjective morality.

        We can all agree that anything that inflicts suffering another human being is immoral to some degree, but what of the life forms that rely on the death of a human being? The billions of microscopic organisms that will thrive on a human corpse, but will otherwise die if we don’t? When the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, is the life of a human being really worth preserving? The answer is unequivocally ‘Yes’ because we ARE Human and we are not microscopic bacteria, we are so far removed from the perspective of a bacterium that we cannot equate them to us on a moral level.

        As I mentioned in an earlier post, we can be fairly certain that any emotions we feel are the result of neurochemical processes, the excitement, wonder, love, hatred, fear and anxiety you feel can be reduced down to chemical compounds and synapses. But that doesn’t stop you from feeling them. Love and hate still exist in as much abstract value as they have ever done.

        Likewise, we exist in a form that practices making choices on a second to second basis, everything we experience we experience from the perspective of the choices we have made. Whether determinism ends up being proven right or wrong, nothing will change and we will still experience life from this perspective.

        While even our conscious choices may be the inevitable result of predetermined factors, we will never be able to determine those factors in their entirety. If we can never know our predetermined course, it is in essence NOT predetermined, as far as WE can ever be concerned.

        With an issue like this, the only thing you can really do is ‘get over it’, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to understand it on some level at the same time.

    • Wow, I submitted this at the beginning of the year. I just assumed the discussion had been rejected and promptly forgot about it. There are quite a few comments here, and I don’t think I’ll be replying to all of them, but I’ll see what I can do.

      In reply to #1 by OHooligan:

      I think it changes the rationale behind criminal treatment entirely, from one based on an intuitively appealing cultural idea built more on moralistic gut instinct rather than articulate reasons, to one that is more intellectually defensible and based on the discoveries of observation, science, and reason in general. That is almost bound to give different weightings to different priorities in the treatment of wrongdoers and criminals, at the very least because it makes it harder to justify some practices. While modern judicial systems surely incorporate different kinds of rationale in different cases, how prevalent they are, or how they are deployed would be changed; indeed, it has changed in history, for instance, as the need to punish and torture wrongdoers has given way in some modern societies towards rehabilitation and incarceration.

      A recent article from Scientific American, ”The Psychological Power of Satan”, captures one aspect of the difference neatly. People who believe in the myth of pure evil behave differently towards wrongdoers than do people who don’t, and that would inevitably effect their policies towards criminals. Other psychological points include the Moralization Gap, in which the victim may have an interest in exaggerating the depravity of the perpetrator to the point of almost making it awe-inspiring and incomprehensible (Pinker gives a good account of this in The Better Angels of Our Nature), and moral dumbfounding, a tendency Haidt found in people to condemn certain acts as wrong, yet to be unable to articulate anything but a tissue of rationalizations after the fact, and confusion upon having those rationalizations rebutted. In light of such studies, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that some ways of thinking about right and wrong are not just problematic due to modern mores, but are intellectually unsupportable from the get-go.

      As for your last point, the bleakness of a worldview is of no consequence to its veracity. I find the implications for natural selection include the pointless harm, death, and distress it causes in the sentient organisms involved, and this I would consider bleak, but it does not change the fact that natural selection is a well-supported scientific theory that should be taken seriously.

      In reply to #9 by Red Dog:

      I think, given that I had neglected to respond to a comment of yours elsewhere on the issue of how deeply we’d have to go into the human brain in order to be able to understand human behaviour and thought, I can kill two birds with one stone and lump the points here, because they are particularly important to the discussion.

      With that in mind, I think you’ve set up a false dichotomy here. While I can’t speak for Harris, I don’t think the options are “naive physicalism” versus “intentions are real”. Of course intentions et al. are real, but the problem is that this what everyone thinks anyway. The problem is that most people treat the distinction between physical phenomena and mental phenomena as fundamentally different things, and attempts to explain the human mind cannot simply go back to beliefs and desires, and say “the buck stops here”. This, and the traditional concept of free will are both rooted in a mind dualism that is antithetical to the growing scientific evidence that the mind is a subset of physical phenomena. It’s not enough for a scientific account to simply postulate intentions and desires as the basis: at some point, it has to dissect those things, answer questions about what a desire actually is, what neural representation and code goes into its design, and how the hierarchy of brain structure bridges the gap between neurons and lobes of the brain. The biggest obstacle to people’s accepting of the computational theory of mind is an ignorance of how physical neurons add up to seemingly nebulous things as desires and beliefs, and so long as that gap remains unbridged, the intellectual lack of fulfilment will leave gaps open to wrong ideas about human nature.

      This leads on to my next point: the compatibilist redefinition of free will takes a word with these dualist connotations and attempts to give it a more respectable definition. This to me is throwing a sop to people who have an interest, for whatever social or selfish reasons, to preserve traditional and/or anthropocentric concepts that are out of touch with modern science. It’s no better than redefining “god” as “the universe” or “goodness”, firstly because it’s a pointless and even accommodationistic mixing of two different positions, secondly because it is more likely to distort the history of the concepts and thereby make it harder to see our ancestors’ ideas for what they were, and thirdly because it only really results in a way for incompatibilist libertarians to receive undue credence. In short, I consider it a failure to face up to the social implications of modern science, and would recommend simply leaving the word with its older definition and turning to cognitive science concepts like voluntary and involuntary actions. This does not involve pretending intentions don’t exist: it involves challenging modern ideas of what intentions and minds are, and distancing oneself from the misconceptions that result, because the last thing we need is to make it harder for people to appreciate that intuitive or traditional ideas are just flat-out wrong.

      In reply to #3 by Roedy:

      To be fair, I regard determinism as being only approximately correct. A more accurate view would be one that acknowledges the findings of quantum mechanics, and the element of unpredictability that results. At present, I am tending toward a view that places mathematical laws stage-centre, and which places causality as a subset of phenomena that occur only under certain conditions. I’m sorry to say, though, that my difficulty in understanding some aspects of quantum mechanics hinder this attempt to consolidate a coherent worldview, not leastways because of the myriad ways people have tried to describe it.

      But for the purposes of this debate, I regard the distinction as being like quibbling over whether the world is a perfect sphere or an oblate spheroid with fractal substructures at the surface. Yes, one of them is more accurate than the other, but compared to flat-earthism, the distinction is moot. Likewise, whether you are convinced that determinism is less accurate than a worldview based on the unpredictability of quantum mechanics or not, it doesn’t make much difference when arguing against a position like free will. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that sheer unpredictability isn’t automatic disproof of determinism, at least so long as the unpredictability is due to practical issues rather than ones of principle, which is why chaos theory is no real rebuttal to it.

      In reply to #5 by Seraphor:

      I’ve already mentioned in this comment how I don’t think sheer unpredictability counts against determinism, at least in practice. For the purposes of this discussion, my point is that free will is an incoherent concept regardless of what you can or cannot predict in the real world.

      I think, if a real-world implication would come of it, it would be one similar to a medical worldview. Crimes would no longer be treated as the actions of evil sinners who are due to be punished, but as a symptom of disease which needs to be cured. Doctors don’t waste time putting viruses on trial to determine if they infected people, nor do they invent pointless theories about viruses being pure evil. They simply restore people to as close to a healthy status quo as humanly possible, by prevention, cure, aftercare, and if all else fails, mitigating the symptoms.

      The problem is that, instinctively and traditionally, we are predisposed towards ideas like Cartesian dualism or evil-as-corruption that appeal to us emotionally, but which can’t be defended rationally as anything but a holdover from our evolutionary ancestors in a modern world. And this has consequences for reform, because people predisposed towards an idea they have invested in won’t be very amenable to whatever runs counter to those ideas. Determinism’s results might overlap with those of free will some of the time, but one of the most powerful motives for justice – revenge – is called into question by it. My suspicion is that most of the people you suggested the “medical” model to would regard you with moralistic incomprehension or suspicion, which is why the rationale needs to be explicit and the old ideas publicly challenged and criticized.

      In reply to #7 by Ornicar:

      I have no intention of suggesting that determinism is some recent idea that needs to be spread. What I do suggest is that it is taken more seriously, given that people have a long history of resisting its implications.

      Prime mover arguments are sophistry and completely besides the point, akin to refuting natural selection by saying scientists don’t know how life began. In any case, I’ve already mentioned how I don’t hold determinism that strongly. Whatever physicists determine about the origin of the universe, it has no effect on the point that free will is a nonsense and stillborn idea. I don’t need to know about the Big Bang to identify how one could predict the actions of an organism if one knew the relevant physical, biological, and cognitive laws.

      The rest of your post only seems to confirm to me that you don’t appreciate the point I’m making. We have cutoff points not because a reductionistic account is inaccurate, but because of physical limitations and practical concerns. We don’t examine the quantum mechanics of a car because we don’t need to do so before we can explain how it works or drive one. And as I’ve stressed to Red Dog, defining free will as whatever we are “free” to do due to being sentient decision-making creatures is to argue for a redefinition, not for the concept that most people believe in. It is, intentionally or not, the twaddle of Sophisticated Theologians, detached as it is from how most people actually conceive of the real thing, and ultimately a distraction.

      I think that should be enough for now.

  5. I tried to make this point in my previous discussion topic about Harris’s book but don’t think I was very clear and want to try one more time.

    The critical thing I think people over look here is that to start with this is a very speculative discussion. We are talking about the effect that some eventual scientific view of psychology will have on our common sense notion of free will. But we don’t have the science yet. We can’t even begin to predict human behavior with any degree of certainty based on what we know now.

    So with that in mind I think it all comes down to what kind of science of psychology you think will eventually emerge. One of the things I found surprising about the Harris book was that he pretty much glosses over that issue. He never really gives even an outline of what he thinks the eventual science of psychology that will make these predictions will be. But to the extent that Harris does talk about it what he describes is what Pinker would call a “naive physicalist” view of psychology. That is that behavior will be explained purely in terms of neurons and chemical reactions in the brain. This is a view also consistent with a Skinner radical behaviorism. Reference to human intentions are only to dismiss them as incidental epiphenomena with no causal role in resulting behavior.

    Now, if you believe that that is the kind of psychology that will eventually emerge you are right to say talk of free will is pointless. But I don’t believe in that kind of psychology. The view I think is more credible is one based on evolutionary/cognitive psychology as described by Pinker, Dennet, Atran, and others. In that view, although human intentions are often contradictory and not always obvious to the individual, they still play a major role in determining behavior. In the evo-psych paradigm you don’t just dismiss goals as epiphenomena, on the contrary one of the most important things you are trying to clarify are what are the actual intentions and how to separate those from the built in self deception that we inherit from biology and society.

    Harris makes a big deal about showing examples where the intentions that an individual is aware of don’t match an objective analysis. He goes from there to the unwarranted conclusion that because not all intentions are conscious and subject to the control of the individual (no evo-psych person would disagree, on the contrary it’s a core part of the paradigm) to the totally unwarranted conclusion that those goals and intentions play no role in behavior.

    I think a mature science of psychology will eventually have a big impact on our views of morality and justice. We will have a better idea when we can say that someone truly committed and act by “free will” (which doesn’t mean free of the normal causal chain of the natural world but that their behavior was driven by their intentions as opposed to say a brain tumor or someone coercing or controlling them). But I think a big part of a mature psychology will not be to dismiss human intentions but to explain them and as such the concept of a “free choice” will actually be better clarified — as opposed to completely dismissed the way Harris envisions.

    • In reply to #9 by Red Dog:

      Harris makes a big deal about showing examples where the intentions that an individual is aware of don’t match an objective analysis. He goes from there to the unwarranted conclusion that because not all intentions are conscious and subject to the control of the individual (no evo-psych person would disagree, on the contrary it’s a core part of the paradigm) to the totally unwarranted conclusion that those goals and intentions play no role in behavior.

      The way I read Harris what that these “goals and intentions” are a curiosity and no more part of our consciousness that anything else. How do we choose these intentions? Are these chosen for us? If not, why did we choose those intentions? Why on this day did I decide to start exercising on no other day for the past year?

      • In reply to #11 by Skeptic:

        The way I read Harris what that these “goals and intentions” are a curiosity and no more part of our consciousness that anything else.

        I agree. That’s my point, he does think that and I’m saying to think that is not consistent with the way most mainstream people in psychology (at least the evo-psych people) look at it. That’s why he and Dennett don’t agree. I think it’s actually a rather nonsensical way to look at psychology. It started as a reaction to the pseudoscience of Freud but in that reaction people like Skinner through out too much. Just because Freud’s view of intentions (e.g., governed by Id, Ego, and Superego) was pseudoscience doesn’t mean that any view of psychology that talks about intentions must be.

        • In reply to #12 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #11 by Skeptic:

          That’s why he and Dennett don’t agree. I think it’s actually a rather nonsensical way to look at psychology.

          I haven’t had the opportunity to read Dennett’s take on this yet, though I don’t think that’s an effective argument. I’m half way through ‘Intuition Pumps” now and I hope he explains it better. From what I gather though the main disagreement between them is largely semantic. Does it matter what you call it as long as you agree in principle? Neither one believes we have free-will in the traditional sense which is mainly Harris’ point. Does Dennett believe our self-generation of goals and intentions is truly free? Is the fact I can’t explain why make it free?

          I’m still a bit suspicious of the concepts, however that’s largely due to my preconceived notions and cultural heritage. I want to believe my thoughts and intuitions are my own, but I honestly can’t claim to know where they come from.

          • In reply to #26 by Skeptic:

            From what I gather though the main disagreement between them is largely semantic. Does it matter what you call it as long as you agree in principle?

            No, but I don’t think their difference is just semantic.

            Neither one believes we have free-will in the traditional sense

            I agree with that, in the sense of saying that humans are somehow outside of natural laws, neither agrees with that.

            which is mainly Harris’ point. Does Dennett believe our self-generation of goals and intentions is truly free? Is the fact I can’t explain why make it free?

            I’m going to say what I think because I haven’t read Dennet in a while and don’t want to speak for him but I’m pretty sure he would agree with this. I don’t like the phrase “truly free” because it’s not precise and also sounds like a value judgement. I think a better way to put it is “do intentions play a significant causal role in human behavior?” to that I say yes and I think Dennet would agree and Harris would not. Whether you can explain it or not isn’t relevant as far as I can see.

            I’m still a bit suspicious of the concepts, however that’s largely due to my preconceived notions and cultural heritage. I want to believe my thoughts and intuitions are my own, but I honestly can’t claim to know where they come from.

            It’s always good to try and be honest about your bias which is what it sounds like you are doing there but I just want to be clear that science and nature don’t care what we want to believe and also that many things that are probably hard coded into us by genetics and early socialization often turn out to be wrong when we look at the question scientifically.

    • In reply to #9 by Red Dog:

      I tried to make this point in my previous discussion topic about Harris’s book but don’t think I was very clear and want to try one more time.

      The critical thing I think people over look here is that to start with this is a very speculative discussion.

      Thanks Red Dog, I understood your point this time round. Not Skinner, Harris, simplistic Newtonian billiard-ball puppet determinism after all, which is the kind I find so bleak.

  6. Watch Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. The actors appear to have free will. You mentally shout out to them advice on how to avoid catastrophe. Watch it again. This time the actors’ behaviour appears to be fully determined, their fates sealed from the opening credits.

  7. Clearly human behaviour is not predictable in any practical sense. You can make some rough guesses, or better guesses on the behaviour of large groups. So the very notion of “deterministic” is a bit like some religious ideal like angelic inner nature. Does the question even make sense? Perhaps free will is just a what we call the unpredictable part.

    • In reply to #16 by Roedy:

      Clearly human behaviour is not predictable in any practical sense. You can make some rough guesses, or better guesses on the behaviour of large groups. So the very notion of “deterministic” is a bit like some religious ideal like angelic inner nature. Does the question even make sense? Perhaps fre…

      I agree that it’s difficult and perhaps impossible to reliably predict human behavior but I don’t see how that impacts the arguments. The argument is that in theory if you had enough information you could predict the behavior. And to doubt that is to grant human beings some special essence that somehow puts them outside of the rest of the natural world which I think is just absurd, there is no real evidence for that and mostly it’s a holdover from the ideas of religion that there was some special soul or divine nature that God gave to humans and that sets us apart from other animals.

      A common analogy is with weather. Weather is a chaotic system just as human behavior probably is, very small changes in a variable can have a huge impact on the eventual result and hence makes predicting weather, human behavior, or any chaotic system uncertain. But no one seriously doubts that the with enough information the weather in principle could be predicted. No one claims that hurricanes are using their free will deciding which direction to turn and the same should be true of human behavior.

  8. I agree with Red Dog that psychology will lead the way impacting our ethics. It already has done a great deal and will continue to do so. I recall seeing a study of human children vs. chimps. They were to use a device to get a treat. It was found that the children copied; being educated was vital even if what is being taught is incorrect. The chimps quickly saw the best approach and cut to the chase. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIAoJsS9Ix8 This innate need of being taught, will require us to find the best way that positively impacts a child’s emotional and psychological well- being. Religion was an easy fix. we now know better.

    Can we argue that we are wired to learn from others – leaving a door open for us to be molded by society? Events or lack of events in our early years can have effects ( and affects) for our entire lives. How much of this “wiring” can be adapted by the first five years of our life? Does the way that we are wired then determine our response?

    • In reply to #19 by QuestioningKat:

      Can we argue that we are wired to learn from others

      Yes. Most particularly when young and most particularly from “authority figures”. Human infants are born in a sense prematurely, with less brain wiring in place and more brain growing to do than any other mammal. This is a simple logistics/delivery problem of head size versus pelvic bone width. Human infants are hugely vulnerable and incompetent because of this undercooked noggin and it needs to wire itself as quickly as it can whilst mum and dad are still around. Brains wire on the job. Neurons configure themselves to get best value out of their inputs and their simple associative wiring technique (Hebbian learning). Coincidence of stimuli is the underlying mechanism. Coincident reward works best and coincident deterrence next best in the learning/training process. Rewarders and punishers are most in the frame as authority figures.

      The nature nurture question for humans becomes ever more nuanced because of this uniquely powerful mechanism. Clearly it facilitates culture allowing non genetic behaviours to be copied reliably between the generations. (Chimp children would see no purpose in putting your hands together and speaking to no one. Human children will see no purpose either but they will do as they are told and develop the habit.) The accuracy of copying is good enough that very simple behaviours can possibly be treated as memes with a potential to evolve over time.

      [Aside. The idea of memes I don't think extendible to the broad morass of complex ideas and behaviours. Replication here probably mirrors the semi-chaotic reproduction of RNA world. But in the world of simple mechanical behaviours and expressions, memes may yet exist, and these I contend can make reliable substrates for reasonably consistent cultures to grow upon.]

      Here is a possible example of how culture by this mechanism may reliably wire kids (after age seven) to altruism and sharing. (It seems that seven is a selfish age…)

  9. Jim Al Khalili’s “muddle” is not a muddle at all in my view. He was answering the important question of the survival benefits of not appearing predictable. This would be the effect of appearing to have classical free will, an effect got to by an individual with sufficient unique experience and complex learned behavioural algorithms.

    Again in my view this constitutes a real genetic/cultural driver to the lying/role-playing and intention-reading arms race, which in turn races us to the self deception of their ownership of a free-will and in turn a belief in the possession of one of our own.

    We may have been over this previously.

    • In reply to #22 by phil rimmer:

      Jim Al Khalili’s “muddle” is not a muddle at all in my view. He was answering the important question of the survival benefits of not appearing predictable. This would be the effect of appearing to have classical free will, an effect got to by an individual with sufficient unique experience and complex learned behavioural algorithms.

      Appearing unpredictable is, by itself, pretty useless. Toss a coin and you are unpredictable by animal standards. The tiger can’t predict if you are going to run away or jump into his mouth ! Randomness is not freedom. Freedom of choice is the ability to make the right choices.

      • In reply to #23 by Ornicar:

        No. NOT appearing unpredictable. NOT being random. But rather, not appearing predictable. You may have seven good plans. So long as the other fellow doesn’t intuit the one you use.

    • In reply to #22 by phil rimmer:

      Jim Al Khalili’s “muddle” is not a muddle at all in my view. He was answering the important question of the survival benefits of not appearing predictable.

      I didn’t read the Khalili article that closely but I didn’t see anything about survival benefits in it. In any case there isn’t much survival benefit to being unpredictable in the sense of random. When you get into the details of more realistic game theoretic analysis all kinds of factors can start to come up and randomness can play a role (e.g. in the math for the new prisoner’s dilemma algorithm described a while back) but in general for animal behavior deception and self deception aren’t about trying to be unpredictable but predictable in ways that benefit you. So when you confront someone over a mate or food you want to deceive them (and this may even involve deceiving yourself) that you are much more of a crazy tough guy than you really are.
      So that your opponent will be less likely to resort to violence and more likely to back down if he does. From what I’ve read most deception is like that, not wanting to appear unpredictable per se but wanting to appear to be stronger, tougher, less rational than you actually are or in some circumstances to appear more cooperative, generous, than you really are, but seldom to want to just be unpredictable, almost always to deceive with a specific direction and goals in mind.

      • In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #22 by phil rimmer:

        I didn’t read the Khalili article that closely but I didn’t see anything about survival benefits in it.

        I must go back and re-read it to. His argument as I recall and argued for before was the one you would make to argue the evolutionary advantage of mind intuiting and its counter, deception.

        To re-iterate and rephrase there is NO randomness in this (how could there possibly be?). No necessary appearance of randomness. Only the requirement that at the end of the interaction that one of the parties could not successfully predict what the other did. That. Looking back I think I could have expressed things more clearly.

        Game theory involving elements of randomness are not pertinent to this as far as I can see.

        I think Khalili has been taken somewhat out of context. I believe his argument is an important one in being a credible driver in the evolutionary split between conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions (perhaps its not simply about salience) and the escalation of deception and its better detection. Why perhaps (half baked new theory here) there may even have been a rollback or suppression of conscious access to some thoughts that we may better deceive and that may help to create the illusion of a singular executive I.

        Sorry just re-read it. Not quite as I recall. I may have to throw him to the wolves after all… Sorry, Jim! And apologies to Red and Ornicar whose objections now make perfect sense.

  10. I didn’t mean that unpredictability had to be random, but simply that randomness, for example, gives you perfect unpredictability but no survival advantage as such. Freedom of choice cannot be the ability to make choices (randomness does that) but only the ability to make good choices. That is important because Sam Harris’ examples are often irrelevant in that respect (pick a random number, name a random city, think about a famous person…) as opposed to choices involving intention, knowledge and reason (choose a city to live ten years in, choose how much money I shall give you, which famous person would you date…)

    As far as I understand Dennett, he his a convinced memetist : your culture is nothing but selfish memes replicating imperfectly from consciousness to consciousness. We evolved, naturally then culturally, getting better at making choices, at fulfilling or avoiding our predictions of the future. For Kant as well, reason is the key to human dignity and freedom ; if you choose a follow a principle because of reason, you choose it freely. You are making the right choice.

    A man would be found guilty of a crime, not if he could have avoided committing that crime in the very same circumstances (he could not, because of absolute determinism), but if he could have in very similar circumstances.

  11. Fascinating topic!

    I’ll weigh in quickly: 1. Blame and punishment become behavior modification tools, and so are only justified to the extent they prevent future criminality, 2.Counter-factual thinking (psychological name for trying to imagine how the past could have been different) becomes socially avoided and degraded.

    Determinism makes everything simpler and removes the need for judgement a lot of the time. Emotional management, empathy and moral behavior all get a nice boost, hooray!

  12. Here is an excerpt from an evo-psych book I read recently that I liked quite a bit where the author discusses the results from neuro-psych that people like Harris make a big issue out of. Not sure how well this will come across without the context but anyway here it is. The discussion before this in the book was about the whole concept of “self” and how a little man in the brain making decisions makes no sense (the ghost in the machine). When he talks about “a Buzzy” he’s referring to a cartoon example of such a man controlling the brain from Disney. However, the evo-psych alternative, which can be seen by critics as a ghost in the machine is different, it’s a bunch of small sub-processes or modules with different responsibilities and capabilities. If you’ve read Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky that is sort of the conceptual foundation that this work builds upon:

    I think what Dennett pointed out in 1991 is probably just as true today, and the intuition that there’s some person-within-a-person in control makes it hard to think clearly about what it means to be “us.” One of my favorite examples of this comes from a famous experiment in psychology by Benjamin Libet. In his research, subjects were hooked up to EEG machines to measure certain kinds of brain activity and told to perform a simple movement— a flick of the wrist— at a moment of their choosing. Libet and his colleagues looked at the relationship between activity in the brain and the subjects’ report of their awareness of the decision to move the wrist.

    Before I tell you the results, consider how this process might work. As you’re reading these words, there are many parts of your visual system performing their functions that you don’t have any experience of. For example, you don’t know how you identify the letters on the page; this job is done by “low-level” modules, and you don’t have any experience of how they work. You can think of vision as a modular cascade, with many different systems interacting with one another, building up the percept that is experienced. We have awareness of only the last step in this complex process. Most of the modules in vision are nonconscious, giving rise, eventually, to the conscious experience of seeing. 10

    So, when you’re going to move your hand, there are a number of modules involved, and some module has to make the initial decision in this cascade. It seems to me that there are really only two possibilities. One possibility is that the very first computation in the very first module that starts the string is one of the operations that’s conscious. In this case, the conscious experience of the decision and the brain activity will be at the same time. The only other possibility is that in the long string of operations that occur, from the initiation of the decision to move the wrist to the eventual movement of the wrist, some operation other than the very first one is associated with consciousness. 11 Some module tells Bobby’s arm to reach for some ammunition for the food fight; shortly thereafter Bobby experiences the feeling of choosing to reach for chocolate pudding.

    First of all, let’s be clear. One way it can’t possibly turn out is that brain activity occurs only after the decision to move the wrist. Whatever is making a decision to move the wrist, it’s a module of some sort, and for certain it’s part of the brain. You can’t have a module in the brain that isn’t, well, part of the brain. A module has to have some physical existence. If it didn’t, it would be, in the philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s famous term, a “ghost in the machine.”

    As you can probably guess, Libet and his colleagues found that brain activity preceded subjects’ reports of their wish to move their wrist. In 1999, Libet talked about these findings, saying “In the traditional view of conscious will and free will, one would expect conscious will to appear before, or at the onset , of RP” * 12 But how could “conscious will” appear before anything happened in the brain? Whatever “conscious will” is— and I agree that this is a difficult issue— we all agree that it must be physical, something that happens in your brain. The decision to move the wrist can’t be made, initially, by a nonphysical Buzzy-like entity.

    Similar studies, using more advanced technology—fMRI rather than EEG— have shown similar effects. A recent headline in Wired magazine, discussing a study similar to Libet’s, read: “Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them.” 13 Why is this news? The only way brain scanners would not be able to see the initiation of a decision before the subject can report the awareness of “making” it would be, again, if it just happened to be true that the very first little module that initiates the long string of processes necessary for decision making just happened to be one of the very small number that was associated with conscious awareness. In this case, the brain activity and the sense of deciding would be simultaneous. But there’s just no scenario in which the sense of deciding comes before brain activity. It just can’t happen that way because all deciding just is brain activity. Once you start thinking of the brain as made up of all these different modules, and consciousness as nothing special, then headlines like this are surprising only insofar as it’s surprising that people aren’t thinking about the brain correctly yet. 14 One might be similarly surprised to find that today, not just in the press, but also in top-tier psychology journals, the homuncular Buzzy is still constantly around , usually hidden under innocent-looking but deeply problematic terms such as “one,”“the person,” “the self,” or similar phrases.

    Kurzban, Robert (2011-01-03). Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind (pp. 53-54). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

  13. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think determinism is becoming an increasingly stronger position to take…

    I’ll see your arrogance and raise you an obiter dictum.

    All sides of this argument are false as the question is flawed (‘where is the edge of the Earth’). Determinism is the most rational, insightful, pragmatic, and moral model to use for ethics, especially in how we respond to immoral individuals.

    “Punishment is what revenge calls itself. With a lie it creates a good nature for itself.”-Nietzsche

    If someone does the most heinous acts, to desire punishment just for the sake of making them suffer, is nothing but socially acceptable sadism. No one can “pay” for such things. Nobody’s suffering can pay a debt. That’s a very primitive and Christian way of looking at things. To address the causes of wicked behavior and correct for it, is to look upon the offender with compassion, even seeing them as victims themselves. What’s it like to do evil things? It must suck. It must harm the perpetrator. If the goal is to make the world a better place, the remedies suggested by determinism make sense. Culpability may be a useful tool for figuring out what to do, but its meaning and even application are very limited; perhaps entirely academic.

    Radiolab (which is always enjoyable) does an interesting show on this, giving case examples, one in particular a person whom became a obsessed with downloading child-porn after having brain surgery. Such a typically unsympathetic crime… but the facts of the situation demand rational sympathy.
    http://www.radiolab.org/story/317421-blame/

    • In reply to #32 by This Is Not A Meme:

      …one in particular a person whom became a obsessed with downloading child-porn after having brain surgery. Such a typically unsympathetic crime… but the facts of the situation demand rational sympathy.

      First I’ll admit this was hard to listen to as I am an advocate of child protective services and feel that the rational approach to crimes of sexual, violent and damaging behavior involving children to be viewed as among the worst of acts of crime. My sympathy will lie with the young victims of such crimes where I firmly believe it belongs.

      What I do think is interesting is whether “Kevin” was born with these impulses or if in-fact they occurred as a result of his brain surgery. If by studying the brain we could determine and isolate those areas controlling certain traits that people are either born with or possibly develop later in life through outside causes, we could hopefully come up with humane treatments. It is hoped that diseases like Autism and Alzheimer’s could be cured as a result of brain mapping and the use of fMRI scanners. If a violent criminal mind could be mapped the same way perhaps we may find a way for actual rehabilitation. Until then it is well known that child sex offenders have a great likelihood of offending and becoming a repeat offender and public safety takes priority over any demand of sympathy one might have for such offenders.

      • In reply to #35 by Tash:

        In reply to #32 by This Is Not A Meme:

        What I do think is interesting is whether “Kevin” was born with these impulses or if in-fact they occurred as a result of his brain surgery.

        “Born with these impulses” is the same deterministic dilemma, and deserving of sympathy. That would suck to be a ped, and I’m glad I was born normal (in these respects). My inborn impulses towards children are to feed, make funny faces, protect, etc. Maybe I get a bump of prolactin instead of testosterone. Whatever it is, I know the typical hormonally driven response towards children is favored by evolution, and in nature, everything that can go wrong does go wrong; wires get crossed.

        “Keven” may not have ever had a sexual drive towards children, as we understand pedophiles to have. Rather, it may have been like Tourette’s Syndrome, where one is compelled by how an act or statement is contrary to what is right or appropriate. The cognitive-dissonance builds to unendurable levels. We might all just be one whack-to-the-head away from becoming serial-killers, liars, thieves, or any other mode of monster. Given there are no non-physical antecedents to consciousness (~dualism), consciousness is a cocktail that sometimes comes out wrong.

        I believe our descendents will look back at our response to such crimes as the primitive hysterics of superstitious monkeys. Again, the vast majority of us are hormonally driven to protect children. To starve so a child can eat is not even considered above and beyond the call of duty. It’s expected. In flight we have to be trained to affix oxygen masks to ourselves before kids. Pedophiles make the blood boil, causing even civilized people to call for torture and blood. Peds are the ultimate exception to society. I forget which European nation has/had a process for stripping them of constitutional rights. In the US we used to do forced medical experiments on them… only about 20 years ago. Forced medical experiments. They were being surgically castrated, and nobody knew what would happen. It was punishment, and we learned it did not solve the problem… ever. We did learn castration is often effective when it is voluntary, when the mental drive is aligned.

        Is that the culpable homunculus? Of course not. That would be silly.

        If a ped struggles with it, despises their condition and recognizes how evil and malign it is, that’s a pitiable condition. Alleviating them of their testicular compulsions is a kindness. However, my experience with this lot is they are among the most self-deluded people on the planet. I can even sympathize with that. Again, it would really suck to be born that way. I’m glad I’m not Ed Gein, BTK, or the Vampire of Dusseldorf. Even if one is not as sinister as these figures, wrestling with such a poisonous nature can certainly result in harm and malevolent dispositions. If one is tortured by thoughts of killing people, one can talk about that, write poetry about it, or even seek help openly. Peds can’t to any of that. Unlike other things people keep closeted (gay, ideology, race, disease, etc), perfectly sane people are driven to blood-lust on this issue. It’s not just the isolation of societal intolerance. Peds are a uniquely human threat to the interests of the selfish gene.

        Currently, we make the problem worse. Our norms and institutions promote, incubate, and facilitate this behavior, in many ways. Admitting that, I can’t think of a better solution than Coalinga (indefinite/life-long, unconstitutional detention for peds not charged with any crime). Statistics demand we treat them differently, not as citizens. I also believe we all have a temporary insanity defense, should one of us torture and a kill a pedophile, because our ancestors lived in trees and such things are supposed to relieve us our senses and fuel us with adrenaline. Should a person (driven by biology) bloody their hands in a savage act of madness, I can sympathize and even see them as a victim.

        Still, I attempt to overcome the brutality of my monkey ancestry, and try to have sympathy for all sentient beings, not only because they deserve it, but because I deserve to be a person who has sympathy for everybody. It seems clearly better. I can also sympathize with people who lack sympathy, because I understand there is a lot biology to overcome.

        • Thanks for the reply I appreciate much of what you wrote.

          In reply to #32 by This Is Not A Meme:

          “Born with these impulses” is the same deterministic dilemma, and deserving of sympathy. That would suck to be a ped, and I’m glad I was born normal (in these respects).

          We can presume that this is the crux of the issue in regard to criminal behavior and the system of punishment and/or reform and rehabilitation, if neurological and biological research shows us with certainty that some individuals are born with or develop as a result of an accident, perverse or destructive dispositions such as the criminal act we are talking about, then I would agree there is an ethical responsibility not only for public sympathy but also a duty of care that would involved non invasive corrective measures (what ever this may be it shouldn’t include castration or forced experimental procedures). I think we would also have to include community support and education so that if someone does need help they have the freedom and access to receive it in a “safe environment” especially as you say it would suck to be a ped, even to the point that some may have taken their own lives dealing with realization. Research does show however, that most do not seek help on their own so you can’t help but think this as an indication that there is a denial of responsibility on the part of offenders.

          The complexity of these concerns are at times overwhelming, there is certainly allot of information to suggest that being born this way is not always the case, many display these kind of tendencies from a myriad of outside factors such as culture (child bride cultures that we need to stop), there is some data showing that it is learned behavior from suffering the same kind of abuse which is really sad as well, but ultimately is does come down to the actions that are in their control, having thoughts can be considered one thing acting upon them is hugely different, at least until it can be proven otherwise. Better public education and support may encourage those who feel like help is not out there and can assist not only in treatment but also in research, change is slow as for many it’s still taboo to even discuss such things and most (myself included to some degree) feel that the resources are better used helping those who have suffered and catching those responsible.

          I know this is a bit off topic but it is somewhat related to the issue of what can be considered deterministic or stochastic behavior.

  14. I want to throw in one more wrinkle that I’ve been thinking of lately: How certain are we that we really know all there is to know about cause and effect in the first place? The Evo-Psych paradigm has cause=>effect as one of those fundamental common sense modules that we probably inherit from our genes. Now often those modules reflect fundamental truths about the way the world works because understanding fundamental truths about how the world works would tend to make us better hunter gatherers. But usually those common sense modules aren’t the complete story and they can even break down entirely when we are looking at science outside the realm of every day things one would find on earth.

    An example is quantum entanglement. Now this isn’t one of those “the quantum is where the soul really lives” kind of Depak Chopra arguments. I’m not saying there is any magic quantum stuff that means we really have free will. What I am saying is that quantum entanglement shows that our common sense notion of causality breaks down in some circumstances. You really can’t understand, or at least I can’t, how quantum entanglement works by the normal laws of cause and effect. So possibly (more speculation) we may come to understand via a better physics that our whole notion of cause and effect is somewhat quaint and analogous to the common sense idea that a pound of feathers won’t fall as fast as a pound of lead, in which case the whole argument about determinism was moot to begin with.

    • In reply to #36 by Red Dog:

      I want to throw in one more wrinkle that I’ve been thinking of lately: How certain are we that we really know all there is to know about cause and effect in the first place? The Evo-Psych paradigm has cause=>effect as one of those fundamental common sense modules that we probably inherit from our ge…

      What do you think about absolute causality being a requisite for any knowledge at all? How can the Universe be knowable if causality ever fails?

      • In reply to #39 by This Is Not A Meme:

        In reply to #36 by Red Dog:

        I want to throw in one more wrinkle that I’ve been thinking of lately: How certain are we that we really know all there is to know about cause and effect in the first place? The Evo-Psych paradigm has cause=>effect as one of those fundamental common sense modules that we…

        My last comment was really just a total conjecture, trying to highlight how much uncertainty there is on the whole topic. I agree with you you can’t do much science without cause and effect and if there is some general rethinking of causality at some point, my guess is it will be a lot like other weird physics stuff, a result that is important in unusual circumstances like entanglement at different ends of the universe, but that in the world humans interact with it still holds.

  15. How can one enjoy a roller coaster when it’s course and speed are known? By experiencing it. Determinism makes witnesses of us all and best still, though the track and speed of life may be somewhat set, we can’t see it. In truth, we have little choice in life. Parents with four kids won’t by a two-seater sports car; unless they are like my father was. He set out one day with instructions to fetch a washing machine and returned home with a yacht. When asked to pick up a toy for the crib (when my sister was a baby) he came back with a jet fighter instrument cluster (a very cool toy with extremely sharp edges). It was his nature.

  16. In order to see what effect determinism has on our attitudes towards criminals and their crimes I think you have to question whether we send people to prison as a punishment or whether we send them to prison to protect others from the criminals wrong doing. I personally cannot believe the judiciary are completely entrenched in ancient ideas that people act in accordance with a free will. I think things have moved a long way since the late 1970′s. I believe the judiciary know that determinism has a part to play in the life of a criminal and therefore see the criminal not as a devil or a demon but as a human, from which other humans need to be protected. Whether or not you agree with their judicial sentencing, I believe the reason why sentences are so merciful in Britain is due to the perspective that one should pity the criminal for their unfortunate circumstances which they nor anybody else could prevent. Prison .is not a punishment but rather a place to contain the behaviour of criminals

  17. When you claim that free-will does not exist – that free-will is an illusion – aren’t you claiming that you are compelled by circumstances beyond your control to make the claim that free-will does not exist, regardless of the claim’s truth or falsity? In which case you could never know whether your claim that free-will does not exist is true or false. So, is it really true that free-will does not exist?

    • In reply to #46 by jabberwock:

      When you claim that free-will does not exist – that free-will is an illusion – aren’t you claiming that you are compelled by circumstances beyond your control to make the claim that free-will does not exist, regardless of the claim’s truth or falsity? In which case you could never know whether your claim that free-will does not exist is true or false. So, is it really true that free-will does not exist?

      This rebuttal doesn’t work because it assumes that being determined by circumstances automatically excludes any possibility of obtaining knowledge about the world. Firstly, if any knowledge about the world is going to be linked to the world itself, then at some point the properties of the world must cause knowledge about the world to arise. I can’t know about waterfalls if the existence of waterfalls somehow never caused me to think of them: I could only be right by accident. From what we can tell, the main avenues of this knowledge are through evolution by natural selection or individual learning. This doesn’t mean that all causes will accomplish knowledge (as in a deluded person) or that we know everything, just that unlinked knowledge will have no guarantee of being right; indeed, this issue is behind the problem of induction.

      Secondly, it doesn’t change the fact that free-will is simply a still-born idea based on the unwarranted assumption that human decision-making is somehow fundamentally different from the rest of the universe’s processes and not a subset of them. Why should my ability to know about something somehow be linked to my having free will? If I was “free” to “choose” my knowledge, that would destroy any chance of getting it because, even on the infinitesimal chance that I chose correctly, it would be a mere lucky guess and I’d never know it.

      Thirdly, the way you phrase the question reveals the problem with it. There’s no fundamental difference between humans and the rest of the universe that means the universe “compels” anybody to believe anything. There’s no need to drop the active voice just because we acknowledge prior causes: the car still starts even if it was turned on by the ignition key. The reason humans can know anything about the universe in the first place is because the facts about the universe also gave rise to those humans and their thoughts, enabling us to pick up on general laws of the universe that apply to entities we haven’t even seen yet.

      Of course, there’s the problem of induction all over again – see The Black Swan for a good check on the view I just expressed – but by the same token, there’s no realistic competition here, and certainly not from free will. “I believe it because I choose to believe it” is such a transparently fallacious form of reasoning that it has its own name: wishful thinking.

      And if the universe did “compel” me to believe in a delusion, free will isn’t coming to save me. How would I know where to go along with my prior causes and where to defy them, if I genuinely had free will and couldn’t be influenced by what’s really there?

  18. In reply to #47 by Zeuglodon:

    Oh boy, you are so missing the point…

    Incompatibilism postulates that if a thing is determined, it is not free. That’s incompatibilism.

    And that is strictly equivalent to saying that, for a thing to be free, it is necessary that that thing be undetermined.

    And that is bullshit, because being undetermined (= random) is not what being free means. You are the one doing redefinition, there. If I ask you if you want your head chopped off or not, and you toss a coin to make that choice, you are definitely not making a free choice. Being free is by definition being self-determined, which implies determinism. Therefore incompatibilism is utter bullshit to begin with, whereas freedom really exists or not.

    You are using theologian rhetorical tricks (arrogance, self-righteousness, condescension…), probably because all religions are intrinsically deterministic in their metaphysical claims. For all religions and mythologies, everything is determined by the gods. You can’t hate Oedipus for killing his father ; that is “fate”. The gods made him do that. Whatever Laïos does to kill his son first, the future is inevitable. Laïos has no freedom. Polytheims are strictly deterministic. That is ok for the Greeks and their temperamental gods, but that confronts monotheisms with an internal contradiction : how can their all-loving laplacian daemon allow evil, atheism and other faiths if they don’t introduce, at some point, for humans at least, a natural independence from omniscience and omnipotence ?

    Freewill, in monotheisms, is the negation of God’s powers.

    In reply to #47 by Zeuglodon:

    Crimes would no longer be treated as the actions of evil sinners who are due to be punished, but as a symptom of disease which needs to be cured.

    Many people in this thread have described paedophilia as the ultimate evil crime, sometimes sustaining the objectivity of their opinion by rational evolutionary arguments. It has also been suggested that it would be more ethical to somehow reprogram the brain of a paedophile so he (or she) is not sexually attracted by children any more, than to put him/her in jail.

    To get things sorted, lets first remember that paedophilia is not the ultimate evil crime in many cultures past or present. For Plato, sex between a grown up man and a young boy was quite all-right, until the boy grew facial hair at which point it became immoral. And I have been told that some remote tribes still welcome young boys to adulthood by ritual and collective sodomy.

    Now, for some influential people in the present days world, showing the naked arm or ankle of a woman is utterly immoral and could be punished by stoning to death to maintain some high-level moral standards in an otherwise corrupted universe.

    Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that those people one day seize power in western countries and arrest you for wearing a short skirt or letting your wife or daughter do so. What would you prefer to happen to you? What would you think would be more ethical ?

    1 – Sending you to jail so you might learn to shut up and obey ?

    2 – Reprogramming your brain so you can’t bear any more that women don’t wear burqa ? (and optionally, to make you believe in their god)

    I think the jail would be more ethical and I would gladly choose it a thousand times before letting you, deterministic moralists, mess with a single neurone of my brain.

    (Sorry, again, for non-native English)

    • In reply to #48 by Ornicar:

      In reply to #47 by Zeuglodon:

      Oh boy, you are so missing the point…

      Incompatibilism postulates that if a thing is determined, it is not free. That’s incompatibilism.

      And that is strictly equivalent to saying that, for a thing to be free, it is necessary that that thing be undetermined.

      And tha…

      For someone writing in a non-native language, you express yourself very well. You have hit on something that determinists fail to recognize: It is complex systems that determine what happens, not the laws of physics. Energy and the laws of physics determine that SOMETHING is going to happen, but it is the structure of the complex system that determines WHAT happens.

      The brain is a complex system that has a structure that determines what will happen as a result of its existence. Without the brain, there are some things that just wouldn’t happen. If the structure of the brain was fixed, then the things that a brain could do would be fixed until evolution changed the structure and allowed something new to happen. But the brain has evolved the ability to change its own structure in real time and make something new happen. That is what happens when intentions are formed and the memory of those intentions add new structure to the brain. Then, built-in and learned processes in the brain can attempt to fulfill those intentions.

      Complex systems emerge when a state of equilibrium is achieved in the interaction of order and disorder. Order is what makes deterministic processes possible and disorder is the result of the breakdown of those processes, requiring adjustments to achieve a new state of equilibrium and a new structure for the system. There is no sense in which the future can be precisely pre-determined, it can only be approximated in the short term.

      • In reply to #49 by jimblake:

        For someone writing in a non-native language, you express yourself very well. You have hit on something that determinists fail to recognize:

        It’s strange the way you use the term ‘determinists’, because Ornicar’s point was that even free will requires some form of deterministic effect. That determinism and free will are not mutually exclusive, but free will relies on some level of determinism.

        Without any kind of determinism or cause and effect you’re left with nothing but pure randomness, which is not free will, because it is not will. Free will requires intention and motive, which are products of cause and effect because motives are constructed from past experiences and input.

        It is complex systems that determine what happens, not the laws of physics. Energy and the laws of physics determine that SOMETHING is going to happen, but it is the structure of the complex system that determines WHAT happens.

        This is a bit like saying the laws of physics don’t allow a car to drive, it’s only the engine that does that. The laws of physics are responsible for these complex systems and responsible for the way they function, everything has a cause. You can reduce every event to a cause and every cause to another cause, this doesn’t stop until you reach the quantum level at which point the Heisenberg uncertainty principle kicks in.

        The brain is a complex system that has a structure that determines what will happen as a result of its existence. Without the brain, there are some things that just wouldn’t happen. If the structure of the brain was fixed, then the things that a brain could do would be fixed until evolution changed the structure and allowed something new to happen. But the brain has evolved the ability to change its own structure in real time and make something new happen. That is what happens when intentions are formed and the memory of those intentions add new structure to the brain. Then, built-in and learned processes in the brain can attempt to fulfill those intentions.

        This implies the brain is in some way unique from the rest of the universe and doesn’t in fact rely on the laws of physics, which of course is absurd. The brain relies on cause and effect in the same way as all other matter in the universe.

        The brain is a complex web of logic gates, constantly weighing up impulses and thoughts. Every choice you make, even every thought you make, is a product of some kind of trade off between different inputs, influenced by previous choices that have conditioned these logic gates.

        Say for instance you’re given a choice between choosing a red shirt and a blue shirt. You brain already has all the information is needs to make the choice, it’s simply a matter of weighing it up. You have all your previous thoughts, emotions, connotations that would persuade you to choose the red shirt, and likewise for the blue shirt, one side will be stronger than the other. It may not even be a trade off between red and blue, perhaps one is on the right and the other is on the left, and you’re mind has been conditioned to prefer things on the right, which adds weight to that shirt. Perhaps something taking place at the moment you’re making this choice distracts you and shifts the balance another way.

        Whatever shirt you choose, that choice was the result of myriad past experiences, conditioned biases and current emotions, all filtered through a few million neurons, resulting in an impulse to pick one over the other. All the factors that went into making that decision were already in place, ready to jump on the scales and tip the balance one way over the other. This is the case for every tiny little choice you make, even the unconscious ones that decide which thoughts you experience.

        This only breaks down on the quantum level, where it’s possible individual neurons could be affected. Which of course means that at some level, once you’ve reduced every determined cause and effect to it’s root, there’s a random, completely undetermined result that kicks off the chain of events or swings it in another direction. Like laying out a vast web of domino tracks that criss-cross over each other, and then randomly flicking a few of them.

        So both predetermined causes and completely random switches come into play, both of which negate any kind of absolute free will, but together produce the effect or illusion of free will.

        The problem now is not deciding whether or not we have free will, it’s defining what free will actually means.
        like altruism, there is no such thing as absolute altruism, every action you make will benefit you in some way, if you give up your life savings to feed the poor, then this serves you emotionally because you now feel good about yourself in giving to the poor, and we can reduce every human action to some kind of selfish motive at it’s core.

        This is a matter of scales and context.
        Even though we can reduce all human actions to a selfish motive, at some point we draw the line and call that altruism, if someone else benefits and it seems you don’t, that’s altruism. It’s not absolute altruism, but it’s altruism.

        We can reduce every action to it’s root cause, but at some point those causes become meaningless, or so vast in number that it is entirely impractical, or even impossible, to determine them. The causes are still there, but from a human perspective they are irrelevant, and that’s where free will comes into play, because the point at which we reduce these causes stop at some point within the human mind. It can never be absolute free will, but as far as we’re concerned, and can ever be concerned, it’s free will. Thus free will exists, but it’s an illusion with deterministic properties.

        • In reply to #50 by Seraphor:

          In reply to #49 by jimblake:

          It’s strange the way you use the term ‘determinists’, because Ornicar’s point was that even free will requires some form of dete…

          A determinist is not just someone who believes in cause and effect, otherwise we would all be determinists. A determinist is someone who has a philosophy based on the idea that initial conditions and the laws of physics preclude any alternative to what happens. In other words, with enough information, the future could be precisely predicted and we really have no choice in the things we do. I believe Ornicar’s point was that ‘free will’ is self-determination; that the self, however it came to be, has properties that allow it to act on its own according to the laws of physics to influence what will happen next.

          The laws of physics are not responsible for what a complex system does, they merely describe the rules for what is possible. The structure of the system itself is responsible for what the system does, and that structure came about through a process of trial and error involving random change and some sort of selection method. When a new complex system emerges from this process, it makes something new happen, something that couldn’t happen before. In the early universe there may have been only one or two things that could happen, but in the complex universe we have today, there are a vast multitude of things that can happen, and we are designing and building new systems that can make even more things possible that couldn’t happen just a few years ago.

          The brain is a complex system of interconnected neurons, each performing a simple function. The firing of the neurons themselves don’t determine what a whole brain can do, it is the structure of the connections that makes the difference. And the brain has the ability to change itself, that is to create more connections (according to the laws of physics and chemistry), that add new structure to the system to make it possible for behavior that leads to some degree of self determination.

    • In reply to #48 by Ornicar:

      Oh boy, you are so missing the point… Incompatibilism postulates that if a thing is determined, it is not free. That’s incompatibilism.
      And that is strictly equivalent to saying that, for a thing to be free, it is necessary that that thing be undetermined. And that is bullshit, because being undetermined (= random) is not what being free means. You are the one doing redefinition, there.

      This is incorrect. You’re not posting a criticism of incompatibilist determinism here – not leastways because you consistently don’t seem to realize that you’ve redefined free will beyond recognition and seem to be unaware of your own confusion – but a criticism of free will itself, compatibilist or no. And it’s not me redefining words: it’s already known in philosophy as Hume’s fork (to put it crudely; if determined, not free will, and if undetermined, then random, then not free will). Again, the weakness is in dualistic free will I was talking about. If it’s “bullshit”, it’s because people’s average idea of free will is “bullshit”, and that’s how the debate between determinism and free will has gone and is going in many places. It’s certainly not a criticism against determinism. I am redefining nothing, but taking the definitions I’ve seen others use, given the history of this particular debate. Go on any forum on it. I’m confident most of them will play out as I specified.

      Being free is by definition being self-determined, which implies determinism.

      By that logic, every time I press my TV’s remote, the TV is free to turn itself on because it is “self-determined”. Come to think of it, unless you’re saying self-determination is an uncaused cause, wouldn’t your argument lead to the conclusion that everything is “free”? In which case, there is no reason to single out human agency.

      The problem I have with your statement here is that it seems largely ignorant of what the free will idea is actually about, both in mainstream culture(s) and historically. I am not attacking a strawman here. Jerry Coyne once posted a discussion of mine on determinism and reductionism, and noted a commenter who was fully supportive of dualistic free will, and that’s not an isolated case. Do you not realize that the original idea of free will is dualistic, implying that human action involves an extra ingredient beyond the scientifically plausible contributions such as life history, genetics, brain structure, and environment? It is, in part, a rejection of the idea that we are essentially ubercomplex machines, albeit very unlike the usual stereotype the word “machine” evokes.

      If self-determination is simply determinism (i.e. that the self-determined entity had prior causes), then I think you’re misusing the word. Unless you’re promoting an uncaused cause, “self-determination” would mean only that there are smaller subprocesses going on that, when summed up into the workings of the entire human, make it behave very differently from what a naive application of physics would predict, akin to Dawkins’ example of the difference between throwing a rock and throwing a live bird into the air (one behaves according to gravitational laws, one flies away).

      More generally, what is self-determined about humans? Inside each human is a brain made up of neurons, all of which interact with each other according to causal laws, but all of which are caused by prior causes, including each other. The same thing can be said about people’s decision-making, precisely because decision-making is a process of the brain, not a black box that mysteriously gives us dualistic free will. Indeed, calling such decision-making “free will” is practically begging for confusion to ensue, and Coyne’s point was that deliberately doing this is little more than a dishonest attempt to be nice to the “free-willers” who mean it in a fully dualistic sense. My point isn’t that people don’t make decisions; it’s that using a word fraught with archaic and dualistic connotations to describe such phenomena is going to cause needless confusion.

      Therefore incompatibilism is utter bullshit to begin with, whereas freedom really exists or not.

      I have to ask what your idea of freedom really is, because I think you’re confusing free will with something else. For instance, political freedom (freedom being the opposite of tyranny and coercion), or the mundane idea of possibility (as in a human is free to behave one way as opposed to another because both behaviours are possible). Without clarification, it becomes harder to tell precisely where the confusion is coming from.

      You are using theologian rhetorical tricks (arrogance, self-righteousness, condescension…),

      Given the bait-and-switch stunt you pull later on in your post, I’d advise against throwing such accusations too readily. It already has the outline of an ad hominem, or guilt by association, and I see some signs of emotion in your posts that indicate you are somewhat biased against my position. I don’t want to use that as a substitute for actually engaging with you, but neither can I ignore its (rather unwelcome) presence. And if I am being arrogant, self-righteous, or condescending, then I assure you it’s not by design, and would be gratified to know where I’m expressing the above vices, the better to correct it in future posts.

      probably because all religions are intrinsically deterministic in their metaphysical claims. For all religions and mythologies, everything is determined by the gods. You can’t hate Oedipus for killing his father ; that is “fate”. The gods made him do that. Whatever Laïos does to kill his son first, the future is inevitable. Laïos has no freedom. Polytheims are strictly deterministic. That is ok for the Greeks and their temperamental gods, but that confronts monotheisms with an internal contradiction : how can their all-loving laplacian daemon allow evil, atheism and other faiths if they don’t introduce, at some point, for humans at least, a natural independence from omniscience and omnipotence ?

      No, you are confusing determinism with fatalism. Determinism is largely mute as to whether human agency has any influence on events, and indeed a deterministic model can incorporate human influence as readily as it incorporates the influence of other, non-biological entities. Fatalism denies human agency any active role in the process, akin to being a ghost doomed to watch events unfold without being able to change them. Fatalism, like free will, is based on a form of dualism that assumes humanity is somehow distinct from the rest of the universe, and therefore somehow special or exempt from the laws of physics.

      Secondly, determinism is not, as is popularly believed, an excuse to let off wrongdoers. Explaining how something came to be is not equivalent to excusing the actions of the perpetrator. To return to my medical analogy, the actions of viruses and bacteria are generally if not always well understood, but they still cause damage, and no one considers mere medical knowledge as somehow encouraging a “let-people-be-sick” or “go-easy-on-the-pathogens” mentality. This is one reason I want to see a reconsideration of the logic of some judicial policies, since revenge, for instance, is based on a theory of human nature like free will which cannot be scientifically supported.

      Also, the notion of free will is almost entirely religious, or at least compounded by it, which is why they are the ones who struggle in the face of evidence for determinism. It’s a well-known criticism of the notion of all-seeing and all-powerful judgemental gods that they can see what a criminal will do (in some cases, outright planned and set it up) and still torture the criminal for it.

      Many people in this thread have described paedophilia as the ultimate evil crime, sometimes sustaining the objectivity of their opinion by rational evolutionary arguments.

      I can assure you, using rational evolutionary arguments to condemn paedophilia sounds, to me, like a case of the naturalistic fallacy. What evolution selects lineages to do, and what is ethical, are not synonymous.

      It has also been suggested that it would be more ethical to somehow reprogram the brain of a paedophile so he (or she) is not sexually attracted by children any more, than to put him/her in jail.

      In the sense that it would thereafter render him no different from the many people who get on with their lives in society, I at least see where they are coming from. I don’t, as you seem to assume, automatically agree with it, for reasons outlined below, but let’s see where this is leading.

      To get things sorted, lets first remember that paedophilia is not the ultimate evil crime in many cultures past or present. For Plato, sex between a grown up man and a young boy was quite all-right, until the boy grew facial hair at which point it became immoral. And I have been told that some remote tribes still welcome young boys to adulthood by ritual and collective sodomy.

      Again, a worthwhile thing to note, though not, I think, for the reasons you seem to be implying.

      Now, for some influential people in the present days world, showing the naked arm or ankle of a woman is utterly immoral and could be punished by stoning to death to maintain some high-level moral standards in an otherwise corrupted universe.

      Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that those people one day seize power in western countries and arrest you for wearing a short skirt or letting your wife or daughter do so. What would you prefer to happen to you? What would you think would be more ethical?

      1 – Sending you to jail so you might learn to shut up and obey ?

      2 – Reprogramming your brain so you can’t bear any more that women don’t wear burqa ? (and optionally, to make you believe in their god)

      I think this is a bit disingenuous. Your aim here seems to be to refute naive attempts to “reprogram” people by pointing out that bad people could do the same procedure for less praiseworthy ends. Quite apart from the fact that I am not championing brain surgery outright, but merely wondering if we could reconsider the option, your thought experiment here leads to a bait and switch. Of course I wouldn’t want to be brainwashed into a moralistic prude, and I consider it unethical, but I would also not want to be wrongfully imprisoned or executed, and I would not want to be penalized for being an atheist. That doesn’t mean one couldn’t make a case that imprisonment, or even execution, might have uses in the judiciary system.

      Yet, in the very next paragraph, you take the particular and expand it to the general case. If I answer that I would rather be imprisoned than reprogrammed in this particular scenario, you intend to take that as meaning that I should be against those dastardly deterministic moralists meddling with my prefrontal cortex, full stop. I think a case could be made that neurosurgery, the chance to edit out undesirable or destructive aspects of one’s character, would be a more humane way to deal with some people than, say, the expensive and unhelpful lengthy period of incarceration, which takes money out of society’s pockets, or the cruel killing of criminals. It at least grants them a chance to live a normal life and to be a productive member of society.

      My reasoning here may be countered by concerns for the autonomy and welfare of the individual, and by pointing to the benefits of imprisonment an punishment, and rightly so. We need such debate, and I want to see such debate. But it can’t be dismissed outright just because we realize it could be misused. And that is effectively what your thought experiment is really about: the potential for the misuse of the idea. Just because you feel indignant at the thought of some incompetent meddling with your personality, doesn’t mean it’s an obviously or intrinsically bad idea to consider. It might be a call for us to subject people’s ethics and policies to the standards of medical trials to make sure an element of skepticism and empiricism keeps policies in check, but when deluded individuals call for atheists to be put in prison, we don’t conclude with one-liners about how we would go nowhere near people who want to discuss incarceration.

      Lastly, it’s completely tangential to the overarching point at issue: that such reconsiderations of our rationales for ethics are called for in an age when old ideas can be challenged. Dualistic free will is just such an idea, and drives our impulse to wreak revenge or to punish wrongdoers who cause harm, despite the fact that its dualistic basis is contradicted by modern science, and wrongdoers are fundamentally no different from dangerous animals, horrible diseases, or destructive weather. They’re phenomena of the physical universe, and the differences come from the level of analysis you want to take: social, neurological, biological, chemical, physical, etc. The fact that I wouldn’t like to be brainwashed into, say, radical Islam, can be made on deterministic grounds, or at least on something similar. If anything, the archaic modes of thought informing my brainwashers’ ethics are the biggest problem in the scenario, which would be a justification for a more deterministic form of ethics to be considered.

      To pre-empt criticism, I’m not promoting reductionism as the One True Answer or naively saying that you can explain human behaviour with a complete account of physics and nothing else. Just read The Black Swan. It makes it very clear how unrealistic such a project would be. But I am saying that, if we want to fine or imprison people for what is essentially a revenge impulse, we risk needlessly indulging irrational relics of thought that don’t mesh with what we know about how human bodies and minds work. We have to root out and expose that kind of thinking, whether consciously or unconsciously made, to skeptical scrutiny. We can no longer be content with tracing human agency back to “self-determination” or “intentions” and then saying that’s enough, because that, indirectly or directly, intentionally or not, feeds the widespread intuition that humans are dualistic or otherwise fundamentally set apart from other animals and things. We have to ask ourselves if it’s justified to feel an urge to gloat at a jerk’s or an evil-doer’s downfall, or whether acknowledging the tragedy of their wasted potential due to the accident of history would be more justified.

      I think the jail would be more ethical and I would gladly choose it a thousand times before letting you, deterministic moralists, mess with a single neurone of my brain.

      The rest of your post, to me, raises an interesting point but is otherwise a compounding of the problems I already perceived in your reply. For a start, slow down! No one here’s calling for corrective neurosurgery to solve our problems, and it’s a slippery slope fallacy to assume we are, just because some of us are ethical determinists (or deterministic ethicists, or the nearest equivalent). I certainly wouldn’t be in favour of it, and I’m probably in the minority on this ethics-determinism issue. Quite apart from the unlikelihood of its proponents getting anywhere, and the lack of sufficient modern knowledge of how the brain works, it’s always worth questioning whether it would be a good idea to force people to be what we think they ought to be, as opposed to just embracing the uncertainty and letting well enough alone. But this is an open ethical and judiciary question, just like the question of how much mutual distrust should exist between the public and government, or the question of whether there are times to use violence as opposed to being absolute pacifists. It’s certainly not going to help if we rely on moralistic outrage and rhetorical shock to force us into what we’ve pre-emptively decided is the “right” answer.

      For another thing, a history of switching back and forth over what is “evil” as opposed to what is “acceptable” or “good” is certainly a cautionary tale over being certain where it isn’t warranted, but it isn’t some rebuttal to determinism, nor does it support free will. Even as I type this, the origin of the problem is most directly to do with our current state of knowledge, not with the idea of adopting something like determinism. The point isn’t that determinism somehow already have the answers, so no further work needed; as I’ve already pointed out, I regard determinism as being approximately correct, at best, suitable for engineering and earth sciences, but superseded by the discoveries of physics and mathematicians. My point is that free will, at least as popularly understood, is a wrong or misleading or unhelpful answer, for reasons outlined above, and we can do without it.

      Go right ahead and tear determinism apart with the latest discoveries of quantum mechanics and chaos theory – I’ll salute your efforts in doing so, so long as they don’t rely on fallacies – but at least hear me out when I say that, outside of this site and even sometimes on this site, people believing in free will are holding an even more erroneous view, even more worthy of tearing apart, and you may be accidentally giving them leverage with your conception of free will, which to me seems to be a mistaken redefinition.

  19. The idea is that the brain generates consciousness because it needs it. It wouldn’t work that well without it. That gives us that subjective sense of self we call consciousness. Self-determination means that that notion of self is a major and necessary determinant in decision making, not a mere witness of chemical decisions that would happen the same way without any subjective emergence.

    The only evolutionary alternative to that hypothesis is epiphenomenalism, the idea that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, is useless but hasn’t been selected against, either because it has no metabolic cost or because it is an inevitable by-product of evolution. For example, our bodies need to be chemically attracted to molecules of sugar but, as evolution designed, we feel subjective sweetness that seems to seduce subjective consciousness into making the body eat more fruits. For epiphenomenalists, consciousness only witnesses a subconscious food acquisition process, plays no role but costs nothing. As well, if brain chemistry is enough to make decisions, conscious pain is an unfortunate example of stupid design we could do without but don’t.

    I argue that we fell pain and pleasure for positive evolutionary reasons, because our feeling of a conscious self is a central determinant in decision making. If it has to be trained to make sensible decisions by sweet rewards and painful conscious punishments, that proves that it is free to make those decisions. It could make them or not and it has to choose according to what it likes or not. If that is not the definition of being free, then what is ?

    That, in itself, doesn’t distinguish us from other animals. Reason does. Greater intelligence and knowledge amplify conscious self-determinacy. That is traditionally free will, self-centred human dignity, power of reason to overcome primal instincts and blind natural forces, and to disobey gods ; power of subjective consciousness to make predictions of the future, in a deterministic universe, and avoid or fulfil those predictions using oneself as the most important determinant in decision making.

    Note that that is a strictly monist conception of mind, as an emergent property of brains, contrarily to the dogmatic dualism exposed by Zeuglodon : I’m not guilty, I didn’t choose that, my brain did. (i.e. me and my brain are two independent entities)

    • In reply to #54 by Ornicar:

      You’re missing out the third option, as espoused by Daniel Dennett et al.: that consciousness is simply the sum of what the brain does, as opposed to some distinct thing that is in addition to what the rest of the brain does. This to me seems to be most consistent with a monistic conception of consciousness, as opposed to a dualistic form that treats consciousness as distinct from what the brain usually does.

      I argue that we fell pain and pleasure for positive evolutionary reasons, because our feeling of a conscious self is a central determinant in decision making.

      I wouldn’t call it a “feeling” so much as a conception. Most of the problem of consciousness is about the issue of raw sentient experience: how sensing anything from light to sound to internal states of the body and one’s own thoughts are represented in the brain.

      If it has to be trained to make sensible decisions by sweet rewards and painful conscious punishments, that proves that it is free to make those decisions. It could make them or not and it has to choose according to what it likes or not. If that is not the definition of being free, then what is?

      I gave a couple of candidates in my previous reply, but as per my point, this use of the word seems a little suspect. The mechanisms that enable an override of an instinctive decision come from the same stock as the instincts themselves: they’re mechanisms placed in the nervous system by natural selection, capable of improving one’s decision-making, but still following physical, chemical, and biological rules. It makes us much more refined, sophisticated, and complex decision-makers, to be sure, able to consider vastly more options, but is the definition of being free really being trained by stimuli and going by an internal like-o-metre? They might do, as opposed to coercion, but I think you’re confusing one idea of freedom with another in using that to argue for free will.

      That, in itself, doesn’t distinguish us from other animals. Reason does. Greater intelligence and knowledge amplify conscious self-determinacy.

      Well, they amplify decision-making structures by making them more sophisticated. That wouldn’t happen if the brain wasn’t built with extra modules and neural nets to accommodate the required kinds of sophisticated thinking, akin to getting an extra hard drive for a computer with new software. And again, those new components are not defying the laws that govern the rest of the brain. They’re still made of physical neurons themselves.

      That is traditionally free will,

      I’m not so sure it is. It all seems a little too modern to be the traditional kind. I mean, those faculties may have been what led us to think along the lines of free will, just as people used to conceive of bird flight as defying gravity, because people don’t think of other people as basically supercomplex machines, but as a different category of thing. However, the notion of free will itself, as far as I can tell, is rooted in a dualistic understanding of the human mind, most obviously dating back to Rene Descartes’ thoughts on it (though potentially much older than that, given the Greek and Roman concepts of afterlife), that the soul or spirit or equivalent interacts with the body as it wishes, in defiance of physical laws, such that a human is more than the sum of the parts of the physical body. But a monistic account would be like recognizing that a bird isn’t defying gravity, but is using laws of aerodynamics and engineering to get around. A physical medium is still the order of the day.

      self-centred human dignity, power of reason to overcome primal instincts and blind natural forces, and to disobey gods; power of subjective consciousness

      See my point above about Daniel Dennett et al.

      to make predictions of the future, in a deterministic universe, and avoid or fulfil those predictions using oneself as the most important determinant in decision making.

      What does this part mean? I make decisions, by and large, according to goals and beliefs that are informed (and inform each other) both over the long-term and within realtime. I don’t necessarily agree that I “use my self” to get stuff done, beyond the banal that I rely on my own thinking processes and such things as a “like-o-metre” and an ability to imagine future consequences.

      Note that that is a strictly monist conception of mind, as an emergent property of brains,

      I’m not so sure it is. By treating the self and consciousness as some sort of separate entity added to the existing faculties of the brain, you seem to be unwittingly giving it a dualistic conception. That might be just how it looks to me, but nonetheless it is striking in its parallels.

      contrarily to the dogmatic dualism exposed by Zeuglodon : I’m not guilty, I didn’t choose that, my brain did. (i.e. me and my brain are two independent entities)

      Why are you talking about me in the third person? If this is a reply to my post’s points, why is there no “you”? If it isn’t, why are you suddenly breaking off? Not to sound accusatory, and certainly I appreciate my posts are extremely long – I won’t be offended if you give that as a reason for not engaging with everything I say – but it does come across as slightly dismissive.

      contrarily to the dogmatic dualism exposed by Zeuglodon : I’m not guilty, I didn’t choose that, my brain did. (i.e. me and my brain are two independent entities)

      It’s not clear to me here what you intended: are you saying I’m a dualist, much less a “dogmatic” one, or that I merely described it without actually espousing it? If the former, then something’s gone dreadfully wrong, because as Steve Zara and Peter Grant can attest, I’m about as monist as they come.

      • In reply to #55 by Zeuglodon:

        You’re missing out the third option, as espoused by Daniel Dennett et al.: that consciousness is simply the sum of what the brain does, as opposed to some distinct thing that is in addition to what the rest of the brain does. This to me seems to be most consistent with…

        Well, Zeuglodon, I wasn’t exactly answering to you but to various people who, previously in this thread, have written “Ornicar’s point of view is this or that”. I was so trying to clarify my point. I have in fact nothing to answer to someone who is going to answer line by line to everything I write and still entirely miss the global meaning at the same time, except maybe that the lines you don’t answer to become then very revealing of the gaps in your argumentation, an argumentation that can be basically summed up by you repeating _”it’s a non-starter, it’s still born, it’s not worth discussing…” _

        Never mind…

        It’s weird that you should now refer to Dennett’s conception of consciousness, as he is a most fervent advocate of free will :

        “Free will is a as real as colours, as real as dollars.” – D. Dennett

        “The folk ideology about free will is incoherent. So, of course, is the folk ideology about the mind. But that doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as the mind. ” – D. Dennett

        It’s even weirder knowing that that was the conception I was presenting. Not, as you put it, that “consciousness is simply the sum of what the brain does”, because that is obviously plain wrong (the brain does many other things, including subconsciousness) but that consciousness is an emerging property of brains.

        Dennett already answered to all of your comments here, so if you have anything to add, write to him directly.

        A re-watch “a clockwork orange” if you are sincerly convinced that your “new” conception of criminal justice is so obviously more ethical than any other

        • In reply to #56 by Ornicar:

          Dennett already answered to all of your comments here, so if you have anything to add, write to him directly

          I’m afraid Dennett lost me in the freewill argument in his first chapter in ‘Intuition Pumps’ on the subject. His first concern seems to be the effect it might have on the lay public if we tell them there is no freewill. I stopped reading an otherwise fine book at that point. It further erodes my confidence that philosophers have much of anything useful to say about these topics anymore.

          • In reply to #57 by Skeptic:

            In reply to #56 by Ornicar:

            It further erodes my confidence that philosophers have much of anything useful to say about these topics anymore.

            I wouldn’t go that far. Granted, there are some philosophers who obscure and obfuscate rather than engage with and insightfully inspect certain issues, but I wouldn’t give philosophy a blanket condemnation as a result. Dennett himself has his fine moments, as well as Churchland and Grayling, and much of the skeptical philosophy of our time owes its existence to such historical figures as David Hume, Sextus Empiricus, and Karl Popper.

          • In reply to #57 by Skeptic:

            I’m afraid Dennett lost me in the freewill argument in his first chapter in ‘Intuition Pumps’ on the subject. His first concern seems to be the effect it might have on the lay public if we tell them there is no freewill.

            True enough, I cringe every time I hear Dennett saying that. You can’t ignore the truth just because knowing it has consequences. On the other hand and for the same reasons, if the truth is that truth has consequences, then it’s worth mentioning and Dennett must do it.

            “people will not behave morally” is about as bad an excuse for advocating free will as “religions use it” is for dismissing it.

            @Zeuglodon : I see. You have a problem with that-which-shall-not-be-named because it sounds to you like a religious word. I’m afraid you are therefore suffering of two kinds of local biases :

            1 – You restrict religion to monotheisms. All religions are deterministic, intrinsically deterministic, and all gods are laplacian daemons. Only monotheisms adopt the philosophical notion of free will to excuse their all-loving deamon for mankind madness. I am quite detached from any specific religion and I consider them as a whole. I’m in no fight against Christianity because it’s quite mild around here and I live in a secular (though most imperfect) country where nobody teaches creationism. You might think that free will is a religious notion because it has been hijacked by “your” (if I may so speak) religion. It’s a philosophical concept first and foremost.

            2- Where I live, we get compulsory philosophy classes in high-school when we are about 17. The debate between determinism and free will is explained by (mainly atheist and leftist) philosophy teachers to about every teenager of the country, and discussed. I have latter had discussions about that subject with screenplay writers (they love it), semiology teachers, medical doctors, contractors, programmers, musicians and even some believers. I sincerely think (not to say ”believe”) that determinism is the truth of physical reality (so I’m not trying to refute determinism), but I conclude that compatibilisms are most sensible positions because being free is not being undetermined. Quite contrarily indeed. Tossing a coin on a relevant matter is not making a free choice. No point in therefore dismissing the term free will on materialist bases.

            To get back to the subject of responsibility and punishment, Dennett makes a very good point in the video I linked to in my previous post : what would it take for you to accept to sign a contract with a robot ? Well, first, the robot has to be able to lie, otherwise there no point in signing a contract because the robot’s “word” would be enough. And then, it would take that the robot has to be punishable. You can’t sign a contract with someone who has nothing to loose if they break it. And that is enough. Self-awareness is enough to transform a robot (biological or mechanical) into a responsible agent. The rest is computation, intelligence, knowledge of a deterministic universe, predictions of the future and anticipation of consequences.

            And by the way, I wasn’t suggesting that “corrective rehabilitation” is bad because bad people could use it, but rather that it seems ethical only if you feel self-righteous. Walk a mile in the troublemaker’s shoes and it will reveal itself as the totalitarian abomination it is.

            And I’m not sorry that the only examples available so far have to be thought experiments or fiction movies. Both at the same time in the case of Clockwork Orange. In fact, fictions are always thought experiments.

        • In reply to #56 by Ornicar:

          Well, Zeuglodon, I wasn’t exactly answering to you but to various people who, previously in this thread, have written “Ornicar’s point of view is this or that”. I was so trying to clarify my point.

          Fair enough.

          I have in fact nothing to answer to someone who is going to answer line by line to everything I write and still entirely miss the global meaning at the same time,

          As far as I can tell, your global meaning can be summed up as free will being humanity’s unique ability to combine conscious rational thinking with its concept of self-awareness, such that the self determines its own fate. I also get the impression that you dismiss corrective neurosurgery outright, though the closest to a reason I’ve seen you provide is that it might be misused and you are seemingly outraged at the mere consideration of the idea. Also, it doesn’t answer my point that calling this faculty free will, a word ordinarily reserved for a more superstitious alternative, is still like calling the universe god because it invites confusion and obscures rather than reveals any insight. What’s wrong with a more straightforward and respectable alternative with no such connotations, like voluntary action or volition?

          except maybe that the lines you don’t answer to become then very revealing of the gaps in your argumentation,

          Without examples, this is little more than an empty accusation. And while I’m certainly not asking you to perform a line-by-line on my posts, I think a case could be made that you’re the one evading my responses, given that you’ve shown little engagement with them, and on false grounds, as your next sentence goes.

          an argumentation that can be basically summed up by you repeating _”it’s a non-starter, it’s still born, it’s not worth discussing…” _

          I think you misunderstand me. I’ve been saying that dualistic free will is an idea doomed from the start, not leastways because it’s a scientifically insupportable idea. I’ve not been dismissing your entire case as a non-starter. Why would I pay attention to your points and try to encourage debate if I had only that to say?

          It’s weird that you should now refer to Dennett’s conception of consciousness, as he is a most fervent advocate of free will :

          …Dennett already answered to all of your comments here, so if you have anything to add, write to him directly.

          Actually, such logic is fallacious. Just because I agree with him on one thing, doesn’t mean I’m compelled to agree with everything he says. I agree with the criticisms levelled against him by Skeptic and Jerry Coyne on the subject of free will, one of which being that he’s transparently motivated to not upset people already believing in it. My other criticisms have been on display in my responses to you since we began discussing it.

          It’s even weirder knowing that that was the conception I was presenting. Not, as you put it, that “consciousness is simply the sum of what the brain does”, because that is obviously plain wrong (the brain does many other things, including subconsciousness) but that consciousness is an emerging property of brains.

          No, you misunderstand my point. When I was talking about consciousness, I was referring to the hard problem of consciousness, qualia, sentient experience, and all that jazz. As far as I can tell, that is the sum of what the brain does. The consciousness you were speaking of is something closer to self-awareness and thinking about thinking, the System 1 that Daniel Kahneman distinguishes from System 2. But Harris has already made the point that even this kind of deliberate, voluntary thinking has nothing to do with the traditional conception of dualistic free will, and he makes the point that calling it free will is likely to be misleading at best. This is why I recommend dropping the word in favour of an alternative with no such connotations.

          A re-watch “a clockwork orange”

          It’s a work of fiction about a dystopian society in which a psychopath is given therapy to suppress his violent tendencies. I’m not impressed if this was meant to be a counterargument, firstly because of the obvious – it’s fiction, and you can “prove” anything with fiction – and secondly because it’s just a blanket dismissal on your part of the idea of corrective rehabilitation.

          if you are sincerly convinced that your “new” conception of criminal justice is so obviously more ethical than any other

          You clearly have not been reading my replies, or at least not in their entirety. I’m not gung ho about ideas like corrective neurosurgery, but I think a case could be made for it in some circumstances, give or take such things as the state of our current surgical technology and how it compares to alternative measures. A taboo mindset resolutely sitting against it “just because” is inimical to rational debate, because if history is any judge, such irrational gut-feeling responses don’t have a strong case behind them. People were once instinctively repelled by homosexuality, but it’s no longer seen as worth indulging such primitive feelings. If corrective neurosurgery really is a more humane way of dealing with at least some criminals, it would be spite to dismiss or ignore it.

          • In reply to #58 by Zeuglodon:

            It’s a work of fiction about a dystopian society in which a psychopath is given therapy to suppress his violent tendencies. I’m not impressed if this was meant to be a counterargument, firstly because of the obvious – it’s fiction, and you can “prove” anything with fiction – and secondly because it’s just a blanket dismissal on your part of the idea of corrective rehabilitation.

            Well, I should add that I don’t dismiss fiction as a source of education outright, not leastways because it is essentially a form of communication. But it is well worth taking its educational content with a large fistful of salt. Some of those who browse TVTropes will know several ways a story-teller can mislead their readers or screw up the message.

  20. Determinism is becoming compatible with our current science? When did that happen?

    A certain Mr Bell would like a word with you about that.

    Determinism is dead, and has been for decades.

    • In reply to #62 by hackenslash:

      Determinism is becoming compatible with our current science? When did that happen?

      A certain Mr Bell would like a word with you about that.

      Determinism is dead, and has been for decades.

      Please see Comment 47, specifically In reply to #3 by Roedy. To put it briefly, this discussion was in the context of determinism vs. free will, not determinism vs. quantum physics. It’s like defending Newtonian physics in the face of someone who thinks fairies micromanage everyday events.

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